Thursday, December 31, 2015

On not taking stock

I'm not William Ewart Gladstone, nor was meant to be. Though I too used to write profoundly weird end of the year diary posts: very Protestant, very phoney, full of false optimism and painfully fake personal piety. I grew out of it, he didn't, though that very obviously was not an impediment for achieving great things. But I did grow out it, matured, wisened up. Strange that, and excellent.

I can still vividly recall myself: reading those selfsame diary posts in the History Department library: thinking them both phony and admirable, painful, attempting to balance, and failing. And only belatedly seeing that it wasn't any total failure but in some respect also rather admirable and ultimately successful effort. And Gladstone - his phoniness was not the most important thing about him, or the most relevant: his idealism was. And with me, perhaps, my realism.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The many things you owe these latest dead

Age in itself is fine: we will always be ourselves, contained in our personal experience, where-ever and whenever it occurs. But it is the other people that are so dissatisfying: permanent landmarks they are supposed to be but prove to be fragile and mortal and you realise that even your love, the thing you are most proud of (maybe suspiciously, but that's another question) has no magic power: they will depart, the drumbeat of generations.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

An ancient poem about Philip Larkin and me

As I now seem to be publishing my embarrasing juvenalia:

In the bright September sun
(the town was so hazy, beautiful)

To find the right measure of intensity
(reading Larkin's poems)
seemed such an impossible task.
Only schooled in uncertainty,
I was in search of a suitable mask.

But looking through the bus window, I felt,
that my failure was confirmed by his art
and the blue unreachable nothingness meant
that for me there was no acceptable part
in this cruel old play, and thus, without words to say,
my youth, my life, was spent.