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Friday, February 14, 2014

I want to be something or other




When I arrived at the pool this morning, it was swarming with small humans.  Barely restraining my natural scorched-earth urges (admittedly fairly futile in a place mainly composed of liquid water) I soon spied a vacant line which would facilitate my lengths and so I was placated enough to merely pass by the small humans rather than pass through them with whips and scorpions.  I wonder, in these benighted times how many people will recognize the biblical allusion there. 
Come to think of it, I am not sure that I know precisely where it comes from.  Old Testament definitely, which book though is a little more tricky.  Judges?  Possible.  I think it was one of those Jeroboam or Reheboam type characters.  Or indeed not.  I know it only takes a few key presses to find out the answer, but I choose not to do that and prefer to live a little longer in the delicious discomfort of easily avoidable ignorance.  Come to think of it that is something which is a direct result of the development of technology and the ease with which a whole mass of knowledge (ask not of its value) can be accessed in seconds.
As I have found to my cost, it is easy to find poems by John Clare on line.  But when you are checking the punctuation of a particular line in a particular poem things get more difficult.  I found versions of the same poem (allegedly) which various forms of punctuation and no indication of the provenance of the version.  It was impossible to be sure that any one of the variants offered to me in reasonably prestigious sites was more authoritative than any other.
In the same way the name of the first woman to swim The Channel, which I was trying to discover for reasons too obscure to go into now (and whose name I have totally forgotten) was spelled in three or four different ways depending on which site you thought was more convincing.  As two of the sites were of national newspapers, and as they had different ways of spelling the name I was left little the wiser – except of course I had a fairly specific general idea of what she might have been called.  There was more unanimity about the date of her venture and her nationality, but the name, no.
So, I would be better employed in getting one of my copies of the Bible out and beginning to have a quick flick through.  I have more trust in the printed page than I do in the glowing pixel!
In the case of the John Clare poem, I do have a fairly scholarly book of his poems which does give variant readings and so I was able to satisfy myself by turning pages rather than clicking keys.  And I read other poems by him as I pretended that I was an academic.  As I recall, it was all to do with a comma.  The placement of a comma can completely alter the meaning of a line.  It was very satisfying to discover the ‘truth’ about that particular line.  It went no further than my personal satisfaction, but it was deep satisfaction.
Which is more than I can say for my complete failure to find a version of the original poem which was set to music by Gustav Holst and is now known as ‘I Vow To Thee My Country.’  The original poem was written by Spring-Rice and published in the first decade of the C20th, as far as I know, but what we have in the ‘patriotic’ hymn is a later version.  If anyone knows of a copy of ‘Urbs Dei’ or City of God, then I would be interested to read it and compare it with the final version that is sung.  And sung without much understanding of what is being sung.  Which is what could be said about Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ which is sung before (or is it after) meetings of the WI.  Wonderful words and a great tune, but do the ladies actually ever consider what exactly they are singing?  I fear not, all they hear are the words ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ and they tend not to think too much about the ‘dark Satanic mills’!  I am not sure what the WI would make of it if William Blake were to rise from the dead and go and give a little talk about his poetic inspiration!  It would be worth listening to him and watching the reaction of the audience though!

As the more astute will have recognized, all of the preceding writing is displacement activity.  What I should be doing is writing the commentary which has to accompany my poems which, for better or worse, are now ‘complete’ and reading to be sent to the tutor.  The commentary is the second part of the assignment and has to describe the ‘creative journey’ from blank paper to lyric verse.  Or something.
I am determined to have a rough draft of this by the end of the evening and tomorrow it will be read, checked and sent.  And life can proceed with something approaching normality.  Or at least normality according to the way of the OU.

Lunch, as we have no real food in the house, was in the ‘new, new, tapas place’ where the bravas have to be tasted to be believed.  No low-cal in any way, shape or form, but delicious none the less.

Now to work - the draft calls!
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