Monthly Archives: March 2010

I remember you as you were

I remember you as you were in the last autumn.
You were the grey beret and the still heart.
In your eyes the flames of the twilight fought on.
And the leaves fell in the water of your soul.

Clasping my arms like a climbing plant
the leaves garnered your voice, that was slow and at peace.
Bonfire of awe in which my thirst was burning.
Sweet blue hyacinth twisted over my soul.

I feel your eyes traveling, and the autumn is far off:
grey beret, voice of a bird, heart like a house
towards which my deep longings migrated
and my kisses fell, happy as embers.

Sky from a ship. Field from the hills:
Your memory is made of light, of smoke, of a still pond!
Beyond your eyes, farther on, the evenings were blazing.
Dry autumn leaves revolved in your soul.

– Pablo Neruda

And my kisses fell, happy as embers. What a poignant and evocative image.


The Old House

 Just opposite stood some more new neat houses that thought exactly like the rest; but here at the window sat a little boy, with fresh red cheeks, with clear sparkling eyes, and he was particularly fond of the old house, in sunshine as well as by moonlight. And when he looked down at the wall where the plaster had fallen off, then he could sit and fancy all kinds of pictures-how the street must have appeared in old times, with stairs, balconies, and pointed gables; he could see soldiers with halberds, and roof-gutters running about in the form of dragons and griffins. It was just a good house to look at; and in it lived an old man who went about in leather knee-breeches, and wore a coat with great brass buttons, and a wig which one could at once see was a real wig. Every morning an old man came to him, to clean his rooms and run on his errands. With this exception the old man in the leather knee-breeches was all alone in the old house. Sometimes he came to one of the windows and looked out, and the little boy nodded to him, and the old man nodded back, and thus they became acquainted and became friends, though they had never spoken to one another; but, indeed, that was not at all necessary.

     The little boy heard his parents say,“The old man opposite is very well off, but he is terribly lonely.”

     Next Sunday the little boy wrapped something in a piece of paper, went with it to the house door, and said to the man who ran errands for the old gentleman,

     “Hark-ye, will you take this to the old gentleman opposite for me? I have two tin soldiers; this is one of them, and he shall have it, because I know that he is terribly lonely.”

– Hans Christian Anderson


King Leopold

Late into the night, the cat raged and fumed with me as I tried to swing her preying body off my first collection books and stop her chewing on new roses in the midst of a phone call with Beansprouts in Strasbourg. Why do I always get into dreadfully feline anxiety-possessive situations in the midst of phone calls…

I feel startingly lonely. I almost need the fantasies that Beansprouts writes about, the ‘elegant women standing on balconies’ in Strasbourg, the glorious edifice of the ECHR, the ‘grotesquely beautiful cathedral with gargoyles everywhere’. Because you see, there are a whole lot of gargoyles surrounding me in my daily life too, and I often feel as though they will turn on me and howl the next moment.

I hate feeling needy and vulnerable and I think it all goes down to a state of unrest and a need to travel again (its been so long since last), a lack of alcohol in the house, unfinished assignments, a need for fulfilling, spluttering, inspiring sudden conversations bordering on Equalia. If it had been London, I would simply get lost somewhere like London Bridge, ended up between one sign and the next, balanced Chinese takeaway with a book on the other hand, holler at poor Beansprouts over the phone about the next state of something which comes through in my mind.

I even miss taking off for a late night party with F and R and dancing all night and having my friends whisked off by strange men while I contemplate possible plots and sipping strawberry milkshakes after alcohol at five in the morning (sometimes the best part of the night). I miss feeling startingly lost and found in London. In a way the loneliness has always been a part of my life, but somehow there was always the city, just as for Carrie, there was always New York too.

So when my dept head asked me what I missed about London, and I thought about it and said ‘cinnamon buns’ – that was not the long and short about it, but there are thoughts I cannot adequately voice about it, though often in my life I have started all over again, and this is one of those times.

But admitably you bring a little bit of that fantasy back, Beansprouts. In the few minutes I speak to you, I often feel like I am off to Zurich and stepping off the pavement in Milan, too.

From July onwards I might be startingly poor – I might be doing the law qualification course after all! Of course, they might be pulling out on the cfa sponsorship which means I will have to self sponsor a total of a cool 11,000 pounds, and hopefully I don’t look back and think I was doing all these for nothing. Would you believe it, I am even excited about conveyancing.


Steel Magnolias

“All my moral and intellectual being is penetrated by an invincible conviction that whatever falls under the dominion of our senses must be in nature and, however exceptional, cannot differ in its essence from all the other effects of the visible and tangible world of which we are a self-conscious part. The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is—marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. No, I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvelous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural which (take it any way you like) is but a manufactured article, the fabrication of minds insensitive to the intimate delicacies of our relation to the dead and to the living, in their countless multitudes; a desecration of our tenderest memories; an outrage on our dignity.” — Joseph Conrad (The Shadow-Line: A Confession)

I was reminded of this quote again today by J – which comes from my favourite story of Joseph Chaucer – by no means is The Shadow-Line one of his more well known texts (that recognition is perhaps, often given to Heart of Darkness or The Secret Sharer, but there is a vivid intensity in the short story, and it was a pleasurable and memorable read.

The trigger to read Conrad was my then literature teacher, a boisterous playful and intense cynic (who would scribble whole remarkable conversations on my essays, cried when he lost the class’s essays to the rain once (he keeps the essays in a pink plastic bag), was adamant against politics and raged for and against his favourite authors – I confess, just the sort of teacher I naturally develop happy affections for in the seriousness and passion he devoted to his subject. His account of Conrad’s Victory one afternoon – the pre-setting of the volcano portending the protagonist’s emotional turmoil just when he had embraced solitude and convinced himself detached from the world, was stunning in its romantic and dire aspirations. In that same afternoon, I recall, finding Victory in the school library, and reading it in one sitting that same afternoon on my favourite settee behind the principal’s room (another story to recount, that) and slipping into the beginning of a love affair which found me turning to Conrad, particularly in late nights.

from Wiki (because we all love Wiki): Conrad, an emotional man subject to fits of depression, self-doubt, and pessimism, disciplined his romantic temperament with an unsparing moral judgment.

As an artist, he famously aspired, in his preface to The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’ (1897), “by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel… before all, to make you see. That — and no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand — and, perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”

Writing in what to the visual arts was the age of Impressionism, Conrad showed himself in many of his works a prose poet of the highest order: thus, for instance, in the evocative Patna and courtroom scenes of Lord Jim; in the “melancholy-mad elephant” and gunboat scenes of Heart of Darkness; in the doubled protagonists of The Secret Sharer; and in the verbal and conceptual resonances of Nostromo and The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’.

The singularity of the universe depicted in Conrad’s novels, especially compared to those of near-contemporaries like John Galsworthy, is such as to open him to criticism similar to that later applied to Graham Greene.[14] But where “Greeneland” has been characterised as a recurring and recognisable atmosphere independent of setting, Conrad is at pains to create a sense of place, be it aboard ship or in a remote village. Often he chose to have his characters play out their destinies in isolated or confined circumstances.

In the view of Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis, it was not until the first volumes of Anthony Powell’s sequence, A Dance to the Music of Time, were published in the 1950s, that an English novelist achieved the same command of atmosphere and precision of language with consistency, a view supported by present-day critics like A. N. Wilson. This is the more remarkable, given that English was Conrad’s third language. Powell acknowledged his debt to Conrad.

Conrad’s third language remained inescapably under the influence of his first two — Polish and French. This makes his English seem unusual. It was perhaps from Polish and French prose styles that he adopted a fondness for triple parallelism, especially in his early works (“all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men”), as well as for rhetorical abstraction (“It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention”).

 
T.E. Lawrence,  one of many writers whom Conrad befriended, offered some perceptive observations about Conrad’s writing:

He’s absolutely the most haunting thing in prose that ever was: I wish I knew how every paragraph he writes (…they are all paragraphs: he seldom writes a single sentence…) goes on sounding in waves, like the note of a tenor bell, after it stops. It’s not built in the rhythm of ordinary prose, but on something existing only in his head, and as he can never say what it is he wants to say, all his things end in a kind of hunger, a suggestion of something he can’t say or do or think. So his books always look bigger than they are. He’s as much a giant of the subjective as Kipling is of the objective. Do they hate one another?

 
In Conrad’s time, literary critics, while usually commenting favourably on his works, often remarked that his exotic style, complex narration, profound themes and pessimistic ideas put many readers off. Yet as Conrad’s ideas were borne out by 20th-century events, in due course he came to be admired for beliefs that seemed to accord with subsequent times more closely than with his own.

Conrad’s was, indeed, a starkly lucid view of the human condition — a vision similar to that which had been offered in two micro-stories by his ten-years-older Polish compatriot, Bolesław Prus (whose work Conrad admired): “Mold of the Earth” (1884) and “Shades” (1885). Conrad wrote:

Faith is a myth and beliefs shift like mists on the shore; thoughts vanish; words, once pronounced, die; and the memory of yesterday is as shadowy as the hope of to-morrow….
In this world — as I have known it — we are made to suffer without the shadow of a reason, of a cause or of guilt….
There is no morality, no knowledge and no hope; there is only the consciousness of ourselves which drives us about a world that… is always but a vain and floating appearance….
A moment, a twinkling of an eye and nothing remains — but a clot of mud, of cold mud, of dead mud cast into black space, rolling around an extinguished sun. Nothing. Neither thought, nor sound, nor soul. Nothing.



Conrad is the novelist of man in extreme situations. “Those who read me,” he wrote in the preface to A Personal Record, “know my conviction that the world, the temporal world, rests on a few very simple ideas; so simple that they must be as old as the hills. It rests, notably, among others, on the idea of Fidelity.”

For Conrad fidelity is the barrier man erects against nothingness, against corruption, against the evil that is all about him, insidious, waiting to engulf him, and that in some sense is within him unacknowledged. But what happens when fidelity is submerged, the barrier broken down, and the evil without is acknowledged by the evil within? At his greatest, that is Conrad’s theme.

 


杨丞琳 – 习惯

分手已經兩年半 我們再度向寂寞取暖
沒有牽掛和不安

*失去彼此的陪伴 我們學著將回憶剪斷
 拒絕想念的試探

 曾經以為總會找到 說服自己的答案
 情緒卻在風浪平息後 被一通電話打翻*

#我已經漸漸習慣 忙碌把生活填滿
 和自己分享晚餐 試著活得更理所當然
 我已經漸漸習慣 對感情順其自然
 只是我還不明白 失去你的天空
 為何看來不那麼蔚藍#


Little Wing

Well she’s walking through the clouds
With a circus mind that’s running round
Butterflies and zebras
And moonbeams and fairy tales
That’s all she ever thinks about
Riding with the wind.

When I’m sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles, she gives to me free
It’s alright she says it’s alright
Take anything you want from me,
Anything.

Fly on little wing,
Yeah yeah, yeah, little wing

I prefer Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version, but there is something magical about Jimi Hendrix’s take to it.

Stevie’s version:

And I think The Corrs actually did a lil romantic version of it, almost Scottish like in the background.


Little Ida’s Flowers

“My poor flowers are quite dead,” said little Ida, “they
were so pretty yesterday evening, and now all the leaves are
hanging down quite withered. What do they do that for,” she
asked, of the student who sat on the sofa; she liked him very
much, he could tell the most amusing stories, and cut out the
prettiest pictures; hearts, and ladies dancing, castles with
doors that opened, as well as flowers; he was a delightful
student. “Why do the flowers look so faded to-day?” she asked
again, and pointed to her nosegay, which was quite withered.

    “Don’t you know what is the matter with them?” said the
student. “The flowers were at a ball last night, and
therefore, it is no wonder they hang their heads.”

    “But flowers cannot dance?” cried little Ida.

    “Yes indeed, they can,” replied the student. “When it
grows dark, and everybody is asleep, they jump about quite
merrily. They have a ball almost every night.”

    “Can children go to these balls?”

    “Yes,” said the student, “little daisies and lilies of the
valley.”

    “Where do the beautiful flowers dance?” asked little Ida.

    “Have you not often seen the large castle outside the
gates of the town, where the king lives in summer, and where
the beautiful garden is full of flowers? And have you not fed
the swans with bread when they swam towards you? Well, the
flowers have capital balls there, believe me.”

    “I was in the garden out there yesterday with my mother,”
said Ida, “but all the leaves were off the trees, and there
was not a single flower left. Where are they? I used to see so
many in the summer.”

    “They are in the castle,” replied the student. “You must
know that as soon as the king and all the court are gone into
the town, the flowers run out of the garden into the castle,
and you should see how merry they are. The two most beautiful
roses seat themselves on the throne, and are called the king
and queen, then all the red cockscombs range themselves on
each side, and bow, these are the lords-in-waiting. After that
the pretty flowers come in, and there is a grand ball. The
blue violets represent little naval cadets, and dance with
hyacinths and crocuses which they call young ladies. The
tulips and tiger-lilies are the old ladies who sit and watch
the dancing, so that everything may be conducted with order
and propriety.”

    “But,” said little Ida, “is there no one there to hurt the
flowers for dancing in the king’s castle?”

    “No one knows anything about it,” said the student. “The
old steward of the castle, who has to watch there at night,
sometimes comes in; but he carries a great bunch of keys, and
as soon as the flowers hear the keys rattle, they run and hide
themselves behind the long curtains, and stand quite still,
just peeping their heads out. Then the old steward says, ‘I
smell flowers here,’ but he cannot see them.”