Monday, August 28, 2006

Back from the country

where I saw mummified cats and crocheted poodle-shaped vodka-bottle cozies in an interesting museum and also more generally hung out in nature and stuff, watched two lamb carcasses be dismembered and marinated in a bathtub and roasted in a pit, etc. etc.

Miscellaneous desirable books at the Guardian: William McIlvanney's new novel Weekend, reviewed by Irvine Welsh (my Scottish grandfather was a great detective-novel addict, his house was full of books in any case but the cupboards were bursting with old green Penguin crime novels in particular, and one of his very favorite writers--someone whose novels he pressed on me in the last couple years of his life--were McIlvanney's Laidlaw books); and Nigel Smith's new edition of Marvell for Longman, which Nicholas Lezard praises to the skies.

I've got a total thing for Marvell, I think I would have to say that Marvell and Elizabeth Bishop are my two favorite poets (I have very mainstream tastes in poetry, nothing surprising there--of course I love Swift's poetry and Byron & Keats & Shelley & such, whatever...), and this edition really sounds excellent.

My favorite Marvell poems include Upon Appleton House and The Mower Against Gardens (the latter makes a brief appearance in my breeding book, though in the midst of a long section on grafting that I am 99% sure I am going to have to cut almost in its entirety, ah well....); but I have a special passion for the less well-known poem called A Dialogue between the Soul and Body, which I am going to paste in here because it is so extraordinary:


O, WHO shall from this dungeon raise
A soul enslaved so many ways?
With bolts of bones, that fettered stands
In feet, and manacled in hands;
Here blinded with an eye, and there
Deaf with the drumming of an ear;
A soul hung up, as 'twere, in chains
Of nerves, and arteries, and veins;
Tortured, besides each other part,
In a vain head, and double heart?


O, who shall me deliver whole,
From bonds of this tyrannic soul?
Which, stretched upright, impales me so
That mine own precipice I go;
And warms and moves this needless frame,
(A fever could but do the same),
And, wanting where its spite to try,
Has made me live to let me die
A body that could never rest,
Since this ill spirit it possessed.


What magic could me thus confine
Within another's grief to pine?
Where, whatsoever it complain,
I feel, that cannot feel, the pain;
And all my care itself employs,
That to preserve which me destroys;
Constrained not only to endure
Diseases, but, what's worse, the cure;
And, ready oft the port to gain,
Am shipwrecked into health again.


But Physic yet could never reach
The maladies thou me dost teach;
Whom first the cramp of hope does tear,
And then the palsy shakes of fear;
The pestilence of love does heat,
Or hatred's hidden ulcer eat;
Joy's cheerful madness does perplex,
Or sorrow's other madness vex;
Which knowledge forces me to know,
And memory will not forego;
What but a soul could have the wit
To build me up for sin so fit?
So architects do square and hew
Green trees that in the forest grew.

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