Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Not just wings and white robes

I know not, oh I know not, what joys await us there,
What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare.

The hymn-writer is vague about heaven which isn’t surprising since, as a friendly and tolerant Catholic told me “we may not know the mind of God”. But we may use our imagination. In fact we must, otherwise heaven is simply earth without ageing and financial problems. Here are some of my secular heavens.

A warm person-free passage of sea over a coral reef where, as I swim, I recall every piece of music I have ever heard, give it its exact name, split it into movements where these exist, and play the best versions extant in my head.
The moment when I realised how a graph showing the characteristics of a thermionic valve (a hysteresis curve) matched the associated maths AND having Auden write a vilanelle describing this.
Travelling back to a geography lesson at Bradford Grammar School, seizing the master, trussing him and thrashing him with a red-hot riding crop, requiring him simultaneously to recite Paradise Lost.
Revisiting in our Scirocco a gorge on the Loire full of early morning September mist with Brendel playing the Andante Favori on the tape player AND being able to repeat this experience without it ever palling.
Needing a couplet to end a Shakespearean sonnet, seeing its shape dimly ahead and knowing it’s excavatable. Calling in Auden again.
Watching a fifties film noir, Flaxey Martin, where the star, the gorgeous Virginia Mayo, is suddenly transformed and is able to act.
Attending a church service based on a form of Christianity which retains the morality, the beauty and the narrative power of the New Testament but ditches the mysticism (resurrection, etc), the sado-masochism of Calvary and the omnipotence of Jahweh. Music by JSB
HELL follows (and will probably be more fun).

Novel progress 1/4/10. Ch. 19: 0 words. Chs. 1 - 18: 82,369 words. Comments: Hatch and Hester - the past is another country.


Rouchswalwe said...

Ach, BB! You have me laughing and cheering here in the library (they're shooting me looks from all sides). The lovely thing about the future heaven I envision is that there are already pieces of it here all around us. I am convinced that there will be humour!

marja-leena said...

Heavenly items, except for the third one, the sharp flavour amongst the sweet.

Plutarch said...

All are admirable visions except perhaps for the poor geography master for whom I can't help feeling sorry. Paradise Lost by virtue of its title alone seems out of place even in a secular heaven.

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (zS): I agree that real heaven must have some laughs but you can search the texts in vain. In fact the hymn from which the lines are quoted contradicts itself in an earlier verse:

For they who with their leader
Have conquered in the fight
For ever and for ever
Are clad in robes of white.

So not much fun there.

M-L: Among the "crimes" that particular master punished me for was having feet larger than his.

Plutarch: Milton isn't entirely obligatory. This particular goon was an anti-intellectual and having to recite Coleridge would have been equally painful for him.

Avus said...

Omar Khayyam said (courtesy of LeGallienne):
"Heaven but the vision of fulfilled desire,
And Hell the shadow of a soul on fire".

But he also said (courtesy of Fitzgerald):
"A book of verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wildernesse -
Oh, Wildernesse were Paradise enow!"

The latter slant rather appeals to me, but I would forgo the singing - just the book, bread, wine and her proximity would be perfect.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: A "vision of fulfilled desire" suggests there's nothing left to look forward to: a return to the amniotic fluid, in fact. Seems as if you, like me, watched BBC4 last night. Andrew Motion (actually "Sir") read very well I thought.

I'm sorry to hear that if you had to ditch the book, the bread, the wine or Renée Fleming you'd get rid of the flame-haired soprano. Me, I'd junk Mother's Pride.

Lucy said...

These are great, and who's to say that revenge delightfully chilled over many years shouldn't be one of the joys?

Avus said...

Yes - enjoyed the BBC 4 prog. BB. I have always enjoyed Omar, but learnt more about him that evening.
I came to him via Fitzgerald's interpretation but later have come to appreciate more Richard LeGallienne's lesser known version. (The verse on my blog header is from his rendering.)

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: A formidable example of oneupmanship occurred when Anthony Burgess reviewed Robert Graves' new translation of the Rubaiyat. Smartyboots Burgess had linguistic pretensions and was able to point to faults in both Fitzgerald and Graves before going on to translate a couple of stanzas himself, showing everyone how it should be done.