October 19: Breezy Looks At Life and Death

It's not just Shakespeare's and Homer's moon. It's the place where they faked the moon landings on location!

Two essays by Shelley pal, Leigh Hunt, whose life answers the question, what happens when you're a High Romantic and don't die young? You live in poverty, is the answer. But you'd never know it from the writing, which is full of the light touch and the first person plural:
The moon is Homer’s and Shakespeare’s moon, as well as the one we look at. The sun comes out of his chamber in the east, with a sparkling eye, “rejoicing like a bridegroom.”... A common meadow is a sorry thing to a ditcher or a coxcomb; but by the help of its dues from imagination and the love of nature, the grass brightens for us, the air soothes us, we feel as we did in the daisied hours of childhood.
If you're inclined to phrases like "the daisied hours of childhood," I guess you're going to be inclined to see things on the sunny side. Like death, f'r instance:
We cannot easily, for the whole course of our lives, think with pain of any good and kind person whom we have lost. It is the divine nature of their qualities to conquer pain and death itself; to turn the memory of them into pleasure; to survive with a placid aspect in our imaginations. We are writing at this moment just opposite a spot which contains the grave of one inexpressibly dear to us. We see from our window the trees about it, and the church spire. The green fields lie around. The clouds are travelling overhead, alternately taking away the sunshine and restoring it. The vernal winds, piping of the flowery summer-time, are nevertheless calling to mind the far-distant and dangerous ocean, which the heart that lies in that grave had many reasons to think of. And yet the sight of this spot does not give us pain. So far from it, it is the existence of that grave which doubles every charm of the spot...
As with the other quote (which I take to mean that life is richer if we make sure to brighten up our everyday mental furniture with bright but tasteful slipcovers), I do think this is 100% the right attitude -- so much so, that I'm not even going to notice the stuff about the vernal winds piping of the flowery summer-time, even though it seems extremely Madeline Bassett. Positive attitudes are always in danger of seeming Madeline Bassett-y -- that, or "How to get a positive mental attitude through this $250 series of tapes." But, as Bertie Wooster shows us, it's possible to have a positive, if sozzled, outlook on life and still have it in you to ridicule the Bassetts of the world:
"Oh, look," she said. She was a confirmed Oh-looker. I had noticed this at Cannes, where she had drawn my attention in this manner on various occasions to such diverse objects as a French actress, a Proven├žal filling station, the sunset over the Estorels, Michael Arlen, a man selling coloured spectacles, the deep velvet blue of the Mediterranean, and the late mayor of New York in a striped one-piece bathing suit. "Oh, look at that sweet little star up there all by itself."

I saw the one she meant, a little chap operating in a detached sort of way above a spinney.

"Yes," I said.

"I wonder if it feels lonely."

"Oh, I shouldn't think so."

"A fairy must have been crying."

"Eh?"

"Don't you remember? 'Every time a fairy sheds a tear, a wee bit star is born in the Milky Way.' Have you ever thought that, Mr. Wooster?"

I never had. Most improbable, I considered, and it didn't seem to me to check up with her statement that the stars were God's daisy chain. I mean, you can't have it both ways.
I didn't even know "Right Ho, Jeeves" was online. Maybe I'll go bask in the masters some more.

0 comments: