Phone cushion and toilet readimg
Yesterday, after I made my morning phone calls, I sat down on the long floor cushion where the phone lies and picked up my copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Visually stunning, it dates from 1946, and there I read with all credibility about Jesus suspiring out of the ground as spring time, and listened to Khayyam's terrible and beautiful laughter at the ways of the world, and gazed a long time at the picture of Omar pouring himself a cup of wine while an army in full glory rushed by to a sure death in the opposite direction.
Then I dipped into Shelley, and read the end of Act III of Prometheus Unbound, where the spirit of the hour tells how the human world has changed with the advent of the new golden age of science. I read with pity these lines, the beating heart of youth's ideals:
My coursers sought their birth-place in the sun,
Where they henceforth will live exempt from toil
Pasturing flowers of vegetable fire.
And where my moonlike car will stand within
A temple, gazed upon by Phidian forms...
I read to the end of III how men and women free of tyranny could somehow also manage to live free of their animality as well, wandering around the new earth in rapt rationality. Sigh.
I turned to Milton, and read the speech whereby the snake tempted Eve. Milton sure makes that devil argue well. I would've gone the way of Eve too, I think. Any why not? I think our mythic mother really did know best in this instance. I also find the way Eve speaks in Milton sexy: she reminds me of Seven of Nine in Star Trek Voyager.
Thismorning I read a few pages of Plato's Critias, how Socrates missus whined that it was the last time he'd hang out with his mates. Then after my one morning phone call I read Tennyson's 'Lucretius', some of In Memoriam, and the start of the Idylls of the King, which is impeccably well paced. Lucretius is an odd poem. Do you think Tennyson had a low opinion of women? And all this man-lovin' stuff in 'In Memoriam'? The guy who died must've been giving Alf sexual favors to get this kind of praise.
You can tell what Will Shakespeare's sexuality must've been (WS was evidently what we now call bi-curious hetro), but not Alfred Tennyson's. The guy could've been an alien for all we know about his animal nature. And it makes me uncomfortable reading him.
This afternoon I bought Samuel Johnston's Selected Writings, Robert Grave's hilarious I, Claudius, and Fielding's Tom Jones (which Johnston disapproved of, I immediately learned). Three funny guys - Johnston, Graves, and Fielding - who will make great company over the coming years.
I looked at various copies of Montaigne today too, but I think I will hold out on buying the Screech version for the one Harold Bloom recommends. I forget the translator (Mason?). I read much of the Screech edition of Selected Essays of Montaigne today in the bookshop, so I guess I can't justify buying it if it yields its contents so quickly.
I also looked at many many Roman and Greek classics. Xenophon's Socratic Writings and Persian Expedition grab my interest the most, but I want to wait until I have the full picture of Plato's view of Socrates before I take on Xenophon. He strikes me as a vulgar kind of writer, kind of like an ex-Marine who writes thrillers in his spare time while he plays the stock market with hedges and cheats on his wife by sleeping with crack-smoking single mothers as a hobby. That's just my first impressions of Xenophon, mind you. Once I have the full picture of the facts from Plato (who of course is self-evidently a trustworthy man) I will take on Xenophon. But not until then.
I have so much to be grateful for.