Thursday, 11 July 2013

2 - O'Flaherty/Blake/Hunt

(This blogger platform insists on saying I'm living on California time! I'm going to schedule the posts from now so they appear on the date I'm saying I'm posting.)

Short story
Liam O’Flaherty (1897-1984) The Fairy Goose, published in Classic Irish Short Stories. This is a wonderful story about a goose hatched by a chook. It’s a strange goose that doesn’t grow into a real goose, and which becomes the centre of superstition among the villagers, who first think it’s enchanted and later, on the visit of an enraged priest, think it’s a devil. It’s interesting how the woman and the villagers change during the story, and how the goose becomes an agent for peace and is later, on its death, an agent for disharmony. Interesting story.

William Blake’s Introduction to the Songs of Innocence (1789-94). The famous poem that begins:
Piping down the valleys wild
Piping songs of pleasant glee
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:
I should have started with this one yesterday instead of just picking one at random. It introduces Blake’s poetry book for children. I also skimmed through the introduction to the book (the Penguin William Blake: Selected Poetry, published in 1988, and which I’ve only ever ‘dipped’ into before). Anyway the introduction is a happy poem reminiscent of the pied piper and telling how the piper was asked to tell the stories for the children.
I love rhyming poetry that has lyricism, imagery and that is actually poetic. I agree with Ray that most of today’s poetry is crap.
BTW I’m not usually going to have time (and will rarely have any inclination) to do a scholarly essay on what I’m reading, and that isn’t the point of the exercise. The point, as Ray Bradbury said, is to fill my head with lots of ‘stuff’ and not to pontificate about the stuff I’m filling my head with, and this blog is intended to document it and help to keep me on track, as well as act as a reference source for later, when I think: ‘what was that story about that goose again?’ I will be able to look it up here.

This is from the Harvard Classics English Essays, which I’ve had on my bookshelf for years and ‘dipped into’. Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) Deaths of Little Children. I can’t remember having read this essay before, or for that matter having heard of Hunt. His use of the royal ‘we’ is quaint, but he is at heart an optimist, even seeing good in the deaths of little children, which was of course commonplace in the early 19th century and before. Most people would have lost at least one child. He says that those who have lost a child always have an immortal child who is always young and innocent, and earlier on reminds us that the pain of grief never lasts for ever and eventually what one is left with is the happy memories of the people who have died. One sentence struck me (as someone living in a world where every child is expected to survive and the death of a child is rare): if no children ever died ‘it will easily be conceived what a world of endearing cares and hopes this security would endanger.’ (The security being that of knowing that all children are ‘a man or woman secured’.) He seems to be suggesting that people today, living in such a world, love their children less because they are much less likely to lose them and therefore take their continued existence for granted. Interesting thought.

Typed up a story I wrote a couple of weeks ago today. I usually write stories etc. out longhand and type them up later only if I think they’re worth the effort. I find the second draft is much stronger than it is if I type it in the first place because the temptation then is to just change a word here and there rather than actually re-write and create a real second draft. This is probably why so much writing seems like a first draft with a bit of editing. I intend to follow Ray’s advice and keep on reading the old stories, essays and poems for this 1000 nights.

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