Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Walk In The Snow


Today the snow thawed and the cold ,economic climate crept nervously back to the front page. From my window as I type, I watch a mini Glacier shedding trenches of packed snow from a lower roof . I am reminded of the thunderous forces that excavated our romantic Northern landscapes. Takes me back...
(Many years ago..)
“ Class what features would we find in a glacial terraine “,
“ Peni Planing Sir ! “.
” Yes , thats good any more ?” ,
“ Terminal Morraine Sir , Corries , Ice fields , truncated spurs Sir , don’t forget truncated spurs .....”
” Very good any more “.
(silence )
“Matching bathroom set Sir ?”
“ Yes very funny come on , Lateral Morraine ..come on 4b test tomorrow ..”
“ Set of kitchen knives ..?”
“That’s enough ! “
Omnes -“ CUDDLY TOY !!! “

A bitter wind of protectionism is also chilling the air . Obama is protecting US industry as I foresaw he would , and a rough and ready deal has been done with “British workers “ who will get half of the “British Jobs “ .An old fissure is opening up between the pro immigration and pro Europe left , and the British workers who suffer. Polly Toynbee is quick to blame the inequality of society for the problem and Mary Ridell bemoans the rise of “xenophobia “. Both are warm and snugly employed in cosy scribbling jobs and are free to opine in comfort.
Sniffles and colds abound , and it has struck me that our current owes are a little like a cold . You can defer it with spending boosterism and debt , some of the worst may be ameliorated but in then the stages have to be endured . Misery , depression and thin gruel are unavoidable. The very economists who are so certain debt is the answer , were equally certain there was not going to be a question. Large doses of cuts are the nasty medicine but as yet even Cameron is yet to hold his nose and down the brew .
Yet snow still has an enchantment ,and as it turns to dirty sludge ,I have looked up one of my favourite uses of
a pristine fall at the end of the Dubliners , by Joyce of course . Here he uses a Cinematic effect to pan back from all the people and all their small concerns.
Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted upon the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly though the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

26 comments:

Daisy said...

i used to love the snow as a child because i was told it makes everything clean and pristine...however as an adult i find it only hides the muck below which will be revealed at the first warming trend...

Newmania said...

Me too Daisy

Philipa said...

I've just amended a comment to something with more seriuos bite (about government reviews and enquiries) and lost the lot. I'm going for a walk in the snow with my babes. Fukit.

Must stop blogging and wash up more: get off yer arse woman and do God's work!

Newmania said...

You go girl

Auntie Flo' said...

"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly though the universe..."

Glorious, Newmania. My soul swooned as I read that. It's particularly poignant for me as I've been thinking a lot lately of the beloved dust of my Irish ancestors, lying in a little graveyard on a stunning peninsular in County Kerry. It's time I went home for a while.

James Joyce. I never know whether to kiss his memory or to slap it. He wrote the most sublime prose. Pure genius. Yet, there was this deep perversity to the man.

It's as if, just as you're soul's soaring in blissful unity with him, Joyce panics and tugs an invisible rip cord somewhere that sends him wheeling off into the obscure and impenetrable stream of his own consciousness. There no other soul can follow.

Newmania said...

Flo you put that so well, when I ws looking at this I remembered the tedium of wading through some of his other stuff.
I was wondering what went wrong , is it the fetishising of the new ?

Philipa said...

I just don't think you have to approve of someone or like them for a person to assemble words or notes together in a pleasing or moving way - good work isn't necesarrily done by nice people. They may strike a chord but it's a chord not a whole character. But we tend to that thinking don't we? How can this singer/songwriter or poet write such moving feelings of love and yet be such a bastard to his wife or children or people at large? Can't remember who in the french revoluton wrote moving defence of children and put his own in a childrens home. Wierd.

Auntie Flo' said...

Yes, I think Joyce did fetishise modernity - but I think that was because he aimed to the be the God of it. For me it's tragic that Joyce, who had such genius at his finger tips, and Irish genius too, quite literally squandered it, on the altar of his chaotic ego. But then, perhaps he had no choice.

When asked about the obscurity of so much of his work, Joyce said something along the lines of he wrote like that so the critics would spend three hundred years trying to understand it. That's almost a claim to equivalence with Shakespeare - yet there's no comparison between them.

I'm with Hegel on art. His view was that what makes a work of art great is its glorious unity of the universal and the particular, form and content. He meant that great works of art depict the universal themes of the human condition - mortality, truth, the nature and meaning of human existence and so on - and breathe realism and concrete life into these, otherwise abstract, universal themes - for zillions of particular individuals at all times and in all places... forever. For Hegel, the sole route to infusing universals with this spectacular particularity and realism is via a triumphant unity of form and content.

Form must not dominate content, nor content dominate form, similarly, neither the universality nor the particularity of a piece must be dominant: they must be unified. The only way that can happen, says Hegel, is if the form used IS the form of the content. And that form will be chosen for the artist by the nature of their times. No one, in my view, has ever met Hegel's test of greatness as Shakespeare did.

Joyce flits around the flame of greatness, fragments of his work are truly great. Yet too much of Joyce's work is close to formless and dominated by the particularity of JJ's chaotic stream of consciousness and egotism.

Was that chaotic formlessness chosen for him by his times? Joyce straddles the epoch of two world wars and the terrible troubles in Ireland, little wonder that much of his work and consciousness was so bereft of meaningful form.

Auntie Flo' said...

Hi Phillipa, hi Daisy!

Phillipa, is Rousseau the bloke you mean?

tory boys never grow up said...

"The very economists who are so certain debt is the answer , were equally certain there was not going to be a question."

Not sure that this is universally true - perhaps you should have a look at Joeseph Stiglitz and other "true" Keynesians.

Perhaps the sad thing is that many who professed support for Keynes forgot what he said about asset price bubbles and the need for market regulation in the upswing (its all there in the General Theory as well as the better known stuff), and instead swallowed the free market deregulatory philosophy of the right. Perhaps 2008 was the year when free market capitalism/Thatcherism finally died or at least deposited its terminal moraine

As for you advocating treating problems with nasty medicine - all I can say is I'm glad you're not my doctor. Isn't insurance about avoiding nasty medicine anyway?

Auntie Flo' said...

"And that form will be chosen for the artist by the nature of their times."

Must have been knackered when I wrote that, it is of course positivist nonsense. I should have said that both the form and content would be conditioned by the nature of the artist's times - mediated through the artist's unique genius and historic cultural inheritance.

So, other artists living through traumatic periods of war, oppression, terrible social upheaval and economic depression similar to those which weighed so heavily on the psyche and work of James Joyce, Maya Angelou, for example, produce art that is infused with joy, unity and hope.

"Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean,
leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling
I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise."

Still I rise - Angelou

Philipa said...

both the form and content would be conditioned by the nature of the artist's times - mediated through the artist's unique genius and historic cultural inheritance.

Ah now I agree with you there. I would also add a caveat as to the definition of 'genius'. I'm unhappy with the constant use of that word eg. John Lennon was NOT a genius. If he was then you clearly run out of superlatives when you get to Bach. I assume you mean talent and ability. I split them up because I don't think he meanings quite the same. Talent can mean an intellectual response or a peculiar ability to feel emotion in response to a certain circumstance or time or arrangement of light or colour and attatch that to an image or collection of notes which produce or convey that emotion or a completely different one; each person gaining something quite different eg. Jackson Pollack. But ability may mean that Bach is not only intersted in mathematical expression through music but is physically adept at playing the piano, Degas was good at painting dancers, Constable good at painting landscapes but Jackson pollock may not have been very good at painting people?

I agree with your meaning, if correct, that circumstance is significant in producing these great works. Would Edward Thomas's 'February Afternoon' be so moving without the impact of WW1? Given this thought and what happened between Plath and Hughes I can't read their work which I guess is a shame. What say you Flo?

Did you read the lovely J.Joyce story told by Dave Allen? It's one from his father who was a journalist in Ireland. V.Funny.

Yes I think it must be Rousseau, thanks :-) You've just reminded me to find my Bill Doyle book and put it back on the bookcase.

Newmania said...

Genius originally referred to the spirit or inspiration ,a sort of romantic version of the muse didn’t it Phillipa , the whole idea of the lonely artist outside society is a 19th century invention and the artist against art a 20th century invention It had parallels in music , but I do enjoy the modern myself , by which I mean as modern as Picasso ..( ie very old )

Newmania said...

PS Your defbece of Jack the driopper if thats what it is is balls IMHO .Bach is not mathmatics any more than music is

Philipa said...

Newms: "Your defbece of Jack the driopper if thats what it is is balls IMHO"

huh?

"Bach is not mathmatics any more than music is"

Well that's where you'd be wrong, honey. Music IS mathematics. Without mathematics there is no music. Music is a series of notes that have a reltionship with time. They are played at specific intervals. They can be taken as numerical expression. The composition of pleasing music follows a recognised numerical expression with a specific time pattern. Bach made use of a number of formal mathematical patterns when he composed his majestic organ fugues. - Bach used for instance the "golden section" as well as the Fibonacci succession (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 etc., in which each number in the succession is the sum of the two previous ones). Bach's music is well known for being a classic mathematical expression, crikey I thought everyone knew that!

Newmania said...

"Bach is not mathmatics any more than music is"


Yes Phillipa any pattern or non pattern could be expressed as an equation if we knew how to write it . Music is a great more entwined with maths than that , especially the tradition of Western music we call ”Classical” .
The string of a violin when halved produces the identical lnote an octave above , the harmonies with the tonic note , the third and fifth which are the foundation of harmony are described simple fractions of the string , a half a third and so on , the fourth is the fifth below . Those sounds which are pleasing have clear simple mathematical relations
This was a discovery of the ancient world and through plain song transmitted itself into the polyphonic Western tradition as opposed to the complicating of a monotone which is typical of the rest of the world . The tonic fifth below and above and the chords of the hymn and blues and an infinite number of pop songs . You have quite underestimated the closeness of maths to music

That is the sense in which I meant Bach is no more mathematical than music is. I suspect you mean that he contructs through statement and variation of a theme a Cathedral with its delight in symmetry and proportion . This would be as opposed to the post Beethoven Romantics who introduced dissonance and evolved a grammar requiring more emotional responses . Bach did not write mathematically though he wrote with an idea of beauty of the classical period .

Oh how I love to lecture you ……

Auntie Flo' said...

"Given this thought and what happened between Plath and Hughes I can't read their work which I guess is a shame. What say you Flo?" Philipa

Same here, Philipa. I bought copies of collected works by Hughes and Sylvia Plath yet can hardly bear to read them.

That horrible poem about the 'holiday' he insisted they take in post war Paris. Hughes wanted Plath to sit at his feet like an adoring child and listen enthralled to his vain intellectual analysis of it all. Yet all Sylvia could understandably feel was horror at the bullet holes in the walls and deep empathy with those at whom the bullets had been aimed.

Why the heck did this man, who says he knew that his wife had been deeply depressed to the point of suicide in her youth, take her on alleged holiday to Paris so soon after the war, when the scent of death and suffering was everywhere?

Why did he drag her to those Spanish bullfights that she so detested? The b*st*rd even criticised her for not revelling in the spectacle of death as he did.

He criticised everything about Plath, constantly trying to make her feel inferior to his own, icy, challenged. withered intellect. She was a brash, stupid, 'bobby socked American, a jew with 'African lips', she was governed by emotion. All the while he was just nibbling at the real issue he had with her: she was a woman.

Hughes, quite knowingly, I believe, surrounded, the increasingly depressed, Plath - and God knows he was the source of much of that depression - with images of death and a thousand subliminal messages that she was useless, that her work was useless. Perhaps the ultimate message was that only death would do.

Little wonder Hughes like nature red in tooth and claw and all of those poems about predatory animals and their victims. That bl**dy predatory pike with the snapping jaws, that was him.

Philipa said...

Yeah but you're not lecturing, just trying to disagree. If you knew Bach was a classic example of maths in music then why say he wasn't? This isn't lecturing this is having Googled and trying to construct a clever justification of a previous standpoint. Sorry, not buying it. As Christopher Hitchens would say - you lose boychick.

What does that mean by the way? 'Boychick'? I hope it's not horrible as to me it means a boyish example of an endearment I use towards my children (chick), though I suppose to you 'manchick' would be more appropriate.

Anyway, haven't you got some winding/burping to do? Or are they sleeping through the night now? Bless you are so lucky to have babies. They grow up far too fast :-)

Auntie Flo' said...

Did you read the lovely J.Joyce story told by Dave Allen? It's one from his father who was a journalist in Ireland. V.Funny. (Philipa)

Which one was it, Philipa?

Philipa said...

Flo - a brilliant analysis I completely agree with. In fact.. not only do you hit the nail squarely on the head with these two I think, better than I could express it, but your writing strikes another chord in me. I recognise the description. Change one word and it could be me there:

He criticised everything about Pip, constantly trying to make her feel inferior to his own, icy, challenged. withered intellect. She was stupid, she was governed by emotion. All the while he was just nibbling at the real issue he had with her: she was a woman.

Philipa said...

I'll dig the J.Joyce story out when I have time, Flo but basically a journo seeks out JJ's childhood place and interviews the one old man who can remember the family well. He speaks at length about Mr Joyce and the journo writes it all down. As they are saying their farewells the old man asks if the journo knows what happened to little jimmy joyce? It turned out they hadn't been talking about the famous James Joyce all that time but his father.

Or something like that - it was funnier the way Allen put it I can assure you, he had a knack :-)

Newmania said...

This isn't lecturing this is having Googled and trying to construct a clever justification of a previous standpoint.

Not so Phillipa ,I am not bad pianist and I know alot about music , I do not google and pretend . I meant precisly what I said I meant in the first place . Bach is not an exmaple of maths in music there is not example of music without maths,there cannot be


Flo must be reading my mind at the moment I was just thinking about Ted Hughes being such an amazing poet but such an awful man. Just quoted another snow pome by him


'Hughes wanted Plath to sit at his feet like an adoring child and listen enthralled to his vain intellectual analysis of it all.'


This is how I like to imagine Phillipa .....

Auntie Flo' said...

Philipa,

He criticised everything about Flo', constantly trying to make her feel inferior to his own, icy, challenged, withered intellect. She was stupid, she was governed by emotion. All the while he was just nibbling at the real issue he had with her: she was a woman.

Newmania said...

Its not all beer and skittles over here either you know. I have heard this very eve of a friend betrayed by a self obsessed woman intent on her own drama and uninterested in thre wreck she has made of more than one life .

Auntie Flo' said...

"Its not all beer and skittles over here either you know."


hahahhahhaha:)

Oh this made me laugh. You're right, of course, it's not only wronged women who suffer.

I detest Hughes all the more because he reminds me of one of my ex-husbands. He brings out the worst in me for that reason.

Philipa said...

Actually Flo you helped me there.

Now wierdly enough I dreamt of Paul last night and dreamt of an evening and this conversation where I would be telling you that I once argued with Paul for the fun of it and he was intelligent enough to recognise that and enjoy the game. Other, lesser, men get aggresive. And Paul doesn't need to put down all women to satisfy his ego - he knows he's an intelligent man and has respect. Sadly other men seem to think they are big men by standing on a woman. Little knowing they are showing themselves to be 'little' men.

Paul - you say "Bach is not an exmaple of maths in music there is not example of music without maths,there cannot be " which agasin leaves me confused as it seems contradictory logic. Hence my previous comment that you were having fun there as we seem essentially in agreement.

Don't start on me with such an awful memory in my head? I was shredded.

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