Archive for May, 2012

Reay Tannahill (1929- November 2, 2007)




















Although by 3000 B.C., the peoples of the Tigris-Euphrates and Nile valleys had adapted their diet to fit their farming, in Greece – according to Homer – animal husbandry was still the decisive factor two thousand years later. Antiphanes might afterward complain that Homer’s idea of a good meal was woefully dull, and Athenaeus that the epic heroes knew nothing of even such commonplace delicacies as “entrees served in vine leaves,” but Homer drew on a sound tradition, not only for his characters’ exploits but for their food. The warriors of Greece in the twelfth century B.C. had ancestral ties with the nomad pastoralists of Central Asia and, in all probability, still lived a life not too far removed from theirs. When Achilles played host to Odysseus outside the walls of llium, he gave him a meal which might have been offered by any nomad chief for a thousand years before, or two thousand years after, the Trojan wars.

Patroclus “put down a big bench in the firelight, and laid on it the backs of a sheep and a fat goat and the chine of a great (wild) hog rich in lard. Automedon held these for him, while Achilles jointed them, and then carved up the joints and spitted the slices. Meanwhile, Patroclus, the royal son of Menoetius, made the fire blaze up. When it had burned down again and the flames disappeared, he scattered the embers and laid the spits above them, resting them on logs, after he had sprinkled the meat with holy salt. When he had roasted it and heaped it up on platters, Patroclus fetched some bread and set it out on the table in handsome baskets; and Achilles divided the meat into portions.” This heroic predilection for roast meat was not to survive the problems set by the landscape of Greece. In the early days, wild boar were still there for the hunting, and a few settled communities were able to feed the domestic pig on acorns and  beechmast  from the trees which clothed the lower levels of the mountain ranges. But the long narrow valleys of the interior and the slender ribbons of fertile plain around the coasts set an irrevocable limit to stock-raising. Only in a few areas, such as Boeotia – whose name, in fact, means “cow land” – were there plains wide enough for pasturing cattle.

While the human population was small, the farmer and his family lived off the land in modest comfort. They grew a little wheat or barley, tended their olive and fig trees and a few vines, reared pigs, and kept a goat to provide milk and cheese. If they were rich, they might have a small flock of sheep, or a pair of oxen or mules.

By about 650 B.C., however, many peasants in such areas as Attica were leading a marginal existence on marginal land. As the population increased, good land became scarce. The hillsides had been denuded of many of their trees to provide the timber needed for houses, for the ships on which the Greek states depended for trade and transport, for the charcoal which was being swallowed up in ever-increasing quantities by the demands of metalworking. Tree-felling at first seemed beneficial. Not only did it provide valuable timber; it also cleared new land for cultivation. But the light soil of Greece, no longer fed by dead leaves or held together by living tree roots, began to be washed away in the torrential rains of winter. Formerly, the rains had been valuable. Filtered through the branches, they had soaked slowly and gently into the soil and then down to the limestone below; from the limestone they drained gradually to the plains. Now, instead, the rains became destructive, pouring down on the naked hills too heavily to be absorbed, and then thundering on to flood the plains. Gradually, the hills lost their soil and the valleys their fertility.

The peasants who attempted to carry on traditional, self-sufficient farming on the increasingly barren lower levels of the hill-sides plunged deep into debt. In the old days, a family short of grain in the lean period before the harvest had been able to borrow a sack or two from a neighbor. But after money was introduced into Greece in 625 B.C., things changed. Instead of borrowing grain, the peasant had to borrow enough money to buy it at high pre-harvest prices. When the time came to repay, he either had to raise the cash by selling his own produce at low post-harvest prices, or hold on until the market began to improve, paying punitive rates of interest in the meantime.


At the beginning of the sixth century B.C., Solon forbade the export of any agricultural produce other than olive oil. It was a well-meant gesture, but it struck the fatal blow at the Greek landscape. Such fibrous-rooted trees as remained were felled for the sake of the olive, whose deep-striking tap root soaked up the moisture far down in the limestone and did nothing to knit, conserve or feed the topsoil. By the fourth century B.C., Plato was gloomily contrasting the bare white limestone of the Attic countryside he knew with the green meadows, woods and springs of the past. The pure and brilliant light which is so startling a characteristic of Greece today had been bought at the expense of the trees which had once kept the land fertile. It took thousands of years for the neolithic revolution to desiccate the flat countryside of Mesopotamia, but only a few hundred in the topographical context of Greece.

Cultivation of the olive seems to have originated six thousand years ago at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The straggly, spiny wild plant, poor in oil, was widely distributed even before this time, but it needed the agricultural and mercantile genius of the Syrians and Palestinians to develop the thornless, compact, oil-rich variety which was to spread all along the shores of the Mediterranean.

Oil was everywhere in demand in the ancient world, for food, lighting and medicine, as well as for the lustrations of Egypt and the perfumed unguents with which the early Mediterranean peoples anointed their bodies. The olive was by no means the only provider, though it was the richest known during the Western bronze age. In Greece, oil was also extracted from the walnut and the opium poppy; in Mesopotamia and Africa, from sesame; from almonds in Anatolia; flax and radish seeds in Egypt; flax and cameline in northern Europe. South, Central and western North America had, respectively, groundnut, maize, and sunflower-seed oil, while in Asia the soybean and the coconut palm were probably the richest early sources.

In Crete, the olive was under cultivation at least as early as 2500 B.C., and the island soon waxed fat on exporting oil as well as the timber that had to be felled to make way for the new groves. The palace of Nestor at Knossos has yielded to archeologists great numbers of stirrup jars which once contained expensive and much-prized oil perfumed with aromatic herbs from the hill-sides. But dependence on the olive in a small country brought, as a natural sequel, dependence on external trade for the necessities of life and a resultant defenselessness in wartime. Crete discovered this, and Athens was to do so too.

During the century and a half after Solon, Athens grew rich on silver from the mines of Laurium and the smooth green-gold oil of the olive. But as first the olive and then the vine – supplemented by fig and nut trees – took over the Attic landscape, livestock became few and wheat and barley virtually disappeared. The trade of Greece, and the Greek empire itself, expanded to meet the country’s urgent need for basic food supplies.


The olive was the first great export crop of Greece, but it was closely followed by the product of the vine. From about the fifth until the latter part of the first century B.C., Greece and the islands were, to the Mediterranean world, the home of fine wines. There are many picturesque tales about the origins of wine, but what almost certainly happened was that at some time in prehistory a containerful of grapes was left neglected in a corner; that they fermented; and that some inquisitive person tasted the fermented juice – and found it good. The wild vine flourished in the Caucasus, and it was probably there that the plant was first brought under cultivation. By 3000 B.C. it had reached Mesopotamia – whose rulers seem from then on to have taken a very personal interest in it – and Egypt, where wine was first used almost entirely for temple rituals. It was not, apparently, until Greek influence began to be felt in Egypt in the first millennium B.C. that private vineyards became common and wine found its place as a popular drink. But Egyptian temple vintners had become expert long before then, and it is possible that the Greeks simply re-exported to secular Egypt the knowledge that they had earlier imported from priestly Egypt.

In the Mediterranean during the Greek golden age, many countries produced their own ordinaires, but the rich insisted on importing the scarce and expensive vintages of Lesbos and Chios. The great growths appear to have been sweet, and it has been suggested that the most famous wine of antiquity – the Pramnian so frequently mentioned by Homer – may have been as rich as Tokay. Since both Greeks and Romans followed the Egyptian custom of drinking their wines well diluted with water, the finer vintages were often kept until they were as thick and sticky as honey.

The wine was fermented in vats smeared inside and out with resin, which gave it a characteristic tang, and then filtered into goatskins or pigskins if it were intended for local consumption, or into clay amphoræ for export. Fermentation was not a scientifically controlled process, and the wines of the ancient world did not keep well unless special mixtures were added. Each region had its own formula. One consisted of adding a brew of herbs and spices which had been mixed with condensed sea water and matured for some years, while a later Roman recipe favored the addition of liquid resin mixed with vine ash to the grape juice before fermentation. Filled wine jars were often kept to mature in the loft where wood was seasoned and meat smoked, but although reasonable smoking was thought to improve a wine, all Romans with pretensions to good taste were united in vilifying those French vintners who over-smoked their wines in order to make them appear older than they were.

Greek wines were to go out of international fashion after the first of the great Italian vintages, the Opimian, appeared in 121 B.C. In the centuries that followed many other Italian wines, including Falernian, became household names and the competition turned out to be too stiff for Greece. Italian vineyards were able to produce 1600 Imperial, or 2000 American, gallons an acre – far more than those of Greece, which were never very productive and always old-fashioned in their methods. Also, as the power of Rome expanded, the taste for Italian wine – even the vine itself – was carried to many new lands.


The Greek peasant never saw much of the profit from his olives or his vines, but while there was peace he and his family could rely on a solid, if monotonous, sufficiency of food. Sir Alfred Zimmern’s frequently quoted definition of the Attic dinner as consisting of two courses, “the first a kind of porridge, and the second a kind of porridge,” was unduly severe. The Greek word maza, like the Latin puls, is usually translated – rather indiscriminately – as “cakes” or “porridge,” but in fact both maza and puls were terms which almost certainly included unbaked grain-pastes in the neolithic tradition. The word maza, for example, implies kneaded things other than bread, while puls seems to have been a more general term which included pastes made from lentils and beans as well as from grain. From the elder Pliny’s recipes for Greek and Italian barley puls, it is clear that the result must have been an oily, highly seasoned paste rather than a porridge.

The Greeks, said Pliny, “soak some barley in water (probably for a few days) and then leave it for a night to dry. Next day they dry it by the fire and then grind it in a mill . . .  When it has been got ready, in the mill they mix three pounds of flax seed (which produces linseed oil when warmed and pounded), half a pound of coriander seed, and an eighth of a pint of salt, previously roasting them all.” Italians, on the other hand, first baked their barley without steeping it in water, and then ground it “into fine meal, with the addition of the same ingredients, and millet as well”

It was still one of the virtues of the grain-pastes, even in these late and sophisticated forms, that they remained palatable for a considerable time. For long-term storage, Pliny recommended packing the puls into a container and covering with a layer of flour and bran.

In Classical Greece, the peasant ate not only barley-pastes but barley gruel and barley bread. With this basic fare, he would have a handful of olives, a few figs, or some goat’s milk cheese. Occasionally there would be salt fish as a relish. The meal was washed down usually with water or goat’s milk, sometimes with wine.

Meat was a rarity except at times of religious sacrifice and feasting. On such occasions the officiating priest, after paying due heed to the portents indicated by the shape and condition of the sacrificial animal’s liver, would divide the carcass into three parts – one (not usually the best) for the god, one for the priest, and one for the donor or donors,  while the god’s portion reduced itself to cinders before the altar, the priest exercised his culinary skill in preparing and roasting the donors’ ration, watched by his audience in a silence compounded of equal piety and anticipation. None – it may be assumed, would have dared be as greedy as the later Roman emperor Vitellius, who, according to Suetonius, “thought nothing of snatching lumps of meat cake off the altar, almost out of the sacred fire, and bolting them down.

Until the middle of the fifth century B.C., the diet of rich and poor in Greece probably did not differ very radically. The rich would drink less water and more wine; they would eat goat, mutton or pork more frequently; and such game as deer, hare, partridge and thrushes might lend variety to the menu. But in country and city alike, early Greece was an outdoor society and its cuisine was correspondingly plain. Morning and midday snacks were taken outdoors, or at the corner of a table, and the more substantial evening meal was equally unceremonious. The symposium or banquet so dear to literary tradition was a type of dinner party at which the food was disposed of rapidly before the real business of the evening, – talking and drinking – began.

Some idea of the style of cooking in Greece in about 450 B.C. can be gathered from a passage in Telecleides’ The Amphictyons, in which the author reconstructs life in an imaginary golden age.
“Every torrent ran with wine, and barley-pastes fought with wheaten loaves to be first to men’s lips . . . Fish would come to the house and bake themselves, then serve themselves up at table. A river of broth, swirling along hot pieces of meat, would flow by the couches; conduits fuIl of piquant sauces for the meat were close at hand for the asking . . . On dishes there would be honey cakes ail sprinkled with spices, and roast thrushes served up with milk cakes flew down a man’s gullet.” Though it may sound appetizing, it was essentially a plain cuisine.

The average Greek was no great gourmet, but even he shuddered at the diet favored by the earnest Spartans, whose “black broth” – reputedly made of pork stock, vinegar and salt – was infamous throughout the civilized world. Indeed, Athenaeus reports that a sybarite who went to Sparta was invited out to dine. “As he lay on the wooden benches and ate with them he remarked that he had always before been astounded to hear of the Spartans’ courage; but now . . . he did not think they were in any respect superior to other peoples, “For, concluded Athenaeus gleefully, “the most cowardly man in the world would prefer to die rather than endure living that sort of life.”

The contrast between the food of the rich and poor became more pronounced in Athens during the period of Athenian greatness. The city became a center of magnificence, self-assured and very conscious of its intellectual eminence. It would have been strange if this state of mind had not struck an echo in the Greek kitchen. Although no recipe books remain, titles and extracts have been preserved in other works. There appear to have been at least a dozen culinary vade mecums with the title The Art of Cooking, and such authors as Glaucus of Locris, Mithæcus,Heraclidus, Hegesippus, Eristratus and Euthydemus wrote treatises on Gastronomy, Pickles, Vegetables, Sicilian Cooking, and similar subjects.

The father of all Greek writers on cooking, and self-styled inventor of “made dishes,” was Archestratus who, in the fourth century B.C, “diligently traversed all lands and seas in his desire . . . of testing carefully the delights of the belly.”  In the historical record, Archestratus was the first in that long line of gastronomic pedants, half ludicrous, half irritating, wholly familiar even in the twentieth century, whose pronouncements on haute cuisine have so successfully obscured the realities of everyday eating. While most Athenians who liked tunny fish had to put up with the dried or salted variety from the Black Sea, Archestratus busily insisted that none but the fresh kind from Byzantium would do, and that it should be eaten only “in the autumn, what time the P1eiad is setting.”

As the decades passed, Athenian tastes became more exotic. A pig which had died of over-eating was regarded as a great delicacy, and geese were painstakingly fed on moistened grain to fatten them for the table. The eggs of the peacock – a rare and much admired bird, bred in the gardens of the rich – were claimed to be highly superior. “Fox-goose” eggs ranked second, and hens’ eggs a distant third. The domestic hen was common in the Mediterranean by the fifth century B.C. and almost every Athenian had one – which may explain the rather poor gastronomic rating of its eggs.

By the third century B.C., Athens had developed the original hors d’oeuvre trolley, an innovation which other Greeks stigmatized as evidence of a miserly disposition. Lynceus, in The Centaur, complained that an Athenian dinner was little short of revolting, especially to a hungry man. “For the cook sets before you a large tray on which are five small plates. One of these holds garlic, another a pair of sea urchins, another a sweet wine sop, another ten cockles, the last a small piece of sturgeon. While I am eating this, another is eating that; and while he is eating that, I have made away with this. What I want, good sir, is both the one and the other, but my wish is impossible. For I have neither five mouths nor five right hands”. Such a layout as that seems to offer variety, but is nothing at all to satisfy the belly.

Satisfaction was a relative term. The Peloponnesian wars of the latter part of the fifth century B.C. had wrought havoc in the Attic countryside. Within the walls of Athens, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes produced works of genius; outside the walls, villages were razed and crops ruined. Recovery was to be, at the least, agonizing, at the worst, impossible. It takes three or four years for a newly planted vine to produce a worthwhile crop, thirty years in the case of the olive. Ultimately, the small peasant sold out to the speculators and left the countryside – as so many peasants in so many countries have done, before and since – for the doubtful haven of the city.

The poet Alexis of Thurii, in the fourth century B.C., described the fare of an impoverished family of five who existed mainly on pulses, greens and turnips, varied with iris rhizomes, beechnut, lupin seeds (reported to be sour but very nutritious), an occasional grasshopper, wild pears, “and that god-given inheritance of our mother country, darling of my heart, a dried fig.” If there was enough food for more than three of the family, it was unusual.

As a rule the other two had to make do  with a mouthful of barley-paste. But though sporadic attempts were made to help the Athenian poor, it was to be left to the Romans to embark on the first massive –  and, in the end self-defeating – social welfare project.

Reay Tannahill















Accustomed as we are to think of the ancient Greeks  – apart from their androcentrism and lamentable treatment of women – as being a civilised people, most of us would be a little startled to hear that raw fermented grain and lentil pastes  comprised (as they also did in Roman times)  the ordinary daily fare of an average person.

Not only that, but to learn from Reay Tannahill about the sheer scarcity of food, which compelled two out of every five family members (and we should have no difficulty whatsoever in surmising that those two would have had to have been women) to go hungry at mealtimes, comes as a bit of a shock.

But then, this meagre and (what might well seem to us) distasteful diet might have been an improvement on the food of what has been referred to by Hesiod, Virgil, Cervantes and others, as the ‘Golden Age’ –  a happy and peaceful time predating civilisation, with all its attendant detriments such as money, war, poverty and servitude – when ‘men’ lived happily on acorns and honey.

This was necessarily a time predating agriculture, but it was a time of settled existence. Ancient though they were, the people of the ‘golden age’ were not the nomads who pre-dated the agriculturalists, and their culture does not resemble that of the of the nomads who raised animals for food, clothes and shelter.

Hunting and gathering is something we associate with the brutishness of Neolithic existence, but again, the golden age was warm –  and it does not seem to have taken place during the ice-encroached millennia endured by our stone-age ancestors. Life, if we are to believe the descriptions handed down to us of this time, was leisurely,  and possibly communal. People cooked their food, sang, danced, painted and composed poetry.

Fermented  lentil pastes of early agricultural times still retain their place in Indian and Ceylonese (Sri-Lankan) cuisine , but only as cooked (on a griddle or deep-fried) food, and they are never eaten raw. We retain our culinary links with our distant ancestors in our barbecues, clam-bakes and ‘luaus’ which probably hark back to the time, when food was cooked over hot coals without benefit of containers, and groups of people ate the common meal together, conversing, telling – or reciting –  stories and making music.

But this  picture, so suited to our dreamy idealisations of an ideal past, may be just the slightest bit out-of-focus.  The discovery of  the corpse of Ötzi the Iceman from 3300 B.C.E, who was found with an arrow lodged in his back, seems to suggest that however far back we go in human history – or prehistory – we are likely to find evidence of homicide and worse.

I found an interesting essay in Robert Graves’s book The Common Asphodel: collected essays on poetry 1922 – 1925, in which he explains that the tubers of the Asphodel were widely eaten in Greece before corn (what we refer to as wheat) was widely grown there. The tubers were roasted in the ashes and eaten with salt, and according to Hesiod, they were  sometimes eaten after being pounded into a mash with figs. Roasted Asphodel seeds were also eaten like corn (wheat) or made into bread.

Asphodels were said to grow in the Elysian fields, where the souls of the just took their post-mortem rest. Perhaps it is due to this sepulchral association that Asphodel is no longer eaten today, or perhaps it is because eating, for most of us, is no longer predominantly a matter of sustenance, but of taste.




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Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (28 May 1925 – 18 May 2012)



















Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828)


















An die Entfernte

So hab ich wirklich dich verloren?                  
Bist du, o [Schöne]1, mir entflohn?
Noch klingt in den gewohnten Ohren
Ein jedes Wort, ein jeder Ton.


So wie des Wandrers Blick am Morgen
Vergebens in die Lüfte dringt,
Wenn, in dem blauen Raum verborgen,
Hoch über ihm die Lerche singt:


So dringet ängstlich hin und wieder
Durch Feld und Busch und Wald mein Blick;
Dich rufen alle meine Lieder;
O komm, Geliebte, mir zurück.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832)














To the Distant One                                    

So have I truly lost you?
Have you, o fair one, fled from me?
Yet still I can hear in my accustomed ears
Every word, every tone of your voice.

Just as the wanderer’s gaze in the morning
Searchingly pierces the heavens in vain
When, concealed in the blue expanse
High above, the lark sings to him:

So does my gaze anxiously search here and there,
Through field and bush and forest,
Singing to you through all my songs,
O come, my darling, back to me!

Translation from German to English copyright © Emily Ezust



Der Jüngling an der Quelle

Leise rieselnder Quell!                        
Ihr wallenden flispernden Pappeln!
Euer Schlummergeräusch
Wecket die Liebe nur auf.





Linderung sucht’ ich bei euch
Und sie zu vergessen, die Spröde.
Ach, und Blätter und Bach
Seufzen, [Luise] Dir nach!

Johann Gaudenz Freiherr von Salis-Seewis
(December 26 1762 – January 29 1834)















The Youth and the Spring

Softly rippling spring!                           
Ye wind-toss’d and rustling poplars!
Thy whispered sounds of slumber
Do but waken my love.

‘Twas comfort I’d sought from thee,
And her coldness I’d thought to forget;
Ah, and yet brook and leaves
Still sigh, Louise, for thee!
Louise! Louise!

English version ©2010, E. Lein






O gib, vom weichen Pfühle,     
Träumend, ein halb Gehör!
Bei meinem Saitenspiele
Schlafe! was willst du mehr?



Bei meinem Saitenspiele
Segnet der Sterne Heer
Die ewigen Gefühle;
Schlafe! was willst du mehr?



Die ewigen Gefühle
Heben mich, hoch und hehr,
Aus irdischem Gewühle;        
Schlafe! was willst du mehr?


Vom irdischen Gewühle
Trennst du mich nur zu sehr,
Bannst mich in deine Kühle;
Schlafe! was willst du mehr?



Bannst mich in diese Kühle,
Gibst nur im Traum Gehör.
Ach, auf dem weichen Pfühle
Schlafe! was willst du mehr?

Ludwig Gotthard Theobul Kosegarten,
(February 1 1758 – October 26 1818)














Night Singing

O give, dreaming from your soft pillow,
half an ear to me!
To my lute’s playing
you sleep! what more do you want?


To my lute’s playing
the set of stars blesses
eternal feelings;
you sleep! what more do you want?


Those eternal feelings
lift me sublimely high,
away from the earthly crowd;
you sleep! what more do you want?


Away from the earthly crowd
you sever me only too abruptly,
entrance me in this cool place;
you sleep! what more do you want?


You entrance me in this cool place,
give me your ear only in your dreams.
Ah, on your soft pillow
you sleep! what more do you want?



Translation from German to English copyright © Emily Ezust





Der Winterabend

Es ist so still, so heimlich um mich.                        
Die Sonn ist unten, der Tag entwich.
Wie schnell nun heran der Abend graut.
Mir ist es recht, sonst ist mir’s zu laut.
Jetzt aber ist’s ruhig, es hämmert kein Schmied,
Kein Klempner, das Volk verlief, und ist müd.
Und selbst, daß nicht rassle der Wagen Lauf,
Zog Decken der Schnee durch die Gassen auf.

Wie tut mir so wohl der selige Frieden!
Da sitz ich im Dunkel, ganz abgeschieden.
So ganz für mich. Nur der Mondenschein
Kommt leise zu mir ins Gemach [herein]1.
Er kennt mich schon und läßt mich schweigen.
Nimmt nur seine Arbeit, die Spindel, das Gold,
Und spinnet stille, webt, und lächelt hold,
Und hängt dann sein schimmerndes Schleiertuch
Ringsum an Gerät und Wänden aus.

Ist gar ein stiller, ein lieber Besuch,         
Macht mir gar keine Unruh im Haus.
Will er bleiben, so hat er Ort,
Freut’s ihn nimmer, so geht er fort.

Ich sitze dann stumm in Fenster gern,
Und schaue hinauf in Gewölk und Stern.
Denke zurück, ach weit, gar weit,
In eine schöne, verschwundne Zeit.
Denk an sie, an das Glück der Minne,
Seufze still und sinne, und sinne.

Karl Gottfried Ritter von Leitner (November 18, 1800 – June 20, 1890)














Winter Evening

It is so still and secret around me;                                    
The sun has set, the day is gone.
How quickly now the evening grows gray!
It’s fine with me: the day is too noisy for me.
Now though, it is quiet: no blacksmith is hammering,
no tinsmith; the people have gone away, weary.
And, so that the wagons don’t rattle on their way,
a blanket of snow has covered the streets.

How well I like this blissful peace!
Here I sit in the dark, entirely isolated.
So complete in myself. Only the moonlight
Comes softly into my room.
It knows me well, and allows me to be quiet.
It only takes up its work, the spindle, the gold,
And spins and weaves, smiling kindly,
And then it hangs its shimmering veil
about the furniture and walls;

It is a quiet, dear visitor,
Making no disturbance in the house.
If it wishes to remain, there is room;
If it does not like it here, then it goes away.


I sit then at the window, gladly silent,
and watch the clouds and stars outside.
I think back, alas, far, far back,
to a lovely, vanished time.
I think on it, on the happiness of love,
And sigh quietly, thinking and feeling.





 Sei Mir Gegrüßt

O du Entrißne mir und meinem Kusse,        
Sei mir gegrüßt, sei mir geküßt!
Erreichbar nur meinem Sehnsuchtsgruße,
Sei mir gegrüßt, sei mir geküßt!


Du von der Hand der Liebe diesem Herzen
Gegebne, du von dieser Brust
Genommne mir! mit diesem Tränengusse
Sei mir gegrüßt, sei mir geküßt!


Du von der Hand der Liebe diesem Herzen
Gegebne, du von dieser Brust
Genommne mir! mit diesem Tränengusse
Sei mir gegrüßt, sei mir geküßt!


Wie du mir je im schönsten Lenz der Liebe  
Mit Gruß und Kuß entgegenkamst,
Mit meiner Seele glühendstem Ergusse
Sei mir gegrüßt, sei mir geküßt!


Ein Hauch der Liebe tilget Räum’ und Zeiten,
Ich bin bei dir, du bist bei mir,
Ich halte dich in dieses Arms Umschlusse,
Sei mir gegrüßt, sei mir geküßt!


Karl Gottfried Ritter von Leitner (November 18, 1800 – June 20, 1890)













I Greet You

O you, who have been snatched from me and my kiss,
I greet you, I kiss you!
Reached only by my yearning greetings,
you I greet, you I kiss!


You, given by the hand of love to this heart,
you, who from my breast
have been taken! With these flooding tears
I greet you, I kiss you.


Defying the distance that fiendishly separates us
and lies between you and me –
to irritate the envious powers of fate,
I greet you, I kiss you!


Just as you always did in the fairest spring-time of love,
coming to greet me with a kiss,
so now, with my soul a glowing flood,
I greet you, I kiss you!


A breath of love erases space and time;
I am with you, you are with me,
I hold you in these arms, embracing you;
I greet you, I kiss you!



Translation from German to English copyright © Emily Ezust




Das Lied im Grünen

Ins Grüne, ins Grüne,                                              
Da lockt uns der Frühling, der liebliche Knabe,
Und führt uns am blumenumwundenen Stabe
Hinaus, wo die Lerchen und Amseln so wach,
In Wälder, auf Felder, auf Hügel zum Bach,
Ins Grüne, ins Grüne.

Im Grünen, im Grünen,
Da lebt es sich wonnig, da wandeln wir gerne
Und heften die Augen dahin schon von ferne,
Und wie wir so wandeln mit heiterer Brust,
Umwallet uns immer die kindliche Lust,
Im Grünen, im Grünen.

Im Grünen, im Grünen,
Da ruht man so wohl, empfindet so Schönes,
Und denket behaglich an dieses und jenes,
Und zaubert von hinnen, ach, was uns bedrückt,
Und alles herbei, was den Busen entzückt,
Im Grünen, im Grünen.

Im Grünen, im Grünen,
Da werden die Sterne so klar wie die Weisen
Der Vorwelt zur Leitung des Lebens uns preisen,
Da streichen die Wölkchen so zart uns dahin,
Da heitern die Herzen, da klärt sich der Sinn
Im Grünen, im Grünen.

Im Grünen, im Grünen,
Da wurde manch Plänchen auf Flügeln getragen,
Die Zukunft der grämlichen Ansicht entschlagen,
Da stärkt sich das Auge, da labt sich der Blick,
Sanft wiegen die Wünsche sich hin und zurück
Im Grünen, im Grünen.                                              

Im Grünen, im Grünen,
Am Morgen am Abend in traulicher Stille
Da wurde manch Liedchen und manche Idylle,*
Gedichet, gespielt, mit Vergnügen und Schmerz*
Denn leicht ist die Lockung, empfänglich das Herz
Im Grünen, im Grünen.

O gerne im Grünen
Bin ich schon als Knabe und Jüngling gewesen
Und habe gelernt und geschrieben, gelesen
Im Horaz und Plato, dann Wieland und Kant,
Und glühenden Herzens mich selig genannt,
Im Grünen, im Grünen.

Ins Grüne, ins Grüne,
Laßt heiter uns folgen dem freundlichen Knaben.
Grünt eins uns das Leben nicht förder, so haben
Wir klüglich die grünende Zeit nicht versäumt,
Und wann es gegolten, doch glücklich geträumt,
Im Grünen, im Grünen

In lieu of an image of Johann Anton Friedrich Reil (February 2 1773 – July 22 1843)














The Song of the Greenwood                      

To the greenwood!
That darling youth, Spring, invites us,
leading us on with his flower-decked staff
to where the larks and thrushes sing,
to the woods, the fields, the hills, the brook-
to the greenwood!
In the greenwood
life is bliss, and we love to roam;
even from a distance our eyes are fixed on it.
As we wander there with merry hearts,
a childlike pleasure surrounds our hearts,
in the greenwood!
In the greenwood
where our rest is so sweet, and our feelings so fine;
where we gently muse on this and that,                     
our cares are charmed away,
and the heart rejoices,
in the greenwood!
In the greenwood
how bright shine the stars,
those guiding lights of the wise men of old;
the little clouds drift gently by,
our hearts are light, our senses clear,
in the greenwood!
In the greenwood
our little plans and ideas take wing
and the future looks bright.
Our eyes are refreshed and our gaze serene,
we dally with our fancies,
in the greenwood!                                                        
In the greenwood,
in the intimate stillness of morning and evening,
how many songs and poems have been born,
and Hymen often crowns the poetic pleasure
for light is the spirit and the heart is willing
in the greenwood!
In the greenwood
I loved to be as a young boy
and I learned, and wrote, and read
Horace and Plato, later Wieland and Kant,
and with glowing heart counted myself blessed
in the greenwood.
To the greenwood
let us gladly follow the friendly lad.
Though one day life will no longer be green,
we will not have wasted the green years,
we at least will have enjoyed our dreams while they lasted
in the greenwood.

In Memorium: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (28 May 1925 – 18 May 2012)




















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Sylvia Nora Townsend Warner (6 December 1893 – 1 May 1978)






















Because of the telephone, Dr. Adam Hutton, the newly
 arrived locum tenens was occupying the conjugal bedroom.
 He got into bed, tilted the reading lamp, and pulled up the
 eiderdown. The moment he laid hold of it, he remembered
the roast fowl at supper. The roast fowl had been good and 
substantial; so was the eiderdown, and the phrase ‘spot
lessly clean’, which the eiderdown demanded as its due,
 could have applied with equal propriety to the fowl’s 
accompanying bread sauce.

Everything in the room brandished cleanliness, merit,
 and substantiality, while, at the same time, the colouring of
 wallpaper, carpet, and curtains plainly indicated that they 
had been chosen because they would not show dirt. ‘All the 
best bedrooms in Horn Street must have been like this,’ he
said to himself. ‘Still are, for that matter, I dare say.’  Behind a chink in the curtains (he had pulled them apart to 
look out) the windowpane glittered like a diamond, and in 
through the opened window came the familiar, grimy 
smell of the industrial West Riding. He had not smelled it 
for nearly thirty years.

But in his youth he had only guessed at such bedrooms,
 deducing them from furniture shops and advertisements.
 The cleanliness, merit, and substantiality of his own  surroundings had been of a shabbier, more arduous kind, and 
the smell of grime much more insistent, while he, with the 
thudding industry of a small engine, had fought to learn,
 and to be able to go on learning, until, by the end of his
 teens, he had finally learned himself out of his station and 
away from his birthplace, never to return. Get-on-and-
get-out, get-on-and-get-out, get-on-and-get-out. . .  If 
they had not been the words of his private heart, the print
ing shop across the street would have dinned them into him.

And he was still within the letter of his vow. He had 
not returned. This was Mexley, not Goatbridge. Identical 
in griminess and clatter, eclectic hideousness of public 
buildings and stoical ugliness of working-class streets,
 Mexley and Goatbridge and Hudderbeck and Wendon and 
Gullaby, sprawling one into another and laced together by 
trolley buses, were identical in mutual contempt, Goatbridge averring that folk in Hudderbeck never shut a door 
after them, Hudderbeck and Wendon cherishing a legend
 of what went into Mexley pies, Mexley, Goatbridge,
Wendon, and Hudderbeck jeering at Gullaby greenhorns,
 and Gullaby on its hillside looking down on their smoky 
rooftops as on the Cities on the Plain. ‘God knows what 
got into my head,’ said Adam Hutton; and opening the
 street map of Mexley, which was not Goatbridge, he 
began to memorize its layout. Knowing Goatbridge, he 
found it easy enough to put Mexley together by its street 
names. Foundry Street, Wharf Street, Hoggle Yard and 
Slaughter Yard and Tanhouse Yard, Bull Ring and Laystall Lane – that would be the old part of the town. And 
Douro Crescent and Portico Place would be the former
 residential quarter, left now to brass-plate users, solicitors,
and town offices –  he need not trouble to memorize that 
square of the map. Odd, though, that he could not find 
Horn Street. Realising that Horn Street had got in from 
Goatbridge and that he was half asleep, he put out the light.

In his dream it was a Christmas morning, and the Goatbridge Brass Band was standing on the roof of the fire
station, playing ‘Christians, awake! Salute the happy 
morn.’ But he was in a double bed in Mexley, and the 
telephone was ringing. A voice that might have come from 
any one of his aunts said, ‘Is that you, Doctor? I’m in the 
call box – Mrs. Bella Heaton – and it’s Joseph. He’s been 
throwing up these last three hours, and I don’t like the
 look of his nose, and his feet are like ice, and- ‘

‘I’ll come at once. But first tell me your address.’

A voice completely changed and concealing ineffable
 astuteness remarked, ‘You aren’t Dr. Walker, though.’

‘No. Dr. Walker’s in Wales, on his holiday. I’m doing 
his work. Now, tell me where you live.’

‘Oh ! Well, I dare say you might as well as not.’

As he left his room a door across the landing opened, and
 Miss Linda Walker appeared. ‘Oh dear! Your first night,
 too. I’m so sorry.’  She wore a blue dressing gown. She had 
put on her spectacles. Her hair stood out like brass filings. 
’Can you manage? Will you be able to find your way?’

‘Perfectly. Mustn’t wake your mother.’

When he returned the hall light was on and a thermos, a 
mug, and a plate of sandwiches stood on the hall table.
 Yorkshire hospitality. Mrs. Bella Heaton had already 
forced cocoa and seed-cake on him. But he ate the sandwiches, for the raw air had given him an appetite. After
 leaving his patient he had gone to view Goatbridge by the 
pale moonlight, driving back by the Gullaby Road, whence
 Gullaby Old Church, silhouetted on the hilltop looked as 
alarming as ever, gaunt and yet glutted, its churchyard 
crammed with enormous, jostling black headstones.

Breakfast was at eight. Porridge, ham and eggs, pikelets, 
potted shrimps, a blazing fire at his back, and a purple 
radiance shed on Mrs. Walker’s spotlessly white hair from 
the band of coloured glass in the window. He was so 
insistently fed that he could barely get in his thanks for the 
thermos and sandwiches.

‘Linda’s her father’s daughter,’ said Mrs. Walker in
 tones of mild pride. ‘She knows. What’s our motto in this 
house, Linda dear!’

‘Keep up the doctor, and he’ll keep up the patient.’

‘That’s right. And you may rest assured, Doctor, if you
 should be out on a night call, Linda will always have something ready for you, no matter how often. And when
 you’ve finished your breakfast, she will be ready to show 
you the files and the forms and the registers and the day 
book and the appointment lists. Linda does all the book-
work, and she’s qualified as a dispenser. She’ll make a 
wonderful wife for a doctor, one of these days.

Even for a mother, Mrs. Walker was shameless. Linda 
was not shameless; she was merely willing.

Adam had no fears. It was only a fortnight, and he could 
be heartless for much longer than that. He would be heartless, civil, and inscrutable.

But as the day wore on, with surgery hours, and visiting,
 and midday dinner, and visiting, and a groaning tea table,
 and surgery hours again, it was to himself that he grew 
inscrutable. What the devil had possessed him to come here
  – What sentimental lunacy, what decrepitude of mind?

Getting on and getting out, he had finished his training,
and travelled on a research scholarship, and passed the war 
years as an Army doctor, and spent his accumulated pay on 
buying a partnership in a South Coast practice; and then, not liking the shape of National Health Service, had got 
out of that and into the research laboratories of a new firm
 that was making a good thing out of vaccines and antibiotics. There he proposed to remain, well paid, well 
thought of, interested in what he was doing, and near 
enough to London to be able to ease himself into a degree
 of culture that would make his old  age creditable and entertaining. And then, because he was glancing through the 
British Medical Journal in order to compare his firm’s
 advertisement with the advertisements of other firms,
 ‘Mexley West Riding’ caught his eye. What followed 
was dementia. Reading that Dr. James Walker required a 
locum tenens during the second fortnight in March, and 
even while scornfully commiserating the wretch  who could
 only get away for that meagre release, he became con
vinced that if he did not snatch at this chance of going to 
Mexley, the rest of his life would be meaningless. So in
tense was his madness that not even the words ‘live as 
family’ could deter him. He had been going to Rome in
 April. Changing the date of his holiday, he arranged to go
 to Mexley in March. But why! But why! To be within 
smelling distance of the Goatbridge gasworks when the
 wind blew from the sweet south! To hear the Mexley
 Choral Society rehearsing Stainer’s Crucifixion? To discover experimentally what went into a Mexley pie?
 With the whole vehemence of his Goatbridge breeding he exclaimed, ‘Mexley !’

But by his third day in Mexley, subdued by hard work and 
harsh air, grossly hungry, grossly sleepy, shamelessly trifling with Mrs. Walker’s shamelessness and automatically 
relying on Linda’s willingness, Adam began to feel it 
almost a matter of course to be there. In the preliminary 
correspondence, Walker had said that he would leave a 
detailed list of the patients under treatment, so that his
 locum might know from the start what would be required
 of him. This list turned out to be a great many slips of 
waste paper scribbled over with mysterious abbreviations – 
patients and treatments intermingled with memoranda
 about drugs that would need to be replenished lyings-in to
 be expected, and fishing tackle that Dr. Walker would 
want on his holiday. These were piously handed over by 
Linda, but every morning she supplemented them with a
 neatly written schedule, telling him in a sweet full voice
 that Mr. Bucklaw and Mrs. Protheroe were cancers, that 
Miss Eden’s boy was an epileptic, Mr. Murgatroyd a faker, ‘And old Mrs. Robertson – she’ll expect to be looked in 
on to-day – is another. But you mustn’t tell her so; other
wise she’ll send for you in the middle of the night with a 
heart attack.’

‘I don’t know why your father wanted a locum. You
 could do it all, and cook the pudding into the bargain. Who 
are these other regulars for to-day?’

Smiling, flushed with pleasure, she replied, ‘Mr.
Holmes, disseminated sclerosis. Ben Trotter, Parkinson’s 
disease. Miss Rawson, arthritic and bedridden. Mrs. Ack
royd, cardiac dropsy. They’re all in Tanhouse Yard, so 
you’d better leave your car in Bull Ring. And if nobody
 answers the door at Number Eleven – that’s Mrs. Ack
royd it will be because the niece she lives with is out
fitting. She dressmakes. So just walk in and up the stairs to 
the front bedroom. But mind the stairs. Father says they’re
 rotten, and the coffin will have to come out by the window.

They’re shocking places, those houses in Tanhouse Yard.
They ought to be pulled down. Nobody lives there but 

Still flushed, still smiling, she straightened the papers and
 went away, for it was part of her willingness that she knew 
when she was done with. As soon as she was out of the 
room he unstraightened them again, pencilling in queries
 and alternative medicaments. Walker was still in the epoch
 of Ferri Phos., Tinct. Val., and Card. Co. This was a pity; 
for as a musician reading a single orchestral part can deduce
 quite a lot about the composer’s merits, Adam, reading 
Walker’s clinical notes, often perceived acumen, and some
times even diagnostic brilliance. Someone really ought to
 overhaul the old man and bring him up to date.

Most of the younger patients were ready enough to be 
brought up to date. They had read articles on modern
 medicine in popular papers, knew that recent discoveries
 were wonderful, and asked if they couldn’t have some of 
these injections, like Aunt Gertie when she died in the
 hospital. No such readiness was shown in the quarter 
between Foundry Street and Laystall Lane, where the
 uncontaminated voice of Mexley remarked, ‘Doctor never
 give me blue physic’ or ‘Hayen’t you any of t’old stuff
 left?’ or’ Never set eyes on nowt like this.’

Miss Rawson, arthritic and bedridden, whom he found 
standing on a stepladder in a long flannel nightdress,
 engaged in putting a bit of shine on the gas bracket, consulted him about her football pools and, finding that he 
didn’t know much about them, gave him a long lecture on 
how to do permutations. When he got away he almost
 flinched under the westering light, which had broken 
through the day’s long dullness. Every detail of Tanhouse
Yard was as brilliantly affirmed as if Vermeer had painted
 it. There was no answer when he knocked on the door of 
No. 11, so he pushed it open, to be confronted by a dress-
maker’s dummy, alarmingly actual in a flimsy white satin 
wedding dress. If it had not been for Linda’s directions, he
 might have taken it for the ghost of Anne Boleyn or some
 such headless heroine. But, of course, that onslaught of 
raw light had left him dazzled.

He went upstairs and into the front bedroom, and into
 another attack of light and of pictorial quality. The high
 double bed faced the window. Exactly centred in the bed 
was an elderly woman, sitting up against a heap of pillows.
 She must have been a fine robust creature in her time, and
 she still displayed tokens of an obstinate vitality; for her 
hair was the hair of a young woman, smooth nut-brown
 hair, very thick, and plaited into two great ropes that hung 
down over her subsided breasts. But what overwhelmed 
him was the way she queened it over the bed. Never – so 
it seemed to him – had he seen a bed so mastered, so pos
sessed, by its occupant and though she had those subject 
pillows heaped behind her, her spinal column needed no 
such support. Straight and sufficient, it could have carried 
the weight of a pediment poised on that large shapely head 
with its ropes of plaited hair.

‘Mrs. Ackroyd?’


Her voice conveyed nothing beyond local breeding and
 the fact that this was no Miss Rawson to delay him in con
versation. He asked his questions and examined her. To 
judge by her disease, she might be dead in a couple of 
months; to judge by her physique, she might live another 
two years. Her answers were brief, plain, and dismissing as
 though she knew all this for formality and waste of time.
 Her instinct tells her not to talk, he thought. A big black-
and-white cat lay beside her, as unforthcoming as she. 
’Company for you,’ he said, constrained by her lack of con
versation to say something, however flat.

‘That’s right.’ Her eyes were so sunk into the stained caverns of their 
sockets that he could not tell their colour, or the direction 
of their glance. She did not turn her head, but as he opened 
his case and stood debating whether his alternative to the
 medicine Dr. Walker had been giving her would be any
more to the purpose he felt she was watching him ‘Have
 you anyone to go to the chemist – Enright, in Church

’My niece.’

‘I’ll leave a prescription there. It might ease your cramp. She could call for it later this evening. Dr. Adam Hutton 
is the name.’

‘Aye.. ‘And then, with a slow, broad grin, as if mocking 
her own taciturnity she added, ‘That’s right.’

But was it taciturnity? It might be some sort of oncom
ing coma. 
’I think I’ll take your pulse again. ‘

As he took hold of her wrist, the cat began to purr.

The pulse rate was unchanged, the pulse itself a fraction 

‘Well, you’ve got a very creditable pulse.’

The purr grew louder. He looked down at her. It

‘Was that you?’

‘I wondered when you’d notice it. It’s quite tiring to do.
 Aren’t you going to tell me I’ve got a creditable purr?,

Her composed expression hardened. The purr began 
again, easy and lulling.

‘Stop it! Please stop it! You might strain your heart’

At this, the cat sat up and examined him. Under their 
joint scrutiny, he somehow got out of the room.  As he 
heard his hobbledehoy feet on the stairs, he realized that his 
departure had been exactly that – awkward, bashful, and 
incompetent, like the boy at Goatbridge; and when he 
reached his car, he only half believed that it was his, or that 
he would be able to back it out and swing into the stream
 of traffic.

No wonder that such women with their cats were 
burned for witchcraft!

A doctor has his professional magic, too, and by the end of 
the day Adam had contrived to forget about Mrs. Ackroyd. But that night, as he got into bed, he remembered how she 
had lain, majestic and central, and he felt a childish obligation to settle himself with equal dignity exactly in the
 middle of the bed. Almost instantly, he was asleep.

 All that night, he dreamed of Goatbridge, only waking
 for long enough to be aware of this before plunging back 
into a further depth of dream. It was the genuine Goatbridge. He walked through the familiar streets – Crane’s
 Lane, burrowing between the tall mills and crowed over by 
the stamping thud of machinery, and Union Street, with
 its abrupt falling perspective of mean little shops and sham-
lavish barrows along the pavement edge, Technical Street 
and Jubilee Street, and Old Snout,  and once, looking
 down from Old Snout, he caught sight of the canopy of 
smoky green and pink above the fairground and heard the
 steam-organ music, hot and strong, like a cough linctus.
 But the intensity of that bygone woe turned him aside and 
he went down Crab Street. There the trolley buses clanged 
by, the greasy brilliance of engraved and gilded glass
 ennobled the windows of The Dog Tavern, Dotty Jenny 
hurried along, whispering to herself, ‘No bread at the
 baker’s,’ and outside the Labour Exchange the men of his 
father’s generation were waiting in a queue to draw their 
unemployment money. But in some way all this was trans
parent, so that wherever he looked he saw the rise and fall
 of the landscape – not just in a crannied view at the end of
 Church Street, or desolately preserved in the bluff of rock
 and sickly turf above the goods yard, but everywhere 
manifest, shouldering itself out of houses, silent amid the 
clatter of machinery, sombre through the neon lights of the
 picture house, rough underfoot though he trod on stone
 pavements. And sometimes it seemed that Goatbridge was
 something cast by a magic lantern on the dark moorland,
and at other times it seemed that the moor was welling up 
through Goatbridge like a gathering mist.

In the morning, he woke knowing that this dream had 
in some queer way enriched him. It was as though he had 
borrowed the Eye of Time, and by viewing Goatbridge in 
its simultaneity of existence and non-existence had arrived 
at a complete clinical observation that would at last resolve 
his conflict of nausea and mysterious craving. So to Mrs.
Walker’s inquiries as to how he had slept he replied that
 he had slept remarkably well.

‘And you’re looking well, too, if I may say so.   Much 
better than when you came.  After all, there’s nothing like
 one’s native air.’

Linda’s spectacles, so clean that they were like something
 in an operating theatre, flushed as she looked up. ‘But,
 Mother, Dr. Hutton comes from the South.’

There was a twang of reproach in her voice. Mrs.
Walker said nothing. Neither did he.

But how on earth had the old schemer snuffed it out?

This was Saturday. On Sunday, Linda appeared in a 
purple tweed tailor-made, but a providentially difficult
 labour spared him from seeing much of it. At Sunday 
supper there was another roast fowl, and Mrs. Walker 
remarked that one wouldn’t think he’d been there only a
 week, he seemed quite one of the family. Linda reported 
that Mrs. Beaumont, encountered on the way home from
 evensong, had no words to express how wonderfully Dr.
Hutton had put his finger on what was wrong with Delia.
 With intimidating frankness, Mrs. Walker asked Linda if
 Dr. Hutton wasn’t just the co-partner that Father needed.
 Turning to Adam, she went on, ‘I know I’d be glad to see
 it. I’ve been saying for these last five years “James, you
 must take a co. or you’ll be dead of overwork before you 
retire.” Now, can’t I tempt you with this nice thigh, 

During Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Adam began 
to see his results, and to plume himself on his management 
of patients more intricate than Miss Beaumont. He spent
 his spare time studying their case histories in those files that
 Linda’s neatness made such easy reading. He began to be as 
the God to whom all secrets are known. The Hippocratic 
lust for intervenient power and insighted meddling sprouted 
up in him, all the stronger because he had cut it to the 
ground. By Wednesday midday he was saying to himself
 that as he had changed his course before, he might change
 it again, and go back to general practice, this time not in 
the genteel suburban Home Counties but in some town like
 Mexley, where sickness and death, with a greater variety of 
tricks up their sleeves, would be more interesting foes to
 combat – though not Mexley itself, where Mrs. Walker’s
 intentions threatened a higher price than he cared to pay.
 For that matter, there was also Walker, who might not
 match his daughter in being so very willing.

On Thursday morning, Walker’s daughter, instead of 
knowing when she was done with, hung about the surgery,
 fidgeted her way as far as the door, paused, and turned back.

‘I don’t know how to put it, but I must. I’m afraid
 Mother may have annoyed you on Sunday.’

‘On Sunday?’

‘When she said about this being your native air. She 
didn’t mean it unkindly – quite the contrary. It showed
 how much she thinks of you. But coming from the South, 
you might not take it that way. I’ve been feeling really
 worried about it.’

‘There’s nothing to worry about. As a matter of fact,
 your mother was partly right. I wasn’t born in the  South; 
I just happen to live there. ‘

And now, if she asked the obvious question, what was he 
going to say? But though her lips parted, it was not in 
inquiry. She stared at him with round eyes, her healthy,
 high-coloured, rawboned face remade by its expression of
 compassion and enlightenment as though she had diagnosed
 a secret woe in him.

‘Do you think that’s so dreadful?’ he asked.

‘Well . . . Yes! Yes, I do. I can’t imagine anything 
more wretched than to live away from one’s roots. Of 
course, it’s nice to travel – I went to Switzerland once and 
enjoyed every moment of it. But I wouldn’t have enjoyed 
it – it  wouldn’t have been like Switzerland if I hadn’t known
 I’d got the West Riding to come home to.’  He looked towards the window.  Above the half-curtains
 it showed him the top of the lorry that was screaming past,
 the slate roofs and staring upper windows of the houses 
opposite, the murky sky, the whitening flashes where the
 wind bent the driving rain. Since the feeling her words had
 aroused in  him was too foolish to be said, he would sing it:

’O Bay of Dublin, my heart you’re troubling,

Your beauty haunts me like a fever dream.’

‘Whatever you are, you’re not Irish!’ she exclaimed, and 
went away before he could stop her. Which was as well,
 since he had been so nearly betrayed into kissing the girl.
 He had been so nearly betrayed that when he got his car 
out from the garage he welcomed the grime on the wind-
screen and the spatters of mud on the body as though they
 were so many bracing admonitions to him not to make a 
fool of himself. All that morning, he was on the lookout for 
such admonitions. They did not lack. He was recognized 
by Mrs. Beaumont, who was wearing a transparent pink 
raincoat, and good-heartedly waved a small bunch of 
mimosa at him. He waited for ten minutes in a traffic jam
 while two van drivers who had collided got out of their
 vans and circumstantially established that the other was at 
fault. His roof began to leak and he suspected he was getting 
a cold. But though the mimosa afforded him the pleasure 
of telling himself that Rome would not be like Rome if he 
hadn’t the West Riding to get away from, he knew that he 
was only being toppled toward leaving, as earlier he had 
been toppled toward staying. Perhaps this was what happened when one had no roots.

That night, Mr. Joseph Heaton, who had seemed to be 
recovering, died. He was an alcoholic, a surly old bully and
 incontinent. But he was dead. At the end of the match,
 death has suddenly outplayed Adam, sneaked a pawn into 
the back row and made a castle of it. Adam’s reaction was
 to feel that he now had no alternative. He would stay, he
 would root – not for any sentimental reasons but because 
he wasn’t going to be beat. If need were, he would marry  
Linda. So he thought, eating sardine sandwiches  and feel
ing delightfully cool-headed.
 In the morning he felt cool-headed merely. But during
 breakfast it seemed to him that he must have shouted these 
intentions aloud and been overheard. Linda ate like one
 suspended in a trance, and when he handed her the marmalade she took it as if he were worshipping her with his body 
and endowing her with all his worldly goods. Mrs. Walker
 said no more about Linda’s excellences. Apparently, she 
felt there was no further need to. In a voice that might have 
been breathing o’er Eden she remarked that Dr. Walker
 would be home tomorrow evening, and that it would soon
 be spring. In fact, she was wondering what best to do about
 the bedrooms. If he stayed on over Saturday night – and he had given no indication to the contrary – the best bedroom
 would have to be turned out on Sunday, a thing she didn’t

The gale had blown itself out, the rain was a drizzle, it
 was a discouraging morning for a man who had made up his 
mind overnight. Adam knew that his mind was made up,
but he knew immediately that he had got a cold in his
 head. He would let sleeping decisions lie till the morrow, 
when he would talk seriously to Walker about that partner
ship. Meanwhile, the patients he saw on his rounds all
 informed him that they wouldn’t be seeing him again, or
 that tomorrow they would be saying goodbye to him. It
 was irrational to resent being signed off like this; nevertheless, he resented it, and stayed longer and inquired more 
elaborately than he otherwise might have done. He had a
long list, and in order to finish it he had to go out again 
after the evening surgery hours. By the time he came to
 Tanhouse Yard, it was so late that many windows were 
already lit up. The front-bedroom window of No. 11 was 
one of them. Well, Mrs. Ackroyd would not waste her 
penurious syllables on telling him she would not be seeing 
him again. If said at all, it would be said by him, and she
 would respond with an ‘Aye,’or a ‘That’s right.’

To-day the niece was there. She opened the stairway 
door, and sat down again to her sewing machine.

The bedroom seemed smaller, the bed larger, the sick
 woman more sickly and less splendid, though she lay in the
 same grand attitude and held her head as erect as before.
The burst of sunlight had romanticized her. The bleak gas-
light stripped all that away. The cat wasn’t there, either.
 Something else was. On the dressing table, dominating it,
as she had dominated the bed, was a large photograph, a 
’professional’ photograph, glossy and glaring, of the head 
and torso of a naked woman. Her hair was heaped up on 
her head in a sort of casque. Her breasts were casqued in 
nets of sequins and imitation jewels. Slantingly across the 
bottom corner was printed in italic capitals Betty d’ Orsay,

He looked from the photograph to the woman.


‘Ay. That’s me.’

‘You?’ he said again.

‘Aye. She’s me, and I’m her. It was done a couple of 
years before the show came to Goatbridge. But I’m still 
her.  “All Our French Artists’ Models Are Alive.” ‘

‘Must you always laugh at me?’ He exclaimed, and fell
 on his knees beside the bed, and buried his face.

‘Poor Adam! You took love hard, didn’t you! I never
 saw a boy take it harder!’

He heard her cough as her breath gave out. After a 
pause she went on, ‘And you telling me you were Dr. 
Adam Hutton! I knew you the moment you came in. I’m 
glad you’ve got on in the world.’

He rose from his knees, sat down on the bed, and took
 hold of her two plaits as though they were ropes to save a
 drowning man.

‘Goatbridge Fair, eh?’ She said. ‘Half a dozen of us, lit 
up in hutches behind glass. And you came along with the 
rest for a sixpenny stare. Reckon you’d never seen a naked 
woman before.’

‘I have never seen a woman since.’

‘And picked on me. Poor Adam, it was the hard nut you 
picked. You might have got any of the others. And the 
letters you wrote, and the way you pestered me! You 
thought I was French!’ she exclaimed, and began to laugh.

‘You tried to talk French to me: “Je vous aime.” ‘

‘Why wouldn’t you have me?’

‘I was too young love. If I’d been five-and-forty instead of 
five-and-thirty, I’d have gobbled you up, back, belly 
and whiskers.’

‘What happened to you afterwards? How did you get 
here? No! Don’t talk! It’s bad for you.’

‘Well, whatever else, I didn’t forget you.’

‘And you got out that photograph.’

‘Aye. I don’t rightly know what for. But it wasn’t for 
a tease.’

‘My love, my love, I don’t think that! May I undo this 
plait? I want to feel your hair.’

He had already begun unplaiting it. Released, her hair
 sprang into his hand as if to be fondled.

‘Shall I purr?’ She said after a while.

‘Don’t do anything my darling. Lie back, and let me
 play with it.’

She lay back against her pillows, her hand following his 
through the mesh of her hair, her eyes dwelling on the 

‘Poor Adam!’ she murmured, speaking not to him but 
to the woman of 1928.

‘Poor Adam!” That’s what you said then, when you 
wouldn’t have me. But now you say it better. Or I believe 
it more.’

‘Poor Adam! Poor Bet, too! But it had to be, like. Still 
and all, I’m glad I got out that picture.’

‘Will you give it to me?’

‘I was thinking I’d have it sent you after I was dead.’

‘I’d rather have it now.’

‘Why not? There’s some brown paper in that top left-
hand drawer.’

He wrapped up the photograph, and opened his case. It
 was too large to go in. He stared into his case as though into 
another world.

‘Did those pills do your cramp any good?’

‘They eased it a bit.’

‘I’ll leave you some more. I suppose I ought to go over 

She saw the agonized look on his face, and cried out,
 ‘No, no! That you won’t!

’Always the same cry. What a woman!’

‘Now you must go. Oh, for goodness’ sake, dust your 
knees! Is it to-morrow you’re leaving?’

‘Yes. Unless you ask me to stay. Oh, my love, my love!’

Briefly and calmly she considered it.

‘You must go, lad. Best for both, this time.’

When he looked back from the stairhead, she was 
dreamily replaiting her hair.

He sat for a long time in his car, shuddering and twisting
 his hands, shaken not by this classical grief of the present but by the untamed remembrance of his former woe. A 
prostitute was walking up and down, and presently she 
came and tapped on the glass. He shook his head, and
 started the car. He was at a loss where to go or how to get
 through the next few hours, till a sneeze reminded him that 
he had a cold, and could make it a pretext for going straight 
to bed.

On Saturday, Dr. Walker, getting his full pound of 
flesh, arrived late in the afternoon, as Adam had done a
 fortnight earlier.

‘Hullo, hullo! Well, here I am, safe back in time for tea,
 And how are you all? Hullo, Hutton, everything gone all right?’ Without waiting for an answer, he turned to his
 wife. ‘Ada! I’ve got a piece of news for you. Splendid
 news. But I must have a cup of tea before anything else.
 I haven’t tasted a decent cup of tea since I left home.

He poured the tea down his wiry gullet, handed back the 
cup to be refilled, rubbed his knees, and announced, ‘Ada,
 I’ve got a partner. I met him at the hotel, he was lunching 
there. He’d come to Llangibby for his aunt’s funeral – from Scotland, the deuce of a way to come for an aunt! – and was travelling back that same night. Well, we got to 
talking I took to him, he took to me. So far, he’s a trainee-
assistant with a view – some place near Peebles, with a
 sulphur spa – but there wasn’t enough future for him. I 
soon found out that what he wanted was to come south and
 see the world. Come to Mexley, I said. We’ve got a bit of 
everything, even anthrax. Of course, he’s never had an 
anthrax, and his eyes positively sparkled. Nice-looking
 fellow, too, and quite young. His name’s Maclaren, and
 he’s coming to have a look round next week. So there you
 are, and I hope you’re pleased, Ada. ‘

Mrs. Walker said it was the very news she’d been hoping 
for, and that she rather believed Mrs. Beaumont had had a 
grandmother who went to a spa in Scotland – though she 
couldn’t say what was wrong with her. 

Nothing at all, if she was like the rest of that family.
 And Linda, my girl, cut me a slice of cake, and get ready 
to find a nice little house for him. Not too far out. Or a
 maisonette. Lodgings won’t do, because of the children. 
Didn’t I say he was a married man?  Well, he is. And an 
anaesthetist. Just the very thing we want. Well, now,
 Hutton let’s get down to it. Any deaths?’

‘Joseph Heaton.’

Linda was toasting herself a crumpet at the fire. Her 
hand was steady, her face composed. Only when the
 crumpet fell off the toasting fork and she was so slow to
 retrieve it could one have guessed that her thoughts were
 sad and elsewhere. Poor Linda, Adam thought, one blow
 on top of another, rat-tat ! It was as though he had glanced 
out of his own tragedy and seen the sawdust trickling from
 a doll.

An hour later, he was driving south over the same route 
he had come by.










“The Locum Tenens” comes from the inimitable pen of one of the best and most underrated writers of modern times, Sylvia Townsend Warner. The brilliance of her writing is the result of a finely honed craft and constellation of writerly skills not often found in a single individual. Her acute eye and ear catch the defining moment when a glance picks out the particular image that frames the whole picture, and the defining note that imparts its tone to ordinary speech in a way that imprints its sound in the mind of a reader. Even the names of  her grim and seedy Northern towns,  Mexley, Goatbridge, Hudderbeck, Wendon, Gullaby, come smeared with an atmosphere of post-industrial grime of poverty and decrepitude worthy of Dickens, and the street names – Foundry Street, Wharf Street, Hoggle Yard, Slaughter Yard and Tanhouse Yard echo down the almost medieval antecedents of these places with the finality of  shoveled-in clods thudding dully on a coffin freshly lowered into the grave.

The Spirit Rises is the somewhat sardonic title of Warner’s collection of short-stories, which includes the brief  ‘homecoming’ turned ironic misadventure of the middle-aged and tightly buttoned-up Dr. Adam Hutton. This is no sentimental journey, but the Doctor’s irresistible compulsion to return to his raw and stifling origins. Cold fish though he is, deep in his heart is concealed a youthful passion which has somehow displaced all tender emotions and excluded all human attachments, in the irrational way that some dogs or cats   attach themselves to a single human, and ignore all others. He has achieved his professional ambitions, he is well-off  and financially secure, but it is clear that he has been unable to escape his past – a past which claims him even as it repels him, and draws him back to the origins to which he swore he would not return.

The tragic absurdity of ‘love gone wrong,’ and ‘lives gone wrong’ despite outward appearances to the contrary, is a subject well suited to Warner’s gifts. There are very few writers who are able to mix tragedy and pathos with a starkly unsentimental and ironical sense of reality and still plunge a reader into the murky depths of acute vicarious pain. The pain is made more bitter because both Hutton and Linda came so close to achieving a mutual salvation. Hutton’s dreams, his bursting inappropriately into song, his almost succumbing to the lure of matrimony, no matter how pragmatically, might have offered a redemption. Both he and Linda would have been able to root themselves securely in their native soil, and forge a human connection with each other.

Warner’s vivid  portrait of the appalling plight of Linda Walker, hopelessly trapped as she is in her bourgeois role like a fly in ointment, (always a Doctor’s daughter and never to be a Doctor’s wife) is so vividly dealt with that it chills the blood.  So assiduously sensitive and attuned to the needs and requirements of others, Linda’s virtue will be forever unrewarded. We sense that  she will live with her elderly parents for the rest of her wasted life. It counts for nothing that she has sedulously and conscientiously trained herself to be the perfect doctor’s wife and  assistant, because, after the evaporation of her one and only matrimonial prospect, there is no slot in the ghastliness of industrial West Riding into which she could possibly fit. All indications are that she will wither away in the parental home, her position as a fixture and an adjunct to her father’s practice, whittled away to nothing  and permanently displaced, by the arrival of the young sprightly (and married) young doctor her insensitive father has chosen as the partner in his practice.  But still we might suppose that Linda’s stubborn attachment – if not love – for her place of birth will persist, because we know she could not even have enjoyed the pristine beauty of Switzerland, had she not had the West Riding to return to. It is this bleak place, with its noisome atmosphere and squalid neighbourhoods, that holds her fast, and gives her at least a measure of ‘purpose’ to counter the otherwise emptiness of her life.

But Hutton will drive off into the night and pick up the thread of  his uneventful life, sliding slowly and dismally into isolation and a dried-up old age, because he has by his very ambition, severed his own roots. His  drive to escape his awful beginnings will no doubt carry him to a far more dismal end than he might have envisioned for himself. When he dies (I imagine intestate, for there seems to be no one to whom he could leave his estate)  one can imagine that the bailiffs will open a drawer in his bureau , and find there, still wrapped in its original shroud of brown paper) the rather vulgar picture of a  beautiful, naked young woman decked-out in in her passing finery of paste and sequins. They might crack a coarse joke or two about the deceased, and speculate about the secret past he concealed under his show of respectability, or even a hidden propensity to vice of a fairly harmless sort, but how could they know that the relic that had occasioned their awkward laughter was all that remained of the one and only love of a man’s life?

Love also bypassed Betty d’Orsay (how she could ever have honestly come by such a name?), stoically dying of something which seems to resemble congestive heart-failure, but Warner sets her off as a foil for the other characters.  She lived the life she chose, single and independent and serenely ignoring the strictures of convention, which must have placed her beyond the social pale of even such peers as she might have had, had she taken to trouble to tolerate them.  Her rejection of the youthful Hutton’s suit remains unshaken, even as death steals her breath and leans over her shoulder. She alone remains unbroken by life, her spirit as erect as her spine, her gift of arid humour and irony and her vast and substantial dignity show her to have maintained herself heroically free from and uncorrupted by weakness in a way that seems almost superhuman.

All the characters in this story appear in some manner to mere ‘place holders’ for something that has substituted itself for life. Their dreams are blighted, and their  losses, acute. Life is passing them by even as they feebly flutter their wings as bugs do who are chloroformed before being pinned to the wax-board.

But Betty is different.  She alone has lived, and continues to live – and it is her spirit alone that even in finality,  seems capable of rising.

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Sarah Trevor Teasdale (August 8, 1884 – January 29, 1933)






















It is clear from her writing that Sarah Teasdale did not find that life lived up to her expectations. She seems always to be reaching for something that eludes her grasp. She did not find the kind of love she sought, and though she was convinced it should, the beauty of the world which so transported her was not enough to fill her heart and soothe her soul.

The consistent lyrical quality of her poetry cannot disguise a ceaseless, restless searching and yearning after the love she dreams of having – a love which is strong and satisfying, and a lover who can enter and share her inner world.

Teasdale’s poetry has a flowing quality to it. It is clear and unpretentious, and completely without artifice. But despite her poems’ simple beauty, they express a complex inner-struggle – a ceaseless striving to come to terms with life and to find a resolution for the sense of unease that underlies the seeming tranquility of her world. The quality of lightness which allows us to read poem after poem without sense of surfeit or tiredness, leads us into an inner world where the legitimate themes of Poetry, love, death, and the changing of the seasons, carry us inward into an atmosphere of uncertainty and doubt.

Nature seems to be a mask which covers a sense of unease and dissatisfaction –  and whenever a poem occasionally settles itself into an apparently pleasing conclusion, one feels that it cannot be trusted  or relied upon to either endure or to satisfy.

The poems I have included here are deceptive in their straightforwardness, because just below the surface is a complicated and nuanced ambiguity about the sensual and sexual nature of love and desire. Genteel and dated though they may seem, and therefore dismissible to readers who have a taste for sophisticated poetical constructions,  a closer examination of these poems shows that they meet all the criteria of genuine lyrical poetry, in theme, content and purpose. They are a serious commentary on the human condition as it pertains to  the mysterious conflicts inherent in love. They are not trivial in the least; they are serious delvings into the  workings of the human heart.

Whether the root of Teasdale’s problems was social or personal or physical we cannot know for certain, but the psychological pain which bleeds through almost all these poem–at least in the final twist–cannot be denied, and it confers a sense of authenticity and dignity to her predicament.

These poems are anything but light, and woven in them we find a riddle and a puzzle which resists a simple solution. They have to be read and understood in the light of the same ambivalence which led Teasdale to love life, and yet, in the end, at the early age of 48, to reject it.

















What Do I Care


What do I care, in the dreams and the languor of spring,
That my songs do not show me at all?
For they are a fragrance, and I am a flint and a fire,
I am an answer, they are only a call.


But what do I care, for love will be over so soon,
Let my heart have its say and my mind stand idly by,
For my mind is proud and strong enough to be silent,
It is my heart that makes my songs, not I.




I am alone, in spite of love,                                 
In spite of all I take and give –
In spite of all your tenderness,
Sometimes I am not glad to live.

I am alone, as though I stood
On the highest peak of the tired gray world,
About me only swirling snow,
Above me, endless space unfurled;

With earth hidden and heaven hidden,
And only my own spirit’s pride
To keep me from the peace of those
Who are not lonely, having died


Remember me as I was then;                             
Turn from me now, but always see
The laughing shadowy girl who stood
At midnight by the flowering tree,
With eyes that love had made as bright
As the trembling stars of the summer night.

Turn from me now, but always hear
The muted laughter in the dew
Of that one year of youth we had,
The only youth we ever knew –
Turn from me now, or you will see
What other years have done to me.



Come, when the pale moon like a petal
Floats in the pearly dusk of spring,
Come with arms outstretched to take me,
Come with lips pursed up to cling.

Come, for life is a frail moth flying,
Caught in the web of the years that pass,
And soon we two, so warm and eager,
Will be as the gray stones in the grass.






As dew leaves the cobweb lightly       
Threaded with stars,
Scattering jewels on the fence
And the pasture bars;
As dawn leaves the dry grass bright
And the tangled weeds
Bearing a rainbow gem
On each of their seeds;
So has your love, my lover,
Fresh as the dawn,
Made me a shining road
To travel on,
Set every common sight
Of tree or stone
Delicately alight
For me alone.




My forefathers gave me
My spirit’s shaken flame,
The shape of hands, the beat of heart,
The letters of my name.

But it was my lovers,
And not my sleeping sires,
Who gave the flame its changeful
And iridescent fires;

As the driftwood burning
Learned its jeweled blaze
From the sea’s blue splendor
Of colored nights and days.




When I went to look at what had long been hidden,
A jewel laid long ago in a secret place,
I trembled, for I thought to see its dark deep fire –
But only a pinch of dust blew up in my face.



I almost gave my life long ago for a thing
That has gone to dust now, stinging my eyes –
It is strange how often a heart must be broken
Before the years can make it wise.



Ebb Tide

When the long day goes by                     
And I do not see your face,
The old wild, restless sorrow
Steals from its hiding place.

My day is barren and broken,
Bereft of light and song,
A sea beach bleak and windy
That moans the whole day long.

To the empty beach at ebb tide,
Bare with its rocks and scars,
Come back like the sea with singing,
And light of a million stars.



I said, “My youth is gone               
Like a fire beaten out by the rain,
That will never sway and sing
Or play with the wind again.”

I said, “It is no great sorrow
That quenched my youth in me,
But only little sorrows
Beating ceaselessly.”

I thought my youth was gone,
But you returned —
Like a flame at the call of the wind
It leaped and burned;

Threw off its ashen cloak,
And gowned anew
Gave itself like a bride
Once more to you.



People that I meet and pass                     
In the city’s broken roar,
Faces that I lose so soon
And have never found before,

Do you know how much you tell
In the meeting of our eyes,
How ashamed I am, and sad
To have pierced your poor disguise?

Secrets rushing without sound
Crying from your hiding places –
Let me go, I cannot bear
The sorrow of the passing faces.

–  People in the restless street,
Can it be, oh can it be
In the meeting of our eyes
That you know as much of me?




I gave my first love laughter,
I gave my second tears,
I gave my third love silence
Through all the years.


My first love gave me singing,
My second eyes to see,
But oh, it was my third love
Who gave my soul to me.


Gray Eyes                                  

It was April when you came
The first time to me,
And my first look in your eyes
Was like my first look at the sea.

We have been together
Four Aprils now
Watching for the green
On the swaying willow bough;

Yet whenever I turn
To your gray eyes over me,
It is as though I looked
For the first time at the sea.


Houses of Dreams

You took my empty dreams                        
And filled them every one
With tenderness and nobleness,
April and the sun.

The old empty dreams
Where my thoughts would throng
Are far too full of happiness
To even hold a song.

Oh, the empty dreams were dim
And the empty dreams were wide,
They were sweet and shadowy houses
Where my thoughts could hide.

But you took my dreams away
And you made them all come true –
My thoughts have no place now to play,
And nothing now to do.

I Shall Not Care                                         

When I am dead and over me bright April
Shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
Though you should lean above me broken-hearted,
I shall not care.

I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
When rain bends down the bough,
And I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
Than you are now.





I Would Live in Your Love                                              



I would live in your love as the sea-grasses live in the sea,
Borne up by each wave as it passes, drawn down by each wave that recedes;
I would empty my soul of the dreams that have gathered in me,
I would beat with your heart as it beats, I would follow your soul
as it leads.






If Death Is Kind                                                                       

Perhaps if Death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.

We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.




If I should see your eyes again,
I know how far their look would go –
Back to a morning in the park
With sapphire shadows on the snow.

Or back to oak trees in the spring
When you unloosed my hair and kissed
The head that lay against your knees
In the leaf shadow’s amethyst.

And still another shining place
We would remember — how the dun
Wild mountain held us on its crest
One diamond morning white with sun.

But I will turn my eyes from you
As women turn to put away
The jewels they have worn at night
And cannot wear in sober day.



I heard a cry in the night,            
A thousand miles it came,
Sharp as a flash of light,
My name, my name!



It was your voice I heard,
You waked and loved me so –
I send you back this word,
I know, I know!





Spring Rain                                                  

I thought I had forgotten,
But it all came back again
To-night with the first spring thunder
In a rush of rain.

I remembered a darkened doorway
Where we stood while the storm swept by,
Thunder gripping the earth
And lightning scrawled on the sky.

The passing motor buses swayed,
For the street was a river of rain,
Lashed into little golden waves
In the lamp light’s stain.


With the wild spring rain and thunder 
My heart was wild and gay;
Your eyes said more to me that night
Than your lips would ever say. . . .

I thought I had forgotten,
But it all came back again
To-night with the first spring thunder
In a rush of rain.






Night is over the park, and a few brave stars
Look on the lights that link it with chains of gold,
The lake bears up their reflection in broken bars
That seem too heavy for tremulous water to hold.

We watch the swans that sleep in a shadowy place,
And now and again one wakes and uplifts its head;
How still you are — your gaze is on my face –
We watch the swans and never a word is said.



The Crystal Gazer                                                      

I shall gather myself into my self again,
I shall take my scattered selves and make them one.
I shall fuse them into a polished crystal ball
Where I can see the moon and the flashing sun.


I Shall sit like a sibyl, hour after hour intent.
Watching the future come and the present go –
And the little shifting pictures of people rushing
In tiny self-importance to and fro.



The Ghost                                                          

I went back to the clanging city,
I went back where my old loves stayed,
But my heart was full of my new love’s glory,
My eyes were laughing and unafraid.



I met one who had loved me madly
And told his love for all to hear —
But we talked of a thousand things together,
The past was buried too deep to fear.



I met the other, whose love was given               
With never a kiss and scarcely a word —
Oh, it was then the terror took me
Of words unuttered that breathed and stirred.


Oh, love that lives its life with laughter
Or love that lives its life with tears
Can die — but love that is never spoken
Goes like a ghost through the winding years. . . .


I went back to the clanging city,
I went back where my old loves stayed,
My heart was full of my new love’s glory, –
But my eyes were suddenly afraid.


The Tree

Oh to be free of myself,
With nothing left to remember, 
To have my heart as bare
As a tree in December;

Resting, as a tree rests
After its leaves are gone,
Waiting no more for a rain at night
Nor for the red at dawn;

But still, oh so still
While the winds come and go,
With no more fear of the hard frost
Or the bright burden of snow;

And heedless, heedless
If anyone pass and see
On the white page of the sky
Its thin black tracery.


The Unchanging                                                    

Sun-swept beaches with a light wind blowing
From the immense blue circle of the sea,
And the soft thunder where long waves whiten –
These were the same for Sappho as for me.

Two thousand years –  much has gone by forever,
Change takes the gods and ships and speech of men –
But here on the beaches that time passes over
The heart aches now as then.
The unchanging




The Wind in the Hemlock                           

Steely stars and moon of brass,
How mockingly you watch me pass!
You know as well as I how soon
I shall be blind to stars and moon,
Deaf to the wind in the hemlock tree,
Dumb when the brown earth weighs on me.

With envious dark rage I bear,
Stars, your cold complacent stare;
Heart-broken in my hate look up,
Moon, at your clear immortal cup,
Changing to gold from dusky red –
Age after age when I am dead
To be filled up with light, and then
Emptied, to be refilled again.

What has man done that only he     
Is slave to death – so brutally
Beaten back into the earth
Impatient for him since his birth?

Oh let me shut my eyes, close out
The sight of stars and earth and be
Sheltered a minute by this tree.
Hemlock, through your fragrant boughs
There moves no anger and no doubt,
No envy of immortal things.
The night-wind murmurs of the sea
With veiled music ceaselessly,
That to my shaken spirit sings.
From their frail nest the robins rouse,
In your pungent darkness stirred,
Twittering a low drowsy word –
And me you shelter, even me.                  
In your quietness you house
The wind, the woman and the bird.
You speak to me and I have heard:

“If I am peaceful, I shall see
Beauty’s face continually;
Feeding on her wine and bread
I shall be wholly comforted,
For she can make one day for me
Rich as my lost eternity.”


The Years

To-night I close my eyes and see                                
A strange procession passing me –
The years before I saw your face
Go by me with a wistful grace;
They pass, the sensitive, shy years,
As one who strives to dance, half blind with tears.

The years went by and never knew
That each one brought me nearer you;
Their path was narrow and apart
And yet it led me to your heart –
Oh, sensitive, shy years, oh, lonely years,
That strove to sing with voices drowned in tears.




To E

I have remembered beauty in the night,               
Against black silences I waked to see
A shower of sunlight over Italy
And green Ravello dreaming on her height;
I have remembered music in the dark,
The clean swift brightness of a fugue of Bach’s,
And running water singing on the rocks
When once in English woods I heard a lark.

But all remembered beauty is no more
Than a vague prelude to the thought of you –
You are the rarest soul I ever knew,
Lover of beauty, knightliest and best;
My thoughts seek you as waves that seek the shore,
And when I think of you, I am at rest.




Dreamily over the roofs
The cold spring rain is falling;
Out in the lonely tree
A bird is calling, calling.


Slowly over the earth
The wings of night are falling;
My heart like the bird in the tree
Is calling, calling, calling.


Water Lilies                                              

If you have forgotten water lilies floating
On a dark lake among mountains in the afternoon shade,
If you have forgotten their wet, sleepy fragrance,
Then you can return and not be afraid.

But if you remember, then turn away forever
To the plains and the prairies where pools are far apart,
There you will not come at dusk on closing water lilies,
And the shadow of mountains will not fall on your heart.




Did You Never Know                                                         

Did you never know, long ago, how much you loved me –
That your love would never lessen and never go?
You were young then, proud and fresh-hearted,
You were too young to know.

Fate is a wind, and red leaves fly before it
Far apart, far away in the gusty time of year –
Seldom we meet now, but when I hear you speaking,
I know your secret, my dear, my dear.


I am Not Yours

I am not yours, not lost in you,                
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love – put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.


I Have Loved Hours at Sea

I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,            
The fragile secret of a flower,
Music, the making of a poem
That gave me heaven for an hour;

First stars above a snowy hill,
Voices of people kindly and wise,
And the great look of love, long hidden,
Found at last in meeting eyes.

I have loved much and been loved deeply –
Oh when my spirit’s fire burns low,
Leave me the darkness and the stillness,
I shall be tired and glad to go.


Only In Sleep                                                                        

Only in sleep I see their faces,
Children I played with when I was a child,
Louise comes back with her brown hair braided,
Annie with ringlets warm and wild.

Only in sleep Time is forgotten –
What may have come to them, who can know?
Yet we played last night as long ago,
And the doll-house stood at the turn of the stair.

The years had not sharpened their smooth round faces,
I met their eyes and found them mild –
Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder,
And for them am I too a child?



A Prayer                                             

When I am dying, let me know
That I loved the blowing snow
Although it stung like whips;
That I loved all lovely things
And I tried to take their stings
With gay unembittered lips;
That I loved with all my strength,
To my soul’s full depth and length,
Careless if my heart must break,
That I sang as children sing
Fitting tunes to everything,
Loving life for its own sake.




A Little While                                  

A little while when I am gone
My life will live in music after me,
As spun foam lifted and borne on
After the wave is lost in the full sea.



A while these nights and days will burn
In song with the bright frailty of foam,
Living in light before they turn
Back to the nothingness that is their home


The Wine                                                 

I cannot die, who drank delight
From the cup of the crescent moon,
And hungrily as men eat bread
Loved the scented nights of June.

The rest may die – but is there not
Some shining strange escape for me
Who sought in Beauty the bright wine
Of immortality






Since There Is No Escape                               

Since there is no escape, since at the end
My body will be utterly destroyed,
This hand I love as I have loved a friend,
This body I tended, wept with and enjoyed
Since there is no escape even for me
Who love life with a love too sharp to bear:
The scent of orchards in the rain, the sea
And hours alone too still and sure for prayer –
Since darkness waits for me, then all the more
Let me go down as waves sweep to the shore
In pride; and let me sing with my last breath;
In these few hours of light I lift my head;
Life is my lover – I shall leave the dead
If there is any way to baffle death.




There Will Come Soft Rains                                       

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous light;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.







As reflected in her poetry, the strongest emotional relationships in Sara Teasdale’s life were with women.

Teasdale might be viewed as a casualty of the struggle between propriety and passion that marked late Victorian social mores. Born in St. Louis into a genteel middle-class family, she was overprotected by her mother, who instilled in her young daughter an anxiety about her own body–its physical inadequacy and its ailments–that was to affect both her work and her personal relationships for most of her brief life. Because of her mother’s fears, Teasdale was educated at home until she was nine, and, left to herself, she retreated into her own dreamy world; she spent hours fantasizing about the romantic possibilities of her own life. Keeping reality at a tasteful distance became a habit of her life and of her art.

Although she cultivated romantic obsessions about men, the strongest relationships in her life were with women. After completing her college education at Hosmer Hall in St. Louis, she and several other young women formed a literary association called The Potters, which published a monthly magazine, The Potter’s Wheel, in which Teasdale’s early poems appeared.

Many of her early works were addressed to particular women, whose identities were disguised. Her first major work was a set of effusive sonnets in praise of Eleonora Duse, which was included in her first collection, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems (1907).

In 1908, Teasdale formed an intense friendship with Marion Cummings Stanley, with whom she was able for the first time to discuss matters such as her own ill health and her curiosity about sex. Their friendship temporarily released Teasdale from the constrictions of her rigid upbringing, and she commemorated it in a poem entitled “Song,” which concludes “For all my world is in your arms, / My sun and stars are you” (from Helen of Troy and Other Poems, 1911).

At the same time, Teasdale was also carrying on a correspondence that mixed flirtation and serious poetic debate with John Myers O’Hara, a young poet living in New York. This was the first of a series of passionate relationships with men that were conducted by Teasdale almost entirely from afar. They corresponded for over three years before they finally met face to face, and the meeting was a disappointment for both of them.

Teasdale traveled widely although while abroad she spent much of her time abed with one illness or another. When she settled in New York, she formed friendships with Jessie Rittenhouse (a founder of the Poetry Society) and John Hall Wheelock, another young poet, with whom she fell seriously in love. His unwillingness to commit himself to her seems to have been part of the attraction, and despite that handicap, they remained friends for the remainder of her life.

Her poetry was becoming more widely known, and generally praised, and with the publication of Rivers to the Sea (1915), she was acknowledged as a significant American writer.

Teasdale’s physical and emotional health, however, remained frail. As she approached the age of thirty, she became almost frantic to be married, and indeed at one point, she had several suitors to choose from. The poet Vachel Lindsay pursued her with passion and ardent verse, but he was too wild for her, and she settled for the businessman Ernst Filsinger, a fellow St. Louisan.

She was full of hope about this union, but in the end, she was unable to reconcile her romantic fantasies with the realities of married life. “I am not yours, not lost in you,” she wrote in a poem composed just before their wedding in 1914. And afterward, “why . . . alone for me / is there no ecstasy?” (“Midnight Rain,” 1915). She sued Filsinger for divorce in 1929.

Teasdale’s emotional life became more and more unstable, and she fell into deep depressions from which she gradually lost the will to extract herself. The poems in Flame and Shadow (1920) and Dark of the Moon (1926) are darker than her earlier, simpler lyrics, and many of them deal with her lifelong preoccupation with death.

The last great friendship of her life was with Margaret Conklin, a young student who came into Teasdale’s life in 1926 and wooed her almost like a lover. Teasdale saw in Conklin the reincarnation of herself as a child, and their relationship was profound and complex. If there was a lesbian component to it, however, it was probably unacknowledged.

In January 1933, at the age of forty-eight, weighed down by despair, Teasdale ingested a large number of sedatives and was found dead in her bathtub the following morning. Strange Victory, including a poem to Conklin, was published later that year.

Ann Wadsworth*

*Ann Wadsworth is the author of the beautifully written lesbian love story Light Coming Back  – which I think is her first and only book so far.  I keep hoping she will write another, but I am afraid I may be hoping against hope.




A thoughtful essay  on Sarah Teasdale





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Amei demais

Amei demais
Estou cansando
Já não fazer alegria
A velha alegria des tempos atras
Já não temos mais papo
E o velho silêncio
Esta se instalando
Vive me incomodando chegando
Ao ponto de mi fazer chorar
Tentei demais
Mil loucuras inventei
Para não cair logo na realidade
Ja não consigo mais
Me enganar, me iludir
Esconder a verdade
Mas de agora em diante que estou resolvida
Vou proteger a meu coração
Que já não gosta
Tanto de vos
Que já não bate como
Antes costumava bater
E eu só quero saber
Diga logo que eu estou
Esperando a explicação
É melhor resolver a situação
Seja claro, preciso
E não diga mentira
Por que depois se alguma
Outra coisa eu descobrir
Não terei paciencia para ouvir
Eu não vou ficar louca
E perder a razão…


















Não Se Avexe Não

Bastião, meu bem
Anda logo, vem
Vem pra mais perto de mim
Chegadinho assim

Tua muié num tá presente
Quem mandou num tá?
Vamo dança um bucadinho
Larga de me olhar

Encrenca num vai dá,
Somo di maió
Podi nem dar confusão
Se avexe, não

Casquinha é bom de se tirá
Vamo aproveitar
A melodia do baião

Mas num rode tanto assim
Que se não o vento dá
Minha saia vai subi
E esse povo todo vai oiá

Anda, peste, vem pra cá
Q’eu me achego mais procê
Vê cinema eu sei que é bom
Mas ninguém vai vê

















Samba de uma nota só (One Note Samba)

Eis aqui este sambinha,
Feito numa nota só
Outras notas vão entrar,
Mas a base é uma só
Esta outra é consequência,
Do que acabo de dizer
Como eu sou a consequência,
Inevitável de você
Quanta gente existe por aí,
Que falta tanto e não diz nada
Ou quase nada
Já me utilizer de toda escala
E no final não sobrou nada,
Não deu em nada
E voltei prá minha nota,
Como eu volto prá você
Vou cantar com a minha nota,
Como eu gosto de você
E quem quer todas as notas,
Ré, mi, fá, sol, lá, si, dó
Fica sempre sem nenhuma,
Fique numa nota só













Its Only Love

Since I’m here you’ll find
That nothing you’d say wiil stop my love
This love is meant to be
I will make you mine so don’t run and hide
To forget my love
Its only love – its only love.
Don’t fight my love
Don’t fight my love, you’ll see.
This time you’ll think you’ll find
I can believe in me
I want to ask you why….
You’ve been on my mind
So please give me your time and take my love
Move closer here to me
I got you now so don’t wonder why
Just feel my love
Its only love, Its only love.
Don’t fight my love….
You’ve been on my mind
So please give me your time and take my love
Move closer here to me
I got you now so don’t wonder why
Just feel my love
Its only love, Its only love.
Don’t fight my love….

















Vem p’ra roda

Vem pra roda brincar
De a mão,venha ca
Essa é a maneira que eu
Tenho para mostrar
O meu amor por vc sem muito
Vem pra roda brincar
Dê a mão venha ca
Quero que vc aceite essa cantiga
Como prova de afeto e de um
Grande bem querer sincero
Eu estou cantando
Pra vc sinceramente
Só quero que vc acredite

Naquilo que estou lhe dizendo














Encanto Meu

Aconteceu, um novo amor
Eu estava esperando ele chegar
Isso me, faz feliz, faz cantar!

Vejo você, encanto meu, presente de amor
Que faz bater meu coração, acostumado a dor…

E de repente vem surgir, caindo lá do céu
Um anjo chegou, trazendo a fé, dando a razão
A toda a gente que ainda crê, no grande amor!

Por que me aconteceu, pra mim
Por que me aconteceu, pra mim
Por que me aconteceu, pra mim…

Aconteceu, um novo amor
Eu estava esperando ele chegar
Isso me, faz feliz, faz dizer
Que o nome dele é João…

















Convidei a comadre Sebastiana
Pra cantar e xaxar na Paraíba

Ela veio com uma dança diferente
E pulava que só uma guariba [2x]

E gritava A, E, I, O, U, ipslone [2x]

Já cansada no meio da brincadeira
E dançando fora do compasso
Segurei Sebastiana pelo braço
E gritei não faça sujeira
O xaxado esquentou na gafieira
Sebastiana não deu mais fracasso

E gritava A, E, I, O, U, ipslone [2x]

Convidei a comadre Sebastiana
Pra cantar e xaxar na Paraíba

Ela veio com uma dança diferente
E pulava que só uma guariba [2x]

E gritava A, E, I, O, U, ipslone [2x]

Já cansada no meio da brincadeira
E dançando fora do compasso
Segurei Sebastiana pelo braço
E gritei não faça sujeira
O xaxado esquentou na gafieira
Sebastiana não deu mais fracasso

E gritava A, E, I, O, U, ipslone [2x]

Mas gritava A, E, I, O, U, ipslone

E gritava A, E, I, O, U, ipslone”.


















Tá tudo certo

Ta tudo certo,
A vida é boa
Cantando o Vivo
Que eu gosto
Vivo sorrindo á toa
Tudo pra mim e tranquilo
Estou aprendendo a viver
Nao dou bola pra
Problema, fuxico nao ouço
E nao quero ver…

Quando eu sinto no ar que
A coisa fica preta
Começo a dar cambalhota
Faço uma bela careta
Vou saindo de mansinho
E me mando a la francesa
Quando perguntam por
Mim, ja estou longe dessa
Treta,ja estou longe dessa treta…

Hoje e dia de festa no
Meu coraçao alegria a bessa
Amor de montao,
Todo mundo cantando a mesma cançao
E a nossa felicidade
Nao sera mais ilusao nao,nao
Nao sera mais ilusao

Estou com um novo amor que so
Me da muita inspiraçao
Vou embarcar com cuidado,
Vou evitar confusao
Quero viver sempre em festa
Seja noite ou seja dia e agradecer
Ao senho pelo pao de cada dia,
Pelo pao de cada dia

















Mas que nada

O ariá rai, O?
Obá, Obá, Obá,
O (o, o, o, o,) ariá rai, O?
Obá, Obá, Obá…
Mas que nada
Sai da minha frente eu quero passar
Pois o samba está animado
O que eu quero é sambar
Este samba que é misto de maracatu
é samba de preto velho
Samba de preto tu
Mas que nada
Um samba como esse do legal
Você no vai querer
Que eu chegue no final



















Seu amor,
fez minha vida feliz
e dominou o azul,
que trouxe aquela flor

Que ficou como recordação
de um momento tão bom
cheio de emoção
alegrando meu peito

Fez fugir solidão
deixando a alegria entrar
no meu coração

E depois,
a florzinha secou
fiquei tão triste e você
me abandonou

Mais eu vou cantar
laia laia laia
aia aia
aia lalalaia laia

Meu amor,
toda história tem fim
você levou a flor
e ficou sem mim













Sangria (No lyrics!)

















Conceição (instrumental)

Eu me lembro muito bem
Vivia no morro a sonhar
Com coisas que o morro não tem

Foi então
Que lá em cima apareceu
Alguém que lhe disse a sorrir
Que, descendo à cidade, ela iria subir

Se subiu
Ninguém sabe, ninguém viu
Pois hoje o seu nome mudou
E estranhos caminhos pisou

Só eu sei
Que tentando a subida desceu
E agora daria um milhão
Para ser outra vez Conceição


















Come with me

Come with me now
Brings any days into my life
Come with me now
You are the reason of my life

Come with me, make me smile
Hold me in your arms
Come with me now
I need you close, you are my life

Pa pa pa para pa pa
I need you close, you are my life
Pa pa pa para pa pa
You are the reason of my life

Pa pa para pa pa.
Bara ba ba bara ba ba

Come with me now

Brings any days into my life
Come with me now
You are the reason of my life

Come with me, make me smile
Hold me in your arms
Come with me now
I need you close, you are my life













Começar de novo

Começar de novo e contar comigo
Vai valer a pena ter amanhecido
Ter me rebelado, ter me debatido
Ter me machucado, ter sobrevivido
Ter virado a mesa, ter me conhecido
Ter virado o barco, ter me socorrido

Começar de novo e contar comigo
Vai valer a pena ter amanhecido
Sem as tuas garras sempre tão seguras
Sem o teu fantasma, sem tua moldura
Sem tuas esporas, sem o teu domínio
Sem tuas escoras, sem o teu fascínio

Começar de novo e contar comigo
Vai valer a pena ter amanhecido
Sem as tuas garras sempre tão seguras
Sem o teu fantasma, sem tua moldura
Sem tuas escoras, sem o teu domínio
Sem tuas escoras, sem o teu fascínio

Começar de novo e contar comigo
Vai valer a pena já ter te esquecido
Começar de novo













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Virginia Woolf (25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941)


















Whatever hour you woke there was a door shutting. From room to room they went, hand in hand, lifting here, opening there, making sure­  –  a ghostly couple.

“Here we left it,” she said. And he added, “Oh, but here too!” “It’s upstairs,” she murmured. “And in the garden,” he whispered. “Quietly,” they said, “or we shall wake them.”

But it wasn’t that you woke us. Oh, no. “They’re looking for it; they’re drawing the curtain,” one might say, and so read on a page or two. “Now they’ve found it, ” one would be certain, stopping the pencil on the margin. And then, tired of reading, one might rise and see for oneself, the house all empty, the doors standing open, only the wood pigeons bubbling with content and the hum of the threshing machine sounding from the farm. “What did I come in here for? What did I want to find?” My hands were empty. “Perhaps it’s upstairs then?” The apples were in the loft. And so down again, the garden still as ever, only the book had slipped into the grass.

But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see them. The window panes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon the walls, pendant from the ceiling­ – what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the carpet; from the deepest wells of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble of sound. “Safe, safe, safe” the pulse of the house beat softly. “The treasure buried; the room . . .” the pulse stopped short. Oh, was that the buried treasure?

A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. So fine, so rare, coolly sunk beneath the surface the beam I sought always burnt behind the glass. Death was the glass; death was between us; coming to the woman first, hundreds of years ago, leaving the house, sealing all the windows; the rooms were darkened. He left it, left her, went North, went East, saw the stars turned in the Southern sky; sought the house, found it dropped beneath the Downs. “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat gladly. “The Treasure yours.”

The wind roars up the avenue. Trees stoop and bend this way and that. Moonbeams splash and spill wildly in the rain. But the beam of the lamp falls straight from the window. The candle burns stiff and still. Wandering through the house, opening the windows, whispering not to wake us, the ghostly couple seek their joy.

“Here we slept,” she says. And he adds, “Kisses without number.” – “Waking in the morning­”  – “Silver between the trees­” –  “Upstairs­” “In the garden­” –  “When summer came­” – “In winter snowtime­” – “The doors go shutting far in the distance, gently knocking like the pulse of a heart.

Nearer they come, cease at the doorway. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Our eyes darken, we hear no steps beside us; we see no lady spread her ghostly cloak. His hands shield the lantern. “Look,” he breathes. “Sound asleep. Love upon their lips.”

Stooping, holding their silver lamp above us, long they look and deeply. Long they pause. The wind drives straightly; the flame stoops slightly. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent; the faces pondering; the faces that search the sleepers and seek their hidden joy.

“Safe, safe, safe,” the heart of the house beats proudly. “Long years­” – he sighs. “Again you found me.” “Here,” she murmurs, “sleeping; in the garden reading; laughing, rolling apples in the loft. Here we left our treasure­” Stooping, their light lifts the lids upon my eyes. “Safe! safe! safe!” the pulse of the house beats wildly. Waking, I cry “Oh, is this your buried treasure? – The light in the heart.”














In this utterly luminous piece of writing Virginia Woolf conjures up two pairs of lovers, one ghostly and the other living. Despite the suggestion implicit in the title, it is really the lovers who are haunted, and not the house – the dead by their past, and the living inhabitants by their spectral predecessors, whose presence persists in the small but telling events which are the currency of mortal life.

Here there is not a trace of Woolf’s caustic wit; her normally biting observation of humans and their ordinary doings, is suspended and held in abeyance and so is something which I refer to myself as her ‘remote viewing’: in fact it is completely absent, and there is not even a tinge of her customary note of acerbity.  Here she is in tune with a world, which though ever-present, is for the most part unseen and unfelt: the extended reality which can only be sensed through a refinement of the awareness and intuition. It is by the grace of this faculty that the echoes of the past can be heard again because, it would seem, they are never altogether lost.

I recently had a sense of this with the scent which continued to linger so heavily outside my door, of  the choke cherry blossoms which finished  their  blooming many days ago, and left behind a Kirlian image of odour whose origin is now quite invisible.

There is a sharpened sense of urgency in the trance-like succession of hurried, yet vivid conveyance of images, and a sense of life and pleasure which clamours to be reclaimed. The images themselves seem to be encoded: they are not quite cryptic, but the significance they transmit is suggestive of something which is less than obvious.

My own intuition informs me Woolf was swept up in what I call  ‘the writer’s trance’ – a kind of fugue, in which whisps of thought become ardent and  are enkindled. This gives rise to inspired writing, which is the kind that emerges from an altered state. It is instantly recognisable, because it enkindles the same state in others, and  leaves behind a sort of aching enchantment.

Woolf’s story suggests that here is nothing sinister in this intrusion of past lives into present ones –   it is solely benevolent.  The dead live on vicariously or by proxy, the living continue, extend, carry on. They accept the the weight of  the others’ unrealised love, perhaps because she died, perhaps because he went away: something was left unfulfilled, forfeit, overtaken by events, by his error, by a failure to realise the finiteness of mortality,  as often so much in our pasts remain unfulfilled.

But the sibilant incantation of  “safe safe safe” of the unseen lovers tells of  an anxiety allayed, a loss vicariously, but happily recovered by the agency of these suplanting two, who feel the invisible yet strongly sensed presence of the indelible persistence of love.

So, in Woolf’s telling, the treasure is restored love love regained and redeemed.  We are left with the conviction that the lives not lived we so often end up with, the unfulfilled and forfeit past, is not irreclaimable after all. In that spirit, I welcome such reverberations of the past as I am capable of hearing, feeling and sensing.

As usual I find myself coming up with my own twist on stories such as this one, which draw me in and set my thoughts awhirl. I am thinking now of the many generations of same-sex lovers who were not permitted to love as they would have wished. They lived their mortal lives cheated of their rightful inheritance, so perhaps we owe them a debt of remembrance. They are the repositories of  our gay and lesbian ancestral memory. If there is such a thing as a collective unconscious, we must in some sense retain the sparks of their lives. But rather than ‘the unconscious’ or ‘the subconscious,’  I prefer to think of this as the ‘adjacent conscious’, since it lives side- by-side with us and all around us. As such it retains for me a deep and persistent poignancy, which I feel is precious, and should be kept alive.

The heart of this story, and the reference to “kisses without number”,  instantly reminded me of a poem by Catullus – and I can’t help wondering if Woolf thought of it too – and resolved to provide an assurance to the contrary, suggesting that death does not always extinguish mortal love.  If so, I think I understand a little better what she meant by “the light of the heart.”



Catullus V

Vivamus mea Lesbia, atque amemus,           
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis!
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbābimus illa, ne sciāmus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.


Gaius Valerius Catullus



Catullus 5

*Let’s live and love, my Lesbia,                                  
counting the grumblings of severe old men
as being not worth a penny.
The western sun may rise again,
But when our brief light sets,
Night is a perpetual sleeping.
So give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred –
another thousand and a second hundred
and yet another thousand and another hundred
and when we have had many thousands of kisses
we will confound them, and lose count,
lest by counting so many kisses,
evil men should know their number
and be given cause for envy.


*My version, adapted from various translations of the original Latin.

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Garcilaso de la Vega (1501 – 1536)













Soneto VI                                                  

Por ásperos caminos he llegado

a parte que de miedo no me muevo;

y si a mudarme o dar un paso pruebo,

allí por los cabellos soy tornado.

Mas tal estoy, que con la muerte al lado

busco de mi vivir consejo nuevo;

y conozco el mejor y el peor apruebo,

o por costumbre mala o por mi hado.

Por otra parte, el breve tiempo mío,     

y el errado proceso de mis años,

en su primer principio y en su medio,

mi inclinación, con quien ya no porfío,

la cierta muerte, fin de tantos daños,

me hacen descuidar de mi remedio.




Version 1

By rugged roads I have arrived                      

Whereat I cannot move for fear

And should I try to shift or step

I am dragged back by my own hair.

Moreover with death at my side

Fresh counsel for my life I seek

And knowing what’s best, I try the worst

Accustomed to ills or destiny.

On the other hand, my time is brief –

My errant progress through the years

From their commencement and mid life

Me predispose to not persist.

Death’s certain end after such pain

Makes me reject a remedy.






Version 2

By rough and rugged roads I have arrived            
Whereat for fear I cannot move away,
And should I even try to take a step
I find myself dragged backed by my own hair.

Moreover with Death poised here by my side
I search anew some counsel for my life:
I know what’s best and yet I try the worst
Due to ill habits and my destiny.

As for my part, I know my time is brief,
My errant progress marches through the years
From its inception through my middle age.

Death’s certain ending following such pain
Makes me uncaring of a remedy.



I myself find the second version (translated with metre intact)  retains the more intentionally  – and leisurely – contrived artifice of the sonnet, but I feel I prefer the first because dropping a foot gives it more briskness and urgency and the more uneven line gives it more impact.




Soneto XXIII *                                            

En tanto que de rosa y azucena

se muestra la color en vuestro gesto,

y que vuestro mirar ardiente, honesto,

enciende al corazón y lo refrena;

y en tanto que el cabello, que en la vena

del oro se escogió, con vuelo presto,

por el hermoso cuello blanco, enhiesto,

el viento mueve, esparce y desordena:


coged de vuestra alegre primavera

el dulce fruto, antes que el tiempo airado

cubra de nieve la hermosa cumbre;

marchitará la rosa el viento helado.

Todo lo mudará la edad ligera

Por no haces mudanza en su costumbre.








Sonnet 23                                                           

In such wise as the lily and the rose
Demonstrate the colour in your face
So does your gaze so honest, so direct
Consume the heart with ardour and restraint.

And so too does your hair seem like a vein
Of gold, that swiftly choosing it the breeze
Moves it and scatters it in disarray
Against the beauty of your white uprising neck.

Gather then the gayness of your Spring,
And the sweet fruit before an irate clime
Masks the acme of your beauty with its snow.

Soon icy winds will wither every rose
And swiftly change the lightness of your days
So as to keep unchanged their usual ways.


Translations Dia Tsung.


*This is the poem that inspired the more famous one by St. John of the Cross.



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Edward FitzGerald "Gerald" Brenan (April 7 1894 – Januray 19 1987)



















What makes Brenan’s writing so irresistible to me is that everything he writes is vivid and compelling and imbued with his seemingly effortless talent for detailed observation. I am instantly drawn in by his mildly sardonic style, his facility to absorb everything around him, processing it intelligently and drawing unobvious and often ideosyncratic conclusions.

Brenan was possessed of an avid and insatiable appetite for discovering what lies on the surface as well as below it and a jackdaw’s talent for storing odd bits of whatever attracted him – whether they were details of dress or conversation or landscape  – and of course the chaotic and convoluted politics of the time, a time when good and bad, tragic and ludicrous, blended seamlessly into the almost –  but never quite unmanageable –  blend of recent events and intractable ancient customs.

His all-surveying eye and his finely tuned, acute sense of hearing make him the perfect proxy, and I feel myself becoming an enthusiastic voyeur.  In fact, this was one of Brenan’s favourite predilictions, and one he indulged without a trace of either shame or guilt!

The feeling for a place  which infuses his writing makes reading it feel a bit like reading about paradise, a countryside which is a microcosm of early creation – of ilex trees and broom and expansive views extending into the distance, but a paradise where terror and despair and human confusion all have a part.

I remember reading somewhere, (perhaps it was in an old Spanish short story) something that lodged itself indelibly in my memory, which fits well with Brenan’s experiences with the typical Spanish pride in social standing. His glimpses of the Spain  reminiscent of  the time of Cervantes when even the nobles starved, making a pretense of grandeur over their sparse and deficient meals, prandial rituals rigidly and helplessly followed when a liveried servant would ceremoniously serve his  high-born but impoverished master   a single egg on the ancient family silver, after which the master would ostentatiously pick his teeth in public to show he had dined well.

This particular book, The Face of Spain, with its endless  kaleidoscopic shifts people, places things – the unstoppable course of onrushing life like a stream which passes through an endless expanse of  space and time – transforms and transports one with the greatest immediacy to another time and place.

Brenan visited Spain in the aftermath of the civil war, during the dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. In the last four hundred years everyone had had a go at Spain – England’s Drake and the disastrous loss of the Spanish Armada, ( though to be fair Spain brought this upon herself,) France’s Napoleon, and his butchery, so graphically immortalised by Goya, then the Nazis and fascists, ( and who can forget Picasso’s memorial of Guernica) and finally after a disastrous civil war, the grandest scourge of them all, the mean-eyed, pudgy-faced Franco with his revolting moustache. Under his baneful tyranny Spain became a creature which resembled Goya’s painting of Saturn devouring its young: liberals, intellectuals, poets, anarchists, peasants, clerics, and ordinary people all fell willy-nilly into the gaping maw.

Though Spain remained nominally neutral in WW2, The Germans and the Italians (Franco’s allies) enthusiastically launched several massacres. The Spanish Civil War drew in the young idealists from Europe in droves to fight against the Fascists.  Virginia Woolf’s nephew Julian Bell lost his life in the Spanish Civil War.  Communist lesbians Sylvia Townsend Warner and her partner Valentine Ackland were active volunteers, raising money and involving themselves in many aspects of the conflict such as providing transportation, medicines and other necessities. Rosamund Lehmann (writer of wonderful novels such as The Ballad and the Source,  Invitation to the Waltz and Dusty Answer, with its  ever-so-deeply enduring lavender tinge) contributed money for soap, a commodity in extremely short supply at the time, and one can only imagine the morale of a fighting force which lacks even the basic ability to stay reasonably clean.

Brenan has some fascinating antecedents as one of the fringe elements of the Bloomsbury group with its brilliant women of ambiguous, uncertain or confused sexuality (for my purposes lesbian) including his first love the brilliant painter Dora Carrington, (it is her portrait of Brenan which is at the top of this post) whose life ended tragically in suicide. His wife, the writer and poet Gamel Woolsey, to whom he dedicated The face of Spain, was connected to the well-known Powys family and in particular to the much older Llewellyn Powys (and also perhaps with Lewellyn Powys’s brother John Cowper Powys) with whom she had an affaire. Gamel and Llewelyn’s wife Alyse Gregory were close friends; nonetheless Powys wished Gamel to bear him a child. Brenan too wandered from the path of marital fidelity when he fathered a child, his daugter Miranda,  with one of his Spanish domestics, Juliana Pellegrino. However, it should come as no surprise to anyone that among this loosely knit group of of writers and artists and thinkers who all came from one tiny and remarkable segment of British society, sexual heterodoxy was the norm rather than the exception.

Brenan, like some of the superb writers and  literary luminaries of his social group such as Virginia Woolf, was self-educated. His style of writing – the kind of polished and striking prose which makes portraits and landscapes out of words, is his own unique skill, and cannot be mistaken for anyone else’s. Though Spain remained his most important subject, he was not restricted to one kind of writing. His book St John of the Cross is one of the very best on the subject I have ever read. Last night I read its preface in which Brenan pondered the difficulties and challenges of translating the saint’s Spanish poems into English, and was amazed at how exactly he defined and described the very heart of the problem, he encountered in his book about this saint and his poetry, (here Brenan points out the fascinating fact that Garcilaso de la Vega had a significant influence on John’s poetry) which in essence is the difficulty deciding between the importance of a rough and clumsy but accurate translation of Spanish into English, or a refined English poem in which the original expression has been diluted.

When one reads his books, Brenan’s fascination with Spain becomes infectious. His grasp of the very nature of this fascinating country and people, its history of brutality and violence in conquest, its religious intolerance, its art and its poetry, is in my view unsurpassed. This Spain, with its tendency in modern times to fall into one financial crisis after another, seems to have lost some of the historical hauteur with which Brenan tinged her. His descriptions brought to mind for me the image of a noble old dowager, somewhat the worse for wear, but still keeping up appearances and clinging to tradition. This intractable cycle of poverty is of ancient duration, for even in the past, the wealth of colonial plunder brought inflation and hardship. When Spain’s colonies were lost, along came still more hardship, but throughout it all the Spanish people clung stubbornly to the pride of their imperial inheritance.  We tend to forget that a Spaniard – Cæsar Nerva Traianus Germanicus (Trajan) once ruled Imperial Rome. Once again in need of a European bailout, Spain stands hat-in hand, its financial fate in the hands of wealthier nations, and one has to imagine that the country’s self-respect is getting a bit tattered at the edges.

Before Brenan died at the age of 94, had hoped to avoid funeral expenses and accordingly he had made arrangements to donate his body to a Medical faculty in Málaga. However, and perhaps due to some compunction about using the body of a well-known and much admired man of letters, the body was not put to the use to which Brenan intended it. Thus it remained unburied (and one would hope in cold storage) for 14 years, after which it was cremated and the ashes interred beside the burial plot of Gamel Woolsey in the English cemetery in Malaga.

I wish Brenan were still alive to cast his keen writerly eye on Spain at this juncture of her national life, but alas he is not, nor could anyone else take his place.










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Edward FitzGerald "Gerald" Brenan (April 7 1894 – January 19 1987)












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