First love; first light: Seduced by Adam Bede

First Love, First Light: Seduced by Adam Bede

Adam Bede Loamshire
The rough roads

 

I have not addressed the wider world for many moons. I lost any belief that I have new things to say, nor could I find any convincing reason why anyone should heed them if I had. Writing my memoir was an exercise to keep an old brain flexible, and discover whether my life had really had the importance I ascribed to it. It always seemed hell bent on commanding my energies towards something that evaporated as soon as it was accomplished. Anyway…

In recovering my own innocence, so that my disillusionment should shine the brighter, I have been revisiting the books that I now realise shaped not merely my ideas but my very life itself. I searched out what started as fiction and became my reality. The first critical vision of noble loyalty (whether accurate historically is beside the point) was John of Gaunt in Anya Seton’s Katherine. What a mensch he was! But that was all courtly, braided, curtailed and remote from my own world. It fed a kind of velvet dream but could not be dragged back into every daylight. It was a scented sachet of a book that spread lavender at unexpected moments, mostly a vision of an England I longed to know. A place of history and self confidence, a romantic hero of constancy.

-Library_books

Far more binding were the ropes of Adam Bede. In my school we were only permitted to read ‘approved fiction’ that were ranked in a dusty room under the keys held by the Latin teacher- the book room. There we could sort through Dickens, Trollope, Walter Scott in uniform bindings and bear away one book that we could read when prep was over but before the bell release. Adam Bede was my literary initiation. I was smitten at fourteen with a complete hero, but equally with a world I felt I knew. It was the recovery of the best beloved, both exultant joy and weepful gratitude!

I have just re-read it, with some trepidation, for I was afraid to lose the first work that gave me not only a world, but a passion for what literature was. I suspect I was unconscious of that directly, but it lay as undisturbed as the thatched hayricks await the need for food before they are dismantled and borne away. I do crave the recovery of that food, my own innocence that can be aroused, and here is where trepidation begins because I doubt that many now would read it without a curled lip- oh really! Too much! People aren’t like that!

Snow-covered_hay-rick_and_forlorn_sheep_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1160991

Innocence is now disdained in fiction, yet George Eliot was far from innocent when she wrote her first real novel. Yes, like most writers her first work is autobiographical, but for a sophisticate critic, long a Londoner, always a travelling, now in Berlin at the Opera, now with Franz Liszt for breakfast, she immerses herself back in ‘Loamshire’ in the village of Hayslope and gives us her own innocence amongst the characters that are scattered in steady farmsteads or tumbling cottages, where bright brooks well from the ground and all travel takes much walking. They all have dogs, Gyp, Juno, and Vixen and the dogs are ever present, monitoring and observing.

This was my first visit to rural England, where the seasons turn with dependable benevolence, and currents are harvested by small children in stained pinafores, and workers treated after the fields lie to stubble. It was that steady antiquity of tradition that I longed to be part of, and to be encompassed by. I realised again the power of its portrait, back along. In South Africa there was no such antiquity, nor communities of such steadiness. We were all tossed by more violent seasons, and more cogent fears, and a spectacular landscape in which we had had small part. The country was not shaped to fold its cloak of steeples and hedges about our shoulders; we had hardly penetrated its autonomy. We could love it for its beauty, its wild storms, its cirrus or cumulo-nimbus skies, but if we walked away it would not notice our departure.

mongolia-tarvagatai_mountains_in_khangai_range

So the England of Adam Bede held out such a hand of comfort. But here’s the thing. It still does. It no more exists now, than it did for a 60’s South African.  But in the mind rural Loamshire remains perfect, for what it said about George Eliot’s love of her country, her family’s experience among such people. There will be many (probably most) who would find the book improbable, for its almost universal redemption of error, or disgrace. The Methodist sermons of Dinah the preacher are overlong for today’s literary scrimping, that must apostrophe for scant concentrations but they reflected George Eliot’s own rejection of her father’s Church observance, and the hostility she faced. She was exploring their appeal as much for herself as the rough workers who gathered on the hillsides to be captivated by a woman in a white cap and grey dress.

Then there are the long entertainments of dialect and the acidic or philosophical in Mrs Poyser’s pithy put-downs. George Eliot had a wicked enjoyment of language, its metaphors and disrespect;  her characters did not ‘give-over’ nor, even when moved to change, do so easily. So at then end when all ends well, I was not provoked to disbelief. They were their best selves in a society small enough to temper, and close enough to reject. Rather pleased they had survived their trials, more or less unchanged.

I did not start this piece with a review in mind, but rather an examination of my own naïveté, and in the hope of taking up the pen with greater conviction. I might now, and allow myself to entertain rather than follow the plot of my life. I shall do what George Eliot does, reading a reader’s thought, break off and speak directly to counter their misgivings, plead for my prejudices as though prejudice is permissible, and acknowledge that the point of a book is to share what is important to the writer, not conform to expectations. If a reader knows beforehand what they seek, they might as well write it themselves.

My mother did not often speak of her monotonous schooldays in Staffordshire, where she boarded for six long years without ever going back to Uganda for holidays. Instead she and her sister spent them with a Welsh Methodist preacher’s family where Sundays meant chapel and no swimming. But she did tell me of school Easter Sundays walking to church in heavy cloaks, with the snow falling on the daffodils and on the straw boater, and ‘Let us pray’ dripped melted snow onto the prayer books. That was why Easter was always more important than Christmas. Literature is built of single moments and may need nothing more than capturing them, without asking for more.

Daffodils_on_Easter_Sunday_in_Jenny_Wood_-_geograph.org.uk_-_767075

By di ablewhite, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13434662

By Joan Sykes, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13882295

Spotting Genius.

Spotting Genius Everyday

Spotting Genius- It’s Characteristics, its Temper and Significance.

Having spent much of my life marvelling at the explosive gifts of genius, and spotting a new example last week, in an unexpected discovery of Ruth Finnegan I thought to try and put a finger on the pulse that distinguishes it. Let me start with a draft poem. (I am no longer spending time with polishing- but hack out a brief economy since I have been accused of pointless perfectionism!).

Hunting The Shakespeare Snark- Genius on the Loose.

‘I stood on the shoulders of giants’ Newton said,  in rare modesty.
He never meant elevation. A wider view.
The perspective from a vantage point
A Rugby scrum’s exuberance. To lift aloft a worthy Captain of endeavour
No, the devilling, sifting, panning has been done
Leaving gold gleaming, shining in the seams, the streams, the flowing thought of water.

The debris of collective labour was the reclamation heap
haphazard, strewn and half submerged
after others had discarded, and moved on.

Unbonded by design until he sat relaxed
to feel a gravitas, that binding law of all.
in dunes of trickling sand, apples fallen,
carved into caves by feeding wasps…
Feathers in Pisa
dancing curvatures of gentle challenge
for which poor Galileo once gave answer ‘eppur si muove Signore…’∗
Though he could not, after that.

Insight it was, not diligence.

Once flooded, diligence tramps along to make a way.
Solid stones of logic, a rope across a gorge;
Twists an equation, plaits a verse, sweeps a landscape, paints a play.
Dedication is maddened vision, urgent for corroboration and one gift of ‘Yes’.
You could be right. ‘How foolish not to think of that’.∗

The inner vision, coaxes out,
Extends a hand towards the growling bear of solitude.
Feeds an altered hunger, new, aroused
Blinded by shafted splintered light, genius ventures out.
Tentative on the turned new earth of change.
It may take his weight, mire his  delusion, evaporate like morning mist burned off.

He has been bit: He must go on.

Once aroused, the hunger will persist for it can no longer feed on arid plains.
It may starve, endure a century of ridicule, grovel for a blade of green
Until the tungsten light secures one bowl to hold its liquid truth.

Genius is Creation’s nib, whittled and split to hold the ink
Of IN-sight. An inflammation that will spread, turn feverish,
dampen sheets, ignite a blaze, until submissive and all spent,
confused.

Sight brings servitude. Genius is the lowly ass
(As loaded as that one to Bethlehem)
Whose message is unwelcome
Premature.
Puncturing the palm on the small and open hand of time.

∗All the same it moves ( the Earth round the sun)

∗ Thomas Huxley on reading The Origin of Species.

I might as well be hung for a lamb for I shall expand. The misuse of genius to describe the Big Personality, David Bowie, John Lennon, Steve Jobs  and their ilk of theatrical exhibitionism, or inventive acumen (however wow or timely it may be) is the devaluing of an important concept- genius is not simply originality ( though that is one hallmark), not cleverness, not reading the easy drift of tide, but a porous availability to the rushing gale of urgent messages for Man. That is how I see genius-the minion who bridges the present and the future while the counter-crowd draws on the past, and trails its popular authority as the acid test of worth.

Traversing Mongolia without a yurt. The Journey of Genius.

mongolia-tarvagatai_mountains_in_khangai_range

Why Mongolia? Scarcely inhabited, barren of much comfort, no pre-ordained or clinker roads to determine a crossing, and decidedly cold and windswept at first glance.

That is the landscape faced by genius; genius impelled to tread out a vision.

Genius has become almost a dirty word, over-used, dubiously ascribed to success (which almost defines its misuse) and applied to easy competence, self-belief or aggrandisement by those who cannot tell the difference. Its over-use in such instances has melted its meaning to vapour.

So let’s start again. When I use the word I look for its tell-tale spoor, as I would if following a Yeti, Dinosaur or three toed sloth. It emerges unexpectedly from some cave of solitude; its first steps are tentative because this gait is entirely new, yet it gains confidence simply by treading into the unknown, never tempted to return. For it is armed, no, not armed, but infected by a disease, the disease of certainty. Of what is it certain?

Of valid vision.

dinosaurs_prints_photo_a-_muhranoff_2011

The vision is undefined, except by the inadequacy of what pre-existed it. Space was made for it before it grasped a truth. That truth demands a language, but that language will be new, shaped to be understood by very few, those few will already know of the existent inadequacy, but have started to hunger for an alternative. They are ready. The soil of acceptance is high up a cold mountain, a small patch of possibility, and genius must plant there.  To begin with that truth takes root roughly, grows raggedly since it has not grown before. It has no morphic field to resonate in the collective;yet. It will be battered by winds of opposition, uprooted by ridicule; but cuttings will be taken surreptitiously, to flourish in the hot houses of acclaim. Those cuttings will never thrive beyond a short span for they have been severed from the vision that gave them life.

Each new vision must forge its own language: For the lucky it might be a mathematical equation, for others it will be a dogged search through the debris of thought, or the clues left by ancient civilisations sifted with a sable brush; for the truly transported by vision it will be poetry, which is permitted greater freedom to remain half defined and stay closer to its fluid origins. It is always bigger than language; all language fits it ill.

Muggensilhouet.jpg
The Malaria of Genius

Genius has been bitten, fatally bitten by an all encompassing, blood and brain suffusion, and its constructions match that holistic landscape. They tend to be complete in themselves, a fast link in a chain or compendia that like a tsunami take all with it. Homer and his Iliad/Odyssey, Milton with Paradise Lost and Found, Gibran’s The Prophet defining all elements of relationship, Dante and his tripartite Divine Comedy, Goethe with his ever renewed Faust, nothing excluded, nothing irrelevant. Genius may be difficult to define but not to recognise. (Unless you have a vested interest in denying it space) for it speaks below the brain, in the unity that is shared and instinctively recognised because it is already known.

That unity, from Faraday’s lines of force, Maxwell’s fields, Einstein’s space-time, is the testament of genius, for it has drunk deep on certainty and its rivulets spread uncontained, and a whole life may be given to directing and expanding that flow. Nobody understood relativity, but relativity took root and changed the whole of physics, but has taken time to invade biology through neuroscience, or sign a new contract with chaos theory.

The paramount signature of genius is its facsimile to its closest kin; madness- and obsession, but unlike madness the breastplate of certainty protects the genius. He/she has been gifted, and is shacked between the shafts of service to the vision, to the unique need for the new language, and to the obligation to impart and to safeguard it.

Promoting, or promulgating a vision may be the closest to its service a genius might get, but its specifics once imparted can be left to themselves, which brings me to the infection. What decides who will be bitten? Who will shine with that indefinable light?

I have given much of my life into seeking an answer to that question, the artesian wells of inspired ideas or creations must lie where the crust of collective thought is thin, for although genius is mostly a maverick solitary, the eruptions are often synchronous, as  Farkas Bolyai wrote to his son Janos urging him not to delay publishing his work “When the time is ripe for certain things they appear at different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring”.

This seems to extend the ‘chosen’ to a pregnant collective urge, seeking out the vulnerable through which to impart new understanding.It begs many questions about the prevailing idea that brains emit rather than receive consciousness! It is more likely that brains are chosen by consciousness through which to express itself.

One thing is apparent: The belief that these great geniuses have somehow assembled new understanding by a thoughtful selection and rearrangement of cogent reclamation has to give way to perceiving that the understanding came first. Insight knew and structured the search for evidence or inspired the language by which to convey what was not yet clothed. Or in any state to be transmitted. The sheer scale of the creations of genius could never be undertaken by anything less than certainty.Academics and intellects will work on good ideas that will find funding, genius will take a job in a patent office in Berne, and reflect on the clock at the end of the road.

The book I reviewed in the last post, Ruth Finnegan’s Blank Inked Pearl I believe was one such ( which is why, although not flawless judged against other works, it will prove a classic- the imaginative construction of language to quote emotion where feeling is unquestioned- the raw substance and subject of language) and the next one I hope to review, though very different in language is equally mind-blowing. It uses the chisel of intellectual analysis to de-cypher a fallacy and proves every idea about Shakespeare false; but since our collective incarceration of the Bard is so (literally) entrenched it will have a harder time breaking through. The intellect was merely a tool but will be mistaken as THE argument. Another post dealt with Jose Diex Faizat’s extraordinary insight ( and examinations) of the harmonic intervals followed by evolutionary changes at the diminishing nodes of time’s tripartite (Trinitarian?) sub-divisions. More than forty years of a man’s life are not spent on an hypothesis. He examined the whole of creation , the structure of time as the harmonic intervals of celestial music. Another Symphonic Dance to the Music of Time. Or the reincarnation of Johannes Kepler?

Brave new ideas are sensitive
To antigen attack by the body politic.

Genius walking amongst us, walks unrecognised and lonely, but there are distinguishing stigmata as well as light emanating, and much labour (and little but labour) to reshape vision under whole new empires of conquest. Genius is about reaching for the All. Close to Divine.

Bis später. For Shakespeare.Maybe.

By me (w:User:pfctdayelise) (Image taken by me using Casio QV-R41) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

By BáthoryPéter (Own work (own photo)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Mosquito By VliegOwn work, Public Domain, Link

Checkmate. A Reverie

Since I seem to be getting nowhere with anything I thought I would resurrect a creation that I prepared earlier. Still edible I think!

 

329px-virginia_woolf_1927

 

Check Mate

‘Come at me from a new direction, find me by surprise’ I said to it, taking to my French box-bed and pulling the duvet under my chin. This is on a bank holiday and I’m not even tired, just tired of walking about with the same thuggish head on my shoulders, and tired of the options it monotonously offers. Bed is my way of saying no to all of them. It is my head I am talking to, or perhaps more accurately, my mind. I have after all, carried this same old mind about for over sixty years; it seems totally unappreciative, gives me no thanks. It never leaps up with a new idea or puts a posy on my pillow; those that appear new, on analysis, are simply re-assembled from older reclamation. I recognise all the components however painted over. I could do with a change. I’ll find a way to shut it up.

So I try to recover my old skill at meditation to put it in its place, imagining my muscles turning to stone like a weighty Henry Moore nude welded to a plinth and impervious to drifting leaves in some anonymous park.  Mind protests.

‘You think it’s that easy huh?’

It feels rather more like weighting a tablecloth with odd pebbles, so insistent is the flapping of windy thought. Ok then, I’ll conquer you with a book until sleep defeats you utterly. My mind gives me the two fingers.

The choice within reach is limited; the best thing on the locker this rainy noon is Virginia Woolf and her seductive solution; that all one needs is five hundred a year and a room of one’s own. I have both, but what she left out was the mind to go with it. If you were continually thinking her limpid, clear running-water thoughts which refresh every rock they flow over, you might even do without the five hundred. Anybody who can turn prunes and custard into a philosophy should be an alchemist.

‘I could do that, if I wanted to. It just never seemed worth it; I mean who cares?’ says Mind.

I pretend I cannot hear. I can’t quarrel with Virginia on any matter, not even her sly suggestions about George Eliot’s constraint and bitter social constipations- although George Eliot has always been hailed as our family’s most illustrious connection- the only orchid amongst our African daisies.

‘That’s why your pretentious Aunt decided to fly solo and give away that autographed first edition of Daniel Deronda, (destroying all the evidence just to collar all the glory.) I tell you something else; Daniel D was probably discreetly flogged to pay for a new catalogue for the smiling librarian, since Rhodes in the Eastern Cape is hardly on the George Eliot walkabout’.

This is the sort of monotony I’m talking about; tracking through arid claims without fresh water, hoping that some new succulent will sprout a flower. I already knew all that. I can’t forgive anything that hammers a point.

‘You’re a fine one to talk…Now no doubt we’ll get on to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’ says Mind yawning ostentatiously ‘can’t you leave it out?’

I could but I’m damned if I will. It’s their influences that have brought me to this point. The real reason I value whatever connection I have with George Eliot is the same as I derive from Elizabeth Barrett Browning-(Grandmama being a lesser Barrett, not that ‘lesser’ was a word she understood)- simply that they both ran off to do their own thing, in their metaphorically divided skirts. Wedlock was a serious one to pick in those days. Elizabeth, from her Italian roof-garden had it about right, but she probably started my rot of dreaming too insistently…‘What was he doing the great god Pan/ Down in the reeds by the river?’

pan-andrea_riccio_-_the_shepherd_daphnis_with_pipes_-_walters_54234_-_view_b

I know Mind will interrupt if I give it half a chance. It’ll say that originality never needs to quote, but that’s only because it can’t be bothered with the storage problem. Mind is an insubordinate secretary, who refuses an in-tray and prefers to clear the desk daily. It has never bothered to even file the archive that blows about in any gust under the cellar door. Going back to those two women; they were models not in the literary sense (that came later but never seemed to help), but in the ‘don’t expect to depend on a man’ sense, the mantra in a family consequently bereft of men. I took it much too literally; discounting the possibility that any man was any use at anything. You begin to see the difficulty. Mind, full of seductive rags, makes only heavy quilts in repetitive patterns, under which one takes refuge on a Bank holiday.

‘Nothing wrong with that. You need to remember Victorian thrift and candle light. What’s the hurry?’

Sod off.  I do want to make clear I start at the opposite end of Virginia’s arguments about women weighted down by the superior authority of men, and struggling to be born, shedding skins like snakes. Men were simply posturing fools playing at soldiers, in one sense or another. So it proved.

‘I could have persuaded you otherwise. You just never listened to logic or mastered statistics’

All the men I took up with or married… Continue reading “Checkmate. A Reverie”