A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Night Café

I left London's Victoria Coach Station at 3.30 pm on Friday 5 September. Direction: the Channel Tunnel and France. After changing coaches in Lyon I arrived in Avignon late the next morning. A short train journey took me to Arles, the lowest bridging point of the river Rhône. Pilgrims from Italy and from central and eastern Europe have congregated here for centuries before commencing the long trek westwards to Compostela.

Arles used to be an important Roman city, and many Roman antiquities still remain - including the baths and the amphitheatre. Before the Romans Arles had been occupied by the Greeks. I even spotted some Greek inscriptions on some of the stone sarcophagi in the necropolis of Les Alyscamps. This is Van Gogh's impression of Les Alyscamps:

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) came to Arles in February 1888 and lived there in the Yellow House - then in the mental hospital at nearby Saint-Rémy - for scarcely more than 2 years. On arrival he was immediately entranced by the Provençal light and landscape, and in a feverish bout of activity produced around 300 paintings and drawings - including many of those which later became his most famous. Café Terrace At Night, for example. You can still see this café today. In fact I walked right past it. He wrote of this painting: In my picture of the 'Night Café' I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. Yes, absinthe was the downfall of many an artist of the time...

I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things. VAN GOGH

I see drawings and pictures in the poorest of huts and the dirtiest of corners. VAN GOGH

Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it. VAN GOGH


Dominic Rivron said...

Ah! Victoria Coach Station. That takes me back...

Re the Van Gogh quote about poetry. It reminded me of an interesting speech made by Les Murray, called A Defence of Poetry:


The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for directing me towards this speech - I have scanned it but must go back and read it properly.

I must really read more Les Murray - for me he wasn't one of those poets who immediately struck a chord when I fist read him. But that doesn't mean a thing - instant accessibility (that kind of 'Liverpool Poets' effect) can often mean lack of depth. Didn't T.S.Eliot have something to say about 'difficulty' in poetry?

From the little I have read of Les Murray's work he seems truly original.