I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Monday, 20 May 2013

Poem Written On The Eve Of Richard Wagner’s Two-Hundredth Birthday

It’s funny how we celebrate
on blogs, Facebook
and other media
the things we love –
Bach, Beethoven,
the Beatles,
spaghetti bolognese,
Sancerre,
Dickens, Dostoyevsky,
Delacroix – 
and hardly ever headline
what we hate.

Not that being positive
is wrong:
far from it.
Positive is good.
It’s good to praise
the things we love
which give us succour
and delight.

Nonetheless,
I think it does
no harm, occasionally,
to reveal
what gives us gyp,
the flip
side of the coin,
the dark
side of the moon,
admit our blind spots,
say what makes
our flesh creep,
makes us weep.

And so
instead of pro
here’s con:
I give you
Bill Bryson.

I’d never raise a bet
on saucisse andouillette.

Also, can’t take a shine
to New World wine.

And cursed,
the very worst,
are Damien Hirst

and Wagner.

(Okay, I know tomorrow's the eve, but will have no time to write it tomorrow, as it's Carmen's birthday...)

17 comments:

Ruth said...

So true, Robert. What we dislike shapes us as much as what we like, though we may not spend the same energy on it. I think litanies like this work very well with end rhymes, and you do them so nicely.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Ruth!

Amanda said...

I agree with Ruth - we cannot really know ourselves unless we learn to throw light and embrace our shadow side. Seeds cannot germinate unless left in the slumber of darkness, eventually finding their way to the light.

I love your new header photo.

The Solitary Walker said...

I agree too, Amanda. I think the 'Emotional Intelligence' series on my 'words and silence' blog touched this a little. (And I was so grateful for your wise comments, incidentally.) Also, I know this is a recurrent theme on your own blog.

Although my poem is slight, and casually humorous, there is a serious point – as both you and Ruth recognise.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Rather a good idea to list one's hates Robert - might make a good meme (although they seem unfashionable these days). Happy Birthday to Carmen.

George said...

This reminds me of Mark Twain's observation that "Wagner's music isn't as bad as it sounds."

Goat said...

Bill Bryson: a tubby keyboard jockey who actually walked very little of the Appalachian Trail but wrote the one book every non-hiker associates with he A.T., a book that captures very little of the Trail most hikers would recognise. I quote with some relish (since we're sharing our dark sides) the T-shirt worn by a multiple-thru-hiker of some renown in Trail circles: "Bill Bryson is a Pussy".

Goat said...

And then after reading this and writing that, this great quote turned up in my Twitter feed. Maybe this isn't the place to post it, but I'm lazy:

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. In this state of god-like awareness one sings; in this realm the world exists as poem" - Henry Miller in The Wisdom of the Heart

The Solitary Walker said...

Well, perhaps from time to time, Pat – wouldn't want to get too grumpy!

Love Twain's remark about Wagner, George. Because of the 200th birthday tomorrow, the airwaves are awash with the vulgarly romantic over-the-topness that is Wagner. I just can't bear it!

And what's even worse, Goat, are all those Bryson wannabes he spawned, trying to write, in that same oh-so-self-deprecatingly jocular style, about accident-prone trips around some country or other dragging a fridge behind them, or doing the walk naked, or on one leg – or both naked AND on one leg. Grrr!

Love that Miller quote. It's quite inspired my day.

Dominic Rivron said...

I like Wagner. I have fond memories of carting the whole Ring Cycle back from the record library when I was a teenager and listening to the lot.

In fact, as he's been on Radio 3 recently I was thinking of repeating the experience with subtitled DVDs. I've also bookmarked GB Shaw's book "The Perfect Wagnerite" online to read - if I get round to it!

In fact, if I have a problem with Wagner it's the "getting round to it" factor. At least Das Rheingold is only 2 and a half hours.

Happy birthday to Carmen!

The Solitary Walker said...

I've tried with Wagner, Dominic. Honestly, I've tried...

pilgrimpace said...

and I was just about to ask you to advertise my trip to Nepal in a Victorian cast iron bath tub ...

Andy

The Solitary Walker said...

Tale of a Tub... Swift, isn't it?

pilgrimpace said...

It is. A Swiftian Satire as I make Bill Bryson pull me in a bathtub up Rum Doodle

The Solitary Walker said...

Andy - against my better judgment, I'm hooked! (Can't you make it Kate Humble or Julia Bradbury, though? Bryson would chicken out in the foothills.)

pilgrimpace said...

I'll put them both to work - one to haul the tub, the other to ensure that I'm topped up with hot water

The Solitary Walker said...

:)