Monday, April 13, 2020

Evanston: desert spring; sea miles; two poems by Thomas Hardy

I thank Jim for the above lovely photo taken with his iPhone of what I believe to be his yard in Phoenix, Arizona.   If you look carefully you will find two goldfinches and a Gambrel quail.

Jim advises that the barrel cactuses are ‘chubby’ hoarding water after unusual March rain.

I believe I have mentioned the sea distances site before.  I find it quite useful when considering passages.  For Hilton Head I use Savannah, Georgia, which is about 30 miles away.  Yesterday I used it to determine that the distance to Freeport, Bermuda is 863 miles. Halifax, Canada is 1156.  Reykjavik, Iceland 3230.  Aberdeen, Scotland 3702.  Horta, Azores. 2575.  Among others.

Yesterday was my day off.  I did no exercise.  I climbed no stairs except to empty the trash.  I read, listened to music, and watched an entertaining movie, THE LINCOLN LAWYER, which had an unexpected ending.

I came across two poems by Thomas Hardy.  ‘Channel Firing’ I knew.  Presciently it is dated April 1914.  The other, written when Hardy was at least in his fifties and not published until he was 74, is charmingly unexpected.

A Thunderstorm In Town
She wore a 'terra-cotta' dress,
And we stayed, because of the pelting storm,
Within the hansom's dry recess,
Though the horse had stopped; yea, motionless
We sat on, snug and warm.

Then the downpour ceased, to my sharp sad pain,
And the glass that had screened our forms before
Flew up, and out she sprang to her door:
I should have kissed her if the rain
Had lasted a minute more.

Channel Firing

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancel window-squares,
We thought it was the Judgment-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into the mounds,

The glebe cow drooled. Till God called, “No;
It’s gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:

“All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christés sake
Than you who are helpless in such matters.

“That this is not the judgment-hour
For some of them’s a blessed thing,
For if it were they’d have to scour
Hell’s floor for so much threatening....

“Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need).”

So down we lay again. “I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,”
Said one, “than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!”

And many a skeleton shook his head.
“Instead of preaching forty year,”
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
“I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.”

Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton Tower,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge

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