Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Madness And Life

A native of any country goes through periods when he or she becomes convinced that his or her nation has gone stark, raving mad.  The past few weeks have done it for me.

I am not here to discuss the details, for they are of no moment. (Should you encounter a person who feels otherwise, give them a wide berth.)  The madness is the point.  Mind you, most of the country's inhabitants have not taken leave of their senses.  But they know full well where the madness resides.

For me, the solution is simple.  Tonight, I sought out some beloved lines, sat down and read them, and all was well with the World.

Constant Penelope sends to thee, careless Ulysses.
Write not again, but come, sweet mate, thyself to revive me.
Troy we do much envy, we desolate lost ladies of Greece;
Not Priamus, nor yet all Troy, can us recompense make.
Oh, that he had, when he first took shipping to Lacedaemon,
That adulter I mean, had been o'erwhelmed with waters:
Then had I not lain now all alone, thus quivering for cold,
Nor used this complaint, nor have thought the day to be so long.

Anonymous, in William Byrd, Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs of Sadness and Piety (1588), in E. H. Fellowes (editor), English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632 (Oxford University Press 1920).  The eight lines are untitled.  They are a translation of the opening lines of the First Epistle of Ovid's Heroides.  E. H. Fellowes (editor), English Madrigal Verse 1588-1632, page 254.

As I fall asleep tonight I will be thinking of constant Penelope and her lovely complaint, and of nothing else.

Alexander Sillars Burns (1911-1987), "Afternoon, Wester Ross"


Maggie Turner said...

"The madness is the point."

I rest upon this through the long days of panic and frenzy around me.

tristan said...

Hurrah for life, and for all the little madnesses that flavour our days.

mudpuddle said...

the last couple of years have been illuminating, to say the least, as regards the social behavior of what i used to think of as an intelligent species... it's amusing and alarming to follow the fantastic manipulations of those presently in power, but it's due to our lack of perspective that current events seem so dire... from a more cosmic pov, it's just another series of minor incidents in an extraordinarily large universe, as is so-called life on this blue orb floating in a vacuum...
nice choice for a quotation... tx....

George said...

I should say that the details unfortunately are of considerable moment, for they concern the probable course of Supreme Court decisions for a good twenty years, and the possible course of Supreme Court nomination proceedings for perhaps longer. Having said that, no, it has not been pretty or especially sane.

An interesting notion, though, Odysseus writing home!

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms. Turner: Thank you for visiting again, and for sharing that thought. I try to keep all of the "madness" in perspective (it is, after all, the way of the world), but we do need places of serenity, don't we?

Thank you again.

Stephen Pentz said...

tristan: Yes, I suppose "the little madnesses that flavour our days" can be a good thing, at times. Being in Bedlam amidst Bedlamites is something else altogether. I prefer peace and quiet. But that's just me.

Thank you very much for visiting again.

Anonymous said...

After reading your current post I turned to October 2010. My eye fell on your post "On the Eve of an Election". I wish you would post again the poem of CH Sisson - "Thinking of Politics". That poem reflected exactly what I feel tonight. It gave me some consolation, as you said of Penelope, is what I hope to have in my mind as I fall asleep.

Stephen Pentz said...

mudpuddle: Perspective is always necessary, isn't it? To start at the lowest level, the world of politics seldom brings out the best in humanity. Hence my periodic laments here about the politicization of culture. But you are right to point out the much larger, and more important, perspective. Reading poetry (to cite just one example) provides that perspective. For instance, I have been roaming through The Greek Anthology the past few weeks, and the poems there place all things in their proper place. But it is even simpler than that: all I have to do is step out into the World and walk beneath the sky and the trees.

As always, thank you very much for visiting, and for sharing your thoughts.

Stephen Pentz said...

George: It's good to hear from you again. Thank you very much for those thoughts.

I should be clear: when I said that "the details . . . are of no moment," "the details" of which I was speaking are the details relating to the noisome spectacle manufactured by the party in opposition. Those details are indeed of no moment. As an American citizen (and as a lawyer) I would never say that the composition of the Supreme Court is of no moment within the context of our system of government. But, at the risk of sounding quaint and/or pompous, there is a much more important context than that, isn't there? Is the composition of the Supreme Court of any moment when it comes to our life, or to our soul? We each have to find our own answer to that question. That is what my post is about. I'm quite simple-minded about these things, I'm afraid.

As ever, thank you very much for stopping by.

Stephen Pentz said...

Susan: Thank you very much for reminding me of that poem, which I haven't read in far too long a time. I had forgotten that I posted it. It is a lovely poem, and is quite apt.

Thinking of Politics

Land of my fathers, you escape me now
And yet I will in no wise let you go:
Let none imagine that I do not know
How little sight of you the times allow.
Yet you are there, and live, no matter how
The troubles which surround you seem to grow:
The steps of ancestors are always slow,
But always there behind the current row,
And always and already on the way:
They will be heard on the appropriate day.

C. H. Sisson, What and Who (Carcanet Press 1994).

To provide some context for the poem for readers: as I noted in the October 30, 2010, post in which the poem appeared, Sisson was described in The Telegraph's 2003 obituary as a "doughty defender of traditional Anglicanism," who held "unfashionable high Tory views." (As I said at the time: a man after my own heart.)

Thank you again for recommending the poem, Susan. It is one of those wonderful poems that has the capacity to mean different things to each of us.

As always, thank you very much for visiting, and for sharing your thoughts. It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I hope you are enjoying a beautiful autumn.

Richard said...

Hear hear. I find your posts a haven from the madness. Thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Richard: That's nice of you to say. Thank you very much. And writing the posts inevitably reminds me of what is truly important, and in the process provides a haven for me as well.

Thank you for visiting, and for your thoughts.