David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

09 July 2010

Picture after picture (Tagore and Brack)

More Tagore. Another that C has recently read me is Railway Station.

Railway Station

I come to the station morning and evening,
I love to watch the coming and going -
Hubbub of passengers pressing for tickets,
Down-trains boarded, up-trains boarded,
Ebb and flow like an estuarine river.
Some people sitting there ever since morning,
Other people missing their train by a minute.
Day - Night - clanking and rumbling,
Trainloads of people thundering forth.
Changing direction at every moment,
Eastwards, westwards, rapid as storms.
The essence of all these moving pictures
Brings to my mind the image of language,
Forever forming, forever unforming,
Continuous coming, continuous going.
Crowds can fill the stage in an instant -
The guard's flag waves the train's departure
And suddenly everyone disappears somewhere.
The hurry disguises their joys and sorrows,
Masks the pressure of gains and losses
Bho - Bho- blows the whistle,
Ruled by the clock's division of time.
No one can bear to wait for a second,
some get aboard, some stay behind.
Succeeding, failing, boarding or remaining,
- Nothing but picture after picture.
Whatever catches the eye for a moment
- Is erased the next moment after.
A whimsical game, a self-forgetting
- Ever-dissolving sequence -
Each canvas ripped, its shreds discarded
- To pile up along the roadside,
Detritus lifted hither and thither
- By tired hot summer breezes.
'Hold back, hold back,' rings out the clamour
- Of passengers left stranded -
Next thing they have also vanished,
- Chasing, running, wailing.
Clang - Clang - sounds the tocsin,
Time for good-bye, off goes the train.
Passengers leaning out of the windows,
Waving until they are whisked away.
The world is merely the work of a painter,
This is the truth I have accepted -
Not made by a craftsman, beaten and moulded,
Not a thing the hand can grip hold of,
But an insubstantial visual sequence.
Age follows age, never losing momentum,
A stream of forming and passing pictures.
Alone in the midst of the to-ing and fro-ing
I watch the constant flux of the station.
One - brush - the picture is painted,
Another brush blacks it out again.
Who are those coming from one direction?
Who are those floating the other way?

Tagore's Railway Station brings to mind John Brack's Departure and Arrival, and so many other Brack pictures of our coming and going.

Departure and Arrival
John Brack

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
someone looks at something ...