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.

21 March 2012

Everything I have looked at

We listened to Parliament today, to the Maiden Speech of the newly appointed senator Bob Carr.

One of our senior staff has been an on-and-off listener to federal Parliament since 1965. He recalls hearing Barry Jones' Maiden Speech in 1977; it has stayed with him that Barry quoted this from John Donne :

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."

That's from Donne's Mediation XVII (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions). Less well known is what directly follows it :

"Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbours. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did, for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion, or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current money, his treasure will not defray him as he travels. Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security."

. . . .

The newly sworn senator opened with deprecating good humour.

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (17:00): Mr President, I am advised by the Parliamentary Library that I am Senator number 548. All those senators, of course, are household names, their likenesses hanging like relics on the walls of a thousand schools, their names tripping to the tongue of a grateful nation and their public service celebrated in every corner of Australia. But you might suspect I jest!

Just as our staff member recalls the 1977 broadcast of Barry Jones' maiden speech (such an antiquaint expression), Carr referred to a similar experience of his own:

A friend of mine, John Wheeldon, served in this Senate - the late John Wheeldon, who represented Western Australia in this Senate. I remember listening to the radio as a student and hearing his maiden speech in the Senate in 1965 when he was opposing waterfront legislation introduced by the Menzies government.

In the guts of his address, deadly serious, he said :

"Everything I have looked at in all those years has strengthened my belief that this is the truth."

If you're interested to know what Bob Carr was referring to, read the Hansard transcript of his speech here.

A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/

someone looks at something ...