Poetry Corner – Chesterton edition

A cloud was on the mind of men, and wailing went the weather,
Yea, a sick cloud upon the soul when we were boys together.
Science announced nonentity and art admired decay;
The world was old and ended: but you and I were gay.
Round us in antic order their crippled vices came—
Lust that had lost its laughter, fear that had lost its shame.
Like the white lock of Whistler, that lit our aimless gloom,
Men showed their own white feather as proudly as a plume.
Life was a fly that faded, and death a drone that stung;
The world was very old indeed when you and I were young.
They twisted even decent sin to shapes not to be named:
Men were ashamed of honor; but we were not ashamed.
Weak if we were and foolish, not thus we failed, not thus;
When that black Baal blocked the heavens he had no hymns from us.
Children we were—our forts of sand were even as weak as we,
High as they went we piled them up to break that bitter sea.
Fools as we were in motley, all jangling and absurd,
When all church bells were silent our cap and bells were heard.

Not all unhelped we held the fort, our tiny flags unfurled;
Some giants laboured in that cloud to lift it from the world.
I find again the book we found, I feel the hour that flings
Far out of fish-shaped Paumanok some cry of cleaner things;
And the Green Carnation whithered, as in forest fires that pass,
Roared in the wind of all the world ten million leaves of grass;
Or sane and sweet and sudden as a bird sings in the rain—
Truths out of Tusitala spoke and pleasure out of pain.
Yea, cool and clear and sudden as a bird sings in the grey,
Dunedin to Samoa spoke, and darkness unto day.
But we were young; we lived to see God break their bitter charms,
God and the good Republic come riding back in arms:
We have seen the city of Mansoul, even as it rocked, relieved—
Blessed are they who did not see, but being blind, believed.

This is a tale of those old fears, even of those emptied hells,
And none but you shall understand the true thing that it tells—
Of what colossal gods of shame could cow men and yet crash,
Of what huge devils hid the stars, yet fell at a pistol flash.
The doubts that were so plain to chase, so dreadful to withstand—
Oh, who shall understand but you; yea, who shall understand?
The doubts that drove us through the night as we two talked amain,
The day had broken on the streets e’er it broke upon the brain.
Between us, by the peace of God, such truth can now be told;
Yea, there is strength in striking root, and good in growing old.
We have found common things at last, and marriage and a creed.
And I may safely write it now, and you may safely read.

– G. K. Chesterton, To Edmund Clerihew Bentley (Frontispiece to The Man Who Was Thursday)

Read/to-read List

The Shadow Hawk, Andre Norton: a historical adventure set in ancient Egypt. To be precise, it’s set at the reconquest era at the end of the seventeenth dynasty, when the pharaohs of that house go to war against the Hyksos. (Two of them, Seqenenre Tao and his older son Kamose, died in the process, while the third, younger son Ahmose, succeeded and had the distinction of founding his own dynasty.)
It’s told from the POV of Rahotep, a minor nobleman who has left Kush at the Pharaoh’s summons to war. (The alternative is being caught up in politics aka eventually murdered by his half-brother, who schemes for the Kushite throne-in-exile.)Rahotep and his band of Kushite archers report for duty and immediately get sucked into things at a high level–impressing the solemn but fierce prince Kamose, hunting for “lions” with the fiery young Ahmose, getting framed for the Pharaoh’s attempted murder, sneaking into an enemy citadel disguised as a slave…
There’s also a leopard cub the hero takes from the side of its dead mother and starved twin, but it’s still a good kitty and it survives to the end (which I was kind of worried about.)
All in all: not the best book to be reading for four hours while stuck in an auto shop–it’s too exciting and it goes far, far too fast.
Princess of the Nile: this is a 1950s cheesefest starring Debra Paget and Jeffrey Hunter as sheer eye candy. The plot is thin, but the costumes are brilliant, the sets are ostentatious, the cast is sublimely pretty, their performances are assured and effortless.
And, come on. Where else are you going to see a Princess in disguise as a dancing girl, sword fighting mooks in a dance outfit even skimpier than Slave Leia’s? (And winning.)
They just don’t make movies like this anymore.

To read:
The Faithful Executioner, Joel Harrington
The Old Gods Waken, Manly Wade Wellman
Mirror, a History, Sabine Melchior-Bonnet (It’s going to be difficult for Character to commit suicide with a shard of mirror, given that glass mirrors did not appear until the early Renaissance…)
The Sabers of Paradise, Lesley Blanch (A real-life Lady of Adventure, similar to Gertrude Bell. Apparently, this book was one of the inspirations for Dune.)
Pyramids, Terry Pratchett

If and when I get the chance to actually watch the movies I’ve been acquiring, I’m going to start with
Count Three and Pray
Man in the Shadow
The Buccaneer (1938 version…I’m really curious as to how this one will be. The Yul Brynner/Charlton Heston version holds a special place in my heart.)

You’d think that being locked in a cabin devoid of human contact would make this easier, wouldn’t you…