I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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* One exception: short stories.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Oh-ho for the open road

Lorry drivers are dominated by tachographs, electronic recorders which prevent them from exceeding the legal limits for stints at the wheel.

At night laybys on busy roads are often choked with these silent juggernauts as their masters microwave themselves meals, watch telly, perform their ablutions (?) and slumber, their lives often obscured by prissy little curtains. It's difficult to imagine a more unhealthy life. Once, to illustrate an article on ergonomics, I instructed an artist to design a front page showing a driver becoming part of  his forklift. The artwork was a failure but I should have thought laterally. Many HGV drivers resemble their Dafs, Ivecos and Scanias:  heavily loaded, noisy, assertive.

Drivers are said to enjoy their freedom and the romance of long distances - greeting the dawn in Frankfurt, bedding down in Istanbul. But one motorway is very much like another and HGV parks are always irredeemably squalid.

There are diversions.VR's nephew-by-marriage was a lorry driver and woke up to hear his vehicle being broken into. He locked the cab, worked the ignition and drove away. You can't do that with a house.

Lines for scrutiny:

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced;
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst.

Reasons why not. One goodish line followed by three which show you how not to do it. "Fast thick pants" irresistibly suggests kid's winter clothing, "momently" didn't deserve, or need, to be invented, nor did "half-intermitted". I have to confess I would never have guessed the quatrain's origins if I hadn't seen the first line.

Coleridge. Kubla Khan


  1. I'm going to call line two ok, on grounds that poets should not be deprived of the use of homonyms. "Fast" is something of a stretch for describing snow pants, and "pants" is reassuringly followed by "breathing". "Momently" felt awkward to me, too, and it won't pass spell check, but there it is, listed in dictionary after dictionary. "half-intermitted"? What the heck, poetic license. Clearly about a geyser, as an American I would have guessed Old Faithful. Doesn't seem to fit with Kubla Khan though. I'll post this, THEN Google to see how embarrassed I should be.

  2. I thought that about the pants too, but it probably didn't mean that then. The last line seems to be missing a subject or an object or something, I can't quite work out the grammar of it.

    My step-grandson had a quite realisitic computer game which involved being a lorry driver taking goods all over Europe, planning routes and weighing up the money each kind of freight was worth against the distances etc. It was quite an interesting and educational, if perhaps a little over-worthy, idea, but he quite quickly worked out what you say about the motorways all being the same and the joylessness of it, and proceeded to Ice Road Truckers.

  3. The unintentional double meanings of fast, thick and pants are indeed unfortunate. I agree that it would be interesting to see whether the same double meanings would have been there for Coleridge's readers back then

  4. MikeM: I take your point (mine was in any case purely subjective) and perhaps I might shift the goal-posts a bit. Whatever their meaning and legitimacy the words hardly seem like poetry. Yes, poets are entitled to poetic licence but only in the pursuit of poetic beauty and poetic impact. These lines don't seem to qualify on either score.

    Lucy: I see what you mean, I was unfair to old Samuel Taylor. The fifth line

    Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,

    certainly helps redeem the fourth even it doesn't excuse "half-intermitted".

    Your memory is phenomenal. I'd already forgotten "rustic ale" (experienced in Goudhurst, was it?) which you recently resurrected in an email; now there are these details of this computer game played by your step-grandson. Not only would I have forgotten the game I would very rapidly have forgotten my exact relationship with such a distantly connected infant.

    Lucas: As I said to MikeM, even if the meaning of "fast thick pants" was unimpeachable at the time, I'd question whether the line stood up as acceptable poetry then or now.

  5. "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, a stately pleasure dome decree...."
    I learnt this by heart on a wet Sunday afternoon (not much to do in country villages in the 1950's)and still have it all in memory.
    The "fast, thick, pants" was a subject of ribald laughter amongst adolescent schoolboys (we were easily pleased in those distant times)

  6. I am glad that you made the comment about 'pants' as I was imagining blue serge - or I would have been if I had known what serge was.

  7. Avus: Terrible how the poem tapers off in quality, though. I think even adults may feel entitled to snigger at the pants thing.

    Blonde Two: I thought of Elvis. I doubt that: "Don' step on my blue serge shoes." would have cut it. Even worse: "... on my knitted blue shoes." But more homely, you'll agree?

  8. andI agree that the poem ends in a whimper, RR. Could that be down to that "person from Porlock" who interrupted his opium dream?