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.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Touché? I prefer flabby

The Royal Air Force, with which I (unwillingly) served for 62,899,200 seconds, didn't care what I did with my mind, didn't acknowledge I had one. But it did encourage me to consider my body. To buff my biceps.

You can see why. Seeking the bubble reputation, even in the canon's mouth (quote), it’s better to be fit than flabby. To ensure a battlefield strewn with comely corpses the RAF provided "facilities".

Most lacked attraction. Weights? Pure drudgery. Medicine balls? Badly named. Pommel horses? I suspect quadrupeds.

Fencing foils were different. In an armed service aiming to kill from above, a sword seemed ironic. Only a dagger brought you closer to your victim. I recalled Gene Kelly slashing his way through The Three Musketeers.

Within ten minutes I'd lost all interest. The initial steps in fencing are wearisome. Form your feet into a T then shuffle forwards. Then shuffle back. Do this for some time. And again. Was there more? I'll never know. Parenthetically, parallel bars proved no better.

Gene Kelly shuffling! Nah. I don't favour bombs but in my opinion swords will never make a warfaring comeback.

I like good poems. Those that teeter amuse me too:

From the Gallows Hill to the Tineton Copse
There were ten ploughed fields, like ten full-stops,
All wet red clay, where a horse’s foot
Would be swathed, feet thick, like an ash-tree root

Reasons why. But does it teeter? You’d pay good money for “ten full-stops”. And the hammered-home reality of lines three and four satisfies because it’s sustained. Could you beat “swathed”? Or the foot/feet conceit? Or the vigorously worked rhyming?  OK, so you don’t like fox-hunting.

John Masefield


  1. Excerpt led me to the complete poem...absolutely wonderful, highly recommended. You'll need an hour or so.

  2. "Ten full stops .." exactly what fields are when you are navigating. So many ways to read it.

    "And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking," - an extract from one of my favourite poems (tricky to choose the best line).

    Your neck of the woods I believe Robbie.

  3. MikeM/Blonde Two: Just to remind you both of the rules I follow when choosing these extracts. They are taken from The Poet's Tongue, an anthology which lists poems anonymously. After I've made my comments, I use the index to check the poet's name.

    Masefield's name was initially a surprise but then I bethought myself. What was familiar was the hard-driving rhythm and quickly the link occurred. Of course - the last verse of Masefield's Cargoes:

    Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smokestack,
    Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
    With a cargo of Tyne coal,
    Road rails, pig-lead,
    Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

    Though Blonde Two could have been equally right. The parallel could have been M's Sea Fever:

    I must go down to the sea again,
    To the lonely sea and the sky,

    Both taught at school (that same school I have reviled endlessly in Tone Deaf and, before that, Works Well), and both of which have stuck all these years.

    Though the most pleasing thing of all is that MikeM was encouraged to pursue the rest of the posted extract from Reynard The Fox. That delighted me and it would have delighted dear dead Joe. It's for results like that I do Joe's Nudge.

  4. In sixth form we were required to choose a sports option for an afternoon or two a week. I thought golf might do for a wilfully unsporty person, and would at least involve going out on the Sussex Downs. In a term I don't think we hit a single ball even, let alone walked anywhere, it was all about acquiring a grip, utterly boring.

    The Masefield is wonderfully stompy, didn't even think about fox hunitng. Masefield would be fun to have read aloud, kind of thing I had to learn at school and my mother before, but none the worse for that really. Still quite like 'Quinquireme of Ninevah' for sound.

  5. Lucy: There's a world of meaning compressed into "all about acquiring a grip". I might manage the first layer but not the second or the nty-nth. I hate to be disadvantaged so perhaps the sneaky,weaselly rejoinder would be to insist you say it in French.

    You may have been anti-sport but how would you have reacted to being told you were a good sport? I think it means a woman who meets all of a man's special requirements and needs. A pretty terrible insult, I'd say.

  6. Reading all the comments here led me to reach for a red cloth hardcover titled 'Reineke Fuchs'
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - 265-page poem and inscribed by my mother 'Christmas 1949, as cornerstone of your library'.
    I will reread it after I finish with 'Du còté de chez Swann'.

  7. Was John Masefield the reincarnation of Goethe?

  8. Ellena: Just one point: Swann's Way is quite long (463 pages) but, I fear, it is only a smallish part of the complete novel, A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. My printed version (by Penguin) comes in three volumes, and adds up to 3316 pages.

    The other sub-books are: In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (previously Within a Budding Grove), The Guermantes Way, Sodom and Gomorrah (prev. The Cities of the Plain - pts 1 and 2), The Prisoner (prev. The Captive). The Fugitive, Finding Time Again (prev. Time Regained).

    Masefield is far too un-serious to be the reincarnation of Goethe.

    You didn't say (a) whether you'd read the book, or (b) how many books now constitute.

  9. Reynard is the only Masefield I've read knowingly, but it seems pretty serious. I believe the ending portrays the fog of nearing death, the comfort of shock, the review of life's cherished moments. Reynard closes, comfortably, in a place that smells of many foxes.

  10. His most famous poems (already alluded to) are:

    Sea Fever
    I must go down to the sea again,
    To the lonely sea and the sky
    And all I ask is a tall ship
    And a star to steer her by

    ... it gets better.

    Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
    Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
    With a cargo of ivory,
    And apes and peacocks,
    Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

    Pretty serious, perhaps, but not Goethe-type serious.

  11. It is tragic if "Cargoes" and "Sea Fever" are more famous than "Reynard the Fox".

  12. MikeM: Hardly tragic. As Lucy points out Cargoes and Sea Fever were taught at her school, as they were taught at mine and at many others. They may be inferior poems but their rich language and impeccable rhythms stick in your mind at a time of life when you're not in the market for anything more profound. In my case, for poetry of any kind. Thus for decades I carried around an unacknowledged poetic succubus which lay dormant until finally released (thanks to Lucy and Joe) when I started to blog and poetry finally became a possibility.

    Of course it meant that my first instincts were towards rhyming verse which scanned conventionally but better that than nothing. As you know I have written about forty Shakespearean sonnets whereas I seem incapable of handling vers libre. But I can appreciate the latter and I'm astonished to find myself responding to this art form for the first time in my seventies. And John Masefield played a part all those years ago.

  13. I think that you might enjoy "Notice the Convulsed Orange Inch of Moon" by e.e. Cummings.

  14. MikeM: Four or five years ago I edited a biography about the American Hellenophile/travel writer, Kevin Andrews. Made copious references to this in my previous blog, Works Well. Andrews was part of the pre-war literati (Auden, Patrick Leigh Fermor, etc) and e.e.cummings played a prominent role. I fear e.e. was deservedly portrayed as a complete s--t. Despite having inherited his collected poems when my ma died, I have never been able to tackle him. Pure prejudice, of course. Indefensible. But the first step towards reading an author is being tempted to read him. That is unlikely to happen.

  15. The poem is about a date with a woman. As I read it, "convulsed" has three syllables.

  16. Oh, I see...Cummings a McCarthyite...I forgive him.