Wednesday, September 26, 2007

autumn skies

The skies are full of signals again. Driving across the Mendips we got under a sheet of nimbostratus: then looking north to where the cloud ended saw a broad, bright low rainbow of a kind I hadn't seen before. It lasted a long time. I'm delighted to say that I've found a very similar image (and explanation) here:
Thank you, Linda Bennett! I'm a bit miffed though that it wasn't anything more unusual than a rainbow - the only unusual bit is seeing one while the sun is so high in the sky.

I've started a new job, but I'm off sick today. These are my latest excuses for not writing so expansively as I long to. I've gone back to four-line poems because I can work out a lot of the composition in my head before I do any writing. If you liked these, then there are 100 more in F O T O, which I wrote between 1998 and 2001. Those poems were based on the photos in an album - originally I meant to include the actual photos, but I decided the photos weren't public art so instead I tried to explain the content of each photo in the square-bracketed [title]. None of the new poems is based on a photo, not so far anyway, but each has the same relation to a fixed and definite subject. This is one of the things that makes it possible to think about the poem when I'm walking to my car - the poem already exists for me before I've got any words, it's "the one about ivy", or "the one about when my gran broke her ankle".

Soon I'll begin to notice stars again. Perhaps that's why, though I was feeling almost too ill to read, I enjoyed reading these lines in Pope's Homer (they are from the description of the shield of Achilles in Bk XVIII):

Th' unwearied sun, the moon completely round;
The starry lights that heaven's high convex crowned;
The Pleiads, Hyades, with the northern team;
And great Orion's more refulgent beam;
To which, around the axle of the sky,
The bear revolving, points his golden eye,
Still shines exalted on th'ethereal plain,
Nor bends his blazing forehead to the main.

Pope's translation separates the northern team (chariot, wain) from the bear - in Homer, as elsewhere, they are really alternative names for the same constellation. But dropping the connection means that Pope's bear is more visually distinct, and can have a golden eye. This is the translation that makes me feel like I'm out under the night sky.

Isn't it odd that even in the 8th century BCE everyone could see that the night sky revolved on an axis, yet no-one visualized the earth as a spinning ball? Imagination perhaps was jammed by the incomprehensibly vast size and solid stillness of the earth.


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