Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sturm und Drang

Talk as you see it and then as the other one sees it and then as you both picture it. Strangers aching to touch each other on this wildly spinning ball. 1945 when my parents cured the world of war for the second time, and poetry. X. 1968 when my "godparents" did the very same thing. X. Yours too, I'm sure, obliquely.

I have other sires, other grudges, but the one always balances out the other.

War war war, even here on this placid blue mountain.

Is it that my country plays cricket and sleeps strange hours?

Or is it the enduring terror of that dark spinning ball in the besieged of us all answering to the whispers of Fluellen, expert on all matters bar the vicissitudes of mass grieving

Know the glove?
I know the glove is a glove.

He was barking at his betters after a hard-won victory. I love Fluellen, the nerd in us all there in the trenches rasping to all and sundry how to both survive and appreciate the young Harrys of this bleak spinning ball.

Fluellen is the hard-bitten, butter-mouthed Welsh geek of Shakespeare's Henry V, down there in the trenches before the walls of Harfleur with Pistol and co as they bang out how to do their best by the lions in their hearts. God is blinded by the smoke, an utterance. The drama does not pale. For He wanders amongst them in a pillaged cloak on the eve of battle, haunched amongst the Fluellens as they talk the sleep and chill out of their frightened bones. Even if you've never heard of Shakespeare, that sentiment is gospel.

The young king Harry has rubbed shoulders with these men before, not as a prince, not as a man of fate as such, but as a fugitive from his destiny, in other words in a pub.

It is there he finds his poetry, there the Bard drags him down by the hair and drags him up again. The boy does not become a man by being drunk. That is left to the heroes, beyond which humanity has passed well and truly. What young Harry meets in his dissolute youth is Falstaff, of course, the still beating heart of his father's legacy. A man no boy can quite believe because he is so generous and clumsy, like the wind, but

By my troth
....The King has killed his heart

Meaning the boy, of course, come good and with a heart as big and beating hard but a little less black than old Flastaff's, he leaves his conscience to die in the upstairs room of a pub in Dover. Harry would swallow that, and the hanging later, but Shakespeare wasn't interested in ghosts, at least not in that play. He was interested in young Harry, the balls he had or hadn't, and what dead wood you must set adrift to be young Harry or young anyone. Not a bad question as we coast into the autumn years of the age of celebrity. What does it mean to have actually achieved something in the eyes of your peers?

Remember, the ground will always be breaking, the sky will always be opening.....

* Portrait by Suzie Bower

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