"I would we were all of one mind, and one mind good." --Cymbeline, V.iv.209-210. An English teacher's log. Slow down: Check it once in a while.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Keats and Chapman and Keats and Chapman

More homage to Flann O’Brien.  (Today’s hint:  “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” by Keats.)

Keats and Chapman and Keats and Chapman

            “Extraordinary fellow, Homer,” said the Baron when his friend and country neighbor had interrupted his reading by entering the library unannounced one forenoon.  “How he makes hay of these petty jealousies indulged in by the queen of the gods.  One would have thought she’d have got used to the old boy’s philandering by now, at any rate.  Sherry?”
            His visitor, after accepting a glass, apologizing for his abrupt though not indecorous entry, and remarking on the poet’s unsettling implication that the grudges of the gods might be as immortal as those who held them, added, “But my dear man, I suggest you decline your gaze to a marital discord more pressing if less Olympian.”
            “Eh, what?” muttered the Baron.
            “When did you last hear from the Baroness?”
            “A fortnight ago, I think.  She was on the point of departing her sister’s establishment in New York for some outlying spot—a town in . . . er . . . Ticktock . . . or Necktick . . . or some such uncivilized native appellation—where I am to write her next.  What discord?”
            “It seems that you have given your wife an insult of epic proportions.”
            “Insulted my wife?”
            “Indeed, yes.  I have it on the incontrovertible authority of mine, whose tireless observation of the matrimonial heavens for signs of significance to wedded mortals has today been rewarded, I’m afraid, by the sighting of an ominous new planet in the form of a letter from her friend the Baroness, now in Connecticut.  I am sent to tell you that her Ladyship, having first taken umbrage at some undivulged word or deed of yours, has seen fit to take next a madcap but nonetheless solemn vow never, barring a formal satisfaction, to converse with you again.”
            “What?  She means to stay in Con . . . Connect . . . ?”
            “Connecticut.  The second ‘c’ is, as the Baroness threatens to become, inexplicably silent.  No.  She will return from America to the peace of this pleasant demesne on schedule, having endured, she reports, more than enough of the inordinate clanging of iron and steel which the pursuit of gold has engendered in that metallic realm—or rather republic.  It is not clear whether the headache has influenced her choice to seek a verbal as well as a pastoral quietude.  But in any case she has sworn that no word of hers shall reach eye or ear of yours until you apologize.”
            “But how have I insulted her?  It can only have been in my last letter.  Let me see. . . . I wrote about the clear weather, the estate.  Nothing there. . . . I had begun reading Homer and mentioned that.  I think I rather went on about the extremes to which Menelaus had felt obliged to carry things in order to retrieve—he and his brother dragging all those utterly uninterested people from their comfortable homes off to a foreign—to war, don’t you know.  I wonder if—she can’t have thought—I mean I had no intention of implying that Menelaus should have let Helen—that a wife is not worth—oh dear me.”
            And now, shocked into silence himself by the unprecedented and full-blown recognition of the power of literature—whether epic or epistolary—to alter the lives of men, and of women, the Baron stared vacantly at the floor for a full minute.  His subsequent awakening to the urgent necessity of determining a course of action by which to appease the wrath of his spouse and assure a pacific reunion when she should re-cross the Atlantic put the Baron into a flutter.
            “I must write to her at once!  Where the deuce did you say she was?”  Then, not so flustered as entirely to have lost his customary philosophical bent, yet sufficiently impassioned to have become for the moment oblivious to the rule of syntax that forbids the post-positioning of prepositions, he added, “What inscrutable state of the feminine mind can have made her think my letter sufficient grounds to fall silent upon?”
            Inverting the order of these two compelling queries in his twofold reply, the Baron’s friend in need earned not only the momentary and somewhat distracted thanks of his host but the undying respect of admirers of verbal conceit from that day to this.  “A pique,” he said.  “In Darien.”


Blogger essay den sushing said...

The 2013 International Open Keats and Chapman Competition (first prize £50) is now taking entries. Apply via the rules page at http://essaydensushing.blogspot.co.uk/. Encourage all your friends!

5:30 AM  
Blogger GRap said...

Now that I've entered his contest myself, I invite everyone else to do the same (see previous comment). And check out the blog. Very clever.

8:48 PM  

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