Friday 29 March 2013

Mistress Masham's Repose

I read TH White’s ‘The Once and Future King’ in the summer and enjoyed it immensely, so much so that I have been buying up copies of his books and gobbling them down voraciously (that being one of the reasons I am writing less then I did). The package containing ‘Mistress Masham’s Repose’ was posted through my door just as I was about to leave to visit my parents. In my back was Sarah Fielding’s ‘David Simple’ but reading the first line of this book, I shoved it in my bag and head off to the tube station.

By the time I arrived at my parent’s house, I was a quarter of the way through. I reckon this book has the finest first chapter I have ever read, it is perfect. Maria’s description is perfect, from her eyes like shining marmite to her loving heart and the promise that she is tough, though with a mistrust of cows, is so clear to me. The description of her despicable guardians, the Reverend Hater and Miss Brown calculate the necessary dislike of them but we are encouraged to believe that ‘this precious pair may have been trying to do the best they could, considering the people they were’. I love the humanity in that, even pantomime children’s baddies need consideration.

This brilliant set up over, we move onto the plot. Maria is an orphaned heiress living in the crumbled ruins of Malplaquet Palace in Northamptonshire who spends her free time wandering the overgrown eighteenth century garden, filled with follies and prospects in decay. It is on one of these trips that she goes into the little island in the middle of a man-made lake to the pagoda known as ‘Mistress Masham’s Repose’. There she finds a colony of exiled Lilliputians who were snatched by Gulliver’s rescuer and escaped his traveling circus. The rest of the plot then consists of her trying to keep them away from her guardians and with the help of The Professor, to understand them.

The Professor is presumably based on White himself and like Merlyn before him is probably calculated to appeal to my own sensibilities. He is the main moral voice of the book, helping Maria to see that her physical dominance of the Lilliputians did not imply any other kind of dominance. He is a bookish hermit living in poverty, who would rather read a book then go on adventures and longs for nothing more than a penny fish-hook so he can cook fish from out of the pond. He notices that ‘whenever something unusual turns up, you are immediately confronted by a moral problem’, declares that ‘It is better to think about cucumbers even, then not at all’; and when he feels barbarism creeping upon him, touches a book to ward it off. I liked him a lot - though I didn’t like the few chapters he had to himself as he was trying to rescue Maria, as I couldn’t believe that his mind would get distracted by discussions on Latin words, or by looking up the origin of the word ‘bloater’ when his young friend was in danger. I did like like his way of dealing with locks, which was to destroy the bolts on the other side of the door that held it on.

Like ‘The Once and Future King,’ the importance of thinking and the humanity it could bring (rather like in the book on Johnson, ‘Passionate Intelligence’). One of the disparaging things said about the guardians is that, ‘they had a few instincts about money, and about appearing respectable, but for many and many years, they had not any thoughts on real ideas at all.’ Another big theme in both books is the importance of right over might, it is easy to domineer the Lilliputians, but better to leave them be.

The book is chockfull of interesting hat tips to the eighteenth century and as well as Swift and Gulliver; Pope, Arbuthnott, Johnson, Boswell, Horace Walpole and Lord Hervey all get mentions. It’s hard to tell what I would have made of this book as a child, but as I am now, I greatly enjoyed it and would encourage any right-minded people to dig a copy out and enjoy the adventure. 

Monday 25 March 2013

Pope's 'Gulliver' Poems

Pope read Gulliver's Travels on its publication and was inspired to write a poem for every book. 

I. Ode to Quinbus Flestrin
The Man Mountain, by Titty Tit, Poet Laureate to His Majesty of Lilliput.
Translated into English

  IN amaze
  Lost I gaze!
  Can our eyes
  Reach thy size!
  May my lays        5
  Swell with praise,
  Worthy thee!
  Worthy me!
  Muse, inspire
  All thy fire!        10
  Bards of old
  Of him told,
  When they said
  Atlas’ head
  Propp’d the skies:        15
See! and believe your eyes!
  See him stride
  Valleys wide,
  Over woods,
  Over floods!        20
  When he treads,
  Mountains’ heads
  Groan and shake,
  Armies quake;
  Lest his spurn        25
  Man and steed:
  Troops, take heed!
  Left and right,
  Speed your flight!        30
  Lest an host
Beneath his foot be lost;
  Turn’d aside
  From his hide
  Safe from wound,        35
  Darts rebound.
  From his nose
  Clouds he blows!
  When he speaks,
  Thunder breaks!        40
  When he eats,
  Famine threats!
  When he drinks,
  Neptune shrinks!
  Nigh thy ear        45
  In mid air,
  On thy hand
  Let me stand;
  So shall I,
Lofty poet! touch the sky.        50

I like the way the poem is short to reflect the shortness of the people. I also appreciate the way it fleshes out the fears of the Lilliputians.

II. The Lamentation of Glumdalclitch for the Loss of Grildrig

A Pastoral

SOON as Glumdalclitch miss’d her pleasing care,
She wept, she blubber’d, and she tore her hair;
No British miss sincerer grief has known,
Her squirrel missing, or her sparrow flown.
She furl’d her sampler, and haul’d in her thread,        5
And stuck her needle into Grildrig’s bed;
Then spread her hands, and with a bounce let fall
Her baby, like the giant in Guildhall.
In peals of thunder now she roars, and now
She gently whimpers like a lowing cow:        10
Yet lovely in her sorrow still appears:
Her locks dishevell’d, and her flood of tears,
Seem like the lofty barn of some rich swain,
When from the thatch drips fast a shower of rain.
  In vain she search’d each cranny of the house,        15
Each gaping chink, impervious to a mouse.
‘Was it for this (she cried) with daily care
Within thy reach I set the vinegar,
And fill’d the cruet with the acid tide,
While pepper-water worms thy bait supplied?        20
Where twined the silver eel around thy hook,
And all the little monsters of the brook!
Sure in that lake he dropt; my Grilly’s drown’d!’
She dragg’d the cruet, but no Grildrig found.
  ‘Vain is thy courage, Grilly, vain thy boast!        25
But little creatures enterprise the most.
Trembling I ’ve seen thee dare the kitten’s paw,
Nay, mix with children, as they play’d at taw,
Nor fear the marbles as they bounding flew;
Marbles to them, but rolling rocks to you!        30
  ‘Why did I trust thee with that giddy youth?
Who from a page can ever learn the truth?
Versed in court tricks, that money-loving boy
To some lord’s daughter sold the living toy;
Or rent him limb from limb in cruel play,        35
As children tear the wings of flies away.
From place to place o’er Brobdingnag I ’ll roam,
And never will return, or bring thee home.
But who hath eyes to trace the passing wind?
How then they fairy footsteps can I find?        40
Dost thou bewilder’d wander all alone
In the green thicket of a mossy stone;
Or, tumbled from the toadstool’s slipp’ry round,
Perhaps, all maim’d, lie grovelling on the ground
Dost thou, embosom’d in the lovely rose,        45
Or, sunk within the peach’s down repose?
Within the kingcup if thy limbs are spread,
Or in the golden cowslip’s velvet head,
O show me, Flora, midst those sweets, the flower
Where sleeps my Grildrig in the fragrant bower.        50
  ‘But ah! I fear thy little fancy roves
On little females, and on little loves;
Thy pigmy children, and thy tiny spouse,
The baby playthings that adorn thy house,
Doors, windows, chimneys, and the spacious rooms,        55
Equal in size to cells of honeycombs.
Hast thou for these now ventured from the shore,
Thy bark a bean shell, and a straw thy oar?
Or in thy box now bounding on the main,
Shall I ne’er bear thyself and house again?        60
And shall I set thee on my hand no more,
To see thee leap the lines, and traverse o’er
My spacious palm; of stature scarce a span,
Mimic the actions of a real man?
No more behold thee turn my watch’s key,        65
As seamen at a capstan anchors weigh?
How wert thou wont to walk with cautious tread,
A dish of tea, like milkpail, on thy head!
How chase the mite that bore thy cheese away,
And keep the rolling maggot at a bay!’        70
  She spoke; but broken accents stopp’d her voice,
Soft as the speaking-trumpet’s mellow noise:
She sobb’d a storm, and wiped her flowing eyes,
Which seem’d like two broad suns in misty skies.
O squander not thy grief! those tears command        75
To weep upon our cod in Newfoundland;
The plenteous pickle shall preserve the fish,
And Europe taste thy sorrows in a dish.

I similarly like how the long lines reflect the largeness of the Brobidingags. I always felt sorry for Glumdalclitch, she was a generally caring and lovely person.

Poems Suggested by Gulliver
III. To Mr. Lemuel Gulliver
The Grateful Address of the Unhappy Houyhnhnms Now in Slavery and Bondage in England

TO thee, we wretches of the Houyhnhnm band,
Condemn’d to labour in a barb’rous land,
Return our thanks. Accept our humble lays,
And let each grateful Houyhnhnm neigh thy praise.
  O happy Yahoo, purged from human crimes,        5
By thy sweet sojourn in those virtuous climes,
Where reign our sires; there, to thy country’s shame,
Reason, you found, and Virtue were the same.
Their precepts razed the prejudice of youth,
And ev’n a Yahoo learn’d the love of Truth.        10
  Art thou the first who did the coast explore?
Did never Yahoo tread that ground before?
Yes, thousands! But in pity to their kind,
Or sway’d by envy, or thro’ pride of mind,
They hid their knowledge of a nobler race,        15
Which own’d, would all their sires and sons disgrace.
  You, like the Samian, visit lands unknown,
And by their wiser morals mend your own.
Thus Orpheus travell’d to reform his kind,
Came back, and tamed the brutes he left behind.        20
  You went, you saw, you heard: with virtue fought,
Then spread those morals which the Houyhnhnms taught.
Our labours here must touch thy gen’rous heart,
To see us strain before the coach and cart;
Compell’d to run each knavish jockey’s heat!        25
Subservient to Newmarket’s annual cheat!
With what reluctance do we lawyers bear,
To fleece their country clients twice a year!
Or managed in your schools, for fops to ride,
How foam, how fret beneath a load of pride!        30
Yes, we are slaves—but yet, by reason’s force,
Have learn’d to bear misfortune like a horse.
  O would the stars, to ease my bonds ordain
That gentle Gulliver might guide my rein!
Safe would I bear him to his journey’s end,        35
For ’t is a pleasure to support a friend.
But if my life by doom’d to serve the bad,
Oh! mayst thou never want an easy pad!


IV. Mary Gulliver to Captain Lemuel Gulliver
An Epistle

  The captain, some time after his return, being retired to Mr. Sympson’s in the country, Mrs. Gulliver, apprehending from his late behaviour some estrangement of his affections, writes him the following expostulatory, soothing, and tenderly complaining epistle.

WELCOME, thrice welcome to thy native place!
What, touch me not? what, shun a wife’s embrace?
Have I for this thy tedious absence borne,
And waked, and wish’d whole nights for thy return?
In five long years I took no second spouse;        5
What Redriff wife so long hath kept her vows?
Your eyes, your nose, inconstancy betray;
Your nose you stop, your eyes you turn away.
’T is said, that thou shouldst ‘cleave unto thy wife;’
Once thou didst cleave, and I could cleave for life.        10
Hear, and relent! hark how thy children moan!
Be kind at least to these; they are thy own:
Behold, and count them all; secure to find
The honest number that you left behind.
See how they bat thee with their pretty paws:        15
Why start you? are they snakes? or have they claws?
Thy Christian seed, our mutual flesh and bone:
Be kind at least to these; they are thy own.
  Biddel, like thee, might farthest India rove;
He changed his country, but retain’d his love.        20
There ’s Captain Pannel, absent half his life,
Comes back, and is the kinder to his wife;
Yet Pannel’s wife is brown compared to me,
And Mrs. Biddel sure is fifty-three.
  Not touch me! never neighbour call’d me slut!        25
Was Flimnap’s dame more sweet in Lilliput?
I ’ve no red hair to breathe an odious fume;
At least thy Consort’s cleaner than thy Groom.
Why then that dirty stable-boy thy care?
What mean those visits to the Sorrel Mare?        30
Say, by what witchcraft, or what demon led,
Preferr’st thou litter to the marriage-bed?
  Some say the Devil himself is in that mare:
If so, our Dean shall drive him forth by prayer.
Some think you mad, some think you are possess’d,        35
That Bedlam and clean straw will suit you best.
Vain means, alas, this frenzy to appease!
That straw, that straw would heighten the disease.
  My bed (the scene of all our former joys,
Witness two lovely girls, two lovely boys)        40
Alone I press: in dreams I call my dear,
I stretch my hand; no Gulliver is there!
I wake, I rise, and shiv’ring with the frost
Search all the house; my Gulliver is lost!
Forth in the street I rush with frantic cries;        45
The windows open, all the neighbours rise:
‘Where sleeps my Gulliver? O tell me where.’
The neighbours answer, ‘With the Sorrel Mare.’
  At early morn I to the market haste
(Studious in every thing to please thy taste);        50
A curious fowl and ’sparagus I chose
(For I remember’d you were fond of those);
Three shillings cost the first, the last seven groats;
Sullen you turn from both, and call for oats.
Others bring goods and treasure to their houses,        55
Something to deck their pretty babes and spouses:
My only token was a cup like horn,
That ’s made of nothing but a lady’s corn.
’T is not for that I grieve; O, ’t is to see
The Groom and Sorrel Mare preferr’d to me!        60
  These, for some moments when you deign to quit,
And at due distance sweet discourse admit,
’T is all my pleasure thy past toil to know;
For pleas’d remembrance builds delight on woe.
At ev’ry danger pants thy consort’s breast,        65
And gaping infants squall to hear the rest.
How did I tremble, when by thousands bound,
I saw thee stretch’d on Lilliputian ground!
When scaling armies climb’d up every part,
Each step they trod I felt upon my heart.        70
But when thy torrent quench’d the dreadful blaze,
King, Queen, and Nation staring with amaze,
Full in my view how all my husband came;
And what extinguish’d theirs increas’d my flame.
Those spectacles, ordain’d thine eyes to save,        75
Were once my present; love that armour gave.
How did I mourn at Bolgolam’s decree!
For when he sign’d thy death, he sentenc’d me.
  When folks might see thee all the country round
For sixpence, I ’d have giv’n a thousand pound.        80
Lord! when the giant babe that head of thine
Got in his mouth, my heart was up in mine!
When in the marrow bone I see thee ramm’d,
Or on the housetop by the monkey cramm’d,
The piteous images renew my pain,        85
And all thy dangers I weep o’er again.
But on the maiden’s nipple when you rid,
Pray Heav’n, ’t was all a wanton maiden did!
Glumdalclitch, too! with thee I mourn her case,
Heaven guard the gentle girl from all disgrace!        90
O may the king that one neglect forgive,
And pardon her the fault by which I live!
Was there no other way to set him free?
My life, alas! I fear prov’d death to thee.
  O teach me, dear, new words to speak my flame;        95
Teach me to woo thee by thy best lov’d name!
Whether the style of Grildrig please thee most,
So call’d on Brobdingnag’s stupendous coast,
When on the monarch’s ample hand you sate,
And halloo’d in his ear intrigues of state;        100
Or Quinbus Flestrin more endearment brings,
When like a mountain you look’d down on kings:
If ducal Nardac, Lilliputian peer,
Or Glumglum’s humbler title soothe thy ear:
Nay, would kind Jove my organs so dispose,        105
To hymn harmonious Houyhnhnm thro’ the nose,
I ’d call thee Houyhnhnm, that high sounding name
Thy children’s noses all should twang the same;
So might I find my loving spouse of course
Endued with all the virtues of a horse.        110
I enjoy these little poems, I love how the Scriblerans engage with each other's work. I also enjoyed how  we get to see parts of the story from outside of Gulliver's perspective. Soon I will be talking about 'Mistress Masham's Repose', which I have been greatly enjoying.