Friday, September 26, 2008

341. On the Lido

My troubled heart, dear boy, is not your concern
as we progress along these silent polished galleries,
and if I pause for a moment before a painting
to take a moment's breath, it is the appreciation of art,
and not the sharp and sudden shadow of beyond.
O, God, you very young and eager people, lapping
up what you think is knowledge, happy and brown
in the bright Italian sun; a sun, I might add, that shone
upon people I loved in my youth, now long gone,
but lending a shimmer, a penumbra of light, a parting glow
among the fading embers where old age must go.
Ladies in those days were thoughtful in their dress,
with linens and cottons, an instinct for appearance,
and the gentlemen had carefully-knotted heraldic neckties
and summer suits which draped most beautifully,
so beautiful that it was a pleasure to look upon them.
It was a gentle age, an age of wonder, and I was among them.
Now I look at beefy children of all and many ages
striding white-legged across the Piazzas and Platzes of Europe
in voluminous many-pocketed shorts, their upper portions
adorned with stretched but simple short-sleeved garments
advertising the more obscure American seats of learning.
One has doubts concerning these extraordinary establishments
since one can hardly say they know or understand anything,
yet they make a quite flagrant use of the Roman alphabet
in such barking phrases as "Duke Sucks" and "Yadda Yadda Boom".
One harbours the suspicion that they do not really read.
I retrieve the slim leatherbound volume of Keats
from the innermost pocket of my rather well-fashioned suit
which fits as well now as when I was an undergraduate
and note the spidery scrawl of DeVere Hutchinson on the flyleaf,
one of the more roguish dons of unpublished consequence,
and my thoughts, rarely maudlin, go back to Magdalene.