[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- Eastern Landfall & Bursting Colour-Boxes

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Fri Jul 6 17:14:34 PDT 2007


I believe that I misdirected this note.  CLS

On 7/5/2007 5:13 PM, slighcl wrote:

> In the beginning there were the words:
>
>         It was as if some great master, stricken by dementia, had
>         burst his whole colour-box against the sky to deafen the inner
>         eye of the world.  Cloud and water mixed into each other,
>         dripping with colours, merging, overlapping, liquefying, with
>         steeples and balconies and roofs floating in space, like the
>         fragments of some stained glass window seen through a dozen
>         veils of rice-paper.  Fragments of history touched with the
>         colours of wine, tar, ochre, blood, fire-opal and ripening
>         grain.  The whole at the same time being rinsed softly back at
>         the edges into a dawn sky as softly as circumspectly blue as a
>         pigeon's egg. ("Towards an Eastern Landfall")
>
> I will try hard not to violate enjoyment of that language as language, 
> that image as an image.   To open a chapter thus in Venice and close 
> it later on Cyprus--with Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," comically 
> gesticulated into the air by a taxi driver as he discards an (emptied) 
> bottle of /ouzo/--well, that is something indeed.
>
> I do note that, if I read /Bitter Lemons/ as a series of 
> "impressions," I cannot help the "impression" that this spectacularly 
> exploding paint-box works well within an impressive chapter in which 
> other things explode, often with great beauty.  Cf. Durrell's 
> discovery of Mrs. Lewis during "a riot after a bomb-throwing": 
>
>         /A Lady's Impressions of Cyprus/ stared up at me from a jumble
>         of fruits and books, a whole drift of smashed second-hand
>         discs[. . . .]  The gutters were running mournfully with wine
>         which on the black tarmac looked like blood.  The whole
>         contents of a toy-shop had been blown into the street, giving
>         it all a carnival air. ("Towards an Eastern Landfall")
>
> So violence and beauty can indeed compliment each other.  I hope 
> others will speak to this.
>
> Finally, I offer up for its own sake some of Ruskin's Venice to set 
> against Durrell's.  (This passage comes right after Ruskin has invoked 
> Tyre as an earlier sea empire, precursor to Venice.):
>
>>Her successor, like her in perfection of beauty, though less in
>>endurance of dominion, is still left for our beholding in the final
>>period of her decline: a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak--so
>>quiet,--so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt,
>>as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which
>>was the City, and which the Shadow.
>>
>>I would endeavor to trace the lines of this image before it be for ever
>>lost, and to record, as far as I may, the warning which seems to me to
>>be uttered by every one of the fast-gaining waves, that beat, like
>>passing bells, against the STONES OF VENICE.
>>
> Robert Byron's /Road to Oxiana/ (1937) also makes a memorable start in 
> Venice and then stops a bit in Cyprus.  

> I like Byron's observation that "the Doge's Palace looked more 
> beautiful from a speed-boat than it ever had from a gondola." 

> Charles
>
>-- 
>**********************
>Charles L. Sligh
>Department of English
>Wake Forest University
>slighcl at wfu.edu
>**********************
>

-- 
**********************
Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu
**********************

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