2 March – 19 March 1988

Historical Sensibilities

'the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a person to write not merely with their own generation in their bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole literature of their own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order' (1)

Sentiment in the age of machines is a contrivance, like the sculptured girdle Pashpaie wore not like a sequin, for a lovely cock. Hard and smooth, with the edges worn by so much obeisance.

'"Here we have another new book about our far-famed bird," said the Emperor. But it was not a book; it was a little piece of mechanism, lying in a box; an artificial nightingale, which was intended to look like the living one, but was covered all over with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. When this artificial bird had been wound up, it could sing one of the tunes that the real nightingale sang; and its tail, all glittering with silver and gold, went up and down all the time. A little band was fastened round its neck, on which was written, ' The nightingale of the Emperor of China is poor compared with the nightingale of the Emperor of Japan.' '(2)

"The future", she whispered, "is a beguiling place. There will be devices that riffle one's genitals as one attends the ques that have become as common place as interminable. On the other hand," she continued, "nothing will remain of things as they are now". The last word she schreeched so vigorously as to startle us. Then pausing for a moment, as though to affirm that she had been understood, she pulled a chord concealed somewhere in her raiment ' and melted away.

'Those who still wanted to know what the earth was like had after all only to listen to some gramophone or to look into some cinematophote. And even the lecturers acquiesced when they found that a lecture on the sea was none the less stimulating when compiled out of other lectures that had already been delivered on the same subject.' (3)

The souls of suicide's return to earth as falling stars; Laika love me nots, crumpled bouquets of wagging fingers. And you say - a ship is sinking in water not fit for drinking, under a lid; raised slightly to let out steam, from the faltering machine.

'For the essence of humanism is that belief of which he seems never to have doubted, that nothing which has ever interested living men and women can wholly loose its vitality - no language they have spoken, nor oracle beside which they have hushed their voices, no dream which has once been entertained by actual human minds, nothing about which they have been passionate, or expended time and zeal' (4)

Drinking lemonade, we promenade
past the colonnade. Watching Marsyas flayed
by the balustrade; where no-body stayed
as the orchestra played, above the cannonade.

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