Monday, January 11, 2016

HOW to kéep—is there ány any?

"Obediently the body levers itself out of bed and shambles naked into the bathroom. Then to the mirror.
What it sees there is no so much a face as the expression of a predicament. Here is what it has done to itself, here's the mess it has somehow managed to get itself into, during its fifty-eight years; expressed in terms of a dull harassed stare, a coarsened nose, a mouth dragged down by the corners into a grimace as if at the sourness of its own toxins, cheeks sagging from their anchors of muscle, a throat hanging limp in tiny wrinkled folds. The harassed look is that of a desperately tired swimmer or runner; yet there is no question of stopping. The creature we are watching will struggle on and on until it drops. Not because it is heroic. It can imagine no alternative.
Staring and staring into the mirror, it sees many faces within its face -- the face of the child, the boy, the young man, the not-so-young man -- all present still, preserved like fossils on superimposed layers, and, like fossils, dead."
-- Christopher Isherwood, A single man (1964)

1 comment:

another country said...

The title for this post comes from "The Leaden Echo" by Gerard Manley Hopkins:


HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?
Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep,
Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none,
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay
Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair,
Despair, despair, despair, despair.

-- Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.