Mira (a member of my German conversation group) told me that she also has an elderly mother suffering from a certain degree of memory loss, and that whenever she calls her, i.e. every day, she reads something out to her in Polish, because that was their first language. What a good idea, I thought. This week, therefore, I have started doing the same for my mum. Today I read her Milton's At A Solemn Musick (which I pretty well know by heart because I sang the Parry setting of it once or twice, and because it was a favourite of mine when I was growing up: I recited this poem during a school assembly once, on St. Cecilia's Day, but that's another story). I also gave her a verse or two from Milton's long Ode On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity which runs along similar lines:
|... Ring out, ye crystal spheres!|
|Once bless our human ears,|
|If ye have power to touch our senses so;|
|And let your silver chime|
|Move in melodious time;|
|And let the bass of heaven's deep organ blow;|
|And with your ninefold harmony|
|Make up full consort to the angelic symphony...|
Mum mentioned that my sister has been reading to her as well, extracts from Dr. Zhivago, a much loved novel on her bookshelf. So that led me to look up some Pasternak poems, such as the one about the burning candle (Зимняя Ночь). Compulsive reading, compulsively written.
Recently I have been doing some "work" for a friend of ours, reading through a fairly large collection of unpublished poems on a theme that has inspired him, which he wrote himself, along with his introduction to them. He has asked me and others to "pull out the weeds", but he is such a first rate writer that I don't have the audacity to criticise much of it at all. I can point out a few lines that puzzle me, but that may be due to my own shortcomings rather than his. I cannot talk about these poems here, other to say they're nearly all devastatingly good ones, because that might embarrass him or compromise what he is trying to do. The other day I told him that weeds are a matter of opinion. In Australia, for instance, garden plants that have spread into the wilds are referred to as weeds, rather than vice versa; everything is upside down over there. So who am I to judge what's a weed, and what is not?