Thursday 5 November 2009

Crashaw's Diary (part vi)

Tuesday, 1st November
On my way to C--- today I glanced in at the graveyard, and who should I see but Frank, apparently unconscious on a seat. All around him were hung the vivid hues of autumn, and the graveyard presented a most affecting scene, with the fallen leaves piled up thickly against the mouldering gravestones of the many generations who had found their final rest. The sun was bright and the air like glass, and as I approached Frank I was struck by how pale he looked. Hearing me draw near, he opened his eyes. “Three nights!” he exclaimed. “For three nights I have not slept. And all that time the final line eluded me.” I must have looked puzzled (indeed I was) for he continued: “The Sonnet from the Portuguese. Don’t you remember? You said I should write a new ending to it! And now I have it!” If I was impressed by his commitment to the ardours of his craft, then I was all the more impressed when he stood up and declaimed:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints -- and after my last breath
If God choose, shall love thee more in Heaven.
How many ways? I make that about seven.

I told Frank it certainly was an improvement.

As we were leaving I was reminded what an unaccountable fellow Frank is. He stopped for a moment and swished his cane dismissively as he cast his eye over the scene in the graveyard, the graves under a thick carpet of autumn leaves. “That lot,” he said, “they’re never going to achieve much, are they?”

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