Monday, June 11, 2012

Serendipity


Library vs. internet. Someone said: The internet is great for finding what you know; a library is for finding what you don't know.

And that's pretty much the way I see it. My favorite chair here in the college library is on the third floor, with a beautiful view out over the campus, between the stacks for literature and science. I spend much of my day minding my Ps and Qs.

When I get restless, I wander, grazing like an indolent bovine in a grassy meadow. In fact, I'm restless now. Back in a few minutes.

………

Well, I've been away for more than a few minutes. In fact, it's been rather more than a hour. You see, I met an Irish poet along the way, about halfway down the lane between PR 6039 and PR 8851. A cosy little lane, full of the Irish.

We shared a pint, he and I. In the cafeteria of the National Gallery of Ireland. A congenial place to kick back with a poet. He insisted on taking me there. "We'll look at pictures," he said.

His name is Paul Durcan. As I said, a poet. He took me around the gallery declaiming on the paintings. His own interpretation, his own wry twist. The gist of his remarks, if I understood them rightly, is that the themes of all great art are universal in space and time. It was a jolly hour.

Take this picture, for instance: Bishop Robert Clayton and His Wife Katherine, by James Latham, painted in the 1730s (click to enlarge). Had I not been with Durcan I would hardly had given it a glance. But sure enough, there we paused, as before so many others, and Durcan -- Irish poet that he is -- gave a lusty disquisition on what seemed to me a scene most admirably chaste. He caught something in the bishop's eye that I had missed, a glance fixed...
  …upon my wife Katherine in her unique chair
With its splat in the shape of a love-heart;
Upon her d├ęcolletage
In whose umbrageous rocks divinity dwells.
He could dream, the bishop, having finished his evening prayers, of "the small rowboat of my member/ Bobbing on the waters of her lough."

And so it went, as we strolled up and down the galleries, Durcan dragging those venerable works of art into the 21st century with his finely-crafted wit and verve.

(The book is Crazy About Women: Poems by Paul Durcan, published by the National Gallery of Ireland, 1991. Off to Ireland tomorrow, and, as usual, will not know what I will have by way of an internet connection until I get there. Hoping I can arrange some sort of WiFi in the house, so that M. can use her iPad. I'll be back here as soon as I can.