Friday, April 19, 2013

Lytton Strachey at Tidmarsh

This is what I've been reading for several weeks, in the evenings after I've crawled into bed. The British biographer Lytton Strachey was a bit of a character and formed an unusual domestic partnership with a woman (painter Dora Carrington; see the film Carrington) who loved him, and the man he loved, who loved her. Or something like that. There were enough love affairs to confuse anyone. But hey: whatever works, more power to ya.

A friend of mine celebrated his birthday the other day and I thought the following poem suited his lifestyle, as well as my own. Except that he and I have no interest in fame, and we are both well past 40:


Suppose the kind gods said, ‘Today
You’re forty. True: But still rejoice!
Gifts we have got will smooth away
The ills of age. Come, take your choice!

What should I answer? Well, you know
I’m modest — very. So no shower
Of endless gold I’d beg, nor show
Of proud-faced pomp, nor regal power.

No; ordinary things and good
I’d choose: friends, wise and kind and few;
A country house, a pretty wood
To walk in; books both old and new

To read; a life retired, apart,
Where leisure and repose might dwell
With industry; a little art;
Perhaps a little fame as well.

(Lytton Strachey, 1 March 1920)