Sunday, August 03, 2003

I said I splendidly loved you; it's not true.
Such long swift tides stir not a land-locked sea.
On gods or fools the high risk falls---on you---
The clean clear bitter-sweet that's not for me.
Love soars from earth to ecstasies unwist.
Love is flung Lucifer-like from Heaven to Hell.
But---there are wanderers in the middle mist,
Who cry for shadows, clutch, and cannot tell
Whether they love at all, or, loving, whom:
An old song's lady, a fool in fancy dress,
Or phantoms, or their own face in the gloom;
For love of Love, or from heart's loneliness.
Pleasure's not theirs, nor pain. They doubt, and sigh,
And do not love at all. Of these am I.

Rupert Brooke (1887 - 1915)

No, this isn't Jonno's Dead Hunk Du Jour. But it is indicative of lonely man feeling sorry for himself on a Saturday night in the Big City. No, I don't see myself in that sonnet, and I pretty much absolutely loathe poetry of any kind, but I just happened to stumble upon it in one of those late night doing one thing and searching on the internet and finding other stuff kinda nights. And actually, as beautifully sad as the sentiment is, finding it, and feeling it's beauty, really cheered me up.

See, I was actually sorting paperbacks, scanning some for auction, and doing some research on the older ones (the pre-1970 ones are my faves - less explicit sex, more cool plotlines and snazzy lingo, etc.) and I realized I had one that was originally published in 1945 (this paperback edition wasn't, but with a 60 cent coverprice, I figured it had to be printed in the 50's)

MARY RENAULT tells a provocative story of modern life as she probes the delicate relationship between two attractive women in THE MIDDLE MIST

So after several Google searches, I learn that the author of this book is actually best known for a series of historical ancient Greece novels, so I continue searching, trying to figure out where this little lesbian themed book comes in. Well, duh! She's one! How cool, and then I find that the book has just been reprinted, but in the 80's was re-named The Friendly Young Ladies. How odd. Then I started reading the description on Amazon, "Set in 1937, The Friendly Young Ladies is a romantic comedy of off-Bloomsbury bohemia (what the hell does that mean?). Sheltered, na├»ve, and just eighteen, Elsie leaves the stifling environment of her parents’ home in Cornwall to seek out her sister, Leo, who had run away nine years earlier. She finds Leo sharing a houseboat, and a bed, with the beautiful, fair-haired Helen. While Elsie’s arrival seems innocent enough, it is the first of a series of events that will turn Helen and Leo’s contented life inside out. Soon a randy young doctor is chasing after all three women at once, a neighborly friendship begins to show an erotic tinge, and long-quiet ghosts from Leo’s past begin to surface. Before long, no one is sure just who feels what for whom." ----- which sounded just a bit off, so I returned to my vintage paperback and reread the back - "Elsie Lane, wide-eyed, impressionable and seventeen, hadn't seen her older sister Leo in ten years. Leo had left home under something of a cloud and a suggestion of scandal, and Elsie had always imagined Leo sharing a life of glamorous sin with an equally glamorous lover. But when Elsie ran away from home and arrived, unannounced, on Leo's rather unorthodox doorstep she discovered her sister living happily with a lovely and very feminine young nurse named Helen Vaughan."

Wait! They changed her age to 18??! Grrrrr. See, in 1945, a respected writer can "get away with" having a child of 17 deal with her lesbian sister and her sister's lover, but since the 1980's, reprinting that tale requires changing her to an adult of 18. (Larry Townsend's The Long Leather Cord, when reprinted in the 90's had to change the father-sons relationship to stepfather-sons) - grrrr, I hate shit like that! And I think I prefer the original "lovely and very feminine young nurse named Helen Vaughan" to the current description "beautiful, fair-haired Helen" - fair-haired? How stupid and uninteresting. So, whilst on the backcover, that's when I saw the Rupert Brooke quote,

"Love soars from earth to ecstasies unwist.
Love is flung Lucifer-like from Heaven to Hell.
But---there are wanderers in the middle mist"

and punching in part of that quote into Google, I got the full sonnet and a very cool biography of Rupert Brooke - in part: "Early sensual encounters with males had left an indelible mark on him, all the more so in an Age when any deviation from the sexual norm was considered a sin against nature. The trial of Oscar Wilde had recently taken place, and its consequences must have been painfully obvious to Rupert Brooke."

And in the middle of all this web-surfing/searching, the phone rings. It's CrazyFrenchMan, who I haven't heard from in about 10 days, and hadn't seen in what, 2-3 weeks now? I was just concluding that I wouldn't ever see him again, and hearing his voice, my mind raced wondering whether, if, when, we might see each other. But soon he got to the point, he's leaving town for awhile. Seems he needs to return home (did he say Bordeaux?), rather important matters to take care of, will be there for at least 6 weeks, and quite possibly much longer. We talked for quite awhile, details of why he must go, but some silly and playful stuff, too. I eventually asked for a postcard, and he said "sure, if you promise to come visit." But he eventually gives in, takes my mailing address, and then I ask for a photograph - "can you take a picture of yourself on the beach, relaxing, enjoying yourself?" We've discussed his camera shyness before, but this request clearly pleased him, and he promised without hesitation that he would take pics of himself on the beach. He leaves Monday, has a shitload of things to do to get ready, so I didn't want to suggest seeing each other, but tell him to just think of his Mother's welcoming smile, and that will get him thru the tasks he needs to do in the next 48 hours. We say our goodbyes, I feel sad and wistful. Only 3 evenings spent together, several longish phonecalls, my repeated doubts to myself about this going anywhere, but that smile, that face... ah. Returning to the computer, the sonnet still on the screen, the lines that fortunately do not apply:

Pleasure's not theirs, nor pain. They doubt, and sigh,
And do not love at all. Of these am I.