Tuesday. A heavy day, with mind weighted, wandering through the hours without leisure and without interest. Reading, too, for my essay, attending lecture, and a seminar (on the 18th century: curious how I had never viewed the 1700s as being ‘wedged’ between the monoliths of early modern and late modern history, but have always thought of it as a time of beginnings… this is the American view, rather than the British view; but it is strange that the speaker never mentioned the French Revolution except in passing…).
Up early, and in good humor, scampering too and fro with mind at ease; taking great care not to overburden the old brain, which might crumble without warning. ‘…and though the merriment was rather boisterous, still it came from the heart and not from the lips: and this is the right sort of merriment, after all’ (Pickwick, p. 84). A rainy day, too, after an indeterminate dawn. Went to a lecture on Linear B; the lecturer was Italian and impressed upon all twelve students how difficult a syllabic script (such as Linear B) is.
Somehow found myself walking along Magdalen bridge, looking down at the uncertain green of the Cherwell; it was a color of such astonishing strangeness and beauty that I longed to stop and point it out to passers-by. Was it because of its strangeness, the lingering ripples of olive and emerald and jade, brushed with the new green of the leaves, that it was all of these things and yet none of them, that I thought it beautiful? Or was it simply that I was lonely, and wanted the sharing of it more than the thought itself? A notion.
The morning in the Bod, nodding over libertas (& eleuthería), then to the Ashmolean for a few articles. Lecture as usual. Too sunny for comfort; in a malaise, if you like. Still, the afternoon listening to Bach & Beethoven & Mahler, a pleasant change, and pondering that most ideal of monarchs, Nero.
Is it possible to feel nostalgia for a place one has not left? Can one miss and long for the very place one happens to be, because one shall too soon leave? I dread returning to my country.
One of those very strange mornings, indecisive rain and sunshine, which last shone in (when it shone at all) an eerie perfect white upon the shadowed wall. Spent the early morning reading Seneca’s De Clementia and scrupulously avoiding any thought of Cicero.
After the ever-entertaining lecture on the city of Rome – the lecturer condescending to swear at the slide projector, which had a disposition to be willful — went to the Ashmolean. God’s gallery was shut for construction and conservation work, the red walls and the tops of paintings barely visible over a temporary divider; so, went and sat in the medieval gallery, an olive green room with a barrel vaulted ceiling. The colors of the icons and portraits possess a mute sharpness; everything seems muffled – the terra-cotta, bronze & ivory in cases – as though in hiding. The entire effect is soothing, not least because it is nearly unvisited rooms, the tourists enter lost and look around politely and leave; the guard converses cautiously with another member of staff and nods in his chair. The faded worn-brick plush benches are comfortable, though, as necessary.
Spent the afternoon reading Plautus.