The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

April 2006


3 April 2006, around 11.23.

Spring; each week brings a fresh wave of flowers, pollen & petals raining onto the pavement and windows.

Lately reading about Cyprus and mental maps. R.F. Holland’s book on Cyprus makes me lament the pricing of texts from university presses, as it is one of the few clear, readable, and yet highly detailed history books I have read in, say, two years or so;1 it would be well worth the hundred dollars which I (and most people) cannot spare.

Also making lists. Lists of things to do, things not to do, and things not to forget. Not yet reached the point of making a list of things to forget, but soon.

  1. Which is not to say that it’s perfect; Holland has done quite a lot of work in British and American archives, but I would like to see more from Greek and Turkish sources (or even Greek and Turkish newspapers). Given the title (Britain and the Revolt in Cyprus, 1954–1959), though, this bias is to be expected. []

natural selections

9 April 2006, around 18.02.

Men in the decline of life have in all ages declaimed against a passion which they have ceased to feel, but with as little reason as success. Those who from coldness of constitutional temperament have never felt what love is, will surely be allowed to be very incompetent judges with regard to the power of this passion to contribute to the sum of pleasurable sensations in life. Those who have spent their youth in criminal excesses and have prepared for themselves, as the comforts of their age, corporeal debility and mental remorse may well inveigh aginst such pleasures as vain and futile, and unproductive of lasting satisfaction. But the pleasures of pure love will bear the contemplation of the most improved reason, and the most exalted virtue. Perhaps there is scarcely a man who has once experienced the genuine delight of virtuous love, however great his intellectual pleasure may have been, that does not look back to the period as the sunny spot in his whole life, where his imagination loves to bask, which he recollects and contemplates with the fondest regrets, and which he would most wish to live over again. The superiority of intellectual to sensual pleasures consists rather in their filling up more time, in their having a larger range, and in their being less liable to satiety, than in their being more real and essential.

—Thomas Malthus,
An Essay on the
Principle of Population

lines written in Oregon

14 April 2006, around 10.54.

Esmeralda! now we rest
Here, in the bewitched and blest
Mountain forests of the West.

Here the very air is stranger.
Damzel, anchoret, and ranger
Share the woodland’s dream and danger

And to think I deemed you dead!
(In a dungeon, it was said;
Tortured, strangled); but instead –

Blue birds from the bluest fable,
Bear and hare in coats of sable,
Peacock moth on picnic table.

Huddled roadsigns softly speak
Of Lake Merlin, Castle Creek,
And (obliterated) Peak.

Do you recognize that clover?
Dandelions, l’or du pauvre?
(Europe, nonetheless, is over).

Up the turk, along the burn
Latin lilies climb and turn
Into Gothic fir and fern.

Cornfields have befouled the prairies
But these canyons laugh! And there is
Still the forest with its fairies.

And I rest where I awoke
In the sea shade – l’ombre glauque
Of a legendary oak;

Where the woods get ever dimmer,
Where the Phantom Orchids glimmer –
Esmeralda, immer, immer.

—Vladimir Nabokov

  1. All in copyright; if its owners insist,
    I will very sadly cease and desist. []

quite literally

26 April 2006, around 14.45.

Many a strange phrase strays about third-rate fiction to puzzle literal-minded readers. There is, for example, a remark often made, he wiped his glasses. This means that he felt emotion, and the implication is that the moisture which rose to the eyes in consequence of the emotion had settled on and dimmed the glasses. But I am informed by those who wear glasses that this is not what actually occurs, and that, when tears gather in the eyes, they do not spray out horizontally so as to wet the glasses, but either remain in the eyes unfallen until reabsorbed, or roll vertically down the cheeks; nor do they give out steam or mist; therefore this process of wiping the glasses is not called for more at lachrymose moments than at others. If this is, as seems probable enough, the case, then either those who use this phrase do not know it, or, knowing it, they ignore it, and deliberately use the words he wiped his glasses as a convenient (because indirect) way of saying ‘tears were in his eyes.’

—Rose Macaulay
Catchwords and Claptrap, pp. 39–40.

Since Macaulay assures us the fiction in question is third-rate, perhaps I should not suggest that she is, in this passage, psychologically obtuse. So: tears, in ordinary circumstances, do not dampen glasses – agreed. He does not, therefore, need to ‘wipe his glasses’ – fair enough. A question: in moments of distress how many people do only what they need to do? No one, in order to distract himself and draw attention away from his emotional state, would cough when his throat does not need clearing, nor would he, say, remove his glasses (thus taking an opportunity to look down and hide his face) and ‘clean’ them? Not in third-rate fiction, of course; there a spade is always an implement used in the course of cultivation for the purpose of upturning earth; but a snob is still a snob.

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