Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Notebook (Henry David Thoreau, John Clare, &c.)

June Allyson and Mickey Rooney, “Treat Me Rough,” out of Girl Crazy (1943)

Rain, the drubbing inveterate rain. Somewhere in the pitchy night, a long low growl of thunder, and the dog “feyn to sclynk a-wey & hyde.” Me, too. Pitching in disarray, divergency plashing at the night shingle. Skeptical of everything, blocked, ornery (a word that descends out of “ordinary, commonplace”). Thus Thoreau, for a gust of seemingly blunt practicality (what longing is, and what death is), out of the Journal (28 January 1852):
In those days when how to get my living honestly, with freedom left for my proper pursuits, was a question which vexed me even more than it does now, I used to see a large box by the railroad, six feet long by three wide, in which the workmen locked up their tools at night; and it suggested to me that every man who was hard pushed might get him such a one for a dollar, and, having bored a few auger-holes in it, to admit the air at least, get into it when it rained and at night, and shut the lid and hook it, and so have freedom in his mind, and in his soul be free. This did not seem the worst alternative, nor by any means a despicable resource. You could sit up as late as you pleased; and, whenever you got up in the morning, you would not have any creditor dogging you for rent. I should not be in a bad box. Many a man is harassed to death to pay the rent of a larger and more luxurious box, who would not have frozen to death in such a box as this. I should not be in so bad a box as many a man is in now.
Used, with changes, in Walden. Or John Clare, for august irascibility, out of the Autobiography:
I have often been accused of being a drunkard & of being ungrateful towards friends & patrons by a set of meddling trumpery to whom I owe none who never gave me further notice than their scandal which is too weak or foolish for me to notice or replye to they are a set of little curs without teeth whose barkings can do no harm & whose busy meddling rather serves to create laughter than anger the utmost breath of their satire blown up to bursting has not sufficient strength to bear up a soap bubble so let them rail most of them have known me from childhood & coud never find that I had any faults till now . . .
The first publication of my poems brought many visitors to my house out of a mere curiosity I expect to know whether I was realy the son of a thresher & a labouring rustic as had been stated & when they found it realy was so they lookd at each other as a matter of satisfied supprise askd some gossipy questions & on finding me a vulgar fellow that mimickd at no pretensions but spoke in the rough way of a thoroughbred clown they soon turnd to the door & dropping their heads in a goodmorning attitude they departed—
Or John Ashbery and James Schuyler, for a certain exit, the segue of the refused segue, petulant as squinty glee itself, one way out of the cloud (out of A Nest of Ninnies):
      The musicians held what sounded like a brief dish-throwing contest which proved to be, however, a segue. A loose-jointed beat struck up as the electric strings wailed something like “Barbry Allen.” Abel, holding a hand mike, came to the edge of the stage. “And now all you lovely people, an oldie but still a goldy.” He began hoarsely to whisper “Begin the Beguine.” The souped-up amplification made it sound as though a rushing freight train had been granted speech. . . .
      Once again the music bumped through a segue, on the far side of which lay a medley: “Broadway Lullaby,” “I’m a Dreamer (Aren’t We All?),” and “Treat Me Rough.” In the last, Abel managed a creditable imitation of the young Mickey Rooney . . .