Of kings and bards and the profane this week…the beauty of Britain, the sensuality of peaches – Shakespeare and Lawrence.
Peach, by D. H. Lawrence
Read by Xe Sands
It’s a weakness, I confess it right out. I have a weakness for Lawrence. I can’t call it a fondness as that would imply “like,” but there is obsession and there is reluctant love…and neither are the same as “like.” So here we are then.
Yesterday, via the Paris Review (on Twitter), I came across a collection of Lawrence’s poetry that I don’t remember knowing about, although I admit that when I started reading them, there was a visceral familiarity about them that I couldn’t place…college memory perhaps? Who knows. All I do know is that the opening and closing lines “Pomegranate” made my breath catch in my throat.
In exploring a few of the others, I came across “Peach,” and it felt simply right for this week’s offering. I can’t explain (and wouldn’t if I could), so don’t bother asking, but there was a synchronicity about it that appealed to me.
If you choose to pick up this collection, fair warning: this is Lawrence with the gloves off (shredded as they were anyway). This is David Herbert slapping you in the face with it, grabbing you by the hair, not allowing you to look away…without apology.
Richard II, Act 2 (excerpt), by William Shakespeare
Read by Diane Havens
“This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise …”
Just returned from a wonderful week in England, and these famous lines that John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, delivers in Richard II kept running through my head. Over the years, I’ve memorized them, without really trying, the strength and beauty of the words just staying with me from reading and hearing them so many times. The first lines of this soliloquy are well known, the ones I have recorded here and underscored with music, are jingoistic words of praise for England. However, there is more to the speech, of course, which paints a bleaker picture of the England in the play, and it ends with these lesser known words that change the entire tone and meaning of Lancaster’s observations:
” … England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death! ”