And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

onsdag 13. januar 2016

Long road into York

I have arrived in York. I have arrived in York where I will be doing my work for the next two months, as a part of an exchange deal between the universities of York and Southern Denmark, the two hosts for the Centre of the Medieval Literature. I arrived in York early Monday morning after a thirty-hour journey about which I've complained to many of my colleagues already, and I'm still in the long process of settling in. I'll return with posts more pertinent to my doings here, and with reports from one of my favourite cities in the world, but for the time being I'm still heavily encumbered by travel fatigue and from all the details that need to be sorted, so I'll let T. S. Eliot's poem Journey of the Magi represent my mental state at present.

Adoration of the magi
MS Egerton 2781, f.13v, book of hours, use of Sarum, 2nd quarter of the 14th century
Courtesy of British Library

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Text courtesy of this website

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