I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air,
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a
In his ecstacy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the
hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride,
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
After reading The Waiting Land I became a Dervla Murphy fan. I’ve followed that with Ukimwi Road and Eight Feet in the Andes. Thus when it was my turn to pick a book club book, I decided on her first book Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle (1965).
When she was 10, intrepid travel writer Dervla Murphy received an atlas and bicycle for her birthday. Talk about an inspirational gift. Dervla’s Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle chronicles her trip across Europe to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Murphy focuses on her travels through Western and Central Asia. Murphy doesn’t hold back. She shares the good and the bad. Whether sleeping on dirt floors or a palace in Pakistan, whether riding along a smooth road the Russians built in Afghanistan or trudging up a rocky mountain in Pakistan, whether enjoying a good meal at a missionaries home or eating dry crackers washed down with salted tea for the seventh straight day, Murphy shoots straight.
She includes her views on modernization, politics and aid. She definitely believes we’ve lost the art of leisurely, quiet conversation since we’ve opened our homes to TV sets. (I wonder what she things of the multiplication of screens of every size. I bet I can guess.)
The more I see of unmechanized places and people the more convinced I become that machines have done incalculable damage by unbalancing the relationship between Man and Nature. The mere fact that we think and talk as we do about Nature is symptomatic. For us to refer to Nature as a separate entity–something we admire or avoid or study or paint–shows how far we’ve removed ourselves from it.
I was surprised that she brought a pistol with her, but it did come in handy to ward off men with bad intentions in the middle of the night. So that was a wise move.
She has her share of tough times from bureaucratic hassles, to horrible roadways, if you can call them roadways, to smelly roommates and bouts of dysentery. Her travel travails would have made me run to the nearest airport, but reading about them was fascinating.
I found her commentary on Russian vs. US aid in Afghanistan insightful. In 1960 she opined that the Russians were smarter in how they gave aid. Their aid was mainly small local projects so Afghanis knew that’s the bridge or school, etc. the Russians gave us. In contrast the US’ aid was in the form of huge projects that didn’t register with the Afghanis. I’m not sure how things have or haven’t changed since the 60’s, but I’d like to know.
The subtitle says “with” not “on” a bicycle because there are often times when she can’t ride. Once in Afghanistan the officials force her to ride on a truck because the route is has become violent. Another time she leaves Roz, her bike, in a town as she takes a horse up into the mountains where the terrain is iffy and the roads narrow with no shoulder to speak of.
If you like strong, opinionated women exploring places you’ve never heard of, give Full Tilt a try.
N.B. I’ll warn you there are a couple phrases she used that aren’t PC. They bothered me, but I doubt she’d use the same language today.
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At first I didn’t think I’d ever get into The Warden’s story. Whether a clergyman in Victorian England kept his £800 stipend or not seemed insignificant, but Trollope did get to me and when Mr. Harding is attacked by the press thanks to John Bold, I was won over. I suppose I have a soft spot for anyone who’s bullied, though I also kept wondering about this money.
Anthony Trollope’s novel The Warden centers on a dilemma over the money the Warden, a clergyman who’s in charge of the welfare of a dozen bedesmen (also spelled beadsmen), to whom a wealthy man bequeathed money to support in their old age, is accused of getting too much money himself. The mild mannered Mr. Harding isn’t prepared for a scandal. He wasn’t taking a farthing more than allotted but John Bold, who’s sweet on Harding’s daughter feels the whole agreement is a major injustice.
Should more go to the bedesmen? How much? I did find the story to be an effective tug-of-war because Harding’s Archdeacon son-in-law seemed to be a personification of what can go wrong with the clergy.
When I found out that £800 is over $100,000 in today’s economy, I did see John Bold’s side better. I will say Trollope succeeded in creating realistic tension between the characters and added to it by making Harding’s daughter Eleanor in love with Bold and his other daughter Susan the Archdeacon’s wife.
I was at a disadvantage not knowing all these titles: Warden, Archdeacon, bedesmen, but soon enough I got the gist.
By the novel’s end, Mr. Harding did impress me with his willingness to abandon his stipend, his home and comfort, though it cost him the esteem of those in his circle who thought he was crazy.
I mentioned earlier that like many English books, films or television programs, even members of the clergy don’t seem particularly religious. It’s like this society just sees religion as an organization that has a code for a good life. Mr. Harding could work for the Boy Scouts. I think C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Green’s books show more spirituality. These writers wonderfully approach spiritual topics using flawed characters. (I suppose a modern version of this could show Green Peace or another organization. Human nature doesn’t change much. Mr. Harding did know and befriend the bedesmen and they got what they are do.)
A young and brash, John Bold was a surgeon, who knew how to take things apart and not how to heal or put things together. He had a valid point, but never thought through how to best handle it and ran off to the press, to a sensationalizing journalist who writes anonymously. I could see this updated by cutting out the middleman (journalist) and just typing away on the internet and things getting way out of hand. His passion reminds me of what Eric Hoeffer refers to in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, which I read at the same time as The Warden, coincidentally. Bold is dogmatic and rushes to a lawyer and the press, which I think we’ve learned can make things worse, while Harding, whom I preferred, questioned himself a lot, sometimes too much, and truly knew these bedesmen and shared friendship, though maybe not on equal social terms, while I don’t believe Bold visited them. (I may have forgotten if he did.)
Trollope’s satire worked in how he crafted the Archdeacon, Bold and the rest of the characters. Because Mr. Harding describes his thoughts and understanding of his duty so well, I came to like him.
In the Gilded Age till Al Capone gained power, aldermen Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink Kenna dominated Chicago’s city council. Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan’s Bosses in Lusty Chicago, takes readers back to the late 1890s to tell the rags to riches (and power) story of John Coughlin and Michael Kenna who came to determine mayoral races, city services like transportation rights and contracts, the spread of prostitution and gambling.
Both were characters. Bathhouse strove to take men’s fashion in a new direction by wearing flamboyant colors. He became a national sensation for his emerald green jackets, chartreuse vests and patent leather shoes. Coughlin also dabbled in poetry for which he was best known for Dear Midnight of Love, renowned doggerel if ever there was such…
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