Diary of the Plague Year: Day 98 21 June 2020: Midsummer’s Day

J came down from Froe and we had an impromptu Midsummer Dinner.


Chop an onion
Fry in olive oil
Add two tins of chopped tomatoes
Add capers
Add kalamata olives
Teaspoon of turmeric
Add three cloves of garlic

Simmer for an hour on low heat.

Served with grated Pecorino.

I had bought a good bottle of St Emilion from Lidl.

Considering it was Midsummer’s Day the weather was not great but at least it was not raining, at least, not much.

Amongst other things, mainly about books, talked about a film we had both seen “Mia Madre” by Nanni Moretti and La Strada and La Dolce Vita.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 97 20 June 2020: Forbury Gardens, Reading

Reading was in the news today. In the Forbury Gardens some people enjoying a picnic were set upon by a maniac with a knife. Three dead. One was a history teacher.

Texted G who still lives there, hoping they were all OK. The response:

“Bless you. We are. But one of the victims was a friend who was a gentle and gorgeous human who deserved so much more. Strange times. Increasingly feels like a dystopian world. Hope you are OK and managing the madness.”

There is nothing really to add.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 95 18 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

One need not be a chamber to be haunted,
One need not be a house;
The brain has corridors surpassing
Material place.
Far safer, of a midnight meeting
External ghost,
Than an interior confronting
That whiter host.
Far safer through an Abbey gallop,
The stones achase,
Than, moonless, one’s own self encounter
In lonesome place.
Ourself, behind ourself concealed,
Should startle most;
Assassin, hid in our apartment,
Be horror’s least.
The prudent carries a revolver,
He bolts the door,
O’erlooking a superior spectre
More near.


Emily Dickinson

Dover Thrift Editions

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 94 17 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: W. B. Yeats (1865 – 1939)


That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


POETRY 1900 TO 1975

Editor George MacBeth

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 93 16 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892)

FROM: I Sing the Body Electric
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the
       charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies
       conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who
       defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
I Sing the Body Electric

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 92 15 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

FROM King Richard II
Act II Scene i
Gaunt. This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-Paradise;
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world;
This precious stone set in a silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Feared by their breed, and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As in the sepulchre, in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son;
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through this world,
Is now leased out – I die pronouncing it –
Like to a tenement or pelting farm;
England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the previous siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound with shame,
With ink blots, and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
William Shakespeare
366 poems, old and new, worth
learning by heart
Edited by Nicholas Albery

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 90 13 June 2020: Transplanting

Rain. At last. Woken in the night.

Decided to transplant the cornus kousa, which has been looking more and more unhappy in the gale force winds lately, and replaced it with a cheap and cheerful dwarf cherry from the pound shop.

The cornus went into the orchard by the hedge and already is looking much happier. Time will tell. The cornus is billed as able to sustain wind but I don’t think these categories allow for the West Cork variety.

And managed to snap my spade in the process.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 89 12 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926), Duino Elegies

The Fourth Elegy

O trees of life, when does your winter come?
We are not attuned, not at one, we lack the instinct
of migrant birds. Late, we get left standing –
abruptly we launch ourselves into the wind
only to go plummeting down into water
that does not care for us. At once, we feel ourselves
both wither and flower. Somewhere else, lions
roam unaware of any weakness in their majesty.

But for us, as we focus on one thing, already
we feel the pull of another. Conflict is always
our companion. Even those in love, are they not
always confronting each other’s limits
though promised space, good hunting, a home?
    It’s as if – in a quick sketch – all the effort
has gone to prepare a background that allows us
to see precisely and yet still we cannot grasp
the real contour of our feelings and know
only the pressures that shape us from outside.
    Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain
anxiously. It rises! The stage set for a scene
of parting that is simple enough to understand
with the garden, so familiar, wavering a little.
Enter a dancer – oh, no, not him! – enough!
No matter how gracefully he moves, nothing
disguises the fact he is a bourgeois who gains
access to his apartment through the kitchen.
    I cannot bear these half-filled human masks.
Better have a puppet. At least it’s full.
I can put up with a puppet’s stuffed limbs, wire,
the appearance of a face. Here. I’m waiting.
Even if the lights black out, or if one shouts
‘That’s your lot!’ and even if emptiness drifts
like a grisly draught towards me off the stage,
even if none of my tight-lipped ancestors
will sit beside me – no, not one of the women,
even the boy with his squinting brown eye.
I’ll stay anyway. I can always watch this.

Am I not right? Father – you knew it well,
how life tasted bitter after you had taken a sip
of me, first turbid dose of what had to be done.
As I grew, you kept on drinking, became
troubled at the after-taste of so strange a future
and searched out answers in my clouded gaze.
You, who so often since you died, have grown
more anxious for my well-being – so I feel,
in the depths of hope – giving up the serenity
of the dead, that serene realm they each take
possession of, given for this scrap of my life.
And am I right? All you others – am I not? –
you who loved me from the small beginnings
of my love for you, which I always turned
aside from because the space within your face
I fell in love with grew more like outer space,
where you seemed no more to exist for me.
Am I not right to feel that I must remain
sitting before this puppet show – indeed, to stare
at it so intently, in the end, that in answer
to my gaze an angel comes, a player, to shake
life into these stuffed dolls! Angel and puppet –
then, at last, a real drama worth my watching!
Then all that we divide simply by being here
can come together. Our fluid seasons can take
their place in the far greater cycle of change.
Then the angel plays on above us and beyond.
If no one else, should not the dying perceive
the unreality, how full of pretence
is everything we do here, how nothing
is really itself. Oh, the hours of childhood,
when what stood behind its figures was more
than the past and what spread before us was not
the future. Of course, we knew we were growing.
Even then, we felt impatient at times
to be fully grown – half for the sake of those
who had nothing to show but that they had grown.
Yet – left to ourselves – we found happiness
in what did not change and we lived then
in the interval between the world and our toys,
in a place that from the beginning had been
prepared for this pure event.

Who shows a child for what he really is?
Who sets him in the stars and thrusts a rule
to measure the distance of separation in his hand?
Who creates death for a child from grey bread
which only hardens – or who leaves it
in his round mouth like the core of a sweet apple?
Murderers are easy to understand. But this –
to be so possessed by death, the whole of death,
even before life has really begun – to take in
the fact, but gently, so as not to refuse in anger –
this . . . it’s unspeakable!


Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Martyn Crucefix
Introduction by Karen Leeder