Fa – the name of the Green Dragon

A Place for the Odd Musings of an Expat Bristolian

An Imaginary Conversation with Robert graves (Part II)

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As we strolled through the garden, Mr. Graves pointed to a small walled recess. A pergola covered with Bougainvillea, stood over a bench, a wrought-iron arm chair and a matching round table. I say wrought-iron for want of a better word. All the furniture had a dull green patina.

But I digress.

G: Shall we sit awhile? After we had settled ourselves, he reached above his right shoulder and a bell sounded. Very soon a plumpish lady appeared.

G: Mrs. De Luna, I know you are busy preparing our evening comestibles, but please, bring a bottle of the Varela and a plate of sardines.

We sat in silence, enjoying the evening air. I could hear sounds of traffic in the town.

Graves waited until his housekeeper had served us before continuing.

G: As I was saying, I am really a poet. I have devoted a lot of my life to getting it right. Of course, not everybody agreed with me. But that’s life I suppose.

My mind wandered slightly. I found myself thinking could it be really true that I was sitting with someone who had had a love affair with Siegfried Sassoon.

Graves poured some more sherry commenting, “Not a bad stuff, this Varela. What do you think?”

Without waiting for my reply he continued.

G: I have a confession. I could not always sit here in the garden like this.

I was wondering, why ever not. But, before I had chance to voice what I was thinking he continued.

G: After the being wounded at the battle of the Somme, I could not stand strong odors of gas or even the scent of flowers. I feel better nowadays. I even like the sardines. Ha ha, he laughed, how about you?

Being something of a novice at this kind of life I thought that the sherry and sardines went well together; quite tasty in fact!

Sitting with Graves chatting like this, brought to mind the old saying: that when a wise man speaks it’s because he has something to say. When a foolish man peaks it’s because he has to say something. I held my tongue for fear of revealing my inadequacy chatting casually with such a man of learning.

Graves had been an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and had had  the title of honorary Welshman bestowed as a result of eating a leak before his assembled regiment on the feast of St. David, the patron saint of Wales. He wasn’t Welsh by birth. No, he was born in Wimbledon in Surrey about 10 miles south of the city of London.  He was related in fact to a German noble family that went by the name of von Ranke. This fact got him into a lot of trouble during his school days; but that’s another story.

A gong sounded in the house.

G: Our dinner is ready. Let’s see what Mrs. De Luna has prepared today. I heard she was down at the fish market so we might be in for a treat.

 

We sat down  to a splendid meal   a chilled  cucumber soup with bitter melon, Basque style fillet of sole,  paella with clams and shrimp, chorizo, chicken and squid on a bed of saffron rice with diced Romano tomatoes. The tapas we had eaten in the garden had sharpened my appetite; I was hungry. The dishes were all arranged nicely in the center of the table. We were expected to help ourselves.

 

G: Here, try some of this. I think you’ll like it; goes well with the fish and the clams for that matter. It’s from Catalonia and has become one of my standbys when I have guests for dinner. I poured the wine and handed back the bottle.

As we spooned our soup I asked Graves what he meant by an historical grammar of poetic myth. He explained.

G: Many people tend to take poetry at face value and what’s more they miss the deeper meaning that the poet is conveying.  This had a root back in medieval times when court poets were asked to entertain, by the re-telling of ancient stories, they purposely garbled most of their work. They did this for several reasons. Some of their stories contained secrets which they did their best to conceal. Also, many heresies were contained in their works for which they did not want the prying eyes or in this case ears of the burgeoning church to discover. You understand, much of their work had already survived the invasion of Ireland by the Vikings and what wasn’t burned or otherwise destroyed by the marauding Danes was both rare and precious. On top of this, the court poets regarded their masters as illiterate morons. They approached their work with caution however, in order not to bite the hand that fed them.

The garlic sauce accompanying the sole was light and did not overpower the fish is the slightest way.

G: So you see, there are questions which by now are probably long forgotten but for any one with the inclination to pursue a mystery they could start with some questions: Who cleft the devil’s foot? What secret was woven into the Gordian knot? Why did Jehovah create trees and grass before he created the sun moon and stars? Where will wisdom be found? The answers lie hidden in poetry.  I’ve spent a life-time looking.

G: have some more of the paella Mrs. De Luna will be pleased.

Graves continued: You have to know that these court poets spent at last three years in apprenticeship learning several hundred traditional stories by heart and often as many as one hundred and fifty different cypher alphabets. They were indeed a very elite class of people. No wonder they held their illiterate masters in tacit contempt. The alphabets they mastered were not the simple ABC’s that we have nowadays. No sir, they included both finger and tree Oghams, which have long fallen into disuse.

The ancient bards brought all sorts of hidden knowledge with them in their travel from court to court. Then slowly as the years passed and Christianity took hold, sympathetic magic and pagan ceremonies were forgotten.  Times changed.

Author: Cethru Cellophane

I have reached the regrettable realization that I may have squandered my life. I did a quick count recently and figured that I have visited about 66 countries, and lived for more than 3 years in 3 of them. During this time I completed 14 corporate moves (relocations) and have changed my address more than 23 times. I should have settled on a profession that would have kept me in one place with no packing and unpacking. When I think of the time I have spent bundling my life into and out of boxes. Ah well, it's all water under the bridge. But I am grateful for the experience. At the end of the day I will be able to say with a certain authority, "been there, done that". A note about this site’s Header Image The Header image for this site is of the Smith Avenue High Bridge. The bridge was built in 1889 and carries Minnesota State Highway 149 across its span of 2770 feet, 160 feet above the mighty Mississippi River. The picture was taken from the river looking to the north-east and downtown Saint Paul. The bridge is about 1040 miles from New Orleans. One of the reasons I like this view is that I come from a city which has a spectacular bridge. It’s the Clifton Suspension Bridge http://www.ikbrunel.org.uk/clifton-suspension-bridge which spans the Avon Gorge and the River Avon in Bristol, U.K. It’s about 1350 feet long and stands 245 feet above the river below. Sadly it has claimed the lives of more than 400 people who have committed suicide by jumping from the bridge. As a side note, not all attempts were successful. two small girls thrown off the bridge by their deranged father survived the fall when they were fished from the river by the crew of a passing pilot boat. The bridge was opened in 1864 and was designed by the 24 year old architect, Isambard Kingdom brunel. It took 35 years to complete.

5 thoughts on “An Imaginary Conversation with Robert graves (Part II)

  1. Fact or fancy I enjoyed this. Well done.

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    • Thank you. Although I never met this remarkable man, my imaginary conversation with him is based on fact and the sort of things he said. Nigel

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  2. A great read, thank you for writing. You have a wonderful and very readable style. I was thinking how would such a conversation have unfolded with a young Darwin. I thought of him as he would be one of my dinner guests if I could choose any from the past/present.

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    • Stephen I really appreciate your comments. Actually I am experimenting. I am trying to find a style, topic, theme which might please a reader. I think you should go ahead and do your dinner, in the present with Mr. Darwin. You could easily write 100o words about marine life in the Galapagos. Don’t wait!

      Liked by 1 person

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