Not much is happening. The mundane “business” of living has taken over my life. I’ve barely been able to keep up with correspondence. I apologise to those who had to wait for replies.
I had intended to post the poems for June, from the Chronography of 354, at the start of the month. I had a few moments today and put the post together. In future I must remember NOT to post translations done in a hurry. I’ve been caught before like this, making awful errors out of sheer inattention, just trying to keep up.
Better news is that a kind correspondent sent me the first English translation of a letter by Severus Sebokht, the 7th century Syriac scientific writer. It looks very good. I’ve offered a few editorial suggestions, and I hope to be able to post it here in a few weeks. It is very interesting!
On the other hand I’ve been unable to do any of the items mentioned in my last post about John the Deacon, two weeks ago. In fact I’m just grateful that I did make a TODO list then. If I had not, I am sure that I would not remember them now.
Isn’t it frustrating, when you plan to work, but cannot? But it seems to be the nature of life. The academic finds himself bogged down in pointless but unavoidable administration. The amateur is always being called away. The novelist never gets that much time at the typewriter. Adam’s curse operates relentlessly to blight what we think of as our real lives. The time today that I might have spent usefully was instead spent supervising a plasterer. Thus our lives vanish.
It was J.R.R. Tolkien in “Leaf by Niggle” who showed me how this might be intentional, and indeed providential. In the story, Niggle is continually hampered in his attempts to paint a landscape by the calls of his needy neighbour, Mr Parish, which in the end bring about Niggle’s death. After death, he finds his vision realised in a real landscape. But to his surprise, he finds that the needs of Parish brought out his best work:
Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished. If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch. He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.
“It’s a gift!” he said. He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but-he was using the word quite literally.
He went on looking at the Tree. All the leaves he had ever laboured at were there, as he had imagined them rather than as he had made them; and there were others that had only budded in his mind, and many that might have budded, if only he had had time. Nothing was written on them, they were just exquisite leaves, yet they were dated as clear as a calendar. Some of the most beautiful-and the most characteristic, the most perfect examples of the Niggle style-were seen to have been produced in collaboration with Mr. Parish: there was no other way of putting it.
May it be so for all of us, in whatever we do.