Saturday, November 25, 2006

More fleeting things

Another busy week, with some first year teaching again outside my usual Renaissance repertoire. Wordsworth this time, 'The Leech-Gatherer', which I coupled with Lewis Carroll's ineffable parody, 'I met an aged, aged man', which ever so delicately turns Wordsworth's tale into an encounter between two raving lunatics. The deadly accuracy with which Carroll locates Wordsworth's failure to tip the poor old chap a shilling amused me, though my class seemed to feel that I was being uncharitable about Wordsworth's failure to be charitable. I didn't force the point, though the complacency of Wordsworth's reference to the homeless leech-gatherer housing 'with God's good help' 'by choice or chance' is a bit provoking.

Anyway, all the students are to find two poems on the same theme from different centuries, and compare them. This alarming demand has distressed one or two of the less confident, who want to be pointed in the right direction.

One way or other, I found myself on LION looking for poems about bubbles, the kind of thing I would recommend, to the consternation of those students who like poems to have big subjects, ideally World War One. Quarles the emblematist seems to be the champion bubble poet of early modern England. His efforts are, of course, predictably moralistic, and so I was pleased to find this lyric by Robert Herrick, previously unknown to me among the vast tracts of the Hesperides:

'The Bubble: a Song'

To my revenge, and to her desp'rate fears,

Fly thou made Bubble of my sighs, and tears

In the wild air - when thou hast roll'd about,

And (like a blasting Planet) found her out,

Stoop, mount, pass by to take her eye, then glare

Like to a dreadful Comet in the Air:

Next, when thou dost perceive her fixed sight,

For thy revenge to be most opposite,

Then like a Globe, or Ball of Wild-fire, fly,

And break thy self in shivers on her eye.

It's a bit like his 'Tear sent from Staines, to his Mistress', but more pleasingly malicious. My photograph is of Timmo adding lift to a monster bubble created with his bubble wand one summer evening. You know all about it when one of these pops and fills your eye with detergent.

The following web page describes the science of bubbles, and offers (groan) a 'bubbliography' (OK, I admit it, I wish I'd thought of it). From that bubbliography, I do recommend the Nasa link on water films in zero gravity: if you ever wondered if the ISS was worth the billions, doubt no more.


Anonymous said...

Not forgetting Coleridge's 'Eolian Harp, when he addresses his wife:

Well hast thou said, and holily disprais'd
These shapings of the unregenerate mind;
Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break
On vain Philosophy's aye-babbling spring.

DrRoy said...

As you may see, I turned my unregenerate mind to Coleridge next - vain literary criticism's aye-babbling spring for you.