Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Dull of Soul and Tired of Life?

Samuel Johnson once said

"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

William Wordsworth once wrote after crossing the Thames 'Upon Westminster Bridge' …

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

These two guys were big London fans. Johnson, in particular couldn’t understand why any civilised man would choose to live anywhere else. Wordsworth too enthused about the City’s virtues. Yes, William Wordsworth, author or my all-time favourite line of bad poetry …

This thorn you on your left espy;
And to the left, three yards beyond,
You see a little muddy pond
Of water, never dry;
I've measured it from side to side:
'Tis three feet long, and two feet wide.

Being rich probably had a lot to do with their positive attitude to London. The process of well-off people romanticising my home town, in complete disregard to how the majority live their lives, has a long and noble pedigree.

I was daydreaming about the Wordsworth poem on the bus a while back. I couldn’t help wondering if he would have been so inspired if he were in my shoes in 2005, rather than a chauffeur driven carriage in 1802

Upon the 436 to Lewisham, via the shanty towns of Camberwell, New Cross and Peckham by William Wordsworth …

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty

… no, probably not.

A few days after later I got to thinking about Samuel Johnson whilst Tracy was telling me a story about something that happened to her on the way to work.

I was thinking about this particular Johnson quote ...

A country gentleman should bring his lady to visit London as soon as he can, that they may have agreeable topicks for conversation when they are by themselves.

Tracy's agreeable topick of conversation was that she walking to work when she passed a tramp sitting at a bench near a bus stop. He was bleeding profusely from the face.

Tracy: Are you alright?

Tramp: Someone has just kicked me in the head

Tracy: Shouldn’t you go to hospital?

Tramp: The police are chasing after the man who kicked me. They’ve just left me here

Tracy: Can I help at all?

Tramp: Do you have any spare change?

Tracy: #*$%£!!!

Serves her right for being so soft. She's lived here long enough to know better.

Mmmm ...

Yes Sam, London indeed offers all the experiences and conversational topics you are looking for from Life, plus that little bit more on top.

And if anyone is curious to know what the major part of London really looks like and feels like, they could do a lot worse than starting at this collection of photos here.


Ian said...

Similar to Johnson's quote is the quote by the French bloke drinking in the car in an alleyway in 'The Deer Hunter', where Christopher Walken refuses the glass of champagne offered to him:

'A man who say no to champagne say no to life'

(Please imagine the very French accent).

Those who know the film will remember that Christopher Walken does in fact say No to life later in the film by blowing his own brains out playing russian roulette on a cocktail of forcibly administered drugs.

Stef said...

Maybe we should get a list going.

Key indicators of tiring of life so far include ...

Not drinking champagne
Being tired of London

Any others?

Anonymous said...

No.3 : standing naked on the public first level of the Eiffel Tower and contemplating the view downwards, as a few people do each year, always a god indicator that someone is tired of life. Not sure if you can tire of Paris though. I'd probably have a fine meal in a competitively priced restaurant first and take in a show perhaps, if there was time, before the Tower shut.

Stef said...

Not bad. Not bad at all.

No. 4

"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to watch The Shopping Channel. No, Sir, when a man is watching The Shopping Channel, he is tired of life; for there is in The Shopping Channel all that life can afford and it's all cr*p."