Sunday, May 10, 2015

a battle-cry reminding the hearers of the long story

I was reading the Giramondo reprint of Murnane’s first book, Tamarisk Row, when I entered into an impression, and “entered” is more or less what it was like, as if I had left one frame of mind completely and come into another.

(The book itself has an opinion about the nature of being placed and trying to identify the presence of a place but this is not an attempt to create that kind of link between Murnane’s ideas and mine.)

It was the kind of impression that I have had before, and the words that give it to me will only work that way once. I was part-way into this sentence on page one hundred and seventy-three. “For a few minutes he enjoys the revelation that this one name among sixteen, Hills of Idaho, which people have spoken aloud so often with no special sonority –“ & here I felt, rather than imagined, the St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. I had an idea that the only purpose of this speech was to explain that people who had never bothered to think about St Crispin’s Day before were, from now on, going to put it at the forefront of their intelligences every time it appeared on the calendar. At that moment, swollen with the connection, I didn’t think of any reason why they were going to be impressed by the day, only that it was going to suddenly become instantly important.

But why … and now I trust that I had detected, out of the corner of my eye, without knowing it, some words that only appeared to my conscious reading mind after I had gone on further in the sentence, down one line to the words “battle-cry” and then the word on the line after that, the word that I believe was the crucial word, “band.”

-- may in future whenever it is spoken ring out like a battle-cry reminding the hearers of the long story of how a little band of men never stopped believing that their day would come.

Now I could see the silhouettes of soldiers on a beach. For a moment I couldn’t place it, though I knew it was a film or television show of some kind. It was the advertising for an American television serial, Band of Brothers, which I had never watched. I was actually conflating it with The Pacific, which is also about American soldiers, but in The Pacific they visited Melbourne, and so I recalled it more specifically, because this was the only thing in either series that was interesting. I haven’t seen The Pacific.

The connection between the soldiers on the beach, the sight of a man on a stage reciting the St Crispin’s Day speech, and my copy of Tamarisk Row seemed genuinely mystical to me for a time, and somehow unrelated to the acts of writing or to speech or to any act that would have created the words on the page in front of me.

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