Strangers and Sojourners, a thought

Strangers and Sojourners, a thought

One advantage of starting with the second book in a series is that it often gives you a different perspective. You come at the first book with a greater awareness of the bigger picture, an understanding of the author’s larger scheme. This can, of course, be a disadvantage too as it removes some of the element of surprise.

I’m finding as I read Strangers and Sojourners after Plague Journal I have a greater appreciation for some of the smaller things I might otherwise have paid less attention to on a first reading. The novel is not only the history of a family, but also the geneology of a set of ideas, which then become a way of structuring society. (Or, as Nathaniel Delaney calls it, a plague.) S&S looks to the past, seeking roots, causes while PJ looks to the future, seeking to show effects.

I’m only about a quarter of the way through the book. Will post a review when I’m done. Am finding it hard to put down, though.

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  • I always loved this poem.  I’ve wondered recently, though, if literature really does this, or if it encourages such dark thoughts that border on despair.

    So much of what you write—about motherhood ripping you open, about an Isabella-shaped emptiness—rings true and echoes my own dark thoughts.  But I find it better to try to avoid such thoughts, as I have the tendency to wallow in them and emerge feeling sick rather than refreshed in the spirit.  Maybe I need to keep this post in mind next time, and think of Terence!

    (Houseman’s verse is so metrically perfect!  He is really too neglected, I think, along with Auden.)

  • You know I’ve loved this poem since college, but it wasn’t until I started reflecting on it here, that I really questioned Auden’s claim that poetry can inoculate us against despair. I rather suspect that as you say it can feed dark thoughts just as readily as it can banish them.

    You make me think of Anne Elliot’s admonition to Captain Benwick in Persuasion: “she ventured to hope he did not always read only poetry, and to say, that she thought it was the misfortune of poetry to be seldom safely enjoyed by those who enjoyed it completely; and that the strong feelings which alone could estimate it truly were the very feelings which ought to taste it but sparingly.”
    “she ventured to recommend a larger allowance of prose in his daily study; and on being requested to particularize, mentioned such works of our best moralists, such collections of the finest letters, such memoirs of characters of worth and suffering, as occurred to her at the moment as calculated to rouse and fortify the mind by the highest precepts, and the strongest examples of moral and religious endurances.”

    I do love Houseman, though.

    I’ve never been very good with meters, however. Several years of scanning poetry in Latin, English and French, have still not been able to penetrate whatever block I have. I used to get my friend Stephanie to scan my poems for me in college as I always got it wrong.