Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Browning's Memorabilia

I just saw the film 'Midnight in Paris', in which a modern-day American writer finds himself slipping back in time to the 1920s and meeting the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein etc. It's a wonderful film about art and nostalgia and it reminded me of this poem by Robert Browning, who would feature pretty heavily in any Golden Age nostalgia of my own.

It's supposedly based on a real encounter Browning had with a man who had met Shelley. My own equivalent moment came when I met someone who had been tutored by C. S. Lewis; "my starting moved your laughter", indeed.


Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!

But you were living before that,
And you are living after,
And the memory I started at —
My starting moves your laughter!

I crossed a moor, with a name of its own
And a certain use in the world no doubt,
Yet a hand’s-breadth of it shines alone
’Mid the blank miles round about:

For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather —
Well, I forget the rest.

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