"When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face, huge cloudy symbols of a high —." (Keats) (7) [ROMANCE]Those who know the film Brief Encounter may recognise this as the clue that Laura's husband fires at her in her capacity as a "poetry addict", and which she answers slightly hesitantly, but nevertheless correctly, adding: "It'll be in the Oxford Book of English Verse." If only he'd been the sort of chap who said: "Gosh, what a wonderful couplet: I must look the whole poem up," things might have turned out rather differently, but then we'd have been denied a film classic. Instead, his response is: "That's right, I'm sure, because it fits in with DELIRIUM and BALUCHISTAN." (See Footnote.)
(select between the square brackets for the answer, or read on)
For me, one of the joys of direct quotation clues was that they reminded me of works I'd forgotten, or introduced me to ones I'd never come across before. I think I probably had come across this one - at any rate the first line sounded familiar when I looked it up - but if so I can't have read it very carefully. In case you're in the same boat as I was, here's the whole sonnet.
When I have fears that I may cease to beI was reminded of this by my failure to remember the quote from Keats's On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer a few weeks ago (described here). Since then I've been back to that poem and a few others I used to know by heart and relearned them, if only to convince myself that I can still do it. And I'm pleased to say that I can, and that I'm still capable of learning poems I hadn't learned previously. These latter take a little longer to sink into my brain than they would have when I was young, but they do seem to get there in the end. Relearning previously learned poems is in some ways like solving a crossword: I can usually remember chunks of them quite clearly, and these can then be slotted into the the parts I have to relearn, which act like checked letters in providing fixed reference points.
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
I'm not sure all this makes me a poetry addict, but I have to admit that I do get a lot of pleasure out of poetry. And, as far as crossword solving is concerned, I've been fortunate in that the sort of poems I liked - and still like - corresponded pretty well with the sort of poems that Times solvers were expected to have at their fingertips in the old days. Here I probably benefitted from a rather old-fashioned upbringing - my father was born in 1899, and an aunt of my mother's, who lived with us when I was young, was born in 1863. Also the version of Dotheboys I attended - a direct grant boarding school (formerly a grammar school) at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds - no doubt contributed as well by providing an education, rooted in the classics, which covered much of the same standard Eng. Lit. that the Times setters of the 1960s and 1970s knew and loved - and used in their crosswords. Sadly, by the 1970s and 1980s, this sort of education was starting to be viewed as elitist; but although much has been gained, I can't help feeling that something has been lost as well.
My guess is that the Brief Encounter crossword was Noël Coward's own concoction, with the quotation clue intended to remind cinema-goers (or poetry-addicted cinema-goers at any rate) of an apposite poem. The crossing answers DELIRIUM and BALUCHISTAN, as representatives of the sort of thing you might find in a Times crossword, sound just too good to be true.
Current Location: Ealing
Current Mood: nostalgic