augury doggerel

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Christmas Spirits

I was reading P. G. Wodehouse (Jeeves rescuing Bertie from another unwise match) and E. B. White (geese and the sadness of summer) while it was still dark this morning, keeping warm by the glow of their souls. But when it starts to get really cold and dark, usually in November, I go back to certain winter books. I read other books in winter � this isn't a monomania � but I read certain books every winter.

In the Inferno, Satan, despite the poem's title, ends in ice. I like to walk down with Dante and Virgil, and I never come up. Near the bottom, Bertran de Born, troubadour, holds his severed head out like a talking jack-o'-lantern and reminds me of another winter's tale, and of the Green Knight's Christmas cracker for King Arthur. And then five hundred years ahead, with Dickens standing in the spirit at my elbow and three spooks dangling Scrooge over the pit until Scrooge scrambles back to life.

But I've started Dante early this year � I'm in Cocytus today, a fine autumn day with children playing on the grass outside � and I'm ready for Gawain at least a month ahead of schedule. This is clear evidence that the Earth's magnetic core is shifting.


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