Tag Archives: John Milton

Lost verse

‘I can’t find the Oxford Book of English Verse,’ the Resident IT Consultant said one evening.

‘Well, I don’t know. It must be there, somewhere,’ I replied.

We searched. ‘Could it be we don’t actually have a copy?’ he asked.

While we do seem to own a fair few copies of these large, worthy, Oxfordy type tomes, I concluded this was a possible explanation.

Because it wasn’t upstairs with the other poetry. And not downstairs with the large books.

‘What did you want it for?’ I thought to ask.

‘I wanted to read Paradise Lost,’ the Resident IT Consultant said. ‘I suppose it’s lost, heh heh.’

‘Which part?’

‘The first two.’

‘Well, I have those. It was set reading at university. I don’t remember culling my copy, so it’s probably still here. Upstairs with the rest of the poetry.’

Turned out I was right. It was. And Bookwitch had saved the evening. She, who doesn’t do verse much.

I guessed the whole thing was set off by letting the Resident IT Consultant read The Secret Commonwealth when I was away for a few days. And he got to watch the first episode of His Dark Materials on television, also without me. Goes without saying that Paradise Lost is his next port of call.

Whereas when I got to the Smyrna bit in Philip Pullman’s second Book of Dust, I couldn’t help thinking of Giles Milton’s Paradise Lost…

Feeling small

Meeting people who read ‘worthy’ books can be quite stimulating, albeit a little like a washing machine on too hot a setting. You shrink when you realise quite what an abyss there is between what you read and what they read. The trick is not to let on just how big the gap is.

The trouble is, I don’t have the gift of the gab. I can’t persuade people that I have read Milton, while making them feel ashamed because they haven’t. That sort of bluff is best left to Son.

I’m thinking here of my biannual meetings with Mr P Tuner. He reads. (As if it wasn’t enough that he has a perfect ear for music, and plays the piano very nicely, just like that, as if it’s not difficult at all.) It’s the Bookwitch Towers book room (aka the music room) that usually sets him off. He is under the impression that because we have lots of books, that he and I are similar.

Happily I’ve forgotten most of the worthy books he’s mentioned over the years. I doubt I’ve read a single one of them. Last year I gave him a list of what I read (best of), because he asked. When Mr Tuner called before Christmas he reported on having checked these suggestions out. Very decent of him.

Then he went on to tell me what he was engrossed in. Herodotus. Of course. And a little Edward Gibbon. Apparently his style is witty and modern. (I was once told that Pope was nice and light. I had to disagree.) Finally, for lighter moments Mr Tuner was reading Tolkien’s letters. (He’s never sent me any, so I haven’t.)

It really is fascinating quite how different we are. I might shrink temporarily when I have this kind of conversation, but for the most part I’m happy with what I read. If I weren’t, I’d change. I reckon it’s like with driving. If I suddenly felt the urge to drive a car, I would take lessons. Similarly, should Herodotus strike me as an essential read, I’ll go find him.

I have to say Herodotus seems a good sight more likely than the driving lessons…

It’s never too late

I was scrolling along idly, looking for another author event, as I happened to notice that Omar Khayyam did a talk and a signing at the Lincoln book festival yesterday. It must have been sensational.

It can join that copy of Paradise Lost on Amazon, which was signed by the author. A bargain at around £30, if memory serves. Turned out it was signed by Philip Pullman, who was responsible for the foreword, rather than dear Milton himself.