Being There

Some lines of poetry just refuse to give up their juju. However over-quoted they are, however often rid of context and subtlety, however relentlessly pushed upon us in pastel-covered self-help compilations like poetic prescription drugs, they simply will not yield their freshness to ubiquity. John Donne's roving hands discovering their 'Newfoundland'; Milton's Adam and Eve taking their solitary way through Eden 'hand in hand with wandring steps and slow'; TS Eliot's world imploding 'not with a bang, but a whimper'; Seamus Heaney's squat pen resting 'snug as a gun' - these are just a few of the familiar images that can still perform instant trepanation on my shivering skull and cover my tongue with a coppery current of recognition. One of the best is Keats's 'wild surmise'. Sure, the lad was a shamelessly theatrical showman, but he knew how to nail a Damscene moment like a pro. Who hasn't yearned after - and occasionally, gloriously felt - that fugitive, feral flash when the illusory boundaries of the earth fall below and you are left on a silent peak: suddenly seeing, suddenly hoping, suddenly scenting the savage extravagance of possibility?

So I found myself thinking of eagle-eyed Cortez striding out into his America when I watched Being There last night, the 1979 Peter Sellers film that left me writhing in pleasure like Shirley MacLaine's Eve on the rug.

Young Johnny Keats would have loved it. Chance, striking a path of pure serenity through his own Paradise Lost, is a paragon of Negative Capability; quietly accepting his 'uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason'; walking on water without a qualm.

Life is a state of mind, alright. I'm aiming for wild surmise.