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Tennyson, Housman and Everything But the Girl - The Ex-Communicator

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August 20th, 2008


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12:00 pm - Tennyson, Housman and Everything But the Girl
You might think this is ridiculously sentimental of me but I've always found that song 'Missing' by Everything but the Girl unbearably moving:

Missing

I step off the train,
I'm walking down your street again,
and past your door,
but you don't live there anymore.

It's years since you've been there.
Now you've disappeared somewhere
like outer space,
you've found some better place,

I look up at your house,
and I can almost hear you shout
down to me
where I always used to be,

I've never done that but I can imagine doing it. Travelling all day on the train, feeling stupidly impatient, arrive at the town of your youth (for me that would be Darlington but it doesn't matter) and then consummating all that waiting, by just walking past a house where someone used to live. Knowing it was futile all along.

I was reading In Memoriam by Tennyson, about his friend Arthur Hallam who died when they were both in their early twenties. Here's verse 7.

In Memoriam

Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasped no more
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.

So sad. The two poems remind me of each other that's all. There is something unique about the sort of lost love you have when you are young, and the memory of that love is like remembering your youth, with mingled pleasure and anguish. Housman also had a lifelong love like this. Here's a wonderful essay by Tom Stoppard about Housman's lost love. I read it two years ago and I have never blogged about it but I have often thought of it.
My dear Pollard,
Jackson died peacefully on Sunday night in hospital at Vancouver, where he had gone to be treated for anaemia, with which he had been ailing for some years. I had a letter from him on New Year's Day, which he ended by saying "goodbye". Now I can die myself: I could not have borne to leave him behind me in a world where anything might happen to him.

'I could not have borne to leave him behind me'. Housman is talking about as Stoppard puts it 'a retired colonial headmaster, 33 years married with grown-up children' who had not seen Housman for more than a few hours in the previous forty or fifty years. And Housman sustained that youthful love, and to me the suggestion is that it was like sustaining a heart wound.

I really recommend that article, it's one of the best I've ever read in the Guardian.

(6 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:fjm
Date:August 20th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC)
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Thank you. That;s really lovely.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:August 20th, 2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
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Poor Housman, what a pointless hopeless love
[User Picture]
From:toft_froggy
Date:August 20th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for that link to the Housman article, I'll read that now.

I love that Everything But The Girl song - I bought an album of theirs purely on the strength of it, and everything else on the album was rubbish, so I think it must have been a one-off, but what a one-off. It's a really good song, and her voice works so well with it.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:August 20th, 2008 06:09 pm (UTC)
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Ah, thanks for the warning. I don't have it even on my i-Pod but I think I'll get it now I've remembered it. But not the album by the sounds of it.
[User Picture]
From:toft_froggy
Date:August 21st, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
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I can send you the file of the song if you want it!
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:August 21st, 2008 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Thank you, do you have my email address?

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