spurgeoningThis morning the river spurgeoned under Windsor bridge. “Spurgeoning is” a word created by Anthony Burgess to describe the motion of a fast flowing river as it eddies after passing a fixed impediment (such as Windsor or Stratford bridge).

Watching the river Avon flow under Stratford Bridge, the writer Hilary Spurgeon was reminded of lines in Shakespeare’s obscure early poem “the Rape of Lucrece“.

Burgess’s joke (it begins his historical romp “Nothing Like the Sun“) made an impression as it exactly caught the sincerity and the silliness of a writer’s legacy.

Hilary Spurgeon is today remembered not for the volumes of criticism, but for Spurgeoning, a literary gush about a physical gush which was but a fit of fancy.

It seemed impossible to her that Shakespeare had not been inspired to write these lines by precisely what she saw in front of her. So inspired was she that she wrote an essay, not so much about the lines but about the immediacy of her experience which linked her with her hero, then dead 4oo years.

And like Shakespeare, who wrote much of his early work about the fixity of poetry which would be remembered beyond the death of its author, Spurgeon and now Burgess, live on in my head by this extraordinary concatenation of experiences inspired by an idle moment of a teenager in the late 16th century

Which is why I live in Britain and don’t go to live in France which as no literary heritage linked to its history (Les Miserables- go boil your head). Our identity as a nation is bound up in the images of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Laurence. We do not try , like the French to live experience against a classical backdrop or on a foreign beach (killing an Arab).

As I write, my train passes Staines, the scene of Henry V’s gathering of his troops on the way to Agincourt, ahead of me a meeting in the City that has touched almost every great English poet and author, even those like Hardy who wrote of the country.

William Barnes, Dorset’s great lyrical poet wrote a ballad about my great great uncle and his trip to the Crystal Palace where this large miller got stuck in a cab. Images of our past , chronicled in our literature, lodged in our sub-conscious. For me, our true heritage is  bound up in this landscape and I would be no place else than at Twickenham station where I end this blog.

Sweet Thames run sweetly till I end this song..

Have a good week.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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