Friday, August 20, 2010

Using technology, I wrote this post two days before it appeared!, Or, Oh, the present!

{Photo of me at the Piknic Electronik by rocketlass.}

I have been accused, in my day, of being a bit of a fuddy-duddy. A stick-in-the-mud. Even when I was in college, I was known, only half in jest, as an old man. You might think that five years of blogging--of embracing the new!--might change that perception, but . . . no. Not really. After all, I still don’t generally carry a cell phone.

Even I, however, think that the lament below, by the ever-entertaining Charles Lamb, on the disappearance of the sundial--the sundial!--is a bit much:
What a dead thing is a clock, with its ponderous embowelments of lead and brass, its pert or solemn altar-like structure, and silent heart-language of the old dial! It stood as the garden god of Christian gardens. Why is it almost every where vanished?
Yet when he moves into particulars, I find myself falling under the spell of his argument:
If its business-use be superseded by more elaborate inventions, its moral uses, its beauty, might have pleaded for its continuance. It spoke of moderate labours, of pleasures not protracted after sun-set, of temperance and good-hours. It was the primitive clock, the horologe of the first world. Adam could scarce have missed it in Paradise. It was the measure appropriate for sweet plants and flowers to spring by, for flocks to pasture and be led to fold by. The shepherd “carved it out quaintly in the sun;” and, turning philosopher by the very occupation, provided it with mottoes more touching than tombstones.
Even as someone who has no trouble closing the laptop in favor of hours with a book, I have to admit to finding Lamb’s vision of the slowly moving hours of past days compelling.

Yet--to bridge, however temporarily, distant past and ever-rushing present--surely even Lamb would have been enchanted by the implicit combination of romance and doom that is a clock tower, as in “September 3, 1943,” from Amanda Laughtland’s Postcards to Box 464 (2010):
Most everyone goes through
the Ferry Building, riding boats or rails
in all directions. Smoking,

waiting, men check their watches
against the clock tower.
And even if one can’t imagine his reaction to a clock tower, surely Lamb--though known for his buoyant temperament--would have at minimum agreed with the sentiment of the concluding lines of Laughtland’s poem:
. . . Some ways

I like it here, and again I don’t.
Or, as a good friend once put it in a song lyric, “I’m in love with the modern world / till I stop to think about it.”


  1. I'm convinced that Sei Shonagon was reincarnated seven hundred plus some years later as Charles Lamb.

  2. Your headline reminds me of the opening of one of my favorite Pulp songs: "I wrote this song two hours before we met..."