Thursday, June 30, 2011

`I Assure You I Find This World a Very Pretty Place'

Omens are amusing, not life-altering, so I pay attention to them. The first song I heard on the radio in Houston was Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson’s cover of “Pancho and Lefty,” a favorite song written by Townes Van Zandt, who lived in Houston. The song is a novel, lives compressed in rhyme:

The poets tell how Pancho fell
Lefty's livin' in a cheap hotel
The desert's quiet and Cleveland's cold
So the story ends we're told
Pancho needs your prayers it's true,
But save a few for Lefty too
He just did what he had to do
Now he's growing old.”

On the plane I worked the crossword puzzle in the airline magazine and read What There is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell and my old Modern Library Giant of The Complete Works and Letters of Charles Lamb. Away from family, back to a job and city I enjoy, a little lonely and tired but energized, I savor the letter Lamb wrote his friend Robert Lloyd on Nov. 13, 1798:

“You say that `this World to you seems drain'd of all its sweets!’ At first I had hoped you only meant to insinuate the high price of Sugar! but I am afraid you meant more. O Robert, I don't know what you call sweet. Honey and the honeycomb, roses and violets, are yet in the earth. The sun and moon yet reign in Heaven, and the lesser lights keep up their pretty twinklings. Meats and drinks, sweet sights and sweet smells, a country walk, spring and autumn, follies and repentance, quarrels and reconcilements, have all a sweetness by turns. Good humour and good nature, friends at home that love you, and friends abroad that miss you, you possess all these things, and more innumerable, and these are all sweet things. . . . You may extract honey from everything; do not go a gathering after gall…. I assure you I find this world a very pretty place.”

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