Monday, May 06, 2013

`Happiness Is Merely Being Alive'

How we judge Samuel Johnson is a reliable gauge of how we judge ourselves and the rest of humanity. Reactionary? Perhaps we’re being self-righteous twits, not serious people or grownups. Humorless? Take a closer look at your own comic deficit. If you are tired of Dr. Johnson, if he doesn’t stir your sense of loyalty to the human, then perhaps you are tired of life, as he said of London. Joseph Harrison in “Samuel Johnson Rolls down a Hill” chronicles a favorite anecdote, one I’ve written about before. In his life of Johnson, John Wain has this to say about the lark, which he calls “no mere eccentric prank”: “Tactile contact with the earth was important to him, as it is to those people who are always weeding their gardens because they have an emotional need to put their hands in the soil.” Harrison’s poem, which I’ll add to my anthology of poems about Dr. Johnson, concludes with these lines. 

“…now he’s chuckling
As his weight propels him and his heaviness
Precipitating his new view revolves
As sky and earth wheel round in blue-brown circles
And happiness is merely being alive,
As if the good life really were this easy,
As if the nightmare of his coming breakdown
Had no more substance than a child’s bad dream.”

1 comment:

drizzz said...

Rolling down a hill made me think of a cartoon drawn by A B Frost showing a pair of old folks deciding to roll down a hill. See this link for the cartoon- not the best reproduction but you get the idea.