Friday, April 27, 2018

`And So to Pepys'

A reader tells me he begins his day with an entry from Samuel Pepys’ diary, followed by a visit to Anecdotal Evidence. Good company. We find reassuring the mundanity of Pepys’ entries. Little philosophizing, no grand schemes. His accounts of daily living have a calming effect. In seventeenth-century London, he served as chief secretary to the Admiralty, but remained in his diary l'homme moyen sensual. His life is work, food, drink, sex, friends, illness – in that order. His reports of the plague and the Great Fire of London are rendered in the same unflappable tone as a meal of beef and ale. Among the new poems in Dick Davis’ Love in Another Language: Collected Poems and Selected Translations (Carcanet, 2017) is “Keeping a Diary”:

“Whoever’s fumbled, flattered, wed, or dead,
Pepys writes, to end the day, `And so to bed.’

“And since whatever happens, sweet or grim,
These days I end the day by reading him,

“Before my book drops and my body sleeps,
My sign-off phrase is now, `And so to Pepys.’”

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