Poem: Roses And Rue (To L. L.) Could we dig up this long-buried treasure, Were it worth the pleasure, We never could learn love's song, We are parted too long. Could the passionate past that is fled Call back its dead, Could we live it all over again, Were it worth the pain! I remember we used to meet By an ivied seat, And you warbled each pretty word With the air of a bird; And your voice had a quaver in it, Just like a linnet, And shook, as the blackbird's throat With its last big note; And your eyes, they were green and grey Like an April day, But lit into amethyst When I stooped and kissed; And your mouth, it would never smile For a long, long while, Then it rippled all over with laughter Five minutes after. You were always afraid of a shower, Just like a flower: I remember you started and ran When the rain began. I remember I never could catch you, For no one could match you, You had wonderful, luminous, fleet, Little wings to your feet. I remember your hair - did I tie it? For it always ran riot - Like a tangled sunbeam of gold: These things are old. I remember so well the room, And the lilac bloom That beat at the dripping pane In the warm June rain; And the colour of your gown, It was amber-brown, And two yellow satin bows From your shoulders rose. And the handkerchief of French lace Which you held to your face - Had a small tear left a stain? Or was it the rain? On your hand as it waved adieu There were veins of blue; In your voice as it said good-bye Was a petulant cry, 'You have only wasted your life.' (Ah, that was the knife!) When I rushed through the garden gate It was all too late. Could we live it over again, Were it worth the pain, Could the passionate past that is fled Call back its dead! Well, if my heart must break, Dear love, for your sake, It will break in music, I know, Poets' hearts break so. But strange that I was not told That the brain can hold In a tiny ivory cell God's heaven and hell.
So he was queer, E.M. Forster. It wasn't his middle name (that would be 'Morgan'), but it was his orientation, his romping pleasure, his half-secret, his romantic passion. In the long-suppressed novel Maurice the title character blurts out his truth, 'I'm an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort.' It must have felt that way when Forster came of sexual age in the last years of the 19th century: seriously risky and dangerously blurt-able. The public cry had caught Wilde, exposed and arrested him, broken him in prison. He was one face of anxiety to Forster; his mother was another. As long as she lived (and they lived together until she died, when he was 66), he couldn't let her know.
Certainly the most destructive vice if you like, that a person can have. More than pride, which is supposedly the number one of the cardinal sins - is self pity. Self pity is the worst possible emotion anyone can have. And the most destructive. It is, to slightly paraphrase what Wilde said about hatred, and I think actually hatred's a subset of self pity and not the other way around - ' It destroys everything around it, except itself '. Self pity will destroy relationships, it'll destroy anything that's good, it will fulfill all the prophecies it makes and leave only itself. And it's so simple to imagine that one is hard done by, and that things are unfair, and that one is underappreciated, and that if only one had had a chance at this, only one had had a chance at that, things would have gone better, you would be happier if only this, that one is unlucky. All those things. And some of them may well even be true. But, to pity oneself as a result of them is to do oneself an enormous disservice.I think it's one of things we find unattractive about the american culture, a culture which I find mostly, extremely attractive, and I like americans and I love being in america. But, just occasionally there will be some example of the absolutely ravening self pity that they are capable of, and you see it in their talk shows. It's an appalling spectacle, and it's so self destructive. I almost once wanted to publish a self help book saying 'How To Be Happy by Stephen Fry : Guaranteed success'. And people buy this huge book and it's all blank pages, and the first page would just say - ' Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself - And you will be happy '. Use the rest of the book to write down your interesting thoughts and drawings, and that's what the book would be, and it would be true. And it sounds like 'Oh that's so simple', because it's not simple to stop feeling sorry for yourself, it's bloody hard. Because we do feel sorry for ourselves, it's what Genesis is all about.