“It was very quiet. The night sky was like black velvet spangled with big stars, and, as if it had indeed been a velvet curtain, all sound seemed to be cut off, even the faintest murmuring of the river below my window. In the garden the doves had fallen silent and not even a breath of air stirred the feathery trees. Through the open door I could smell jasmine and roses, and some other strongly scented flowers, and below those exotic scents, as a sort of reminding undertone, the sweetish stagnant smell of the pool.
Mr. Lethman came back at about a quarter to eight, and with him Nasirulla with the supper tray. There was soup, scalding hot in a big thermos jug, and dish of shawarma – mutton flavored with vinegar, lemon, onion and cardamom seeds and grilled on a long spit. With this came a bowl of salad, a dish of pale butter and half a goats’ milk cheese, a pile of unleavened bread and some apples and another bottle of wine. Nasirulla put this down on the low table, said something to Mr. Lethman, and then left us.
I said, “If you call this living simply, count me in.”
from “The Gabriel Hounds”
“You get no writing done at all if you sit at a table with a view. You’d spent the whole time watching the birds or thinking about what you would like to be doing out of doors, instead of flogging yourself to work out of sheer boredom.”
“I threw the blanket off thankfully – it smelled of what I tried charitably to imagine was goat – and began to dress. But when I tried to put on my frock the old woman restrained me.
“No, no, no, this …. it is an honor for me. You are welcome….”
The words couldn’t have been plainer if she had said them in English. “This” was a blouse of white lawn, beautifully embroidered in scarlet and green and gold, and with it a full black skirt, gay with the same colors at the hem – the Corfiote national dress worn for high days and holidays. Either this also had been part of her trousseau as a young bride, or else it was her daughter’s. I put it on. It fitted, too. The skirt was of thick, hand-woven stuff, and there was a warm jacket to go over the blouse. She hovered round me, delighted, stroking and praising, and then called the men in to see.
They were all waiting outside, not three now, but – I counted – sixteen. On an impulse I stooped and kissed the wrinkled cheek of the old woman, and she caught my hand in both of hers. There were tears in her eyes.
“You are welcome,” she said. “English. You are welcome.”
from “This Rough Magic”
“Perhaps loneliness had nothing to do with place or circumstance; perhaps it was in you; yourself. Perhaps, wherever you were, you took your little circle of loneliness with you…”
from “Nine Coaches Waiting”
“Every time your work is read, you die several deaths for every word, and poetry is like being flayed alive.”
from “The Stormy Petrel”