esposito's box
Thursday, July 07, 2005
  London, Home of the Free or What
I was up in the early morning hours, so saw the unfolding of events of 7/7 as it came about. Truly tragic. I was somewhat comforted that it turned out a little better than I feared at first, but honestly I'm sorry for any and every loss.

A couple years ago, Ann and I had the pleasure of spending some time in London with my family. We were mostly in the Earl's Court, Charing Cross, and Piccadilly Circus areas, but passed through all the areas hit in the tube on our way to Newcastle, and eventually the rest of Europe. It would have been the same time of year as well, so I remember how the carriages loaded up during rush hours. I am impressed with the unfolding of Britishers' humanity throughout the ordeal. People who live in cities like London and New York--maybe seeming brusk in the course of daily routine--prove to be big-hearted folk in the midst of tragedy. My experience living through the northeast blackout in midtown Manhattan--among stockbrokers who rushed into the streets to direct traffic, vendors handing out bundles of melting ice cream to passers-by, strangers lending cellphones, and Polish immigrants making and offering me delicious sandwiches-- truly belied all of those rural myths about NYC as godless den of iniquity. City centers of the world, notorious for their naughty bits among folks who refuse to visit or upon arrival search far and wide for said naughty bits, actually contain a surfeit of the best of humanity. Having spent so much time in such close proximity to each other, I imagine, metropolitans' mutual bond appear dramatically in forms of mutual service, caring, and aid in moments of the most need (much as families rally at the hospital beds of cantankerous family members who may have been distant from all kin in times of the fatted calf). As such, in dark hours, New York and London, you have inspired many of us.

For Londoners, in memoriam, a wee bit of Wordsworth:

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

For New York, as a reminder of sorts to myself, Whitman:

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

FLOOD-TIDE below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west — sun there half an hour high
— I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes,
how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross,
returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are
more to me, and more in my meditations, than you
might suppose.

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours
of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme, myself disinte-grated,
every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and
hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over
the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore
to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west,
and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;

Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun
half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence,
others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the
falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.

It avails not, time nor place — distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever
so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and the
bright flow, I was refresh'd,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift
current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the
thick- stemm'd pipes of steamboats, I look'd.

I too many and many a time cross'd the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the
air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and
left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward
the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look'd at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape
of my head in the sunlit water,
Look'd on the haze on the hills southward and south-west-ward,
Look'd on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Look'd toward the lower bay to notice the vessels arriving,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw the ships
at anchor,

The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the
slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their
pilot- houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl
of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the
frolicsome crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray walls
of the granite storehouses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely
flank'd on each side by the barges, the hay-boat, the
belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore the fires from the foundry
chimneys burning
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