In Fountain Court

Dawn on June 2, 2020. “The flickering green of leaves that keep / The light of June”

Last week, I mentioned that I would post about the poet William Blake. And here I am, following up!

I have to confess, I can’t hear William Blake’s name mentioned without thinking of one of my favorite scenes from Bull Durham. Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) shows up at the home of Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), dressed like she might be ready to attend a cotillion in some hot-weather place, and he calls her out on it. To which she replies, “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. William Blake.” And then they just start shouting the name William Blake at each other, and there’s so much more going on between them than just a discussion of a 19th century English poet and artist.

My love of this scene didn’t seem to fit with the sober tone of my last post. But anyway, here are some things I learned after looking into the “fearful symmetry” from Blake’s poem “The Tyger:”

  • According to Wikipedia, William Blake spent his last days at Fountain Court in London.
  • Unless I read something wrong, Fountain Court is part of the Temple area of London. I have a vivid depiction of the Temple in my head from reading Dickens’s Great Expectations last year.
  • The poet Arthur Symons, who wrote the poem “In Fountain Court,” shared a flat in Fountain Court with W.B. Yeats.(!)

There’s a reason the mention of Blake living at Fountain Court had me dig a little deeper. It’s because I immediately recognized the title of Arthur Symons’s poem, since it’s one of my favorites. And I always think of it when June rolls around, because it just so happens to feature the month of June. (I wrote about all this 3 years ago: June in New Orleans.)

I guess all of this has given me a better idea of the setting of “In Fountain Court.” And maybe evened deepened my impression of the anticipation and hope that wend their way through the lines of the poem. In the last line — “Soon, love, come soon” — I choose to believe that real change, a true transformation, just might be possible.

 

June in New Orleans

The fountain murmuring of sleep,
A drowsy tune;
The flickering green of leaves that keep
The light of June;
Peace, through a slumbering afternoon,
The peace of June.

 

A waiting ghost, in the blue sky,
The white curved moon;
June, hushed and breathless, waits, and I
Wait too, with June;
Come, through the lingering afternoon,
Soon, love, come soon.

 

–“In Fountain Court” by Arthur Symons

June is a magical time in New Orleans. But the magic is not in the temperature. June is definitely not the best weather month—it’s when the air becomes really laden; June 1 marks the start of hurricane season; and don’t get me started on either the mosquitos or flying cockroaches. (Some call them Palmetto bugs, but I prefer to get straight to the point—these things are giant roaches that fly.)

So maybe part of the magic is this: the promise of something beautiful amidst these more miserable aspects. Arthur Symons wrote about “the flickering green of leaves that keep / The light of June.” For me, the light of June in New Orleans is a big piece of its magic puzzle. Now, Symons was a Welsh poet who died in 1945. I have to guess the light of the Junes he knew was a little different from mine—more northern, I suppose. But I also have to believe that there’s something universal about June in the Northern hemisphere, those days leading up to and away from the summer solstice.

Symons also wrote about waiting. “June, hushed and breathless, waits, and I / Wait too, with June.” Was he referring to something specific, or maybe just the quality of waiting in and of itself? Maybe he was referring to the solstice—the one day a year when light gets the best of darkness.

There’s something about June’s magic that had me set The Incident Under the Overpass during this month. Maybe it was because of the light, or maybe it was because the quality of waiting can help the “build” in a narrative sense. Or maybe it was just because it gave me an excuse to write about Maxfield Parrish skies, and the abundant, colorful, crape myrtle that bloom all throughout New Orleans this time of year.

June is also a challenge—if you haven’t figured it out yet, there’s something about the appeal of this month I find hard to articulate. Thus I explore it in fiction, in a blog post. Maybe if I keep trying, elucidation will come soon, love; come soon.

Alas, I’ve spent what time I had to spare today on those attempted articulations. Sorry for the disjointedness. But since I’ve heard a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some photos I’ve taken over the past four years, all within a month of the summer solstice. All in New Orleans, except the one with the water/beach. That was in Pensacola, which is not so far from here, and less than half a degree north in latitude. 🙂

Oh, also, the picture at the top of this post: if you look closely, it even has “the white curved moon,” like Symons’s poem.