by Sue B. Walker
CHAPTER 13: LONDON
31 October, 1817 – Humboldt was back in London trying to get the East India Company to finance his travelling to India. He wanted to investigate the Himalaya. Brother, Wilhelm complained that “London was too big and the weather was miserable. The streets were choked with carriages, carts and people.”
Not me . . . I would this very day fly to London if I could. Thunderstorms are again predicted for Mobile, Alabama. It is 30 August, 2018. My son, James and his family live in London. My husband is from London. Oh, let me cross the pond!
Did you know Goethe said this? “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.”
And of the astronomer, William Herschel who discovered Uranus, well he was 80 when Humboldt spent two days at his home in Slough just outside London. Love it that Herschel used the analogy of a garden when he noted: “the germination, blooming, foliage, fecundity, fading, withering, and corruption of stars and plants to explain their formations.” And Herschel said this: “By reflecting a little on this subject I am almost convinced that those numberless small Circuses we see on the moon are the works of the Lunarians and may be called their Towns.” What would Herschel have thought about man walking on the moon.”
In this chapter, Humboldt is age 48. He was called the “indefatigable Humboldt.”
Great praises for the Quarterly Review that said Humboldt’s great talent was his ability to combine scientific research with “a warmth of feeling and a force of imagination.” Humboldt wrote like a poet.
Henry David Thoreau said: This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Or maybe as William Blake would say, it is the ability to see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower.”
Seems Bryon was a bit short-sighted in his lack of appreciation of Humboldt. It is good that both Coleridge and Wordsworth and Robert Southey all lauded him.
Andrea Wulf has given us astute connective powers of understanding.
Want to write a Haibun? It is a Japanese form, pioneered by the poet Basho, that comprises a section of prose followed by a haiku. They are sometimes travelogues – as in Basho’s “The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel (1688).” Think Humboldt on Chimborazo – or in London or Berlin. In the best examples, the prose and haiku should work together to create an organic whole.
The Importance of Goldfish
In our eyes and our sleep and our answers to everything and the way we ate our food and left our personal odors and debris around the house, like strands or clippings of hair, or a fingernail, or wadded tissue with spit, and seldom coordinated our clothes or speech or opinions when we went out or had people over, preferring different books by different authors about different things, and the feelings we kept to ourselves, harboring them like warts or bleeding punctures, until now, we grew apart and we knew it, had known it for over four years—since the day you lost the gold fish down the toilet and never said you were sorry. You even laughed about it.
“only temporary” —
about our separation
we agree to lie