When age fell upon the world, and wonder went out of the minds of men; when grey cities reared to smoky skies tall towers grim and ugly, in whose shadow none might dream of the sun or of spring’s flowering meads; when learning stripped earth of her mantle of beauty, and poets sang no more save of twisted phantoms seen with bleared and inward-looking eyes; when these things had come to pass, and childish hopes had gone away forever…
Lovecraft wrote this fragment in June 1922.
The line about learning and the poets always resonated with me and it continues to do so.
One of the first visitors to my new flat was Mark. He had been picketing the printers’ dispute in Wapping and I had joined him a couple of times … Unlike me, Mark had been there day in, day out, standing in the cold and rain, and had caught a cold and developed a bad cough that no medicine could shift. He stood hacking in my kitchen, almost bent double, feeling so ill that instead of going on to Wapping he went home to Elephant and Castle and took to his bed.
A few days later, as we were getting ready to leave for a week’s worth of TV, radio and press in Spain, a friend rang with the news that Mark had been admitted to Guy’s for observation. After a rehearsal the next day, I got to the hospital in the early evening carrying, incongruously , a cased soprano saxophone. I took a lift up to a high floor in Guy’s grim concrete tower. Great view, I thought, and was shown into the private room where Mark was being observed. His mother was there – she and his father had flown to London from Africa, where they lived. This was not good. She said hello and then said, ‘I’ll leave you two alone.’ Dreading what was to come, I wanted to leave too, but I sat on the bed and Mark, exhausted, took off the oxygen mask. ‘How are you?’ I said, hopelessly, and he said, ‘Not very well. Auntie Ada’s come to call.’
One of the acronyms that we all became familiar with early on in the epidemic was PCP, pneumocystis pneumonia, a form of yeast infection that attacked the lungs of people with failing immune systems. Mark had it, the cause of his unbudging cough, and he told me that, if the doctors couldn’t halt it, ‘it’s curtains’. I didn’t believe him. He was in his twenties, young and fit, and a golden boy, full of promise, precious to so many – surely nothing could hurt him? I sat beside him and he talked about his life, about its great regret, a relationship that had failed, and he tried to say goodbye, but I wouldn’t have it, and stood miserably at the door, saxophone in hand, and said I would see him when we got back from Spain.
Reverend Richard Coles on Mark Ashton’s diagnosis, from Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went From Pop to Pulpit, pp. 118 - 119(x)
(Inspired by morkaischosen’s comment on a previous post about Rincewind becoming the DADA professor at Hogwarts, i.e. that he’d most likely have to leave the job quite suddenly. Come to think of it, if Rincewind ended up teaching Harry’s third year instead of Lupin, the wizzard’s successor during the fourth year would be the only person who can rightfully be called even more paranoid than Rincewind himself.) ;-)