Thursday, August 22, 2013


A beautiful day yesterday in the UK and in London in particular where I was visiting the British Library. It's very civilized these days: order the books you want to look at in the morning from your computer at home in Portsmouth, walk down the road to the train station, and by the time you are strolling through the Piazza outside the library, dodging round the bronze of Isaac Newton by Paolozzi in its puddle of sunshine, the books are waiting for you in the Rare Book and Music Room (which is my reading room of choice). So I ordered books and pamphlets that I'd never read before by two authors known for their Gay and Uranian poetry and prose, Leonard Green and Philebus (i.e. John Leslie Barford) and having read all the way through all of them I found just one poem of any relevance whatsoever. The poem "Tolerance" by Philbeus is published below for the first time probably since it appeared in Whimsies (Roberts & Newton, London: 1934). It is a collection of verse just one remove from doggerel about gnomes and fairies and yet it begins with this paean for tolerance which seems somehow out of place amongst the daisies and strangely modern in argument.

After the Library there was a pleasing few moments spent in Gay's The Word bookshop, the UK's only surviving, dedicated, real-world lesbian and gay bookshop. It's been going since 1979 and struggles on still. I remember visiting regularly as a student in London in the 90s. But the highlight of the afternoon had to be spending a couple of hours in Russell Square chatting about all things gay art and literature with a very knowledgeable friend whilst the dappled sunlight kept us warm and the children frolicked in the fountains. It was all too, too Brideshead and very enjoyable.

by Philebus
(pseud. for John Leslie Barford)

Is it too much to ask that I should be
    Allowed to prove
God's gift of infinite variety
   In human love.

I do not seek that all should understand,
   Much less forgive;
But surely heed man's commonsense command
"Live and let live,"

And, if the greatest Lover's word divine
   Further can move, -
(Who had Himself all natures, even mine,)
   Love - and let love.

1 comment:

J said...

Sounds like an absolutely lovely day...

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