I love trains. There is nothing quite like sitting leisurely admiring the landscape rolling out before one’s eyes, talking with fellow passengers, or just being engrossed in a book. I’ve had some good reads over the years including The Glass Bead Game and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
I once had a timetable of train routes throughout the world. I’d lie in bed and calculate my journeys, the longest being the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok.
While I never did make it to Russia, after finishing my B.A. I did get a three-month Eurail pass and spent the summer of 1984 travelling across Europe. It was and will probably remain the longest trip of my life.
Not having much in the way of money, I stayed in cheap hotels or hostels or slept on the train. For food, I usually got bread from a baker’s (is there any better than a French baguette?) and some cheese and lunch meat, and voilà! I found wine in shops incredibly affordable.
Although it was the day before MP3 players, I did have a mini-recorder with songs. Here is one of the ones I brought along:
I got as far west as Sligo where I visited relatives, and as far east as Vienna, which did not, I should say, exactly greet me with open arms. I got as far north as Bergen, and would love to have spent more time in Scandinavia, but the prices drove me southward to Rome.
I fell in love with Italy. I remember the sun, which has always seemed to me the most logical heavenly body to worship, the wonderful gelato, and the noise of Rome.
The poem describes the Italian landscape I saw. One can read here about the pastoral. Speaking of which, why not listen to Beethoven’s symphony:
William Carlos Williams was the first American poet to really speak to me. It was likely through him that I became aware of Ezra Pound, who was a friend of his for more than half a century. Pound’s poetry never did much for me. To some, he is known as a champion of Modernism. Others, myself included, remember him as a raving anti-Semite/fascist, who after spending WWII in Italy broadcasting propaganda over the airways was arrested for treason: