Tuesday, April 16, 2013

News at Eleven: It is the opening section

of the fourteenth-century English poem Piers Plowman, a passage known as "The Field of Folk" (we refer to the assembled runners as a "field"--the word has long associations with human assemblies). It is a synoptic vision of all the people of the earth seen at the moment that most characterizes them, and seen for an instant--the way we see runners in a marathon, who have distilled themselves down to one legible characteristic that can be instantly processed by the crowds they pass. The poem is one of the great accounts of what it is like to see people en masse, sorted into vivid kinds and therefore ennobled--a little like a marathon. Here's the beginning of it:

In a summer season, when soft was the sun,

from The New Yorker: A Poem for Boston


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