Wednesday, September 7, 2011

T.E. Lawrence

"In five minutes my bed would be down, ready for the night: in four more I was in breeches and puttees, pulling on my gauntlets as I walked over to my bike, which lived in a garage-hut, opposite. Its tyres never wanted air, its engine had a habit of starting at second kick: a good habit, for only by frantic plunges upon the starting pedal could my puny weight force the engine over the seven atmospheres of its compression.
I gained though, gained steadily: was perhaps five miles an hour the faster. Down went my left hand to give the engine two extra dollops of oil, for fear that something was running hot: but an overhead Jap twin, super-tuned like this one, would carry on to the moon and back, unfaltering.
I let in the clutch again, and eased Boanerges down the hill along the tram-lines through the dirty streets and up-hill to the aloof cathedral, where it stood in frigid perfection above the cowering close. No message of mercy in Lincoln. Our God is a jealous God: and man’s very best offering will fall disdainfully short of worthiness, in the sight of Saint Hugh and his angels.
A skittish motor-bike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness. Because Boa loves me, he gives me five more miles of speed than a stranger would get from him."

From The Mint, by T.E. Lawrence. Lawrence rode a Brough Superior S.S.100. He named it Boanerges, a Greek name that means "sons of thunder." It is the name that Jesus gave to his disciples James and John and a fitting name for a twin. 

It is interesting to see these old accounts of riders and their rides. No matter how different the language or how exotic or mundane the machine, the narrative is instantly recognizable. As though there is only one universal ride and all of us at one time or another travel its hallowed path. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The man was a hero, a demi god, a warrior a poet and a motorcyclist to the end.
Thank you for this poem