larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
For Poetry Monday, looking back a little further into the year:


March, Edward Thomas

Now I know that Spring will come again,
Perhaps to-morrow: however late I've patience
After this night following on such a day.

While still my temples ached from the cold burning
Of hail and wind, and still the primroses
Torn by the hail were covered up in it,
The sun filled earth and heaven with a great light
And a tenderness, almost warmth, where the hail dripped,
As if the mighty sun wept tears of joy.
But 'twas too late for warmth. The sunset piled
Mountains on mountains of snow and ice in the west:
Somewhere among their folds the wind was lost,
And yet 'twas cold, and though I knew that Spring
Would come again, I knew it had not come,
That it was lost too in those mountains chill.

What did the thrushes know? Rain, snow, sleet, hail,
Had kept them quiet as the primroses.
They had but an hour to sing. On boughs they sang,
On gates, on ground; they sang while they changed perches
And while they fought, if they remembered to fight:
So earnest were they to pack into that hour
Their unwilling hoard of song before the moon
Grew brighter than the clouds. Then 'twas no time
For singing merely. So they could keep off silence
And night, they cared not what they sang or screamed;
Whether 'twas hoarse or sweet or fierce or soft;
And to me all was sweet: they could do no wrong.
Something they knew—I also, while they sang
And after. Not till night had half its stars
And never a cloud, was I aware of silence
Stained with all that hour's songs, a silence
Saying that Spring returns, perhaps to-morrow.


---L.

Subject quote from "The Faithful Shepherdess," act II, scene 1, John Fletcher.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
Slightly late, but still in time for Reading Wednesday:

Finished:

The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy. This has immediately become one of my favorite anthologies ever. Heartily recommended.

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw. Shaw's influence is all over 20th century drama, isn't it. Parts of this could have been written by a young Stoppard.

A Popular Schoolgirl by Angela Brazil. This one is set just after the Great War, and its shadow looms over civilian life. Read it while recovering from a kidney stone attack, and it did the job admirably of distracting me without any need for serious thought. Not her best or even most interesting, but a solid instance of her sort of schoolgirl stories.

In progress:

The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism by Bernard Shaw, which is lucid and entertaining, if marred by occasional bits of condescending. Would that more books on economics were written this well. Maybe a quarter of the way in? -- it's hefty, but quick reading.

Love Poems ed. by C.N. Edwards, which is the sort of anthology where the illustrations are much of the point: there's an old painting opposite every poem. (The cover has Klimt.) Not many poems that are both good and new to me, so far, though many lovely paintings I hadn't met before. Overall, acceptable as a member of its class. The text is oddly marred by proofreading errors, including several instances of two stanzas being run together. Am ~½ through.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron," George Chapman.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (kigo)
For Poetry Monday, breaking another of my rules of thumb and posting an extract:


A Fanfare for the Makers, Louis MacNeice

A cloud of witnesses. To whom? To what?
To the small fire that never leaves the sky.
To the great fire that boils the daily pot.

To all the things we are not remembered by,
Which we remember and bless. To all the things
That will not notice when we die,

Yet lend the passing moment words and wings.

*


So fanfare for the Makers: who compose
A book of words or deeds who runs may write
As many who do run, as a family grows

At times like sunflowers turning towards the light,
As sometimes in the blackout and the raids
One joke composed an island in the night,

As sometimes one man’s kindness pervades
A room or house or village, as sometimes
Merely to tighten screws or sharpen blades

Can catch a meaning, as to hear the chimes
At midnight means to share them, as one man
In old age plants an avenue of limes

And before they bloom can smell them, before they span
The road can walk beneath the perfected arch,
The merest greenprint when the lives began

Of those who walk there with him, as in default
Of coffee men grind acorns, as in despite
Of all assaults conscripts counter assault,

As mothers sit up late night after night
Moulding a life, as miners day by day
Descend blind shafts, as a boy may flaunt his kite

In an empty nonchalant sky, as anglers play
Their fish, as workers work and can take pride
In spending sweat before they draw their pay,

As horsemen fashion horses while they ride,
As climbers climb a peak because it is there,
As life can be confirmed even in suicide:

To make is such. Let us make. And set the weather fair.


This is from Autumn Sequel canto vii. The * marks almost 100 lines not included by Helen Gardner in The New Oxford Book of English Verse -- what's elided is important for the larger poem but weakens a detached extract.

---L.
larryhammer: animation of the kanji for four seasonal birds fading into each other in endless cycle (seasons)
Reading Wednesday is nigh. In fact, it's here. And I done been readin'!

Finished:

I Shall Seal the Heavens. Finally. I have to say, this is epic: The author knows how to plot on an enormous scale, and how to build up the stakes in order to tear down everything you think you know is safe, before pulling back more of the curtain to show a wider stage. (The first timeskip is startling enough, and successive ones have stronger impacts until the climactic one that's as baffling as it is shocking.) There's a couple narrative patterns that get a little tiresome and in the final arc, the author resorts to using an unreliable POV, apparently to up the tension but the effect is to make some reveals feel like ass-pulls, but those are quibbles. I won't say that the treatment of women is unproblematic, but it's better than typical for Chinese popular lit and some female characters are given complete respect by the narration. I do recommend this to anyone in search of a timesink* and interested in current trends in Chinese fantasy.

An Interpretation of Friends Worship by N. Jean Toomer, a Friends General Conference chapbook found randomly on Project Gutenberg. I've no idea how much sense it make to anyone unfamiliar with Quaker practice, but I found it spoke to my condition, to use the Friendly phrase.

The complete flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. I've one book of hers and read at least one or two more over the years, but having them all together as on that official website is nice. Archive binge! This is a good example of a mixed-medium art form: each {poem + picture} is a unit -- they require each other, and are significantly weaker when separated. (The sentiments are not very Chinese, but the genre certainly is.)

In progress:

The Four Seasons ed. by J.D. McClatchy, another Everyman's Library pocket hardcover poetry anthology. Needless to say, I'm All Over this one. Lots of good stuff, too. Am halfway through Summer (following Western tradition, it starts with Spring).

In Good King Charles's Golden Days by Bernard Shaw, which is a quite Shavian if somewhat rambly imagining of a 1680 meeting between Isaac Newton, George Fox, and Charles Stuart, with interruptions by three royal mistresses. And others.


* At 1600+ chapters, it's freakin' HUGE. The translation is somewhat over 3 million words long, or roughly the size as all the Jordan-only volumes of The Wheel of Time.


---L.

Subject quote from a recent episode of Saga Thing.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (classics)
For Poetry Monday, an acknowledgement that Elizabethan sonnet sequences weren't all about the mens:

Sonnet 19 from Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, Mary Wroth

Come darkest Night, becoming sorrow best,
    Light leave thy light, fit for a lightsome soul:
    Darkness doth truly suit with me oppressed,
    Whom absence power doth from mirth control.

The very trees with hanging heads condole
    Sweet Summer's parting, and of leaves distressed,
    In dying colours make a grief-full role;
    So much (alas) to sorrow are they pressed.

Thus of dead leaves, her farewell carpets made,
    Their fall, their branches, all their mournings prove,
    With leafless naked bodies, whose hues fade
    From hopeful green to wither in their love.

If trees, and leaves for absence mourners be,
No marvel that I grieve, who like want see.

Lady Mary Wroth was Philip Sidney's niece, and author of a prose romance and scandalous roman à clef, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania -- to which this sequence was appended, in the persona of the heroine writing to and about the feckless hero (some of the sonnets from it also appeared diegetically in the text).

---L.

Subject quote from "Westminster Abbey: October 12, 1892," Thomas Henry Huxley.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (disappeared)
For Poetry Monday, another sample from an Elizabethan sonnet cycle:

Sonnet 61 from Idea, Michael Drayton

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies;
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover!

(See also this performance.)

Drayton was possibly the best of the second-tier Elizabethan/Jacobean poets, a thoroughly professional writer who turned his hand at every poetic genre of the day, handling all of them with solid craft and a deft ear. He spent most of his life working as secretary to various patrons, never especially high ranking ones.

What I especially like about Idea, especially in its final form (Drayton revised it extensively over 25 years, and this sonnet first appeared in the last edition), is that he rarely loses sight of the ostensible purpose of the sequence -- namely, to seduce, and most of its sonnets are acts of rhetoric trying to convince someone of something: his beloved, himself, his audience. This gives the poems a dramatic tension that's lacking in far too many of his contemporaries. I wouldn't want him as my lover, not acting like this, but it makes for damn fine poetry.

---L.

Subject quote from "Break It Down Again," Tears for Fears.
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Reading Wednesday meme-thingy:

Finished:

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner, which I quite enjoyed. It was nice to read such a linear narrative in this world -- all the complications are below the surface, instead of in your face. Also nice to see another first-person narrative, this one from someone trying (if not always succeeding) at being honest about what was happening. And yes, there are gods interfering in this one.

Lhind the Thief by Sherwood Smith -- finally getting to this. Good fantasy adventure fun, with some twists I didn't expect. I think there's a sequel? -- If so, I want.

Sasharia en Garde! by Sherwood Smith, being previously published in two volumes as Once a Princess and Twice a Prince but, like Crown Duel, now put back together into the single novel they were written as. Even better fantasy adventure fun, with initial primary POVs being daughter and mother (the latter with previous adult experience in this fantasy world) but expanding outward with the story.

Ongoing:

Various poetry bits, most of which I haven't noted down. Chinese in translation and Housman was involved, I remember that.

Up next:

A return to I Shall Seal the Heavens now that the translation is finally complete at 1614 chapters -- leaving me with 250-odd to go. Long xanxia novel is long. As I recall, I left off in the long, very drawn out battle between two confederations of worlds, one formerly overlords of the other, now larger one -- so a lot of bad colonial blood between them.

---L.

Subject quote from "'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came'," Robert Browning.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
For Poetry Monday, continuing the (non)argument of Wyatt and Gascoigne, a pome from Astrophil and Stella:


Sonnet 31, Philip Sidney

With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!
How silently, and with how wan a face!
What, may it be that even in heav'nly place
That busy archer his sharp arrows tries!

Sure, if that long-with-love-acquainted eyes
Can judge of love, thou feel'st a lover's case,
I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace
To me, that feel the like, thy state descries.

Then, ev'n of fellowship, O Moon, tell me,
Is constant love deem'd there but want of wit?
Are beauties there as proud as here they be?

Do they above love to be lov'd, and yet
Those lovers scorn whom that love doth possess?
Do they call virtue there ungratefulness?


See also sonnet 39. Sir Philip was the Elizabethan courtier par excellence, in the opinion of his contemporaries, and a damn fine writer. Astrophil and Stella is not actually the first sonnet sequence in English, but it was the first Petrarchan one -- and it sparked a fad for them, including Shakespeare's famous, incomplete one. It's also, IMNSHO, the best of the Elizabethan sonnet cycles, as it tells a complete, dramatic story, and including drama is something that only Drayton also managed. Note that Sidney is not actually a practicing Petrarchan lover -- he spends a lot of time arguing against several of the conventions, even while embracing the genre.

---L.

Subject quote from "Passing Afternoon," Iron & Wine.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (endings)
For a Poetry Monday, something that really isn't a response to last week's Wyatt, but I mentally link them together anyway:

“And if I did, what then?” George Gascoigne

    “And if I did, what then?
Are you aggriev’d therefore?
The sea hath fish for every man,
And what would you have more?”

    Thus did my mistress once,
Amaze my mind with doubt;
And popp’d a question for the nonce
To beat my brains about.

    Whereto I thus replied:
“Each fisherman can wish
That all the seas at every tide
Were his alone to fish.

    “And so did I (in vain)
But since it may not be,
Let such fish there as find the gain,
And leave the loss for me.

    “And with such luck and loss
I will content myself,
Till tides of turning time may toss
Such fishers on the shelf.

    “And when they stick on sands,
That every man may see,
Then will I laugh and clap my hands,
As they do now at me.”

Gascoigne was many things over his life, including soldier of fortune, courtier, member of parliament, and playwright. He was also the premier English poet of the 1570s, though his reputation has been completely overshadowed by Spenser's arrival on the scene a few years after his death. This is the final poem of The Adventures of Master F. J., a sort-of-novel-shaped thing of mixed prose and verse, with a layer of epistolary indirection, about a love affair that goes very wrong. It's an odd beast, but I don't regret having read it (many years ago), and I especially don't regret several of its poems. (BTW, in the narrative the speaker was, as per the second stanza, nonplussed by his mistress, and walked home before writing down this response.)

---L.

Subject quote from "Farmer Refuted," Lin-Manuel Miranda.
larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
For a Poetry Monday, let's reach back half a millennium for a poem, shall we? We shall:


"They flee from me that sometime did me seek," Sir Thomas Wyatt

They flee from me that sometime did me seek
    With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
    That now are wild and do not remember
    That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
    Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
    When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
    And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”

It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
    But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
    And I have leave to go of her goodness,
    And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.


Plus ça change, and all that. Wyatt was a diplomat for Henry VIII (including the embassy to the Pope asking for annulment from Catherine of Aragorn), and he brought back to England the continental manner in Renaissance poetry -- he wrote the first sonnets in English as imitations of Petrarch, whom he also translated, and he was constantly experimenting with style and form in his lyrics. (Though, interestingly, that "newfangleness" is straight out of Chaucer, meaning fickleness.) Of course, being a courtier in Henry's court was dangerous: he was imprisoned in the Tower of London on suspicion of having an affair with Anne Boleyn and was freed only after her execution, which he witnessed and wrote about.

---l.

Subject quote from "The End of the Play," William Makepeace Thackeray.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
Reading Wednesday is ON baby. For there's been some reading, despite it all.

Finished:

Safely You Deliver (Commonweal #3) by Graydon Saunders -- this is NOT the book to start the series, as it is the second half of the story started in A Succession of Bad Days and heavily relies on knowing those characters, with the addition of a new one left unexplained for a long time -- and who despite being an extremely interesting idea, is basically kept mute the entire book. The expansion to multiple first-person POVs also dilutes the narrative line. That said, this does a good job poking at some of the moral underpinnings and consequences of the world Saunders created. And, yanno, sourcerer/unicorn romance is nothing to sneer at, especially when the unicorn is an obligate magicvore.

Reynard the Fox: or, the Ghost Heath Run by John Masefield, which remains my favorite of his narrative poems, despite the long, Chaucerian introduction of all the people hunting the titular fox -- a very pretty gallery of portraits, but less than a handful are actually relevant to the story. (Relevant to the depiction of one strand of English country life already fading at the time, sure.) The best part is the second half, mostly from the fox's point of view -- and you don't lose much just starting there. I note only excerpts from the chase get included in anthologies of narrative verse.

Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough, which remains my favorite of his poems, period. Yes, it's an anatomy of a failure of … dunno whether to describe it as "will" or "character." A failed romance, and there's more than a little class conflict in the mix. Claude's hesitations, this time through, remind me more than a little of Trollope's stock hobbledehoy character, only in an intellectual version. Sort of. Maybe. Ah, whatever. I still like the poem.

In progress:

The Earthly Paradise by William Morris, starting with rereading "Prologue: The Wanderers" -- which has to be the most insistently middle-aged work I've read in a long time, for all the wanderers are described as "old" -- and the frame narrative & plot summaries up to where I last broke off (the very long Laxdaela retelling), with attention to reactions to both stories and seasons. This is not a simple poem, and when the frame narrator calls himself "an idle singer of an idle day" he is not being an escapist Victorian but -- sarcastic is the best word I can think of, as ironic doesn't have enough bite. And dang, but so many reviewers and critics have missed this. If only Morris wasn't so strenuously heteronormative and gender essentialist. (No, Mr. Morris, if a young woman does not want marriage at this time thank you very much, the answer isn't always because sexual hostility.) (Thank all the gods he didn't try his hand at Calisto.)

Erotic Poems ed. by Peter Washington, another small format Everyman anthology -- and another reread. I admire how the editor was willing to spend 20-odd pages on "The Eve of St. Agnes" -- that's a lot of space for a book this size. NB: no porn, but a lot of sensuality and some explicit descriptions. Organization is not topical, nor is there a plot/relationship arc -- this is a mixed jumble of poems, associatively (and sometimes cunningly) placed. Am about ⅔ through, having been interrupted by:

Thick as Thieves (Queen's Thief #5) by Megan Whalen Turner, yays. This one is from the POV of the slave secretary of the Mede who made a play for the throne of Attolis in #2, dealing with some delayed, dire consequences of his master's failure. I find it interesting that he is refusing to name his traveling companion, Costis (from #3), and I'm looking forward to learning how the heck Gen is chessmastering this whole adventure from across the sea. A little more than halfway in.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Walker of the Snow," Charles Dawson Shanly.
larryhammer: canyon landscape with saguaro and mesquite trees (desert)
For Poetry Monday, because the dragon of summer has arrived in the desert, something from up north:


How One Winter Came in the Lake Region, William Wilfred Campbell

For weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still,
        Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze;
The fields were dead, the wind had lost its will,
And all the lands were hushed by wood and hill,
        In those grey, withered days.

Behind a mist the blear sun rose and set,
        At night the moon would nestle in a cloud;
The fisherman, a ghost, did cast his net;
The lake its shores forgot to chafe and fret,
        And hushed its caverns loud.

Far in the smoky woods the birds were mute,
        Save that from blackened tree a jay would scream,
Or far in swamps the lizard's lonesome lute
Would pipe in thirst, or by some gnarlèd root
        The tree-toad trilled his dream.

From day to day still hushed the season's mood,
        The streams stayed in their runnels shrunk and dry;
Suns rose aghast by wave and shore and wood,
And all the world, with ominous silence, stood
        In weird expectancy:

When one strange night the sun like blood went down,
        Flooding the heavens in a ruddy hue;
Red grew the lake, the sere fields parched and brown,
Red grew the marshes where the creeks stole down,
        But never a wind-breath blew.

That night I felt the winter in my veins,
        A joyous tremor of the icy glow;
And woke to hear the north's wild vibrant strains,
While far and wide, by withered woods and plains,
        Fast fell the driving snow.


Campbell (c.1860-1918) was born in Ontario, attended a seminary in Massachusetts, and was an Episcopal rector in New Hampshire and New Brunswick until he gave up the ministry in his mid-30s to become a civil servant and man of letters in Ottawa. He initially made his name as a nature poet, but aged into a poet of (diffuse) spirituality and (British) imperialism -- in short, he was very much a conservative late Victorian. This is one of his best-known poems.

---L.

Subject quote from "Dance Apocalyptic," Janelle Monáe.
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (dancing)
Poetry Monday is ON baby.


The Waking, Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.


---L.
Subject quote from "One Art," Elizabeth Bishop.
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (wild hair)
Poetry Monday:


Voice Mail Villanelle, Dan Skwire

We're grateful that you called today
And sorry that we're occupied.
We will be with you right away.

Press one if you would like to stay,
Press two if you cannot decide.
We're grateful that you called today.

Press three to end this brief delay,
Press four if you believe we've lied.
We will be with you right away.

Press five to hear some music play,
Press six to speak with someone snide.
We're grateful that you called today.

Press seven if your hair's turned gray,
Press eight if you've already died.
We will be with you right away.

Press nine to hear recordings say
That service is our greatest pride.
We're grateful that you've called today.
We will be with you right away.


I think we can all recognize this experience.

---L.

Subject quote from "Wonder Pets! Theme Song."
larryhammer: a woman wearing a chain mail hoodie, label: "chain mail is sexy" (chain mail is sexy)
Another Wednesday come, another reading report. I am a very boring poster, with little more to say than this. I plead parenthood.

Finished:

Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold. Very pretty, Mr. Arnold, and a lucid embodiment of what you claim is Homer's style. However, comma, despite your treatment of Rustum as a tragic figure, his catastrophe is not a consequence of his character but rather circumstance, making him instead a pathetic figure. Try again. (Oh, wait, you did -- and failed damn every time.)

The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red by [personal profile] marthawells, the first of a projected series of novellas about a security droid who has hacked its own governor system and so became fully autonomous. Murderbot is the name it gives itself, which nicely encapsulates its own worldview -- not that it does much murdering, being far more interested in watching the entertainment feed than actually interacting with humans. Though if you start trying to harm its humans, it might feel a little compelled to prevent that -- if only to avoid exposure, which would get in the way of watching serial dramas. Wonderfully wry voice, like Marvin with more understatement. Will read the next, yes indeedy.

Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems edited by Lisa Russ Spaar, a reread in snatches while winding down in bed. Still a very good anthology, selectionwise, but the layout of long lines was mangled very badly and not fixed by the proofreader. (And this from a university press!) If that sort of thing bugs you, you may want to skip this -- unless you are really drawn to the subject matter. Which I am.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde. Ouch. I do not understand how Wilde simultaneously wrote successful propaganda and Poe-ean gothic horror, but he did. (Also, nobody expects the unexpected offhand Tannhäuser reference.)

Malcolm's Katie by Isabella Valency Crawford, a colonial romance valorizing the heroic individual with stylistic influences that are, despite this subject, not Byronic but Tennysonian (ETA: specifically, it's a domestic idyll). This works anyway, in no small part because even stronger than the frontier mythology is the Native American mythology. Plus the soliloquies are Shakespearean. Worth the tracking down -- or, yanno, following the link above. (Short shameful confession: the author first caught my attention because she shares an unusual name with the also-Canadian protagonist of The Blue Castle.)

DNF:

Old Spookses' Pass by Isabella Crawford -- because thick dialect writing. Pity, as it looks like it might have a good story underneath the bad spackling.

Eros & Psyche by Robert Bridges -- because the versification was just too grating, and not just the archaisms: too many lines clunk on the ear. Plus, he was showing no sign of ever departing from, undercutting, or otherwise revisioning Apuleius, and so far all the little elaborations were weaker than the unoriginal material. Meh.

Ongoing:

Am still reading Villanelles ed. by Finch & Mali -- about ⅔ through. Plus other pomes, some stories & some not.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Ethics of Elfland," G.K. Chesterton.
larryhammer: canyon landscape with saguaro and mesquite trees (desert)
For Poetry Monday, back to this guy who wrote poems only during WWI.


Rain, Edward Thomas

Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying tonight or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.


I remember rain. We had some once -- it's that water that falls from the sky. That was a while ago. Not as long ago as Thomas, though.

---L.

Subject quote from "Onto a Vast Plain," Rainer Maria Rilke tr. Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
"Reading Wednesday" sounds like I'm reading the actual day, which is nicely surreal. So: Reading Wednesday! -- in which I am still inhaling narrative poetry.

Finished:

The Charivari by George Longmore, an early Canadian poet (Montreal flavor). The influence of Byron is overt, and acknowledged in the subtitle ("in the style of Beppo"): this is a slender narrative interwoven with a plethora of narrative digressions that ostensibly distract from the story but actually support the point(s) the author is trying to make -- which, here, is to satirize and hopefully tone down the titular boisterous mock-serenades-cum-shakedowns upon the remarriage of widows or widowers, as part of a broader program to get Canadian arts and culture to parity with the Old World. Having recently read a couple Beppo-influenced tales where the digressions aren't on point, I applaud. Longmore's language is vigorous and colloquial, the verse under control, and the punctuation of this edition could use some serious editing for modern style -- specifically the commatization (the m-dashes are fine, even plethoric as they are). The ending doesn't quite land as firmly as I wanted, but it's appropriate for the story and genre. This deserves to be better known outside of Canada, so here: go read it.

Snow-Bound by William Greenleaf Whittier, an account of a New England farming family's time during a circa 1820 blizzard -- before trains and other modern communications changed how people lived and thought. Whittier started writing it after the death of his little sister, as a remembrance for his niece, and while nostalgia is the dominant mode, this never controls the narrative. There's multiple deaths being dealt with, actually, including explicit acknowledgement of the suffering of the recently concluded Civil War (Whittier was an ardent abolitionist, even unto being a founding member of the Republican Party, but as a devout Quaker he was a committed pacifist). The historical details keep ringing in my mind, after -- that and the imagery highlighting the importance of the fireplace.

The Fairy of the Fountains by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a retelling of the Melusine story. I've been wandering through some of Landon's mid-length narratives, and this one is particularly interesting -- enough that I reread it. There's a few signature touches (including, yet again, a character getting in trouble through an emotional response to a story) and lot of echo patterning between Melusine and her mother. (Due warning: I haven't found a modern edition, and Landon's punctuation is atrocious, even by 1830s standards. If a period jars you, try mentally replacing it with a comma or other shorter pause -- the sentence will likely make more sense. Also, the first line makes more sense, both locally and symbolically, if you emend "mother's" to "mother".)

The Troubadour by Letitia Elizabeth Landon, a book-length historical verse romance. This has the structure of a bildungsroman, though Raymond doesn't seem to learn very much. Provençal knight with some facility with the lute more or less grows up, or at least survives vicissitudes of adventure (helped by a couple coincidences). Not entirely successful, nor as interesting as The Improvisatrice, but Landon's habitual pattern of expanding longer poems via inset stories/songs is handled well.

In progress:

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott, the first of a trilogy. Almost gave up after the time jump after chapter 2, but got hooked by the end of chapter 7. Am ~⅓ through -- see how long I stick with this prose thing. (I understand that many people read a lot of that.)

And pomes. Lotsa pomes.

---L.

Subject quote from "Makamat," al-Hariri of Barra, tr. Theodore Preston.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
Time again for a Poetry Monday:


Confiteor: A Country Song, Patricia Monaghan

Evening. Red sky. Standing at the door
I sense a shadow presence here:
the one who loved this land before.

These harmless hills bear scars of war.
Someone stood here, full of fear.
This is not a metaphor.

Above me, turkey vultures soar;
below the garden, seven deer.
Someone loved this land before,

loved it as I do, maybe more.
She did not simply disappear
and she is not a metaphor:

This was some woman’s home before
pale soldiers came to clear
a land that someone loved before.

What to do with facts like this? Ignore
them? Hope they disappear?
Someone loved this land before.
None of this is metaphor.


---L.

Subject quote from "Ode on Melancholy," John Keats.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
Reading, reading, reading -- almost all of it narrative poems. It is, apparently, what I'm needing.

Finished:

Charmides by Oscar Wilde, his longest poem and apparently his only sustained narrative in verse -- for he was a poet before turning novelist and then playwright. The descriptions are awesomely lush (he learned a lot from Keats) and the decadence amusing (ditto from Swinburne), and the stanza looks to be deliberately evoking Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis. I am delighted by Wilde's ability to carry sentences across multiple stanzas -- I think one managed to go on for eight. Whether it works as a story probably depends on whether the lush and the decadent work for you, as well as how you feel about dubcon. (Other content warnings: ravishment (for lack of a better word) of a statue of Athena; necrophilia.)

The Witch of Atlas by Percy Shelley in a sportive mood. How gender-bendy and otherwise non-straight is this? Well, for starters, the witch herself is beautiful enough she brings all the nymphs as well as satyrs to her yard, is asexual, and creates an intersex companion (called Hermaphroditus) who's just as ace -- and I'm sure I'm missing stuff. The story itself is fluff, the verse is as beautiful as the best of Shelley's works, and the tale ends without the promised continuing adventures (hmph!). Mary didn't like it, and apparently almost didn't publish it with his posthumous poems (?!).

Lamia by John Keats -- hrm. Well then. It's been a while since I read this -- and the disjoint between remembered and present experience was stronger than usual. The casual noncon is par for the course with Greek mythology, but Lamia's deliberately throwing a nymph under that bus is, um, unsympathetic. The plot's otherwise okay, but the craft, not so much. It's not just that the pacing is as wonky as a gimbal with a chip on one edge -- the verse is also not under his control, especially the rhythm, to the point that some lines, his meter is discordantly rocky. Many of his words used in not-quite-standard ways aren't successful -- done well and to deliberate effect, such coinages can be dazzling (see Keats's best stuff) but here they weren't, often enough to be distracting.

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats, which was a good corrective example of his best stuff. The coinages here work well (except the "agues in her brain"), and more importantly, he rides like a master the rhythm and pace of each stanza. It's like he was at a stage where blank verse or couplets didn't give him enough constraint to work against (see also: Endymion). The pace of story is, stanza-by-stanza, languid, but that matches the tone of this admittedly rather thin story.

The Culprit Fay by Joseph Rodman Drake, a talented Romantic poet who, like Keats, died too young. A century ago, this was still a known, popular poem (it had been added to American high school curricula as an unembarrassing native work) but it's largely forgotten now, more's the pity. The tale itself is a quest fantasy using European fairy lore charmingly nativized to the Hudson River valley, with delightful details and a decent adventure. Fair warning: the first half of the quest, with the hero working on his own, is better than the second half, which is furthered by an unjustified unrequited love-interest. (Unfair warning: possibly this should not be read soon after The Loves of the Angels.)

Admetus by Emma Lazarus (hat tip to [personal profile] sovay for pointing me to this and the next), a blank verse narrative that would have been better named "Alcestis," as she's the real focus of the story: a relatively straight-up telling of her myth with a few interesting touches. The verse uses a very plain style, and as poem goes on the transitions get more abrupt and elliptical, and the narrative turns to almost pure dialog -- to the point I suspect that if I didn't know the original tale I'd have a hard time following the resolution. Interestingly, there's a somewhat defensive note at the end of the next poem explaining that they were both written before William Morris published his versions in The Earthly Paradise, and so not plagiarized from him -- which invites unfortunate comparisons, and Morris is overall (for all his flaws) a stronger talespinner as well as versifier, as far as this is concerned. (Reviewers at the time commented that the note wasn't needed as anyone with an ear could tell she hadn't cribbed from Morris.)

Tannhäuser by Emma Lazarus, also blank verse but in a lusher style appropriate for the subject matter: Tannhäuser's easy seduction by Venus and repentance after his return from under Venusberg. In the comparison with Morris invited by the end-note, Lazarus fares better -- this is much stronger than Admetus. (Neither of them hold a candle to Swinburne's Laus Veneris, mind, as ACS attempts -- and largely succeeds at -- something more ambitious than either Lazarus or Morris.) I can't help but think that ambivalence over Lazarus's Jewishness worked fruitful tensions into this story of Christianized Paganism, and also that parts of this are actually aimed at critiquing "Thomas the Rhymer." (That last seems a bit of a leap, as I write this now, but that was my reaction while reading.) I especially liked the small touch of Venus's motivation. OTOH, the touches of moralizing aimed at Tannhäuser during his disenchantment are the main discordant note.

Ongoing:

More bug poems.

DNF:

Andromeda by Charles Kingsley -- while retconning the inhabitants of the coast of Libya into not following the gods of Olympus is laudable, his dactylic hexameters were too grating to stay with it. Only Longfellow and Clough, that I've met, have managed that line well enough to read at length. (If anyone gets far enough into it, let me know how his female characters are.)

Next:

More of this stuff, I suspect.

(Is it time to reread The Earthly Paradise? It may be time to reread The Earthly Paradise.)

---L.

Subject quote from "Lamia," John Keats, who still rang out great lines in problematic poems.
larryhammer: topless woman lying prone with Sappho painted on her back, label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
For Poetry Monday, another something on the contemporary side:


The Villanelle is What?, John M. Ford

Enter Mr Jno. Ford (the Elizabethan one) as King Edward the Fourth

I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.
This monarch business makes a fellow hungry.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

What happened to the kippers left from breakfast?
Or maybe there's a bit of cold roast pheasant.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.

A civil war is such an awful bother.
We fought at Tewksbury and still ran out of mustard.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

Speak not to me of pasta marinara.
I know we laid in lots of boar last Tuesday.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.

The pantry seems entirely full of Woodvilles
And Clarence has drunk two-thirds of the cellar.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.

If I ran England like I run that kitchen
You'd half expect somebody to usurp it.
I am the King now, and I want a sandwich.
I wonder where my brother Richard is.


Think of this, possibly, as a pre-canon fic for Shakespeare's Richard III. It does explain, compellingly, some of the history of that confusing time. If the lack of rhymes in this otherwise strict villanelle bugs you, I refer you to the title.

---L.

Subject quote by Abraham Cowley after Anacreon.

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  123 45
6 78 9101112
13 141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated 17 August 2017 07:15 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios