larryhammer: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (endings)
2017-06-26 08:09 am

"don't modulate the key / then not debate with me"

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)
2017-06-19 08:38 am

"Be this, good friends, our carol still:/Be peace on earth, be peace on earth/to men of gentle will"

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: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-06-14 08:01 am

"the harp-twang of my snow-shoe / As it sprang beneath my tread"

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)
2017-06-12 10:13 am

"but i need to know / if the world says it's time to go / tell me will you break out?"

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)
2017-06-05 10:02 pm

"the art of losing's not too hard to master / though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster."

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: Yotsuba Koiwai running, label: "enjoy everything" (enjoy everything)
2017-05-30 10:43 am

"through the guards in every blood fight/ after war, pass peace pipe/ ask forgiveness, cease rights"

TBD is four years + one month old.

Achievements unlocked this last month: counting before seeking in hide-and-seek, connect-the-dots pictures, a recognizable written A, recognizing own $realname by spelling out the letters, appreciation of fractured fairy tales, and funhouse mirrors. TBD is trying to figure out how rhymes work, and asking us if a given pair of words rhyme, but this is not down solid yet. It is a harder leap than I remember. Also, they've started remembering dreams and reporting details surreal enough ("I dreamed I was a white car") that we believe they were not invented.

Three emotion-related bits:

1. TBD has learned that soldiers fight and kill, and while they are supposed to fight only other soldiers, they also know that people do not always do what they are supposed to. That there is an air base on the edge of town and half the aircraft overhead are fighting planes also became clear at the same time. Nonetheless, a visit to the local Air and Space Museum, which is slanted towards military craft, was greatly enjoyed -- especially the space exploration exhibits.

2. While shopping for a Mother's Day gift, TBD remembered without prompting Janni's one-time comment several weeks before that she likes challenging jigsaw puzzles, and insisted on getting the biggest one we could find: 2000 pieces. That is, on own initiative picked out something they themselves didn't want. They did, in the end, find that many pieces overwhelming, but have been helping gamefully with small, localized subsets. Sometimes. (Sometimes, they do one of their own puzzles next to the big one. Or just whine for attention.)

3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day has been the bedtime reading nine nights in a row now.

In physical skills, we now all use full-size dinner plates because, gasp, TBD sometimes wants more than one thing on it at a time, even at the risk of them getting mixed. Also, I'm needing less and less to echo statements/questions to make sure I've understood them correctly -- or at least, for pronunciation: when the sentence gets tangled up or has antecedents missing, I still need to try a clear version, to make sure I'm responding to the right thing.

Which of course leads into talking, talking:

"Daddy, you be on a march."
"What's this march about?"
"Planets."
"Is this against planets or supporting them?"
"Support."
"A march for planets. Got it."
"Go."

$friend: "When I shoot ice, you get frozen."
TBD: "When I shoot webs, you get stuck."
(playing superheroes)

"Hey Siri, why do some people died?"
(this was TBD's first question for Siri; it was followed up with "Why do some rocket ships have a lot of astronauts?")

"Who is is Lunchbox Squarepants?"

"What are Scooby-Dooby snacks?"
(followed shortly by "What was the earliest dinosaur?")

"What comes before 1?"
(followed two days later by "What comes before 0?" -- and explaining negative numbers is HARD. First try using a number line didn't take -- will try again soon.)

"We are the dentasaurs!"

"I'm a superhero."
"Well it's time for the superhero to go to bed."
"But I have to save the day!"


Needless to say, the superhero had to save another day.

---L.

Subject quote from "Show Me," Mint Royale.
larryhammer: drawing of a wildhaired figure dancing, label: "La!" (wild hair)
2017-05-22 10:26 am

"the phone is ringing / there's an animal in trouble / there's an animal in trouble somewhere"

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)
2017-05-17 08:13 am

"It is a dreadful thing to say that Mr. W.B. Yeats does not understand fairyland. But I do say it."

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)
2017-05-15 07:59 am

"Now you must go out into your heart / as onto a vast plain. Now / the immense loneliness begins."

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: a wisp of colored smoke, label: "softly and suddenly vanished away" (vanished)
2017-05-08 08:09 am

"And after they have shown their pride / Like you awhile, they glide / Into the grave"

For poetry Monday -- except, is it chestnut blooming time yet? Well even if it isn't, here are some:


"The chestnut casts his flambeaux," A.E. Housman

The chestnut casts his flambeaux, and the flowers
    Stream from the hawthorn on the wind away,
The doors clap to, the pane is blind with showers.
    Pass me the can, lad; there's an end of May.

There's one spoilt spring to scant our mortal lot,
    One season ruined of your little store.
May will be fine next year as like as not:
    But aye, but then we shall be twenty-four.

We for a certainty are not the first
    Have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
Their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
    Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.

It is in truth iniquity on high
    To cheat our sentenced souls of aught they crave,
And mar the merriment as you and I
    Fare on our long fool's-errand to the grave.

Iniquity it is; but pass the can.
    My lad, no pair of kings our mothers bore;
Our only portion is the estate of man:
    We want the moon, but we shall get no more.

If here to-day the cloud of thunder lours
    To-morrow it will hie on far behests;
The flesh will grieve on other bones than ours
    Soon, and the soul will mourn in other breasts.

The troubles of our proud and angry dust
    Are from eternity, and shall not fail.
Bear them we can, and if we can we must.
    Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.


Shoulder the sky, indeed. (I've had to tell a disappointed toddler, "I can't get you the moon--I'm only a Daddy.") This is from Housman's 1922 collection Last Poems. Now pass that can.

---L.

Subject quote from "To Blossoms," Robert Herrick.
larryhammer: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-05-03 08:38 am

"And my wallet as light as the heart of the mother of Moses"

"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: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
2017-05-01 08:11 am

"For shade to shade will come too drowsily / And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul"

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: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-04-19 08:15 am

"Real are the dreams of Gods, and smoothly pass / Their pleasures in a long immortal dream."

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: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-04-17 08:09 am

“Let me alive my pleasures have: / All are Stoics in the grave.”

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.
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2017-04-12 08:45 am

"What is ... / Poetry? That means writing / Doomsday-accounts of our souls."

For Reading Wednesday, there's … actually quite a lot to mention. Huh. Part of it is that narrative poems, even longer ones, are rather shorter than novels, so I can do more of them.

Finished:

A Castaway by Augusta Webster, in which a kept woman anatomizes the hypocrisy of the Victorian social system that cuts women off from all but a few respectable life options then punishes them for that. Now here is rage in pentameters. Ouch. I find it especially telling that the speaker's cutting sarcasm abruptly ceases when talking about her brother -- that's the one relationship that still matters to her, for all he unbrothered himself, and the sister relationship was an important anchor for that system. Despite being a dramatic monologue, this is not very Browningesque: the writer's focus is societal rather than psychological.

Beppo and Mazeppa by George the Byron, rereads. Still love the former, not the least for how he makes every digression, no matter how superficially irrelevant to the story, solidly on point. The latter is both a ripping yarn and interestingly knotty -- 'specially around what, ultimately, we are to make of title character. (Note that the historical Ivan Mazepa (so usually spelled) remains a politically charged figure, with Ukraine and Russia taking different sides.) If you want to try Byron but have limited stomach for Byronism, these are good ones to try.

The Loves of the Angels by Thomas Moore, which is an odd duck. For a controversial work, I was expecting something a little more spicy, what with the whole angels of God looking on the daughters of Man and finding them beautiful thing (thank you, Genesis 6:1-4). And it's not like Moore never wrote racy (see some of his songs). Possibly my standards for the genre was set too high by Byron's Heaven and Earth, from around the same time. Regardless, the ruffling of doctrinal feathers was enough to force him revise the Christian angels (with a thin layer of Rabbinic tradition varnished on) into Muhammadian ones in revised edition. (FWIW, I read the pre-orientalized, or rather less orientalized, version linked above.) The plot, such as it is, is three angels recounting to each other his own story of falling in love with a mortal woman (all three angels are male and heterosexual -- a whole 'nother layer of problems on top of the orientalizing)(yes, I know, following the pronouns of Genesis -- but still) and so falling from blessed communion with God. It's not clear how aware the angels are at how self-deceptive they are being, or even whether the writer is. The verse is smooth and the speakers' emotions are surprisingly well-handled, but overall not really successful. Or as I said: odd duck. Head over to Moore's Lalla Rookh instead (which wears its orientalizing on its sleeves of BLAZING NEON PAISLEY PRINT).

The Two Broken Hearts by Catherine Gore, being her first publication, before she turned from verse to highly successful novelist (one of the best "silver fork" novelists, writing about high society of the 1830s). It was instructive to read this soon after Jacqueline, as it has another paterfamilias protagonist whose child has married against his wishes. The tale itself is inventing a backstory for a historical incident tossed off by Montaigne (the fanfic impulse, as we all know, is as old as storytelling), but this is mostly an excuse for melodrama in a medieval Black Forest setting -- with, let it be said, surprisingly little Gothic given said setting and time of writing. The verse is serviceable but rarely exciting, and the tale starts with a double-flashback rendered with too much tell instead of show, so it takes a while to establish good tension. Meh, especially compared to Jacqueline -- but Sherwood, you might be interested anyway.

* False Colors by Georgette Heyer, which is not the best Heyer ever but good enough I should probably move it into the pile of books to reach for when I want a dose of Heyer. (This was only my second reading.) After all, Twin Impersonation is a fun trope, especially when combined with Courtship While Impersonating.

In progress:

* The Poetry Bug edited by John Tennent, a British entomologist who happens to love poetry and has unearthed a hella lot of poems about insects (with spiders given honorary insect status for anthology purposes). Not only am I enjoying it, but TBD is interested -- though I have to pick and chose what to read aloud, as many have a lot of big words for an almost-four-year-old, or are longer than attention span. Will report more when I get further along.

And other verse, both anthology and narrative. Scattered. As one does.

---L.

Subject quote from "What is life?" Henrik Ibson (tr. Fydell Garrett).
larryhammer: a symbol used in a traditional Iceland magic spell of protection (protection)
2017-04-10 08:23 am

"fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly / but they won't last long if they try"

Poetry Monday:

Black Country Coal, 1868, Taylor Graham

This whole town’s built on under-tunneled ground
where coal pays wages. Here’s the collier’s door –-
it sinks so gently, you don’t hear a sound.

Beneath, they dig with pick; with sledge they pound
a way toward deeper-buried seams: black ore.
This whole town’s built on under-tunneled ground

where roofs that settle, day by day, astound.
The steeple’s lost another inch or more;
it sinks so gently, you don’t hear a sound.

Through passages by torchlight, ironbound,
the miners delve toward hell, or planet’s core.
This whole town’s built on under-tunneled ground

that can not hold. Though greening hills surround,
their roots can’t stay the tide, nor timbers shore
what sinks so gently, you don’t hear a sound –-

no word of outrage, just earth’s sigh profound
at what our tools have wrought and can’t restore.
The whole town’s built on under-tunneled ground
that sinks so gently, you don’t hear a sound.


Found in Villanelles ed. by Finch & Mali.

---L.

Subject quote from "Pollution," Tom Lehrer.
larryhammer: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-04-05 08:17 am

"don't solicit for your sister, that's not nice / unless you get a good percentage of her price"

Reading, reading, who's got the reading? Aside from the usual truckload of early readers and picture books, of course, there's been:

Finished:

Enoch Arden by Alfred the Tennyson, whose plain style here only highlights how much he goes out of his way to avoid calling Enoch a fishmonger. The love triangle is believable and handled sympathetically, even if Victorian sentimentality, but the resolution is ... not convincing -- Enoch's behavior, I mean. And the final two lines are just awful. I'm still wincing. (That he was very defensive about those lines suggests he knew just how bad an idea they were.)

The Widow's Tale by Caroline Bowles (I use that name because she published this well before she married Robert Southey, but most editions use her married name). Meh. Were it not for touches of High Romanticism in the descriptions, this would not be out of place in an anthology of Victorian sentimental tales. It's instructive to compare it to Enoch Arden -- for one thing, despite all his faults, Tennyson's sentimentality is more restrained, and his plain-style poetry better controlled. This is good for its type, but when I want to wallow in glurge, I prefer it romantic over sentimental.

Three Chinese Poets trans. by Vikram Seth (yes, he of A Suitable Boy), being translations of a dozen-odd poems each by Wang Wei, Li Bai, and Du Fu. It's good to see a translator not just acknowledge the importance of Chinese rhyme, but follow through by reproducing it. As usual when this happens, what then gets lost is some end-stopping and the strict syntactic parallelism of regulated verse. For the common anthology pieces, Seth's versions are generally pretty good but rarely the best I've seen. (Unfortunately, the collection starts yet another version of Wang Wei's "Deer Park" that doesn't quite come up to snuff. Ah well.) It's probably telling that the piece I remember best is Seth's verse dedication to his Chinese professor.

Gertrude of Wyoming by Thomas Campbell, a reread. Very pretty, but seriously, the transitions are horrible to the point of incoherent. That it was written by someone without local knowledge doesn't help (hint: flamingos do not visit, let alone inhabit, northeastern Pennsylvania).

Jacqueline by Samuel Rogers, a Romantic romantic tale originally published anonymously together with Byron's Lara (also anonymously). Rogers is an interesting figure: he started as a Late Augustan but successfully made the transition to Romantic poet. The story is slight, but the Romantic manner is well-handled. The focus is not on Jacqueline herself, who elopes in the opening lines, but her father's anger and, increasingly, regret, ending with forgiveness and reconciliation. I rather like this one.

On Hold:

I Shall Seal the Heavens by Er Gen at chapter 1361, which is where the translator was the day I caught up -- in the middle of an intense battle against the protagonist's hardest foe yet. I am amused that the title-phrase incantation finally showed up about a hundred chapters back. Anyway, this is on pause till enough there's enough new stuff to binge on.

In Progress:

False Colors by Georgette Heyer, a reread. This is the one with the twin impersonating a brother gone AWOL right before meeting his future in-laws. Bouncy, bouncy, solid Heyer hijinx.

---L.

Subject quote from "Be Prepared," Tom Lehrer.
larryhammer: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-04-03 08:03 am

“The wild vine slipping down leaves bare / Her bright breast shortening into sighs”

For a poetry Monday:


"O you whom I often and silently come," Walt Whitman

O you whom I often and silently come where you are, that I may be with you;
As I walk by your side, or sit near, or remain in the same room with you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is playing within me.


Yes, Whitman also wrote short. Deal.

---L.

Subject quote from "Atalanta in Calydon," Algernon Charles Swinburne.
larryhammer: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (greek poetry is sexy)
2017-03-28 07:57 am

"shoot me down / but i won't fall / i am titanium"

Short shameful confession: “Tee hee!” quoth she, and clapped the window to is my favorite line from any poem ever.

---L.

Subject quote from "Titanium," Sia, David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort, & Afrojack.
larryhammer: Tara from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" with Sappho painted on her back - label: "Greek poetry is sexy" (poetry)
2017-03-27 08:24 am

"One welcome was in store / In the lull / Of the waves / On a low lee shore"

A Monday for a Poetry. Er, poem. Something like that.

Remonstrance with the Snails, Anonymous

        Ye little snails,
        With slippery tails,
        Who noiselessly travel
        Along this gravel,
By a silvery path of slime unsightly,
I learn that you visit my pea-rows nightly.
        Felonious your visit, I guess!
            And I give you this warning,
            That, every morning,
                I’ll strictly examine the pods;
            And if one I hit on,
            With slaver or spit on,
                Your next meal will be with the gods.

I own you’re a very ancient race,
    And Greece and Babylon were amid;
You have tenanted many a royal dome,
    And dwelt in the oldest pyramid;
The source of the Nile!—O, you have been there!
    In the ark was your floodless bed;
On the moonless night of Marathon
    You crawled o’er the mighty dead;
        But still, though I reverence your ancestries,
        I don’t see why you should nibble my peas.

The meadows are yours,—the hedgerow and brook,
    You may bathe in their dews at morn;
By the agèd sea you may sound your shells,
    On the mountains erect your horn;
The fruits and the flowers are your rightful dowers.
    Then why—in the name of wonder—
Should my six pea-rows be the only cause
    To excite your midnight plunder?

I have never disturbed your slender shells;
    You have hung round my agèd walk;
And each might have sat, till he died in his fat,
    Beneath his own cabbage-stalk:
But now you must fly from the soil of your sires;
    Then put on your liveliest crawl,
And think of your poor little snails at home,
    Now orphans or emigrants all.

Utensils domestic and civil and social
    I give you an evening to pack up;
But if the moon of this night does not rise on your flight,
    To-morrow I’ll hang each man Jack up.
You’ll think of my peas and your thievish tricks,
With tears of slime, when crossing the Styx.

See also Considering the Snail by Thom Gunn and For a Five-Year-Old by Fleur Adcock. And other snail poems I'm sure some of you will link to.

---L.

Subject quote from "The Wreck," John Ruskin.