October 1, 2005

I’m in a Drayton mood [Filed under: Drayton, Michael]

It’s so well known that it hardly needs posting… but I’m in a Drayton mood, I have posting privileges, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that I would spend my time doing things that hardly need doing.

Idea, LXI

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.

And while I’m posting sonnets written hundreds of years ago, I may as well share one of the first I ever committed to memory. For a certain princess, with a toast to the After-Hours Committee:

Sonnet Upon a Stolen Kiss

Now gentle sleep hath closed up those eyes
Which waking kept my boldest thoughts in awe,
And free access unto that sweet lip lies,
From whence I long the rosy breath to draw;
Methinks no wrong it were if I should steal
From those two melting rubies one poor kiss;
None sees the theft that would the thief reveal,
Nor rob I her of ought which she can miss;
Nay, should I twenty kisses take away,
There would be little sign I had done so;
Why then should I this robbery delay?
Oh! she may wake, and therewith angry grow.
    Well, if she do, I’ll back restore that one,
    And twenty hundred thousand more for loan.

September 17, 2005

Les Yeux des pauvres [Filed under: Baudelaire, Charles]

While reading about the devastation occasioned by Hurricane Katrina, I came across this prose poem by Baudelaire. It, of course, was written long before our southern cities and towns were ravaged, having been first published in 1864, and I’m not sure it has much to contribute to a discussion of the disaster (at any rate, I think I will remain silent about that). I post it here because it illustrates beautifully what I can only imagine to be the most disheartening of those impenetrable silences that continually interrupt the human discourse, the sixth of the seven solitudes, the imponderable and uncrossable gulf between the lover and the loved. First I present the original French, followed by a plain and unadorned (and probably inaccurate) translation for your reading convenience.

Les Yeux des pauvres

Ah! vous voulez savoir pourquoi je vous hais aujourd’hui. Il vous sera sans doute moins facile de le comprendre qu’à moi de vous l’expliquer; car vous êtes, je crois, le plus bel exemple d’imperméabilité féminine qui se puisse rencontrer.

Nous avions passé ensemble une longue journée qui m’avait paru courte. Nous nous étions bien promis que toutes nos pensées nous seraient communes à l’un et à l’autre, et que nos deux âmes désormais n’en feraient plus qu’une;—un rêve qui n’a rien d’original, après tout, si ce n’est que, rêvé par tous les hommes, il n’a été réalisé par aucun.

Le soir, un peu fatiguée, vous voulûtes vous asseoir devant un café neuf qui formait le coin d’un boulevard neuf, encore tout plein de gravois et montrant déjà glorieusement ses splendeurs inachevées. Le café étincelait. Le gaz lui-même y déployait toute l’ardeur d’un début, et éclairait de toutes ses forces les murs aveuglants de blancheur, les nappes éblouissantes des miroirs, les ors des baguettes et des corniches, les pages aux joues rebondies traînés par les chiens en laisse, les dames riant au faucon perché sur leur poing, les nymphes et les déesses portant sur leur tête des fruits, des pâtés et du gibier, les Hébés et les Ganymèdes présentant à bras tendu la petite amphore à bavaroises ou l’obélisque bicolore des glaces panachées; toute l’histoire et toute la mythologie mises au service de la goinfrerie.

Droit devant nous, sur la chaussée, était planté un brave homme d’une quarantaine d’années, au visage fatigué, à la barbe grisonnante, tenant d’une main un petit garçon et portant sur l’autre bras un petit être trop faible pour marcher. Il remplissait l’office de bonne et faisait prendre à ses enfants l’air du soir. Tous en guenilles. Ces trois visages étaient extraordinairement sérieux, et ces six yeux contemplaient fixement le café nouveau avec une admiration égale, mais nuancée diversement par l’âge.

Les yeux du père disaient: «Que c’est beau! que c’est beau! on dirait que tout l’or du pauvre monde est venu se porter sur ces murs.»—Les yeux du petit garçon: «Que c’est beau! que c’est beau! mais c’est une maison où peuvent seuls entrer les gens qui ne sont pas comme nous.»—Quant aux yeux du plus petit, ils étaient trop fascinés pour exprimer autre chose qu’une joie stupide et profonde.

Les chansonniers disent que le plaisir rend l’âme bonne et amollit le coeur. La chanson avait raison ce soir-là, relativement à moi. Non seulement j’étais attendri par cette famille d’yeux, mais je me sentais un peu honteux de nos verres et de nos carafes, plus grands que notre soif. Je tournais mes regards vers les vôtres, cher amour, pour y lire ma pensée; je plongeais dans vos yeux si beaux et si bizarrement doux, dans vos yeux verts, habités par le Caprice et inspirés par la Lune, quand vous me dites: «Ces gens-là me sont insupportables avec leurs yeux ouverts comme des portes cochères! Ne pourriez-vous pas prier le maître du café de les éloigner d’ici?»

Tant il est difficile de s’entendre, mon cher ange, et tant la pensée est incommunicable, même entre gens qui s’aiment!

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September 3, 2005

Things… [Filed under: Stevens, Wallace]

Nemerov’s quantification of the common man’s life brings this poem to mind. (Honestly, it doesn’t take much to bring this poem to my mind.) Though speech does not enter into it, living seems to be a collection of things, but those things are tricky.

The Man on the Dump

Day creeps down. The moon is creeping up.
The sun is a corbeil of flowers the moon Blanche
Places there, a bouquet. Ho-ho…The dump is full
Of images. Days pass like papers from a press.
The bouquets come here in the papers. So the sun,
And so the moon, both come, and the janitor’s poems
Of every day, the wrapper on the can of pears,
The cat in the paper-bag, the corset, the box
From Esthonia: the tiger chest, for tea.

The freshness of night has been fresh a long time.
The freshness of morning, the blowing of day, one says
That it puffs as Cornelius Nepos reads, it puffs
More than, less than or it puffs like this or that.
The green smacks in the eye, the dew in the green
Smacks like fresh water in a can, like the sea
On a cocoanut—how many men have copied dew
For buttons, how many women have covered themselves
With dew, dew dresses, stones and chains of dew, heads
Of the floweriest flowers dewed with the dewiest dew.
One grows to hate these things except on the dump.

Now in the time of spring (azaleas, trilliums,
Myrtle, viburnums, daffodils, blue phlox),
Between that disgust and this, between the things
That are on the dump (azaleas and so on)
And those that will be (azaleas and so on),
One feels the purifying change. One rejects
The trash.

           That’s the moment when the moon creeps up
To the bubbling of bassoons. That’s the time
One looks at the elephant-colorings of tires.
Everything is shed; and the moon comes up as the moon
(All its images are in the dump) and you see
As a man (not like an image of a man),
You see the moon rise in the empty sky.

One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail.
One beats and beats for that which one believes.
That’s what one wants to get near. Could it after all
Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
To a crow’s voice? Did the nightingale torture the ear,
Pack the heart and scratch the mind? And does the ear
Solace itself in peevish birds? Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher’s honeymoon, one finds
On the dump? Is it to sit among mattresses of the dead,
Bottles, pots, shoes, and grass and murmur aptest eve:
Is it to hear the blatter of grackles and say
Invisible priest; is it to eject, to pull
The day to pieces and cry stanza my stone?
Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the.

August 28, 2005

epic verse [Filed under: General Discussion]

Words uttered by Heidi after she has begrudgingly agreed to lend her husband a pen:

Goodbye noble pen! Ah me, your purchase was bitterness!
Why did I, with such dutiful care, select you from among
the many inscribers of ink that rested in their caps
upon the shelf? If only you could live out your days until
the last drop of black liquid were delicately applied
to the fragile pages, being a delight to your caretaker,
unmatched in your value for the setting down of thoughts
in sweet correspondence and the making of lists.
Now it has befallen that your life must be brief and bitter.
Never again shall you return to the drawer of your fathers
to lie beside the sharpies and rulers and staples in good order.
Rather will you be misplaced and disregarded, dispersed
into the darkness of your own ink as so many pens
less effective than you have been before.

August 25, 2005

UPDATE IMPORTANT [Filed under: Admin]

It should now be safe to post. Please let me know if you experience any problems with the site. For more details about recent changes, follow the “more” link below.

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