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Poetry Sundays (October 23)

Posted by AllBlue, 23 October 2011 - - - - - - · 644 views
This week I read Percy Bysshe Shelley's  Ode to the West Wind :   IO wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves deadAre driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O Thou,Who chariotest to their dark wintry bedThe wingèd seeds,...

Poetry Sundays (October 2)

Posted by AllBlue, 02 October 2011 - - - - - - · 563 views

This week I read Il Penseroso by John Milton. The following text is copied from Project Gutenberg's The Poetical Works of John Milton. I read it in Understanding Poetry , by Cleanth Brooks, Jr. and Robert Penn Warren, in which the spelling was updated (i.e.: "joyes" to "joys"; "bright-hair'd" to "bright-haired").  The antique language and, to my ear, convoluted grammar makes this poem tough for a 20th/21st century reader. A standard dictionary is some help with the references to various ancient gods, goddesses, persons and ideas (Philomel - nightingale; Cynthia - Artemis, moon) but not always (Camball, Algarsife, Canace). Milton is a bit of a name dropper.  The title was not that helpful to me since my knowledge of the Romance languages is weak. Does it mean "the thinker"? The poem is a tour of Night from twilight to dawn using allusions to ancient ideas. The poem's speaker may be the thinker or maybe the title means something else. I haven't yet tried to find out more than I could by using a dictionary. I wanted to see how much I could understand using just that tool and what's already available in my head. When I did a quick online search, I found sites with studies of this poem and other works  by Milton . Here's one  that  I may look at after I have read this a couple more times. One problem with the Internet is that it makes something like reading such a poem just another series of mouse clicks for those with already shortened attention spans (I include myself in that group), reading work that others have already done. I'd like to make this poem feel more personal. I think it will be worthwhile.  One thing I did learn from a quick scan of the site noted above is that this is one of a pair of poems, the other titled  L'Allegro. That is helpful. I don't have that in any books here, but of course Project Gutenberg has it so I can read it also. This is my first time reading Milton. I figured I'd sometimes use Poetry Sunday to read those poets I've always been fearful of reading. Milton is one, Dante is another.   IL PENSEROSO.    Hence vain deluding joyes,  The brood of folly without father bred,  How little you bested,  Or fill the fixed mind with all your toyes;  Dwell in som idle brain  And fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess,  As thick and numberless  As the gay motes that people the Sun Beams,  Or likest hovering dreams  The fickle Pensioners of Morpheus train. 10  But hail thou Goddess, sage and holy,  Hail divinest Melancholy  Whose Saintly visage is too bright  To hit the Sense of human sight;  And therefore to our weaker view,  Ore laid with black staid Wisdoms hue.  Black, but such as in esteem,  Prince Memnons sister might beseem,  Or that Starr'd Ethiope Queen that strove  To set her beauties praise above 20  The Sea Nymphs, and their powers offended.  Yet thou art higher far descended,  Thee bright-hair'd Vesta long of yore,  To solitary Saturn bore;  His daughter she (in Saturns raign,  Such mixture was not held a stain)  Oft in glimmering Bowres, and glades  He met her, and in secret shades  Of woody Ida's inmost grove,  While yet there was no fear of Jove. 30  Com pensive Nun, devout and pure,  Sober, stedfast, and demure,  All in a robe of darkest grain,  Flowing with majestick train,  And sable stole of Cipres Lawn,  Over thy decent shoulders drawn.  Com, but keep thy wonted state,  With eev'n step, and musing gate,  And looks commercing with the skies,  Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes: 40  There held in holy passion still,  Forget thy self to Marble, till  With a sad Leaden downward cast,  Thou fix them on the earth as fast.  And joyn with thee calm Peace, and Quiet,  Spare Fast, that oft with gods doth diet,  And hears the Muses in a ring,  Ay round about Joves Altar sing.  And adde to these retired Leasure,  That in trim Gardens takes his pleasure; 50  But first, and chiefest, with thee bring,  Him that yon soars on golden wing,  Guiding the fiery-wheeled throne,  The Cherub Contemplation,  And the mute Silence hist along,  'Less Philomel will daign a Song,  In her sweetest, saddest plight,  Smoothing the rugged brow of night,  While Cynthia checks her Dragon yoke,  Gently o're th'accustom'd Oke;    60  Sweet Bird that shunn'st the noise of folly  Most musical!, most melancholy!  Thee Chauntress oft the Woods among  I woo to hear thy eeven-Song;  And missing thee, I walk unseen  On the dry smooth-shaven Green,  To behold the wandring Moon,  Riding neer her highest noon,  Like one that had bin led astray  Through the Heav'ns wide pathles way; 70  And oft, as if her head she bow'd,  Stooping through a fleecy cloud.  Oft on a Plat of rising ground,  I hear the far-off Curfeu sound,  Over som wide-water'd shoar,  Swinging slow with sullen roar;  Or if the Ayr will not permit,  Som still removed place will fit,  Where glowing Embers through the room  Teach light to counterfeit a gloom    80  Far from all resort of mirth,  Save the Cricket on the hearth,  Or the Belmans drowsie charm,  To bless the dores from nightly harm:  Or let my Lamp at midnight hour,  Be seen in som high lonely Towr,  Where I may oft out-watch the Bear,  With thrice great Hermes, or unsphear  The spirit of Plato to unfold  What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold    90  The immortal mind that hath forsook  Her mansion in this fleshly nook:  And of those Daemons that are found  In fire, air, flood, or under ground,  Whose power hath a true consent  With planet or with Element.  Som time let Gorgeous Tragedy  In Scepter'd Pall com sweeping by,  Presenting Thebs, or Pelops line,  Or the tale of Troy divine. 100  Or what (though rare) of later age,  Ennobled hath the Buskind stage.  But, O sad Virgin, that thy power  Might raise Musaeus from his bower,  Or bid the soul of Orpheus sing  Such notes as warbled to the string,  Drew Iron tears down Pluto's cheek,  And made Hell grant what Love did seek.  Or call up him that left half told  The story of Cambuscan bold, 110  Of Camball, and of Algarsife,  And who had Canace to wife,  That own'd the vertuous Ring and Glass,  And of the wondrous Hors of Brass,  On which the Tartar King did ride;  And if ought els, great Bards beside,  In sage and solemn tunes have sung,  Of Turneys and of Trophies hung;  Of Forests, and inchantments drear,  Where more is meant then meets the ear. 120  Thus night oft see me in thy pale career,  Till civil-suited Morn appeer,  Not trickt and frounc't as she was wont,  With the Attick Boy to hunt,  But Cherchef't in a comly Cloud,  While rocking Winds are Piping loud,  Or usher'd with a shower still,  When the gust hath blown his fill,  Ending on the russling Leaves,  With minute drops from off the Eaves.    130  And when the Sun begins to fling  His flaring beams, me Goddes bring  To arched walks of twilight groves,  And shadows brown that Sylvan loves  Of Pine, or monumental Oake,  Where the rude Ax with heaved stroke,  Was never heard the Nymphs to daunt,  Or fright them from their hallow'd haunt.  There in close covert by som Brook,  Where no profaner eye may look, 140  Hide me from Day's garish eie,  While the Bee with Honied thie,  That at her flowry work doth sing,  And the Waters murmuring  With such consort as they keep,  Entice the dewy-feather'd Sleep;  And let som strange mysterious dream,  Wave at his Wings in Airy stream,  Of lively portrature display'd,  Softly on my eye-lids laid. 150  And as I wake, sweet musick breath  Above, about, or underneath,  Sent by som spirit to mortals good,  Or th'unseen Genius of the Wood.  But let my due feet never fail,  To walk the studious Cloysters pale,  And love the high embowed Roof  With antick Pillars massy proof,  And storied Windows richly dight,  Casting a dimm religious light. 160  There let the pealing Organ blow,  To the full voic'd Quire below,  In Service high, and Anthems cleer,  As may with sweetnes, through mine ear,  Dissolve me into extasies,  And bring all Heav'n before mine eyes.  And may at last my weary age  Find out the peacefull hermitage,  The Hairy Gown and Mossy Cell,  Where I may sit and rightly spell    170  Of every Star that Heav'n doth shew,  And every Herb that sips the dew;  Till old  experience do attain  To somthing like prophetic strain.  These pleasures Melancholy give,  And I with thee will choose to live. ******Updated, same day: Okay, I've tried to understand this first section : Hence vain deluding joyes,The brood of folly without father bred,How little you bested,Or fill the fixed mind with all your toyes;Dwell in som idle brainAnd fancies fond with gaudy shapes possess,As thick and numberlessAs the gay motes that people the Sun Beams,Or likest hovering dreamsThe fickle Pensioners of Morpheus train. My interpretation is of the ideas and isn't poetic:  Go away, happy thoughts. You're nothing but foolish. You're hardly better than nothing. You're toys for those not able to really think. Go to someone who doesn't think much,  Who'll love your many foolish "incarnations," Much like dreams, that will fade.  ****** Later still, same day:  The rest of the poem is an ode to Melancholy sometimes using aspects of night as metaphor. A cult of melancholy was a feature of arts and letters beginning in the 17th century. I read through this several times today. It is dense with imagery and allusions and to really make it be something I know well, I'll need to read it more times and also read the other poem mentioned above. I'm going to try to do that this week and hopefully add more information here as I do. Also, I've been trying to insert an image of Albrecht Durer's Melencolia  but haven't been successful. Here's a link  to it if you'd like to see it.

Poetry Sundays

Posted by AllBlue, 10 September 2011 - - - - - - · 443 views
poetry, Constable, Goya
A few weeks ago I decided to read poetry on Sunday mornings. I'm trying to get to the library each week to pick a poet or poets whose work I've never read before or maybe read a long time ago. A couple of weeks ago I came across Billy Collins . He wrote a couple of poems about artists. Here's an excerpt from one about Goya: from Candle Hat  ...But once yo...

Frustrations with Ayer

Posted by AllBlue, 19 February 2011 - - - - - - · 381 views

da fire wanted me to go on. Let me just say, it's slow going. The following is a quote from a passage that made me just a little mad, and by that I mean a combination of angry and crazy:Here are a couple of notes I made in the margins: - Maybe Ayer is not saying we've been using language incorrectly since its inception, like I thought he was. Rath...

Language, Truth and Logic by Alfred Jules Ayer: notes, quotes and questions

Posted by AllBlue, 28 January 2011 - - - - - - · 2,239 views

I won’t be going through the entire work trying to summarize it all. Nothing that all-encompassing. I’m just going to quote some passages I found interesting, sometimes commenting on them, sometimes not. I’ll also include questions that the text brought to mind that maybe some people will have ideas about. I’m hoping to get a good grasp of what Ayer was saying. I’ll appreciate any help anyone can provide.Chapter titles in this book:Ch. I. The Elimination of  MetaphysicsCh. II. The Function of PhilosophyCh. III. The Nature of Philosophical AnalysisCh. IV. The A PrioriCh. V. Truth and ProbabilityCh. VI. Critique of Ethics and TheologyCh. VII. The Self and the Common WorldCh. VIII. Solutions of Outstanding Philosophical Disputes ------A quote from Ch. I, pg. 37:This didn’t seem correct at first. I was thinking that you can test the effects of arsenic and verify that it is poisonous. The same is true with the expansion of a body when heated. Then I thought about the middle statement, “all men are mortal.” You can’t really verify this.There could be a long term study done using a random group of people. If they all die at some point, then the statistical probability that all people die is high, but it doesn't prove that all people will  die. After getting to this point, I thought again about the other two statements. Arsenic is poisonous to some organisms but no doubt it is not always poisonous to all organisms in all situations, and any study that could be done could not cover all organisms or all situations, so you can only make a tentative, statistically-based claim. The same is true of the third statement since possibly not all bodies expand when heated and you could only say that this is always true if you tested all bodies, an impossible task.So I thought it through and made it to Ayer's position.

Thoughts on Ode to Billie Joe by Bobby Gentry

Posted by AllBlue, 18 January 2011 - - - - - - · 286 views

When I write about poetry in this blog, it’s usually about standard poems that end up in books, not about pop songs. That’s not really because of any snobbery on my part. I think there are some very well-written songs out there. I just hadn’t thought of it before today. So here are a few paragraphs about Ode to Billie Joe , a song that came out in 1967. I...

Chabrias and Timotheus, generals in the Athenian Navy

Posted by AllBlue, 16 January 2011 - - - - - - · 314 views

In Ch. 17, Passing the Torch, from John R. Hale's Lords of the Sea , discussing the years 397 to 371 B.C.E., Chabrias and Timotheus caught my interest. I hope to find more information on them. A couple of quotes:The writing in this book is very engaging. I wondered when I chose it if it would sustain my interest and it has. There's a lengthy secti...

The Unfortunate Rake/St. James Infirmary Blues

Posted by AllBlue, 31 October 2010 - - - - - - · 426 views

This is a sad song and is sung to a melancholy melody. It's been done countless times and there is even a CD with different versions of it  that I'd like to get. I first heard an Irish version of it, maybe done by Tommy Makem and The Clancy Brothers, many years ago. I memorized it then and would sing it at the top of my lungs while driving. Here...


Posted by AllBlue, 25 September 2010 - - - - - - · 301 views

There is a stack of books on my kitchen table that just keeps growing and I can't seem to finish reading a single one. They're an interesting group, poetry, fiction and non, contemporary and ancient. They have seductive covers in colors that for an unknown reason tend almost overwhelmingly to red or reddish orange and black. The titles are seducti...

The Prediction

Posted by AllBlue, 29 March 2010 - - - - - - · 404 views

The Prediction  - Mark StrandThat night the moon drifted over the pond,turning the water to milk, and underthe boughs of the trees, the blue trees,a young woman walked, and for an instantthe future came to her:rain falling on her husband's grave, rain fallingon the lawns of her children, her own mouthfilling with cold air, strangers moving into her ho...