Saturday, July 28, 2007

Beauty Projected

When such contingency as on me now attends
Shall sweetly decease, and in her recombine
The favored fragments of chance, and when no more contends

The new flesh with aged figments,
And fair the arrangements
Of hair's fall 'round face, and the twofold grace
Of soul clothed in such skin- let me lose me therein,
Or else waste the while
In the crescence of curve that's the bend of her smile.

Hopes of this- 'til pure form be configured within her,
She lives only in thought, and thought fails me to win her,
That of her semblance casts only faintest reflection,
Shadow of the fair shades that comprise her complexion.

-Thomas Banks-

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This Present Hour

No time have we for rest, no time for sleeping;
The leaden cultivation of our toil
Us keeps from evening's natural reprieve,
And we compliant, remain for the reaping
Of the somber soil,
Reward without relief.

No space have we for thought, nor thought to muse on;
Its flights for us a kingdom bring no more,
But only afterprovince of the blind;
And left to us a quiet hell's confusion,
What was before
The heaven of the mind.

No place have we for love, space for desire;
And always on the second subway-track
Is Paolo by Francesca onward led,
Who for his pleading comes not any nigher,
Nor looks she back,
Always a car's length ahead.


What was our work is now our thoughtless toil,
And prior love but imparticular lust;
And love's laborers, returning to the soil,
Take their wage from the sand, their reward from the dust.

-Thomas Banks-

P.S.- If you don't know who Paolo and Francesca were, read Dante's Inferno.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Art of Apologetics, Briefly Demonstrated

Have you an Ought from an Is of a Why,
Dare you follow the Thus of your premise's part?
When all Quod Erat's have been hammered out, why still
Reluctance of head and retraction of heart?

Polish 'til paling the murky glass,
Stare to the stretch of a thousand yards' mark,
And penetrate never the brooding penumbra,
Though your stare lose its sight in the glass' dark.

To skyward string every theory and thought;
Tire the sun with your critical eye;
Nor ought for the better, nor ever the closer,
'Til you hale as the Heavens what you saw as the Sky.

-Thomas Banks-

Monday, July 16, 2007

Catullus' Complaint to an Ignorant Patron, Who Preferred Another's Verses to His Own

Often, and with eager mind
I sought songs which to you I sent,
Whereby I'd find your favor, if
You might their measures not resent.

I see my efforts are in vain,
And Gallius' rise my denegration-
Damn you, your troubling dart I scorn,
And yet shall have my compensation.

-Rendered from the Latin by Thomas Banks-

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Seafarer

Translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Ezra Pound

May I for my own self song's truth reckon,
Journey's jargon, how I in harsh days
Hardship endured oft.
Bitter breast-cares have I abided,
Known on my keel many a care's hold,
And dire sea-surge, and there I oft spent
Narrow nightwatch nigh the ship's head
While she tossed close to cliffs. Coldly afflicted,
My feet were by frost benumbed.
Chill its chains are; chafing sighs
Hew my heart round and hunger begot
Mere-weary mood. Lest man know not
That he on dry land loveliest liveth,
List how I, care-wretched, on ice-cold sea
Weathered the winter, wretched outcast
deprived of my kinsmen;
Hung with hard ice-flakes, where hail-scur flew,
There I heard nought save the harsh sea
And ice-cold wave, at whiles the swan cries,
Did for my games the gannet's clamour,
Sea-fowls' loudness was for me laughter,
The mew's singing all my mead-drink.
Storms, on the stone-cliffs beaten, fell on the stern
In icy feathers; full oft the eagle screamed
With spray on his pinion.
Not any protector
May make merry man faring needy.
This he little believes, who aye in winsome life
Abides 'mid burghers some heavy business,
Wealthy and wine-flushed, how I weary oft
Must bide above brine.
Neareth nightshade, snoweth from north,
Frost froze the land, hail fell on earth then,
Corn of the coldest. Nathless there knocketh now
The heart's thought that I on high streams
The salt-wavy tumult traverse alone.
Moaneth away my mind's lust
That I fare forth, that I afar hence
Seek out a foreign fastness.
For this there's no mood-lofty man over earth's midst,
Not though he be given his good, but will have in his
youth greed.
Nor his deed to the daring, nor his king to the faithful
But shall have his sorrow for sea-fare
Whatever his lord will.
He hath not heart for harping, nor ring-having
Nor winesomeness to wife, nor world's delight
Nor any whit save the wave's slash,
Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water.
Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries,
Fields to fairness, land fares brisker,
All this admonishes man eager of mood,
The heart turns to travel so that he then thinks
On flood-ways to be far departing.
Cuckoo calleth with gloomy crying,
He singeth summerward, bodeth sorrow,
The bitter heart's blood. Burgher knows not-
He the prosperous man- what some perform
Where the wandering them widest draweth.
So that now my heart burst from my breastlock,
My mood 'mid the mere-flood,
Over the whale's acre, would wander wide.
On earth's shelter cometh oft to me,
Eager and ready, the crying lone-flyer,
Whets for the whale-path the heart irresistibly,
Oe'r tracks of ocean; seeing that anyhow
My lord deems to me this dead life
On loan and on land, I believe not
That any earth-weal eternal standeth
Save there be somewhat calamitous
That, ere a man's tide go, turn it to twain.
Disease or oldness or sword-hate
Beats out the breath from doom-gripped body.
And for this, every earl whatever, for those speaking
Laud of the living, bosteth some last word,
That he will work ere he pass onward,
Frame on the fair earth 'gainst foes his malice,
Daring ado. . .
So that all men shall honour him after
And his laud beyond them remain 'midst the English,
Aye, for ever, a lasting life's-blast,
Delight mid the daughty.
Days little durable,
And all arrogance of earthen riches,
There come now no kings or Caesars
Nor gold-giving lords like those gone.
Howe'er in mirth most magnified,
Whoe'er lived in life most lordliest,
Drear all this exellence, delights unendurable!
Waneth the watch, but the world holdeth.
Tomb hideth trouble. The blade is layed low.
Earthly glory ageth and seareth.
No man at all going the earth's gait,
But age fares against him, his face paleth
Grey-haired he growneth, knows gone companions,
Lordly men, are to earth o'ergiven,
Nor may he then the flesh-cover, whose life ceaseth,
Nor eat the sweet nor feel the sorry,
Nor stir hand nor think in mid heart,
And though he strew the grave with gold,
His born brothers, their buried bodies
Be an unlikely treasure hoard.

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Comfortable Chaos

"For oft we see a wicked peace to be well changed for war."
-S. Daniel-

People who make it their business to ensure that other people understand them, and, slightly less important, that they understand other people, make no end of gassing on about Engaging with The Other on Its Own Terms.* There are two things to consider here: the first is the caveat that these people are usually a far sight nicer than I, at least for the first few minutes. The second is that their picked policy of engagement is only as valuable as the terms agreed upon, and these usually end up being some tenebrous compromise between two otherwise opposing paradigms; a compromise arrived at not so much from a desire for Mutual Understanding* as from an unflinching courtesy that unwittingy craves chaos. Remove all manner of disursive authority from the fray, and politeness can exist even between antagonists who would have flayed each other alive a few centuries prior. While this kind of discussion bears no benefit, neither does it threaten with much discomfort, as those engaged have tasted and grown familiar with the ideological courses of their opponent, and consequently neither fear nor regard them; they are only another fleeting sensation on the casual sophist's palate; to be momentarily enjoyed, and if retained at all, then retained only as a triviality. It follows that the Understanding which was initially the goal is only possessed in an adulterated form, and we have not reached out and met our antagonist half way as we hoped, or pretended that we might. We have only reached out and borrowed his glass for a short swallow.

Naturally, all of this only dillutes whatever argument was our first cause for engagement. But this is the solace that Relativism offers, that a willful confusion of ones own principles is a small offering to be made in the name of more convivial relations with ones enemies, political, intellectual, religious or other. It may make us all equally barbaric, but we run no risk of confrontation. And this is the exchange that every sincere relativist is willing to make, and even more importantly, the Genius of Relativism itself; the willingness to convert to a Polite Barbarism.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Choruses from "The Flight into Egypt"

A nice bit of mock-cinicism from one of the masters of the form.
"In the really dark night of the soul it is always three o' clock in the morning."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald-

Come to our bracing desert,
Where eternity is eventful,
Where the weather-glass
Is set at Alas,
The thermometer at Resentful.

Come to our old-world desert
Where everyone goes to pieces;
You can pick up tears
For souvenirs
Or genuine diseases.

Come to our well-run desert
Where anguish arrives by cable,
And the deadly sins
May be bought in tins
With instructions on the label.

Come to our jolly desert
Where even the dolls go whoring;
Where cigarette-ends
Become intimate friends,
And it's always three in the morning.

-W.H. Auden-

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Few Opinions, Entertained by Myself and Hopefully Worthy of at Least a Few Arched Brows

1. Richard Nixon is the only historically interesting U.S. President of the past seventy-five years.

2. France is not, nor ever has been a Romantic (capital "R") country.

3. The British Invasion was a more culturally significant event than the Kennedy Assassination, Vietnam, and Watergate combined; of which the third entry still does not bring me to withdraw statement #1.

4. America is lovable, but not likeable. (Due respect must here be paid to Sinclair Lewis, who said something similar back in 1928)

5. Personal freedom was a more common commodity in the Middle Ages than it is today.

6. Contrary to most opinion, the French are naturally more ambitious than we Americans; we label our generations X, Y, and so on, they label theirs as those of 1789, 1848, 1968; we measure ourselves merely by predictable succession, they measure themselves by how many of the bourgeois they beheaded in the morning, and then they celebrate by taking the rest of the week off.

7. It doesn't matter so much that the Obscure and the Celebrated among us return to the same dust, so much as it matters that the dust of the Celebrated is marked with a more attractive headstone.

8. Unawareness is the priviledge of the rich, Ignorance that of the middle class, and Complacency that of the poor; tragically, in an egalitarian society these distinctions are removed and all three classes are condemned to a lifetime of watching the six o' clock news.

9. Life is preferable to longevity of existence.

10. God. n. The Death of Questions.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Pagan and the Tree

Strike the root and sever the vine,
That the red fruit wither, so let it be-
Whose pendant weight bends over us,
Who stand below the tree.

Full fed were we from long before,
Much mindful of the apple taste-
To take remorseful rest to feed
Were nought to us but waste.

Split the vine, and smite the root,
We fed before on food less base-
Tear down, untasted leave the fruit,
Untouched the clustered grace.

-Thomas Banks-