Monday, December 22, 2008
By Thomas Banks
I would not have her, though
Hers was the offering;
It is of her I know
My love a common thing.
It is of her I learned
That even the brightest fire
May rise from refuse burned
Upon a reeking pyre.
I would have shared, I know,
Shores rounding living waters;
Sweet substance, but below?
The leech, and the leech’s daughters.
I would have given much;
Myself my present were.
But in return for such
Had asked twice more of her.
I would not have her now,
For both our sakes; for hers,
And pray she find somehow
What fortune she prefers.
And mine, for I have loved not
My own love’s offering;
The love that grace moved not,
A blind, unblessed thing.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We call her a woman who did not care)
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)
Oh the years we waste and the tears we waste
And the work of our head and hand,
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand.
A fool there was and his goods he spent
(Even as you and I!)
Honor and faith and a sure intent
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(And it wasn't the least what his lady meant)
(Even as you and I!)
Oh the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned,
Belong to the woman who didn't know why
(And now we know she never knew why)
And did not understand.
The fool we stripped to his foolish hide
(Even as you and I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside-
(But it isn't on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died-
(Even as you and I!)
And it isn't the shame and it isn't the blame
That stings like a white hot brand;
It's coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing at last she could never know why)
And never could understand.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.
The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the year
Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.
Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, and nothing stirs.
But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.
Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had
The fingers of no heir will ever hold.
When thou descendest once the shades among,
The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.
Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leaves Pirithous in the chain
The love of comrades cannot take away.
-Translated by A.E. Housman-
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Back sweeping to the vortex of the cone,
Cloistered about with memories,
Alone in chaos, while the waiting silence sings,
Obliviate of cycles wanderings,
I was an atom on creation's throne,
And counted nothing mine unconquered own.
God! Should I be the hand upon the strings?
But I was lonely as a lonely child,
I cried amid the void and heard no cry,
And then, for utter loneliness made I
New thoughts as crescent images of me.
And in them was my image reconciled,
And fear went forth from mine eternity.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Ha' we lost the goodliest fere o' all
For the priest and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O' ships and the open sea.
When they came wi' a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
"First let these go!" quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Or I'll see ye damned," says he.
Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
"Why took ye me not when I walked about
Alone in the town?" says he.
Oh we drank his "Hale" in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o' men was he.
I ha' seen him drive a hundred men
Wi' a bundle of cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.
They'll no' get him a' in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.
If they think they ha' snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
"I'll go to the feast," quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Though I go to the gallows tree."
"Ye ha' seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead," says he,
"Ye shall see one thing to master all:
"Tis how a brave man dies on the tree."
A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us brothers be.
I ha' seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.
He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.
I ha' seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o' Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi' his eyes like the grey o' the sea,
Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi' twey words spoke suddently.
A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha' slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.
I ha' seen him eat o' the honey-comb
Sin' they nailed him to the tree.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I will not spoil my sheath with lesser brightness,
For the surrounding air hath a new lightness;
Slight are her arms, yet they have bound me straitly
And left me soaked as with a gauze of aether;
As with sweet leaves; as with a subtle clearness.
Oh, I have picked up magic in her nearness
To sheathe me half in half the things that sheathe her.
No, no! Go from me. I have still the flavour,
Soft as spring wind that's come from birchen bowers.
Green come the shoots, aye April in the branches,
As winter's wound with her sleight hand she staunches,
Hath of the trees a likeness of the savour:
As white their bark, so white this lady's hours.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Webster was much possessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin;
And breastless creatures underground
Stared backward with a lipless grin.
Daffodil bulbs instead of balls
Stared from the sockets of the eyes!
He knew that thought clings round dead limbs
Tightening its lusts and luxuries.
Donne, I suppose, was such another
Who found no substitute for sense,
To seize and clutch and penetrate:
Expert beyond experience,
He knew the anguish of the marrow
The ague of the skeleton;
No contact possible to flesh
Allayed the fever of the bone. . .
And even Abstract Entities
Circumambulate her charm;
But our lot crawls between dry ribs
To keep our metaphysics warm.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
My attention fix
On Spanish or on Russian or
On Roman politics?
There stands a well-traveled man
Who knows what he's about,
And there's a politician, who
Has both read and thought.
Perhaps it is true, what they say
Of war, and war's alarms;
But ah, that I were young again,
And held her in my arms!
-William Butler Yeats-
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like gods together, careless of mankind.
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurled
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curled
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
Like a tale of little meaning though the words are strong;
Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer- some, 'tis whispered, down in hell
Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
Oh rest ye, brother mariners, we shall not wander more.
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson-
Thursday, July 31, 2008
My native light, and blind the eye
Of man to my fierce dignity?
It better were he did compel
Me hence, so falling I might spend
My flames to scar His heavenlies,
And quench my hate beneath the seas,
To some strange depth my pathway bend,
And take my end."
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Certainly it is of no small moment that we conduct ourselves in our appointed offices with the humility that reflection by itself cannot produce. A critically minded person can measure how wide a margin lies between himself and the perfected execution of whatever he must perform, but untempered by humility, and unwilling to admit where he is weak, he breaks himself upon hard surfaces. A sharp intellect submitted to the uses of life means little if can take no punishment.
Humility is a fragile thing, and it is all to easy for a man to forsake it, and with it all other men, in service to an easy and unknowing satisfaction with himself. ("Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.") And as should be the case with any fragile thing, Humility is not without its defenders. Humility in a man may be snuffed out, but his conscience is always breathing. Macbeth can kill, and in killing steal a crown, but his wife cannot get her hands clean. Thoughts come to us, though we would have none of them. They undermine our best defenses.
We cannot deny ourselves the habit of thinking, but it is ours to govern the thoughts we have. They occupy a space in all of us, and in that space we arrange them in their files. We give some to work, some to those we love and those we hate, some to art and some to politics, and not a few, if we are wise, we give to God. The arrangement of the patterns of his thought is the only freedom that a man cannot be denied. This we may take for fact that admits of no argument. To think otherwise only proves the point. Everyone is free to choose what type of vessel his mind will be, whether noble or ignoble. It is true that what imposes itself upon us from without has some part in this, and that men in all times and places are not so free as to choose their own path as we in ours, but still this part of ourselves, if nothing else, escapes all attempted containments. Boethius wrote his Consolation from prison. Dante began the Comedy as a political exile on the verge of suicide, ("Where closed/ The valley that pierced my heart with dread. . .") yet his imagination took this sight for its reward:
While sight was unconsumed; and, in that depth,
Saw in one volume clasp'd of love, whate'er
The universe unfolds; all properties
Of substance and of accident, beheld,
Compounded, yet one individual light
The whole. And of such bond methinks I saw
The universal form; for that whene'er
I do but speak of it, my soul dilates
Beyond her proper self.
Granted its unconditional freedom, how does the mind best arrange itself? Even if we set aside moral considerations for a moment, it is naive to accept that all thoughts have equal claim to our attention. Both the educated and the uneducated mind are undemocratic, because our desires exist in disproportion, and where desire exists, thought and action bend their dual course. The oinophile gives more thought to the right conditions of his cellar for storing wine than he does to making room in it for a water purification system, simply because water purification is a subject in which he has scant interest. If someone is sitting with the other front row fanatics at a Nascar race, chances are his thoughts are not equally fixed both on the spectacle in front of him and on the latest Phillip Roth novel. His thoughts naturally follow the track of his greatest desire, which is in this case a circular one. Every mind selects its own aristocracy, except in cases of insanity. Madness is anarchy, every bit as much as Anarchy is Mad. And as with anarchy, madness ends with the most violent nerve ending making a tyrant of itself and imprisoning the mind in the despotism of a single thought. Lunatics are nothing if not single minded.
It stands to reason that the mind that is careless of its government will end by abandoning itself to gross authorities, as is the case with many countries that falls into crisis. The Will selects the aristocracy of thought as Desire directs. From these thoughts the individual takes council, and their quality of government determine what principles take root in him. Here he must ensure that the aristocracy lives up to its title. Lack of dignity in thought can only produce lack of dignity in action.
No individual can keep company with the best class of anything by itself and still retain the wisdom of the serpent. We must live in the world, and the world offers unsightly things as well as beautiful, the profane mixed with the sacred. To turn the mind only to cultivated things, whether in the arts or sciences, is no more advisable a project than the Tower of Babel. Every thought should know its place in our conscience and say its piece there, and give way to the next in order. No proverb, however wise, can speak to the sum of human affairs, and no single pillar of wisdom can support the arches of a broad philosophy. The single councilors of our conscience guide us as far as their power permits, each giving place to the one above him, until all our councilors-all of our reasons- have spent their earthly powers, and the last falls silent. Then we in turn do likewise, and take in faith our seat beneath the throne of God.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, Son of Man.
But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your fears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Great glooms, and starry plains.
Gently the night wind sighs,
Else a vast silence reigns.
The splendid silence clings
Around me; and around
The saddest of all kings
Crowned, and again discrowned.
Comely and calm he rides
Hard by his own Whitehall:
Only the night wind glides:
No crowds, nor rebels, brawl.
Gone too, his Court: and yet,
The stars his courtiers are:
Stars in their stations set;
And every wandering star.
Alone he rides, alone,
The fair and fatal king:
Dark night is all his own,
That strange and solemn thing.
Which is more full of fate:
The stars, or those sad eyes?
Which are more still and great:
Those brows; or the dark skies?
Although his whole heart yearn
In passionate tragedy:
Never was face so stern
With sweet austerity.
Vanquished in life, his death
By beauty made amends:
The passing of his breath
Won his defeated ends.
Brief life, and hapless? Nay:
Through death, life grew sublime.
Speak after sentence? Yea:
And to the end of time.
Armoured he rides, his head
Bare to the stars of doom:
He triumphs now, the dead,
Beholding London's gloom.
Our wearier spirit faints,
Vexed in the world's employ:
His soul was of the saints;
And art to him was joy.
King, tried in fires of woe!
Men hunger for thy grace:
And through the night I go,
Loving thy mournful face.
Yet, when the city sleeps;
When all the cries are still:
The stars and heavenly deeps
Work out a perfect will.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
If this strikes some as unmanly, they have my sincerest apologies, but the charm of playing out a saga of three hundred and sixty degrees is hopelessly lost on me. As a Theist, I find myself hard pressed to say that I would not join the other camp if I felt that God's construction of the Great Tale had the shape of the self-devouring serpent. I say this simply as a matter of aesthetic principle. I enjoy the notion, however naive, that history improves upon itself, and is driven to do so from time to time by the jolts and goadings of the Numinous.
This said, I cannot go further to describe what form our final triumph will take, or even if the appearance will be of a kind as would now touch us as particularly becoming a triumph. There may be no laurels. I cannot say whether the consummation, when it comes, will have been driven more by the operations of politics or of religion, if its success will lie at the doorsteps of the Church or of the courts and capitol buildings. My only reason for hoping as I do is this, that when the testimony of mankind's failed endeavors to improve itself, either in its nature or its circumstance, stands in contradiction to the testimony of the nature of God, that willed that our first nature be pure, and our first circumstance be a paradise, we give little credit to ourselves to let the reproachments of the first drown out the appeals of the second.
I am a Humanist as well as, or even because, I am a Christian. If the Son of God was willing to become the Son of Man then there is a native dignity in mortal flesh. I also believe personality and its expressions to be blessings as great as grace. That God would endow us with these gifts, and then leave us no applications for them, save those whereby we sank ourselves irrecoverably in the pit, seems to me an odious notion. There are those fellow travellers who persist, often with noble motives, in pointing to the adage "Narrow is the way, and those that find it are few." To them I would say that history partakes of more than the present tense; "Are" is not "Ever shall be." I do not mean here to stage my argument on purely theological grounds, because the world's last triumph must resound with a richer timbre than the feeble cantus Ecclesiae seems capable of producing at the present moment, just as the full scope of its causes, I expect, were they revealed to any historian living today, would still exceed his talents of transcription; the heart of man from age to age remains in large measure the same, but the list of his material motivations and the political vocabulary with which he keeps their record are ever increasing. The list of our cardinal vices and virtues is the same now as it has been for two thousand years. The names political philosophers give them- Capitalism, Marxism, Industrialization, Globalization- appears to be without limit. To describe the interplay of these forces in the future lies beyond the powers of even the most prescient theorist. Its events would be, and must be too large to rise fully formed in his imagination before their day should come. Let them come as they will.
It is of course pompous to assign ourselves a seat at the center of these events I have suggested, and to hope too much after these things invites disappointment. We should know the place that moderation supplies to our expectations as well as our desires. We should feel both our greatness beside all created things and our insignificance next to the Creator. Our own place is a great and glorious one, but it may not be a vantage from which we can view the pinnacle of the human monument. Let that be enough. As Browning says in his "Andrea del Sarto,"
Surveying a while the heights I rolled from into the deep;
Which, hark, I have dared and done, for my resting place is found,
The C major of this life, so, now I will try to sleep.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Inhibition, as the speaker would have us believe, makes a man's soul small and his glands defective. It leaves him to be governed by values without, rather than within himself. The inhibited man is a suspicious citizen, but his suspicion is turned on himself rather than his neighbor. The two gentlemen act with no fear of one another aside from "What he might think if he saw me engaged in. . ." But this in no way stumbles either in their exchanges of politesse. Thus it is that inhibition bodes well for democracy. In fact, democracy is the only bedfellow inhibition, in its shivering chastity, is willing to keep, and democracy, ever considerate, must make plenty of room under the sheets. The repressed man must be made to feel "Self-actualized," and to this end requires outlets for that potentially baser energy which he has bottled up inside of him. The political left ingeniously offers this in the form of any number of popular causes that afford him both personal satisfaction and a purchased morality, while keeping him an affectionate ward and dutiful philistine.
Were I to write the history of inhibition, I should no doubt have to include some discussion of the Puritans, the adjectival form of whose name attends inhibition as crumpets attend tea. But I should be wise to go only this far: the Puritans did not introduce us to inhibition. They introduced us to representative government, and representative government, given a couple of centuries, did the rest. The Puritans were radicals and fomentors, two personality traits which, while completely intolerable to a civilized man, leave little room for repression. The best of them appear to have had guts and testicles in due proportion.
We must go further back. To recount the history of inhibition is to recount the history of Original Sin, for both begin at the same moment, with the eating of the apple. It was then that Adam and Eve saw that they were naked and knew Shame. Before this, thoughts of propriety and personal reservation were as alien to them as thoughts of evil. This is why it is foolish to blame hypocritical forms of repression on Christianity, or even more absurdly, on God Himself. Restriction in the Garden of Eden was nothing if not itself restricted. I would advise anyone who thinks the breadth of Adam and Eve's allowances too closely fenced to reflect on the fact that the first list of "Thou Shalt Nots" God ever imposed upon mankind began and ended with a bit of damned foliage. Let us pursue some other case study of despotism, shall we?
Many of the same people who read despotism into a single restriction have sought in themselves not a New Adam but the Original, sans the Original Sin. They have attempted to speak his language, but the sincere poetry of "Flesh of my Flesh, Bone of my Bone" can only sound cynically contrived in modern mouths. Language becomes less sincere the older it gets, which it in part makes up for with a wider and more varied vocabulary. It makes us capable of greater ironies, all of which have at the back of them a refined and middle class knowledge of Good and Evil, a knowledge which makes us not only sinners but gentlemen. So before we crush the serpent's head for the first we can thank him for the second.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to the thread,
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name;
It had become a glimmering girl,
With apple blossom in her hair,
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old from wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I shall find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands,
And walk among long dappled grass
And pluck till Time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
-William Butler Yeats-
Monday, June 2, 2008
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Monday, May 26, 2008
We say, "The other day I picked up a photography book by so-and-so, and there was one profile portrait that reminded me of. . ."
"Oh, so-and-so," the Primus Auditor break in. "Yes, I believe I remember them from an opening six months ago, maybe a year, I can't really remember. What did you think of the black and white nudes?"
But by the time he asks, even the thought of black and white nudes cannot reconcile you to an even temper. You can forget that you were interrupted; at parties of eight or more that sort of thing ceases to be a breach of chivalry. You are angry because he stole your subject line before you could effectively delve into your topic of choice. He might as well have sampled your dessert before you had a chance to do so.
Now the collective subconcious of the other listeners (if you are a man who finds himself being humiliated, these will most likely be female) is of course keeping track of the movements of conversation and who most forceably directs them. This commitee of umpires awards points for the introduction of subjects (anything north of moderately dull will suffice) and subtracts them for defensive responses to the other man (if you are a man, so will your opponent be), regardless of how sensible or clever these are. Always remember, if your audience is female, it matters less what you say than that you say it first.
If, as in the example above, the other man steals your point of discussion before you can share your opinions on it, you can always alter those opinions for tactical advantage, so that you look as though you belong to some Higher College of Illuminati and the other man looks like an ass.
If he says he saw so and so's work at an opening while you only saw it in a coffee table book, then turn this around on the bastard. Say something like, "Oh you did? I hope you didn't make a bid on anything, chief. He's so maudlin and foggy, after all. Might as well save yourself the money and buy an Ansel Adams knockoff down at the nearsest print shop." I promise you, the advantage will be in your favor, and the ball in his court. Be ready though, lest he recover himself.
To recover from the above verbal blitzkrieg is usually favored only to the Truly Confident Tool. That he is a Tool you had already decided, but that he has the footwork to dodge your fusilade you had not foreseen. Suppose he were to escalate the encounter from skirmish to frontal assault? "I can't believe you thought that. Obviously you didn't read the exclusive in New York Times Magazine/New Yorker/Men's Vogue. It's clear that his work doesn't have even the slightest hint of sentimentality in it. 'Deliberately confrontational' was what the reviewer's notice said." Check the article out if you like."
If the article was in Men's Vogue, and this metro not only read it, but admitted it in public, then he has dismembered himself better than you ever could have, unless you are the second coming of Jonathan Swift. Here I advise you to give a knowing half-smile to one of the ladies present, preferably one of the prettier ones, finish your whisky sour, say you're going to get another drink and vanish. On second thoughts, offer to get the lady another while you're away. Then when you leave, pat the other guy fraternally on the shoulder, as though none of this really mattered to you and it was all just another exchange between two gentlemen, neither looking to vantage himself above the other. If one shot himself in the foot by reading a magazine that smells like Rufus Wainwright's nightgown, then you have our sympathies, brother.
But let us be realistic. The article is probably not in Men's Vogue, or if it is, he will probably say it was Esquire. The point is not to panic, even if you haven't read the exlusive interview with an up and coming Soho portrait photographer, which, if you are a man at all, is most definitely the case.
So why not condescend to the jackass? Something like, "No, I'm not really up on any of that guff. Guess I'll just have to take your word for it. Which magazine was it again?" Whenever you get the chance, make him repeat things. It leaves him thinking that maybe his voice lacks amplitude or resolve, or both, or that what he's saying isn't important enough to register with you. Either way, you'll get to him. Once you play the, "Your opinion, or an opinion you bought at some dingy newstand isn't important enough for me to give a damn for" card, he'll either offer you more proofs to the contrary (i.e., more references to articles nobody cares about) or he'll leave you with the last word and go sulking off. Then you can get around to the girl, and the second whisky sour.
And remember, you heard it here first.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
We did not approve.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I longed, but had not hoped for her; my center was unstilled,
Till Fortune, quick to smite and smile, bestowed on me to win her,
The rain that showers the roots of me, the fount that keeps me filled.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Alongside Her in this female fellowship stand Justice, Truth and Beauty. The first of these is the most approachable, and the least likely to harbor any prejudice against appearances (blind girls are charming this way) The second is more elusive, and glimpses of Her are the matter of fleeting occasion. Her gender was even in question until less than two centuries ago, when Nietzsche, with redoubtable Germanic boldness began his "Beyond Good and Evil" with the words "Supposing Truth to be a Woman. . ." So much we now know. As for the last of these, any man who has doubts as to her sex ought to check to see if his glands are functioning properly.
These and others compose a loose panthion. The union cannot be a comfortable one, because the homage rendered to its single members has always been disproportionate. Men, insofar as they are matrimonial beings, will not take up house with Truth, because as I have said, she is evasive. Furthermore, she is unresponsive to compliments, which, if meant honestly, only present her with more of what she is.
Justice is a woman with her own career, and incapable of giving herself to one man. Were she to do so, tyranny, treasons, plots and innumerable malfeseances would ensue, and she would be forced to prostitute herself the world round to rectify the catastrophe.
Reason is the homeliest of these, and the least inclined to satisfy the needs of the whole man. She makes her home in the highest part of us, sadly the part where appetite grows least. In one of his more quoted moments, Euripides stated that "Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." They sunder them from Reason. The poet might have added to this that the mass of voracious and energetic men are normally happy with the divorce, and eager to enjoy the freedom of a lunatic bachelorhood.
The above provisions make clear why Paris made the choice he did in giving away the golden apple. Every man has some idea of Beauty which he has dressed in a particular face and body.
She is the one abstraction who has at some time distracted each of us, much to the disapproval of Her companions, and more pertinantly, to real and breathing women, carnate and critical. We make no apologies, and would bid them go and do likewise, were it possible. But it is not, for every Abstraction worth praise or poetry wears a female face.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
"The healthy stomach is nothing if not conservative; few radicals have good digestions."
". . .fishing I can only compare to a stick and a string, with a worm at one end and a fool at the other."
"I would rather see the portrait of a dog I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world."
"All censure of a man's self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare."
"That fellow seems to me to possess but one idea, and that is a wrong one."
"The virtue which requires to be ever gaurded is scarcely worth the sentinel."
"I hate the French because they are all slaves, and wear wooden shoes."
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Selections from Ovid’s Heroides in English Verse
Prof. Gary Williams
Penelope Ad Ulixes
Upon my bed I send this message forth:
Although no word of yours reach us, come back
In ashes lies; Old Priam is no more.
O would that wretched
Beneath the tossing waves, and I not left
To shiver on a cold and empty couch;
Nor had I grown embittered at long days,
Wherein I weave upon a tired loom.
Fears not so real as fancied plague my thoughts;
My love is harried with the stings of fright.
I picture you torn by the Trojan steel,
And ghost-pale turn when Hector’s name I hear.
When tales of death reach me of Antilochus,
Or of Menoetius’ son, slain bearing arms
Not his, I cry; for clever tricks could not
Save these. They told to me the awful tale
Of Tlepolemus, of his death, of how
He stained the Lydian spear with gushing blood;
Likewise I saw you, and my fears redoubled.
Whichever of the Graecian host happened
To fall, eyes darkening and throat sliced through,
My heart, for loving you so terribly
Would shiver as if frozen with cruel ice.
But then the god of maidens cheered my heart;
And you, I hope, come safe to port of rest.
The princes of this war to peaceful homes
Return, and incense from reverent altars burns
To heaven. The holy temples of the gods
Grow rich with spoils of sacked
Danaan wives heap thanks on thanks to god
For their unwounded husbands, and each man
Sings to his children tales of war, and shrifts
And shy maidens hear out his song in silence,
And his wife enraptured hangs on every word.
The warrior traces on the trenching-board
A map of
And with his finger, wet with unmixed wine
He scrawls the battlements of
Here Sigeum, here Simois lies;
Old Priam’s tower rises prominent.
Here strains Achilles on the battlefield,
With you beside, the while the frightened steeds
Weave a furrow with Hector’s trailing corpse.
I know this much, for to inquire I sent
Telemachus, and Nestor answered all,
Which news your son brought back to me in kind.
He told of Rhesus and of Dolon slain,
The one in sleep, the other by your guile.
I own you dared much in your deeds, but why
Must it befall that you neglect your own?
It was your courage led you in the camp
Of Thracian lords, in the slaughter of the same,
With but a single comrade at your side.
But were you careful first to think of me?
Until I heard of you victorious,
By Rhesus’ stolen horses carried back
In safety through the lines to Graecian tents,
My heart in terror leapt within my throat.
Of what is all this reaped glory worth,
While you, dear above all, are absent yet?
Perhaps for other ladies
It still stands in my thoughts and in my fears.
Her new inhabitant with captive oxen
Plows in the fields where his crops thrive, where once
From it half buried bones of fallen men
Are by the plow hooks here and there exhumed,
And on the ruined ramparts mosses grow.
You are far off in this your triumph, why
I do not know; what cruelty keeps you
In foreign lands? Whoever to this shore
His vessel steers, him I importune
With inquiries of you till he should go
His way. I give him letters writ to you, should
He chance upon you on the open sea.
When I had asked news from rich Neleus’ son,
No certain word of your fate came to me;
I sent to
What land is become your home, O husband mine,
And in whose bed do you take pleasant rest?
I would the Apollonian walls unbreached
Yet stood, alas, and all my foolish prayers
For victory had died within my mouth.
Then had I known where you partook of brawls,
The size and scope of the war, and what to fear.
My anguish, were this so, would be no worse
Than other wives’. But what I fret upon,
I know not; and tormented thus, I cringe
As from all evils. The brood expanse wherein
My fright and cares subsist admits of much.
I brood upon the dangers of the sea
And of the land, and which delays your journey.
But while I worry, foolish as I am,
I ask if it be by your own desire
You are detained. Is it not possible
That you grow wanton in your wanderings?
Perhaps you speak me for a rustic dame,
A lady unaccomplished at the loom.
Please, let me be mistaken, and this charge
Hold no more weight than does the passing breeze,
And that you do not linger by your will!
Icarius, my father, thinks it foolish
That I should wait upon a widow’s bed,
And bids me leave it. However he should scold,
Let it be known that I am yours; thy wife
Penelope shall ever be. They soften him,
My shows of precious faith, and then in turn
His harsh demands decrease in forcefulness.
Still worse, a throng of prowd and preening men
Hold sway in this your house sans courtesy.
Our very vitals, all your stored wealth
Are set upon and piecemeal eaten up.
I grieve to say how these- Antinoos,
Eurymachus and the barbaric Madon,
Polybus and Pisande, how with hands
Of greed they wax fat on those riches won
By your dear blood and your longsuffering.
Your bondsmen Irus and Melanthius
Lead in your flocks to feed the dining hall,
And shame on shame is added to your plight.
We three are helpless against this insolence,
A wife without a husband, an old man
And our young son, our own Telemachus.
The same was nearly lost to their device,
When he to Pylos sailed against their will.
I pray the gods shall grant that he survive
To close our eyes in death, when we are gone.
As matters stand, three servants yet remain
Faithful to us, your aged nurse, and two
That tend our herds. But your father Laertes
Is of the age as does not show great strength
With sword or spear- but let a braver age
Soon find our son Telemachus- let it come.
I would there was a man to sew his strength,
But there is none, not one, to rid our halls
Of these despicable rapacious men.
Come back to me, my haven and my home!
There is a son awaits you, that through his youth
Has grown in knowledge of our ancestral works;
Look to Laertes, that you may close his eyes;
They cannot long look open against fate.
And I, that was a girl when last we touched,
Shall withered be, unless you soon return.
Ariadne Ad Theseo
O thou less civil than the savage beasts,
Not one of these could have abused me so.
These words you read I send you from the shore
Of my abandonment, the very beach
Whence you were born away by rapid sails.
Confederate with you in my betrayal
Was treasonous sleep, whose dark persuasion
I had not any strength to strive against.
It was the season where the early frost
Coats lightly the cool ground, and hidden birds
Within their leafy enclosure stir with song;
I was but half awake and half asleep,
When languidly I turned upon my side
And reached my hand to clasp you close to me,
But nothing found. My empty hand drew back,
And I a second time reached out for you,
Searching our bed with both my frantic arms,
But of you it was empty. Fear like a blade
Tore through my peaceful rest. Afrighted I rose;
At once I struck my breast with heavy blows
And wildly tore my sleep-disheveled hair.
The moon came out; by its faint light I sought
Along the shores far as my eyes could see,
But the shore provided me no sign of you.
All order in my search fled as the wind,
While I ran hither and thither, reason gone,
My girl’s feet slipping in the deepened sand.
My cries of “Theseus” filled the wide shore,
Your name resounded in the hollow rocks.
Each time I cried to you, so did the place
Cry to itself, as though it felt my hurt,
And so called out that I be not alone.
There is a mountain on the isle, on whose peaks
Grows scattered foliage; from the mount’s face
There juts a cliffside carved by crashing waves;
My strength returning, I climbed up the rocks
Till I could see across the sea’s expanse;
Standing against the cold, uncivil winds
I saw your sails, far out at sea, filled with
The same. I told myself my eyes had lied,
But all was as I saw, and I grew cold.
I felt half of my spirit exit me.
My sorrow stayed with me many an hour,
And made my to cry out, and rouse my voice
To its loudest pitch: “Where are you, Theseus,
Whither do you fly in your evil haste?
Turn back! Retrace your way, your vessel lacks
One of her numbered souls!” Thus shouted I.
When my voice grew hoarse with wailing, I smote myself
To mix dark bruises in my argument.
Perhaps you could not hear, but must have seen
Me wave to you across that latitude
And hang my maiden’s veil upon a tree
That you oblivious, might remember me.
You did not see, and the horizon stole
You from my eyes, thereafter filled with tears.
Till then my eyes had been sealed by their pain.
In no other way could those lights serve me
Than to shed tears after your stolen sails.
I wandered lonely, my hair about my shoulders,
As though I were a maenad roused for revel;
Elsewise I sat upon the freezing rocks,
Myself as cold as any one of these,
And stared out over the unshining sea.
Sometimes I sit upon the couch that held us,
That shall no longer see us thus again.
I trace the outline of your body there
Where once the sheets were warm about your limbs.
Nought else of you remains. Then I recline
Upon the bed where my tears fall profuse
And it beseech, saying, “We pressed you as
A pair, render both back! Why did not two
Arise, when two together lay in love?
Where is my vanished half, O faithless bed?”
Where shall I take myself? What shall I do?
I see no man, no woman, and no beast.
This isle remote is vacant of all life,
Imprisoned by the broad surrounding sea,
In which no sail nor prow adventures near.
And did I find a company, a fleet
And favoring winds, where might I take myself?
I am an outcast from my father’s lands.
Although dame fortune blessed my every step
And Aeolus god of winds made calm the gales
Still I would exile be. O Crete, thou isle
Of a hundred cities, I cannot gaze on you
Again, O island blessed by youthful Jove,
And by my father governed- So dear, alas,
Was he whom I betrayed. But never victor
Would you have come from out the labyrinth
Without the string I gave you as a guide.
You said to me, “I swear to you, by these
Close perils that long as it be granted us
To live, so long am I yours, and you mine.”
Life yet remains to us, but you have left.
Within the barrow dug by your deceit
I bide. It had been better had you slain
Me with the club that killed my monstrous brother,
Whereby you were a free man, and I slain.
Of more than these my sufferings I make record,
Pains such as any so abandoned knows:
Death thousand-figured lingers in my thoughts;
To die means less a trial than delay.
In my imaginings, ferocious wolves
With their remorseless jaws feed on my flesh.
Or is the fearsome lion fostered here,
Or raging tiger native to these shores?
Are sea beasts cast up on this fearful strand?
Who can defend me from the fatal sword,
‘Gainst which my side has no protection?
But death is better than the heavy chain,
The captivity of the spinner’s toil;
Better for me, whose sire is King Minos,
My royal mother daughter to the Sun;
I, who was betrothed you in our mutual vow,
That stands a monument in memory.
I look over the lands, over the sea:
These elements threat me with many ills.
Yet would the sky remain to me, but it
Grows overcast with heaven’s vengeance.
I am one destitute, fit spoil and food
For starved creatures. Or should men arrive
And pitch tents at this place, them I would shun.
Well have I learned from you the fear of men
Unknown to me. I wish this had not passed:
I would my brother Androgeos drew breath,
That Cecrops’ sons had not payed for their sin
With children’s lives; nor that you, Theseus
Had stolen life away from the man-bull;
I would I had not given you the string
That led you back to me, the selfsame thread
That through your fingers glided, guiding you on.
It is no wonder to me that you won
The day, and left the Minotaur dead on
Cretan ground: his horns could not pierce through
A heart so hard. Even without a shield
You took no wound. Of adamantine stone
You were composed, you showed yourself harder
Than any flint. You, evil sleep, why do
You hold me here? I had fared better had
The weight of endless night crushed down on me.
You two as well, O wind and wicked breeze,
Rife in your eagerness to bring me tears!
And your right hand, twice barbarous to bring
Death to me and my brother; evil was
Thy vow, and all the words you offered me.
This and the wind and sleep conspired, three
Allied against me, one girl betrayed by all.
So shall I, near my death, not see the tears
Of her my mother, nor shall anyone’s
Compassionate fingers close my eyes in death?
Must my unhappy soul be sojourner
In far off lands, and shall no friendly hand
Lay sweet oils on me in my death?
Must my bones unburied lie to feed the birds?
Is this indecent grave all that I gain
By duties I have done you? You return,
You journey home, back unto Cecrops’ gate,
Met at your home with pomp and accolade,
Where you shall skillfully unwind the tale
Of the death of the Minotaur, slain by you
In dark and winding passages of stone.
When you speak of these glories, mention me,
By you abandoned on this desert isle.
This is no deed unworthy of your honor.
Your parents cannot be whom you have said,
King Aegeus and Pithean Aethra.
You are no son of theirs. The sea and rocks
Authored your bastardizing, be you sure!
O that the gods saw fit that you had seen me
While you sailed away, that this my sad figure
Had moved you in your will. Now look you forth,
Not with your eyes, but rather in your thoughts
Depict me clinging to this cliffside, where
Dark waters dash themselves. Look on my hair,
Loose flowing, as though I a widow were;
See these my garments, laden with my tears
As from a downpour; I shudder as if I
Were crops blown over by the northern wind.
These leaves I write you tremble with my hand.
I ask not what is owed me, because evil
Deeds already do forbid it. So count
Yourself under no debt for what I did.
But let not punishment for me continue more.
If I had been for you no cause of good
Even then it had been no equal justice
That you should be the author of such hurt.
My hands are tired from the many blows
They have inflicted on my punished flesh,
But still I stretch them to you across the sea,
And show the tragic remnant of my hair
And pray you through the tears wept for your crime:
Turn back your prow, O Theseus, reverse your course!
Though I should die before you come to me,
To you I trust my bones and burial.
- Mackail, J.D. Latin Literature.
. 1915. Scribners, New York
- Ulinowski, Carl. Thoughts on the Heroides of P. Ovidius Naso.
Press. 1972. Harvard University
- Waterleigh, V.S. Female Perspectives in Ovid.
Press. 1984. Universityof Nebraska
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Monday, May 5, 2008
God keep you, and blessings cover your head,
Is she not that perfection you first touched,
Whom you have tired, and turned tired of?
Are not her hands the hands that first you clutched,
Whose texture you first knew for that of Love?
She is enough to see you to your grave,
Whose dark hair gathers up the ash of years.
What was the prize bestowed upon the brave,
Sufficient beauty keeps to stay thy fears.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
These were the movie's only major faults. Other than that, I thought it was the sleekest script to pop out of this genre thus far, and that Downey Jr. and Paltrow both did some of their best work in years. And director John Favreau is smart enough to realize that even if he's playing an arch-villain, Jeff Bridges will never quite cease to be The Dude, and to abide as such.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
And nothing lavish, born and bred
With tablets at your foot and head,
And CULPA carven on the rock,
Sense with delight but not with ease
The fragrance of the quinine trees,
The kembang-spatu's lolling flame
With solemn envy kin to shame.
Ah, be content!-The scorpion's tail
Atones for much; without avail
Under the sizzling solar pan
Our sleeping servant pulls the fan.
Even in this island richly blest,
Where beauty walks with naked breast,
Earth is too harsh for Heaven to be
One little hour in jeopardy.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay-
Friday, April 18, 2008
"We have to guard against 'half-conceptions of wisdom, hysterical goodness, an impatient charity'- against the elementary state of the altruistic virtues. . ."
"A country of compromise goes to pieces at the first cannon shot."
"Much benevolence of the passive order may be traced to a disinclination to inflict pain upon oneself."
"We are connected with the original tendency of men to eat one another, by mounted stages, by linked ties; and at any instant to blink the fact or stop refining on the appetite is dangerous to civilization, as it is to the thrones of rulers when they forget that the world grows from molars."
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Monday, April 7, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
Down the blue night the unending columns press
In noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow,
Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow
Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness.
Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless,
And turn with profound gesture vague and slow,
As who would pray good for the world, but know
Their benediction empty as they bless.
They say the Dead lie not, but remain
Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth.
I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these,
And watch the moon, and the still-raging seas,
And men, coming and going on the earth.
All night the ways of Heaven were desolate,
Long roads across a gleaming empty sky.
Outcast and doomed and driven, you and I,
Alone serene beyond all love or hate,
Terror or triumph, were content to wait,
We silent and all-knowing. Suddenly
Swept through the heaven low-crouching from on high,
One horseman, downward to the earth's low gate.
Oh, perfect from the ultimate height of living,
Lightly we turned, through wet woods blossom hung,
Into the open. Down the supernal roads,
With plumes a-tossing, purple flags far flung,
Rank upon rank, unbridled, unforgiving,
Thundered the black battalions of the gods.
In your arms was still delight,
Quiet as a street at night;
And thoughts of you, I do remember,
Were green leaves of a darkened chamber,
Were dark clouds in a moonless sky.
Love, in you, went passing by,
Penetrative, remote, and rare,
Like a bird in the wide air,
And, as the bird, it left no trace
In the heaven of your face.
In your stupidity I found
The sweet hush after a sweet sound.
All about you was the light
That dims the greying end of night;
Desire was the unrisen sun,
Joy the day not yet begun,
With tree whispering to tree,
Without wind, quietly.
Wisdom slept within your hair,
And Long-Suffering was there,
And, in the flowing of your dress,
And when you thought, it seemed to me,
Infinitely, and like the sea,
About the slight world you had known
Your vast subconciousness was thrown.
O haven without wave or tide!
Silence, in which all songs have died!
Holy book, where hearts are still!
And home at length under the hill!
O mother quiet, breasts of peace,
Where love itself would faint and cease!
O infinite deep I never knew,
I would come back, come back to you,
Find you, as a pool unstirred,
Kneel down by you, and never a word,
Lay my head, and nothing said,
In your hands, ungarlanded.
And a long watch you should keep;
And I should sleep, and I should sleep!