Friday, November 28, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
The WoodspurgeDante Gabriel RossettiThe wind flapped loose, the wind was still,Shaken out dead from tree and hill:I had walked on at the wind's will,--I sat now, for the wind was still.Between my knees my forehead was,--My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!My hair was over in the grass,My naked ears heard the day pass,My eyes, wide open, had the runOf some ten weeds to fix upon;Among those few, out of the sun,The woodspurge flowered, three cups in one.From perfect grief there need not beWisdom or even memory:One thing then learnt remains to me,--The woodspurge has a cup of three.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
PeaceHenry Vaughan (1621?-1695)My soul, there is a countryFar beyond the stars,Where stands a winged sentryAll skillful in the wars;There, above noise and danger,Sweet peace sits crowned with smiles,And one born in a mangerCommands the beauteous files.He is thy gracious friendAnd (O my soul, awake!)Did in pure love descendTo die here for thy sake.If thou canst get but thither,There grows the flower of peace,The rose that cannot wither,Thy fortress, and thy ease,Leave then thy foolish ranges;For none can thee secure,But one that never changes,Thy God, thy life, thy cure.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
"Old men may eat tortoises freely, because having already lost the power of running they can take no harm from the flesh of the slow-footed creature."
"My wife having dressed herself in a silly dress of a blue petticoat uppermost, and a white satin waistcoat and white hood, though I think she did it because her gown is gone to the tailor's, did, together with my being hungry, which always makes me peevish, make me angry, but after dinner friends again."
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
from The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857)Elizabeth GaskellWhen a man becomes an author, it is probably merely a change of employment to him. He takes a portion of that time which has hitherto been devoted to some other study or pursuit; he gives up something of the legal or medical profession . . . or relinquishes part of the trade or business by which he has been striving to gain a livelihood; and another merchant or lawyer, or doctor, steps into his vacant place, and probably does as well as he. But no other can take up the quiet, regular duties of of the daughter, the wife, or the mother . . . : a woman's principal work in life is hardly left to her own choice; nor can she drop the domestic charges devolving on her as an individual, for the exercise of the most splendid talents that were ever bestowed. And yet she must not shrink from the extra responsibility implied by the very fact of her possessing such talents. She must not hide her gift in a napkin.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
from ShirleyIt is well that the true poet, quiet externally though he may be, has often a truculent spirit under his placidity, and is full of shrewdness in his meekness, and can measure the whole stature of those who look down on him, and correctly ascertain the weight and value of the pursuits they disdain him for not having followed. It is happy that he can have his own bliss, his own society with his great friend and goddess, Nature, quite independent of those who find little pleasure in him, and in whom he finds no pleasure at all. It is just, that while the world and circumstances often turn a dark, cold side to him--and properly, too, because he first turns a dark, cold, careless side to them--he should be able to maintain a festal brightness and cherishing glow in his bosom, which makes all bright and genial for him; while strangers, perhaps, deem his existence a Polar winter never gladdened by a sun. The true poet is not one whit to be pitied; and he is apt to laugh in his sleeve, when any misguided sympathizer whines over his wrongs. Even when utilitarians sit in judgment on him, and pronounce him and his art useless, he hears the sentence with such a hard derision, such a broad, deep, comprehensive, and merciless contempt of the unhappy Pharisees who pronounce it, that he is rather to be chidden than condoled with.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
from "Aube, fille des larmes, retablis"
Dawn, daughter of tears, reestablishThe room in its gray thing's peaceAnd the heart in its order.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
My essay on Jane Austen's Mansfield Park is just out in the current issue of the Sewanee Review, so I've been thumbing over what I wrote and wondering, once again, what other readers think of this novel. Do people even read it? Judging from the glut of Austen knockoffs in the Borders' fiction section, somebody is still reading Emma and Pride and Prejudice. But what about poor Fanny? It makes me sad to think that both she her novel might be so perpetually disliked and neglected.
from In Defense of Dullness, or Why Fanny Price Is My Favorite Austen Heroine
Yes, it’s true: I do love Fanny, “the quiet and in some ways uninteresting” protagonist of Mansfield Park, more than any of Jane Austen’s other heroines. But though I rush now to explain that the “uninteresting” tag is not Austen’s reduction but one lifted from my 1983 edition of The Cambridge Guide to English Literature (which does not appear to be especially fond of either Fanny or this novel), I can’t help but acknowledge a certain truth to the label. Fanny’s character is a study of the English Protestant good-girl ideal: sweet-tempered and duty-driven, morally and socially obedient; also shy, stammering, self-effacing; also doubtful, tender, awkward, and embarrassed—and anyone who has herself been marked as a good girl recognizes at least those last two descriptors as painfully accurate. Doesn’t every good girl suffer over the vision of herself as good? Just the recollection of myself in high school—earnestly long-haired and studious, boringly voted “Most Musical Girl,” and prone to having my English papers held up as models to classmates with better things to do than write essays on Puritan sermons—makes me wince. I wish I could run away from the memory of my good-girl self, even though every one of those embarrassing characteristics (except possibly for the hair) has been crucial to my life as a busy, engaged, and wondering adult.
But my future at forty made no dent in my present at seventeen. I was horribly conscious of my unfashionable clothes, my wretched volleyball skills, my prissy reputation. And this is also Fanny’s torment, time after time. She is “ashamed of herself,” perennially impaled on the thorn of her imperfections. . . .
Monday, November 10, 2008
from The Fourth Duino ElegyRainer Maria Rilke,trans. Stephen MitchellWho shows a child as he really is? Who sets himin his constellation and puts the measuring-rodof distance in his hand? Who makes his deathout of gray bread, which hardens--or leaves it thereinside his round mouth, jagged as the coreof a sweet apple? . . . . . . Murderers are easyto understand. But this: that one can containdeath, the whole of death, even beforelife has begun, can hold it to one's heartgently, and not refuse to go on living,is inexpressible.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The Sun RisingJohn DonneBusy old fool, unruly sun,Why dost thou thusThrough windows, and through curtains call on us?Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?Saucy pedantic wretch, go chideLate school boys, and sour prentices,Go tell court-huntsmen that the King will ride,Call country ants to harvest offices;Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.Thy beams, so reverend and strongWhy shouldst thou think?I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,But that I would not lose her sight so long:If her eyes have not blinded thine,Look, and tomorrow late, tell meWhether both the Indias of spice and mineBe where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.Ask for those Kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,And thou shalt hear: all here in one bed lay.She's all states, and all princes, I,Nothing else is.Princes do but play us; compared to this,All honor's mimic; all wealth alchemy.Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,In that the world's contracted thus;Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties beTo warm the world, that's done in warming us,Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
from the wundrfulness uv th mountees our secret policeBill Bissettthey opn our mail petulantlythey burn down barns they cantbug they listn to our politikulledrs phone conversashuns whatcud b less inspiring to ovrheerthey had me down on th floor tili turnd purpul thn my frendspulld them off me they thinkbrest feeding is disgusting evrytime we cum heer to raid ths placeyu always have that kid on yr tit
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I tucked a weary child into each coatpocket, wrapped the quietgarden neat as a shroudaround my lover's warm heart,cut the sun from its mooringsand hung it, burnished and fierce,over my shield arm--a ponderousweight to ferry so far across the waste--though long nights ahead, I'll blessits brave and crazy fire.