Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
The WindMilly JourdainThe wind blows wild across the gray river,Against those dusky walls, and through the trees,Along the level streets.With the same voice it blows across the sea,Across those grassy fields and shadowed vales,And down the grey village.And yet again when I am nearing sleep,I hear it softly blowing through the fieldsAnd waving grass of youth.DorsetMilly JourdainI know a place where winds blow over wideWet downs, and where the yellow sheepLike stars are crowded on a steep hill side;Where palest primroses shine down the laneAnd blue-bells follow after faintly sweet,And often all the land is blurred with rain;And when the little trees are cold and bare,The lambs do cry like children in the mist,And there's no other sound in the damp air.In the dark night, when I lie on my bedIn this old town of water and gray towers,The wandering sheep-bells tinkle in my head.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Prayer the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’ Almightie, sinners towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, Man well drest,
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bels beyond the starres heard, the souls bloud,
The land of spices; something understood.
“The Strange Elizabethans,” from The Second Common Reader
And if, in their hopes for the future and their sensitiveness to the opinion of older civilisations, the Elizabethans show much the same susceptibility that sometimes puzzles us among the younger countries today, the sense that broods over them of what is about to happen, of an undiscovered land on which they are about to set foot, is much like the excitement that science stirs in the minds of imaginative English writers of our own time. Yet . . . it has to be admitted that to read [Gabriel] Harvey’s pages methodically is almost beyond the limits of human patience. The words seem to run redhot, molten, hither and thither, until we cry out in anguish for the boon of some meaning to sent its stamp on them. He takes the same idea and repeats it over and over again:
In the sovereign workmanship of Nature herself, what garden of flowers without weeds? what orchard of trees without worms? what field of corn without cockle? what pond of fishes without frogs? what sky of light without darkness? what mirror of knowledge without ignorance? what man of earth without frailty? what commodity of the world without discommodity?
It is interminable. As we go round and round like a horse in a mill, we perceive that we are thus clogged with sound because we are reading what we should be hearing. The amplifications and the repetitions, the emphasis like that of a fist pounding the edge of a pulpit, are for the benefit of the slow and sensual ear which loves to dally over sense and luxuriate in sound—the ear which brings in, along with the spoken word, the look of the speaker and his gestures, which gives a dramatic value to what he says and adds to the crest of an extravagance some modulation which makes the word wing its way to the precise spot aimed at in the hearer’s heart.
Anonymous (earliest printed date 1787, but no doubt much older)
“O where hae ye been, Lord Randal, my son?
O where hae ye been, my handsome young man?”
“I hae been to the wild wood; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”
“Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man?”
“I din’d wi’ my true-love; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”
“What gat ye to your dinner, Lord Randal, my son?
What gat ye to your dinner, my handsome young man?”
“I gat eels boil’d in broo; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald lie down.”
“What became of your bloodhounds, Lord Randal, my son?”
What became of your bloodhounds, my handsome young man?”
“O they swell’d and they died; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m weary wi’ hunting, and fain wald like down.”
“O I fear ye are poison’d, Lord Randal, my son!
I fear ye are poison’d, my handsome young man!”
“O yes! I am poison’d; mother, make my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I fain wald lie down.”
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
from A Song of Joys(O something pernicious and dread!Something far away from a puny and pious life!Something unproved! something in a trance!Something escaped from anchorage and driving free.)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,Arrives the snow, and driving o'er the fields,Seems nowhere to alight: the whited airHides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven.
Cold Are the CrabsEdward LearCold are the crabs that crawl on yonder hills,Colder the cucumbers that grow beneath,And colder still the brazen chops that wreatheThe tedious gloom of philosophic pills!For when the tardy film of nectar fillsThe ample bowls of demons and of men,There lurks the feeble mouse, the homely hen,And there the porcupine with all her quills.Yet much remains--to weave a solemn strainThat lingering sadly--slowly dies away,Daily departing with departing day.A pea-green gamut on a distant plainWhen wily walruses in congress meet--Such such is life--
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Winter, from Love's Labour's LostWilliam ShakespeareWhen icicles hang by the wall,And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,And Tom bears logs into the hall,And milk comes frozen home in pail;When blood is nipped and ways be foul,Then nightly sings the staring owl,To-whit to-who, a merry note,While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.When all aloud the wind doth blow,And coughing drowns the parson's saw,And birds sit brooding in the snow,And Marion's nose looks red and raw;And roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,Then nightly sings the staring owl,To-whit to-who, a merry note,While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
When I think of it, the picture always arises in my mind of a summer evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I sitting on my bed, reading as if for life.--Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Monday, December 7, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
A Purple CrocusA purple crocus like a precious cupShining as silver in the cold grey light,Has pushed its way above the winter grass.Hidden, and waiting in it shadowed depthsUntil the sun shall touch the purple brim,There is a tender tongue of burning fire.Now the harsh wind has blown the flower down;Its eyes are closed, broken its milk-white stem;But here, inside my room, it lives again.
Friday, December 4, 2009
With a low, suppressed scream, Roger bounded to Hester's side.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
from The Children's BookTom was not only sunny, he was sunburned. Everywhere exposed to the sun had been painted a ruddy-tanned colour, with paler hairs gleaming on it. The V of his shirt-neck, the bracelet of colour-change on his upper arms, various zebra-gradations of gold on his calves and thighs.
A Seraph wing'd; six wings he wore, to shadeHis lineaments Divine; the pair that cladEach shoulder broad, came mantling o'er his breastWith regal Ornament; the middle pairGirt like a Starry Zone his waist, and roundSkirted his loins and thighs with downy GoldAnd colors dipt in Heav'n; the third his feet. . . .[etc., etc., and it does go on for a while]
from Olive KitteridgeAngie, in her youth, had been a lovely woman to look at, with her wavy red hair and perfect skin, and in many ways this was still the case. But now she was into her fifties, and her hair, pinned back loosely with combs, was dyed a color you might consider just a little too red, and her figure, while still graceful, had a thickening of its middle, the more noticeable, perhaps, because she was otherwise quite thin.
from Rabbit Is RichHarry realizes why Nelson's short haircut troubles him: it reminds him of how the boy looked back in grade school, before all that late Sixties business soured everything. He didn't know how short he was going to be then, and wanted to become a baseball pitcher like Jim Bunning, and wore a cap all summer that pressed his hair in even tighter to his skull, that bony freckled unsmiling face. Now his necktie and suit seem like that baseball cap to be the costume of doomed hopes.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
from Byatt's The Children's BookTom was not only sunny, he was sunburned. Everywhere exposed to the sun had been painted a ruddy-tanned colour, with paler hairs gleaming on it. The V of his shirt-neck, the bracelet of colour-change on his upper arms, various zebra-gradations of gold on his calves and thighs.from Strout's Olive KitteridgeAngie, in her youth, had been a lovely woman to look at, with her wavy red hair and perfect skin, and in many ways this was still the case. But now she was into her fifties, and her hair, pinned back loosely with combs, was dyed a color you might consider just a little too red, and her figure, while still graceful, had a thickening of its middle, the more noticeable, perhaps, because she was otherwise quite thin.from Updike's Rabbit Is RichHarry realizes why Nelson's short haircut troubles him: it reminds him of how the boy looked back in grade school, before all that late Sixties business soured everything. He didn't know how short he was going to be then, and wanted to become a baseball pitcher like Jim Bunning, and wore a cap all summer that pressed his hair in even tighter to his skull, that bony freckled unsmiling face. Now his necktie and suit seem like that baseball cap to be the costume of doomed hopes.
Monday, November 30, 2009
from The Vagabond's Bookshelf: A Memoir of Rereading [a temporary title; do you hate it?]Dawn PotterMy kind may exist only in books. At least, books are the only place where we seem to meet. We are more than merely readers; we are obsessive readers. And we go further yet: we are obsessive rereaders--not because we are scholars or teachers but because the book itself has become necessary to us, like a cigarette habit.
And like a cigarette habit, our obsession with certain books can be a public sign that some aspect of life has slipped from our control. We are in the clutch of books and, at moments of stress or need, we behave badly about them. Rising from the page, my fellows speak to me ruefully about their adoration; like me, they are the first to wince at their own behavior. Coleridge, for instance, recalling his early passion for a handful of books, allows his small self no quarter.
My father was very fond of me, and I was my mother’s darling: in consequence I was very miserable. . . . So I became fretful and timorous, and a tell-tale; and . . . read incessantly. My father’s sister kept an everything shop at Crediton, and there I read through all the gilt-covered little books that could be had at that time, and likewise all the uncovered tales of Tom Hickathrift, Jack the Giant-killer, etc., etc., etc., etc. And I used to lie by the wall and mope, and my spirits used to come upon me suddenly; and in a flood of them I was accustomed to race up and down the churchyard, and act over all I had been reading, on the docks, the nettles, and the rank grass. At six years old I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarles; and then I found the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was mending stockings), that I was haunted by specters, whenever I was in the dark: and I distinctly remember the anxious and fearful eagerness with which I used to watch the window in which the books lay, and whenever the sun lay upon them, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask and read. My father found out the effect which these books had produced, and burnt them. [letter to Thomas Poole, October 9, 1797]
Such loving, hopeful parents! Confronted by an incorrigible rereader, what else could they have done? I say this with only slight irony. Even I, an obsessive reader myself, am constantly frustrated by the readers around me. When I ask my twelve-year-old son to help me rake leaves, and he, in response, glances up from his book, smiles sweetly, and tells me, “But Mom, I’m yearning for knowledge,” I feel that pricking, eye-narrowing frustration that must have eventually driven Coleridge’s father to hurl his son’s fairy stories into the fire. Parents dream of raising strong, lithe children who hit home runs and race across green meadows, not pallid hunchbacks coiled speechlessly over a page. The image of little blacking-factory Dickens huddled in an unheated garret and poring over Roderick Random is not charming. It’s pathetic. And if we can barely stand to recall ourselves as pathetic, how can we wish it for our children?
Sunday, November 29, 2009
from "The Common Reader"Virginia WoolfHasty, inaccurate, and superficial, snatching now at this poem, now that scrap of old furniture, without caring where he finds it or of what nature it may be so long as it serves his purpose and rounds out his structure, his deficiencies as a critic are too obvious to be pointed out; but if he has, as Dr. Johnson maintained, some say in the final distribution of poetic honours, then, perhaps, it may be worth while to write down a few of the ideas and opinions which, insignificant in themselves, yet contribute to so mighty a result.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
All the long day, rain
down the blurred glass.
gardens succumb to forest,
half-ripe tomatoes cling
hopelessly to yellow vines,
cabbages crumple and split,
but who cares?
Let summer vanish,
let the tired year
shrink to the width
of a cow path,
soppy hens straggle
in their narrow yard,
and every last leaf
on the maples redden,
shrivel, and die.
Nothing needs me,
today, but you,
cupping the bones
of my skull. Alas,
poor Yorick, picked clean
as an egg.
How rich we grow,
bright sinew and blood,
my eyes open, yours
[forthcoming in How the Crimes Happened (CavanKerry Press, 2010)].
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
* A brace of chickens, casserole-roasted with my own garlic, parsley, and rosemary. The chickens are unfortunately from Vermont, but they are organically raised and I did buy them through our coop. I do have chickens of my own in the freezer, but they aren't meat birds per se, so they don't have much breast meat, which is what my mother prefers.* Brussels sprouts, picked today from my garden: a joyful feeling.* Yorkshire pudding, made with local milk and our own eggs.* Cranberry relish, with local cranberries and apples.* Baby greens from the greenhouse.* Oatmeal rolls, brushed with egg and olive oil.* Apple-ginger-lime pie, with local apples.* Homemade eggnog for the boys, also with local milk and our eggs.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tonight's meal: sorrel soup with sorrel from the garden, buckwheat baguettes and sourdough boules from the batches I've been baking all week, baby lettuce salad from the greenhouse. Dessert will probably be my mother's concord grape pie.
from Tracing Paradise, chapter 11: "Killing Ruthie"The artistic imagination--in this case, the simultaneous ability to experience grief and aesthetically reconfigure it--is both a marvelous distraction and a guilty torment, and one of Milton's great triumphs in his delineation of Satan is the way in which he guides the reader through the Fiend's coiling artistic intellect. In the final moments before Satan, in serpent guise, accosts Eve and cajoles her into betraying God's word and eating from the Tree of Knowledge, he meditates on his mind's vivid powers, the way in which his intellect detaches itself from the event and examines it clinically, aesthetically, with a ruthless clarity.
Thoughts, whither have ye led me, with what sweetCompulsion thus transported to forgetWhat hither brought us. . . .
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
"Best wishes from a treacherously windy Old England."
"The things I do because I live in a town and have children."
"P.S. I'm now thinking of getting a t-shirt made: 'Blame Fyodor [Dostoevsky].'"
"Getting ready to dye pasta for a preschool teaching project. (Yes, I'm sure the Native Americans used rigatoni for wampum.)"
"Many are called but few are chosen. So maybe we all want to be like the Clash--but few of us are really like the Clash."