Friday, February 12, 2016

Shakespeare's plays are not in the rigorous and critical sense either tragedies or comedies, but compositions of a distinct kind; exhibiting that real state of sublunary nature, which partakes of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mingled with endless variety of proportion and innumerable modes of combination; and expressing the course of the world, in which the loss of one is the gain of another; in which, at the same time, the reveler is hastening to his wine, and the mourner burying his friend.

--from Samuel Johnson, "Preface to Shakespeare" (1765)

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Longfellow's soul was not an ocean. It was a lake, clear, calm and cool. The great storms of the sea never reached it. And yet this lake had its depths. Buried cities lay under its surface. One saw the towers and domes through the quiet water; one even seemed to catch the sound of church-bells ringing like the bells of the city of Is. Transparent as this mind was, there were profundities of moral feeling beneath the forms through which it found expression, the fruits of an old tradition of Puritan culture, and, behind this culture, all that was noble in the Northern races. If Longfellow's poetic feeling had had the depth of his moral feeling, he would have been one of the major poets, instead of the "chief minor poet of the English language."

--from Van Wyck Brooks, The Flowering of New England, 1815-1865 (1940)

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Dawn Potter

To bring in the cows he hurtles over
stubble on his mountain bike, coat spread
open to the wind. Last bike he had
got trampled by a bull not happy with him
so close to the ladies. Bulls are that way.

His wife tells about the one that took off
after her, baby playing in the sandbox
right in the line of fire. No harm done.
The boys took care of him damn quick,
though she remembers how it felt to run.

--from Boy Land & Other Poems (2004)

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