Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Bright Star" by John Keats

Bright Star
by John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

"Bright Star" Trailer

Ode: Definition

Poetic Form: Ode

"Ode" comes from the Greek aeidein, meaning to sing or chant, and belongs to the long and varied tradition of lyric poetry. Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalized as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present.

"To Autumn" by John Keats

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats

Ode on a Grecian Urn
by John Keats

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? what maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

"To Autumn" by John Keats

To Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats Bio

John Keats

English Romantic poet John Keats was born on October 31, 1795, in London. The oldest of four children, he lost both his parents at a young age. His father, a livery-stable keeper, died when Keats was eight; his mother died of tuberculosis six years later. After his mother's death, Keats's maternal grandmother appointed two London merchants, Richard Abbey and John Rowland Sandell, as guardians. Abbey, a prosperous tea broker, assumed the bulk of this responsibility, while Sandell played only a minor role. When Keats was fifteen, Abbey withdrew him from the Clarke School, Enfield, to apprentice with an apothecary-surgeon and study medicine in a London hospital. In 1816 Keats became a licensed apothecary, but he never practiced his profession, deciding instead to write poetry.

"A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore..."--"Bright Star"

Around this time, Keats met Leigh Hunt, an influential editor of the Examiner, who published his sonnets "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" and "O Solitude." Hunt also introduced Keats to a circle of literary men, including the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. The group's influence enabled Keats to see his first volume, Poems by John Keats, published in 1817. Shelley, who was fond of Keats, had advised him to develop a more substantial body of work before publishing it. Keats, who was not as fond of Shelley, did not follow his advice.

Keats spent the summer of 1818 on a walking tour in Northern England and Scotland, returning home to care for his brother, Tom, who suffered from tuberculosis. While nursing his brother, Keats met and fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne. Writing some of his finest poetry between 1818 and 1819, Keats mainly worked on "Hyperion," a Miltonic blank-verse epic of the Greek creation myth. He stopped writing "Hyperion" upon the death of his brother, after completing only a small portion, but in late 1819 he returned to the piece and rewrote it as "The Fall of Hyperion" (unpublished until 1856). That same autumn Keats contracted tuberculosis, and by the following February he felt that death was already upon him, referring to the present as his "posthumous existence."

In July 1820, he published his third and best volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. The three title poems, dealing with mythical and legendary themes of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times, are rich in imagery and phrasing. The volume also contains the unfinished "Hyperion," and three poems considered among the finest in the English language, "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," and "Ode to a Nightingale." The book received enthusiastic praise from Hunt, Shelley, Charles Lamb, and others, and in August, Frances Jeffrey, influential editor of the Edinburgh Review, wrote a review praising both the new book and Endymion.

The fragment "Hyperion" was considered by Keats's contemporaries to be his greatest achievement, but by that time he had reached an advanced stage of his disease and was too ill to be encouraged. He continued a correspondence with Fanny Brawne and—when he could no longer bear to write to her directly—her mother, but his failing health and his literary ambitions prevented their getting married. Under his doctor's orders to seek a warm climate for the winter, Keats went to Rome with his friend, the painter Joseph Severn. He died there on February 23, 1821, at the age of twenty-five, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Lyrical Ballads" for sale


Lyrical Ballads

The Poet "considers man and nature as essentially adapted to each other, and the mind of man as naturally the mirror of the fairest and most interesting properties of nature."
"I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind."

FIRST COMPLETE EDITION (comprising the second edition of the first volume, and the first edition, first issue of the second volume). The preferred edition, for the second edition of the first volume contains the first printing of Wordsworth's famous Preface, "the revolutionary manifesto of the romantic poets of the next generation" and perhaps the most influential work of literary theory in the English language (Printing and the Mind of Man 256).

"To the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, published jointly with Coleridge in 1798, Wordsworth prefixed an 'Advertisement' which asserted that the major number of the poems were 'to be considered as experiments' to determine 'how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure.' In the second, two-volume edition of 1800, Wordsworth... expanded the Advertisement into a Preface which justified the new poetry not as experiments, but as exemplifying the principles of all good poetry... The Preface deserves its reputation as a revolutionary manifesto about the nature of poetry... [It serves] not only as a turning point in English criticism but also as a central document in modern culture" (Norton Anthology of English Literature).

In addition to the first appearance of the Preface, the second edition contains all the poems in the first edition plus one additional poem in the first volume, and the first printing of the forty-one new poems in the second volume. The poems in Lyrical Ballads proved to be extraordinarily influential, for "no other book of poems in English so plainly announces a new literary departure" (Norton). Lyrical Ballads includes some of the most famous poems in the English language: in the the first volume appears Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", "The Foster-Mother's Tale", "The Nightingale", "The Dungeon", and Wordsworth's "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey", "The Thorn", "The Idiot Boy", "Simon Lee, the Old Huntsman", and "Lines written in early spring"; the second volume added many of Wordsworth's most characteristic works such as the "Lucy Poems", "The Old Cumberland Beggar", "Michael, a Pastoral", and others.

London: T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1800. Small octavo, contemporary full calf with original red and green morocco labels. Two volumes. Housed in custom half-leather box. Evidence of bookplates removed on pastedowns. Light spotting to five leaves in volume two, otherwise text exceptionally clean; a few skillful repairs to bindings, minor surface imperfection (noticeable only up-close, at an angle) to board of volume II. A rare copy in handsome contemporary calf of one of the most important books in English literature.


Biography of William Wordsworth (1770—1850)

British poet, credited with ushering in the English Romantic Movement with the publication of Lyrical Ballads(1798) in collaboration with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

William Wordsworth was born on April 17, 1770 in Cumberland, in the Lake District. His father was John Wordsworth, Sir James Lowther's attorney. The magnificent landscape deeply affected Wordsworth's imagination and gave him a love of nature. He lost his mother when he was eight and five years later his father. The domestic problems separated Wordsworth from his beloved and neurotic sister Dorothy, who was a very important person in his life.

With the help of his two uncles, Wordsworth entered a local school and continued his studies at Cambridge University. Wordsworth made his debut as a writer in 1787, when he published a sonnet in The European Magazine . In that same year he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, from where he took his B.A. in 1791.

During a summer vacation in 1790 Wordsworth went on a walking tour through revolutionary France and also traveled in Switzerland.

In 1795 he met Coleridge. Wordsworth's financial situation became better in 1795 when he received a legacy and was able to settle at Racedown, Dorset, with his sister Dorothy. Encouraged by Coleridge and stimulated by the close contact with nature, Wordsworth composed his first masterwork, Lyrical Ballads, which opened with Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner." About 1798 he started to write a large and philosophical autobiographical poem, completed in 1805, and published posthumously in 1850 under the title The Prelude.

Wordsworth spent the winter of 1798-99 with his sister and Coleridge in Germany, where he wrote several poems, including the enigmatic 'Lucy' poems. After return he moved Dove Cottage, Grasmere, and in 1802 married Mary Hutchinson. They cared for Wordsworth's sister Dorothy for the last 20 years of her life.

Wordsworth's second verse collection, Poems, In Two Volumes, appeared in 1807. Wordsworth's central works were produced between 1797 and 1808. His poems written during middle and late years have not gained similar critical approval. Wordsworth's Grasmere period ended in 1813. He was appointed official distributor of stamps for Westmoreland. He moved to Rydal Mount, Ambleside, where he spent the rest of his life. In later life Wordsworth abandoned his radical ideas and became a patriotic, conservative public man.

In 1843 he succeeded Robert Southey (1774-1843) as England's poet laureate. Wordsworth died on April 23, 1850.

"THE TABLES TURNED" by Wordsworth


UP! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet, 10
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness. 20

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves; 30
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.



"WHY, William, on that old grey stone,
Thus for the length of half a day,
Why, William, sit you thus alone,
And dream your time away?

"Where are your books?--that light bequeathed
To Beings else forlorn and blind!
Up! up! and drink the spirit breathed
From dead men to their kind.

"You look round on your Mother Earth,
As if she for no purpose bore you; 10
As if you were her first-born birth,
And none had lived before you!"

One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
When life was sweet, I knew not why,
To me my good friend Matthew spake,
And thus I made reply:

"The eye--it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where'er they be,
Against or with our will. 20

"Nor less I deem that there are Powers
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours
In a wise passiveness.

"Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum
Of things for ever speaking,
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?

"--Then ask not wherefore, here, alone,
Conversing as I may, 30
I sit upon this old grey stone,
And dream my time away,"



A SLUMBER did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.



I HEARD a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; 10
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:--
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there. 20

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?


A villanelle is a poetic form which entered English-language poetry in the 1800s from the imitation of French models. The word derives from the Italian villanella from Latin villanus (rustic). A villanelle has only two rhyme sounds. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the third line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is nineteen lines long, consisting of five tercets and one concluding quatrain. In music, it is a dance form, accompanied by sung lyrics or an instrumental piece based on this dance form.

"In my craft or sullen art" by Dylan Thomas

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art

Dylan Thomas reading "Do Not Go..."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dylan Thomas Bio

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Marlais Thomas was born on October 27, 1914, in South Wales at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea. His father was an English Literature professor at the local grammar school and would often recite Shakespeare to Thomas before he could read. He loved the sounds of nursery rhymes, foreshadowing his love for the rhythmic ballads of Hopkins, Yeats, and Poe. Although both of his parents spoke fluent Welsh, Thomas and his older sister never learned the language, and Thomas wrote exclusively in English.

Thomas was a neurotic, sickly child who shied away from school and preferred reading on his own. He read all of D. H. Lawrence's poetry, impressed by vivid descriptions of the natural world. Fascinated by language, he excelled in English and reading but neglected other subjects. He dropped out of school at sixteen to become a junior reporter for the South Wales Daily Post.

By December of 1932, he left his job at the Post and decided to concentrate on his poetry full time. It was during this time, in his late teens, that Thomas wrote more than half of his collected poems.

In 1934, when Thomas was twenty, he moved to London, won the Poet's Corner book prize, and published his first book, 18 Poems, to great acclaim. The book drew from a collection of poetry notebooks that Thomas had written years earlier, as would many of his most popular books. During this period of success, Thomas also began a habit of alcohol abuse.

Unlike his contemporaries, T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden, Thomas was not concerned with exhibiting themes of social and intellectual issues, and his writing, with its intense lyricism and highly charged emotion, has more in common with the Romantic tradition.

Thomas describes his technique in a letter: "I make one image—though 'make' is not the right word; I let, perhaps, an image be 'made' emotionally in me and then apply to it what intellectual & critical forces I possess—let it breed another, let that image contradict the first, make, of the third image bred out of the other two together, a fourth contradictory image, and let them all, within my imposed formal limits, conflict."

In January 1950, at the age of thirty-five, Thomas visited America for the first time. His reading tours of the United States, which did much to popularize the poetry reading as a new medium for the art, are famous and notorious, for Thomas was the archetypal Romantic poet of the popular American imagination: he was flamboyantly theatrical, a heavy drinker, engaged in roaring disputes in public, and read his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling and a singing Welsh lilt.

Thomas toured America four times, with his last public engagement taking place at the City College of New York. A few days later, he collapsed in the Chelsea Hotel after a long drinking bout at the White House Tavern. On November 9, 1953, he died at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City at the age of 39. He had become a legendary figure, both for his work and the boisterousness of his life. He was buried in Laugharne, and almost 30 years later, a plaque to Dylan was unveiled in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey.


"Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


When Karl Shapiro was named editor in 1950, he was thirty-seven years old and already a celebrity—a war veteran, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his volume of war poems, and a former Consultant to the Library of Congress (forerunner to today's poet laureate position). One of Shapiro's first editorial decisions was to eliminate the motto from Walt Whitman that had appeared on every issue: "To have great poets, there must be great audiences too." Perhaps he wanted to update Poetry's image, which had become a little lackluster, or perhaps he was responding to this comment made by Eliot in a letter: " Poetry remains obstinately the same in appearance as in the days when it printed 'Prufrock.' (I have sometimes hoped to see a different quotation, whether from Whitman or somebody else, on the back of it; but even this conservatism is expressive of tenacity.)"

Shapiro's interest in translation ensured that several interesting special issues came out—on Greek and post-war French poetry, for example—as well as long sections devoted to poets such as Juan Ramon Jiménez several years before he received the Nobel Prize. Like editors before and after him, though, Shapiro finally tired of the many demands upon his attention and left after five years.

"Auto Wreck" by Karl Shapiro (1945)


Its quick soft silver bell beating, beating
And down the dark one ruby flare
Pulsing out red light like an artery,
The ambulance at top speed floating down
Past beacons and illuminated clocks
Wings in a heavy curve, dips down,
And brakes speed, entering the crowd.
The doors leap open, emptying light;
Stretchers are laid out, the mangled lifted
And stowed into the little hospital.
Then the bell, breaking the hush, tolls once,
And the ambulance with its terrible cargo
Rocking, slightly rocking, moves away,
As the doors, an afterthought, are closed.

We are deranged, walking among the cops
Who sweep glass and are large and composed.
One is still making notes under the light.
One with a bucket douches ponds of blood
Into the street and gutter.
One hangs lanterns on the wrecks that cling,
Empty husks of locusts, to iron poles.
Our throats were tight as tourniquets,
Our feet were bound with splints, but now,
Like convalescents intimate and gauche,
We speak through sickly smiles and warn
With the stubborn saw of common sense,
The grim joke and the banal resolution.

The traffic moves around with care,
But we remain, touching a wound
That opens to our richest horror.
Already old, the question, Who shall die?
Becomes unspoken, Who is innocent?
For death in war is done by hands;
Suicide has cause and stillbirth, logic;
And cancer, simple as a flower, blooms.
But this invites the occult mind,
Cancels our physics with a sneer,
And spatters all we know of dénouement
Across the expedient and wicked stones.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER" by W. B. Yeats (1921)


ONCE more the storm is howling, and half hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on. There is no obstacle
But Gregory's wood and one bare hill
Whereby the haystack- and roof-levelling wind.
Bred on the Atlantic, can be stayed;
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,
And-under the arches of the bridge, and scream
In the elms above the flooded stream;
Imagining in excited reverie
That the future years had come,
Dancing to a frenzied drum,
Out of the murderous innocence of the sea.

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-legged smith for man.
It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of plenty is undone.

In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty's very self, has charm made wise.
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there's no hatred in a mind
Assault and battery of the wind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.

An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of plenty's horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?

Considering that, all hatred driven hence,
The soul recovers radical innocence
And learns at last that it is self-delighting,
Self-appeasing, self-affrighting,
And that its own sweet will is Heaven's will;
She can, though every face should scowl
And every windy quarter howl
Or every bellows burst, be happy still.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"SAILING TO BYZANTIUM" by W. B. Yeats (1928)


THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
-- Those dying generations -- at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out Of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

"The Scribes" by Seamus Heaney

The Scribes

I never warmed to them.
If they were excellent they were petulant
and jaggy as the holly tree
they rendered down for ink.
And if I never belonged among them,
they could never deny me my place.

In the hush of the scriptorium
a black pearl kept gathering in them
like the old dry glut inside their quills.
In the margin of the text of praise
they scratched and clawed.
They snarled if the day was dark
or too much chalk had made their vellum bland
or too little left it oily.

Under the rumps of lettering
they herded myopic angers.
Resentment seeded in the uncurling
fernheads of their capitals.

Now and again I started up
miles away and saw in my absence
the sloped cursive of each back and felt them
perfect themselves against me page by page.

Let them remember this not inconsiderable
contribution to their jealous art.

copyright 1998 by Seamus Heaney

William Butler Yeats Bio

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1923 Biography

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was born in Dublin. His father was a lawyer and a well-known portrait painter. Yeats was educated in London and in Dublin, but he spent his summers in the west of Ireland in the family's summer house at Connaught. The young Yeats was very much part of the fin de siècle in London; at the same time he was active in societies that attempted an Irish literary revival. His first volume of verse appeared in 1887, but in his earlier period his dramatic production outweighed his poetry both in bulk and in import. Together with Lady Gregory he founded the Irish Theatre, which was to become the Abbey Theatre, and served as its chief playwright until the movement was joined by John Synge. His plays usually treat Irish legends; they also reflect his fascination with mysticism and spiritualism. The Countess Cathleen (1892), The Land of Heart's Desire (1894), Cathleen ni Houlihan (1902), The King's Threshold (1904), and Deirdre (1907) are among the best known.

After 1910, Yeats's dramatic art took a sharp turn toward a highly poetical, static, and esoteric style. His later plays were written for small audiences; they experiment with masks, dance, and music, and were profoundly influenced by the Japanese Noh plays. Although a convinced patriot, Yeats deplored the hatred and the bigotry of the Nationalist movement, and his poetry is full of moving protests against it. He was appointed to the Irish Senate in 1922. Yeats is one of the few writers whose greatest works were written after the award of the Nobel Prize. Whereas he received the Prize chiefly for his dramatic works, his significance today rests on his lyric achievement. His poetry, especially the volumes The Wild Swans at Coole (1919), Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933), and Last Poems and Plays (1940), made him one of the outstanding and most influential twentieth-century poets writing in English. His recurrent themes are the contrast of art and life, masks, cyclical theories of life (the symbol of the winding stairs), and the ideal of beauty and ceremony contrasting with the hubbub of modern life.

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Coole Park,Co. Galway, Ireland

Leaving the Oyster Festival at Clarenbridge I was delighted to return to a place which has a cherished position in Irish Culture, Coole Park,Co. Galway, the seat of the remarkable Augusta Gregory handmaiden of the Irish Literary Revival, Founder of the Abbey Theatre and muse to the poet William Butler Yeats who wrote five poems about or set in the house and grounds: "The Wild Swans at Coole", "I walked among the seven woods of Coole", "In the Seven Woods", "Coole Park, 1929" and "Coole Park and Ballylee, 1931". Disgracefully in 1941 Coole House, then in the ownership of the Irish State, was demolished on “economic grounds” in an act of wanton philistinism. Happily hindsight today has not tried to defend this act and as well as the magical Coole Lake where the “Wild Swans” congregate each autumn the “Seven Woods” interspersed with turloughs (seasonal Karst lakes) lend the grounds an appropriate mythical quality.

Coole Park outside Gort in County Galway was the home of Lady Augusta Gregory, dramatist and co-founder with Edward Martyn and W.B. Years of the Abbey Theatre. The area is also a National Nature Reserve due to its great wildlife importance - its native woodlands and turloughs. The visitor centre uses multimedia presentations, models, exhibitions and audio visual to inform the visitor of both the natural and literary heritage of the area.


"The Wild Swans at Coole" (1919)

The Wild Swans at Coole

by W. B. Yeats

THE TREES are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones 5
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount 10
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight, 15
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold, 20
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water 25
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away? 30

The Scholars, by W. B Yeats (1865–1939)

The Scholars

BALD heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair 5
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.

They’ll cough in the ink to the world’s end;
Wear out the carpet with their shoes
Earning respect; have no strange friend;
If they have sinned nobody knows. 10
Lord, what would they say
Should their Catullus walk that way?

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Harrahing in Harvest" by Hopkins

Hurrahing in Harvest

SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes, 5
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!— 10
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

Hopkins Biography

Gerard Hopkins was born July 28, 1844, to Manley and Catherine (Smith) Hopkins, the first of their nine children. His parents were High Church Anglicans (variously described as "earnest" and "moderate"), and his father, a marine insurance adjuster, had just published a volume of poetry the year before.

At grammar school in Highgate (1854-63), he won the poetry prize for "The Escorial" and a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford (1863-67), where his tutors included Walter Pater and Benjamin Jowett. At one time he wanted to be a painter-poet like D. G. Rossetti (two of his brothers became professional painters), and he was strongly influenced by the aesthetic theories of Pater and John Ruskin and by the poetry of the devout Anglicans George Herbert and Christina Rossetti. Even more insistent, however, was his search for a religion which could speak with true authority; at Oxford, he came under the influence of John Henry Newman. (See Tractarianism.) Newman, who had converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1845, provided him with the example he was seeking, and in 1866 he was received by Newman into the Catholic Church. In 1867 he won First-Class degrees in Classics and "Greats" (a rare "double-first") and was considered by Jowett to be the star of Balliol.

The following year he entered the Society of Jesus; and feeling that the practice of poetry was too individualistic and self-indulgent for a Jesuit priest committed to the deliberate sacrifice of personal ambition, he burned his early poems. Not until he studied the writings of Duns Scotus in 1872 did he decide that his poetry might not necessarily conflict with Jesuit principles. Scotus (1265-1308), a medieval Catholic thinker, argued (contrary to the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas) that individual and particular objects in this world were the only things that man could know directly, and then only through the haecceitas ("thisness") of each object. With his independently-arrived at idea of "inscape" thus bolstered, Hopkins began writing again.

In 1874, studying theology in North Wales, he learned Welsh, and was later to adapt the rhythms of Welsh poetry to his own verse, inventing what he called " sprung rhythm." The event that startled him into speech was the sinking of the Deutschland, whose passengers included five Catholic nuns exiled from Germany. The Wreck of the Deutschland is a tour de force containing most of the devices he had been working out in theory for the past few years, but was too radical in style to be printed.

From his ordination as a priest in 1877 until 1879, Hopkins served not too successfully as preacher or assistant to the parish priest in Sheffield, Oxford, and London; during the next three years he found stimulating but exhausting work as parish priest in the slums of three manufacturing cities, Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Late in 1881 he began ten months of spiritual study in London, and then for three years taught Latin and Greek at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire. His appointment in 1884 as Professor of Greek and Latin at University College, Dublin, which might be expected to be his happiest work, instead found him in prolonged depression. This resulted partly from the examination papers he had to read as Fellow in Classics for the Royal University of Ireland. The exams occured five or six times a year, might produce 500 papers, each one several pages of mostly uninspired student translations (in 1885 there were 631 failures to 1213 passes). More important, however, was his sense that his prayers no longer reached God; and this doubt produced the "terrible" sonnets. He refused to give way to his depression, however, and his last words as he lay dying of typhoid fever on June 8, 1889, were, "I am happy, so happy."

Apart from a few uncharacteristic poems scattered in periodicals, Hopkins was not published during his own lifetime. His good friend Robert Bridges (1844-1930), whom he met at Oxford and who became Poet Laureate in 1913, served as his literary caretaker: Hopkins sent him copies of his poems, and Bridges arranged for their publication in 1918.

from the Victorian Web

Gerard Manley Hopkins

The Habit of Perfection (1866)

ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb: 5
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light: 10
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust 15
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side! 20

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride 25
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"October, Maples" Richard Wilbur

The Perch, by Seamus Heaney

The Perch

by Seamus Heaney

Perch on their water perch hung in the clear Bann River
Near the clay bank in alder dapple and waver,

Perch they called ‘grunts’, little flood-slubs, runty and ready,
I saw and I see in the river’s glorified body

That is passable through, but they’re bluntly holding the
Under the water-roof, over the bottom, adoze

On the current, against it, all muscle and slur
In the finland of perch, the fenland of alder, on air

That is water, on carpets of Bann stream, on hold
In the everything flows and steady go of the world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

from Moran's Oyster Cottage, Ireland

About Oysters

The Clarenbridge oyster bed is situated at the mouths of the Dunkellin and Clarenbridge rivers. It consists of 700 acres of sea-bed.

Oyster beds require a combination of fresh and sea water. Therefore they will only survive where a river enters the sea. If there is an excessive amount of fresh water, for example, after a season of heavy rainfall, the oyster will become too fat and open.

The Clarenbridge Oyster Bed is a natural bed. It is not cultivated in any way. The dredging season lasts from late November to the end of December. It is dredged every year by about 60 boats each having two people. These people would be local farmers. During dredging, oysters less than 3" in diameter must be cast back into the sea again so that the stocks would not be diminshed.

Oysters are bought by about five local dealers - each of these would own their own private steeping ground. They in turn would meet the demand from restaurants in the area and the export market to France, England, etc.


"Oysters" by Seamus Heaney


Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.

Alive and violated,
They lay on their bed of ice:
Bivalves: the split bulb
And philandering sigh of ocean
Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered.

We had driven to that coast
Through flowers and limestone
And there we were, toasting friendship,
Laying down a perfect memory
In the cool of thatch and crockery.

Over the Alps, packed deep in hay and snow,
The Romans hauled their oysters south of Rome:
I saw damp panniers disgorge
The frond-lipped, brine-stung
Glut of privilege

And was angry that my trust could not repose
In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
Leaning in from sea. I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb.

Monday, October 12, 2009


W. H. Auden

Wystan Hugh Auden was born in York, England, in 1907. He moved to Birmingham during childhood and was educated at Christ Church, Oxford. As a young man he was influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy and Robert Frost, as well as William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Old English verse. At Oxford his precocity as a poet was immediately apparent, and he formed lifelong friendships with two fellow writers, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood.

In 1928, his collection Poems was privately printed, but it wasn't until 1930, when another collection titled Poems (though its contents were different) was published, that Auden was established as the leading voice of a new generation.

Ever since, he has been admired for his unsurpassed technical virtuosity and an ability to write poems in nearly every imaginable verse form; the incorporation in his work of popular culture, current events, and vernacular speech; and also for the vast range of his intellect, which drew easily from an extraordinary variety of literatures, art forms, social and political theories, and scientific and technical information. He had a remarkable wit, and often mimicked the writing styles of other poets such as Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, and Henry James. His poetry frequently recounts, literally or metaphorically, a journey or quest, and his travels provided rich material for his verse.

He visited Germany, Iceland, and China, served in the Spanish Civil war, and in 1939 moved to the United States, and became an American citizen. His own beliefs changed radically between his youthful career in England, when he was an ardent advocate of socialism and Freudian psychoanalysis, and his later phase in America, when his central preoccupation became Christianity and the theology of modern Protestant theologians. A prolific writer, Auden was also a noted playwright, librettist, editor, and essayist. Generally considered the greatest English poet of the twentieth century, his work has exerted a major influence on succeeding generations of poets on both sides of the Atlantic.

W. H. Auden was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 1954 to 1973, and divided most of the second half of his life between residences in New York City and Austria. He died in Vienna in 1973.

"In Memory of W. B. Yeats"

In Memory of W. B. Yeats
by W. H. Auden


He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.


Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Biography of Joseph Conrad

Robert Pinsky Reading "Samurai Song"

"Samurai Song" 2000

Samurai Song

by Robert Pinsky

When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had no
Mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Pinsky, Robert. Jersey Rain. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Seamus Heaney's "St. Kevin and the Blackbird"

And then there was St. Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a cross-beam, when the blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into a network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.


And since the whole thing's imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love's deep river,
'To labor and not seek reward,' he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the river bank forgotten the river's name.

Heaney Reading "St. Kevin and the Blackbird"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Seamus Heaney - The Grauballe Man

The Grauballe Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

"Punishment" by Seamus Heaney


I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.

It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.

I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.

Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:

her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring

to store
the memories of love.
Little adultress,
before they punished you

you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,

I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeur

of your brain's exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles' webbing
and all your numbered bones:

I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,

who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

Seamus Heaney

"The Lanyard" (2005)

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Included in the FORTHCOMING book (OCT 2005), The Trouble with Poetry.

Donald Hall

Ox Cart Man

by Donald Hall

In October of the year,
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,
counting the seed, counting
the cellar's portion out,
and bags the rest on the cart's floor.

He packs wool sheared in April, honey
in combs, linen, leather
tanned from deerhide,
and vinegar in a barrel
hoped by hand at the forge's fire.

He walks by his ox's head, ten days
to Portsmouth Market, and sells potatoes,
and the bag that carried potatoes,
flaxseed, birch brooms, maple sugar, goose
feathers, yarn.

When the cart is empty he sells the cart.
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,
harness and yoke, and walks
home, his pockets heavy
with the year's coin for salt and taxes,

and at home by fire's light in November cold
stitches new harness
for next year's ox in the barn,
and carves the yoke, and saws planks
building the cart again.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thesis Statements Revisited

In Seamus Heaney's poem "The Underground" a tone of worried flight is created by a series of threatening images that fuse together a harried run in a modern subway and a classical myth about the destructive powers of doubt. The whole sweep of the poem resembles Ovid's myth of Orpheus and Eurydice: the man-poet running ahead of his beloved, his powers of art having tricked Hades into releasing Eurydice who dies of a serpent's bite. The one condition of escape is not to look back, to trust. In the myth, Orpheus looks, and fails. In Heaney's poem, his young husband simply feels the tug of the underground, so to speak, as image after image piles on the tension, magnifying the temptation to doubt his bride, and lose her forever.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Orpheus and Eurydice

Here is another version, taken from Thomas Bulfinch and retold by Juliana Podd in Encyclopedia Mythica.

Eurydice and Orpheus were young and in love. So deep was their love that they were practically inseparable. So dependent was their love that each felt they could not live without the other. These young lovers were very happy and spent their time frolicking through the meadows. One day Eurdice was gaily running through a meadow with Orpheus when she was bitten by a serpent. The poison of the sting killed her and she descended to Hades immediately.

Orpheus was son of the great Olympian god Apollo. In many ways Apollo was the god of music and Orpheus was blessed with musical talents. Orpheus was so sad about the loss of his love that he composed music to express the terrible emptiness which pervaded his every breath and movement. He was so desperate and found so little else meaningful, that he decided to address Hades. As the overseer of the underworld, Hades heart had to be hard as steel, and so it was. Many approached Hades to beg for loved ones back and as many times were refused.

But Orpheus' music was so sweet and so moving that it softened the steel hearted heart of Hades himself. Hades gave permission to Orpheus to bring Eurydice back to the surface of the earth to enjoy the light of day. There was only one condition--Orpheus was not to look back as he ascended. He was to trust that Eurydice was immediately behind him. It was a long way back up and just as Orpheus had almost finished that last part of the trek, he looked behind him to make sure Eurydice was still with him. At that very moment, she was snatched back because he did not trust that she was there. When you hear music which mourns lost love, it is Orpheus' spirit who guides the hand of the musicians who play it.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Seamus Heaney's "Underground"


There we were in the vaulted tunnel running,
You in your going-away coat speeding ahead
And me, me then like a fleet god gaining
Upon you before you turned to a reed

Or some new white flower japped with crimson
As the coat flapped wild and button after button
Sprang off and fell in a trail
Between the Underground and the Albert Hall.

Honeymooning, moonlighting, late for the Proms,
Our echoes die in that corridor and now
I come as Hansel came on the moonlit stones
Retracing the path back, lifting the buttons

To end up in a draughty lamplit station
After the trains have gone, the wet track
Bared and tensed as I am, all attention
For your step following and damned if I look back.

Seamus Heaney Reading "Underground"

Tips on Writing the Paper:

Develop a Thesis

You may have developed a good central point of analysis in your pre-writing activities that will provide a thesis, or you may have to develop a new one appropriate for your revised focus. If you start with a journal entry that was based primarily on facts about plot or on personal reactions, it will be essential to develop an interpretive thesis—a precise statement about the topic. If you change your mind later about the opinion or point of interpretation stated in your thesis (since we often discover new insights as we write), reword it and revise the rest of the essay accordingly.

Sample Thesis Statements about the short story “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty:

On character: In “A Worn Path,” Phoenix Jackson is a frail old woman with physical and mental weaknesses, but she appears as a strong heroic character by the end of the story. She uses common sense, wit, and courage to overcome the obstacles she encounters.

On plot: In “A Worn Path,” Phoenix Jackson’s walk through the fields and woods becomes a heroic quest as she overcomes a series of obstacles bravely, determined to reach her goal and obtain medicine for her sick grandson.

On theme: Like many folktales, “A Worn Path” shows that a poor, physically weak country woman can become a hero if she uses courage and wit to achieve her goals.

On symbolism: Phoenix Jackson encounters a series of physical, psychological and social obstacles that represent the hero’s struggles against death, fear, and prejudice in her quest to achieve her goal.

Comparing folktale and modern short story: “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty follows the structure of the folktale “Little Red Riding Hood,” with some of the details reversed. Phoenix Jackson is an old woman traveling to the woods to help her grandson; unlike Little Red Riding Hood, Phoenix triumphs over the human and animal obstacles she encounters.

Use an Outline

Notes made while rereading will produce more material than you can use in a short paper. (If they don't, you are not reading carefully or you have not chosen an appropriate topic for that work.)

To restructure an informal journal entry or rough outline into a more coherent and unified paper, construct an outline in which you select details from your original notes, and arrange them in groups according to subtopics or major points that will make up the body of the paper. Decide on a logical and effective pattern of organization to use in the paper to move the reader from the statement of your thesis to a demonstration of its validity.

Write the First Draft of the New Paper

In the first draft, do not be concerned about grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style. It is more important at this stage to get your thoughts written out. If you have trouble with beginnings, skip the introduction and begin writing at a point where you feel confident about what you want to say on a particular subtopic. In the end, the essay should have the following parts.

Title: The title should indicate your topic in a clear and precise way, not just repeat the title of the literature. Avoid titles that are too long, too general, or vague (e.g., "What Is It with Huck Finn?" or "Huck Finn" are too vague). Don’t use just the title of the literature as the title of your paper.

Introduction: The introduction should contain a precise statement of the subject (do not rely on the reader's familiarity with the title) and should move from a general discussion of the subject to an indication of your limited focus and the specific thesis. Stress the significance of the topic in relation to the work as a whole.

You may begin with general background on the subject, but don't be too general or vague or obvious (as in, "Irony is an important technique used by writers of literature," or "James Joyce was a great modern writer."). Avoid empty sentences such as, "In this essay I intend to discuss the differences and similarities in two poems." The reader knows this is your essay and these are your ideas; repeated references to your own process of thinking and writing are awkward and unnecessary, so instead state your precise ideas directly and support them well.

Make the scope of the essay clear in the beginning. It is a good idea to give a listing of subtopics to be discussed in the body of the paper (e.g., what are those similarities and differences?) or at least give some indication of the direction the discussion will take.

Body: Every detail in the body of the essay should develop and support the thesis. Treat every paragraph as a unified, coherent mini-essay with a topic sentence and details that support that subtopic.

Interpret, don't summarize the work of literature.

Avoid digressions and irrelevant references to personal experiences or beliefs.

Avoid cliches and unsupportable generalizations.

Use quotations sparingly to support your discussion.

Conclusion: Don't end the paper abruptly, on a specific subtopic, but don't add a lengthy summary to a short paper, either. A concluding paragraph should tie together the specific points found in the body of the paper, and give it a sense of completeness and significance. Return to a general level of discussion and to the main idea of your thesis (perhaps by giving it a new twist or different wording), but do not make unsupportable generalizations that go far beyond the scope of your paper (e.g., "Welty struggled against racial prejudice.")

Revise and Polish the First Draft

After you have written the first draft, go back to it and correct faulty grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Improve the style by making sentences clearer and smoother. Look carefully for inconsistent shifts in verb tense (a common error in essays describing literary characters and plots). You may cut or expand or rearrange passages of the essay to make it more effective. See below for instructions on format.

Remember that professional writers may revise their work dozens or even hundreds of times; you should do so as many times as deadlines and your abilities allow. (Of course, this means you must start early so that you can set the essay aside between revisions.) After the essay is typed (whether by you or someone else) make a final check for mechanical errors. Typos will count as errors and a careless typing or proofreading job can ruin a paper with good content.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Paper on "Old School"

1. Five pages, typed, double-space, 14 point.

2. Must have a central, controlling thesis it will prove, that is, support, with logic, evidence from the plot, and close reading of the text.

3. Opening paragraph must name the novel and author; must express, briefly, the major point, ie, thesis, that will be explored.


We have seen several themes or issues come up in almost every discussion we have had of "Old School". They include:

1. The question of living a "double life", which includes the difficulty of self-knowledge.

2. The frequent misinterpretation of literature or art, giving complication to the narrator's at least initial love of literature as a means of defining one's self in the world, and indeed, transcending one's origins.

3. The question of how we define literature that is truly superior in quality and insight. The narrator's three friends as exemplars of general traits all good writing must have; the difficulty of getting all three to combine in one act of writing.

4. The folly of literary celebrity.

5. The role the imagination plays--for good or for evil--in the novel.

6. The ending: how does it bring together all or most of the various themes the novel has developed along the way?

7. The "incarnational" aspects of Wolff's writing; how does he anchor down into the sensible world the scenes and the characters that inhabit the novel?

8. The three major "visiting" writers and their theories of literature: how do they play off of one another, how do they influence the action, the plot, and hence the meaning of the novel as a whole?



ki-az'-mus Gk. "a diagonal arrangement"

Repetition of ideas in inverted order
Repetition of grammatical structures in inverted order (not to be mistaken with antimetabole, in which identical words are repeated and inverted).

Shakespeare uses this figure frequently:

"Oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by th' excuse."

King John (1591)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Now for Something Completely Different: (1749)


The Tenth Satire of Juvenal,


Printed for R. DODSLEY at Tully's Head in Pall-Mall,
and Sold by M. COOPER in Pater-noster Row.

Let Observation with extensive View,
Survey Mankind, from China to Peru;
Remark each anxious Toil, each eager Strife,
And watch the busy Scenes of crouded Life;
Then say how Hope and Fear, Desire and Hate,
O'er spread with Snares the clouded Maze of Fate,
Where wav'ring Man, betray'd by vent'rous Pride,
To tread the dreary Paths without a Guide;
As treach'rous Phantoms in the Mist delude,
Shuns fancied Ills, or chases airy Good.
How rarely Reason guides the stubborn Choice,
Rules the bold Hand, or prompts the suppliant Voice,
How Nations sink, by darling Schemes oppres'd,
When Vengeance listens to the Fool's Request.
Fate wings with ev'ry Wish th' afflictive Dart,
Each Gift of Nature, and each Grace of Art,
With fatal Heat impetuous Courage glows,
With fatal Sweetness Elocution flows,
Impeachment stops the Speaker's pow'rful Breath,
And restless Fire precipitates on Death.
But scarce observ'd the Knowing and the Bold,
Fall in the gen'ral Massacre of Gold;
Wide-wasting Pest! that rages unconfin'd,
And crouds with Crimes the Records of Mankind,
For Gold his Sword the Hireling Ruffian draws,
For Gold the hireling Judge distorts the Laws;
Wealth heap'd on Wealth, nor Truth nor Safety buys,
The Dangers gather as the Treasures rise.

Let Hist'ry tell where rival Kings command,
And dubious Title shakes the madded Land,
When Statutes glean the Refuse of the Sword,
How much more safe the Vassal than the Lord,
Low sculks the Hind beneath the Rage of Pow'r,
And leaves the bonny Traytor in the Tow'r,
Untouch'd his Cottage, and his Slumbers sound,
Tho' Confiscation's Vulturs clang around.

The needy Traveller, serene and gay,
Walks the wild Heath, and sings his Toil away.
Does Envy seize thee? crush th' upbraiding Joy,
Encrease his Riches and his Peace destroy,
New Fears in dire Vicissitude invade,
The rustling Brake alarms, and quiv'ring Shade,
Nor Light nor Darkness bring his Pain Relief,
One shews the Plunder, and one hides the Thief.

Yet still the gen'ral Cry the Skies assails
And Gain and Grandeur load the tainted Gales;
Few know the toiling Statesman's Fear or Care,
Th' insidious Rival and the gaping Heir.

Once more, Democritus, arise on Earth,
With chearful Wisdom and instructive Mirth,
See motley Life in modern Trappings dress'd,
And feed with varied Fools th' eternal Jest:
Thou who couldst laugh where Want enchain'd Caprice,
Toil crush'd Conceit, and Man was of a Piece;
Where Wealth unlov'd without a Mourner dy'd;
And scarce a Sycophant was fed by Pride;
Where ne'er was known the Form of mock Debate,
Or seen a new-made Mayor's unwieldy State;
Where change of Fav'rites made no Change of Laws,
And Senates heard before they judg'd a Cause;
How wouldst thou shake at Britain's modish Tribe,
Dart the quick Taunt, and edge the piercing Gibe?
Attentive Truth and Nature to descry,
And pierce each Scene with Philosophic Eye.
To thee were solemn Toys or empty Shew,
The Robes of Pleasure and the Veils of Woe:
All aid the Farce, and all thy Mirth maintain,
Whose Joys are causeless, or whose Griefs are vain.

Such was the Scorn that fill'd the Sage's Mind,
Renew'd at ev'ry Glance on Humankind;
How just that Scorn ere yet thy Voice declare,
Search every State, and canvass ev'ry Pray'r.

Unnumber'd Suppliants croud Preferment's Gate,
Athirst for Wealth, and burning to be great;
Delusive Fortune hears th' incessant Call,
They mount, they shine, evaporate, and fall.
On ev'ry Stage the Foes of Peace attend,
Hate dogs their Flight, and Insult mocks their End.
Love ends with Hope, the sinking Statesman's Door
Pours in the Morning Worshiper no more;
For growing Names the weekly Scribbler lies,
To growing Wealth the Dedicator flies,
From every Room descends the painted Face,
That hung the bright Palladium of the Place,
And smoak'd in Kitchens, or in Auctions sold,
To better Features yields the Frame of Gold;
For now no more we trace in ev'ry Line
Heroic Worth, Benevolence Divine:
The Form distorted justifies the Fall,
And Detestation rids th' indignant Wall.

This is only an excerpt; the poem runs much longer.


A Brief Guide to Imagism

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

--Ezra Pound

The Imagist movement included English and American poets in the early twentieth century who wrote free verse and were devoted to "clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images." A strand of modernism, Imagism was officially launched in 1912 when Ezra Pound read and marked up a poem by Hilda Doolittle, signed it "H.D. Imagiste," and sent it to Harriet Monroe at Poetry.

The movement sprang from ideas developed by T.E. Hulme, who as early as 1908 was proposing to the Poets' Club in London a poetry based on absolutely accurate presentation of its subject with no excess verbiage. The first tenet of the Imagist manifesto was "To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word."

Imagism was a reaction against the flabby abstract language and "careless thinking" of Georgian Romanticism. Imagist poetry aimed to replace muddy abstractions with exactness of observed detail, apt metaphors, and economy of language. For example, Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" started from a glimpse of beautiful faces in a dark subway and elevated that perception into a crisp vision by finding an intensified equivalent image. The metaphor provokes a sharp, intuitive discovery in order to get at the essence of life.

Pound's definition of the image was "that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time." Pound defined the tenets of Imagist poetry as:

I. Direct treatment of the "thing," whether subjective or objective.

II. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.

III. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.

An Imagist anthology was published in 1914 that collected work by William Carlos Williams, Richard Aldington, and James Joyce, as well as H.D. and Pound. Other imagists included F. S. Flint, D. H. Lawrence, and John Gould Fletcher. By the time the anthology appeared, Amy Lowell had effectively appropriated Imagism and was seen as the movement's leader. Three years later, even Amy Lowell thought the movement had run its course. Pound by then was claiming that he invented Imagism to launch H.D.'s career. Though Imagism as a movement was over by 1917, the ideas about poetry embedded in the Imagist doctrine profoundly influenced free verse poets throughout the twentieth century.

The Tollund Man

By Seamus Heaney


Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint's kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters'
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.


I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Stockinged corpses
Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.


Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,

Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.

Heaney reading "The Tollund Man"

Free Verse

FREE VERSE: Poetry based on the natural rhythms of phrases and normal pauses rather than the artificial constraints of metrical feet. Commonly called vers libre in French (the English term first appears in print in 1908), this poetry often involves the counterpoint of stressed and unstressed syllables in unpredictable but clever ways. Its origins are obscure. Early poetry that is similar to free verse includes the Authorized Bible translations of the Psalms and the Song of Songs; Milton clearly experimented with something like free verse in Lycidas and Samson Agonistes as well. However the Enlightenment's later emphasis on perfect meter during the 1700s prevented this experimentation from developing much further during the 18th century. The American poet Walt Whitman first made extended successful use of free verse in the 19th century, and he in turn influenced Baudelaire, who developed the technique in French poetry. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we find several poets using some variant of free verse--including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, and e. e. cummings. Do note that, within individual sections of a free verse poem, a specific line or lines may fall into metrical regularity.