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A Year of Poetry – Day 155

Her house is empty and her heart is old,
And filled with shades and echoes that deceive
No one save her, for still she tries to weave
With blind bent fingers, nets that cannot hold.
Once all men’s arms rose up to her, ‘tis told,
And hovered like white birds for her caress:
A crown she could have had to bind each tress
Of hair, and her sweet arms the Witches’ Gold.

Her mirrors know her witnesses, for there
She rose in dreams from other dreams that lent
Her softness as she stood, crowned with soft hair.
And with his bound heart and his young eyes bent
And blind, he feels her presence like shed scent,
Holding him body and life within its snare.

— William Faulkner, After Fifty Years

A Year of Poetry – Day 154

Like a joy on the heart of a sorrow,
The sunset hangs on a cloud;
A golden storm of glittering sheaves,
Of fair and frail and fluttering leaves,
The wild wind blows in a cloud.

Hark to a voice that is calling
To my heart in the voice of the wind:
My heart is weary and sad and alone,
For its dreams like the fluttering leaves have gone,
And why should I stay behind?

— Sarojini Naidu, Autumn Song

A Year of Poetry – Day 153

Genius, like gold and precious stones,
is chiefly prized because of its rarity.

Geniuses are people who dash of weird, wild,
incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility,
and get booming drunk and sleep in the gutter.

Genius elevates its possessor to ineffable spheres
far above the vulgar world and fills his soul
with regal contempt for the gross and sordid things of earth.

It is probably on account of this
that people who have genius
do not pay their board, as a general thing.

Geniuses are very singular.

If you see a young man who has frowsy hair
and distraught look, and affects eccentricity in dress,
you may set him down for a genius.

If he sings about the degeneracy of a world
which courts vulgar opulence
and neglects brains,
he is undoubtedly a genius.

If he is too proud to accept assistance,
and spurns it with a lordly air
at the very same time
that he knows he can’t make a living to save his life,
he is most certainly a genius.

If he hangs on and sticks to poetry,
notwithstanding sawing wood comes handier to him,
he is a true genius.

If he throws away every opportunity in life
and crushes the affection and the patience of his friends
and then protests in sickly rhymes of his hard lot,
and finally persists,
in spite of the sound advice of persons who have got sense
but not any genius,
persists in going up some infamous back alley
dying in rags and dirt,
he is beyond all question a genius.

But above all things,
to deftly throw the incoherent ravings of insanity into verse
and then rush off and get booming drunk,
is the surest of all the different signs
of genius.

— Mark Twain, Genius

A Year of Poetry – Day 152

I

O fairest flower no sooner blown but blasted,
Soft silken Primrose fading timelesslie,
Summers chief honour if thou hadst outlasted
Bleak winters force that made thy blossome drie;
For he being amorous on that lovely die
That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss
But kill’d alas, and then bewayl’d his fatal bliss.

II

For since grim Aquilo his charioter
By boistrous rape th’ Athenian damsel got,
He thought it toucht his Deitie full neer,
If likewise he some fair one wedded not,
Thereby to wipe away th’ infamous blot,
Of long-uncoupled bed, and childless eld,
Which ‘mongst the wanton gods a foul reproach was held.

III

So mounting up in ycie-pearled carr,
Through middle empire of the freezing aire
He wanderd long, till thee he spy’d from farr,
There ended was his quest, there ceast his care
Down he descended from his Snow-soft chaire,
But all unwares with his cold-kind embrace
Unhous’d thy Virgin Soul from her fair hiding place.

IV

Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate;
For so Apollo, with unweeting hand
Whilome did slay his dearly-loved mate
Young Hyacinth born on Eurotas’ strand,
Young Hyacinth the pride of Spartan land;
But then transform’d him to a purple flower
Alack that so to change thee winter had no power.

V

Yet can I not perswade me thou art dead
Or that thy coarse corrupts in earths dark wombe,
Or that thy beauties lie in wormie bed,
Hid from the world in a low delved tombe;
Could Heav’n for pittie thee so strictly doom?
O no! for something in thy face did shine
Above mortalitie that shew’d thou wast divine.

VI

Resolve me then oh Soul most surely blest
(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear)
Tell me bright Spirit where e’re thou hoverest
Whether above that high first-moving Spheare
Or in the Elisian fields (if such there were.)
Oh say me true if thou wert mortal wight
And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy flight.

VII

Wert thou some Starr which from the ruin’d roofe
Of shak’t Olympus by mischance didst fall;
Which carefull Jove in natures true behoofe
Took up, and in fit place did reinstall?
Or did of late earths Sonnes besiege the wall
Of sheenie Heav’n, and thou some goddess fled
Amongst us here below to hide thy nectar’d head

VIII

Or wert thou that just Maid who once before
Forsook the hated earth, O tell me sooth
And cam’st again to visit us once more?
Or wert thou that sweet smiling Youth!
Or that c[r]own’d Matron sage white-robed Truth?
Or any other of that heav’nly brood
Let down in clowdie throne to do the world some good.

Note: 53 Or wert thou] Or wert thou Mercy — conjectured by
John Heskin Ch. Ch. Oxon. from Ode on Nativity, st. 15.

IX

Or wert thou of the golden-winged boast,
Who having clad thy self in humane weed,
To earth from thy praefixed seat didst poast,
And after short abode flie back with speed,
As if to shew what creatures Heav’n doth breed,
Thereby to set the hearts of men on fire
To scorn the sordid world, and unto Heav’n aspire.

X

But oh why didst thou not stay here below
To bless us with thy heav’n-lov’d innocence,
To slake his wrath whom sin hath made our foe
To turn Swift-rushing black perdition hence,
Or drive away the slaughtering pestilence,
To stand ‘twixt us and our deserved smart
But thou canst best perform that office where thou art.

XI

Then thou the mother of so sweet a child
Her false imagin’d loss cease to lament,
And wisely learn to curb thy sorrows wild;
Think what a present thou to God hast sent,
And render him with patience what he lent;
This if thou do he will an off-spring give,
That till the worlds last-end shall make thy name to live.

— John Milton, On The Death Of A Fair Infant Dying Of A Cough

A Year of Poetry – Day 151

The Oriole sings in the greening grove
As if he were half-way waiting,
The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
Timid, and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
And the nights smell warm and pinety,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
And the woods run mad with riot.

— Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Summer in the South

A Year of Poetry – Day 150

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

— Lewis Carroll, Jabberwocky

Musings

  • I finished watching “The Tudors” the other night, and decided I’d like to watch something where the characters are good people, where there isn’t much gruesome bloodshed, and where the bed-hopping was implied rather than annotated.
    • So, I’ve watched half of the first season of “Borgias“.
    • George R.R. Martin ain’t got nothing on actual human history.
  • My circadian rhythm needs to stop drinking and go to church more often.
  • There are few things more frustrating than having to go back three chapters and rewrite something that you specifically told yourself not to write in the first place.
  • This is that wonderful time of year in Kentucky where you still sweat like a whore in church, but you have to decide how long you can wait before raking leaves.
  • Our new neighbor has a dog named “Frisbee.”  He’s a sweet hound, and he seems to get along with our dogs.  Crash, the Siamese psychopath, looks at him like he’s wondering what a saddle and some spurs would cost.

A Year of Poetry – Day 149

Who at Thermopyae stood side by side,

And fought together and together died,

Under earth-barrows now are laid in rest,

Their chance thrice-glorious, and their fate thrice-blest:

No tears for them, but memory’s loving gaze;

For them no pity, but proud hymns of praise.

Time shall not sweep this monument away,—

Time the destroyer; no, nor dank decay.

This not alone heroic ashes holds;

Greece’s own glory this earth-shrine enfolds,—

Leonidas, the Spartan king; a name

Of boundless honor and eternal fame.

— Simonides, Thermopylae

A Year of Poetry – Day 148

Let me die on the prairie! and o’er my rude grave,
In the soft breeze of summer the tall grass shall wave;
I would breathe my last sigh as the bright hues of even
Are melting away in the blue arch of Heaven.
Let me die on the prairie! unwept and unknown,
I would pass from this fair Earth forgotten, alone;—
Yet no! – there are hearts I have learned to revere,
And methinks there is bliss in affection’s warm tear.
Oh, speak not to me of the green cypress shade;
I would sleep where the bones of the Indian are laid,
And the deer will bound o’er me with step light and free,
And the carol of birds will my requiem be.
Let me die on the prairie! I have wished for it long;
There floats in wild numbers the bold hunter’s song;
’Tis the spot of all others the dearest to me,
And how sweet in its bosom my slumber will be!
— Frances Jane Crosby van Alstyne, Let Me Die On The Prairie

Thoughts on ‘The Tudors’

In between work work, housework, family, writing, and collapsing into unconsciousness for a few hours each day, I’ve been watching the television show ‘The Tudors.’  It’s a wonderful romp telling the story of the court of King Henry VIII of England as he marries, beheads, eats, and tantrums his way through the Reformation.

I have a few observations:

  • If your system of government is based on near absolute monarchy with patrilineal succession, it is good to have an heir and a spare.
    • Just make sure your ‘spare’ isn’t a self-indulgent prat with a rather bloody mind and absolutely no managerial skills.  You never know when you’ll have to pull his sorry butt out of the trunk and bolt him to the Ford Anglia of state.
  • A lot of problems could have been avoided if King Henry had listened to that old adage, “Thou shalt not date thy brother’s ex.”
  • A lot more would have been avoided if King Henry had ever uttered the words, “Well, I suppose we should just find Mary a good husband to run the country with her.”
  • You should not repeatedly use the team of women who take care of your wife as your personal dating pool.
  • If your mistress was easy to get into bed and eager to break up your marriage, don’t be surprised if she doesn’t change her ways after you put a ring on her finger.
  • If you start executing your friends, don’t be surprised when you don’t have many left.
  • Pro tip – Do not commit to marriage without at least meeting your future spouse. That is, unless you’re a good man who will stand by his oaths no matter what, but let’s not get silly.
  • Sixteen year old girls don’t accidentally learn how to seduce middle-aged kings.
  • If sleeping around on your husband can lead to you getting shorter by a head, I suggest ice cream and female-centric entertainment to fill your lonely nights.
  • If sleeping with somebody’s wife is likely to lead to you being tortured to death, after weeks of torture, with a side of torture to go with it, then maybe you ought to volunteer for overseas service.
  • If you don’t let people proclaim their beliefs and disagreements in public, they will whisper them in secret.
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