Wednesday, March 30, 2011

D.H. Lawrence - England, My England

He was working on the edge of the common, beyond the small brook that ran in the dip at the bottom of the garden, carrying the garden path in continuation from the plank bridge on to the common. He had cut the rough turf and bracken, leaving the grey, dryish soil bare. But he was worried because he could not get the path straight, there was a pleat between his brows. He had set up his sticks, and taken the sights between the big pine trees, but for some reason everything seemed wrong. He looked again, straining his keen blue eyes, that had a touch of the Viking in them, through the shadowy pine trees as through a doorway, at the green-grassed garden-path rising from the shadow of alders by the log bridge up to the sunlit flowers. Tall white and purple columbines, and the butt-end of the old Hampshire cottage that crouched near the earth amid flowers, blossoming in the bit of shaggy wildness round about.

Continue at the source: Literature org

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Book Choice: Sons and Lovers: (RED edition) (Penguin Classics)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Robert Burns – To a Mountain Daisy

 EE, modest, crimson-tippèd flow'r,
Thou's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure
Thy slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
Thou bonie gem.
Alas! it's no thy neebor sweet,
The bonie lark, companion meet,
Bending thee 'mang the dewy weet!
Wi' spreckl'd breast!
When upward-springing, blythe, to greet
The purpling east.
Cauld blew the bitter-biting north
Upon thy early, humble birth;
Yet cheerfully thou glinted forth
Amid the storm,
Scarce rear'd above the parent-earth
Thy tender form.
The flaunting flow'rs our gardens yield,
High shelt'ring woods and wa's maun shield;
But thou, beneath the random bield
O' clod or stane,
Adorns the histie stibble-field,
Unseen, alane.
There, in thy scanty mantle clad,
Thy snawie bosom sun-ward spread,
Thou lifts thy unassuming head
In humble guise;
But now the share uptears thy bed,
And low thou lies!
Such is the fate of artless maid,
Sweet flow'ret of the rural shade!
By love's simplicity betray'd,
And guileless trust;
Till she, like thee, all soil'd, is laid
Low i' the dust.
Such is the fate of simple Bard,
On life's rough ocean luckless starr'd!
Unskilful he to note the card
Of prudent lore,
Till billows rage, and gales blow hard,
And whelm him o'er!
Such fate to suffering Worth is giv'n,
Who long with wants and woes has striv'n,
By human pride or cunning driv'n
To mis'ry's brink;
Till, wrench'd of ev'ry stay but Heav'n,
He, ruin'd, sink!
Ev'n thou who mourn'st the Daisy's fate,
That fate is thine -- no distant date;
Stern Ruin's ploughshare drives, elate,
Full on thy bloom,
Till crush'd beneath the furrow's weight,
Shall be thy doom!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe - The Oval Portrait

The chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe. To all appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned. We established ourselves in one of the smallest and least sumptuously furnished apartments. It lay in a remote turret of the building. Its decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique. Its walls were hung with tapestry and bedecked with manifold and multiform armorial trophies, together with an unusually great number of very spirited modern paintings in frames of rich golden arabesque. In these paintings, which depended from the walls not only in their main surfaces, but in very many nooks which the bizarre architecture of the chateau rendered necessary- in these paintings my incipient delirium, perhaps, had caused me to take deep interest; so that I bade Pedro to close the heavy shutters of the room- since it was already night- to light the tongues of a tall candelabrum which stood by the head of my bed- and to throw open far and wide the fringed curtains of black velvet which enveloped the bed itself. I wished all this done that I might resign myself, if not to sleep, at least alternately to the contemplation of these pictures, and the perusal of a small volume which had been found upon the pillow, and which purported to criticise and describe them.
     Long - long I read - and devoutly, devotedly I gazed. Rapidly and gloriously the hours flew by and the deep midnight came. The position of the candelabrum displeased me, and outreaching my hand with difficulty, rather than disturb my slumbering valet, I placed it so as to throw its rays more fully upon the book.
     But the action produced an effect altogether unanticipated. The rays of the numerous candles (for there were many) now fell within a niche of the room which had hitherto been thrown into deep shade by one of the bed-posts. I thus saw in vivid light a picture all unnoticed before. It was the portrait of a young girl just ripening into womanhood. I glanced at the painting hurriedly, and then closed my eyes. Why I did this was not at first apparent even to my own perception. But while my lids remained thus shut, I ran over in my mind my reason for so shutting them. It was an impulsive movement to gain time for thought- to make sure that my vision had not deceived me- to calm and subdue my fancy for a more sober and more certain gaze. In a very few moments I again looked fixedly at the painting.
     That I now saw aright I could not and would not doubt; for the first flashing of the candles upon that canvas had seemed to dissipate the dreamy stupor which was stealing over my senses, and to startle me at once into waking life.
     The portrait, I have already said, was that of a young girl. It was a mere head and shoulders, done in what is technically termed a vignette manner; much in the style of the favorite heads of Sully. The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole. The frame was oval, richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque. As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. But it could have been neither the execution of the work, nor the immortal beauty of the countenance, which had so suddenly and so vehemently moved me. Least of all, could it have been that my fancy, shaken from its half slumber, had mistaken the head for that of a living person. I saw at once that the peculiarities of the design, of the vignetting, and of the frame, must have instantly dispelled such idea- must have prevented even its momentary entertainment. Thinking earnestly upon these points, I remained, for an hour perhaps, half sitting, half reclining, with my vision riveted upon the portrait. At length, satisfied with the true secret of its effect, I fell back within the bed. I had found the spell of the picture in an absolute life-likeliness of expression, which, at first startling, finally confounded, subdued, and appalled me. With deep and reverent awe I replaced the candelabrum in its former position. The cause of my deep agitation being thus shut from view, I sought eagerly the volume which discussed the paintings and their histories. Turning to the number which designated the oval portrait, I there read the vague and quaint words which follow:
     "She was a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee. And evil was the hour when she saw, and loved, and wedded the painter. He, passionate, studious, austere, and having already a bride in his Art; she a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee; all light and smiles, and frolicsome as the young fawn; loving and cherishing all things; hating only the Art which was her rival; dreading only the pallet and brushes and other untoward instruments which deprived her of the countenance of her lover. It was thus a terrible thing for this lady to hear the painter speak of his desire to pourtray even his young bride. But she was humble and obedient, and sat meekly for many weeks in the dark, high turret-chamber where the light dripped upon the pale canvas only from overhead. But he, the painter, took glory in his work, which went on from hour to hour, and from day to day. And be was a passionate, and wild, and moody man, who became lost in reveries; so that he would not see that the light which fell so ghastly in that lone turret withered the health and the spirits of his bride, who pined visibly to all but him. Yet she smiled on and still on, uncomplainingly, because she saw that the painter (who had high renown) took a fervid and burning pleasure in his task, and wrought day and night to depict her who so loved him, yet who grew daily more dispirited and weak. And in sooth some who beheld the portrait spoke of its resemblance in low words, as of a mighty marvel, and a proof not less of the power of the painter than of his deep love for her whom he depicted so surpassingly well. But at length, as the labor drew nearer to its conclusion, there were admitted none into the turret; for the painter had grown wild with the ardor of his work, and turned his eyes from canvas merely, even to regard the countenance of his wife. And he would not see that the tints which he spread upon the canvas were drawn from the cheeks of her who sate beside him. And when many weeks bad passed, and but little remained to do, save one brush upon the mouth and one tint upon the eye, the spirit of the lady again flickered up as the flame within the socket of the lamp. And then the brush was given, and then the tint was placed; and, for one moment, the painter stood entranced before the work which he had wrought; but in the next, while he yet gazed, he grew tremulous and very pallid, and aghast, and crying with a loud voice, 'This is indeed Life itself!' turned suddenly to regard his beloved:- She was dead!

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Book Choice: The Works of Edgar Allan Poe - Volume 1

Friday, March 25, 2011

F Scott Fitzgerald - May Day

There had been a war fought and won and the great city of the
conquering people was crossed with triumphal arches and vivid with
thrown flowers of white, red, and rose. All through the long spring
days the returning soldiers marched up the chief highway behind the
strump of drums and the joyous, resonant wind of the brasses, while
merchants and clerks left their bickerings and figurings and, crowding
to the windows, turned their white-bunched faces gravely upon the
passing battalions.
Never had there been such splendor in the great city, for the
victorious war had brought plenty in its train, and the merchants had
flocked thither from the South and West with their households to taste
of all the luscious feasts and witness the lavish entertainments
prepared--and to buy for their women furs against the next winter and
bags of golden mesh and varicolored slippers of silk and silver and
rose satin and cloth of gold.
So gaily and noisily were the peace and prosperity impending hymned by
the scribes and poets of the conquering people that more and more
spenders had gathered from the provinces to drink the wine of
excitement, and faster and faster did the merchants dispose of their
trinkets and slippers until they sent up a mighty cry for more
trinkets and more slippers in order that they might give in barter
what was demanded of them. Some even of them flung up their hands
helplessly, shouting:
"Alas! I have no more slippers! and alas! I have no more trinkets! May
heaven help me for I know not what I shall do!"
But no one listened to their great outcry, for the throngs were far
too busy--day by day, the foot-soldiers trod jauntily the highway and
all exulted because the young men returning were pure and brave, sound
of tooth and pink of cheek, and the young women of the land were
virgins and comely both of face and of figure.
So during all this time there were many adventures that happened in
the great city, and, of these, several--or perhaps one--are here set

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Book Choice: The Beautiful and Damned

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jorge Luis Borges - The Zahir

My friend Borges once described a Zahir, which in Buenos Aires in 1939 was a coin, a ten-centavo piece, with the letters `N' and `T' and the numeral `2' scratched crudely in the obverse. Whomsoever saw this coin was consumed by it, in a manner of speaking, and could think of nothing else, until at last their personality ceased to exist, and they were reduced to a babbling corpse with nothing to talk about but the coin, the coin, always the coin. To have one's mind devoured by coins, that is a terrible fate, although one which is common enough in these mercenary times. But to have one's mind devoured by the thought of a coin, that is strange and far more terrible. With such stories as these Borges kept me awake at night, to keep him company when he could not sleep.

I had arrived in Uruguay on a tramp steamer from Cuba and had tried to work my way down the country to the Argentina, where I would stay with Borges. But my money was nearly exhausted when I reached the Fray Bentos and I used the last of it to send a message to Borges, begging him to come help me. But he was detained by the press of his librarianship, and could not take enough time off at such short notice to come and get me. And so it happened that I lived for two weeks in a small town in Argentina with an insane cripple named Ireneo Funes.

I kept his cottage tidy and cooked for him and assisted him in all things, in return for sleeping in his corner and eating some of what I cooked. The woman who normally took care of him, Maria Fuente, was eager for a vacation, even a brief one. Funes was an irritating roommate. He spoke little, and when he did it did not make any sense. He would spend hours staring at a single object: his hand, a crack in the plaster, the tobacco in the end of his cigarette. I learned, as the days passed with no word from my friends, that he had become crippled in a riding accident some time before and that he was dying of tuberculosis, a frequent affliction of the bedridden.

Eventually I realized the cause of Funes' peculiar abstraction. His accident had left him physically helpless, but endowed with a memory perfect in its accuracy and perfect in its detail. He could remember everything he had ever seen, or heard, or thought. He remembered in detail not only every experience he had ever had, but all the times that he had remembered each experience, and the memories were as distinct and different to him as the beads of a rosary. The leaves of a tree were not leaves to him; he could remember each leaf in detail and compare it in his mind with each other, or with a leaf on another tree, a leaf of the same tree on another day, with a spray of water from the river that wetted him as a child. I heard him mention those leaves once. He said that a certain leaf was curled like the curve of Pedro Althazar's horse's rump on the twenty-third day of March, only more graceful. ``At the moment it shook off that fly,'' he added, seeing my perplexity. ``Which fly?'' I asked. ``It was the eleventh one I saw,'' he elucidated, ``but perhaps you saw some that I did not, since I did not rise from my bed to look out the window.''

After a week of living with Funes, I feared that a malady of the mind had begun to overtake me also, and at first I ascribed it to the stress of having to live with this superhuman cripple. It was a simple thing, and yet it disturbed me, for I could find no explanation for it, and it seemed so small, so arbitrary, as to be completely removed from all rhyme or reason. The nature of the malady was this: On one wall of the cottage was a shelf on which I stored the containers of spices and seasonings with which I flavored Funes' food, and one of these jars of seasoning was a pepper-mill. Even after all these years I remember it: it was about six inches tall, cylindrical, made of a dark brown-stained wood with six longitudinal burnt scars. The handle was too small and was made of dull steel. At the time I was completely unable to remember it.

Meal after meal I cooked and would want to add mustard, and immediately my mind would fix on the mustard-pot and I would know where the mustard-pot was. I would look for the cilantro, and reach out my hand without even thinking, and there it would be. But when I wanted the pepper-mill, I could not remember whether we even had one. I would feel sure that we did, that we must, although I could not remember for certain, and would be unable to call its image or its location to my mind. Finally I would search the cabinet and the shelves, and come across the pepper-mill by chance. I would look at it stupidly, feeling sure that this was indeed a pepper-mill (for it looked just like a pepper-mill) but being unable to recollect it. Finally I would use the pepper and put the mill back on the shelf, resolving to remember it the next time.

After this had happened three times, I was distraught. I knew that the last three times I had wanted the pepper I had been unable to remember the pepper-mill and had had to search for it. And even though I remembered doing this, I could not be sure that we really had one and try as I might I simply could not remember what it looked like or where it was. I had nightmares that somehow Funes was devouring my mnemonic capability to feed his own. I went to speak to Maria Fuente, but she only said that he was the spawn of the devil, and that was no help.

Finally one day I burnt Funes' dinner by tarrying too long in searching for the pepper-mill. This brought sharp words from Funes, who, as you may imagine, had no patience with the memory lapses of others. I did not want to tell him of my fears and my persistently failing memory; I had a half-formed idea that Funes was deliberately causing my weird forgetfulness, and I was afraid of what I might find out. I would have told him that it was the first time I had forgotten the pepper-mill, only I could not remember what it was I had been looking for. But for some reason, he demanded to know what it was, and I bleakly wandered around the cottage, opened the cabinet and searched the shelves, until I found the pepper-mill, and then I remembered. ``Ah,'' said I, ``it was the pepper-mill.''

At this, he almost sat up. ``Pepper-mill?'' he said. ``What pepper-mill?''

``The brown wooden one,'' said I. ``So long,'' holding my hands about six inches apart, ``and about this big around.''

``I have never seen this pepper-mill,'' he said. ``Is it Maria's? Did she bring it while I was asleep?''

I said that as far as I knew it had been in the cottage longer than I had.

``Let me see it,'' he commanded, and I brought the pepper-mill. Funes examined it closely, even minutely. ``I have never seen it before. Indeed, I did not even know I possessed such a thing. Speak to me no more of it,'' and he sank back onto the bed, quiet.

He seemed profoundly disturbed for the rest of the evening, and he did not speak again before I went to sleep. But I was awakened in the middle of the night. Funes was standing over me, in itself a cause for alarm, as he never arose from his bed except in the direst of emergencies. ``Dominus,'' he said, shaking me and almost losing his unsteady footing, ``Dominus! That... thing you showed me this evening. What was it? I have forgotten it.'' I could not remember, but I was able to get him to go back to bed while I hunted it up. He was trembling, and there was a wild light in his eyes. Finally I found the pepper-mill. ``Here,'' I said at last, tossing it to him. ``Here it is.''

He caught it, and as he examined it, he grew more and more perplexed and even wilder than before. ``I thought that I would know it when I saw it again,'' he cried. ``But I am sure I have never seen this before in my life!''

``So you said this afternoon,'' I reminded him.

``I know I said it this afternoon!'' he screamed. ``I remember saying it this afternoon. But of the pepper-mill I have no recollection whatsoever. Where was it?''

``It was on the little shelf,'' I said.

He made me hold him up as he came to examine the shelf. ``Where?'' he asked. ``Here?'' I assented. He leaned against me and studied the shelf, and then, satisfied at last, hobbled painfully back to bed. But He did not sleep. Of that I am sure. He lay awake, smoking and biting his nails, until morning.

When I awoke he looked haggard and there was cigarette ash on the floor beside his cot. He never spilt his cigarette ash; he found the details of the random patterns of the ash on the floor distracting and irritating, and they disturbed and excited him so that he could not rest. He was mumbling to himself. ``Salt shaker,'' he said. ``Garlic press. Large head of garlic. Fourteen dead flies. Small head of garlic. Jug of oil.'' He saw that I was awake. ``There were seven hundred and fourteen distinct entities on that shelf last night,'' he said instantly. ``Counting small chili peppers, spilled grains of rice, fragments of garlic and onion skin, and flecks of soil. I can remember all but one of them. What is the missing object?'' I could not remember. I went to the shelf and enumerated the large objects aloud. When I came to that abominable pepper-mill we were both surprised. ``A pepper-mill,'' mused Funes, gazing at it. ``I thought perhaps it might have been a pepper-mill, but I then thought it might have been many things.'' And he turned over and went to sleep with the pepper-mill under his pillow. I went out walking on the pampas, leaving a lunch by Funes' bed..

That evening when I returned Funes was in a state again. He could not remember the whatever-it-was, and this time we could not find it. Half an our of searching finally turned it up under his pillow, and again Funes and I examined it interestedly, wondering how we could forget such a commonplace object. I was careful to put the pepper-mill back on the shelf, in view of Funes' bed, to prevent this sort of farce from happening again. I had a limited success with this effort, since Funes forgot the pepper-mill whenever he averted his eyes from it. I eventually suspended it from the ceiling over his bed, so that it would be obvious to him as much of the time as possible, although this availed him nothing when he had his eyes shut, or when he slept on his belly.

Later I went to Maria Fuentes to ask for a less troublesome pepper-mill. She forwned, and said ``I was so sure that there was one there already,'', but could not recollect it, and so lent me another. As I left, I heard her wonder to herself about how she could have cooked so long for Funes without having a pepper-mill. This stopped me from worrying so much about my own sanity, since I realized that nobody, not even Funes, could remember the accursed pepper-mill, and as long as Funes was quiet I was able to forget about it (forget about the mysterious forgetting, I mean---forgetting the pepper-mill itself was easy) and pass the time calmly.

Funes occasionally awoke in the middle of the night, and, being unable to see the pepper-mill hanging suspended in front of his face in the dark, would rustle and talk to himself and finally strike a light, before he caught sight of the pepper-mill and was able to get back to sleep. Thus I did not sleep too well at night, but my days were idle and peaceful and so I got enough rest. I eventually received a letter from Borges saying that he would come for me in a few days, and I passed those days pleasantly. I took in fresh air and wrestled with the young men of the village. The days were carefree and happy, and I dreaded returning to the cottage to cook for Funes, who would stare at the pepper-mill, looking quite deranged, and mutter to himself in different languages, describing it over and over again, for hours on end, and then suddenly shut his eyes and try to remember it. He never succeeded.

Borges arrived a few days later to take me away, and I left that madhouse gratefully and went with him to Buenos Aires. I have ever since been struck by the irony of the situation in Fray Bentos. Funes alone would have been immune to the Zahir, for the quantity and detail of his memory alone would have been beyond the coin's power to compass. But an Anti-Zahir, a thing which nobody could remember at all, no matter how often they saw it, was, for a man with an otherwise perfect memory, the thing that most stuck in his mind.

Source: The Garden of Jorge Louis Borges
Image taken from here

Book Choice: Collected Fictions

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

William Butler Yeats - The Stolen Child

WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand.

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Book Choice: The Celtic Twilight: Faerie and Folklore

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Alfred Lord Tennyson - The Lady of Shalott

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.
By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?
Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly;
Down to tower'd Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers, " 'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.
And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
Pass onward from Shalott.
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.
But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.
A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.
The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armor rung
Beside remote Shalott.
All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, burning bright,
Moves over still Shalott.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.
In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.
And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.
Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right --
The leaves upon her falling light --
Thro' the noises of the night,
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.
Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.
Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And around the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.
Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."
Image taken from here

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Virginia Woolf - Monday or Tuesday

Lazy and indifferent, shaking space easily from his wings, knowing his
way, the heron passes over the church beneath the sky. White and distant,
absorbed in itself, endlessly the sky covers and uncovers, moves and
remains. A lake? Blot the shores of it out! A mountain? Oh, perfect--the
sun gold on its slopes. Down that falls. Ferns then, or white feathers,
for ever and ever--

Desiring truth, awaiting it, laboriously distilling a few words, for ever
desiring--(a cry starts to the left, another to the right. Wheels strike
divergently. Omnibuses conglomerate in conflict)--for ever desiring--(the
clock asseverates with twelve distinct strokes that it is midday; light
sheds gold scales; children swarm)--for ever desiring truth. Red is the
dome; coins hang on the trees; smoke trails from the chimneys; bark,
shout, cry "Iron for sale"--and truth?

Radiating to a point men's feet and women's feet, black or
gold-encrusted--(This foggy weather--Sugar? No, thank you--The
commonwealth of the future)--the firelight darting and making the room
red, save for the black figures and their bright eyes, while outside a
van discharges, Miss Thingummy drinks tea at her desk, and plate-glass
preserves fur coats--

Flaunted, leaf--light, drifting at corners, blown across the wheels,
silver-splashed, home or not home, gathered, scattered, squandered in
separate scales, swept up, down, torn, sunk, assembled--and truth?

Now to recollect by the fireside on the white square of marble. From
ivory depths words rising shed their blackness, blossom and penetrate.
Fallen the book; in the flame, in the smoke, in the momentary sparks--or
now voyaging, the marble square pendant, minarets beneath and the Indian
seas, while space rushes blue and stars glint--truth? content with

Lazy and indifferent the heron returns; the sky veils her stars; then
bares them.

Book Choice: Night and Day

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Poem of the week: Memories of West Street and Lepke by Robert Lowell

Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston's
"hardly passionate Marlborough Street,"
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is "a young Republican."
I have a nine months' daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants' wear.

These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty.  Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.

Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements.
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow ("it's really tan")
and fly-weight pacifist,
so vegetarian,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.

I was so out of things, I'd never heard
of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Are you a C.O.?" I asked a fellow jailbird.
"No," he answered, "I'm a J.W."
He taught me the "hospital tuck,"
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated's Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections. . . .

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Waiting by the bed... be read are a lot of books. One of them is the latest by the great David Baldacci Hell's Corner. Baldacci is the only thriller writer who hasn't let me down so far, so I really look forward to reading this. Next on the pile is Edge: A Novel by Jeffery Deaver, yet another on of my favorite crime fiction writers. Sitting at the side is Minette Walter's The Breaker but also Crossfire by japanese writer Miyuki Miyabe. After that I will accept the invitation by Anne Rice to visit the Blackwood Farm (The Vampire Chronicles) before travelling to the Far East yet again to read a few Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination (Tuttle Classics) delivered by Mr Edogawa Rampo. 2666: A Novel by Roberto Bolaño is the epic modern masterpiece that will follow. And then it will be Nelson Mandela month. Three books are waiting to grab my attention: Conversations with Myself, Long Walk to Freedom-the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela: Mcdougal Littell Literature Connections (HRW Library) and Mandela: The Authorised Biography. Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall: A Novel is one of the books that I didn't have the time to read last year and so it should come next, along with the poetic Possession by A.S. Byatt. I also intend to travel to Japan once more with Ryu Murakami and his Almost Transparent Bluenovel and last but not least I will take a dive into the fantasy world with Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hitomi Kanehara – Autofiction Quotes

What is hysteria, after all? It’s a disease of the pussy.

I live with the sole purpose of making my boring life even more boring by providing a boring commentary for my everyday boring life through a boring voice in my head.

I need to stay calm. Restrain myself. I have this tendency to think I’m right and make others feel bad. I need to remember that even I’m wrong sometimes.

There is really no point in basing one illusion on another.

Nobody has a time or place where they are free from the danger of death. People forget that, People live their lives with the basic assumption that they will still be alive the day after. I can’t live like that.

To love is to die.

Anger is similar to maggots. It multiplies in no time at all and quickly reaches an uncontrollable state.

I’ve chosen a life in which there is no place for excuses.

I’m living my life as a kite that has no home to go to.

Endurance is what my life is all about… I basically need to endure every moment of my life…

Perhaps hell is a fun place and even fun places can be hell, or perhaps hell is turning into a fun place day after day.