Saturday, July 25, 2015

Robert Frost: Putting in the Seed

Putting in the Seed

You come to fetch me from my work tonight
When supper's on the table, and we'll see
If I can leave off burying the white 
Soft petals fallen from the apple tree
(Soft petals, yes, but not so barren quite,
Mingled with these, smooth bean and wrinkled pea;)
And go along with you ere you lose sight
Of what you came for and become like me,
Slave to a springtime passion for the earth.
How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for the early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with the weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and and shedding the earth crumbs.

-- Robert Frost --

Why do I get the feeling that there's something going on behind the words on the page?  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eric Hoffer: The downside of some revolutions

No. 63

The link between ideas and action is rarely direct.  There is almost always an intermediary step in which the idea is overcome.  De Tocqueville points out that it is at times when passions start to govern human affairs that ideas are most obviously transformed into political action.  The translation of ideas into action is usually in the hands of people least likely to follow rational motives.  Hence it is that action is often the nemesis of ideas, and sometimes of the men who formulated them.

One of the marks of a truly vigorous society is the ability to dispense with passion as a midwife of action--the ability to pass directly from thought to action. 
-- Eric Hoffer --
from Reflections on the Human Condition

Within the past decade or so, how many popular revolutions or coups have we seen that successfully replaced dictatorships or tyrannies with regimes that are as bad or worse, in spite of the rhetoric that accompanied them?

Is Hoffer suggesting that the great majority of people can't be moved to act through reason or by intelligent thought but that they have to be stirred up by strong emotions or passion to accomplish something?

Are shouting, bullying, insulting comments, or emotionally laden slogans more likely to move people to act than calm reason and facts?

Friday, July 17, 2015

William H. Davies: Leisure


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

-- William H. Davies --
from Art and Nature:  An Illustrated Anthology of Nature Poetry
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A very simple poem but a profound thought, I think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ray Bradbury: The Lake

One of Ray Bradbury's strengths is that he can take the simplest elements and create a memorable tale from them:  two twelve year-old children, a summer at the lake, a half-finished sand castle, a sudden parting and perhaps an equally sudden and unexpected reunion.   Bradbury tells the story much better than I can, so I will give you some excerpts from this brief tale, but haunting (that may be a pun, but I'll let you decide)  nevertheless.

"The wave shut me off from the world, from the birds in the sky, the children on the beach, my mother on the shore.  There was a moment of green silence.  Then the wave gave me back to the sky, the sand, the children yelling.  I came out of the lake and the world was waiting for me, having hardly moved since I went away. 

      I ran up on the beach.

.  .  .  .  .

It was September.  In the last days when things are getting sad for no reason.  The beach was so long and lonely with only about six people on it.  The kids quit bouncing the ball because somehow the wind made them sad, too, whistling the way it did, and the kids sat down and felt autumn come along the endless shore.

All of the hot dog stands were boarded up with strips of golden planking, sealing in all the mustard, onion, meat odors of the long, joyful summer.  It was like nailing summer into a series of coffins.  One by one the places slammed their covers down, padlocked their doors, and the wind came and touched the sand, blowing away all of the million footprints of July and August.  It got so that now, in September, there was nothing but the mark of my rubber tennis shoes and Donald and Delaus Schabold's feet, down by the water curve.

.  .  .  .  .

I called her name.  A dozen times I called it.

   'Tally!  Tally!  Oh, Tally!'

.  .  .  .  .

   I thought of Tally, swimming out into the water last May, with her pigtails trailing, blonde.  She went laughing, and the sun was on her small twelve-year-old shoulders.  I thought of the water settling quiet, of the life-guard leaping into it, of Tally's mother screaming, and of how Tally never came out. . . .

.  .  .  .  .

And now in the lonely autumn when the sky was huge and the water was huge and the beach was so very long, I had come down for the last time, alone.

.  .  .  .  .

Turning, I retreated to the sand and stood there for half an hour, hoping for one glimpse, one sign, one little bit of Tally to remember.  Then, I knelt and built a sand-castle, shaping it fine, building it as Tally and I had often built so many of them.  But this time, I only built half of it.  Then I got up.

   'Tally, if you hear me, come in and build the rest.'

.  .  .  .  .

The next day I went away on the train.
.  .  .  .  .

I lengthened my bones, put flesh on them, changed my young mind for an older one, threw away clothes as they no longer fitted, shifted from grammar to high school, to college books, to law books.  And then there was a young woman in Sacramento.  I knew her for a time, and we were married."

There is more to this story--a return to the lake and another half-finished castle and .  .  .

I won't say any more, but if you are interested--this is a link to an online version of the story.  It's a short one.

If you read it, come back and let me know what you think of it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

That Desert Island Thing

R.T., on Beyond Eastwood, issued a challenge to come up with a six-pack of last reads.  I struggled for a while and came up with six, but I'm unhappy with the list because there are so many others I want to include.  In addition. I didn't include any works that I hadn't already read, or rather completely read.  I'm now almost 3/4 of the way through Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, and I've come nowhere near reading all of Frost's poetry, and I still have a few plays by Shakespeare to read. 

So, I'm going to modify R.T.'s .challenge a bit and expanded it to the magic Ten, so popular among all sorts of listings.  This will be my response to the Desert Island Challenge of Last Reads:  Which ten books would you want to be marooned with you on that Desert Island Paradise?

Shakespeare:  complete plays and poems

Proust:  In Search of Lost Time

Anthony Powell:  A Dance to the Music of Time

Frost:  complete poems and plays

Melville:  Moby Dick

Thomas Mann:  The Magic Mountain

Walter van Tilburg Clark: The City of Trembling Leaves

Loren Eiseley:  The Immense Journey

Jane Austen:  Mansfield Park or Persuasion  (a last minute decision)

Lawrence Durrell:  The Alexandria Quartet

George Eliot:  Middlemarch

Miklos Banffy:  The Transylvanian Trilogy
This is something I'm taking a chance on as I haven't read any of the three works.  However, the reviews sound interesting, and my father was born in what is now Transylvania, so I thought I would risk adding this trilogy.  The work is set in pre-WWI Hungary and is the account of two cousins who followed two very different paths.

Those who are less math challenged than I am will have noted that there are twelve works listed here-not ten.  Well, if one starts out with a six-pack, then it's only logical to expand to two six-packs, isn't it?

  I'm now working on a third six-pack, so I'd  better stop here.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Rubaiyat: 2nd Edition, Quatrain XLVII

This is Quatrain XLVII, one of the new quatrains FitzGerald introduced with the publication of the second edition.  It also appears in the Fifth Edition.

Second Edition:  Quatrain XLVII

And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, should lose, or know the type no more;
    The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour'd
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour. 

Fifth Edition:  Quatrain XLVI

And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, and mine, should know the like no more;
    The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour'd
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour. 

Lines 1, 3, and 4 are identical, with the only changes occurring in the second line.  The most significant effect is that the Poet/Narrator now includes himself along with the reader, perhaps to remove any suspicion the reader may have had that the Poet felt himself to be unique.

Overall, I would not call this a very cheerful quatrain for it argues that we all will die some day.   Moreover, it dispels those fond delusions that we may have had that we are special or unique in some way, for there are millions like us who have already appeared and millions more who will follow us.  And, being compared to a bubble strongly evokes the idea of the ephemeral nature of our being. Perhaps it's time for a cup of wine.