April 29, 2009

Dover Beach

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--Description: 19th C, Arnold M., Christianity, Nature--


The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold


--Did You Know: Arnold was an English poet, and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. Matthew Arnold has been characterized as a sage writer, a type of writer who chastises and instructs the reader on contemporary social issues

--Word of the Day: dilettante \DIL-uh-tont; dil-uh-TONT; dil-uh-TON-tee; -TANT; -TAN-tee\, noun
Meaning: 1. An amateur or dabbler; especially, one who follows an art or a branch of knowledge sporadically, superficially, or for amusement only. 2. An admirer or lover of the fine arts.
Example: As he had put it, it was a matter of principle, not money: Mistler family trusts, over which he exercised discretionary powers, had not been established to support dilettantes or would-be litterateurs waiting for inspiration.
(Louis Begley, Mistler's Exit)

--Quote of the Day: "An inexhaustible good nature is one of the most precious gifts of heaven, spreading itself like oil over the troubled sea of thought, and keeping the mind smooth and equable in the roughest weather."
(Washington Irving)

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A Light Exists In Spring

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--Description: 19th C, Dickinson E., Seasons--
 
 

A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.

Emily Dickinson


--Did You Know: Dickinson was a prolific private poet, though fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime. The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time

--Word of the Day: didactic \dy-DAK-tik; duh-\, adjective
Meaning: 1. Fitted or intended to teach; conveying instruction; instructive; teaching some moral lesson; as, "didactic essays." 2. Inclined to teach or moralize excessively; moralistic.
Example: The show trial may be defined as a public theatrical performance in the form of a trial, didactic in purpose, intended not to establish the guilt of the accused but rather to demonstrate the heinousness of the person's crimes.
(Sheila Fitzpatrick, Everyday Stalinism)

--Quote of the Day: If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.
(Anne Dudley Bradstreet)

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April 28, 2009

Of The Boy And The Butterfly

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--Description: 17th C, Bunyan J., Childhood, Illusion--


Behold, how eager this our little boy
Is for a butterfly, as if all joy,
All profits, honours, yea, and lasting pleasures,
Were wrapped up in her, or the richest treasures
Found in her would be bundled up together,
When all her all is lighter than a feather.

He halloos, runs, and cries out, 'Here, boys, here!'
Nor doth he brambles or the nettles fear:
He stumbles at the molehills, up he gets,
And runs again, as one bereft of wits;
And all his labour and his large outcry
Is only for a silly butterfly.

Comparison

This little boy an emblem is of those
Whose hearts are wholly at the world's dispose.
The butterfly doth represent to me
The world's best things at best but fading be.
All are but painted nothings and false joys,
Like this poor butterfly to these our boys.

His running through nettles, thorns, and briers,
To gratify his boyish fond desires,
His tumbling over molehills to attain
His end, namely, his butterfly to gain,
Doth plainly show what hazards some men run
To get what will be lost as soon as won.

John Bunyan


--Did You Know: Bunyan was an English Christian writer and preacher, famous for writing The Pilgrim's Progress, arguably the most famous published Christian allegory besides Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy".

--Word of the Day: perambulate \puh-RAM-byuh-layt\, verb
Meaning: 1. To walk about; to roam; to stroll; as, "he perambulated in the park."
Example: Every weekend, the police close off ten to fifteen blocks of some Manhattan avenue. The merchants line the curbs, and the New Yorkers slowly perambulate up and down.
(Richard Brookhiser, "Island Bazaar", National Review, July 1, 2002)

--Quote of the Day: Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder.
(Eberhard Arnold)

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The Raven

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--Description: 19th C, Poe E.A., Death, Sorrow--


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Edgar Allen Poe


(Especially liked by Venus B.)

--Did You Know: Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective-fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.

--Word of the Day: turpitude \TUR-puh-tood; -tyood\, noun
Meaning: 1. Inherent baseness or vileness of principle, words, or actions; depravity. 2. A base act.
Example: In the eyes of the far left, it [the 60s] is the era when revolution was at hand, only to be betrayed by the feebleness of the faithful and the trickery of the enemy; to the radical right, an era of subversion and moral turpitude.
(Arthur Marwick, The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, c.1958-c.1974)

--Quote of the Day: "It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls."
(Epicurus)

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April 27, 2009

Little Girls Must Not Fret

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--Description: 19th C, Taylor J., Children, Parenting--
 

 
What is it that makes little Emily cry?
Come then, let mamma wipe the tear from her eye:
There­ -- lay down your head on my bosom­ -- that's right,
And now tell mamma what's the matter to-night.

What! Emmy is sleepy, and tired with play?
Come, Betty, make haste then, and fetch her away;
But do not be fretful, my darling; you know
Mamma cannot love little girls that are so.

She shall soon go to bed and forget it all there­
Ah! here's her sweet smile come again, I declare:
That's right, for I thought you quite naughty before.
Good night, my dear child, but don't fret any more.

Jane Taylor


--Did You Know: Taylor was an English poet and novelist. She wrote the words for the song Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in 1806 at age 23, while living in Shilling Street, Lavenham, Suffolk.

--Word of the Day: insensate \in-SEN-sayt; -sit\, adjective
Meaning: 1. Lacking sensation or awareness; inanimate. 2. Lacking human feeling or sensitivity; brutal; cruel. 3. Lacking sense; stupid; foolish.
Example: The religion of primeval humans, he suggested, held that souls inhabited not only human beings but also animals, trees, plants--even rocks, rivers, and other natural features we regard as insensate.
(Bill Strubbe, "The world as self, the self as world", The World & I, June 1, 1997)

--Quote of the Day: “Who of us is mature enough for offspring before the offspring themselves arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.”
(Peter De Vries)

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April 26, 2009

Home Sweet Home

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--Description: 20th C, Watkins F., War--


Sharers of a common country,
They had met in deadly strife;
Men who should have been as brothers
Madly sought each other's life.

In the silence of the even,
When the cannon's lips were dumb,
Thoughts of home and all its loved ones
To the soldier's heart would come.

On the margin of a river,
'Mid the evening's dews and damps,
Could be heard the sounds of music
Rising from two hostile camps.

One was singing of its section
Down in Dixie, Dixie's land,
And the other of the banner
Waved so long from strand to strand.

In the land where Dixie's ensign
Floated o'er the hopeful slave,
Rose the song that freedom's banner,
Starry-lighted, long might wave.

From the fields of strife and carnage,
Gentle thoughts began to roam,
And a tender strain of music
Rose with words of "Home, Sweet Home."

Then the hearts of strong men melted,
For amid our grief and sin
Still remains that "touch of nature,"
Telling us we all are kin.

In one grand but gentle chorus,
Floating to the starry dome,
Came the words that brought them nearer,
Words that told of "Home, Sweet Home."

For awhile, all strife forgotten,
They were only brothers then,
Joining in the sweet old chorus,
Not as soldiers, but as men.

Men whose hearts would flow together,
Though apart their feet might roam,
Found a tie they could not sever,
In the mem'ry of each home.

Never may the steps of carnage
Shake our land from shore to shore,
But may mother, home and Heaven,
Be our watchwords evermore.


Frances E. Watkins


--Did You Know: Watkins was a US social reformer, lecturer, and poet. The best-known African-American poet of the era, she also published articles against slavery and a short story, ‘The Two Offers’ (1859), probably the first such published work by any African-American.

--Word of the Day: pandiculation \pan-dik-yuh-LEY-shuhn\, noun
Meaning: an instinctive stretching, as on awakening or while yawning
Example: "Pandiculate for Health! Grow Tall! Get Well! Be Young!" Exuberant ads like this, running in health-fad magazines since 1914, have proclaimed the virtues of a spine-stretching device called the "Pandiculator."
(Time, 1942-04-12)

--Quote of the Day: Civil war? What does that mean? Is there any foreign war? Isn't every war fought between men, between brothers?
(Victor Hugo)

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April 24, 2009

Carpe Diem

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--Description: 17th C, Shakespeare W., Love, Passion--


O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear! your true-love's coming
That can sing both high and low;
Trip no further, pretty sweeting,
Journey's end in lovers' meeting--
Every wise man's son doth know.

What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty,--
Then come kiss me, Sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

William Shakespeare


--Did You Know: In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights. Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime.

--Word of the Day: coruscate \KOR-uh-skayt\, verb:
Meaning: 1. To give off or reflect bright beams or flashes of light; to sparkle.
2. To exhibit brilliant, sparkling technique or style.
Example: They pulled up at the farthest end of a loop path that looked out over the great basin of the Rio Grande under brilliant, coruscating stars.
(Bill Roorbach, "Big Bend", The Atlantic, March 2001)

--Quote of the Day: There's more of yourself in a book than a play. that's why we know all about Dickens and not much about Shakespeare. Ben Jonson murdered people; Marlowe was a spy; Shakespeare just sat in the corner and took notes.
(Sir John Mortimer)

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Madonna Mia

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--Description: 19th C, Wilde O., Love, Beauty--
 
 


A lily-girl, not made for this world's pain,
With brown, soft hair close braided by her ears,
And longing eyes half veiled by slumberous tears
Like bluest water seen through mists of rain:
Pale cheeks whereon no love hath left its stain,
Red underlip drawn in for fear of love,
And white throat, whiter than the silvered dove,
Through whose wan marble creeps one purple vein.
Yet, though my lips shall praise her without cease,
Even to kiss her feet I am not bold,
Being o'ershadowed by the wings of awe,
Like Dante, when he stood with Beatrice
Beneath the flaming Lion's breast, and saw
The seventh Crystal, and the Stair of Gold.

Oscar Wilde


--Did You Know: Wilde, for much of his life, advocated socialism, which he argued "will be of value simply because it will lead to individualism." He also had a strong libertarian streak as shown in his poem "Sonnet to Liberty" and, subsequently to reading the works of Peter Kropotkin—whom he described as "a man with a soul of that beautiful white Christ which seems coming out of Russia".

--Word of the Day: panache \puh-NASH; -NAHSH\, noun
Meaning: 1. Dash or flamboyance in manner or style.
Example: Dessert included a marvelous bread pudding and a fair bananas Foster,the old-time New Orleans dish, which was prepared with great panache tableside, complete with a flambé moment.
(Eric Asimov, "New Orleans, a City of Serious Eaters.", New York Times, July 4, 1999)

--Quote of the Day: The cello is like a beautiful woman who has not grown older, but younger with time, more slender, more supple, more graceful.
(Pau (Pablo) Casals)

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April 23, 2009

Written in March

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--Description: 19th C, Wordsworth W., Seasons, Nature--


The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!

Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The plowboy is whooping—anon-anon:
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!

William Wordsworth


--Did You Know: He and his sister moved back to England, now to Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District, and this time with fellow poet Robert Southey nearby. Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey came to be known as the "Lake Poets".[8] Through this period, many of his poems revolve around themes of death, endurance, separation and grief.

--Word of the Day: virtuoso \vur-choo-OH-soh\, noun
pl. virtuosos, virtuosi
Meaning: 1. a person skilled in the techniques of an art, esp. playing a musical instrument; by extension, a person with a cultivated appreciation of artistry
Example: They applauded the virtuoso's performance.

--Quote of the Day: Youth is like spring, an over-praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.
(Samuel Butler)

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April 22, 2009

A Walk After Dark

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--Description: 20th C, Auden W., Nature, Night--



A cloudless night like this
Can set the spirit soaring:
After a tiring day
The clockwork spectacle is
Impressive in a slightly boring
Eighteenth-century way.

It soothed adolescence a lot
To meet so shameless a stare;
The things I did could not
Be so shocking as they said
If that would still be there
After the shocked were dead

Now, unready to die
Bur already at the stage
When one starts to resent the young,
I am glad those points in the sky
May also be counted among
The creatures of middle-age.

It's cosier thinking of night
As more an Old People's Home
Than a shed for a faultless machine,
That the red pre-Cambrian light
Is gone like Imperial Rome
Or myself at seventeen.

Yet however much we may like
The stoic manner in which
The classical authors wrote,
Only the young and rich
Have the nerve or the figure to strike
The lacrimae rerum note.

For the present stalks abroad
Like the past and its wronged again
Whimper and are ignored,
And the truth cannot be hid;
Somebody chose their pain,
What needn't have happened did.

Occurring this very night
By no established rule,
Some event may already have hurled
Its first little No at the right
Of the laws we accept to school
Our post-diluvian world:

But the stars burn on overhead,
Unconscious of final ends,
As I walk home to bed,
Asking what judgment waits
My person, all my friends,
And these United States.


W. H. Auden


--Did You Know: Auden's work is noted for its stylistic and technical achievements, its engagement with moral and political issues, and its variety of tone, form and content

--Word of the Day: pedant \PED-nt\, noun
Meaning: A person who makes a show of detailed knowledge, esp. relying on books; also, a narrow-minded teacher or scholar.
Example: Yet Eyton is no little pedant; he confesses frankly that for a boy of 9 he does not know much Greek, though his Latin is adequate.
(Robertson Davies, Speaking Of Books, New York Times, February 14, 1962)

--Quote of the Day: If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.
(George Eliot)

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