A Poem for Your Monday

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Ulysses

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

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The creative process is as equally fascinating as it is enigmatic. Here is an interview of Jeffrey Eugenides, author of The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot, among other works, conducted by The Paris Review as part of their “First Time” series.

Creators – Eugenides

A Poem for Your Monday

XL- Into My Heart an Air That Kills
By A. E. Housman

Into my heart an air that kills

From yon far country blows:

What are those blue remembered hills,

What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain,

The happy highways where I went

And cannot come again.

Image courtesy of Sean Kelley, 2011 at http://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=6351

The Mirror of Shakespeare

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Does Shakespeare Really Have “Universal Appeal?”

His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpracticed by the rest of the world; by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can but operate upon small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions: they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply and observation will always find.

Such was the verdict of Samuel Johnson in a preface to one of the many published editions of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and it was the beginning of a sentiment that is often thrown around, but never elaborated on, in many academic and conversational settings. Every classroom I have experienced has thrown the phrase about at least once; Shakespeare has a supposed “universality” that speaks to all of humanity within his writing, but this is a phrase used and discarded at a whim, never fleshed out and just accepted prima faci. Is it true though?

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A Poem for Your Monday

O Me! O Life!

By Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
  Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.


Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/ldygwen784/old-new-york/

A Poem for Your Monday

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Dejection: An Ode

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Late, late yestreen I saw the new Moon,
With the old Moon in her arms;
And I fear, I fear, my Master dear!
We shall have a deadly storm.
(Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence)
I
Well! If the Bard was weather-wise, who made
       The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,
       This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence
Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade
Than those which mould yon cloud in lazy flakes,
Or the dull sobbing draft, that moans and rakes
Upon the strings of this Æolian lute,
                Which better far were mute.
         For lo! the New-moon winter-bright!
         And overspread with phantom light,
         (With swimming phantom light o’erspread
         But rimmed and circled by a silver thread)
I see the old Moon in her lap, foretelling
         The coming-on of rain and squally blast.
And oh! that even now the gust were swelling,
         And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast!
Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed,
                And sent my soul abroad,
Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give,
Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live!

A Poem for Your Monday

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Ode: Intimations of Immortality

by William Wordsworth

The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”)
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day.
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

What Makes a “Classic”

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Why Read the Classics?

The existence of a “classical canon” in literature raises a multitude of questions when we begin to examine the idea itself. Which pieces of literature are considered classics? Why are those considered classics? Why read classics? Who decides what is a classic? I’m not sure any two people have the exact same list of classics, as there is no exactly identical human experience between two people, so how can the art they consume and value and respond to and see as a required part of their lives possibly be identical. On top of that, in the words of Italo Calvino, “however vast any person’s basic reading may be, there still remain an enormous number of fundamental works that [they have] not read.” We simply cannot experience the vast entirety of art and literature that has been created. In short, classics are not black and white, but rather a tag we attach to an ever changing, individually subjective pool of literature that matter to us in some undeniable way. So here is one wonderful rationalization of the classical category by the aforementioned Italian author Italo Calvino:

1. The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: ‘I’m rereading…’, never ‘I’m reading….’

2. The classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.

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Exorcism Through Literature

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Over my Thanksgiving break, I finally finished reading the novel King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild, which illustrates in great detail the horrible atrocities committed during the Scramble for Africa by King Leopold II of Belgium, including the genocide of natives and rape of a country in a grievous display of greed and hubris on the part of the European monarch Leopold. I highly recommend reading this novel, for many different reasons, if not simply to learn about the deaths of roughly 10 million Africans at the hands of white colonialism that inspired the very accurate Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad, that occurred only a little over one hundred years ago, an event that has since lost its impact and place in the minds of people across the globe.

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A Poem for Your Monday

arab-city

Adonis

Iram the Many-Columned

Our city fled
So I ran to see its roads
I looked—I saw nothing but the horizon
I saw that the fugitives tomorrow
And those returning tomorrow
Were a body that I tore on my paper.

And I saw—the clouds were a throat
The water was walls of flame
I saw a yellow sticky thread
A thread of history hanging on to me
With which a hand that inherited
The race of puppets and the dynasty of rags
Was pulling at my days, knotting them and undoing them.

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