We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Saturday, November 22. 2014
A Winter Night
It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,
Saturday, November 15. 2014
Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.
And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.
Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.
You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.
The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.
Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.
What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.
So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset
and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.
Saturday, November 8. 2014
I met a traveller from an antique land
Shelley (1792-1822) led one heck of a rebellious life - a classic poet's life full of tragedy,
Saturday, November 1. 2014
A poem should be palpable and mute
Saturday, October 25. 2014
The House Of Clouds
I would build a cloudy House
For my thoughts to live in;
When for earth too fancy-loose
And too low for Heaven!
Hush! I talk my dream aloud
I build it bright to see,
I build it on the moonlit cloud,
To which I looked with thee.
Cloud-walls of the morning's grey,
Faced with amber column,
Crowned with crimson cupola
From a sunset solemn!
May mists, for the casements, fetch,
Pale and glimmering;
With a sunbeam hid in each,
And a smell of spring.
Build the entrance high and proud,
Darkening and then brightening,
If a riven thunder-cloud,
Veined by the lightning.
Use one with an iris-stain,
For the door within;
Turning to a sound like rain,
As I enter in.
Build a spacious hall thereby:
Boldly, never fearing.
Use the blue place of the sky,
Which the wind is clearing;
Branched with corridors sublime,
Flecked with winding stairs
Such as children wish to climb,
Following their own prayers.
In the mutest of the house,
I will have my chamber:
Silence at the door shall use
Evening's light of amber,
Solemnising every mood,
Softening in degree,
Turning sadness into good,
As I turn the key.
Be my chamber tapestried
With the showers of summer,
Close, but soundless - glorified
When the sunbeams come here;
Wandering harpers, harping on
Waters stringed for such,
Drawing colours, for a tune,
With a vibrant touch.
Bring a shadow green and still
From the chestnut forest,
Bring a purple from the hill,
When the heat is sorest;
Spread them out from wall to wall,
Whereupon the foot shall fall
In light instead of sound.
Bring the fantasque cloudlets home
From the noontide zenith
Ranged, for sculptures, round the room,
Named as Fancy weeneth:
Some be Junos, without eyes;
Naiads, without sources
Some be birds of paradise,
Some, Olympian horses.
Bring the dews the birds shake off,
Waking in the hedges,
Those too, perfumed for a proof,
From the lilies' edges:
From our England's field and moor,
Bring them calm and white in;
Whence to form a mirror pure,
For Love's self-delighting.
Bring a grey cloud from the east,
Where the lark is singing;
Something of the song at least,
Unlost in the bringing:
That shall be a morning chair,
Poet-dream may sit in,
When it leans out on the air,
Unrhymed and unwritten.
Bring the red cloud from the sun
While he sinketh, catch it.
That shall be a couch, with one
Sidelong star to watch it,
Fit for poet's finest Thought,
At the curfew-sounding;
Things unseen being nearer brought
Than the seen, around him.
Poet's thought, not poet's sigh!
'Las, they come together!
Cloudy walls divide and fly,
As in April weather!
Cupola and column proud,
Structure bright to see -
Gone - except that moonlit cloud,
To which I looked with thee!
Let them! Wipe such visionings
From the Fancy's cartel
Love secures some fairer things
Dowered with his immortal.
The sun may darken - heaven be bowed -
But still, unchanged shall be,
Here in my soul, that moonlit cloud,
To which I looked with THEE!
Saturday, October 18. 2014
Poetic language is an intensification of the use of words. Prof Booth likes to look at the "physics" of poetic language. When a person gets into a poetry state, whether writing or reading, the mind can take over and let the inner physics of the thing just happen the same way you can hit a moving car with a snowball without knowing the math and the brain physiology of it.
I found this essay to be fascinating, and had to re-read it: Shakespeare’s Genius Is Nonsense - What the Bard can teach science about language and the limits of the human mind. One quote:
Saturday, October 11. 2014
On January 20, 1961, Robert Frost spoke at John F. Kennedy's inauguration. The snow-glare made it impossible for him to read his new poem for the occasion (he was 87 years old), so he recited a better poem, The Gift Outright, from memory.
~ The Gift Outright ~
The land was ours before we were the land's.
Saturday, October 4. 2014
An annual reposting, now at the beginning of duck hunting season.
WHATEVER YOU DO IS WRONG
When you sit in the blind awaiting the flight
Then you curse yourself for a fool greenhorn,
And so, through life, a poor wretch tries
Still, I think that our God who sits in His sky,
Saturday, September 27. 2014
When You Are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
Saturday, September 20. 2014
After Apple Picking
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.
Saturday, September 13. 2014
A hungry feeling
This song was written by Irish playwright Brendan Behan for his play The Quare Fellow (slang for a condemned man). A lag is slang for a new prisoner. The song has been performed by The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, and The Pogues, and is recorded on one of Bob Dylan's practice "basement tapes" with The Band in a folk-rock style.
Photo: Behan with Jackie Gleason, 1960.
Saturday, September 6. 2014
She was a phantom of delight (1804)
SHE was a Phantom of delight
Saturday, August 30. 2014
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
WS was right about that, wasn't he? How did he know how long his lines would live?
Saturday, August 23. 2014
The Betrothed, by Kipling
"You must choose between me and your cigar."
Open the old cigar-box, get me a Cuba stout,
Saturday, August 16. 2014
The Female of the Species
When the Himalayan peasant meets the
When Nag the basking cobra hears the
When the early Jesuit fathers preached
Man's timid heart is bursting with the
Man, a bear in most relations -
Fear, or foolishness, impels him,
But the Woman that God gave him,
Continue reading "Saturday Verse: Rudyard Kipling"
Saturday, August 2. 2014
We only have fragments of Archilochus' lyric poetry (ie accompanied by a lyre), which have been found over the years on shreds of papyrus. Here are a few of those fragments:
- My one great talent lies in making
- I am the servant of Ares, Lord of Battle,
- Some Thracian is delighted with the shield, which beside a bush
- Not many bowstrings will be stretched nor slingshot
- I long for a fight with you, just as a thirsty man longs for drink.
- The fox knows many things,
- There is no country fair and desirable
- I have no interest in the business of Gyges and all his gold,
Here's a brief piece on his poetry.
Here's a brief bit on Greek lyric poetry.
Here are the types of Greek lyric poetry. Most names quite familiar to us.
Saturday, July 26. 2014
The year's at the spring
Those famous lines are from Browning's 1841 Pippa Passes. It's Pippa's song. Pippa is a silk mill worker in Asolo, and has three holidays per year. The poem goes through the morning, noon, evening and night of Pippa's day off. She treasures her precious free time. This is from "Morning":
Oh, Day, if I squander a wavelet of thee,
O'er Jules and Phene, what care bride and groom
Worship whom else? For am I not, this day,
The entire piece is here. Yes, Browning specialized in the dramatic monologue. I can easily imagine Pippa as a one-person stage performance. Off topic, but I always got a kick out of the name of Pippa Passes, KY, aka Caney Creek.
Saturday, July 19. 2014
Break of Day
'Tis true, 'tis day; what though it be?
Image is Picasso's Meditation, 1904
Saturday, July 12. 2014
All I know is a door into the dark.
Saturday, June 28. 2014
I am as lovely as a dream in stone;
Before my monumental attitudes,
For I, to fold enchantment round their hearts,
Saturday, June 21. 2014
The Ballad of East and West
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
Rest of his poem below on Continuation page
Continue reading "Saturday Verse: Kipling"
Saturday, June 7. 2014
Nights on Lake Como
What do you take from these starry nights,
(translation by William Ruleman - details here)
Saturday, May 31. 2014
A Considerable Speck
A speck that would have been beneath my sight
Saturday, May 24. 2014
A Miracle for Breakfast
At six o'clock we were waiting for coffee,
A piece about Bishop in the WSJ
Saturday, May 17. 2014
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