I was probably the wrong audience for this, since I'm not a big Tolkien enthusiast, but I was curious. Turns out, this wasn't meant to be published, b...moreI was probably the wrong audience for this, since I'm not a big Tolkien enthusiast, but I was curious. Turns out, this wasn't meant to be published, but this was Tolkien's gift for his secretary. I don't see the point of publishing a very short poem as an individual book. Baynes's illustrations are lovely as always, but this just seems more like her picture book with a couple of Tolkien's verses slapped on. I presume it's supposed to be the other way around, and Tolkien's poems are usually pretty average. Or maybe I just don't see what a hardcore fan would.(less)
Lenore complains to God how he has treated her unfairly, because her fiancé William still hasn't returned from the war. Things start to get eerie when...moreLenore complains to God how he has treated her unfairly, because her fiancé William still hasn't returned from the war. Things start to get eerie when he finally comes back.
The publication of the ballad dates to a time when philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder suggested, that in order to create a German literary tradition they should collect folk songs from the lower classes. Wikipedia has a good overview of the background, so I won't go into more detail on that. I think it's interesting that this has variations in other cultures. In Finland for example the elements have been changed into a snowy landscape and a sled, but the basic idea is the same. Like I mentioned in my review of the collection of Finnish ghost stories, this seems very familiar to me. I'm not sure if it's because I've read a similar story when I was a child, or if there are some universal aspects to it, but it's entertaining nevertheless.
Since I don't know enough German, I can't say anything about Rossetti's translation, but apparently it's considered the most faithful one. The ending was wonderfully creepy, but it also reminded me a bit of Hugo Simberg, especially his painting The Garden of Death. It's not a big surprise that Lenore was a big inspiration for Romantic writers. It's a short ballad, but has a lot of great material whose echoes can be seen and felt in all Romantic and at some level in Gothic and horror literature. It has been said to have influenced the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Matthew Gregory Lewis, John Keats and William Wordsworth. Bram Stoker famously cited the line "The dead travel fast" in Dracula. I would actually say that this is a must read for all horror and Romantic aficianados, even if only to see where it all started.(less)
"In repugnant things we discover charms" (To the Reader)
"I shall suck, to drown my rancor, Nepenthe and the good hemlock From the charming tips of those...more"In repugnant things we discover charms" (To the Reader)
"I shall suck, to drown my rancor, Nepenthe and the good hemlock From the charming tips of those pointed breasts That have never guarded a heart." (Le Léthé, translated by William Aggeler)
Daring for an 1857 collection (some of the poems were known even before that), this is full of death and decay, breasts and voluptuous lips, wine and opium. There are occasional rays of the sun, but mostly the verses are about the deepest depths of sexuality and the smell of tombs. The section Tableu Parisiens includes prostitutes, gamblers, vagabonds, beggars, and overall criticism of clean 19th century French modernity. Some of those poems were dedicated to Victor Hugo.
Baudelaire's women are unreachable goddesses, sweet lovers, cunning seductresses who claw your heart out. The poems take you on a spin of dark dreams, the fumes of drunkenness, the cruel passing of time and beauty. Even the most beautiful woman will eventually become a rotting corpse. Une Martyre might have been about necrophilia. Which, you know, I don't condone, but as a poem it was pretty damn beautiful (and perhaps slightly icky). Wouldn't want to get lost in Baudelaire's thoughts for days on end, but as a work of art this exceeded all my expectations. Decadence has a well deserved place in literature, although it might not be for everyone. Délicieux!
Since I wasn't familiar with novels in verse before now, I was a bit uneasy at first (especially since I thought this was a regular novel), but in the...moreSince I wasn't familiar with novels in verse before now, I was a bit uneasy at first (especially since I thought this was a regular novel), but in the end I got used to it and judged it as an ok form. The thing I had problems with, was that despite the pretty nature descriptions I had difficulties in coming to terms with the characters. It wasn't that they weren't interesting. They were, especially Eugene himself in all his cynical glory, but he like the others were too superficial for my taste. Mere reflections of what might have been. Tatyana for example seems mostly just an ideal image of a sacrificing woman, who, when left disappointed, decides to just settle in a life which she can't feel any passion towards, but which she feels is right. The verses don't give that much room for delving either into the story or the characters, in which a regular novel would have had entirely different chances.
The role of writing and especially reading delighted a dusty bookworm like me. The most interesting thing in the novel was, however, Puškin's stylistic device of breaking the barrier between author and reader by occasionally referring to himself. The reader is not only being talked to, but attention is drawn to the author's own world view, feelings, and views on women (or their feet) among other things. Puškin hints at his own life and work in such manner, that it's in danger of alienating the story itself. Overall it works, though, because it brings certain depth and biographical material to the work, inspiring me to read more about the author (a classic case of being more interested about the person than about the works, I think).
The translator of my Finnish edition notes, that what Peter the Great is to history, Puškin is to literature. I can't comment on that, since my knowledge of Russian literature is pretty weak, but maybe at this stage it was only a good thing to familiarize myself with the "fountainhead of Russian literature", because later I can then compare his influence on such authors as Gogol and Dostoyevsky(hopefully the themes are utilized at a deeper level, though).
The Russian reviews here on Goodreads are interesting views on the importance of Onegin in their culture. At this point this just seemed a bit too light for my own taste, mainly just an introduction to 19th century Russian society and its literary culture. Pretty and thought provoking novel, but didn't rock my world.(less)