A great counterweight to George Steiner's The Death of Tragedy, published shortly beforehand (in the 1960s).
Steiner: Tragedy issues from the bleak woA great counterweight to George Steiner's The Death of Tragedy, published shortly beforehand (in the 1960s).
Steiner: Tragedy issues from the bleak worldview of pagans. Optimism (Christianity, Enlightenment) was fatal to it; belief in progress makes it impossible. Kaufmann: Aeschylus was optimistic and committed most of the 'fatal acts and impossibilities'. Greek tragedies were quite happy not to end in catastrophe. Tragedy merely meant 'immense suffering' on stage, such that an end of grace cannot erase the anguish from our minds. Tragedy is entirely possible today. It is the most humane of arts, as it works on sympathy, often for unlikely persons. It believes in courage and nobility, as comedy did not. Despair is the only killer of tragedy.
Both value poets above the commentators on poets; both are deeply versed in the poems, and love them intimately; both write to be understood and enjoyed; both are traumatised by the first half of the twentieth century, both remain humanists. Read both. ...more
I almost threw this mess of pottage aside as unnecessary in my life at this point in time, but then I dipped into sections 7 and 8 and they are sheerlI almost threw this mess of pottage aside as unnecessary in my life at this point in time, but then I dipped into sections 7 and 8 and they are sheerly wonderful. ...more
Adore this play. De Flores is my favourite villain; De Flores and Beatrice an intense portrait of love-hate obsession. Dark Jacobean psychology at itsAdore this play. De Flores is my favourite villain; De Flores and Beatrice an intense portrait of love-hate obsession. Dark Jacobean psychology at its sexiest; with a comic subplot in a madhouse that bounces about with the main plot's themes. Nifty work. ...more
This is a poetry challenged for survival – first, being an oral poetry in Bedouin dialect, where written classical Arabic has been considered the highThis is a poetry challenged for survival – first, being an oral poetry in Bedouin dialect, where written classical Arabic has been considered the high culture vehicle; second, being by women. Even when the ‘popular’ Bedouin poetry is attended to, women’s can slip through the safety net; this text works with the single collection of nomad women’s poetry, made in the 1950s.
It isn’t an anthology but a study, using the latest critical techniques. The author makes her argument for this in the introduction. Here a poetry unseen in English translation before – ‘marginalized’ several ways over -- is given the dignity of full critical treatment.
The poetry itself? Most poetry, everywhere, is about grief, isn’t it? The melancholy mood, above others, is singable. It seems to be here. I loved the yearning for the desert when the poet finds herself stranded in a town, and the intimate use of landscape and its animals:
"The khaluj [a she camel that has lost its calf] is the most compelling image of grief in the Bedouin Arabic dialect. The she camel is perceived as the animal most vulnerable to loss, displaying its reactions in extended and lingering mourning intervals. Sometimes its extreme mourning leads to death... its anguished and persistent moans haunt Bedouin poetry."
My cousins got me the CDs. Go cousins. Aside from the inconvenience of no play list in the packaging -- you have to look at the CDs themselves, and thMy cousins got me the CDs. Go cousins. Aside from the inconvenience of no play list in the packaging -- you have to look at the CDs themselves, and there the titles are severely truncated -- aside from that, half the time with no idea who I'm listening to, I am riveted. Writers read their own: way to go. ...more
These translators win: for me the highly lyrical ‘A Lone Goose in Autumn over the Palaces of Han’ achieves real poetry. It’s a historical love & dThese translators win: for me the highly lyrical ‘A Lone Goose in Autumn over the Palaces of Han’ achieves real poetry. It’s a historical love & duty story, and thought to be a riposte to another here, ‘Rain on the Wutong Tree’, set around the rebellion of An Rokshan (An Lushan). In the first, the Han emperor’s concubine sacrifices herself to maintain peace with the barbarians – since his court and soldiers can’t; in the second, the Tang emperor’s decadent concubine is lynched at the demand of his soldiers. Both emperors are distraught but helpless. ...more
I have loved, do love and shall love Housman. Way out of fashion, like my other young love Swinburne. I spent more time with them than with those thouI have loved, do love and shall love Housman. Way out of fashion, like my other young love Swinburne. I spent more time with them than with those thought better poets, early in life, and have no regrets. It's true the alt sexuality helped in both cases. Perhaps I can liken Housman to the lyrics of The Smiths. I think I can. ...more
With a caravan of cloths I left Sistan with cloths spun from the heart, woven from the soul cloths made of a silk which is called Word cloths designed byWith a caravan of cloths I left Sistan with cloths spun from the heart, woven from the soul cloths made of a silk which is called Word cloths designed by an artist who is called Tongue every stitch was drawn by force from the breast every weft separated in torment from the heart. These are not woven cloths like any cloth do not judge them in the same way as others... This is no cloth that can be spoilt by water this is no cloth that can be damaged by fire its colour is not destroyed by the earth's dust nor its design effaced by the passing of time.
--Farrukhi (d.1037), native of Sistan, poet at the court of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna....more
Gets better and better as it goes along, until I nearly tore out my hair when we come to an abrupt stop, just as he works up to ----
Most loved for hisGets better and better as it goes along, until I nearly tore out my hair when we come to an abrupt stop, just as he works up to ----
Most loved for his authorial voice. Also later parts of the story: the siege for instance, where he dared to be comic and hideously real. And his joke rhymes: I can't think of a rhyme for this, so have... a ludicrous one. Byron just bursts out in this poem.
I guess he turned Don Juan upside-down after Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis? ...more
As the lost white feverish limbs Of the Lesbian Sappho, adrift In foam where the sea-weed swims, Swam loose for the seas to lift...
This is typical: it haAs the lost white feverish limbs Of the Lesbian Sappho, adrift In foam where the sea-weed swims, Swam loose for the seas to lift...
This is typical: it has Sappho, it has death, it has the sea. He was as much fixated on Sappho because she threw herself into the sea, as because in her he has a spokeswoman for himself and his explorations. Sappho's perfect for him, it's not just that he's a perv.
Swinburne writes endlessly about the sea. I tried his novels and remember a few pages on a drowning man, than which, I thought at the time, I never expect to find a more lifelike experience written down. But the sea's everywhere, and I bet he set himself the task to be like the sea: similar, yes, to itself, yesterday, but infinitely different, and who's bored by the sea? I don't know better sea descriptions.
Poems & Ballads was his first splash and highly notorious. He's more attached to French Decadents than the English Pre-Raphaelites – he was Baudelaire's champion in England. In brief he explores cruelty; first the cruel instincts in love, then outward to the cruelty of the world. His pagans attack Christianity as too optimistic a religion, and in that untrue – as well as being life-negative and anti-sensual.
'Faustine' is about a decadent Roman, a female Faust, a queen given over to evil and evil lusts, but magnificent. One of his gaudy poems, that can be quite funny:
You seem a thing that hinges hold, A love-machine With clockwork joints of supple gold – No more, Faustine.
Is that steampunk? More gaudy is 'Dolores', a tribute to Our Lady of Pain...
What tortures undreamt of, unheard of, Unwritten, unknown?
Not any more. And published in Victorian England. But onto more serious poetry. 'Hymn to Proserpine' has a note 'After the proclamation in Rome of the Christian faith'. It's a pagan's lament for things past and lost, and uses the sea again, with ocean-rhythms:
Will ye bridle the deep sea with reins, will ye chasten the high sea with rods? Will ye take her to chain her with chains, who is older than all ye Gods? All ye as a wind shall go by, as a fire ye shall pass and be past; Ye are Gods, and behold, ye shall die, and the waves be upon you at last.
I've spent most time with 'Anactoria', which is Sappho in first person to her absconded lover. She too moves from cruelty towards Anactoria, in her abandonment, to a metaphysical statement. I think 'Anactoria' is a great poem. And once you get past the lesbian sadism, it culminates in Sappho's triumph as a poet. That may be an old claim – I shall not die. I'm a poet – but where is the claim made better?
Sappho is not the weary sort, weary of life and sensation like Faustine; she's healthy, she has far too much self for that. Yes, she swings between moods, and has her exhausted death-moods:
I would the sea had hidden us, the fire (Wilt thou fear that, and fear not my desire?) Severed the bones that bleach, the flesh that cleaves, And let our sifted ashes drop like leaves.
But she's a presence, a personality, as the other women in this book aren't. She has a voice. Though at her lover's feet in one sentence, in the next she is above her, above her love. In her throes she can say, Last year when I loved Atthis, and this year/ When I love thee. You can see why Anactoria ran away. She has Aphrodite under thumb: Mine is she, very mine. Aphrodite offers her redress:
...and she bowed, With all her subtle face laughing aloud, Bowed down upon me, saying, 'Who doth thee wrong, Sappho?'
She's nothing if not possessive:
That I could drink thy veins as wine, and eat Thy breasts like honey! that from face to feet Thy body were abolished and consumed And in my flesh thy very flesh entombed!
Her own cruelty morphs into that of God (singular):
For who shall change with prayers or thanksgivings The mystery of the cruelty of things?
And she goes on with a vision of the universe's cruelty. With a God behind it:
Is not his incense bitterness, his meat Murder? his hidden face and iron feet Hath not man known, and felt them on their way Threaten and trample all things and every day?
On behalf of the suffering she declares,
Him would I reach, him smite, him desecrate; Pierce the cold lips of God with human breath And mix his immortality with death.
The last third shifts to her victory over Anactoria, and over death, and over God in fact.
Yea, thou shalt be forgotten like spilt wine, Except these kisses of my lips on thine Brand them with immortality; but me – Men shall not see bright fire nor hear the sea...
and so on and so on, without they think of Sappho, or know her, for I Sappho shall be one with all these things. This is her conquest of God:
But, having made me, me he shall not slay... Of me the high God hath not all his will. ...more
Is this the danger of watching first? I'd never read Cymbeline before I saw the BBC TV version with Helen Mirren three times, and I'm doing nothing buIs this the danger of watching first? I'd never read Cymbeline before I saw the BBC TV version with Helen Mirren three times, and I'm doing nothing but run that version in my head as I read. I'll try again later.
I'm fascinated now by the Late Romances: I feel the wonders of The Winter's Tale and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and want to extend that to Pericles and Cymbeline. Both of which I've watched too much in the single version available to me, the BBCs -- where I find both wonderful.
I collect Arden Thirds but they don't have a Cymbeline out. I have this Oxford. Pity about its spellings of the ugly Innogen for Imogen and the modern Giacomo for Iachimo....more
A poet/philosopher in the libertine/desperately sceptical tradition. Maybe less philosophical than others and filthier. Filthy verse to tell you aboutA poet/philosopher in the libertine/desperately sceptical tradition. Maybe less philosophical than others and filthier. Filthy verse to tell you about usages past, I mean language use and sexual uses. Autobiographical poetry, although put on, in the how-desperately-wicked-am-I tradition -- as per below:
'The Earl of Rochester's Conference with a Postboy'
Rochester. Son of a whore, God damn you! can you tell A peerless peer the readiest way to Hell? I've outswilled Bacchus, sworn of my own make Oaths would fright Furies, and make Pluto quake; I've swived more whores more ways than Sodom's walls E'er knew, or the college of Rome's cardinals. Witness heroic scars. Look here. Ne'er go! Cerecloths and ulcers from the top to toe! Frighted at my own mischiefs, I have fled And bravely left my life's defender dead; Broke houses to break chastity, and dyed That floor with murder which my lust denied. Pox on't! why do I speak of these poor things? I have blasphemed my God, and libelled kings! The readiest way to Hell, boy! Quick! Boy. Ne'er stir, The readiest way, My Lord, 's by Rochester.
This was amusing. Scholars have gone into contortions to avoid or confute the blindingly obvious fact that Shakespeare wrote love sonnets to a guy. ThThis was amusing. Scholars have gone into contortions to avoid or confute the blindingly obvious fact that Shakespeare wrote love sonnets to a guy. That no, this wasn't part of a friendship tradition -- nothing traditional about them. That yes, the Sonnets are explicitly sexual (in his witty way). Pequigney mocks and teases the scholars who can't cope, and that makes for a funny book.
However, he's a Freudian. He thinks the Freudian theory of homosexuality (excuse me?) fits the Sonnets nicely. I know this will put a few people off, but it's worth it for the other parts of the book. The story he draws from the Sonnets convinces me more than what Katherine Duncan-Jones derives in her edition, which is famous for being the 1st not to be awkward with the sexuality (did we catch up with you in four centuries, Will?). But Pequigney is even more at ease with the Sonnets as they are -- except when Freud leads him astray. ...more