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, April 29. 2017
I am reposting this Empson poem because Michael Wood has a new book out about Empson's critical writing, The Codebreaker - On the critical legacy of William Empson.
The Last Pain
This last pain for the damned the Fathers found:
Maggie's Farmers are fans of William Empson, more for his books than for his poetry. For many of us, his 7 Types of Ambiguity (written at age 22) opened a door to a new world. A commenter here claimed that his The Structure of Complex Words is the best book ever written. Better check it out.
Saturday, April 8. 2017
I wander'd lonely as a cloud
A poet could not but be gay,
For oft, when on my couch I lie
Saturday, April 1. 2017
Breathes There The Man... from The Lay Of The Last Minstrel
Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Saturday, March 25. 2017
There are many versions and verses.
On a summer day in the month of May a burly bum came hiking
There's a lake of gin we can both jump in, and the handouts grow on bushes
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, you never change your socks
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin,
This song was written and performed by Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock in the 1920s. The only other hobo/bum/homeless song that competes with this one is Roger Miller's country version of King of the Road - not as good as this song, though.
Saturday, March 18. 2017
The Death of the Hired Man (1915)
You can hear Frost read the poem here.
Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Continue reading "Saturday Verse: Robert Frost"
Saturday, March 4. 2017
The World Is Too Much With Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
Saturday, February 25. 2017
I hunted down a misquote ("Beware the wrath of patient men") that was quoted in a piece linked at American Digest, and learned that it was from a Dryden epic, possibly a satirical one, Absalom and Achitophel.
John Dryden was the literary giant of his time. He influenced many, especially Pope, and knew Marvell and Milton. Never read any Dryden - just one of countless holes in my education.
The fragment goes like this:
Oh that my Pow'r to Saving were confin’d:
Lots of Dryden fragments and quotes here to get a sense of his clear, forceful style. He liked heroic couplets.
Saturday, February 18. 2017
A short excerpt from Snowbound: A Winter Idyl (1866):
Yet, haply, in some lull of life,
Ahhh, the benediction of the air. Read the entire wonderful but old-fashioned-sounding 1865 poem by the great north of Boston newspaper editor and abolitionist here.
He made a lot of money from that poem. Whittier's home, to which the poem refers, stands in Haverhill, MA. It's a sentimental poem you can read to the kids - with feeling! Especially on a snowbound day.
Saturday, February 11. 2017
Thanks to Vanderleun. Somehow, I never knew this Tennyson poem. We all have regretful knowledge lacunae but we fight them daily. In sophomore (required) Public Speaking, part of that course was to memorize and recite a poem, an epic fragment (choice of Milton, Homer, Chaucer, Virgil, Hesiod, or Dante), or a Shakespeare soliloquy, each month. I have a few Shakespeare sonnets permanently in my hippocampus. Wish I had found this Tennyson then. The Sparks Notes re Ulysses.
It little profits that an idle king,
Saturday, November 12. 2016
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
Frost is mocking his wall-loving neighbor, but also admits that he mends wall too - together with his neighbor. A reflection on boundaries of all sorts. We happen to have a (stone) wall mending project at hand. New England dry stone walls have always been fragile things because glacial residue tends towards rounded shapes.
Saturday, November 5. 2016
Ross Coggins composed "The Development Set" in 1976. Nothing has changed.
The Development Set is bright and noble
In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We discuss malnutrition over steaks
We bring in consultants whose circumlocution
The language of the Development Set
It pleasures us to be esoteric —
When the talk gets deep and you’re feeling numb,
Or say, “That’s fine in practice, but don’t you see:
Development set homes are extremely chic,
Enough of these verses – on with the mission!
Saturday, July 30. 2016
And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
at the red towers of your native Sodom,
Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
Saturday, June 18. 2016
Out of the night that covers me,
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
It matters not how strait the gate,
Tuesday, June 14. 2016
A garden at the HQ this week
What is so rare as a day in June?
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Saturday, June 4. 2016
The Sicilian Mariner's Prayer
O Sanctissima O Piissima
Tota pulchraes O Maria
Sicut lilium inter spinas
In miseria in angustia
Monday, May 30. 2016
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then he will strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names
Familiar in his mouth as household words:
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d,
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Saturday, April 23. 2016
A few clarifying notes on # 74
Saturday, April 9. 2016
In Memoriam A.H.H.
(It's a lengthy piece about the death of his best friend, with many oft-quoted lines, which Tennyson wrote over 17 years. The remarkable work begins like this - the whole poem is here)
Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou seemest human and divine,
Our little systems have their day;
We have but faith: we cannot know;
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But vaster. We are fools and slight;
Forgive what seemed my sin in me;
Forgive my grief for one removed,
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Saturday, March 19. 2016
Reading together one day for delight
Here's a good brief essay on Dante translations: Dante: The Most Vivid Version.
Image on top is Domenico di Michelino: Dante Reading from the ‘Divine Comedy,’ 1465. Note that the lantern on top of Brunelleschi's dome is completed.
Saturday, February 6. 2016
Notes On The Art Of Poetry
I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on
in the world between the covers of books,
such sandstorms and ice blasts of words,
such staggering peace, such enormous laughter,
such and so many blinding bright lights,
splashing all over the pages
in a million bits and pieces
all of which were words, words, words,
and each of which were alive forever
in its own delight and glory and oddity and light.
Saturday, January 30. 2016
Sailing to Byzantium (1933)
(Neoneo was reminded of this poem, here.) The first verse feels stolen from Hopkins, doesn't it?
Saturday, January 23. 2016
I love you, though I rage at it,
Saturday, January 16. 2016
Dover Beach (c. 1867)
The sea is calm to-night.
Sophocles long ago
The Sea of Faith
Saturday, January 9. 2016
Good Bye and Keep Cold
This saying good-bye on the edge of the dark
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
Friday, December 25. 2015
The Journey of the Magi, T. S. Eliot (1927)
'A cold coming we had of it,
(Some commentary here.)
Painting above is Fra Angelico's Adoration of the Magi
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