fajrdrako: TARDIS in winter ([Christmas] - 02)

I wanted to point out [personal profile] commodorified's wonderful Litany For A Season of Night and Storm.

How can it be a whole month since I have posted here?

The solstice has come. The season has turned. We escaped an ice storm by sheer blind luck and that isn't sleet in the air, it's Christmas.

Under the influence of my friends, I spent an hour or two last night watching cat videos on YouTube on my television - after spending a good part of the morning watching Michael Wood's show about Alfred the Great and petting [personal profile] maaseru's lovely white cat, whom I call the Little Princess. But her name is really Minou.
fajrdrako: icon by <user name=fajrdrako> ([Bond])

From Ming the Mechanic: A Samurai's Creed by Flemming Funch: The creed of a samurai, written around 1300 by an unnamed author. Via Chris Corrigan.

    I have no parents; I make the heaven and earth my mother and father.
    I have no home; I make awareness my dwelling.
    I have no life and death; I make the tides of breathing my life and death.
    I have no divine power; I make honesty my divine power.
    I have no means; I make understanding my means.
    I have no magic secrets; I make character my magic secret.
    I have no body; I make endurance my body.
    I have no eyes; I make the flash of lightning my eyes.
    I have no ears; I make sensibility my ears.
    I have no limbs; I make promptness my limbs.
    I have no strategy; I make “unshadowed by thought” my strategy
    I have no designs; I make “seizing opportunity by the forelock” my design.
    I have no miracles; I make right action my miracle.
    I have no principles; I make adaptability to all circumstances my principles.
    I have no tactics; I make emptiness and fullness my tactics.
    I have no talents; I make ready wit my talent.
    I have no friends; I make my mind my friend.
    I have no enemy; I make carelessness my enemy.
    I have no armor; I make benevolence and righteousness my armor.
    I have no castle; I make immovable mind my castle.
    I have no sword; I make absence of self my sword.

fajrdrako: ([Q])

John Keats. I read several biographies of him in my teens; I read piles of his poetry. Back then I was reading piles of poetry by all the Romantics, and Keats was not my favourite. My love was for Shelley; Shelley admired Keats, but Keats didn't reciprocate the friendship. I liked Keats, but he seemed passive and bloodless compared to Shelley's manic social theories, Byron's outrageous histrionics, or Robert Browning's smooth storytelling. The sad story of John Keats - 'unrecognized brilliance, lived poor, lost his love and died young' - perhaps resembled my sense of myself too much: sickly, struggling with life, love, and creativity. If I wanted to read about dying tragically in Italy, I'd choose Elizabeth Browning, whose story is more romantic. I admired Keats, but didn't ever love him.

This didn't stop me from making a pilgrimage to his grave when I was in Rome.

Still: a movie about a Romantic poet, and set in 1818 - how could I resist? Well, [personal profile] auriaephiala said it was sad. So I didn't get around to it for a few years.

But then I saw Skyfall, and fall in love with everyone in the movie, including Ben Whishaw, who plays Keats in Bright Star, and suddenly the movie rose to the top of my list.

Had I known the director was Jane Campion, I might still have resisted seeing it. The Piano is one of my least favourite movies ever. When I watched the extras on the Bright Star DVD, I saw that Jane Campion talked about wanting to show the passion of the characters and their story.

Problem is, I don't see much passion here. It seems to me to be the Dreaded Doom of some historical movies: emulate the speech patterns of the time, make everyone a little bit mannered, put in a lot of long silences and ambiguous glances. Boring before it starts. Fleshless.

Or maybe I'm just allergic to Campion's style. I know Whishaw can act brilliantly; I've seen it. I saw it in Skyfall, where in a few brief scenes he shows more personality than in the whole of Bright Star. I didn't see the depths in Keats that I wanted to see, or the strength of his love for Fannny. Nor did I find Abbie Cornish very interesting as Fanny Brawne - and I'm pretty sure that Jane Campion was not trying to say that Fanny was a dull person. In fact, the only character I really liked was Mr. Brown, played by Paul Schneider. He seemed real to me, and three dimensional. No one else did.

And Brown's love for Keats seemed more sad, more selfless, more hopeless, and more heroic to me than Fanny's. He broke my heart when he said, "I failed John Keats. I did not know until now how tightly he wound himself around my heart." The only problem with him was his ugly plaid trousers.

...And yes, that was another problem. In lieu of strong story and gripping emotions, I wanted to enjoy my favourite period for costume and style. Sadly, I thought Janet Patterson botched it. The point is made that Fanny Brawne designed her own clothes: the character and the designer between them managed to make clothes of my favourite period look ugly to my eye. Fussy where they should have been simple, multipatterned when they should have been plain.

I didn't think it even did much justice to Keat's poetry. The poems, of course, speak for themselves. But the readings were somewhat monotone, read in lowered voices which substituted timing for intonation. Uninspired, regardless of who was reading them.

I'm not sorry I watched it. Actually, I watched it twice. The second time confirmed my first impressions. I loved the cat; and Fanny's little sister; and I'm getting close to the point where I'd watch Ben Whishaw in anything. But this wasn't the movie I wanted it to be.

fajrdrako: TARDIS in winter ([Christmas] - 02)

    The Shortest Day
    By Susan Cooper

    And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
    And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
    Came people singing, dancing,
    To drive the dark away.
    They lighted candles in the winter trees;
    They hung their homes with evergreen;
    They burned beseeching fires all night long
    To keep the year alive.
    And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
    They shouted, revelling.
    Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
    Echoing behind us - listen!
    All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
    This Shortest Day,
    As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
    They carol, feast, give thanks,
    And dearly love their friends,
    And hope for peace.
    And now so do we, here, now,
    This year and every year.
    Welcome Yule!
fajrdrako: (Default)

    the Shortest Day
    By Susan Cooper

    And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
    And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
    Came people singing, dancing,
    To drive the dark away.
    They lighted candles in the winter trees;
    They hung their homes with evergreen;
    They burned beseeching fires all night long
    To keep the year alive.
    And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
    They shouted, revelling.
    Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
    Echoing behind us - listen!
    All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
    This Shortest Day,
    As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
    They carol, feast, give thanks,
    And dearly love their friends,
    And hope for peace.
    And now so do we, here, now,
    This year and every year.
    Welcome Yule!

fajrdrako: (Default)

[livejournal.com profile] filkferengi made sure I saw this poem by [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith, "Slashing Through the Undergrowth", of which I think the very best line is the one used in the title - but then there's this bit:

    This is where the archetypes go,
    so this is where the muses go too
    at two in the morning
    with cups of coffee and tea and cocoa

And this bit:

    Put the pieces together in a different order,
    dress them in fresh costumes,
    and tell them what their fandom is all about.

Doesn't that just encapsulate fandom?

fajrdrako: ([Doctor Who] - Jack/Rose)

      "When you're away, I'm restless, lonely,
      Wretched, bored, dejected; only
      Here's the rub, my darling dear,
      I feel the same when you are here."

    — Samuel Hoffenstein (Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing)

fajrdrako: (Default)

30 Day Book Meme: – Day 16 - Favorite poem or collection of poetry

Four Quartets by T.T. Eliot. It's beautiful and mystical and all about how time is wibbly-wobbly, and yet profoundly beautiful and full of meaning.
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

fajrdrako: (Default)

I've always loved A.A. Milne's writing, and the other day I was trying to remember one of his poems.

The subject came up because of some blue flowers growing in the garden of the house across the street. [personal profile] maaseru noticed them, and asked me if I knew what they were. I didn't, and we agreed (as we often do) that Beulah would know. They were extremely beautiful, a very rich dark blue.

So when Beulah drove me home the next day, I told her I wanted to show her a flower across the street, and we went across so she could see the lovely flowers. She went up on their front walk to get a closer view. There were two women talking in the laneway next door. One of them said, "Can we help you?" It was her garden we were peering at.

She told us they were delphiniums. She and Beulah talked garden-talk for a bit.

This brought to mind a poem I once memorized and loved: The Dormouse and the Doctor by A.A. Milne. Sounds like a Doctor Who/Alice in Wonderland crossover, doesn't it? But it isn't.

The Doormouse and the Doctor )

fajrdrako: ([Doctor Who] - Ten)

I did this haiku-generator I saw on [personal profile] alcibiades' page, and it turned out to be a surprisingly romantic Doctor Who Doctor/Rose piece.

Haiku2 for fajrdrako
on pete's world she
pulled out of his love for
you true to form
Created by Grahame

Want to know how this works? See the FAQ.
See other recent results on the front page.

FAQ | All trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

fajrdrako: (Default)

From Tom O'Bedlam, written anonymously in England c. 1600:

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghostes and shadowes
I summon'd am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wild world's end.
Methinks it is no journey.

fajrdrako: (Default)

The Candle a Saint by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Green is the night, green kindled and apparelled.
It is she that walks among astronomers.

She strides above the rabbit and the cat,
Like a noble figure, out of the sky,

Moving among the sleepers, the men,
Those that lie chanting green is the night.

Green is the night and out of madness woven,
The self-same madness of the astronomers

And of him that sees, beyond the astronomers,
The topaz rabbit and the emerald cat,

That sees above them, that sees rise up above them,
The noble figure, the essential shadow,

Moving and being, the image at its source,
The abstract, the archaic queen. Green is the night.

fajrdrako: (Default)

Another poem I love from the Anglo-Saxons: The Wanderer, lines 92 to 96.

I discovered this when I was about fifteen, when my fascination with Tolkien led me to a passion for the Anglo-Saxons. I found a recording of Anglo-Saxon poetry in the library, a Caedmon record in which a rich baritone read Old English poems, incuding this one, which I memorized in the original language, I loved it so much:

"Hwær cwom mearg? Hwær cwom mago? Hwær cwom maþþumgyfa?
Hwær cwom symbla gesetu? Hwær sindon seledreamas?
Eala beorht bune! Eala byrnwiga!
Eala þeodnes þrym! Hu seo þrag gewat,
genap under nihthelm, swa heo no wære.
Without knowing anything about Anglo-Saxon grammar or syntax, I loved the sonorous vowels and the mental images. This poem always made me think of the Sutton Hoo treasure.

I found a translation of this passage, though again I can't recall the translator, or find him cited online. The translation I loved was this:

Where is the horse? Where the hero?
Where the treasure-giving prince?
Where the seats at the feast, where the delights of the hall?
Alas, bright goblet! Alas, mailed fighter!
Alas, princely power.
How that time has passed away,
Grown dark beneath the night's helmet,
as though it had not been.

And then one day, the penny dropped. I'd read almost the same poem in The Lord of the Rings without recognizing it - Tolkien had his very own version of it in The Two Towers - you can hear it here as rendered so beautifully by Bernard Hill in the Peter Jackson movie. Everything came full circle: Tolkien led me to the poem, the poem led me back to Tolkien.

Here's another translation, this one by Benjamin Thorpe:

Where is horse, where is man? where is the treasure-giver ?
where are the festive sittings ? where are the joys of the hall?
Alas bright cup ! alas mail'd warrior !
alas chieftain's splendour ! how the time has pass'd,
has darken'd under veil of night, as if it had not been.

fajrdrako: (Default)

Because I posted the end of Dante's Paradiso yesterday, I'll continue with transcendental visions of God and post the end of Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot.

Last Tuesday I posted the first part of Four Quartets, "Burnt Norton". This is how it ends, with "Little Gidding". But before featuring the poem itself, let me quote Captain Jack Harkness, with the last line in the Torchwood episode "Exit Wounds": The end is where we start from.

Captain Jack has, in my opinion, very good taste in poetry.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase... )

And though I know this is out of order, section IV is worth including as well:


The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

fajrdrako: ([Supernatural] - Castiel)

This is the very end of The Divine Comedy, where Dante meets and describes God. John Ciardi translation.

Paradiso, Canto XXXIII by Dante Alighieri (1265-1421)

Like a geometer wholly dedicated
to squaring the circle, but who cannot find,
think as he may, the principle indicated-

so did I study the supernal face.
I yearned to know just how our image merges
into that circle, and how it there finds place;

but mine were not the wings for such a flight.
Yet, as I wished, the truth I wished for came
cleaving my mind in a great flash of light.

Here my powers rest from their high fantasy,
but already I could feel my being turned-
instinct and intellect balanced equally

as in a wheel whose motion nothing jars-
by the Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.

The original Italian version, worth reading for its sounds along, is this:

Qual è 'l geomètra che tutto s'affige
per misurar lo cerchio )

I am rather happy to have found this site: The World of Dante. I'd always thought the John Ciardi translation of The Divine Comedy was the only English translation worth reading, but this looks almost as good. It seems that the translator's name is Allen Mandelbaum. Here's how he renders that final passage:

As the geometer intently seeks
to square the circle, )

fajrdrako: (Default)

I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon by Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never -- "

"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

I love this one as a study in ambiguity - like one of those optical illusions that might be a girl or might be a goblet. We studied this poem in grade 13, and what I remember is not the poem itself but the reaction to it. The others in the class thought it was about a man who was so obsessed with his own follies that he tried to do the impossible and wouldn't listen to anyone's good advice. I was baffled and amazed: had we read the same poem? I thought it was a man who was following an individual dream, a nonconformist genius whose instinct drove him to accomplish the impossible, and to see the truths others miss.

One other person in the class saw it my way.

There's no answer to the riddle; I don't know which interpretation Crane intended, or whether he wanted us to see it both ways. If so, it's all the more brilliant.

fajrdrako: (Default)

Reason by Josephine Miles (1911-1985)

Said, Pull her up a bit will you, Mac, I want to unload there.
Said, Pull her up my rear end, first come first served.
Said, give her the gun, Bud, he needs a taste of his own bumper.
Then the usher came out and got into the act:

Said, Pull her up, pull her up a bit, we need this space, sir.
Said, For God's sake, is this still a free country or what?
You go back and take care of Gary Cooper's horse
And leave me handle my own car.
Saw them unloading the lame old lady,
Ducked out under the wheel and gave her an elbow.
Said, All you needed to do was just explain;
Reason, Reason is my middle name.

fajrdrako: (Default)

I always associate this passage from Shakespeare with Percy Bysshe Shelley, because I first came across it in his biography - he liked to recite it. And so do I.

Did you wonder when or if I'd get to Shakespeare? I've made no secret that he's one of my favourite writers, though in fact I love him more as a dramatist than as a poet. Yes, the distinction is arbitrary. I love reading biographies of Shakespeare, or books about him; I love seeing him appear in fiction, in fanfic, and in (for example) Neil Gaiman comic books.

Happy birthday, William. In honour of the day, here's a link to We Haven't Got There Yet by Harry Turtledove.
from Richard III: Act III, scene ii by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let's choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke's,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

fajrdrako: (Default)

It's Earth Day, and I struggled to think of a favourite poem of mine that is about the Earth. The poems I love are about people. But then I thought of one that goes way back to my childhood, that's about the earth and sky and ocean.... And which I still love as much as I ever did.

The Island by A.A. Milne (1882-1956)

If I had a ship,
I'd sail my ship,
I'd sail my ship
Through Eastern seas;
Down to a beach where the slow waves thunder-
The green curls over and the white falls under-
Boom! Boom! Boom!
On the sun-bright sand.
Then I'd leave my ship and I'd land,
And climb the steep white sand,
And climb to the trees,
The six dark trees,
The coco-nut trees on the cliff's green crown-
Hands and knees
To the coco-nut trees,
Face to the cliff as the stones patter down,
Up, up, up, staggering, stumbling,
Round the corner where the rock is crumbling,
Round this shoulder,
Over this boulder,
Up to the top where the six trees stand ....

And there I would rest, and lie,
My chin in my hands, and gaze
At the dazzle of sand below,
And the green waves curling slow,
And the grey-blue distant haze
Where the sea goes up to the sky....

And I'd say to myself as I looked so lazily down at the sea:
"There's nobody else in the world, and the world was made for me."


fajrdrako: (Default)

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