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Month: June, 2013

XL. Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea (1852-18623)

Auguste Ottin

____________

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XL. Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours

Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours!
I will not gainsay love, called love forsooth.
I have heard love talked in my early youth,
And since, not so long back but that the flowers
Then gathered, smell still. Mussulmans and Giaours
Throw kerchiefs at a smile, and have no ruth
For any weeping. Polypheme’s white tooth
Slips on the nut if, after frequent showers,
The shell is over-smooth, – and not so much
Will turn the thing called love, aside to hate
Or else to oblivion. But thou art not such
A lover, my Belovèd! thou canst wait
Through sorrow and sickness, to bring souls to touch,
And think it soon when others cry “Too late.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

___________________________

esoteric references blur today the meaning of
many Romantic poems, something I remember
distancing me from poetry when I was a boy,
and therefore considered poems such as
this one mannered, not to say pretentious

Polypheme was apparently the name of the
cyclops Odysseus blinded on his return to
Ithaca and his wife, Penelope, in Homer’s
Odyssey“, I know nothing about his white
tooth, slipping on a nut, the frequency of,
wherever, showers, nor smooth, or
otherwise, shells, despite some research
and my generally extended poetic
information, if you’ll allow me here to,
however immodestly, refer to this
erudition

but the message of the poem is not lost,
your love, she says, to her suitor, is like
no other’s, true despite all obstacles,
which often have swayed earlier less
stalwart models in her experience

Polypheme had indeed also loved the lovely
Galatea, in another mythical incarnation,
hopelessly of course, having only one eye
would’ve been necessarily a deal breaker,
both practically and aesthetically, so he
crushed his rival, Acis, under a huge rock,
and that, as they say, was that

others have done worse

“Mussulmans” are of course Mohameddans,
or Muslims, Giaours are their unbelievers,
which is to say, Christians, all of this being
evidently relative, both parties having
discredited, essentially therefore disqualifed,
each others’ deities, therefore Nietzsche, but
that’s another story

all of them nevertheless “Throw kerchiefs
at a smile”,
speak louder than their actions,
all of them “have no ruth / For any weeping”,
cry easily at melodramas, humans all, after
everything, despite conflicting theological
intractabilities

“gainsay”, to refute, deny, she will not deny
that others have loved, she can still “smell”
even, sense the shiver of, when she was
young, its promises

all these nothing, however, to compare to
his unflinching anchor

you’ll note that Elizabeth is again talking
about Robert, she’s probably had enough
by now of herself, not an uncommon
development, I propose, in any interaction

Richard

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“Horsetail” – Richard Wilbur‏

Horsetail

It grows anywhere.
This jointed stalk, with branches
like green floating hair,

Thrives in ditches and
Trackside gravel, and even
In oil-spattered sand.

Careless of all that,
Its foot-high grace enhances
Any habitat.

Like a proud exile,
It will not boast that elsewhere
It lived in high style;

And who, after all,
Would credit what its vague head
Must in dreams recall –

How it long looked down
On the backs of dinosaurs
Shadowed by its crown?

Richard Wilbur

____________

rather than an avowal, as in the Romantic
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this poem is
instead an observation, a disquisition on
the fly, instead of an intensely personal
revelation, it’s a meditation on time

note that everything in this poem rhymes,
something not immediately evident for its
clever mixture throughout of iambic and
trochaic meter, to blur the rhythms as well
as the matching sonorities of traditional
poetry

iambic, da dah, da dah, da dah,
“To be or not to be”

trochaic, dah da, dah da, dah da,
“Mary had a little lamb”

compounded with the intellectual immediacy
of the subject it’s not unusual one would
miss the rustle of particular trees, however
sweet, for the majesty of the primordial forest

but it’s well worth revisiting the bristling
babble of the branches in conversation
with any stray cavorting breeze

Richard

psst: anapaestic, da da dah, da da dah,
“Lullaby, and goodnight”

dactylic, dah da da, dah da da,
out of the frying pan, into the fire

“One Last Poem for Richard” – Sandra Cisneros

One Last Poem for Richard

December 24th and we’re through again.
This time for good I know because I didn’t
throw you out — and anyway we waved.
No shoes. No angry doors.
We folded clothes and went
our separate ways.
You left behind that flannel shirt
of yours I liked but remembered to take
your toothbrush. Where are you tonight?

Richard, it’s Christmas Eve again
and old ghosts come back home.
I’m sitting by the Christmas tree
wondering where did we go wrong.

Okay, we didn’t work, and all
memories to tell you the truth aren’t good.
But sometimes there were good times.
Love was good. I loved your crooked sleep
beside me and never dreamed afraid.

There should be stars for great wars
like ours. There ought to be awards
and plenty of champagne for the survivors.

After all the years of degradations,
the several holidays of failure,
there should be something
to commemorate the pain.

Someday we’ll forget that great Brazil disaster.
Till then, Richard, I wish you well.
I wish you love affairs and plenty of hot water,
and women kinder than I treated you.
I forget the reason, but I loved you once,
remember?

Maybe in this season, drunk
and sentimental, I’m willing to admit
a part of me, crazed and kamikaze,
ripe for anarchy, loves still.

Sandra Cisneros

_____________

Sandra Cisneros is in a direct line from
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, you’ll note,
from the Romantic Age through to the
XXlst-Century emancipation and
independence of women, Elizabeth could
never ‘ve so cavalierly abandoned a lover
in fiction, much less fact, in the Romantic
Age, not to mention two, or three, maybe
even, gallants, any more being, of course,
unthinkable, without dire consequences,
often suicide, see Anna Karenina, Madame
Bovary, the lot, for details, Violetta Valéry
in “La Traviata”

what remains however is the stark,
emotionally driven truth of their
declarations before either of
their consorts

the Romantic ideal still burns bright, in
other words, in our cultural imagination,
see even my own derivations

Richard

Liszt – piano concerto no 2 in A major‏

since discovering Tamás Érdi, feral hands,
uncommonly hirsute, but uncovering the
soul of a poet, an angel in wolf’s clothing,
a satyr, without a flute but, at the piano,
I’ve been hooked, combined with Liszt he
is again irresistible, not to mention totally
transcendental

you’ll find Liszt quite a bit like Beethoven,
but more bombastic than philosophical,
style trumps substance, Liszt was a
show-off, a pianistic Paganini

stylistic flourishes abound in the hands
of a deft, however uninformed might he
or she be, technical wizard, it doesn’t
take an Einstein, in other words, to be
a Puccini

and Liszt is a Puccini, who delivers
likewise, and for the very ages

note the same intensity as Beethoven
in Liszt, much of the same musical
idiosyncrasies, but with more dramatic,
late Romantic, alterations of tempo, he’ll
milk a phrase before returning to a more
Classical, which is to say, less elastic
beat

his extemporisations are also less
ruminative, more serendipitously
motivated, like jazz, Liszt wants
primarily to dazzle, kick around,
not instruct

and he does, masterfully, just that

here’s Alfred Brendel doing an alternate,
wholly incandescent version
I couldn’t
at all leave out

here’s Julie Andrews giving her take on
the history of jazz

Richard