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Category: dramatic monologues

“Metamorphoses” (The Giants’ War, XII) – Ovid

after-the-storm-1872.jpg!Large

      “After the Storm (1872)

 

            Gustave Courbet

 

                __________

 

 

                  A thin circumference of land appears;
                  And Earth, but not at once, her visage rears,
                  And peeps upon the seas from upper grounds; 

 

as the land begins to peep[ ] through 

the water, a circumference of land 

appears, a circle of Earth within the 

earlier universal water

 

to rear, to raise upright, boldly, the better,

here, for Earth‘s visage, Earth‘s face, to 

peep[ ] upon the seas from newly gained 

upper grounds

 

                  The streams, but just contain’d within their bounds,
                  By slow degrees into their channels crawl; 

 

streams, just recently redefining their  

boundaries, or bounds[b]y slow 

degrees settle, become waterways, 

channels, rivers, rivulets, rills

 

I love crawl here, incidentally, the slow, 

insidious, infiltration of a territory, silent 

and immutable, as [t]he streams, at the 

dispassionate pace of nature, find their 

individual course

 

                  And Earth increases, as the waters fall. 

 

the waters fall, the waters recede


                  In longer time the tops of trees appear, 

 

[i]n longer time, after a while

                                                         

                  Which mud on their dishonour’d branches bear. 

 

for which the only solution here, would

be, I thought, however ironically, a

shower, rain

 

but I digress

                 
                  At length the world was all restor’d to view;

                  But desolate, and of a sickly hue:  

see, for instance, above


                  Nature beheld her self, and stood aghast,
                  A dismal desart, and a silent waste. 

 

desart, is desert, even my spellcheck 

insisted

 

meanwhile, back on Mount Parnassus

our two survivors, look around

 

                  Which when Deucalion, with a piteous look
                  Beheld, he wept, and thus to Pyrrha spoke: 

 

let me point out that what follows, 

which is to say when Deucalion 

… thus to Pyrrha spoke, we have 

an extended monologue, rather 

than a narration, the poet, Ovid

has given a voice to Deucalion

his character, his creation

 

I was reminded of Shakespeare‘s 

monologues, especially since the 

metre is iambic pentameter,

Shakespeare‘s signature poetic

rhythm 

 

it should be noted that this translation

of Metamorphoses is from 1717, a

century and a very year after 

Shakespeare‘s demise, in 1616, time 

for poets to have imbibed his already 

profound influence

 

nor could they not have been marked

by the spirit of their own time, and the 

many transformative epochs since 

Metamorphoses had been written, in 

the year 1, that would’ve affected the 

translation 

 

the original Latin text, for instance,

was in dactylic hexameter, not 

iambic pentameter

 

                  Oh wife, oh sister, oh of all thy kind
                  The best, and only creature left behind,
                  By kindred, love, and now by dangers joyn’d;
                  Of multitudes, who breath’d the common air,
                  We two remain; a species in a pair:
                  The rest the seas have swallow’d; nor have we
                  Ev’n of this wretched life a certainty.
                  The clouds are still above; and, while I speak,
                  A second deluge o’er our heads may break.
                  Shou’d I be snatcht from hence, and thou remain,
                  Without relief, or partner of thy pain,
                  How cou’dst thou such a wretched life sustain?
                  Shou’d I be left, and thou be lost, the sea
                  That bury’d her I lov’d, shou’d bury me.
                  Oh cou’d our father his old arts inspire,
                  And make me heir of his informing fire,
                  That so I might abolisht Man retrieve,
                  And perisht people in new souls might live.
                  But Heav’n is pleas’d, nor ought we to complain,
                  That we, th’ examples of mankind, remain. 

 

cou’d our father, JoveDeucalion asks,

breathe into me his inspiration, his old 

arts, his informing fire, so that I could 

reconstitute Man, retrieve him, and 

supply the perisht people with new, and

presumably more honourable, souls

 

                  He said; the careful couple joyn their tears: 

 

He said, or this he spoke, and the

couple joyn their tears


                  And then invoke the Gods, with pious prayers.
                  Thus, in devotion having eas’d their grief,
                  From sacred oracles they seek relief;
                  And to Cephysus’ brook their way pursue: 

 

Cephysus, or Cephissus, was a river god,

associated with the river Cephissus, which 

runs through Central Greece

 

                  The stream was troubled, but the ford they knew; 

 

the ford, the way across the stream


                  With living waters, in the fountain bred, 

 

living waters would gush from a 

spring, around which a fountain 

would’ve been built

 

                  They sprinkle first their garments, and their head,
                  Then took the way, which to the temple led.
                  The roofs were all defil’d with moss, and mire,
                  The desart altars void of solemn fire.
                  Before the gradual, prostrate they ador’d;
                  The pavement kiss’d; and thus the saint implor’d.

 

the gradual is a hymn sung within

the context of a full religious service

 

desart here is again desert, but in

this instance signifying deserted

 

the saint, an anachronism here, 

for saints were not at all even a

concept at the time of Ovid

would’ve been Themis, goddess,

at Delphi, on Mount Parnassus

of Divine Justice

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“Metamorphoses” – Ovid, 102

to-be-titled.jpg!Large

   To Be Titled (1987) –

 

          Jean-Michel Basquiat

 

                     __________

 


next, according to Ovid, inspired, presumably,  

by the Gods, is what happens before the world 

is created

 

        Before the seas, and this terrestrial ball, 

 

which is to say, the earth

 

        And Heav’n’s high canopy, that covers all,

        One was the face of Nature; if a face:

 

the “face of Nature” was “One”, an 

indistinguishable, perhaps not even, “face”

 

        Rather a rude and indigested mass:

        A lifeless lump, unfashion’d, and unfram’d,

        Of jarring seeds; and justly Chaos nam’d.

 

this undifferentiated agglomeration, this “lifeless 

lump” was called Chaos

 

note the “seeds”, however, potential, though 

“jarring”, or conflicting, the genesis for what 

is to follow   

 

           No sun was lighted up, the world to view;

           No moon did yet her blunted horns renew:

 

the horns of the moon are visible when the 

crescent moon lies flat on the horizon, in 

the shape of a smile, presenting “horns”, 

the twin elevated extensions

 

           Nor yet was Earth suspended in the sky,

           Nor pois’d, did on her own foundations lye:

 

or lie

 

           Nor seas about the shores their arms had thrown;

           But earth, and air, and water, were in one.

 

see again Chaos here

 

           Thus air was void of light, and earth unstable,

           And water’s dark abyss unnavigable.

           No certain form on any was imprest;

           All were confus’d, and each disturb’d the rest.

           For hot and cold were in one body fixt;

           And soft with hard, and light with heavy mixt.

 

 

next, the first metamorphosis

 

stay tuned

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

“Metamorphoses” – Ovid, 101

primavera-1478(1).jpg!Blog

   “Primavera (1478) 

 

       Sandro Botticelli

 

             _________

 

 

a friend expressed some interest in Ovid’s

Metamorphoses recently after I’d sung for 

a few moments its praises, had told her I 

was revisiting it after some time with the 

intention of duly, this time, completing it, 

given that, hey, we’ve got lots of time, at 

present, all of us, on our hands, by very 

mandate  

 

it sounds wonderful, she briefed me after 

I’d sent her the appropriate link, but there 

are some parts I don’t understand

 

I’ll help, I said, only too eager to share 

the delights of this inprobable treasure,

a gift nearly two thousand years old, 

with the magic still of very revelation

 

Metamorphoses is a creation story, the 

equivalent of the Bible for those who 

revered the Roman deities, the same 

deities that the Greeks revered, but 

transplanted, renamed, to Roman 

stock, like the Puritans did their  

Christian seed at Plymouth Rock  

 

Ovid, 43 BC to 17/18 AD, was a Roman

poet, paying fealty to Augustus, Emperor

of Rome, 63 BC to 14 AD, therefore his 

Roman goddesses, gods, and his, 

contemporary, Latin

 

which was translated into English early 

in the Renaissance, but found its best

expression, to my mind still, in the 

eminent hands of Sir Samuel Garth,

John DrydenAlexander PopeJoseph

AddisonWilliam Congreve, among 

others in, already, 1717

 

listen 

 

The Creation of the World

 

       Of bodies chang’d to various forms, I sing:
 

Ovid is saying my topic is transformation, very

metamorphoses, plural of metamorphosis


       Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring,
       Inspire my numbers with coelestial heat;
       ‘Till I my long laborious work compleat:
       And add perpetual tenour to my rhimes,
       Deduc’d from Nature’s birth, to Caesar’s times. 

 

poets have traditionally called upon their related

muses to inspire them to accomplish their task,

Ovid invokes his Gods, compare Shakespeare’s 

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / The

brightest heaven of invention, his prologue to 

Henry V   

 

“Ye Gods”, Ovid says, from whom these 

miracles did spring”, those everyday wonders 

that surround us, inspire me, he asks, that I 

might “compleat”, which is to say complete, 

his poem, this long laborious work”

 

his “numbers” are his years, “coelestial”, or

celestial, “heat”, is inspiration

 

“tenour to my rimes” means rhythm, weight, 

to his poetry

 

“Nature’s birth”, or the beginning of time, to

“Caesar’s time”, Ovid‘s own period under

Augustus

 

Ovid asks the Gods to fuel him with the

fire to tell the story of the world from its 

very beginning to his own epoch,

Caesar’s 

 

how’s that for a project

 

 

enough for now

 

but stay tuned for, to follow, the Creation,

capital C, I tell you 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

on love – “Nature Boy”

99_9

    unidentified

 

       _______

 

                               for Danielle and Joe

 

a few nights ago, friends came over, a 

young couple, in the bloom of youth,

relatively speaking, half, approximately, 

my age, I’m seventy, for a glass of wine

 

during a conversation about the many

knickknacks scattered about my 

apartment, pictures, paintings, 

assorted paraphernalia, memorabilia,

they asked, was there one piece of 

information I could give them, 

something not just physical, but 

metaphysical, that could lead to a  

good and meaningful life

 

after cautioning that any answer would

be way too complex, the question way 

too broad, I nevertheless trotted out, 

convivially, a few words of ready 

wisdom, a couple of trusted and true 

maxims I hold in store for such 

occasions, personal precepts, 

however seemingly flippant, I 

faithfully and diligently live by

 

pray for grace, for instance, make sure 

your tie’s on right, the only two 

practicable positions in any 

predicament, I’ve found

 

 

later, after privately thinking more 

about it, I realized there is indeed a 

specific answer, I’d been singing it 

already for a while, to help me deal 

with recent, and even accumulated, 

loss, it is the punchline to this 

wonderfully enchanted 

composition, called Nature Boy

 

      the greatest thing you’ll ever learn,

 

it knowingly advises 

 

      is just to love, and be loved in return 

 

words eminently worth retaining

 

listen

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

“The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

lipstick-1908.jpg!Large.jpg

    Lipstick (1908) 

 

          Frantisek Kupka

 

               __________

 

 whenever my heart is broken, I’ve recently 

noted, I’ve learned to sing a corresponding

song, it didn’t happen by design, but  

organically, it seems, as a response to my 

periods of anguish, a song would come up, 

each time, to contain the dimensions of my 

rue 

 

I need to learn the notes, which are usually 

tonal and melodic, with the characteristic

that they pretty consistently span a vocal

range that requires some intimate attention, 

work that tears me away, studiously and 

diligently, from my own private concerns

in order to consider, through his, her, very 

articulated lyrics, those of another, not to

mention the response of my proposed 

audience

 

I have developed quite a repertoire 

 

recently, this has been my aria

 

 

I was especially impressed by the 

irony in the composition, the 

songsmith laughing at himself, 

melodramatizing his sentiments, 

taking the sting out of his despair, 

if you’ll pardon the allusion
with over-the-top, it must be 
admitted, metaphors, allegories 

I mean, I walk along a street of

sorrows, a boulevard of broken 

dreams, you need a big floppy 

hat, and very red lipstick to pull

that one off

 

you ought to see me

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard  

 

 

   

“Death is nothing at all…” – Henry Scott Holland

St_Paul's_by_Thomas_Hosmer_Shepherd_(early_19th_century)

     “St Paul’s Cathedral 

 

           Thomas Hosmer Shepherd


                          _____________

 

upon learning of the recent demise 

of my younger sister, my only sibling,

a friend sent me the following passage

 


    “Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away 

     into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains 

     exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we 

     lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we 

     were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar 

     name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put 

     no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or 

     sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we 

     enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my 

     name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be 

     spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. 

     Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. 

     There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death 

     but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because 

     I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, 

     somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing 

     is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was 

     before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we 

     meet again!”


 

it is usually presented as a poem, but 

was part of a sermon, rather, given by 

Henry Scott Holland, the very pastor 

who composed it, at St Paul’s 

Cathedral, in London, after the death 

of Edward Vll

 

listen

 


it expresses well the experience I’ve

had with others of my beloved 

departed

 

intimations of my sister are already 

popping up in my reality, soon, I told 

another friend, I’ll be talking to her 

more often than when she was not 

gone

 

much as is the case with my father, 

for instance, away some 30 years 

now, but an abiding presence, 

however mystical, still, and, 

it appears, forever

 

I consider myself profoundly 

blessed

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 2, opus 19 – Beethoven

allegro-con-brio-bourke-st-west-1890.jpg!Large.jpg

     Allegro con brio, Bourke St. West (1890) 

 

                Tom Roberts

 

                    ________

 

 

a concerto is a movie, but for the ears,

one listens, rather than looks, for one’s 

information

 

quite specifically, Beethoven introduces

drama into his inventions, where earlier 

there’d been merely an invitation to the 

dance, minuets, for instance, gigues, or 

disparate, disorganized, appeals, 

otherwise, to our more interior, whether 

secular or mystical, emotions, see in 

this context, for instance, early adagios, 

heart-wrenching, melting often, odes

 

these, or the even slower largos, fit 

neatly, however, into Beethoven’s 

compositional scheme of things,  

between the introductory allegros,

often con brio, and the closing, 

and equally spirited rondos, by 

becoming the pivotal element in 

his intended musical evening, the 

core of his narrative presentation, 

the plangent centre of his three 

part play, film 

 

here’s his Second

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

impression-sunrise.jpg!Large

Impression, Sunrise” (1873)

Claude Monet

________

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

much like Elizabeth Taylor as Martha
in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”,
my answer is, I am, George, I am

the subjunctive is an esoteric mood,
even more abstruse in English than
in other languages, where the verb’s
conjugation highlights its presence,
in English, it’s nearly identical to the
indicative, the mood everybody
instinctively speaks in, facts

the subjunctive is about aspiration,
like the conditional, abstract, not
real, but its intention, rather than
the conditional’s inherent
impediment, a condition, shoots
for the stars, isn’t introspective,
but adamant, imperative

it is necessary that one be, it is
urgent that one have, it is
important that one effect, a
particular thing or event, all
subjunctives after the
doorkeeper word, “that”

one finds the subjunctive in
Shakespeare, master of grammar,
perhaps unparalleled in English,
a lot – O, that this too solid flesh
would melt, / Thaw and resolve
itself into a dew!
– and follows
with Elizabeth Barrett Browning –
Pardon, o pardon that my soul
should make, / Of all that strong
divineness which I know / For
thine and thee …,
for instance,
who is so profoundly indebted to
Shakespeare for her aesthetics

one wondrous day, I realized that
Proust’s entire À la recherche du
temps perdu
, his “In Search of
Lost Time
“, my Bible, was set in
the, French however, subjunctive,
the mood, there as well, of
possibility, therefore rather than
the definitive recreation of an
earlier time, Proust was
describing a sensibility, a personal
interpretation of a previous reality,
however bolstered by intimate and
apparently precise recollection of
shimmeringly imprecise, though
personally accurate, impressions

note here the similar preoccupations
of Proust’s contemporaries, the, aptly
named, Impressionists

everything, Proust was saying, as
were also the Impressionists, is in
the eye of the beholder

the subjunctive is the mood that
sets this instinct in motion

R ! chard

psst: Somerset Maugham I remember
being noteworthy as well for his
immaculate use, in his South
Pacific tales, of the subjunctive,
extremely elegant in its refined
construction, even with its
English austerities, like making
lace out of mere cloth, impressive
despite its impracticality, or
perhaps even because of it

on ego, in particular, mine

luncheon-in-the-studio-1868.jpg!Large

       “Luncheon in the Studio (1868)

 

                 Édouard Manet

 

                      _________

            

you think I’ve got a big ego, I asked
friend who’d just told me I had one,
not confrontationally 
but as a matter
of fact, I wasn’t offended, just curious,
I think I’m so humble, I answered,
usually, so deferential

she wouldn’t cede to my, to her,

manifestly improbable, argument 

 

what do you call ego, I asked

 

what the definition is in the dictionary,

she answered, and pulled out her cell

phone to prove it

 

sure, I said, I know what the dictionary 

says, but how does that apply to me

 

well, just what it says, she said

 

my mother reads in the paper that it’s

going to rain today, I said, then it 

doesn’t, and I retort that only the 

weather essentially knows about the 

weather, but she still keeps to the

prognostications

 

one night I said, look, mom, the moon 

is full, no, she answered, it’s a quarter 

moon, it said so on the calendar, look, 

I said again, it’s full, it’s a full moon, 

but she wouldn’t believe me, it turned 

out she’d been reading the previous 

year’s almanac 

 

print gives us Platonic ideals, standards

that we think definitive, I asserted, but 

everything is in the eye of the beholder, 

words are just approximations, nothing 

but meeting places where we toss around

disparate ideas no firmer, nor distinct,  

nor assured than conversations among

different languagesmiscommunication 

can be that wide 

 

my friend tells me just talking like that

is proof of my big ego, but I still don’t 

get it, I think I’m so courteous, 

fundamentally, so congenial and, you

know, nice, otherwise 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

the conditional

if-once-you-have-slept-on-an-island-1996.jpg!Large

    “If Once You Have Slept on an Island (1996) 

 

           Jamie Wyeth


               ________

 

the conditional mood is easy, it always

follows if 

 

     if I had a hammer, for instance

 

or

 

     if I were a rich man

 

it is not a real event, as Classical 

representation would be in art, were I

to make that synesthetic juxtaposition,

which is to say, were I to replace the 

visual sense with that of letters, but

rather like Surrealismfor instance, 

in that other context, a superimposed

idealization

 

here’s a poem you’ve probably 

already heard, or heard of, through 

its final, and epochal, verse, Kipling’s

If“, a towering instance of moral 

suasion on our culture

 

       If you can keep your head when all about you

           Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

       If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,   

            But make allowance for their doubting too;  

       If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

          Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

       Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

           And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

        If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

            If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

        If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

           And treat those two impostors just the same;   

        If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

          Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

        Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

           And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

      If you can make one heap of all your winnings

            And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

      And lose, and start again at your beginnings

           And never breathe a word about your loss;

        If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

          To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

       And so hold on when there is nothing in you

          Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

        If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

           Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 

        If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

            If all men count with you, but none too much;

        If you can fill the unforgiving minute

           With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

        Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

           And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

   

in the spirit of juxtaposition, compare 

that to Polonius’ admonition to his son,

Laertes, upon that young colt’s imminent 

return to France, where he had earlier

been, reputedly, carousing

 

       Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!

       The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,

       And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee!

       And these few precepts in thy memory

       See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

       Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

       Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

       Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

       Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;

        But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

        Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware

        Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

        Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.

        Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

         Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

         Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

         But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

         For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

         And they in France of the best rank and station

         Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

         Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

         For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

         And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

         This above all: to thine ownself be true,

         And it must follow, as the night the day,

         Thou canst not then be false to any man.



from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”act 1, scene 3,

all, incidentally, in the imperative, the mood

of command, authority, however consequential

there, or not

 

 

 a film called “If…” is also worth visiting 

in this context, from the 1970s, with an 

iconic soundtrack that gripped the

generation then that heard it, listen,

watch, the Missa Luba, be gripped

 

R ! chard