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Category: grammar

“The Story of Phaeton” – Ovid

landscape-with-a-palace-1916.jpg!Large

   Landscape with a Palace (1916) 

 

             Eugeniusz Zak

 

                  ________

 

  

               Her son was Epaphus, at length believ’d
               The son of Jove, and as a God receiv’d; 

 

without proof, it could not have been 

absolutely determined, during this 

ancient mythological era, that  

Epaphus, son of Io become Isis, was 

indeed the son of Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

though that’s what at length, eventually, 

came to be believed

 

and as such Epaphus was


               With sacrifice ador’d, and publick pray’rs,
               He common temples with his mother shares. 

 

both Isis and Epaphus are worshipped

in common, in the same places, and 

with a similar degree of devotion


               Equal in years, and rival in renown
               With Epaphus, the youthful Phaeton
               Like honour claims; 

 

Phaeton, another youth, [e]qual in 

years to Epaphus, and in renown,

as famous, [l]ike honour claims, 

puts forward, his own illustrious 

heritage

 

                                      and boasts his sire the sun. 

 

the sun, Phoebus / Apollo, god,

among a number of other things,

of that very orb


               His haughty looks, and his assuming air,
               The son of Isis could no longer bear:
               Thou tak’st thy mother’s word too far, said he,
               And hast usurp’d thy boasted pedigree. 

 

Epaphus, son of Isis, challenges 

Phaeton, says that his mother’s 

claim that her consort was the 

god of the Sun is false, and that 

he, Epaphus, is only promoting 

the fabricated story of his high, 

his boasted, pedigree, ancestry 


               Go, base pretender to a borrow’d name. 

 

Epaphus delivers a double whammy, 

base pretender, borrow’d name, ouch


               Thus tax’d, he blush’d with anger, and with shame;
               But shame repress’d his rage: 

 

tax’d, confronted

 

repress’d his rage, Phaeton didn’t 

slug Epaphus

 

                                                            the daunted youth
               Soon seeks his mother, and enquires the truth: 

 

is he truly the son of the god of the 

Sun, Phaeton asks his mother, nearly 

intolerable drama must surely follow, 

turning on this burning question 


               Mother, said he, this infamy was thrown
               By Epaphus on you, and me your son.
               He spoke in publick, told it to my face;
               Nor durst I vindicate the dire disgrace:
               Even I, the bold, the sensible of wrong, 

 

Even I, Phaeton asserts, the sensible 

of wrong, as he describes himself, the 

impatient of improprieties, however 

bold, quick to respond, impetuous, 

might he be, durst not, dared not, 

vindicate, validate, the dire disgrace, 

Epaphus‘ profoundly distressing insult    


               Restrain’d by shame, was forc’d to hold my tongue. 

 

I was unable, Phaeton says, too 

[r]estrain’d by shame, humiliated, 

to even answer


               To hear an open slander, is a curse:
               But not to find an answer, is a worse. 

 

a worse, we would say just worse, 

but note that worse, here, is not a

noun, but the adjective for curse,

which has been elided, left out, 

worse curse, which, included, 

would’ve altered, however, the 

metre, the pentameter, and thus, 

the poetry, style having trumped, 

for better or for worse, in this

instance, the substance 

 

a, incidentally, is the first beat of the 

iamb, which is to say, the weak beat,

while worse, is the second, the one 

with the accent, the determining 

thump, worse, da, dum, an iamb 

 

Dryden didn’t have, in other words, 

much choice, were he wanting to 

be a poet, but to deftly press his, 

surely masterful, grammar, to fit 

his meaning to his, however

constricting, verse


               If I am Heav’n-begot, assert your son
               By some sure sign; 

 

assert your son, acknowledge him,

[b]y some sure sign, Phaeton 

demands of his mother 

 

                                      and make my father known, 

 

at the same time, make … known, 

identify, Phaeton continues, point

him out, my father 

 

              To right my honour, and redeem your own.
               He said, 

 

it is the honour[able] thing to do,

the required thing to do, [h]e said, 

to restore, [t]o right, our reputations

 

                                   and saying cast his arms about
               Her neck, and beg’d her to resolve the doubt. 

 

a son imploring his mother, can 

anything be more poignant

 

               ‘Tis hard to judge if Clymene were mov’d
               More by his pray’r, whom she so dearly lov’d, 

 

Clymene, wife of Helios, or Phoebus / 

Apollo, sun god, mother of Phaeton 


               Or more with fury fir’d, to find her name
               Traduc’d, and made the sport of common fame. 

 

Traduc’d, translated, transmitted

 

common fame, the casual, everyday

sport, entertainment, however 

inappropriate, however malicious,
of many


               She stretch’d her arms to Heav’n, and fix’d her eyes
               On that fair planet that adorns the skies; 

 

that fair planet that adorns the skies, 

the sun, though Dryden must’ve 

known the sun wasn’t a planet, nor 

Ovid, for that matter, literary licence

having given style, here again, sway 

over substance, for better, it’ll be up 

to you to say, or for worse

 

literary licence, where style 

overtakes substance


               Now by those beams, said she, whose holy fires
               Consume my breast, and kindle my desires; 

 

girlfriend, I have to here interject, your 

temperature is, ahem, showing, you’re 

sounding, however uncharacteristically, 

awfully intemperate, aroused, [c]onsume 

my breast indeed, kindle, you audaciously 

request, my desires


               By him, who sees us both, and clears our sight,
               By him, the publick minister of light,
               I swear that Sun begot thee; 

 

Clymene swears an oath upon the 

very sun, her sire, the publick minister 

of light, the very priest of illumination, 

of clarity, for everyone, the sun’s 

manifest incarnation

 

                                                                if I lye,
               Let him his chearful influence deny: 

 

don’t shine on me, Helios / Phoebus /

Apollo, him, Helios / Phoebus / Apollo

himself, Clymene cries, if I lye, lie, if I

tell an untruth


               Let him no more this perjur’d creature see; 

 

Let him, let yourself, Helios / Phoebus /

Apollo, be unable any longer to see me,

perjur’d creature that I, Clymene, am 


               And shine on all the world but only me. 

 

obliterate me, she defies, from your

purview, let the world receive your 

rays, but not myself


               If still you doubt your mother’s innocence,
               His eastern mansion is not far from hence;
               With little pains you to his Leve go,
               And from himself your parentage may know. 

 

Leve, where Helios / Phoebus / 

Apollo lives


               With joy th’ ambitious youth his mother heard,
               And eager, for the journey soon prepar’d. 

 

Phaeton is off on his mission

 

               He longs the world beneath him to survey; 

 

he wants to see the world from the 

perspective of the sun, an astronaut,

a dreamer, pulsing with ambition


               To guide the chariot; and to give the day: 

 

to drive his father’s car, chariot, how 

contemporary, how immediate


               From Meroe’s burning sands he bends his course, 

 

Meroe, a city on the Nile, you’ll 

remember that we’re still in Egypt, 

where Io / Isis prevails, with Epaphus

her son, the one who started all this  


               Nor less in India feels his father’s force: 

 

the sun, his father’s force, is no less 

vigorous in India than it is, he, Helios

/ Phoebus / Apollo, is, in Egypt


               His travel urging, till he came in sight; 

 

His travel urging, impatient to speed 

up his pace, hastening his metaphorical

horses

 

               And saw the palace by the purple light. 

 

purple light, evening, though purple 

is also, since antiquity, the colour of 

royaltyPhaeton is perhaps seeing 

both, the palace, at evening  

 

see above

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

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

800px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Deucalion_and_Pyrrha,_1636

      Deucalion and Pyrrha (1636) 

 

             Peter Paul Rubens

 

                 ___________

 

 

                                          for my mom and dad, my own

                                                   Deucalion and Pyrrha

 

 

at Cephysus‘ shrine, Deucalion and 

Pyrrha pray to the goddess of

Divine Justice

 

              O righteous Themis, if the Pow’rs above
              By pray’rs are bent to pity, and to love;
              If humane miseries can move their mind; 

 

humane, human


              If yet they can forgive, and yet be kind;
              Tell how we may restore, by second birth,
              Mankind, and people desolated Earth. 

 

the Pow’rs above are the deciding 

factors, can Jove, Neptune, the others, 

Deucalion asks, be moved by human[ ] 

miseries, can they forgive, can they 

restore…Mankind, people, people is

a verb here, the world again, the 

desolated, or desolate, the dismal, 

the forsaken, Earth

 

              Then thus the gracious Goddess, nodding, said;
              Depart, and with your vestments veil your head:
              And stooping lowly down, with losen’d zones,
              Throw each behind your backs, your mighty mother’s bones. 

 

losen’d zones, across wide areas

 

cover, veil, your heads, the goddess 

advises, stoop low, and throw your 

mother’s bones across wide areas, 

she instructs, however scandalously


              Amaz’d the pair, and mute with wonder stand,
              ‘Till Pyrrha first refus’d the dire command. 

 

Pyrrha is a counterpart for the Christian 

Eve here, contrary, defiant of Heaven, 

however eventually, Pyrrha, blameless, 

but which of the progenitresses came

first, which the chicken, which the egg, 

Eve or Pyrrha, is a question up for 

contemplation

 

              Forbid it Heav’n, said she, that I shou’d tear
              Those holy reliques from the sepulcher. 

 

surely, Pyrrha proclaims, Heav’n would 

never allow, Forbid it Heav’n, not to 

mention condone, that I should remove, 

tear, my mother’s bones, [t[hose holy 

reliques, relics, from their sepulcher, 

their grave, this would be profoundly 

unholy 

 

              They ponder’d the mysterious words again,
              For some new sense; and long they sought in vain:
              At length Deucalion clear’d his cloudy brow,
              And said, the dark Aenigma  

 

Aenigma, Sphinx, the oracle

 

                                                                will allow
              A meaning, which, if well I understand,
              From sacrilege will free the God’s command: 

 

if I can properly understand, decipher,

the meaning of the God’s command, 

Aenigma’s oracular words, however 

cryptic, in such a way, Deucalion 

declares, that our actions be not 

sacrilegious, nor offensive in any 

way to the gods, we may proceed,

he reasons

 

              This Earth our mighty mother is, the stones
              In her capacious body, are her bones: 

 

This Earth is our mighty mother, the

stones in her capacious body [ ] are 

her bones, no comma after body

 

the word order in each clause, note, has 

been reversed, instead of subject, verb,

object, we have object, verb, subject

 

but then, ever so felicitously, stones 

can rhyme with bones, and equally,

and as liltingly, we’re still in iambic 

pentameter

 

              These we must cast behind. With hope, and fear,
              The woman did the new solution hear:
              The man diffides in his own augury, 

 

diffide, distrust, augury, prediction,

Deucalion doubts, in other words,

his own calculations


              And doubts the Gods; yet both resolve to try. 

 

when my mom is up against a 

dilemma, she calls on my dad,

gone some over thirty years now,

come on, Daddy, let’s go, she 

says, and confronts the issue 

with transcendental, by very 

definition, conviction

 

see above

 

              Descending from the mount, they first unbind
              Their vests, and veil’d, they cast the stones behind:
              The stones (a miracle to mortal view,
              But long tradition makes it pass for true) 

 

what follows will seem miraculous

to mortals, Ovid says, but the story 

has been around for such a while,

which is to say by long tradition, 

that we let it pass for true

 

              Did first the rigour of their kind expel, 

 

the stones begin to lose, expel, their 

firmness, the rigour of their kind


              And suppled into softness, as they fell; 

 

suppled, became supple


              Then swell’d, and swelling, by degrees grew warm;
              And took the rudiments of human form. 

 

stones are being transformed, 

metamorphosized, into humans 

 

the Bible, if you’ll remember, would 

have it be clay


              Imperfect shapes: in marble such are seen,
              When the rude chizzel does the man begin; 

 

chizzel, chisel


              While yet the roughness of the stone remains,
              Without the rising muscles, and the veins. 

 

as the sculpture is being fashioned, 

certain parts of the human anatomy, 

the muscles, for instance, the veins, 

are not yet revealed, uncovered, 

discovered, extracted, by the 

chizzel, from under the roughness 

of the stone

 

think of Michelangelo, or Rodin,

sculpting

 

              The sappy parts, and next resembling juice, 

 

sappy, from sap, which, emanating 

from stones, would be next to, but 

not as limpid as, juice, or the liquid

required to create humans


              Were turn’d to moisture, for the body’s use:
              Supplying humours, blood, and nourishment; 

 

the circulatory, and notably viscous, 

system


              The rest, too solid to receive a bent,
              Converts to bones; and what was once a vein,
              Its former name and Nature did retain. 

 

veins, which hadn’t received enough 

sappy parts to become part of the

circulatory system, retained their 

name of vein, but as understood in

relation to rocks, geological veins

presumably replicated, in this story 

of the Creation, in human bones


              By help of pow’r divine, in little space, 

 

in little space, in no time at all


              What the man threw, assum’d a manly face;
              And what the wife, renew’d the female race. 

 

the stones that the man, Deucalion

threw became men, those that 

Pyrrha tossed became women 

 

              Hence we derive our nature; born to bear
              Laborious life; and harden’d into care.

 

we’ve inherited, through the labours 

of Deucalion and Pyrrha, our driven

nature, harden’d into, or conditioned, 

condemned, to care 

 

for better, I infer, or for worse 

 

 

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

grammmar in action, verb moods

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

 

     Philosophy and Grammar 

   

            Gentile da Fabriano

 

                    __________

 

reach, imperative, I always say, indicative, 

for a star, you might, conditional, get the 

moon, but you might also, conditional, 

get a star

 

such is the power of mood in verb 

structure, and an expression of how 

words through grammatical stipulations

become inspiration, poetry

 

think about it 

 

 

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

 

 

 

a juxtaposition of verb moods

 

       the-wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog.jpg!Blog.jpg

           The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog (1818) 


                   Caspar David Friedrich

 

                         _______________

 

 

a cardinal rule, the juxtaposition of two 

things of the same sort will exponentially

increase the information gleaned of either

 

therefore the following

 

The Impossible Dream“, listen 

 

       To dream the impossible dream

       To fight the unbeatable foe

       To bear with unbearable sorrow

       To run where the brave dare not go

 

       To right the unrightable wrong

       To love pure and chaste from afar

       To try when your arms are too weary

       To reach the unreachable star

 

       This is my quest, to follow that star

       No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

       To fight for the right

       Without question or pause

       To be willing to march

       Into hell for a heavenly cause

 

        And I know if I’ll only be true

       To this glorious quest

        That my heart will lay peaceful and calm

        When I’m laid to my rest

 

        And the world will be better for this

        That one man scorned and covered with scars

         Still strove  with his last ounce of courage

         To fight the unbeatable foe

         To reach the unreachable star

 

and Climb Every Mountain, listen again

 

        Climb every mountain

        Search high and low

        Follow every byway

        Every path you know

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        A dream that will need  

        All the love you can give

        Every day of your life

        For as long as you live

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

 

an initial similarity, they are both

inspirational

 

an initial divergence, the former is 

in the infinitive mood, which is to 

say that the lesson is for all time

in all places and for all people, 

while the second is an imperative,

in other words, an exhortation,

something only pertaining to the 

future, though the other conditions,

of place, and of person, can still 

apply  

 

note that the verse, in either, is in 

the indicative, in keeping with, in

each, the altered air, the second,

and contrasting melody, which in

both, note, personalizes, makes

the recommendation actual, no

longer merely idealized, the

indicative is the only mood which

deals in facts, the other moods

are all imagined, dreamed

 

let me point out that in comparison

with songs in the indicative, love

songs and the like, the show tunes

above find their source in medieval

religious music, hymns, liturgical

stuff, and more recently,

comparatively, specifically in

England after the Protestant

Reformation with Handel’s both

church and ceremonial music

 

in which England went on to

specialize, incidentally, while other

forms of music there, the racier,

secular European stuff, had been

demonized, deemed sinful, and

thus proscribed

 

England would only get its mojo back

in the 1960s with the Beatles

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

       

the indicative

grammar.jpg!Large

        Grammar 

 

              Gentile da Fabriano


                          ____________

 


since I’d only recently vaunted both the 

infinitive and the imperative moods of 

verbs in this venue, you might’ve 

expected that the indicative would 

soon follow

 

and here it is, the indicative, the mood 

of narratives, storytelling, the default 

mode, essentially, where most of our 

communication takes place, be it

oral or written

 

famous first lines of novels will attest

to that, lines you’ve probably heard 

before, however only incidentally, if 

not actually read

 

        It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

 

from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities


and the rest is so good, I can’t, in all 

consciousness, exclude it

 

        it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was 

        the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the 

        season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the 

        spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. 

 

or

 

        Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. 

 

from Daphne du Maurier’s eerily Gothic 

Rebecca“, heiress to not only Charlotte 

Brontë’s Jane Eyre“, but also to her 

sister Emily’s, to my mind, much more 

accomplished work, Wuthering“, and 

indeed wonderful, Heights“, whereupon 

I’ll refrain from continuing to follow the

sentences, however compelling, for 

lack of space and time

 

but

 

        I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

 

from Out of Africa“, Karen Blixen’s

unforgettable novel, however brilliantly

translated to film, must take its place

here among towering introductory

sallies 

 

       Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. 

 

Proust’s answer to Homer, his “À la 

recherche du temps perdu“, his

Remembrance of Things Past  

 

      For a long time, I’d go to bed early.

 

which, as I read on, no less than

changed my life 

 

but that’s another story, however

totally engrossing

 


everywhere above, let me point out, 

the mood has been indicative, to a 

very verb, so unobtrusive you 

probably didn’t even notice 

 

in music, a counterpart for the 

indicative would be the allegro, 

the baseline, not too fast, not 

too slow, the tempo listeners 

would most easily respond to

 

but more about that only later, after

a traipse through the speculative 

conditional, then  the aspirational 

subjunctive

 

meanwhile, check this out, The

Heart of the Matter“, the Eagles, a

ballad, mostly indicatives, but with

here and there an infinitive, and a

peppering of conditionals, however

might these be signal, to utterly break 

your heart

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

the infinitive in Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be”

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

     Philosophy and Grammar 

 

           Gentile da Fabriano


                  __________

 


when I referred to Shakespeare’s 

perhaps most famous monologue,

To be, or not to be, in my most 

recent transmission, in order to 

shed light on the idea of tempi, 

that it would parallel Beethoven’s

Opus 111 in its philosophical 

significance, however might’ve I 

done so unintentionally, was

nevertheless quite spot on, it is

perhaps his most potent

disquisition, as is Beethoven’s

own masterpiece, on existence

 

but let me extrapolate

 

to be, or not to be, both infinitives,

which is to say that their form, their 

moodrelate to infinity, the infinite, 

etymological correlatives, which 

means that the actions, thus, are 

not localized, not specific, but 

belong to all places at all times and

for all people, the very stuff, let me

point out, of philosophy 

 

whether ’tis nobler in the mind to 

suffer, infinitive, the slings and 

arrows of outrageous fortune, or 

to take, infinitive again, arms 

against a sea of troubles, and by 

opposing end, bare infinitive,

which is to say, without the

preposition to, them  

 

as in  

 

to die, to sleep, infinitives, no more, 

and by a sleep to say, infinitive, we 

end the heartache and the thousand 

natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 

’tis a consummation devoutly to be 

wished, passive infinitive      

 

you’ll find that the rest of the 

soliloquy abounds in infinitives,       

the grammatical home, the 

territory, of philosophy

 

with this speech, incidentally, 

Shakespeare kicks off, in

literature, the Renaissance, much

as Beethoven with his Opus 111

firmly establishes, in music, the

Romantic Period


compare, meanwhile, thou shalt 

not kill, an imperative, the mood

the tenor, the register, is of 

commandments, it differs from 

the infinitive in that, though 

seemingly universal at first, there 

is an exception to its authoritative 

span, and that exception is the 

speaker, all others are called upon 

to abide, this is not philosophy, 

this is power 


 

much as in music, see in that context

my earlier text, one can read an awful 

lot between the lines

 

 

R ! chard