Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Sad Tale

I just moved into a new apartment where I won't have internet access, and so my blog posts will be non-existant for a bit -except for the few times I might be able to make it to the library to access the internet there.
So for the most part of June and July, I bid you all a very fond farewell.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

They Shall Twain Be (of more than) One (meaning)

Here is Twain (picture compliments of I love him. There's something remarkable about sarcasm.

Oh Lord, Our Father

O Lord, our father

Our young patriots, idols of our hearts,

Go forth to battle - be Thou near them!

With them, in spirit, we also go forth

From the sweet peace of our beloved firesides To smite the foe.

O Lord, our God,

Help us to tear their soldiers

To bloody shreds with our shells;

Help us to cover their smiling fields

With the pale forms of their patriot dead; Help us to drown the thunder of

the guns With the shrieks of their wounded,

Writhing in pain.

Help us to lay waste their humble homes

With a hurricane of fire;

Help us to wring the hearts of their

Unoffending widows with unavailing grief;

Help us to turn them out roofless

With their little children to wander unfriended The wastes of their

desolated land

In rags and hunger and thirst,

Sports of the sun flames of summer

And the icy winds of winter,

Burdened in spirit, worn with travail,

Imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord,

Blast their hopes,

Blight their lives,

Protract their bitter pilgrimage,

Make heavy their steps,

Water their way with their tears,

Stain the white snow with the blood

Of their wounded feet!

We ask it in the spirit of love -

Of Him who is the source of love,

And Who is the ever-faithful

Refuge and Friend of all that are sore beset And seek His aid with humble

and contrite hearts.



Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Snow Sense at All, Frost!

I'm posting this poem of Robert Frost's here for the benefit of all who wish to enjoy it, most especially Alicia.
It's a favorite of mine and, as "lovely, dark, and deep" as the woods described in the text. Oh, and the photo above was taken by my sister-in-law Brittany.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another Layer of Frosting

In response to Alicia's last post, I have to say a bit about one of my favorite of Frost's poems, Mending Wall:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

"Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offence.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,

But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father's saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Now, this version is taken from the Literature Netwrok website, so it isn't quite as Frost laid it down. It's not separated into stanzas, but I believe the wording is right.

People come away from this poem with scores of deep meanings about governments, war and peace, and even anarchy. Now I don't claim to be an expert on Frost, but I hardly find evidence enough in a Formalist look at this piece to go so far as to suggest any of these meanings. I offer here a bit of an essay I wrote about Mending Wall.

"The title of the poem helps give light to a deeper understanding of the poem’s theme. The title suggests a meaning of more than a chore of mending a fallen wall. Mending can be viewed as an adjective describing the wall as a means of mending friendships. Frost does not attach the two words with an article (Mending a Wall, or Mending the Wall) which allows the title to serve a more suggestive purpose. Indeed, in examination of the neighbor’s old family saying “Good fences make good neighbors,” it might be suggested that it is not the separation that a wall provides to distance people that makes them “good neighbors.” It could be the opportunity provided to spend time working together which serves to strengthen a friendship and draws neighbors together."

This take on the poem shows a certain irony in the narrator's observation of his neighbor, "He moves in darness as it seems to me". The whole time, his neighbor repeats the saying hoping that the narrator will finally understand. It is really the narrator who could be said to be "in the dark" about the notion of what makes good neighbors. People usually read through it siding with the narrator thinking how daft is the "old-stone savage" neighbor. Now when I read it, I see so much of youthful inexperience in the narrator, and so much of age-earned wisdom in the neighbor.

I find more in the structure and elements found in the text to support this sort of a take on the poem. It's a lot more interesting than an essay on politics.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Frost This!

In carrying on with poetry, I'd like to list one of my favorites: Robert Frost. Like Emily, I did not care for him at first. I had had the poem "The Road Not Taken" shoved down my throat by well-meaning English teachers and even choir directors. They would sit near tears and say to the class, "Do you understand the beauty of the words? Can you comprehend the wisdom in the words?" For the last time, YES! Or maybe, no. Because I wasn't near tears. I was thinking, "What a nice poem. What nice words. They have great meaning. Okay. What else ya got?" And I felt stuck on that poem, like Frost had nothing better to say. Anytime I heard his name mentioned, I would take a breath, count to three and then vehemently hiss through clenched teeth, "I hate him." He had been shoved down my inexperienced throat. My teachers had led a horse to water and then shoved her head into the trough until she perished. At least, that's what I had thought. It turns out, I wasn't all dead. I was only mostly dead. I was revived a few years ago, and then I fell in something like love with Robert Frost's poetry. I still have unsuppressed feelings when someone blubbers out "...and I -I took the one less traveled by..." I'm not saying it's not good work. It is! I'm just burned out on the goodness of it all, I guess.

Then there is that poem. The one that runs through my head all day long. I can feel it every time I look at my daughter. I feel it every time I have a minute to savor watching my husband working alone a few yards away. Frost titled his poem, "The Pasture", but the poem means so much more than that. He speaks of Love: Young Love, Seasoned Love, Unconditional Love. Here, in two stanzas, is everything I feel:

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;

I'll only stop to rake the leaves away

(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):

I sha'n't be gone long. --You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf

That's standing by the mother. It's so young,

It totters when she licks it with her tongue.

I sha'n't be gone long. --You come too.

Frost used this poem as an invitation in his books. He invited his readers to join him as he laid his innermost self bare for the world to see. He published his thoughts, his words, his lifeblood (as it were) and invited everyone to see the world through his eyes. A better invitation was never given. I've heard this poem interpreted in this way: He loves his companion (be that who it may) so much that he wants them to be with him always -even when he is doing simple meaningless tasks. In a sense, he is saying, "I only have to do this. I won't be gone long, but I can't live without you for even that one little minute. Come with me."

Fair enough. But I feel it much differently. When he uses the word, "spring" he is referencing a small stream in a pasture. I feel that he speaks of love. Think of the pasture as a family, and think of the stream as the flowing vein of life running smack dab in the middle of it all. He says, "I'll only stop to rake the leaves away". Often, love becomes muddled. It is clouded over with family duties, work, spit-up, and commitments to others. Frost has invited the companion he shares love with (child? spouse? sibling? mother? friend?) to come with him and simply clear the spring and start again fresh, "(And wait to watch the water clear, I may)". I love that he uses the word "spring" as opposed to "stream" or "creek". Spring implies a freshness -a new start. And the next stanza elaborates. It tells of a young calf -a new love. It is fresh. It "totters". It is ready to grow. This stanza, of course, brings me to think of my children (the first makes me think mostly of Danny Dearest). I love them. I love the brand new innocence that looks to me in the first minute of life for signs of love. What do I think of when I see them looking at me for comfort? hope? courage? "You come too."

Perhaps all Frost was really trying to say was that he wanted his readers to clear their thoughts for a few moments to experience his poetry with a fresh mind -join him on a very personal journey. That makes more sense than all I've rambled on about. My mind is made up, still, to hold fast to my sentimentality. Perhaps my children will hate Frost because their eccentric mother was always saying things like, "totters" and "I sha'n't be gone long". And when an emotional English teacher reads "I shall be telling this with a sigh" their little hearts will burst at the seams, and they will come home, hug me, and tell me that they have finally found the true meaning in life. I'll let them think my tears are tears of joy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What in the Dickinson?

I must say that I greatly admire Ms. Emily, that I highly esteem her, that I like her.

Upon thumbing through a Dickinson book of poems, one might think that all she ever wrote about was death, nature, and Wild Nights!, whatever that means.

For anyone who cares an iota for literature, it is worth taking some time and looking into Dickinson's history. (I've made it easy with the "Literature Network" link over to the left)

Here was a woman who never married, grieved much over the death of some of those closest to her, and lived out the majority of her years confined to a solitary bedroom -the window of which was her only visual portal to the world, her letters, her main link to humanity.

Her window over-looked the garden, and from it she could see the nearby cemetary.

Dickinson's choice of subject matter is much easier to understand viewed in this light. She wrote about her world. And when her poems are considered carefully, the genius of the reclusive Emily shines forth. She truly mastered the medium of poetry. There is so much to be found in even the shortest of her verses. She was amazingly concise -her poems so short, and yet so dense and rich. Now that I've officially out-geeked my sister in this post, I'll end here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dear Steve,

You've hit the nail square on the head. I read "Jane Eyre" in High School. My feelings at the time were, 'Now, at least, I can say I've read it. Daft idea, though, putting a wacko in the attic. And what kind of girl would fall in love with an older man?' I'll let you imagine what kind of grossed-out teenage girl face I made at all the courting. Uh, sick? Fortunately, I kept that copy (wherever I got it from...). I found it at the bottom of my book collection. I turned it over and thought, 'What is all the fuss about?' I read it again. What an amazing book!! There's so many things that I love about it. She refuses to run off with Mr. R. She defies self-love and passion for principle's sake. I still get a "yeah right, sure" feeling when she is saved from near-death by complete strangers that become her best friends and (gasp) turn out to be her cousins! What a bosom idea. While most of the plot is so fictitious you can scrunch up your nose, I do love that her characters are so real. It's almost hard to believe that Bronte would put such grounded individuals in a roller coaster of a made-up story.
Point being: It means so much more to me now than it did then. I learned a lot from reading it this time around. Plain Jane has become Prestigious Jane, by all means.

Also, I'm going to give Hawthorne another try for the same reason that I picked Jane back up, and to please you, Young Goodman.

You can thank me whenever it is convenient,

The Facets of a Gem

I went back and looked through some of the essays and analyses I wrote while I was at EAC. One thing came to mind that I gained from all of it -the value of perspective.
When you take in a piece of Literature, you experience it through the eyes of your own life's view. Later in life, you view it through different eyes, at a different angle. And there's also the value found in the insights others offer. Each person has unique insights into an artist's work. There is so much value in perspective. I see this more all the time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pride & Preferences

Steve's got a point. He's given you his list of literary preferences before really delving into the subject matter of things. Since we're in this together, I'll do the same. I'm not copying his idea -I'm complimenting it.

Let's get the eye rolls over with all at once: I love Jane Austen. Probably not in the same way that Hollywood loves Jane Austen, but I hold her literature in high esteem. There's not much to say for her plots, but her characters keep you hanging on every word. Everyone knows their own Mrs. Elton and Lydia Bennet. You hate them; you love them. You know them. Austen understood human nature so well that her novels are timeless. They will always attract readers, and they will never go out of fashion because they speak so well of emotion. I have my own Austen persona: I have always felt that I am Miss Bates, mostly. Talking incessantly -annoying, but endearing in my own way. My headstone will read: A very good sort of person. People will talk about me kindly, but behind their words will always be a hint of unspoken criticism. I've always wanted to be Fanny Price (minus the ugly first name). I am, I guess, in the way that I married a cousin (VERY distant, and we didn't realize it -honest). My favorite novel by Austen is "Mansfield Park."

Who do I love more than Austen? No one. Who do I love just as much as Austen, but in a different way? F. Scott Fitzgerald. Have you seen the way the man arranges sentences? His elegant word choice and arrangement thereof? It isn't literature! It is the most eloquent picturesque masterpiece that ever set foot in the Jazz Age! He put so much of himself into his work that it literally killed him. Smart? Oh, no. Admirable? Oh, definitely. I'm currently reading "This Side of Paradise" for the second time. His heroes are so awful. You love them to the point of hating them. And in turn, you hate them to the point of loving them. I just can't get enough.

My other loves include Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. My next goal is to venture out into the world of Earnest Hemingway.

There you have it.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Much Ado About Steven

I thought it best that I share a bit about my literary preferences before proceeding to post. I am stuck on the classics. Formula fiction is a bore (though some is noteworthy -Louis L'amour, my hat is off to you). I confess that I do have a favorite among all my favorites, and that is Nathaniel Hawthorne. And, of course, favorites are subject to change with time as other authors are newly discovered. Other favorites include: Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Charles Dickens, and the Great Shakespeare. This list may seem a bit antique, like it was pulled out of an old attic and had the dust wiped off of it, but you just can't beat a classic. These people were writers. There are others that I'm leaving out: Jane Austen, Baroness Orczy, Charlotte Bronte, and others -but these aren't as favorite as the previous list of favorites, so I probably won't talk about them as much.
Having said that, I feel I can now proceed to post all manner of boring things that I find exciting. If you don't share our enthusiasm, you've come to the wrong blog.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I'm Sorry, Charlotte.

I was searching Google for any information on the Bronte sisters. The first link that was listed was:

ブロンテ:The Bronte Sisters Web: The Brontë Sisters Web ...
Extensive online resource for all three Brontë sisters and there - 19k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

And there writings?

I agree, ladies. Vastly annoying.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Since we've been kiddos, Steve and I have always had a lot in common: same house, same parents, a love of Disney, same piano teachers, a tendency to squabble, and a devotion to the written word. As concerns the last in the list, we've always been very comfortable with one another. But we've run into a problem. Distance. That one tiny problem created more and more problems until we found ourselves glaring at a gosh darn conglomerate of issues! We found pacification of sorts in our phone calls and e mails, but we found the problem itself, well, unsolvable. While we can e mail and call all we like, the problem is like a cancer that grows and grows until the relationship just can't take it anymore. What's to be done when life gets in the way? When there's no time for a phone call and no way to put all of our literary discussions into words in an e mail because we get distracted with little formalities ("How are you?" "You'll never guess what the lady at the post office said today"...and the like)? Our little literary chats became rare, and then almost suddenly they were practically gone. Enter Blogger. No matter where we are, we are here. We have our outlet. Here's our link to span the miles. Did you read something great today? Did you read something drab? Have you read...? and so it goes. We're back online. We're tearin' it up. We're reading and chatting like old times. Minus the squabbles. That is, until he brings up how hideous my vintage country french decorative wall hanging is.