Monday, 22 August 2016

Poetry Revisited: On Summer by George Moses Horton

On Summer

(from The Hope of Liberty.
Containing a Number of Poetical Pieces
: 1829)

Esteville fire begins to burn;
The auburn fields of harvest rise;
The torrid flames again return,
And thunders roll along the skies.

Perspiring Cancer lifts his head,
And roars terrific from on high;
Whose voice the timid creatures dread;
From which they strive with awe to fly.

The night-hawk ventures from his cell,
And starts his note in evening air;
He feels the heat his bosom swell,
Which drives away the gloom of fear.

Thou noisy insect, start thy drum;
Rise lamp-like bugs to light the train;
And bid sweet Philomela come,
And sound in front the nightly strain.

The bee begins her ceaseless hum,
And doth with sweet exertions rise;
And with delight she stores her comb,
And well her rising stock supplies.

Let sportive children well beware,
While sprightly frisking o’er the green;
And carefully avoid the snare,
Which lurks beneath the smiling scene.

The mistress bird assumes her nest,
And broods in silence on the tree,
Her note to cease, her wings at rest,
She patient waits her young to see.

The farmer hastens from the heat;
The weary plough-horse droops his head;
The cattle all at noon retreat,
And ruminate beneath the shade.

The burdened ox with dauntless rage,
Flies heedless to the liquid flood,
From which he quaffs, devoid of guage,
Regardless of his driver's rod.

Pomacious orchards now expand
Their laden branches o’er the lea;
And with their bounty fill the land,
While plenty smiles on every tree.

On fertile borders, near the stream,
Now gaze with pleasure and delight;
See loaded vines with melons teem –
'Tis paradise to human sight.

With rapture view the smiling fields,
Adorn the mountain and the plain,
Each, on the eve of Autumn, yields
A large supply of golden grain.

George Moses Horton (1798–1883)
African-American poet

Friday, 19 August 2016

Book Review: The Conductor by Sarah Quigley
2016 review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

Undeniably, every war affects the civilian population in many ways and to varying degrees. It’s inevitable. And the closer people live to the front lines, the greater is the danger that they will find themselves run over by the enemy or even by their own troops. If there is time they will flee as far away from the fighting as they can, but if it’s a big city and if they live under a rigid regime like Stalin’s Soviet Union this option may be refused them. If they are lucky, it’s all soon over. If they aren’t, they have to struggle for survival under siege as was the case in Leningrad (today again: Saint Petersburg) during the winter of 1941/42. In The Conductor by Sarah Quigley the musicians of the Leningrad Radio Orchestra who are caught in the city by advancing German troops strive for some kind of normality despite hunger and cold.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Back Reviews Reel: August 2013

On my literary summer tour of three years ago (»»» see the summary of My Mediterranean Reading Summer 2013), my August reads – three classics and two contemporary novels – took me not just to five different countries at the Mediterranean Sea but also back in time.

Amazingly altogether three of the books were set in the decades around 1900, namely firstly, the novel Jenny by Sigrid Undset (the winner of the 1928 Nobel Prize in literature) that traces the life of a young free-spirited woman during a stay in Rome, Italy, for studies and later back home in Christiania (today: Oslo), Norway, secondly, the novel Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher dealing with the effects that isolation and danger in a small community in the Egyptian desert have on an (unwanted) Egyptian police officer and his Irish wife, and finally, the Austrian novella Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of a Woman by Stefan Zweig in which a distinguished Englishwoman tells the author her unusual adventure with a gambler in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The coming-of-age novel Nada by Carmen Laforet, on the other hand, is set in Barcelona, Spain, in 1939 and its protagonist is a young woman from the province arriving in the city to study at university. And last but not least, Small Wars by Sadie Jones evokes the fight for independence from the British Empire on Cyprus in the 1950s.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Poetry Revisited: To A Lady Who Said It Was Sinful to Read Novels by Christian Milne

To A Lady Who Said It Was Sinful to Read Novels

(from Simple Poems on Simple Subjects: 1805)

To love these books, and harmless tea,
Has always been my foible,
Yet will I ne’er forgetful be
To read my Psalms and Bible.

Travels I like, and history too,
Or entertaining fiction;
Novels and plays I’d have a few,
If sense and proper diction.

I love a natural harmless song,
But I cannot sing like Handel;
Deprived of such resource, the tongue
Is sure employed — in scandal.

Christian Milne (1773-1816)
Scottish poet

Friday, 12 August 2016

Book Review: The Other Side by Alfred Kubin review of a book written
by an author whose family name starts with the letter

Not only wars and other disasters that come over us unasked for and unforeseen, can turn our lives into an all too real nightmare if not hell on earth, also unfortunate choices have the potential. Dreamers with a taste for great adventure seem to be running a particularly great risk in this respect because – as we all know – things seldom turn out as splendid as imagined. When the protagonist of The Other Side by Alfred Kubin follows an invitation to take up residence in the secret Dream Kingdom that his school mate of twenty years past built in the mountains of Central Asia, he expects to find a glamorous utopia full of interesting and inspiring people. He counts on a model society that has left behind the annoyances of modernity, notably worries concerning work and money, and he hopes for a healthy climate where his ailing wife will get well. Alas, reality is quite different.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

New On LaGraziana's Kalliopeion: By the Open Sea by August Strindberg and restless as he was, August Strindberg (1849-1912) never limited himself to only one trade. In his life he was active as painter, photographer, natural scientist, and sinologist, but his lasting worldwide fame is based on his writing that was too controversial in his own country – Sweden – to earn him one of the early Nobel Prizes in Literature as many expected abroad at the time. Today the author is best known for his more than 60 plays of which a considerable number keeps being performed regularly on stages around the globe. And yet, they are only part of a much larger and more versatile œuvre. August Strindberg also wrote poems, essays, autobiographical works, narrations… and last but not least, ten novels that were mostly acclaimed by critics outside Sweden. One of these novels is By the Open Sea that first appeared in print in 1890.

Read more » (external link to Lagraziana's Kalliopeion)

Monday, 8 August 2016

Poetry Revisited: Sonnet VI. by William Lisle Bowles

Sonnet VI.

(from Fourteen Sonnets: 1789)

Evening! as slow thy placid shades descend,
          Veiling with gentlest hush the landscape still,
          The lonely battlement, the farthest hill
And wood, I think of those who have no friend;
Who now, perhaps, by melancholy led,
          From the broad blaze of day, where pleasure flaunts,
          Retiring, wander to the ring-dove’s haunts
Unseen; and watch the tints that o’er thy bed
Hang lovely; oft to musing Fancy’s eye
          Presenting fairy vales, where the tir’d mind
          Might rest beyond the murmurs of mankind,
Nor hear the hourly moans of misery!
          Alas for man! that Hope’s fair views the while
          Should smile like you, and perish as they smile!

William Lisle Bowles (1762–1850)
English priest, poet and critic