Monday, 30 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: Danger of Fire Arms by James McIntyre

Danger of Fire Arms

(from Poems of James McIntyre: 1889)

For to save life one great solver
Would be to prohibit the revolver,
Weapon of coward and of bully,
Who slaughter friends in their folly.

Let now no man or any boy,
With loaded arms ever toy,
Showing off their manly vigor,
Pointing to friend and pulling trigger.

And sending bullet through their brain,
And then exclaim in mournful strain,
When friends with grief they are goaded,
I did not know that it was loaded.

Fire arms oft' times do bring woes,
And they kill more friends than foes,
Hunting now o'er fertile fields,
'Tis seldom that it profit yields.

James McIntyre
(1828-1906)

Friday, 27 November 2015

Book Review: Désirée by Annemarie Selinko

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7854269-d-sir-e Life sometimes takes such amazing turns that, if they came into the mind of a writer, even the most daring among them might refrain from using them in a book because they seem just too far-fetched to make a realistic story. To a historical novel based on well-researched facts, however, they can give the magic touch of a fairy-tale come true as is the case with the book that I’m reviewing today. In the 1940s, an Austrian author of popular novels chose to base what was to be her last and most famous work on a true story from revolutionary France that ends on the Swedish throne. Désirée by Annemarie Selinko is the fictionalised account of the stunning fate of Désirée Clary that reminds of the story of Cinderella, but the silk merchant’s daughter from Marseille who was the first love of Napoleone Buonaparte and who eventually became Queen Desideria I of Sweden and Norway really existed.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: Autumn and Winter by J. C. Yule

Autumn and Winter

(from Poems of the Heart and Home: 1881)

I.

Beautiful Autumn is dead and gone -
                  Weep for her!
Calm, and gracious, and very fair,
With sunny robe and with shining hair,
And a tender light in her dreamy eye,
She came to earth but to smile and die -
                  Weep for her!

Nay, nay, I will not weep!
          She came with a smile,
          And tarried awhile,
     Quieting Nature to sleep; -
          Then went on her way
          O'er the hill-tops grey,
And yet - and yet, she is dead, you say!
Nay! - she brought us blessings, and left us cheer,
And alive and well shell return next year! -
                  Why should I weep?

II.

Desolate Winter has come again –
                       Frown on him!
          He comes with a withering breath,
               With a gloomy scowl,
               With a shriek and a howl,
          Freezing Nature to death!
               He stamps on the hills,
               He fetters the rills,
     And every hollow with snow he fills!
     Frown on the monster grim and old,
     With snowy robes and with fingers cold,
                       And a gusty breath!

Nay, nay! I shall give him a smile! -
          For I know by the sleet,
           And the snow in the street,
     He has come to tarry awhile.
Ho, for the sleigh-bells merrily ringing!
Ho, for the skaters joyously singing -
Over the ice-fields gliding, swinging! -
So let the Winter-king whiten the plain!
Fetter the fountains and frost the pane,
               His greeting shall be -
               Not a frown from me,
          But a smile - a smile!

J. C. Yule (aka Pamela Sarah Vining)
(1826-1897)

Friday, 20 November 2015

Book Review: The Guest Cat by Hiraide Takashi

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23352450-the-guest-cat
Cats are independent creatures displaying elegance and aplomb worthy of the remote kin of lions. They certainly know what they want and how to get it! However, not all people welcome such willfulness, even less in a pet. While many humans respond to the particular charms of cats serving them not just voluntarily but with great pleasure, others hate them for their aloofness and pride as Colette skilfully showed in her novella from 1933 (»»» read my review of The Cat). Cat lovers will confirm that their mere presence suffices to improve the atmosphere of a place. With a cat around home feels warmer, more comfortable, and even more alive just as the first-person narrator of The Guest Cat by Hiraide Takashi learns day after day when Chibi begins to drop by at his house on her daily rambles and eventually makes it her second home.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: The Gray Sisters by Madison Julius Cawein

The Gray Sisters

(from Minions of the Moon. A Little Book of Song and Story: 1913)

What is that which walks by night
In flying tatters of leaves and weeds,
When the clouds rush by like daemon steeds,
And the moon is a jack-o'-lantern light
Low in the pool's dark reeds?
What is that, like a soul who sinned?
Is it a witch? or the Autumn wind?
What is that which sits and glowers
Under the trees by the forest pool?
With a cloak of moss whence the raindrops drule,
Chilling the air with a sense of showers
And touch of the cold toadstool:
What is that, with its breath of gloom?
Is it a witch? or the Fall perfume?
What is that in a mantle of gray,
With rags, like water, that wreathe and wind?
That gropes the forest, as if to find
A path, long-lost, on its midnight way,
Shadowy, old and blind:
What is that, so white and whist?
Is it a witch? or the Autumn mist?
You may have met them; you may have heard;
As I have heard them; as I have met:
The three gray sisters of wind and wet
Each With a spell or a cryptic word
Working her magic yet:
The three gray sisters, the witches old,
Daughters of Autumn, who haunt the wold.

Madison Julius Cawein
(1865.1914)

Friday, 13 November 2015

Book Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/820665.The_Bluest_EyeAlthough many tried to establish objective criteria for beauty, the wisdom that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” could never be defeated. Nonetheless, it would be too easy to leave it at beauty being a matter of personal taste because from the moment we are born we are exposed to the opinion of others and we can’t help internalising their standards. In Europe the ideal of a beautiful body often tends to be Nordic, i.e. since Roman times or even longer, fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes have a particular appeal to beholders. European discoverers and settlers carried this idea of human beauty into the New World and so the African American protagonist of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison learnt early to despise herself for her looks. She prays to God for blue eyes that will make her beautiful and happy, but of course, that’s not how it works. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: A Dream by Emily Lawless

A Dream

(from With the Wild Geese: 1902)

Last night in dreams I seemed to slowly wend
Along a coast like this, all seared and bare,
And met you there, my old, my long-time friend,
And breathed old fragrance lingering in the air.

For near a rock I found a curragh tied,
And, entering, floated down along the bay,
And now and then an idle oar I plied,
Then touched another headland, seared and grey.

There, in a cave, part open to the light,
I found you sitting, smiling, on the strand,
And all my heart sprang upwards at the sight,
And out I leaped, and gaily waved my hand.
“Old friend, what joy to find you here,” I said;
Then all at once remembered you were dead.

Emily Lawless
(1845-1913)

Friday, 6 November 2015

Book Review: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30935.The_Loved_OneFor Catholics this month started with two days dedicated to the commemoration of the dead, namely All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Not just during times of mourning, but also on Memorial Days, a special place to remember those who left for good can be a great consolation. Thus the habit of most civilisations to build cemeteries that, following regional, cultural and religious traditions, can be very different. They can be humble sites of recollection as well as pompous testimonials of wealth and glory both of those departed and of those bereaved. Americans in particular seem to like to “celebrate” the recently deceased in grand style and this gives morticians an important role in the funeral rites. The satirical novella The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh sets a love story against the backdrop of burials and cremations in two park-like cemeteries in Hollywood, one for humans and one for their pets.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Poetry Revisited: All Souls’ Day by Eugene Lee-Hamilton

All Souls’ Day

(from Sonnets of the Wingless Hours: 1894)

I

All Souls' Day's wintry light is on the wane;
The Tuscan furrows darken deeper brown;
And still the sower, ever up and down,
Is hard at work, broad-scattering his grain,

As, since dim times, again and yet again
(Beginning with old nations scarcely known,
Pelasgi and Etruscans) he has thrown
His seed upon this old Italic plain.

And what became of all those shadowy dead
Who sowed their wheat, built Cyclopean walls,
And left their lives unwritten on man's scrolls?

Just what became of what they sowed for bread –
Of grain that breeds fresh grain that falls and falls:
Earth had their bones; and who shall find their souls?

II

What heavens that grow, what hells that still expand,
Would hold the close-packed souls of all who found
Earth's bread or sweet or bitter, and were bound
In sheaves of shadow by the silent hand?

The close-packed souls of every time and land;
Millions of millions mingled with the ground;
Of all the mounded mummy-dust all round,
Who, back on earth, would fight for room to stand,

Nor find a square foot each? ... But dusk has grown;
The fields are empty; day is dying fast;
And, save one figure, all is grey and lone –

The figure of the sower who has cast
Wheat for the quick where countless dead have sown,
And passes ghost-like on his way at last.

Eugene Lee-Hamilton
(1845-1907)