Monday 31 August 2015

Poetry Revisited: The End of the Summer by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The End of the Summer

(from Poems of Sentiment: 1909)

The birds laugh loud and long together
When Fashion's followers speed away
At the first cool breath of autumn weather.
Why, this is the time, cry the birds, to stay!
When the deep calm sea and the deep sky over
Both look their passion through sun-kissed space,
As a blue-eyed maid and her blue-eyed lover
Might each gaze into the other's face.

Oh! this is the time when careful spying
Discovers the secrets Nature knows.
You find when the butterflies plan for flying
(Before the thrush or the blackbird goes),
You see some day by the water's edges
A brilliant border of red and black;
And then off over the hills and hedges
It flutters away on the summer's track.

The shy little sumacs, in lonely places,
Bowed all summer with dust and heat,
Like clean-clad children with rain-washed faces,
Are dressed in scarlet from head to feet.
And never a flower had the boastful summer,
In all the blossoms that decked her sod,
So royal hued as that later comer
The purple chum of the goldenrod.

Some chill grey dawn you note with grieving
That the King of Autumn is on his way.
You see, with a sorrowful, slow believing,
How the wanton woods have gone astray.
They wear the stain of bold caresses,
Of riotous revels with old King Frost;
They dazzle all eyes with their gorgeous dresses,
Nor care that their green young leaves are lost.

A wet wind blows from the East one morning,
The wood's gay garments looked draggled out.
You hear a sound, and your heart takes warning -
The birds are planning their winter route.
They wheel and settle and scold and wrangle,
Their tempers are ruffled, their voices loud;
Then whirr -and away in a feathered tangle,
To fade in the south like a passing cloud.


A songless wood stripped bare of glory -
A sodden moor that is black and brown;
The year has finished its last love-story:
Oh! let us away to the gay bright town.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Friday 28 August 2015

Book Review: Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell mornings and early dusk are an unmistakable sign that autumn is approaching once again. For me this means that it’s time to close My Reading Summer of Nordic White Nights after thirteen weeks of hopping criss-cross around the Arctic Circle. My last destination is Scandinavia, more precisely Sweden. The country has gained some notoriety as a hotbed for excellent mystery writers and also the author of the book that I’m reviewing today probably wouldn’t be as famous as he is, hadn’t he produced a series of popular crime novels starring Inspector Kurt Wallander. Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell, however, belongs to a different genre of fiction although like a thriller it largely revolves around death and ghosts of the past. It’s the story of a former surgeon whose secluded life is turned upside down when an old love turns up after almost forty years and asks him to keep a promise while it’s still time.

Monday 24 August 2015

Poetry Revisited: Auch der andere, der bist du – The Other, Too, Is You by Peter Rosegger

Auch der andere, der bist du

(aus Mein Lied: 1911)

Was die Erde mir geliehen,
Fordert sie schon jetzt zurück.
Naht sich, mir vom Leib zu ziehen
Sanft entwindend Stück für Stück.

Um so mehr, als ich gelitten,
Um so schöner ward die Welt.
Seltsam, dass, was ich erstritten,
Sachte aus der Hand mir fällt.

Um so leichter, als ich werde,
Um so schwerer trag' ich mich.
Kannst du mich, du feuchte Erde,
Nicht entbehren? frag' ich dich.

"Nein, ich kann dich nicht entbehren,
Muss aus dir ein' andern bauen,
Muss aus dir ein' andern nähren,
Soll sich auch die Welt anschauen.

Doch getröste dich in Ruh'.
Auch der andre, der bist du."

Peter Rosegger

The Other, Too, Is You

(from My Song: 1911)

What once Earth to me presented
She's already asking back;
Comes to take what she had granted,
Grasping tender speck by speck.

Strange: the more of hurts I carried
The more beauty showed the land;
What I fought for, gains of merit,
Softly falling from my hand.

And the lighter I am getting,
The more heavily I walk:
'Can't you, from your moistened setting,
Spare me, Earth? I beg you, talk!'

'No, I cannot spare you, Brother,
Need you for the other one;
Out of you I'll feed the other:
Let him also see the sun.

But relax and do not rue:
For the Other, too 'tis You!'

unknown translator

Friday 21 August 2015

Book Review: And She Was by Cindy Dyson
We often look at history as so far away from us that it appears to be of no significance for our lives, but we should never forget that everything is always interconnected. History, as a matter of fact, is nothing less than the societal equivalent to the experiences each one of us makes from the moment we are born until we die. Just as personal experience shapes character, history moulds society. We are who we are because we went through all that was – if we are aware of it or not. This is what the novel And She Was by Cindy Dyson shows on the individual as well as the societal level taking as examples a blond drifter from a dysfunctional family stranded on the small island Unalaska in the Bering Sea and four women of the native Aleut community there who inherited from their female ancestors the roles of “guardian and avenging angels”. 

Monday 17 August 2015

Poetry Revisited: In the Fields by Charlotte Mew

In the Fields

(from The Sphere. An Illustrated Newspaper for the Home: 1923)

Lord when I look at lovely things which pass,
Under old trees the shadow of young leaves
Dancing to please the wind along the grass,
Or the gold stillness of the August sun on the August sheaves;
Can I believe there is a heavenlier world than this?
And if there is
Will the heart of any everlasting thing
Bring me these dreams that take my breath away?
They come at evening with the home-flying rooks and the scent of hay,
Over the fields. They come in spring.

Charlotte Mew

Friday 14 August 2015

Book Review: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to some famous Russian novels, Siberia has become for us Westerners sort of a synonym not just for harsh living conditions (above all owing to snow and bitter cold during seemingly endless winters), but also for cruel punishment in political systems that don’t allow deviations from the established doctrine. The book that I’m reviewing today shows most powerfully how Stalin carried to extremes what Russian Tsars had begun long before him: forced labour camps for political opponents or innocent men and women who somehow got under suspicion. The novella One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn focuses on the usual ups and downs of camp routine that make the day of an ordinary inmate in a Stalinist GULAG. Systematic cruelty, hardships and penury can’t extinguish his humanity and his ability to enjoy the few pleasant moments of his miserable existence.

Monday 10 August 2015

Poetry Revisited: The Rain-Crow by Madison Julius Cawein

The Rain-Crow

(from Myth and Romance, Being a Book of Verse: 1899)

Can freckled August,—drowsing warm and blonde
     Beside a wheat-shock in the white-topped mead,
In her hot hair the oxeyed daisies wound,—
     O bird of rain, lend aught but sleepy heed
     To thee? when no plumed weed, no feather'd seed
Blows by her; and no ripple breaks the pond,
     That gleams like flint between its rim of grasses,
     Through which the dragonfly forever passes
                    Like splintered diamond.

Drouth weights the trees, and from the farmhouse eaves
     The locust, pulse-beat of the summer day,
Throbs; and the lane, that shambles under leaves
     Limp with the heat—a league of rutty way—
     Is lost in dust; and sultry scents of hay
Breathe from the panting meadows heaped with sheaves—
     Now, now, O bird, what hint is there of rain,
     In thirsty heaven or on burning plain,
                   That thy keen eye perceives?

But thou art right. Thou prophesiest true.
     For hardly hast thou ceased thy forecasting,
When, up the western fierceness of scorched blue,
     Great water-carrier winds their buckets bring
     Brimming with freshness. How their dippers ring
And flash and rumble! lavishing dark dew
     On corn and forestland, that, streaming wet,
     Their hilly backs against the downpour set,
                    Like giants vague in view.

The butterfly, safe under leaf and flower,
     Has found a roof, knowing how true thou art;
The bumble-bee, within the last half-hour,
     Has ceased to hug the honey to its heart;
     While in the barnyard, under shed and cart,
Brood-hens have housed.—But I, who scorned thy power,
     Barometer of the birds,—like August there,—
     Beneath a beech, dripping from foot to hair,
                    Like some drenched truant, cower.

Madison Julius Cawein

Friday 7 August 2015

Book Review: The Galliard by Margaret Irwin
After past week’s short literary excursion to Tōkyō and the island of Hokkaidō in the north of Japan with Haruki Murakami as a guide, I return to Europe and move a little closer to the Arctic Circle again because until the end of the month this still is My Reading Summer of Northern White Nights. For today’s review I picked a historical novel, a classic one that is principally set in Scotland of the 1560s and includes a few scenes on the Orkney and Shetland Isles. Be assured right away that this time the protagonists don’t chase after mysterious sheep although they pass quite some time on horseback in the countryside. Much rather The Galliard by Margaret Irwin is a love story revolving around Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and her relationship to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, that ended in marriage, but sealed the unhappy fates of both.

Monday 3 August 2015

Poetry Revisited: Long Island Sound by Emma Lazarus

Long Island Sound

(from The Poems of Emma Lazarus. Volume I: 1888)

May 1st, 1866

I see it as it looked one afternoon
In August,-by a fresh soft breeze o'erblown.

The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon,
A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon.

The shining waters with pale currents strewn,
The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove,
The semi-circle of its dark, green grove.

The luminous grasses, and the merry sun
In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide,
Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp
Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide,
Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep
Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon.

All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.

Emma Lazarus