Monday 28 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: A Remembrance of Autumn by Adelaide Anne Procter

A Remembrance of Autumn

(from Legends and Lyrics, Second Series: 1861)

Nothing stirs the sunny silence,–
Save the drowsy humming of the bees
Round the rich ripe peaches on the wall,
And the south-wind sighing in the trees,
And the dead leaves rustling as they fall:
While the swallows, one by one, are gathering,
All impatient to be on the wing,
And to wander from us, seeking
Their beloved Spring!

Cloudless rise the azure heavens!
Only vaporous wreaths of snowy white
Nestle in the gray hill's rugged side;
And the golden woods are bathed in light,
Dying, if they must, with kingly pride:
While the swallows, in the blue air wheeling,
Circle now an eager, fluttering band,
Ready to depart and leave us
For a brighter land!

But a voice is sounding sadly,
Telling of a glory that has been;
Of a day that faded all too fast:–
See afar through the blue air serene,
Where the swallows wing their way at last,
And our hearts perchance as sadly wandering.
Vainly seeking for a long-lost day,
While we watch the far-off swallows,
Flee with them away!

Adelaide Anne Procter

Friday 25 September 2015

Book Review: The Changeling by Ōe Kenzaburō unexpected and sudden loss of a person close to us usually leaves us in a state of shock and disbelief, even more so when the cause of death happens to be suicide. In some cases friends and family might (just might) have had a chance to see it coming if they had paid more attention, while in other cases the reasons remain unexplained and mysterious, sometimes forever. In their grief many bereaved will start to ponder about what went wrong and what they could have done to prevent the fatal step. To come to terms with the void after his close friend and brother-in-law jumped off the roof of his office building in Tōkyō without a warning, the protagonist of The Changeling by Ōe Kenzaburō takes to conversing with him on the Other Side with the help of a stack of old-fashioned cassette tapes that the deceased recorded for him until shortly before his suicide.

Monday 21 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: The Southern Refugee by George Moses Horton

The Southern Refugee

(from Naked Genius: 1865)

What sudden ill the world await,
From my dear residence I roam;
I must deplore the bitter fate,
To straggle from my native home.

The verdant willow droops her head,
And seems to bid a fare thee well;
The flowers with tears their fragrance shed,
Alas! their parting tale to tell.

’Tis like the loss of Paradise,
Or Eden’s garden left in gloom,
Where grief affords us no device;
Such is thy lot, my native home.

I never, never shall forget
My sad departure far away,
Until the sun of life is set,
And leaves behind no beam of day.

How can I from my seat remove
And leave my ever devoted home,
And the dear garden which I love,
The beauty of my native home?

Alas! sequestered, set aside,
It is a mournful tale to tell;
’Tis like a lone deserted bride
That bade her bridegroom fare thee well.

I trust I soon shall dry the tear
And leave forever hence to roam,
Far from a residence so dear,
The place of beauty – my native home.

George Moses Horton

Friday 18 September 2015

Book Review: The Method by Juli Zeh stories these days often evoke a world reminding of a fictitious dystopia although the facts behind them are terribly real. Bloody wars are raging, refugees are being treated worse than wild beasts or lepers, states are tightening control over individuals making ever-stricter laws for the sake of public security. Are we fooling ourselves when we call our society free and imbued with the spirit of universal human rights? And where is humanity going? Many novels show us nightmarish scenarios of the future as it might become if we aren’t on our guard. A more recent one of them is The Method by Juli Zeh set in a world where the state keeps individual health under surveillance and prohibits as well as punishes every potentially harmful behaviour on the pretext of protecting the population from illness and pain. The protagonist feels the full rigour of the system when she lets herself go and begins to question the METHOD.

Monday 14 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: September by Helen Hunt Jackson


(from Poems: 1892)

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook.
From dewy lanes at morning
the grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.
But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.
‘T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

Helen Hunt Jackson

Friday 11 September 2015

Book Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote are books that everybody has at least heard of and that keep attracting readers throughout years, decades and in some cases even centuries, in short books that are timeless classics of literature. Undeniably, the slim volume that I picked for today’s review is such a classic or to be precise a modern classic since it first appeared only in 1958. I admit that Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote may owe part of its lasting notoriety and popularity to the fact that it was adapted for the screen as early as in 1961 starring Audrey Hepburn. For the rest, the novella is a brilliant portrait of a young woman who left behind a modest life somewhere at the back of beyond in order to enter well-to-do society of New York City and to get her share of glamour and happiness.

Monday 7 September 2015

Poetry Revisited: XXXIX by A. E. Housman


(from Last Poems: 1922)

When summer's end is nighing
  And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
  And all the feats I vowed
  When I was young and proud.

The weathercock at sunset
  Would lose the slanted ray,
And I would climb the beacon
  That looked to Wales away
  And saw the last of day.

From hill and cloud and heaven
  The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
  And hushed the countryside,
  But I had youth and pride.

And I with earth and nightfall
  In converse high would stand,
Late, till the west was ashen
  And darkness hard at hand,
  And the eye lost the land.

The year might age, and cloudy
  The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
  Breathed from beyond the snows,
  And I had hope of those.

They came and were and are not
  And come no more anew;
And all the years and seasons
  That ever can ensue
  Must now be worse and few.

So here's an end of roaming
  On eves when autumn nighs:
The ear too fondly listens
  For summer's parting sighs,
  And then the heart replies.

A. E. Housman

Friday 4 September 2015

Book Review: Confessions of Love by Uno Chiyo I joined the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 in June, I thought that it's time to review another book for it. I set my mind on a Japanese classic written by a woman and found that it isn’t easy to lay hands on one in translation. I tried to get a novel by Ariyoshi Sawako, but the Japanese publisher liquidated its English-language branch and the remaining stock seems to be sold out. Electronic versions of her books exist although I suspect that most of the files available are illegal copies if not part of schemes to spread malware. So I turned my attention towards another important female Japanese writer and I dug up Confessions of Love by Uno Chiyo. This bestselling novel from 1935 revolves around the amorous adventures of a painter passionately in love with a young girl whose upper-class family tries to keep them apart.