Monday, 29 May 2017

Poetry Revisited: A May Night On The Mountains by Henry Lawson

A May Night On The Mountains

(from Australian Town and Country Journal: 29 June 1889)

’Tis a wonderful time when these hours begin,
These long ‘small hours’ of night,
When grass is crisp, and the air is thin,
And the stars come close and bright.
The moon hangs caught in a silvery veil,
From clouds of a steely grey,
And the hard, cold blue of the sky grows pale
In the wonderful Milky Way.

There is something wrong with this star of ours,
A mortal plank unsound,
That cannot be charged to the mighty powers
Who guide the stars around.
Though man is higher than bird or beast,
Though wisdom is still his boast,
He surely resembles Nature least,
And the things that vex her most.

Oh, say, some muse of a larger star,
Some muse of the Universe,
If they who people those planets far
Are better than we, or worse?
Are they exempted from deaths and births,
And have they greater powers,
And greater heavens, and greater earths,
And greater Gods than ours?

Are our lies theirs, and our truth their truth,
Are they cursed for pleasure’s sake,
Do they make their hells in their reckless youth
Ere they know what hells they make?
And do they toil through each weary hour
Till the tedious day is o’er,
For food that gives but the fleeting power
To toil and strive for more?

Henry Lawson (1867-1922)
Australian writer and bush poet

Friday, 26 May 2017

Book Review: No Silver Spoon by Katie Flynn in life comes as a surprise, be it an agreeable or an unpleasant one. Biographies without more or less significant swerves, detours or even sharp turns are rare although we tend to believe that the rich and successful have to overcome less obstacles and can head straight towards their goals. And yet, the way we cope with the vicissitudes of life is just as important as the right focus. As children neither the Irish girl Dympna nor the Liverpudlian boy Jimmy in No Silver Spoon by Katie Flynn could expect to go into the direction that events made them choose, but they both accept the challenge and are determined to make the best of whatever may come. Their paths have crossed and separated already twice before love finally joins them and fate tears them apart again in Liverpool of the 1930s. But what is meant to be, will be.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Poetry Revisited: The Music of the Stream by Janet Hamilton

The Music of the Stream

(from Poems and Ballads: 1868)

Is it a spirit voice—an angel’s song—
That pours its liquid melody among
The mossy stones that break the rippling sheen,
Lone Calder! gliding thy fair banks between?

No! ’tis the voice—the music of the stream,
That chimes harmonious with the poet’s dream:
A dream of beauty, radiant and divine,
A halo floating round the muses’ shrine.

Oft in sweet summer prime I singing strayed
Down yon deep dell and through the woodland glade,
To woo fair Nature in soft Doric rhymes
And hear the tinkling of thy silver chimes.

And, ah, what glorious wealth of wilding flowers!
What wealth of fragrant blossoms on thy bowers!
What odorous breathings of the summer breeze!
What chorus of sweet singers in the trees!

O Nature! fairer, dearer to my heart
Than pictured scenes of highest, rarest art!
What sweeter chord can charm the spirit dream
Than the weird music of the singing stream?

Fond Memory treasures in her deepest cell
The woodland glade, the deep romantic dell,
Where oft the summer day too brief would seem,
When wandering, musing, by lone Calder’s stream.

"A change came o’er the spirit of my dream
I heard no more the music of the stream
The flowers and blooms were withered, trampled, soiled,
Nature’s fair face of every charm despoiled.

For, lo! obscuring the fair light of day,
The genii of the mines, in grim array,
With baleful wings the landscape shadowed o’er,
And beauty, bloom, and song exist no more.

Janet Hamilton (1795-1873)
Scottish poet

Friday, 19 May 2017

Book Review: Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin years of the Weimar Republic in Germany between 1919 and 1933 were a crucial period in European and world history. The political atmosphere after World War One and after the abdication of Emperor William II. was such that it prevented people both from coming to terms with the lost war and from developing trust in democracy and the parliamentary republic. Moreover, they were economically hard times that reduced many to poverty and left them in despair because life was only slowly getting better. Set in 1927/28 the German interwar classic Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin shows eighteen months in the life of Franz Biberkopf. He has just been released from prison and is determined to start a new, i.e. an honest life, but he’s a trusting kind of man and can’t understand why life puts obstacles into his way and everybody tries to drag him back into the world of petty crime.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Back Reviews Reel: May 2014

For some odd reason my reads of three years ago told without exception sad, if not depressing stories. My first read in May 2014 was Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys, a much acclaimed English classic from 1939 that surrounds a lonely Englishwoman in Paris. Also the 1974 Austrian novel Beautiful Days by Franz Innerhofer was far from a cheerful read evoking the horrors of the author’s own childhood on a mountain farm in the 1950s. Before You Sleep by Linn Ullmann, first published in 1998, is another story of the scars that even small childhood traumas leave on a soul, but at the same time it’s a family history of three generations coping with the vicissitudes of life. While Before You Sleep was only faintly surrealistic, Mood Indigo by Boris Vian turned out to be a chef-d’oeuvre of French surrealism that first appeared in 1947. The story of love and friendship takes a splendid turn from sunny and clear to overcast and gloomy. And last but not least, I read The Church of Solitude by Grazia Deledda, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1926. The protagonist of this late novel is a young Sardinian woman who had breast cancer – like the author herself who even died from it eventually.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Poetry Revisited: The Heart of Night by Bliss Carman

The Heart of Night

(from Later Poems: 1926)

When all the stars are sown
Across the night-blue space,
With the immense unknown,
In silence face to face.

We stand in speechless awe
While Beauty marches by,
And wonder at the Law
Which wears such majesty.

How small a thing is man
In all that world-sown vast,
That he should hope or plan
Or dream his dream could last!

O doubter of the light,
Confused by fear and wrong,
Lean on the heart of night
And let love make thee strong!

The Good that is the True
Is clothed with Beauty still.
Lo, in their tent of blue,
The stars above the hill!

Bliss Carman (1861-1929)
Canadian poet

Friday, 12 May 2017

Book Review: Artemisia by Anna Banti isn’t easy to defy established role models or other unwritten rules of society to go your own way, to make a career that people say wasn’t meant for you because you were born this or that and to still find happiness. Only a strong personality can bear the constant fight and the isolation that a life beyond convention often implies and that may also lead into solitude, if not loneliness and resentment. But even with passion and determination to back you, there are moments of weakness and doubt. The much acclaimed Italian classic Artemisia by Anna Banti shows the struggles of the author rewriting her almost finished first draft of Artemisia Gentileschi’s biography that was destroyed in World War Two and those of the female painter from Renaissance Italy on her way from a raped fourteen-year-old unwilling to put up with her fate to an accepted artist of her own right at the courts of Naples and England.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

New on Edith's Lagraziana: Gustav Mahler by Alma Mahler-Werfel

The Unpopular Genius: Gustav Mahler by Alma Mahler-Werfel

As beautiful, highly educated and endowed for the arts as Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879-1964) was, she could have achieved a lot in the world, but during most of her life she remained in the shadows of her famous husbands and lovers. She had the bad luck to have been born at a time, when women only made their first tentative steps to claim their rights and their own place in society. Although her family and the circles that they frequented were among the most liberal of the fin de siècle, young and shy Alma quite naturally obeyed the command of her much older first husband Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) to give up for good all her own musical ambitions and activities. In 1939, when the Nazi regime defamed his work because he had been a Jew converted to Protestantism and refused him his place in the world of music, she brought out her very personal tribute to him under the title Gustav Mahler. Memories and Letters.

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

Monday, 8 May 2017

Poetry Revisited: Rozenknop – Rosebud by Alice Nahon


(uit Vondelingskens: 1920)

'k Hoù niet van volbloeide roze,
Die heur hart heeft uitgezeid,
Die bij 't oop'nen
Van heur broze weelde,
D'éérste stervenstrane schreit.

'k Zie ze liever wachtend dragen,
Wat een knop niet openwoelt:
't Stil gesluimer
Van zó teêr verlangen,
Dat een and're roos het voelt...

Want, door elk geluk moet schreien,
Schemering van droefenis...
Als een liefde,
Die door bei geweten,
Nog onuitgesproken is...

Liefde, hou me lang verborgen
't Schroeien van uw pracht'ge gloed;
't Is de passie
van het zonne-zoenen,
Die een roze sterven doet…

Alice Nahon (1896-1933)
Vlaamse dichteres


(from Little Foundlings: 1920)

I don’t like roses in full bloom,
Which their heart have drained,
Those opening
With their brittle wealth,
Weep the first tear of death.

I prefer to see them bear in waiting,
What a blossom hides in opening:
The silent sleepiness
Of so tender a desire
That another rose can feel...

Because through every happiness sobs,
Twilight of sadness...
As a love,
That known only by the two of us,
Yet unspoken is...

Love, love long hidden from me
The scorching of your sumptuous glow;
It's the passion
Of the sun-kissing,
That make a rose die...

Alice Nahon (1896-1933)
Flemish poet
Translation: Edith LaGraziana 2017
with the help of online dictionaries

Friday, 5 May 2017

Book Review: A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul, independence and self-determination are values that we hold high in esteem in our modern western-style democracies, but to gain as well as to keep them often had and sometimes still has a high price. In the name of freedom many wars have been fought and many people have been killed everywhere on this planet, notably in Africa. Unfortunately, to throw out foreign rulers and chase away home-bred tyrants has seldom been enough because what followed far too often was a ferocious and violent struggle for power between opposing political or/and social groups. In the novel A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul, the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2001, a young Indian-Muslim shopkeeper who came from the East Coast to an unspecified country at the heart of Africa to make his fortune gives testimony of the chaos after independence that made possible the rise of the “Big Man”.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Poetry Revisited: May-Day by John Clare


(from The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems: 1821)

Now happy swains review the plains,
          And hail the first of May;
Now linnets sing to welcome spring,
          And every soul is gay.

Hob, joyful soul, high rears the pole,
          With wild-flower wreaths entwin’d;
Then tiptoe round the maidens bound,
          All sorrow lags behind.

Branches of thorn their doors adorn,
          With every flowret lin’d
That earliest spring essays to bring,
          Or searching maids can find.

All swains resort to join the sport,
          E’en age will not disdain,
But oft will throng to hear the song,
          And view the jocund train.

I often too had us’d to go,
          The rural mirth to share,
But what, alas l time brought to pass,
          Soon made me absent there.

My Colin died the village pride,
          O hapless misery!
Then sports adieu, with him they flew,
          For he was all to me.

And May no more shall e’er restore
          To me those joys again,
There’s no relief but urging grief,
          For memory wakens pain.

To think how he, so dear to me,
          Had us’d to join the play;
And O so dear such pleasures were,
          He gloried in the day.

But now, sad scene, he’s left the green,
          And Lubin here to mourn:
Then flowers may spring, and birds may sing,
          And May-day may return;

But never more can they restore
          Their rural sports to me—
No, no, adieu! with him they flew,
          For he was all to me.

John Clare (1793-1864)
English poet