Monday 30 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Change by F. J. Ochse


(from Alexander Wilmot (ed.), South African Poetry: 1887)

Yes, all things change in this poor world of ours,—
The ocean’s waves, the sand upon its shores,
The rocks which bound it even slowly change.
Summer’s warm breath makes place for Winter’s cold.
Spring’s youthful freshness, beautiful and gay,
Is doomed to Autumn’s sadness, age, decay.
Life’s phases change: now happiness and joy;
Then misery and sorrow take their turn.
Now health and plenty, shared with loved ones near;
Then pain and sickness, poverty, despair,
For the poor, exiled, friendless wanderer.
Now in this field, with friends and blessings rich,
The labourer works content; then parting comes,
And to a new and unknown sphere he turns
His wandering steps, and hopes and prays and works.
Friends also sometimes change: the tender flower
Of friendship often withers in the blast
Of cruel, sinful scandal, cursed of God.
Others indifferent grow: pleased by new friends,
The old ones are neglected and forgot.
Yes, all things change in this poor world of ours—
God’s love alone remains unchangeable.
His love alone can keep us constant, true.
No blast can wither friendship’s tender flower
That blooms beneath His atmosphere of love.
Then let all things in this poor world of ours
Change and decay;—no matter, we have God.
His promises are sure, His blessings great;
His faithful guidance will be ever ours.
A place awaits us in His glorious Home,
Where we shall also be unchangeable.

Rev. Francis James Ochse (1856-1898)
South African minister

Friday 27 October 2017

Book Review: My Heart by Else Lasker-Schüler failed marriage usually isn’t a reason to rejoice, but it can well serve as an inspiration, if not as a driving force for whatever follows… and I don’t have in mind any of these ugly wars of the roses that we read about time and again in the yellow press! Especially artists, among them writers, often find the most wonderful ways to transform disappointment and sorrow, even hatred into something great and compelling. As a matter of fact, true art lives off strong emotions. The epistolary novel My Heart by Else Lasker-Schüler began as a series of open “Letters to Norway” published in the German avant-garde journal of her husband when their marriage was over. While he travelled around Norway with a friend, she went on with her life in Berlin seeing and gossipping with (and about) their Bohemian friends as ever, having several love affairs and struggling to make ends meet.

Monday 23 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Autumn and Sunset by Mary Ann H. T. Bigelow

Autumn and Sunset

(from The Kings and Queens of England and Other Poems: 1853)

Hail, sober Autumn! thee I love,
Thy healthful breeze and clear blue sky;
And more than flowers of Spring admire
Thy falling leaves of richer dye.

’Twas even thus when life was young,
I welcomed Autumn with delight;
Although I knew that with it came
The shorter day and lengthened night.

Let others pass October by,
Or dreary call its hours, or chill;
Let poets always sing of Spring,
My praise shall be of Autumn still.

And I have loved the setting sun,
E’en than his rising beams more dear;
’Tis fitting time for serious thought,
It is an hour for solemn prayer.

Before the evening closes in,
Or night’s dark curtains round us fall,
See how o’er tree, and spire, and hill,
That setting sun illumines all.

So when my earthly race is run,
When called to bid this world adieu,
Like yonder cloudless orb I see,
May my sun set in glory too.

October 8, 1852.

Mary Ann Hubbard Townsend Bigelow (c. 1791-1870)
American poet

Friday 20 October 2017

Book Review: Darkness Visible by William Golding tales like The Beauty and the Beast should have prepared us for the fact that in life appearance often deceives. And yet, we all tend to neglect this ancient wisdom judging the world and especially people by what we see or otherwise perceive instead of taking a good look under the surface. Thus we can be deeply shocked at recognising that something beautiful is fundamentally evil and stunned at finding good in the ugly. Unfortunately, it isn’t always so easy to distinguish the one from the other because there are many shades between the light of Heaven and the dark of Hell. The hell of Darkness Visible by William Golding is a very human one. Starting in the inferno of World War II the novel tells the story of disfigured Matty with a mystical vocation in life and the beautiful twins Sophy and Toni who turn to crime or terrorism respectively.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Back Reviews Reel: October 2014

My reviews of three years ago took me to very different destinations in time and space. I started my five-week tour of Asia and Europe in modern-day Japan with the novel of a young Austro-Japanese, namely I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar. On my return to Europe, I joined the narrator of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand by Luigi Pirandello, the laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1934, in his confusing exploration of basic questions of philosophy. Then I moved on to rural France in the late nineteenth century with classical and almost forgotten Marie Claire by Marguerite Audoux, before following The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman by Andrzej Szczypiorski who (fruitlessly) plays at cat and mouse with the Nazi rascals occupying Warsaw in spring 1943. And at last, I returned to Asia, but this time to the beautiful island of Java where The Tea Lords by Hella S. Haasse strive to make their fortune.

Monday 16 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: October by Ellis Parker Butler


(from New England Magazine: 1895)

The forest holds high carnival to-day,
And every hill-side glows with gold and fire;
Ivy and sumac dress in colors gay,
And oak and maple mask in bright attire.

The hoarded wealth of sober autumn days
In lavish mood for motley garb is spent,
And nature for the while at folly plays,
Knowing the morrow brings a snowy Lent.

Ellis Parker Butler (1869-1937)
American banker, writer, humorist, essayist and speaker

Friday 13 October 2017

Book Review: Woman on the Other Shore by Kakuta Mitsuyo it’s pretty common to hear and read about bullying at school or at the work place, but the sad truth is that it can happen everywhere, at every time and to everybody. As human beings we are highly social creatures with the more or less urgent desire to interact with other people and to take the best possible position in group hierarchy. Despite our efforts we always run the risk to find ourselves suddenly excluded, cruelly exposed or even violently chased… and often for strange, if not trivial reasons based on real or imagined differences. One of the protagonists of Woman on the Other Shore by Kakuta Mitsuyo is a timid stay-at-home mother who resumes work because she wants to give her little daughter a chance to learn social skills and make friends with other children her age, while the other is her employer who seems to care little about what others think of her.

Wednesday 11 October 2017

New on Lagraziana's Kalliopeion: Marie Grubbe by Jens Peter Jacobsen Longing for Love:
Marie Grubbe by Jens Peter Jacobsen

In the nineteenth century the discoveries of Charles Darwin not only revolutionised science and introduced the idea of evolution into human thinking, they also changed literature inspiring authors to a new approach to fiction writing. One of the first in Northern Europe to break with Romantic narrative tradition and to begin telling stories in a naturalistic style that showed man as a beast driven by instincts and urges was Danish botanist and writer Jens Peter Jacobsen (»»» read my author’s portrait). After his successful literary debut with a short story, he published in 1876 the historical novel Marie Grubbe. A Lady of the Seventeenth Century (Fru Marie Grubbe. Interieurer fra det syttende Aarhundrede). It is loosely based on the true story of a Danish noblewoman who died in 1718.
Read more » (external link to Lagraziana's Kalliopeion)

Monday 9 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Autumn Leaves by Juliana Horatia Ewing

Autumn Leaves

(from Verses for Children and Songs for Music: 1895)

The Spring’s bright tints no more are seen,
And Summer’s ample robe of green
Is russet-gold and brown;
When flowers fall to every breeze
And, shed reluctant from the trees,
The leaves drop down.

A sadness steals about the heart,
—And is it thus from youth we part,
And life’s redundant prime?
Must friends like flowers fade away,
And life like Nature know decay,
And bow to time?

And yet such sadness meets rebuke,
From every copse in every nook
Where Autumn’s colours glow;
How bright the sky! How full the sheaves!
What mellow glories gild the leaves
Before they go.

Then let us sing the jocund praise,
In this bright air, of these bright days,
When years our friendships crown;
The love that’s loveliest when ’tis old—
When tender tints have turned to gold
And leaves drop down.

Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885)
English writer of children’s literature

Friday 6 October 2017

Book Review: Lust for Life by Irving Stone

Most artists know passion as the essential driving force of their creative work and recognise it as a precondition for their advancement and eventually success. It can grow so powerful, though, that it becomes an all-consuming, often uncontrollable obsession bordering on lunacy and even closest friends or family react with incomprehension or fear. A strong fit of working passion may bring to light a great masterpiece or result in the complete breakdown of the artist. Sometimes neither. Sometimes both. The classical “bio-history” Lust for Life by Irving Stone shows the painter Vincent Van Gogh as he changes from a not quite ordinary young man from Brabant who seeks his true vocation in life to the fanatical painter who finds his own way. Whatever he does, he does it with all his body and soul risking physical as well as mental health and not wasting a doubt on whether his efforts are worthwhile or not.

Monday 2 October 2017

Poetry Revisited: Tankens duva – The Dove of Thought by Verner von Heidenstam

Tankens duva

(från Nya dikter: 1915)

Tankens duva ensam dröjer
långt i stormens moln och höjer
flykten över höstlig sjö.
Jorden brinner, hjärtat brinner.
Sök, min duva, ack du finner
ändå aldrig glömskans ö.

Varför skrämmer dig minuten,
stackars duva, med sin brand?
Somna, somna på min hand.
Snart du ligger tyst och skjuten.

Verner von Heidenstam (1859-1940)
Svensk poet, romanförfattare och
laureat av Nobelpriset i litteratur 1916

The Dove of Thought

from New Poems: 1915)

Lone the dove of thought goes lagging
Through the storm, with pinions dragging
O'er an autumn lake the while.
Earth’s aflame, the heart’s a-fever.
Seek, my dove, – alas! thou never
Comest to Oblivion's isle.

Hapless dove, shall one brief minute.
Flaming, fright thee to a swoon?
Sleep thou on my hand. Full soon.
Hushed and hurt, thou’lt lie within it.

Verner von Heidenstam (1859-1940)
Swedish poet, novelist and
laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1916

Translation: Charles Wharton Stork in
Sweden’s laurete: Selected Poems of
Verner on Heidenstam