Monday, 30 April 2018

Poetry Revisited: Corinna’s Going a-Maying by Robert Herrick

Corinna’s Going a-Maying

(from Hesperides: 1648)

Get up, get up for shame, the blooming morn
Upon her wings presents the god unshorn.
See how Aurora throws her fair
Fresh-quilted colours through the air:
Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see
The dew bespangling herb and tree.
Each flower has wept and bow’d toward the east
Above an hour since: yet you not dress’d;
Nay! not so much as out of bed?
When all the birds have matins said
And sung their thankful hymns, ’tis sin,
Nay, profanation to keep in,
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day
Spring, sooner than the lark, to fetch in May.

Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green,
And sweet as Flora. Take no care
For jewels for your gown or hair:
Fear not; the leaves will strew
Gems in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept,
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept;
Come and receive them while the light
Hangs on the dew-locks of the night:
And Titan on the eastern hill
Retires himself, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dress, be brief in praying:
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying.

Come, my Corinna, come; and, coming, mark
How each field turns a street, each street a park
Made green and trimm’d with trees: see how
Devotion gives each house a bough
Or branch: each porch, each door ere this
An ark, a tabernacle is,
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove;
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
Can such delights be in the street
And open fields and we not see’t?
Come, we’ll abroad; and let’s obey
The proclamation made for May:
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.

There’s not a budding boy or girl this day
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.
A deal of youth, ere this, is come
Back, and with white-thorn laden home.
Some have despatch’d their cakes and cream
Before that we have left to dream:
And some have wept, and woo’d, and plighted troth,
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
Many a green-gown has been given;
Many a kiss, both odd and even:
Many a glance too has been sent
From out the eye, love’s firmament;
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick’d, yet we’re not a-Maying.

Come, let us go while we are in our prime;
And take the harmless folly of the time.
We shall grow old apace, and die
Before we know our liberty.
Our life is short, and our days run
As fast away as does the sun;
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain
Once lost, can ne’er be found again,
So when or you or I are made
A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
All love, all liking, all delight
Lies drowned with us in endless night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let’s go a-Maying.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
English lyric poet and cleric

Friday, 27 April 2018

Book Review: Train to Budapest by Dacia Maraini the fall of communism, cities like Krakow, Prague and Budapest have regained their status as popular tourist destinations. During the Cold War, on the other hand, not many Westerners will have dreamt of visiting them one day, probably above all those who yearned for meeting family still there or who were homesick for the places of a memorable youth before World War II. Even fewer will actually have ventured at getting a visa. Set in 1956, Train to Budapest by Dacia Maraini evokes a Europe divided into East and West by the Iron Curtain. Hoping to find out the fate of her childhood friend Emanuele, whose last letters scribbled into an exercise-book in the ghetto of Lodz date from 1943, a young Florentine journalist visits Auschwitz, Vienna and eventually Budapest. In the Hungarian capital she becomes eye-witness of one of the most dramatic periods in the country’s recent history.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Poetry Revisited: When Willows Green by Helen Gray Cone

When Willows Green

(from The Ride to the Lady and Other Poems: 1893)

When goldenly the willows green,
And, mirrored in the sunset pool,
Hang wavering, wild-rose clouds between:
When robins call in twilights cool:
What is it we await?
Who lingers and is late?
What strange unrest, what yearning stirs us all
When willows green, when robins call?

When fields of flowering grass respire
A sweet that seems the breath of Peace,
And liquid-voiced the thrushes choir,
Oh, whence the sense of glad release?
What is it life uplifts?
Who entered, bearing gifts?
What floods from heaven the being overpower
When thrushes choir, when grasses flower?

Helen Gray Cone (1859-1934)
American poet and professor of English literature

Friday, 20 April 2018

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras

Since times immemorial, the Strait of Gibraltar kindles the imagination of people, not least because at the same time it connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean and separates Africa from Europe. According to ancient Greek mythology adopted by Etruscans and Romans, Hercules marked the end of the world on the pillars on both sides, namely on the Rock of Gibraltar and on Monte Hacho or Jebel Musa on the North-African coast, but I doubt that this ever prevented anyone from dreaming about what might be beyond the portal. Today we know, and yet, Gibraltar keeps being a special place, a British pene-exclave on the Iberian peninsula with the only wild population of monkeys or more precisely Barbary macaques in Europe. However, The Sailor from Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras, the French novel from 1952 that I picked for this week’s bookish déjà-vu, refers only indirectly to the place.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Back Reviews Reel: April 2015

The Colonial era and the tumultuous times around its end are the red thread connecting my reads of this month three years ago. I started with a wonderfully satirical novel from 1927 about a Protestant missionary on a remote Pacific island that Sylvia Townsend Warner titled Mr. Fortune’s Maggot. Then I made a detour to Lisbon to watch The Return of the Caravels from Portuguese territories in Asia and Africa after 1974 as António Lobo Antunes described it fourteen years later breaking the boundaries of time. Back to the British Empire, more precisely to India in the 1940s, I witnessed the Clear Light of Day and the country’s way to independence with two dissimilar sisters brought to life by Anita Desai in 1980. And with a 1947 classic from the pen of Naguib Mahfouz, the 1988 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, I visited the people living in Midaq Alley in Cairo in Egypt under British protectorate during World War II.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Poetry Revisited: As estrelas – The Stars by João da Cruz e Sousa

As estrelas

(de Faróis: 1900)

Lá, nas celestes regiões distantes,
No fundo melancólico da Esfera,
Nos caminhos da eterna Primavera
Do amor, eis as estrelas palpitantes.

Quantos mistérios andarão errantes,
Quantas almas em busca da Quimera,
Lá, das estrelas nessa paz austera
Soluçarão, nos altos céus radiantes.

Finas flores de pérolas e prata,
Das estrelas serenas se desata
Toda a caudal das ilusões insanas.

Quem sabe, pelos tempos esquecidos,
Se as estrelas não são os ais perdidos
Das primitivas legiões humanas?!

João da Cruz e Sousa (1861-1898)
poeta brasileiro

The Stars

(from Lighthouses: 1900)

There, in the distant heavenly regions,
In the melancholy ground of the sphere,
In the paths of eternal spring
Of love, there are the pounding stars.

How many mysteries will go wandering,
How many souls in quest of the chimera,
There, from the stars in this austere peace
They will sigh in the radiant high skies.

Delicate flowers of pearls and silver,
From the peaceful stars breaks
All the flow of crazy illusions.

Who knows, for the forgotten times,
If the stars are not the lost ohs
Of the primitive human legions?!

João da Cruz e Sousa (1861-1898)
Brazilian poet
Translation: Edith LaGraziana 2018

Friday, 13 April 2018

Book Review: The Road to Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum are many reasons why Italy is a country of longing for so many people worldwide. The mild climate allures winter-weary Northerners craving for the sun, the remains of ancient Roman civilisation stir the nostalgia of history as well as classics enthusiasts, priceless works of art from more than two millennia mesmerise art lovers and the Pope as living idol of millions of faithful Roman Catholics brings streams of pilgrims to Rome. In the 1975 satirical novel The Road to Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum highly decorated US army veteran Lieutenant General MacKenzie Hawkins makes out a fictitious Pope Francesco I as his ticket to retirement without financial worries. He blackmails army lawyer Sam Deveraux into helping him to put his audacious plan into practice with hush money squeezed out of four international crooks and with the willing support of his ex-wives. But the Pope doesn’t react as expected.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Poetry Revisited: Reality by Anna Wickham


(from The Contemplative Quarry: 1915)

Only a starveling singer seeks
The stuff of songs among the Greeks.
Juno is old,
Jove's loves are cold;
Tales over-told.
By a new risen Attic stream
A mortal singer dreamed a dream.
Fixed he not Fancy's habitation,
Nor set in bonds Imagination.
There are new waters, and a new Humanity.
For all old myths give us the dream to be.

We are outwearied with Persephone;
Rather than her, we'll sing Reality.

Anna Wickham (1883-1947), real name Edith Alice Mary Harper
English-Australian modernist poet

Friday, 6 April 2018

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The Night in Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque

There are places that fill most of us with a certain kind of nostalgia, if we have been there or not. With regard to Lisbon it’s probably more apt to talk of saudade, this special mix of longing, wistfulness and melancholia regarding something lost and irretrievable that seems to have no name in any language except Portuguese. During World War II the city attracted people from all over Europe for quite existential reasons, though. Lisbon was one of the last ports on the continent where a refugee from Germany or German-occupied territory could still hope to board a ship taking him or her to a safe and peaceful life abroad. The protagonist of today’s bookish déjà-vu, i.e. of The Night in Lisbon by Erich Maria Remarque, belongs to the few lucky ones who secured visa and tickets for the USA, but then he doesn’t want to leave after all…

Read my review »

Monday, 2 April 2018

Poetry Revisited: Easter Week by Charles Kingsley

Easter Week

(from The Works of Charles Kingsley, Volume I. Poems: 1879)

(Written for music to be sung at a Parish Industrial Exhibition)

See the land, her Easter keeping,
     Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
     Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices;
     Fields and gardens hail the spring;
Shaughs and woodlands ring with voices,
     While the wild birds build and sing.

You, to whom your Maker granted
     Powers to those sweet birds unknown,
Use the craft by God implanted;
     Use the reason not your own.
Here, while heaven and earth rejoices,
     Each his Easter tribute bring—
Work of fingers, chant of voices,
     Like the birds who build and sing.

Eversley, 1867

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)
English clergyman, university professor, historian, and novelist