Monday, 28 May 2018

Poetry Revisited: The Time of Roses by Laurence James Nicolson

The Time of Roses

(from Songs of Thule: 1894)

It was the time of roses,
We met, my love and I;
And Beauty’s hand had crown’d the land,
And music filled the sky.
Our souls were thrilled with rapture,
I know not how or why,
We wandered on by wood and stream,
And love was life, and life a dream.
Whate’er the spell,
I know full well
It was the time of roses
We met, my love, and I.

But when the first pale snowdrop
Was opening into flower.
My own! my own! was stricken down:
But saved from wind and shower
To keep my heart from breaking,
One little bud for dower.
One little bud a tender care
From my dead flower that was so fair,
So I will trace
A vanished face,
When my own little snowdrop
Is opening into flower.

Laurence James Nicolson (1844-1901)
Scottish poet from the Shetland Isles

Friday, 25 May 2018

Book Review: The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay change of scenery is a good idea sometimes, but it has hardly the power to do wonders, at least not promptly. The world that each one of us lives in is more than the environment that we perceive with our senses. Memories and experiences give everything a unique tint no matter where we are or go, i.e. we can’t run away from them – nor from ourselves. The novel The World My Wilderness by Rose Macaulay is about Barbary, a tomboy whom her mother sends away from Provence to live with her father in London and to drop her savage habits adopted in the French Resistance. Emotionally scarred by the experience of occupation and war as well as by the separation from her mother, she feels completely out of place in her father’s new family and roams the ruins left by air raids seeking the company of outcasts like herself.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Poetry Revisited: Crows by Mary Eliza Fullerton


(from The Breaking Furrow: 1921)

At an old water-hole,
Bones lay in the hide
And teeth gibbered up
Of things that had died.

Tortured of thirst,
There came to the mud
A son of the plain,
Who sank where he stood.

Then the crows from afar,
Where the water was good,
Came nearer, for heaven
Had given them food.

Mary Eliza Fullerton (1868-1946)
Australian feminist poet, short story writer,
journalist and novelist

Friday, 18 May 2018

Bookish Déjà-Vu: A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen

The world of emotions is so powerful that it can easily confuse, even overwhelm us making us blind for the physical world as it really is. Undeniably, emotions can give strength, but they can just as well drain it and bring people on the verge of desperation or madness. Sometimes they drive people to do things – good or evil – that seem completely out of their line and that they themselves might have thought impossible before. And memories can revive them in an instant as the young protagonist of the 1955 novel A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen, which I picked as a bookish déjà-vu this week, learns when she finds a packet of old love letters in a trunk in the attic and unintentionally sets in motion a maelstrom of long suppressed emotions in the people whom she has known all her life mentioning her find at table.
Read my review»

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Back Reviews Reel: May 2015

My reads of this month three years ago were an intriguing time travel into the past, notably the 1920s and 1930s. The Swiss classic Lyric Novella by Annemarie Schwarzenbach took me to Berlin in the 1930s with a young man in love with a cabaret singer who takes advantage of him. The suffocating atmosphere of Lisbon in 1938 when Salazar’s fascist terror regime was in power filled the contemporary Italian novel Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi. The passionate dancers of the contemporary Spanish novel Heart of Tango by Elia Barceló stumbled across a crime committed in Buenos Aires during the 1920s. The French satirical classic Penguin Island by Nobel laureate Anatole France unfolded the history of a fictitious country from legendary times through the future. And finally the classical Austrian novel in five scenes Yellow Street by Veza Canetti brought to life a whole neighbourhood in Vienna of the 1930s.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Poetry Revisited: Early One Morning by Edward Thomas

Early One Morning

(from Poems: 1917)

Early one morning in May I set out,
And nobody I knew was about.
               I’m bound away for ever.
               Away somewhere, away for ever.

There was no wind to trouble the weathercocks.
I had burnt my letters and darned my socks.

No one knew I was going away,
I thought myself I should come back some day.

I heard the brook through the town gardens run.
O sweet was the mud turned to dust by the sun.

A gate banged in a fence and banged in my head.
“A fine morning, sir,” a shepherd said.

I could not return from my liberty,
To my youth and my love and my misery.

The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet,
The only sweet thing that is not also fleet.
               I’m bound away for ever,
               Away somewhere, away for ever.

Edward Thomas (1878-1917)
British poet, essayist, and novelist

Friday, 11 May 2018

Book Review: The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore crammed on the same fragile planet, we all live our daily lives in quite different worlds. According to temperament, possibility and situation it may be a small, more or less secluded world in one moment and a wide one with few limitations in another. Passing between these worlds can be a rather confusing, sometimes even unwanted experience. In the classical Indian novel The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore, the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1913, the Maharajah’s wife Bimala falls under the spell of charismatic political leader Sandip Babu who seems to be the complete opposite of her always poised husband Nikhil. For the first time in her life she feels passion, both for the man as well as for his uncompromisingly nationalist ideas, but book knowledge and the sheltered life in the purdah left her quite unprepared for the challenges of the outside world.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Poetry Revisited: Past and Future by Sarojini Naidu

Past and Future

(from The Golden Threshold: 1905)

The new hath come and now the old retires:
And so the past becomes a mountain-cell,
Where lone, apart, old hermit-memories dwell
In consecrated calm, forgotten yet
Of the keen heart that hastens to forget
Old longings in fulfilling new desires.

And now the Soul stands in a vague, intense
Expectancy and anguish of suspense,
On the dim chamber-threshold… lo! he sees,
Like a strange, fated bride as yet unknown,
His timid future shrinking there alone,
Beneath her marriage-veil of mysteries.

Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)
Indian poet and freedom fighter

Friday, 4 May 2018

Bookish Déjà-Vu: Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

Considering that we are living at a time firmly based on human reason, natural sciences and technological progress, the physical world around us can still be awfully mysterious and confusing at times. How much more puzzling, even terrifying must it have been for our forefathers who didn’t have the means or the courage to look into the secrets of God’s creation! Only in the Age of Enlightenment natural sciences began to take over from religion (and superstition) the task to explain the world… and to fathom its various aspects. Two eminent and very different paragons of natural sciences in Germany around 1800 were explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauß (1777-1855) who are the protagonists of Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann, the bestselling novel from 2005 that I picked as another bookish déjà-vu this week. One travelled the world. The other never left his country.