Monday, 25 February 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Snowdrop by Letitia Elizabeth Landon

The Snowdrop

(from Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book 1936: 1935)

Thou beautiful new comer,
     With white and maiden brow;
Thou fairy gift from summer,
     Why art thou blooming now?
This dim and sheltered alley
     Is dark with winter green;
Not such as in the valley
     At sweet spring time is seen.

The lime tree’s tender yellow,
     The aspen’s silvery sheen,
With mingling colours mellow
     The universal green.
Now solemn yews are bending
     ‘Mid gloomy fires around;
And in long dark wreaths descending,
     The ivy sweeps the ground.

No sweet companion pledges
     Thy health as dewdrops pass;
No rose is on the hedges,
     No violet in the grass.
Thou art watching, and thou only
     Above the earth’s snow tomb,
Thus lovely, and thus lonely,
     I bless thee for thy bloom.

Though the singing rill be frozen,
     While the wind forsakes the west,
Though the singing birds have chosen
     Some lone and silent rest;
Like thee, one sweet thought lingers
     In a heart else cold and dead,
Though the summer’s flowers, and singers,
     And sunshine, long hath fled:

‘Tis the love for long years cherished,
     Yet lingering, lorn, and lone;
Though its lovelier lights have perished,
     And its earlier hopes are flown.
Though a weary world hath bound it,
     With many a heavy thrall,
And the cold and changed surround it,
     It blossometh o’er all.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838), aka L.E.L.
English poet and novelist

Friday, 22 February 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: Accabadora by Michela Murgia

There is no way round it: times are and have always been changing. It’s true, however, that in some places life always seems to stay the same because people hold on to ancient traditions not seeing any need to improve anything adopting new ways. But even at the back of beyond time never stands still. New ideas and views just take root at a slower pace than elswhere allowing mores and routines to alter almost unnoticed. Thus it happens that some customs become obsolete and once perfectly natural actions are no longer socially accepted. My bookish déjà vu Accabadora by Michela Murgia evokes one of the last women in Sardinia of the 1950s who offers a century-old service to the sick and decrepit that is a serious crime according to state law. The girl whom she took in as her fill’e anima according to ancient Sardinian rules, too, is appalled…
Read my review »

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Back Reviews Reel: February 2016

The second review month of 2016 I opened with two contemporary works set in Switzerland of the 1970s and the USA of the early 1950s respectively. The award-winning Swiss novel The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons by Monica Cantieni tells the story of a foster girl in line for adoption trying to fathom her new life in Zurich, while self-published Bells Above Greens by David Xavier is about a nineteen-year-old who just returned from the Korean War that cost his idealised brother’s life and finds it difficult to adjust to university routine in Indiana. Then I presented two classics, namely The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier from 1931 and The Tree of Man by Australian Nobel laureate Patrick White from 1955. The first is the four-generation saga of a Cornish family devoted to the sea and the latter is the life story of a farmer in the greater Sydney area.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Winter Lakes by William Wilfred Campbell

The Winter Lakes

(from Lake Lyrics and Other Poems: 1889)

Out in a world of death far to the northward lying,
     Under the sun and the moon, under the dusk and the day;
Under the glimmer of stars and the purple of sunsets dying,
     Wan and waste and white, stretch the great lakes away.

Never a bud of spring, never a laugh of summer,
     Never a dream of love, never a song of bird;
But only the silence and white, the shores that grow chiller and dumber,
     Wherever the ice winds sob, and the griefs of winter are heard.

Crags that are black and wet out of the grey lake looming,
     Under the sunset's flush and the pallid, faint glimmer of dawn;
Shadowy, ghost-like shores, where midnight surfs are booming
     Thunders of wintry woe over the spaces wan.

Lands that loom like spectres, whited regions of winter,
     Wastes of desolate woods, deserts of water and shore;
A world of winter and death, within these regions who enter,
     Lost to summer and life, go to return no more.

Moons that glimmer above, waters that lie white under,
     Miles and miles of lake far out under the night;
Foaming crests of waves, surfs that shoreward thunder,
     Shadowy shapes that flee, haunting the spaces white.

Lonely hidden bays, moon-lit, ice-rimmed, winding,
     Fringed by forests and crags, haunted by shadowy shores;
Hushed from the outward strife, where the mighty surf is grinding
     Death and hate on the rocks, as sandward and landward it roars.

William Wilfred Campbell (1858-1918)
Canadian poet

Friday, 15 February 2019

Book Review: The Wild Geese by Mori Ōgai, the world would be a rather hostile place to live in without the written and unwritten rules that determine more or less strictly our behaviour towards each other. Society is firmly based on these codes of conduct although only their most essential parts are universal like the canon laid down in maybe seven of the Ten Commandments in the Christian Bible. Other social norms are inseparably connected to a more or less confined cultural sphere. In the Japanese classic The Wild Geese by Mori Ōgai the paths of medical student Okada and a moneylender’s beautiful young concubine called Otama cross in Tōkyo in 1880, but the unwritten rules of society prevent them from becoming more than just a regular passer-by and the resident of a house who know each other only from sight. However, as time advances their glances and greetings begin to mean more than they outwardly express…

Monday, 11 February 2019

Poetry Revisited: As from Dreams Awaking by Caroline Sheridan Norton

As from Dreams Awaking

(from The Undying One and Other Poems: 1830)

AS when from dreams awaking
The dim forms float away
Whose visioned smiles were making
Our darkness bright as day;
We vainly strive, while weeping,
From their shining spirit track,
(Where they fled while we were sleeping,)
To call those dear ones back!

Like the stars, some power divides them
From a world of want and pain;
They are there, but daylight hides them,
And we look for them in vain.
For a while we dwell with sadness,
On the beauty of that dream,
Then turn, and hail with gladness
The light of morning’s beam.

So, when memory’s power is wringing
Our lonely hearts to tears,
Dim forms around us bringing
That brightened former years:
Fond looks and low words spoken,
Which those dreamy days could boast,
Rise; till the spell be broken,
We forget that they are lost!

But when the hour of darkness rolls
Like heavy night away;
And peace is stealing o’er our souls,
Like the dawn of summer day:
The dim sweet forms that used to bless,
Seem stealing from us too;
We loved them—but joy’s sunniness
Hath hid them from our view!

Oh could day beam eternally,
And Memory’s power cease,
This world, a world of light would be,
Our hearts were worlds of peace:
But dreams of joy return with night,
And dwell upon the past—
And every grief that clouds our light,
Reminds us of the last!

Caroline Sheridan Norton (1808-1877)
English social reformer and author

Monday, 4 February 2019

Poetry Revisited: Le temps perdu – Lost Time by Sully Prudhomme

Le temps perdu

(de Les Vaines Tendresses: 1875)

Si peu d’oeuvres pour tant de fatigue et d’ennui!
De stériles soucis notre journée est pleine:
Leur meute sans pitié nous chasse à perdre haleine,
Nous pousse, nous dévore, et l’heure utile a fui...

«Demain! J’irai demain voir ce pauvre chez lui,
«Demain je reprendrai ce livre ouvert à peine,
«Demain, je te dirai, mon âme, où je te mène,
«Demain je serai juste et fort... Pas aujourd’hui.»

Aujourd’hui, que de soins, de pas et de visites!
Oh! l’implacable essaim des devoirs parasites
Qui pullulent autour de nos tasses de thé!

Ainsi chôment le coeur, la pensée et le livre,
Et pendant qu’on se tue à différer de vivre,
Le vrai devoir dans l’ombre attend la volonté.

Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907),
vrai nom René François Armand Prudhomme
poète français et
lauréat du Prix Nobel de literature 1901

Lost Time

(from Vain Endearments: 1875)

So few works considering the strain and hassle!
Of sterile concerns our day is full:
Their pack hunts us pitylessly without losing breath,
pushes us, devores us, and the useful hour is gone…

“Tomorrow! Tomorrow I’ll visit this poor one at home,
“Tomorrow I’ll resume this book hardly opened,
“Tomorrow, I’ll tell you, my soul, where I take you,
“Tomorrow I’ll be just and strong… Not today.”

Today, how many cares, steps and visits!
Oh! The unremitting swarm of parasite duties
That multiply around our tea cups!

Thus rest the heart, the thought and the book,
And while killing oneself to postpone living,
The true duty in the shadow waits for the will.

Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907)
real name René François Armand Prudhomme
French poet and
laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1901
Literal translation: Edith LaGraziana 2018

Friday, 1 February 2019

Book Review: The Republic of Dreams by Nélida Piñon times immemorial people have been dreaming and telling stories. Ancient myths and legends are part of the cultural heritage that shapes our view of the world and helps us to cope with life. But as we grow older the longing to live our own adventures and to weave our own legends grows. Determined “to make the Americas” thirteen-year-old Madruga, the central character of The Republic of Dreams by Nélida Piñon, left his native Galicia and arrived in Brazil in 1913. By the early 1980s, he is head of a numerous family and of a profitable group of companies, but almost lost his beloved grandfather’s ancient Galician legends. When his wife announces that death is coming for her, he and all the people who are integral part of their lives look back on the memorable events, joys and tragedies of seventy years thus start a new – Brazilian – legend.