silverflight8: Different shades of blue flowing on a white background like waves (Fractal)
In honour of April Poetry Month, one of my favourite poems:

Euclid Alone - Edna St Vincent Millay

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.

I'm not doing the one poem a day posting (or writing - kudos to everyone doing that) but I am really appreciating all the poetry on my flist.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
I read twelve of Marie de France's lays yesterday. I read the version by Burgess and Busby (published by Penguin, 1999), who translate them into (modern 1) English prose. If you're not familiar, they're lays attributed to a twelfth-century author, who lived in England (hence the appellation of "from France"). She is quite upfront about where she has gotten these stories; I think all of them I read had an introductory few lines saying they were Breton lays, and that they were true stories at the end.

I think they are the most courtly things I've ever read. Many of them are quite short--even translated into prose, they are are two small pages. Others are longer, but they are full of knights and ladies (generally unnamed), usually suffering one way or another because of love. The first one was about a man, who, stag-hunting one day, kills the hind and it curses him (in words) to never be cured until he is loved by someone who suffers terribly for love (and he has to suffer too.) He gets on a boat that is sitting inexplicably in his harbour, and it spirits him away to a woman whose husband, being jealous, has locked her in an island keep. They are of course discovered, but before they are separated they tie complex knots into each other--the woman has a belt tied, and the man has his shirt-tails knotted. It's very Cinderella at the end; they eventually identify each other because the knots cannot be untied by anyone else.

Then there are ones like the one where the king falls in love with his seneschal's wife, and they plot to kill the seneschal by preparing two baths, one with warm water and the other with scalding. Well, they set them out in the chamber while the seneschal went out, and of course he returned while they were in bed. The king leaps out of bed hastily to conceal his purpose and lands most in the scalding one, where he dies. (Then so does the seneschal's wife.)

Lots of love, adultery, jealousies, and surprisingly lots of happily-ever-afters. There's just a lot of variety--sometimes they persevere and have a happy ending, sometimes they die horribly/tragically, and others just...culminate in revenge attained. There was also the story of the couple who sent each other messages in a swan for twenty years (the woman was married). I am not sure but I think it was just the one swan. I had to Wikipedia this but apparently swans can and do live up to twenty! Other things which appeared: werewolf husbands, men shapeshifting into hawks, and jealousy leading to killing nightingales. OK, so I exaggerate, there's only one of each. But the werewolf one took me aback.

Something I've begun to associate with medieval writing is the bald assertion, when setting up characterization, that the protagonist of this story is a worthy, humble, generous, good, athletic and skilled. I'm not retaining the words very well, but you get the gist. I like it. It gets some description out and you are free to just drop it and follow the action and see how your idea of "good" lines up with the writer's.

My edition has a few of the original Old French (in verse) in the back. My modern French is decent enough, especially in reading, but Old French has definitely changed enough that you catch some, miss most. Sounding out helps. It was interesting though, because you can see that her lines are very short, and she speaks very directly. Reading the looooong introductions and seeing the poems for yourself are two different things. And speaking of long introductions, the introduction should be short and give as little information as is possible. If there are notes on translation and context and everything it should go in the back. I waded almost fifteen pages through an excruciatingly detailed introduction on each different lay before I gave up and just went for the actual lays.

1 It's always interesting to read translations through epubs from Project Gutenberg--you're reading two separate layers of historical writing. The first is whenever the original was written, and the second is the undeniably early-20th-century prose.
silverflight8: stacked old books (books)
Poetry: On [community profile] poetry [personal profile] thegorgon posted Why a Man Cannot Have Wings by Afian bin Sa'at. It was in response to the many Icarus poems that have been circulating in the community for the last few days:

Full text under cut )

If you follow the link I commented and said I liked the poem, but I read it (another three or four times) and now I completely disagree.

This makes me sound like a silly optimist, but how is "but then people will use it to hurt you" a good justification against flying? Do you remember when it was 1999 and people were making predictions and, well, I do, I still have a book put together by students K-12 over what they thought would happen in 2020 and so many of them drew and wrote flying cars, new worlds, new technology. I mean, maybe we should stop making implants because then people will tear them out. Or we should stop making medicines because someone might steal them. Or we should stop making beautiful clothes because people will steal them. And put together sumptuary laws to prop up existing social divisions. Etc.

I don't believe that answering a question, making dreams reality, ever erodes dreams. (I see this argument in science/religion debates, to be honest.) We fly in planes, but people still dream of flying--not only wings but they fly in gliders, in hang-gliders, in parachutes, in all sorts of really scary things. We've been to the moon but people dream of going to space. When has discovering a new species, a new place, a new archaeological site, ever stopped others from dreaming of others? Dreams aren't a finite resource. Making a dream a reality doesn't mean you never dream again--you step onto that new block and reach for higher dreams.

There's an argument here to do with destructive technology and responsibility but flying? Come on.

I did like his comment about everything being a metaphor for the Fall of Man.


Fic: So I investigated the Georgina Kincaid fics on FFN and sadly there was nothing that I really wanted (I didn't read the last book because I knew what was going to happen with Seth and I'm really meh on him. The most interesting part about him was his sister and his nieces. They were really cute.) I need to remember to request this for yuletide.

In Kiesha'ra--ok, it's enormous! It's got 200 fic! I don't remember there being so many! But then I realized that I started in 2009 and if you go back, yeah, it's been four years, people have added more. The main types of fic people have written are:
  • Mary-Sue/self-insert fic. I am inexplicably fond of these. I mean, I didn't click on any of them advertising stuff like Olivia's long-lost wyvern-falcon-wolf sister fics, but it makes me happy to know they're there. A flourishing fandom should have Mary Sue fic, and drabbles, and pointless gen meanders, and ultra-tropey yet satisfying fic. They're not what you want if you want "the continued adventures of", but that's what fans do.
  • Retelling fics! Ahh, I remember these. I read one that narrated Hawksong from Zane's POV and I knew it was WIP (last updated: 2011) so I mean, I knew in advance, but I was still sad. Especially since, in the words of the author, she was just getting to the good part! I don't think this fandom really has the momentum to write the really big sort of fic--and I mean the fic that fills a lot of backstory, goes far into the future and past, leaves canon retellings behind and not size--but I enjoyed it way more than I should have.
  • I also found a bizarro fic in there about oranges, which I think you should all totally click on. It has 5 reviews, and 4 out of 5 are all (to varying degrees of politeness) asking what on earth it's doing in the category. No, it's got nothing to do with Kiesha'ra.
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Bee)
I hate applications.

I'm still in love with this poem. (I keep forgetting the name, so I'm putting it here.) Dover Beach: Matthew Arnold
Under the cut )
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
From The Dark is Rising Sequence. The first one moves at a clip, and the only thing that bothered me was (in my accent) the slant rhyme thaw/before. I believe it's probably a full rhyme in other accents, and presumably Cooper's. I keep finding second, and third meanings; five will return might refer to Bran, Will, and the other three kids staying and Merriman going. Or not.

I always liked the last part the best: "All shall find the light at last, silver on the tree". Perhaps it's just my liking of the word silver. It just sounds so gorgeous (and in a book that is very much Light vs Dark) and imbued with a certainty - "All shall find the light at last".

When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back; )
It took me awhile to appreciate this poem. It's much less sing-songy than the other one, which is quick to memorize and easy to set to a rhythm; this poem immediately slows down. The very first line is my favorite. It always impressed me how Cooper manages to fit the prophecy and the story together, without mangling either.
On the day of the dead, when the year too dies )
silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
I feel like I've stepped in a timewarp or something.

TMI! )

And in my mind all day was the poem (the last lines have a tendency to stick):


Frances Cornford (1886-1960)

I wakened on my hot, hard bed,
Upon the pillow lay my head;
Beneath the pillow I could hear
My little watch was ticking clear.
I thought the throbbing of it went
Like my continual discontent;
I thought it said in every tick:
I am so sick, so sick, so sick;
O death, come quick, come quick, come quick,
Come quick, come quick, come quick, come quick.

silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)
This a poem by Reid, published in 1963 and taken out of An Introduction to Poetry, 8th edition, by Kennedy, X and Gioia, D (1994), HarperCollins.

Speaking a Foreign Language
Alastair Reid

How clumsy on the tongue, these acquired idioms,
after the innuendos of our own. How far
we are from foreigners, what faith
we rest in one sentence, hoping a smile will follow
on the appropriate face, always wallowing                                       5
between what we long to say and what we can,
trusting the phrase is suitable to the occasion,
the accent passable, the smile real,
always asking the traveller's fearful question--
what is being lost in translation?                                                        10

Something, to be sure. And yet, to hear
the stumbling of foreign friends, how little we care
for the wreckage of word or tense. How endearing they are,
and how our speech reaches out, like a helping hand,
or limps in sympathy. Easy to understand,                                        15
through the tangle of language, the heart behind
groping towards us, to make the translation of
syntax into love.

I have books all over my home, and I read them at odd times. I read this poem and thought: "This is it. This explains it exactly." It is incredibly frustrating to try to speak and write in French, in Chinese: two languages that I am more or less proficient in, the latter more fluently. In English, having used that language for years and still using it everywhere, the struggle to find words, to describe things adequately is easier. I never think about accents or syntax or grammar; by virtue of living in that tongue, I trust that the people I talk to understand.

In speaking Chinese, sometimes the accent slips from me; my family traditionally speaks another dialect close to Mandarin, but not quite. And so I find myself grasping, trying to form the words exactly right, and always having to think: what do I say next? How does this translate from English to Chinese? In French, because there is nowhere that really requires me to speak in the language, it's even worse. Seeing a word beginning with "r" induces a mild panic in me; I scramble to find the correct word that has already popped up in my mind in English.

Writing is even worse. Working in English is like using tiny tools to craft delicate jewelry; trying to write in French or Chinese is akin to using big thick gloves and trying to manipulate those tools. That exquisite control that makes some writing such a delight to read is lost when I try in other languages.

And yet, like the poem describes in the second stanza, when I talk with people whose native tongue is not English, it hardly matters whether they have an accent or not. The worry that the speaker feels is not translated into frustration for the listener; the mangled syntax is endearing (line 13) and easily pushed away.


silverflight8: bee on rose  (Default)

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