ricardienne: (tacitus)
(To be filed under: Things that would doubtless be less amazing to me if I were less ignorant about medieval literature.)
For after deth clerkis lityl drede
After desert for to bere witnesse     185
Nor of a tyraunt the trouthe to expresse,
As men disserve withoute excepcioun;
With lak or prys thei graunt hem her guerdoun.
Wherfore me semeth every maner man
Schulde be his live in al that ever he can     190
For vertu only eschewe to don amys,
For after dethe, pleynly as it is,
Clerkis wil write, and excepte noon,
The pleyne trouthe whan a man is goon.

The part just before this is pretty good, too, although it doesn't push my sine ira et studio buttons in quite the same way: The trouthe only, whyche thei han compyled/ Unto this fyn - that we wer nat begyled... )

Also this:
Ovide also poetycally hath closyd
Falshede with trouthe, that maketh men ennosed    300
To whiche parte that thei schal hem holde;
His mysty speche so hard is to unfolde
That it entriketh rederis that it se.
Virgile also for love of Enee
In Eneydos rehersyth moche thyng
And was in party trewe of his writyng,
Exsepte only that hym lyst som whyle
The tracys folwe of Omeris stile.


"misty speech" that tricks readers through the very labor they have to expend in unfolding it sums up what Tacitus does very nicely, I think. Just in case you were wondering.

ricardienne: (york)
Failing at Nat'l Poetry Month, failing at school, failing at life. But. THIS POEM. (caveats: publication date 1948; casual racist and misogynist language & unfortunate implications; human sacrifice.)

Falling Asleep over the Aeneid
BY ROBERT LOWELL
An old man in Concord forgets to go to morning service. He falls asleep, while reading Vergil, and dreams that he is Aeneas at the funeral of Pallas, an Italian prince. [cf. Aeneid 11.29-99]

The sun is blue and scarlet on my page,
And yuck-a, yuck-a, yuck-a, yuck-a, rage
The yellowhammers mating. Yellow fire
Blankets the captives dancing on their pyre,
And the scorched lictor screams and drops his rod.
Trojans are singing to their drunken God,
Ares. Their helmets catch on fire. Their files
Clank by the body of my comrade— miles
Of filings! Now the scythe-wheeled chariot rolls
Before their lances long as vaulting poles,
And I stand up and heil the thousand men,
Who carry Pallas to the bird-priest. Then
The bird-priest groans, and as his birds foretold,
I greet the body, lip to lip. I hold
The sword that Dido used. It tries to speak,
A bird with Dido’s sworded breast. Its beak
Clangs and ejaculates the Punic word
I hear the bird-priest chirping like a bird. )
ricardienne: (york)
I'm really anxious about a lot of things (lack of dissertation topic, conference paper to write, bad teaching last week), but here are some bits of gnomic wisdom from Pindar:
Nemean 11
ll. 13-16
εἰ δέ τις ὄλβον ἔχων μορφᾷ παραμεύσεται ἄλλους,
ἔν τ᾽ ἀέθλοισιν ἀριστεύων ἐπέδειξεν βίαν,
θνατὰ μεμνάσθω περιστέλλων μέλη,
καὶ τελευτὰν ἁπάντων γᾶν ἐπιεσσόμενος:

If someone has wealth and outpaces everyone else in beauty, and showed his strength by excelling in competitions, let him remember that he decks out mortal limbs and will put on everyone's last garment of earth.

ll.39-48
ἐν σχερῷ δ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ὦν μέλαιναι καρπὸν ἔδωκαν ἄρουραι,
δένδρεά τ᾽ οὐκ ἐθέλει πάσαις ἐτέων περόδοις
ἄνθος εὐῶδες φέρειν πλούτῳ ἴσον,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐν ἀμείβοντι. καὶ θνατὸν οὕτως ἔθνος ἄγει
μοῖρα. τὸ δ᾽ ἐκ Διὸς ἀνθρώποις σαφὲς οὐχ ἕπεται
τέκμαρ: ἀλλ᾽ ἔμπαν μεγαλανορίαις ἐμβαίνομεν,
ἔργα τε πολλὰ μενοινῶντες: δέδεται γὰρ ἀναιδεῖ
ἐλπίδι γυῖα: προμαθείας δ᾽ ἀπόκεινται ῥοαί.
κερδέων δὲ χρὴ μέτρον θηρευέμεν:
ἀπροσίκτων δ᾽ ἐρώτων ὀξύτεραι μανίαι.

Since, you know, black fields don't give fruit in a row, and branches don't tend to bear at all the turns of the years a fragrant flower that is equally rich; but they alternate. Fate leads the mortal race, too, this way, and clear signs do not come from Zeus to humankind. But all the same we embark on proud ambitions, eager to do many deeds. For our limbs are fettered to unrestrainable hope, and Foreknowledge's streams are not nearby. But one must hunt out moderation in gain; and unattainable passions come with bitterer obsession.
ricardienne: (Default)
So this is what I've been doing recently, namely, writing Vorkosiverse poetry for the Vorkosiverse Impromptu Poetry Battle:

Title: Aral Accepts
Author: [livejournal.com profile] ricardienne
Rating: G
Summary: Aral to Ezar, just between Shards of Honor and Barrayar

I'll hold the reins; no horse will veer from true )

And then, because I am utterly incorrigible, some Asclepiadeans, with full apologies to Horace:

Title: Donec gratis eram tibi (link to a cute English translation; the Latin text is easy to find)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] ricardienne
Rating: G
Summary: "...but we two still obtain; let's see what happens then."

For [livejournal.com profile] gwynnep's Winterfair 2012 prompt: "Gregor and Laisa, their first fight."

When I thought Laisa was mine... )



ricardienne: (Default)
My grandfather liked Robert Lowell. One of my professors last semester studied with him -- the professor who reminded me of my grandfather. It's the old New England aristocracy, I suppose, they like to stick together. Steeped with the teabags of Homer and Virgil at Andover and Exeter, then off to Harvard or Yale or Dartmouth or Amherst. All that shared past and present and old-fashioned scholarly elitism.

I like this poem:

The Park Street Cemetery

In back of the Athenaeum, only
The dead are poorer. Here frayed
Cables wreathe the spreading obelisk,
And a clutter of Bible and weeping willos
Preserves the stern surnames: Adams,
Otis, Hancock, Mather, Revere;
Franklin's mother rests in hope.


Dusty leaves and the frizzled lilac
Liven this elder's garden with baroque
And prodigal embellishments; but the ground
Has settled in saecula saeculorum;
The dead cannot see Easter crowds
On Boston Common, or Beacon Hill
Where the Irish hold the Golden Dome.


What are Sam Adams or Cotton Mather?
The stocks and Paradises of the Puritan Dracos,
New World eschatologies
That fascinated like a Walpurgis Nacht,
And the Promised Land foreseen in Plymouth?
The graveyard's face is painted with facts
And filagreed swaths of forget-me-nots.
ricardienne: (Default)
From a bathroom stall in the library: "There was a fish in the percolator." Wouldn't that be a good first sentence for a novel?



Once upon a time, my college was an Episcopal Seminary: probably the only respect in which the library is good is in its collection of (largely 19th century) theology and theological biography, which I pass whenever I go to get a Greek lexicon from the reference section. (Four ancient biographies of Pusey?). Today I was reading, not so much of Jonathan Edwards as about him. He went to Yale, you know, took over from his grandfather as the minister in Northampton, and got kicked out by his congregation after he changed church policy to only admit professed Christians; after a number of years as a missionary, he was president of Princeton University for about six months, until he died from the side affects of a small-pox inoculation.

I did read his Personal Narrative, tonight; he may be affectionately known as "the American Augustine" (and it isn't as though I can't see why), but his rhetoric is more emotional and less -- I don't want to say 'less rational,' but it is less dependent on reason and abstraction. As a result, I have a much harder time connecting with Edwards. He's fascinating, but I don't get that bit of personal connection and understanding that I think I find in Augustine.

There is also something very mystical about Edwards' style:

But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced … as to his justice in thus eternally disposing of men… )

To me, admittedly not religious, I keep coming up against a glass wall, reading this. There is something there that I can look at, but I can't even get close to. I can see it, and I can imagine what I think it might be like to be closer, to touch it, but I have no point of contact with it.

On the other hand, here's a really nice poem by Robert Lowell about Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God:

Mr. Edwards and the Spider )

I do wonder whether they have black widows in New England, but it is a very nice image: the hourglass against eternity; the spider as the death that you could meet at any moment, but also the spider that can actually die once and for all.

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