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Sunday, July 05, 2015

John Dryden

John Dryden (1631-1700)
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

poet, literary critic, translator, playwright, the leading man of letters of his day (source: wiki); English Restoration came to be defined in literary circles as the Age of Dryden (source: Project Gutenberg); Walter Scott called him Glorious John (source: Scott, W. Waverley, vol. 12, chap 14, The Pirate: "I am desirous to hear of your meeting with Dryden". "What, with Glorious John?"); I discovered him through Helene Hanff and John Carey.

(A Life in Books)

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Exampe of Conceits: John Donne, A Valediction - Forbidding Mourning

(source: http://blog.sina.com.cn/)
no copyright infringement intended

A poem full of Metaphysical conceits, as I promised in my previous post:) A meditation on an anticipated separation of two lovers. The idea is that a pure sentiment transcends the mundane (well, we know that old French saying, loin des yeux, loin du cœur; it seems that John Donne was disagreeing). So this poem is a pageant of metaphors: a farewell should be as mild as the passing away of virtuous men, spiritual love is like the innocent trepidation of cosmic spheres (rather than the movements of th'earth, which bring harms and fears) ... and the poem goes on - each line keeps hidden a conceit. Enjoy.

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

(John Donne)


Monday, June 29, 2015

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
sketch by Ruralhistorian, 2012
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

poet and politician, a lifelong friend of John Milton (after the Restoration he helped convince the government of Charles II not to execute Milton for his revolutionary writings and activity - info source: wiki), also author of anonymous prose satires defending the Puritans and criticizing monarchy and Catholicism; as a poet was associated together with John Donne and others within the Metaphysical movement of the seventeenth century; well, these poets were far from being aware about their affiliation to any group; it was the history of English literature that put the authors and their works in carefully arranged categories; on the other hand, as it grouped (very loosely) together Donne and Marvell (along with others, as I said), maybe it's good to refer briefly to this so-called Metaphysical poetry (term coined about hundred years later by Samuel Johnson with some slang connotation, by the way): characteristic was the presence of speculation on love and religion throughout their œuvre, and their way of pushing the conceit (i.e. extended metaphor) toward the paradox; according to Helen Louise Gardner, a (Metaphysical) conceit is a comparison whose ingenuity is more striking than its justness, and also a comparison becomes a conceit when we are made to concede likeness while being strongly conscious of unlikeness (source: Helen Gardner, The Metaphysical Poets, Penguin, 1967); to grasp all this stuff I need to bring here such a poem, by Donne, or Marvell, or some other Metaphysician (or maybe Metaphysicist), whichever comes first, and especially to bring it before too long, hopefully :)

(A Life in Books)


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Robert Herrick, The Coming of Good Luck

(source: sweettenorbull)
no copyright infringement intended

So good luck came, and on my roof did light,
Like noiseless snow, or as the dew of night :
Not all at once, but gently, as the trees
Are by the sunbeams tickled by degrees.
(source: luminarium)

Intimate, discreet, gentle; always aside, if you want to see it, in your good and bad times, constant, as day follows night and night follows day; steadfast as winter snows, ineffable as night dew; sometimes you spend your whole life unaware of its grace; for the epiphany of your good luck shows herself only in subtle tones.

Scholium: ...no poet writing in English writes pageantry so in-close as does Robert Herrick; given substance, shape, and agency, Good-luck enters upon the advent of itself; not embodied by snow, but given over to a like behavior, a noiselessness; the dew adds to noiseless Space (the snowy rooftop) the quiet Time of night; given space and time, then, Good-luck is wholly born; snow and night and trees all blend into plural singularity, into the apotheosis of Good-luck...

(Robert Herrick)


Herrick's Monometers: Upon His Departure Hence

(training in lyric poetry)
no copyright infringement intended

Meter in poetry is what brings the poem to life and is the internal beat or rhythm with which it is read.: so it is a rhythm of accented and unaccented syllables arranged into feet; the most common is one soft foot and one hard foot and is called an Iamb; there are several kinds of meter, but most poetry uses a five-beat meter, with Iambic feet, called iambic pentameter (source: What Is a Meter in Poetry?); well, Herrick remained known, among others, for the use of the monometer; here is his poem Upon His Departure Hence:

Thus I
Pass by,
And die :
As one
And gone :
I'm made
A shade,
And laid
I' th' grave :
There have
My cave,
Where tell
I dwell.
(source: Luminarium)

Here is an Italian rendering (Alla sua dipartita):

Cosi io
Me ne vado
E muoio
Come uno
E partito:
Sono diventato
E giaccio
Nella tomba:
Li ho
La mia dimora sotterranea
Laddove dicono
Che io abito,
(source: Scuolabook)

A great comment at Caterpillar Diary.

(Robert Herrick)


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick
(source: Poetry Club)
no copyright infringement intended

almost forgotten in the eighteenth century, alternately applauded and condemned in the nineteenth century (applauded for his poetry’s lyricism and condemned for its “obscenities”), finally (in the latter half of the twentieth century) becoming recognized as one of the most accomplished nondramatic poets of his age (Poetry Foundation); strongly influenced by Ben Jonson (while living in an epoch which tastes were going rather to John Donne and the others ejusdem farinae - let's say a late Elizabethan in the times of Metaphysical poetry: some kind of Darwin's missing link), best known for his book of poems Hesperides (where you'll find the carpe diem poem To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time, with the first line "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may") (wiki); Swinburne described him as "the greatest song writer ever born of English race" (Mohit K. Ray, The Atlantic companion to literature in English, New Delhi Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2007 p. 245); I discovered him through John Carey.

(A Life in Books)

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Francisco de Quevedo, Desde la Torre

(el portal de misterios)
no copyright infringement intended

Encontré este soneto de Quevedo inesperadamente, en una traducción al Rumano. Fue esta mañana, yo estaba tomando un café, mientras navega por un libro que acababa de comprar. La belleza de los versos me dejó sin palabras. Estaba leyendo las líneas una y otra vez, como si no podía creer que fuera cierto. He olvidado el café sin terminar, tomé el libro conmigo, fui a un pequeño jardín cercano, y la abrí de nuevo a la página con el soneto. Llamé a un amigo y le leí los versos.

În tihna de pustiuri prea întinse,
Retras cu docte cărţi, deşi puţine,
Vorbind cu morţii stau, iar ei cu mine,
Cu ochii ascult fiinţe de mult stinse

Deschise-ntruna, chiar de-s necuprinse
De mintea-mi, mă îndeamnă tot la bine,
Şi-n muzicale contrapuncte line
Visului vieţii îi vorbesc ne-nvinse.

Mari suflete, ce-ascunse sunt în moarte,
Le-a răzbunat pe-a anilor uitare
Litera tipărită, Don Joseph, în carte.

Se duce clipa-n zbor, neiertătoare,
Dar cel ce-nvăţătura-i ne-o împarte
Ştie mai bine timpul să-l măsoare.

Yo quería mal a encontrar el original español. Me tomó un tiempo (en realidad un largo tiempo), hasta que lo logré. Aquí está, amigos:

Retirado en la paz de estos desiertos,
con pocos, pero doctos libros juntos,
vivo en conversación con los difuntos
y escucho con mis ojos a los muertos.

Si no siempre entendidos, siempre abiertos,
o enmiendan, o fecundan mis asuntos;
y en músicos callados contrapuntos
al sueño de la vida hablan despiertos.

Las grandes almas que la muerte ausenta,
de injurias de los años, vengadora,
libra, ¡oh, gran don Iosef!, docta la emprenta.

En fuga irrevocable hoye la hora;
pero aquélla el mejor cálculo cuenta
que en la lección y estudios nos mejora.



Francisco de Quevedo

Francisco de Quevedo
retratado después de ingresar en la Orden de Santiago en 1618
por Francisco Pacheco
en su Libro de descripción de verdaderos retratos, ilustres y memorables varones
source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_UIDI0KPMnS8/S-vEUt0GLQI/AAAAAAAAAXA/E5CXNCrO1ks/s1600/quevedo.jpg
no copyright infringement intended

Junto con Góngora (su rival de toda la vida), Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) fue uno de los más destacados poetas españoles del Siglo de Oro. Su estilo se caracteriza por lo que se llamó conceptismo (en marcado contraste con el culteranismo de Góngora).

(Una Vida Entre Libros)


Monday, June 22, 2015

John Carey

Professor John Carey
photo by Freddie Phillips, 2014
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

chief book reviewer for Sunday Times, literary critic, historian and editor, emeritus Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford, Donne and Milton scholar, considering George Elliot to be by a long stretch the most intelligent of all English novelists, with anti-elitist views on high culture and Modernist writers (like T.S.Eliot, Yeats, D.H.Lawrence, Wells, Virginia Woolf - so he's not afraid of her, to play a bit with words and paraphrase Albee); all these being said, reading him seems to be like journeying with a time machine throughout the various ages of British literature, and having a great companion alongside.

Something very personal: in my small own journey there in those lands, just begun and very timid, Helen Hanff was a road opener, giving me the taste to approach for instance Donne, Milton ... and above all Pepys.

(A Life in Books)


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sergio Pitol

Sergio Pitol Demeneghi
photo by Vasco Szinetar
(source: Granta)
no copyright infringement intended

Pitol es probablemente uno de los escritores más culturalmente complejas y compuestas de México. Él es sin duda el más extraño, más insondable y excéntrico. Su escritura - la forma en que construye frases, modula español, tuerce significados y hace hincapié en determinadas palabras - refleja la multiplicidad de lenguas que ha leído y abrazado -y tal vez, también, los muchos hombres que ha estado. Le lectura es como leer a través de las capas de muchos idiomas a la vez (Valeria Luiselli en Granta).

He visitado hoy la Librería Inglés en Bucarest y dos amigos (por quien tengo un gran aprecio) me habló muy admirativamente sobre Pitol y sus escritos. Dos de sus libros (Domar a la divina garza y El desfile del amor) fueron traducido al rumano (Îmblânzirea divinei egrete y Love Parade, Editura Art, 2007 y 2010). También el autor está incluido en una antología (Mil bosques en una bellota por Valerie Miles) que fue traducido al rumano y se acaba de imprimir por la prestigiosa Univers Editorial (O mie de păduri într-o ghindă). Volveré.

(Una Vida Entre Libros)