Sunday, April 29, 2007


I'm fond of Corriente Textual. I can tell you no more about it than you see on the blog itself: interesting music, interesting artwork. Alan, the author, recently provided a link to this Francoise Hardy song, and so I to you.

Francoise Hardy, Ma jeunesse fout l'camp. The song comes from the TV show, La Femme Nikita. Wikipedia has an article on the show.

Hardy is photographable and much photographed, but rarely (never?) smiling.

She's only a couple of years younger than me.

Here is a Youtube video of one of her first performances, from a French TV show of the early 60s, Conservatoire de la Chanson.

Who all the day themselves do please

Here is another poem from Parnassus, the anthology compiled by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1874 (pdf).

by Robert Herrick

SWEET country life, to such unknown
Whose lives are others', not their own !
But serving courts and cities, be
Less happy, less enjoying thee.
Thou never plough'st the ocean's foam
To seek and bring rough pepper home ;
Nor to the Eastern Ind dost rove
To bring from thence the scorched clove ;
Nor, with the loss of thy lov'd rest,
Bring'st home the ingot from the West.
No, thy ambition's masterpiece
Flies no thought higher than a fleece ;
Or how to pay thy hinds, and clear
All scores, and so to end the year :
But walk'st about thine own dear bounds,
Not envying others larger grounds :
For well thou know'st 'tis not th' extent
Of land makes life, but sweet content.
When now the cock (the ploughman's horn)
Calls forth the lily-wristed morn,
Then to thy corn-fields thou dost go,
Which though well soyl'd, yet thou dost know
That the best compost for the lands
Is the wise master's feet and hands.
There at the plough thou find'st thy team
With a hind whistling there to them ;
And cheer'st them up, by singing how
The kingdom's portion is the plough.
This done, then to th' enamelled meads
Thou go'st, and as thy foot there treads,
Thou see'st a present God-like power
Imprinted in each herb and flower ;
And smell'st the breath of great-ey'd kine,
Sweet as the blossoms of the vine.
Here thou behold'st thy large sleek neat
Unto the dew-laps up in meat ;
And, as thou look'st, the wanton steer,
The heifer, cow, and ox draw near
To make a pleasing pastime there.
These seen, thou go'st to view thy flocks
Of sheep, safe from the wolf and fox,
And find'st their bellies there as full
Of short sweet grass as backs with wool,
And leav'st them, as they feed and fill,
A shepherd piping on a hill.
For sports, for pageantry and plays
Thou hast thy eves, and holidays ;
On which the young men and maids meet
To exercise their dancing feet ;
Tripping the comely country round,
With daffodils and daisies crown'd.
Thy wakes, thy quintels here thou hast,
Thy May-poles, too, with garlands grac'd ;
Thy morris dance, thy Whitsun ale,
Thy shearing feast which never fail ;
Thy harvest-home, thy wassail bowl,
That's toss'd up after fox i' th' hole ;
Thy mummeries, thy twelfth-tide kings
And queens, thy Christmas revellings,
Thy nut-brown mirth, thy russet wit,
And no man pays too dear for it.
To these thou hast thy times to go
And trace the hare i' th' treacherous snow ;
Thy witty wiles to draw, and get
The lark into the trammel net ;
Thou hast thy cockrood and thy glade
To take the precious pheasant made ;
Thy lime-twigs, snares and pit-falls then
To catch the pilfering birds, not men.
O happy life ! if that their good
The husbandmen but understood !
Who all the day themselves do please,
And younglings, with such sports as these,
And lying down have nought t' affright
Sweet sleep, that makes more short the night.
Unfinished — Cætera desunt — The rest is wanting

Notes on the poem
You can read about Endymion Porter here.
Notes on unfamiliar words in the poem (from
Soyl'd, manured.
Compost, preparation.
Fox i' th' hole, a hopping game in which boys beat
each other with gloves.
Cockrood, a run for snaring woodcocks.
Glade, an opening in the wood across which nets were
hung to catch game. (Willoughby, Ornithologie, i. 3.)

Click image to enlarge. Source. "This letter, one of just a few documents to survive in Herrick's own hand, was carefully composed by him while a student at St. John's College, Cambridge. Herrick employs all his rhetorical powers in an effort to persuade his uncle William to give him money to buy books for his studies:
my studie craves but your assistance to furnish hir with bookes wherein She is most desirous to laboure, blame not her modest boldness, but suffer the aspertions of your love to distill upon hir, and next to Heaven, she will consecrate hir laboures unto you ...

Catching up with Emerson in Florence

More from Emerson's Journals. It is 1833, he is 29 years old, on his travels in Italy.
And so I left, on the twenty-third of April [1833], the city built on seven hills, the Palatine, the Capitoline, Crelian, Aventine, Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline.

April 26.

Passignano. Here sit I this cold eve by the fire in the Locanda of this little town on the margin of the lake of Thrasimene, and remember Hannibal and Rome. Pleases me well the clear pleasant air which savors more of New England than of Italy. To-day we came from Spoleto to Perugia on the top of how high a hill with mighty walls and towers far within the gates of the town. Old cathedral, and all around architectural ornaments of the Middle Ages. But were I a proprietor in Perugia, I would sell all and go and live upon the plain. How prepos terous too it is to live in Trevi, where the streets must make with the horizon an angle of 45 degrees. Yet here in Umbria every height shows a wide prospect of well-cultivated coun try.

April 27.

Passed a peaceful night close by the dreadful field of Hannibal and Flaminius. This morning we crossed the Sanguinetto and left the pontifi cal state. We passed by Cortona, the venerable Etruscan town, then by Arezzo, the birthplace of Petrarch, and stopped at night at Levane.

Next morn (April 28) through the beautiful Val d'Arno we came to Figline, to Incisa, and in the afternoon to fair Florence.

April 29

And how do you like Florence? Why, well. It is pleasant to see how affectionately all the artists who have resided here a little while speak of getting home to Florence. And I found at once that we live here with much more comfort than in Rome or Naples. Good streets, industrious population, spacious, well-furnished lodgings, elegant and cheap caffies. The Cathedral and the Campanile, the splendid galleries and no beggars, make this city the favorite of strangers.

How like an archangel's tent is this great Cathedral of many-coloured marble set down in the midst of the city, and by its side its won drous Campanile! I took a hasty glance at the gates of the Baptistery which Angelo said ought to be the gates of Paradise, "digne chiudere il Paradiso" and then at his own David, and hasted to the Tribune and to the Pitti Palace. I saw the statue that enchants the world. And truly the Venus deserves to be visited from far. It is not adequately represented by the plaster casts, as the Apollo and the Laocoon are. I must go again and see this statue. Then I went round this cabinet and gallery and galleries till I was i well-nigh "dazzled and drunk with beauty." I think no man has an idea of the powers of painting until he has come hither. Why should painters study at Rome ? Here, here.

I have been this day to Santa Croce, which is to Florence what Westminster Abbey is to England. I passed with consideration the tomb of Nicholas Machiavelli, but stopped long be fore that of Galileus Galileo, for I love and honor that man, except in the recantation, with my whole heart. But when I came to Michael Angelo Buonaroti my flesh crept as I read the inscription. I had strange emotions. I suppose because Italy is so full of his fame. I have lately continually heard of his name and works and opinions ; I see his face in every shop window, and now I stood over his dust.

Then I came to the empty tomb of Dante, who lies buried at Ravenna. Then to that of Alfieri.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Birds of Killingworth

Here is another poem from Parnassus, the anthology compiled by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1874 (pdf).
The Poet's Tale; The Birds of Killingworth

It was the season, when through all the land
The merle and mavis build, and building sing
Those lovely lyrics, written by His hand,
Whom Saxon Caedmon calls the Blitheheart King;
When on the boughs the purple buds expand,
The banners of the vanguard of the Spring,
And rivulets, rejoicing, rush and leap,
And wave their fluttering signals from the steep.

The robin and the bluebird, piping loud,
Filled all the blossoming orchards with their glee;
The sparrows chirped as if they still were proud
Their race in Holy Writ should mentioned be;
And hungry crows assembled in a crowd,
Clamored their piteous prayer incessantly,
Knowing who hears the ravens cry, and said:
"Give us, O Lord, this day our daily bread!"

Across the Sound the birds of passage sailed,
Speaking some unknown language strange and sweet
Of tropic isle remote, and passing hailed
The village with the cheers of all their fleet;
Or quarrelling together, laughed and railed
Like foreign sailors, landed in the street
Of seaport town, and with outlandish noise
Of oaths and gibberish frightening girls and boys.

Thus came the jocund Spring in Killingworth,
In fabulous days; some hundred years ago;
And thrifty farmers, as they tilled the earth,
Heard with alarm the cawing of the crow,
That mingled with the universal mirth,
Cassandra-like, prognosticating woe;
They shook their heads, and doomed with dreadful words
To swift destruction the whole race of birds.

And a town-meeting was convened straightway
To set a price upon the guilty heads
Of these marauders, who, in lieu of pay,
Levied black-mail upon the garden beds
And cornfields, and beheld without dismay
The awful scarecrow, with his fluttering shreds;
The skeleton that waited at their feast,
Whereby their sinful pleasure was increased.

Then from his house, a temple painted white,
With fluted columns, and a roof of red,
The Squire came forth, august and splendid sight!
Slowly descending, with majestic tread,
Three flights of steps, nor looking left nor right,
Down the long street he walked, as one who said,
"A town that boasts inhabitants like me
Can have no lack of good society!"

The Parson, too, appeared, a man austere,
The instinct of whose nature was to kill;
The wrath of God he preached from year to year,
And read, with fervor, Edwards on the Will;
His favorite pastime was to slay the deer
In Summer on some Adirondac hill;
E'en now, while walking down the rural lane,
He lopped the wayside lilies with his cane.

From the Academy, whose belfry crowned
The hill of Science with its vane of brass,
Came the Preceptor, gazing idly round,
Now at the clouds, and now at the green grass,
And all absorbed in reveries profound
Of fair Almira in the upper class,
Who was, as in a sonnet he had said,
As pure as water, and as good as bread.

And next the Deacon issued from his door,
In his voluminous neck-cloth, white as snow;
A suit of sable bombazine he wore;
His form was ponderous, and his step was slow;
There never was so wise a man before;
He seemed the incarnate "Well, I told you so!"
And to perpetuate his great renown
There was a street named after him in town.

These came together in the new town-hall,
With sundry farmers from the region round.
The Squire presided, dignified and tall,
His air impressive and his reasoning sound;
Ill fared it with the birds, both great and small;
Hardly a friend in all that crowd they found,
But enemies enough, who every one
Charged them with all the crimes beneath the sun.

When they had ended, from his place apart
Rose the Preceptor, to redress the wrong,
And, trembling like a steed before the start,
Looked round bewildered on the expectant throng;
Then thought of fair Almira, and took heart
To speak out what was in him, clear and strong,
Alike regardless of their smile or frown,
And quite determined not to be laughed down.

"Plato, anticipating the Reviewers,
From his Republic banished without pity
The Poets; in this little town of yours,
You put to death, by means of a Committee,
The ballad-singers and the Troubadours,
The street-musicians of the heavenly city,
The birds, who make sweet music for us all
In our dark hours, as David did for Saul.

"The thrush that carols at the dawn of day
From the green steeples of the piny wood;
The oriole in the elm; the noisy jay,
Jargoning like a foreigner at his food;
The bluebird balanced on some topmost spray,
Flooding with melody the neighborhood;
Linnet and meadow-lark, and all the throng
That dwell in nests, and have the gift of song.

"You slay them all! and wherefore? for the gain
Of a scant handful more or less of wheat,
Or rye, or barley, or some other grain,
Scratched up at random by industrious feet,
Searching for worm or weevil after rain!
Or a few cherries, that are not so sweet
As are the songs these uninvited guests,
Sing at their feast with comfortable breasts.

"Do you ne'er think what wondrous beings these?
Do you ne'er think who made them and who taught
The dialect they speak, where melodies
Alone are the interpreters of thought?
Whose household words are songs in many keys,
Sweeter than instrument of man e'er caught!
Whose habitations in the tree-tops even
Are half-way houses on the road to heaven!

"Think, every morning when the sun peeps through
The dim, leaf-latticed windows of the grove,
How jubilant the happy birds renew
Their old, melodious madrigals of love!
And when you think of this, remember too
'T is always morning somewhere, and above
The awakening continents; from shore to shore,
Somewhere the birds are singing evermore.

"Think of your woods and orchards without birds!
Of empty nests that cling to boughs and beams
As in an idiot's brain remembered words
Hang empty 'mid the cobwebs of his dreams!
Will bleat of flocks or bellowing of herds
Make up for the lost music, when your teams
Drag home the stingy harvest, and no more
The feathered gleaners follow to your door?

"What! would you rather see the incessant stir
Of insects in the windrows of the hay,
And hear the locust and the grasshopper
Their melancholy hurdy-gurdies play?
Is this more pleasant to you than the whir
Of meadow-lark, and her sweet roundelay,
Or twitter of little field-fares, as you take
Your nooning in the shade of bush and brake?

"You call them thieves and pillagers; but know,
They are the wingéd wardens of your farms,
Who from the cornfields drive the insidious foe,
And from your harvests keep a hundred harms;
Even the blackest of them all, the crow,
Renders good service as your man-at-arms,
Crushing the beetle in his coat of mail,
And crying havoc on the slug and snail.

"How can I teach your children gentleness,
And mercy to the weak, and reverence
For Life, which, in its weakness or excess,
Is still a gleam of God's omnipotence,
Or Death, which, seeming darkness, is no less
The selfsame light, although averted hence,
When by your laws, your actions, and your speech,
You contradict the very things I teach?"

With this he closed; and through the audience went
A murmur, like the rustle of dead leaves;
The farmers laughed and nodded, and some bent
Their yellow heads together like their sheaves;
Men have no faith in fine-spun sentiment
Who put their trust in bullocks and in beeves.
The birds were doomed; and, as the record shows,
A bounty offered for the heads of crows.

There was another audience out of reach,
Who had no voice nor vote in making laws,
But in the papers read his little speech,
And crowned his modest temples with applause;
They made him conscious, each one more than each,
He still was victor, vanquished in their cause.
Sweetest of all the applause he won from thee,
O fair Almira at the Academy!

And so the dreadful massacre began;
O'er fields and orchards, and o'er woodland crests,
The ceaseless fusillade of terror ran.
Dead fell the birds, with blood-stains on their breasts,
Or wounded crept away from sight of man,
While the young died of famine in their nests;
A slaughter to be told in groans, not words,
The very St. Bartholomew of Birds!

The Summer came, and all the birds were dead;
The days were like hot coals; the very ground
Was burned to ashes; in the orchards fed
Myriads of caterpillars, and around
The cultivated fields and garden beds
Hosts of devouring insects crawled, and found
No foe to check their march, till they had made
The land a desert without leaf or shade.

Devoured by worms, like Herod, was the town,
Because, like Herod, it had ruthlessly
Slaughtered the Innocents. From the trees spun down
The canker-worms upon the passers-by,
Upon each woman's bonnet, shawl, and gown,
Who shook them off with just a little cry
They were the terror of each favorite walk,
The endless theme of all the village talk.

The farmers grew impatient but a few
Confessed their error, and would not complain,
For after all, the best thing one can do
When it is raining, is to let it rain.
Then they repealed the law, although they knew
It would not call the dead to life again;
As school-boys, finding their mistake too late,
Draw a wet sponge across the accusing slate.

That year in Killingworth the Autumn came
Without the light of his majestic look,
The wonder of the falling tongues of flame,
The illumined pages of his Doom's-Day book.
A few lost leaves blushed crimson with their shame,
And drowned themselves despairing in the brook,
While the wild wind went moaning everywhere,
Lamenting the dead children of the air!

But the next Spring a stranger sight was seen,
A sight that never yet by bard was sung,
As great a wonder as it would have been
If some dumb animal had found a tongue!
A wagon, overarched with evergreen,
Upon whose boughs were wicker cages hung,
All full of singing birds, came down the street,
Filling the air with music wild and sweet.

From all the country round these birds were brought,
By order of the town, with anxious quest,
And, loosened from their wicker prisons, sought
In woods and fields the places they loved best,
Singing loud canticles, which many thought
Were satires to the authorities addressed,
While others, listening in green lanes, averred
Such lovely music never had been heard!

But blither still and louder carolled they
Upon the morrow, for they seemed to know
It was the fair Almira's wedding-day,
And everywhere, around, above, below,
When the Preceptor bore his bride away,
Their songs burst forth in joyous overflow,
And a new heaven bent over a new earth
Amid the sunny farms of Killingworth.
This poem is much more interesting than the usual Longfellow fare: Evangeline (1847), for example, or The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858) -- they're all apparently collected here. In particular, the chanting meter of the Song of Hiawatha and its false-sounding Nativism have annoyed and embarassed me. Why this as a standard for the excellence of versification in the young United States?
By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Killingworth is a real place, a village in Connecticut with its own online paper , garden club, and Wikipedia entry (none of which mention the Longfellow poem).

{This church in Killingworth was built half a century before Longfellow wrote about the place. source}

Monday, April 23, 2007

Lillies of Spring

The weather has turned. We've had most of the flowering fruit trees, dogwoods are coming strong, and the tulips are almost done. Spring threatens to turn Summer much too quickly. So here's John Singer Sargent's, Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

{Click to enlarge. My source: Google image search provides lots of reproductions. I got this from the Christian Theological Seminary site}

"you entertain angels unawares"

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

As he begins to write this, Emerson is getting ready to depart from Rome for Lombardy; he completes it after he has left. It's from a letter to his aunt, Mary Moody Emerson, and is a typically philosophical meditation on acquaintance and our experience of others. It's about people of the present whom we respond to on first meeting and about people of the past whose lives we perceive in our encounters with what they have made and done. Although it's not a journal entry, this text is included in the 1909 edition of the journals edited by his son, Edward Waldo Emerson, and grandson, Waldo Emerson Forbes.

ROME, begun April 22.

"Here is matter for all feeling," said Byron, and yet how evanescent and superficial is most of that emotion which art and magnificence can awaken. It yields in me to the interest the most ordinary companion inspires. I never get used to men. They always awaken expectations in me which they always disappoint, and I am a poor asteroid in the great system, subject to disturbances in my orbit, not only from all the planets, but from all their moons. The wise man, the true friend, the finished character, we seek everywhere, and only find in fragments. Yet I cannot persuade myself that all the beautiful souls are fled out of the planet, or that always I shall be excluded from good company and yoked with green, dull, pitiful persons. After being cabined up by sea and by land, since I left home, with various little people, — all better to be sure and much wiser than me, but still such persons as did not help me, — how refreshing was it to fall in with two or three sensible persons with whom I could eat my bread and take my walk and feel myself a free man once more of God's universe. Still these last were not instructors, and I want instructors. God's greatest gift is a Teacher, and when will he send me one full of truth and of boundless benevolence and of heroic sentiments? I can describe the man. I know the idea well, but where is its real blood-warm counterpart? I know whilst I write thus that the creature is never to dawn upon me like a sunburst. I know too well how slowly we edge along sideways to everything good and brilliant in life, and how casually and unobservedly we make all our most valued acquaintances. And yet I saw Ellen at once in all her beauty, and she never disappointed me, but in her death. And why may not the Master whom the soul anticipates, so appear?

Our stern experience replies with the tongue of all its days: Son of Man! it saith, all giving and receiving is reciprocal; you entertain angels unawares, but they cannot impart more or higher things than you are in a state to receive, but every step of your progress affects the intercourse you hold with all others; elevates its tone, deepens its meaning, sanctifies its spirit, and when time and suffering and self-denial shall have transfigured and glorified this spotted self, you shall find your fellows also transformed, and their faces shall shine with the light of wisdom and the beauty of holiness. You who cling with both hands to the literal word and to venerable traditions will, no doubt, find in my complaints a confession and a self-accusation. You will perhaps say I do not receive whom Heaven gives. But you must not say any such thing. For I am, you see, speaking truly as to my Maker. Jesus, who has done so much to raise and sweeten human life, and who prized sincerity more than sacrifice, cannot be to me what he was to John. My mother, my brothers, my companions, must be much more to me in all respects of friendship than he can be.
"How small, of all that human hearts endure,
The part that laws or kings can cause or cure:
Still to ourselves in every place consigned,
Our own felicity we make or find."
In Rome it is not the diameter nor the circumference of the columns, it is not the dimensions, nor the materials of the temples, which constitute their chief charm. It is the name of Cicero; it is the remembrance of a wise and good man; It is the remembrance of Scipio and Cato and Regulus; the influence of human character, the heroes who struggled, the patriots who fell, the wise men who thought, — the men who contended worthily in their lifetime in the same trials which God in this city and this year is placing before each of us. Why are you dazzled with the name of Caesar? A part as important, a soul as great, a name as dear to God as his or any other's is your own.

It will take you long to learn another tongue so as to make yourself fully understood by those who speak it, but your actions are easy of translation. They understand what you do. Temperance is good English and good French and good Italian. Your courage, your kindness, your honesty, are as plain to a Turk as his own alphabet. In Boston they have an eye for improvement, a thing which does not exist in Asia nor in Africa.

And so I left, on the twenty-third of April, the city built on seven hills, the Palatine, the Capitoline, Crelian, Aventine, Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Update on the French Presidential election

The papers are saying that no candidate will get a majority and there will be a run-off between the top contenders next month. The two front-runners are Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal. Both are photogenic.

She especially. Do an image search on her to see what I mean. I suppose it's no surprise that I could find a photo of her with a white horse.

addendum: The press likes Sarkozy horse photos:
{Legend: "On the campaign trail ... Nicolas Sarkozy, centre, does some last-minute spruiking in the south of France on Friday.
Photo: AFP" source}

Joyce - Ulysses - images!

One of my many castings-about for sources on Boulangism brought me to this page. What a find! You can browse, chapter-by-chapter or see the whole of it all at once.

It takes the Vintage corrected text of Ulysses and gives images and context, with section and line references. For example this picture post card is used to illustrate the text "They halted, looking towards the blunt cape of Bray Head that lay on the water like the snout of a sleeping whale." (U1.181)

{Click to see full size.}

The site itself doesn't reveal much about its origins, just this statement in the footer: " is maintained by Aida Yared" along with an email address. There's also little information on Yared's profile on Amazon.

Tony Thwaites' Ulysses Dublin Tour complements JoyceImages by giving photos taken in 1004. The Joyce Foundation links page includes it along with a lot of other interesting ones.

At, the Boulanger reference reads:
"M. Millevoye," (U3.233)

Lucien Millevoye (1850-1918) was a French journalist and politician. He was the editor of 'La Patrie' and a supporter of Général Boulanger. Maud Gonne had a love affair with him in France (he was married). They had 2 children, Georges Silvère (1890-1891), and Iseult Lucille Germaine (1894-1954). Back in Ireland, Gonne passed Iseult off as her adopted niece.

One of the best images on is a contemporary map of Dublin on which you can trace the wanderings of Bloom and Dedalus. It's in large format so you can see lots of locations in detail

{Click to see full size.}

a man on a horse to make everthing right

A Turkish newspaper, Sabah, has an article on the election in France in which this photo appears:

The article, from Reuters, is about Nicolas Sarkozy, an ultra-conservative candidate for President of France in today's election. You can read about the election and his candidacy in any news source. Here's a link to the Wikipedia artcle.

The photo of Sarkozy on his horse caught my eye because, while outsider candidates whose appeal is more emotional than rational crop up from time to time in every democracy, the man-on-a-horse is a particularly French symbol. It was Georges Boulanger who, on his black horse, caught the attention of French voters at the end of the nineteenth century and whose followers, Boulangists, seemed on the verge of carrying out a successful coup when Boulanger caused the movement to unravel at the time of the Presidential elections of 1889. The disintegration was messy as the man dithered about how fully to commit himself, then ran away when accused of a crime, and finally shot himself in despair on the grave of his recently-deceased mistress. If you're thinking "how very French," well there may be something in that.

Wikipedia tells the story well. The Columbia enclopedia has a typically concise summary. You can use your favorite search engine to find other accounts.

Here is Boulanger and a imaginative reconstruction of his suicide

{Click image to see full size. Source}

Addendum: I spent much too much time trying to track down Boulanger. How do you find information about the political man-on-a-horse phenomenon when "man-on-horse" and variants on France, election, coup, etc. don't work? I finally remembered Boulanger was the name and that did the trick. I also spent some futile time trying to find an image of the man on his horse.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Here is another poem from Parnassus, the anthology compiled by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1874 (pdf).
L'Allegro, by John Milton

Hence, loathed Melancholy,
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn
'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy!
Find out some uncouth cell,
Where brooding Darkness spreads his jealous wings,
And the night raven sings;
There under ebon shades, and low-browed rocks,
As ragged as thy locks,
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell.
But come thou Goddess fair and free,
In heav'n ycleped Euphrosyne,
And by Men, heart-easing Mirth,
Whom lovely Venus at a birth
With two sister Graces more
To ivy-crowned Bacchus bore;
Or whether (as some sager sing)
The frolic wind that breathes the spring,
Zephyr, with Aurora playing,
As he met her once a-Maying,
There on beds of violets blue,
And fresh-blown roses washed in dew,
Filled her with thee a daughter fair,
So buxom, blithe, and debonair.
Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
Jest, and youthful Jollity,
Quips, and Cranks, and wanton Wiles,
Nods, and Becks, and wreathed Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it as you go
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee
The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty;
And if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreproved pleasures free;
To hear the lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-tow'r in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise;
Then to come in spite of sorrow,
And at my window bid good morrow,
Through the sweet-briar, or the vine,
Or the twisted eglantine:
While the cock with lively din
Scatters the rear of darkness thin,
And to the stack, or the barn-door,
Stoutly struts his dames before:
Oft list'ning how the hounds and horn
Cheerly rouse the slumb'ring morn,
From the side of some hoar hill,
Through the high wood echoing shrill:
Sometime walking, not unseen,
By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green,
Right against the eastern gate,
Where the great sun begins his state,
Robed in flames, and amber light,
The clouds in thousand liveries dight;
While the ploughman near at hand
Whistles o'er the furrowed land,
And the milkmaid singeth blithe,
And the mower whets his scythe,
And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the hawthorn in the dale.
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures
Whilst the landscape round it measures;
Russet lawns, and fallows grey,
Where the nibbling flocks do stray;
Mountains, on whose barren breast
The lab'ring clouds do often rest;
Meadows trim with daisies pied,
Shallow brooks, and rivers wide.
Towers and battlements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some Beauty lies,
The Cynosure of neighb'ring eyes.
Hard by, a cottage chimney smokes,
From betwixt two aged oaks,
Where Corydon and Thyrsis met
Are at their savoury dinner set
Of herbs, and other country messes,
Which the neat-handed Phillis dresses;
And then in haste her bow'r she leaves,
With Thestylis to bind the sheaves;
Or, if the earlier season lead,
To the tanned haycock in the mead;
Sometimes with secure delight
The upland hamlets will invite,
When the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound
To many a youth and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequered shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a sunshine holiday,
Till the live-long daylight fail;
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How Fairy Mab the junkets eat;
She was pinched and pulled she said,
And he by friar's lanthorn led
Tells how the drudging Goblin sweat
To earn his cream-bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath threshed the corn,
That ten day-lab'rers could not end;
Then lies him down the lubber fiend,
And stretched out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength,
And crop-full out of doors he flings,
Ere the first cock his matin rings.
Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering winds soon lulled asleep.
Towered cities please us then,
And the busy hum of men,
Where throngs of knights and barons bold
In weeds of peace high triumphs hold,
With store of ladies, whose bright eyes
Rain influence, and judge the prize
Of wit or arms, while both contend
To win her grace, whom all commend.
There let Hymen oft appear
In saffron robe, with taper clear,
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask, and antique pageantry;
Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream.
Then to the well-trod stage anon,
If Jonson's learned sock be on,
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.
And ever against eating cares
Lap me in soft Lydian airs
Married to immortal verse
Such as the meeting soul may pierce
In notes, with many a winding bout
Of linked sweetness long drawn out,
With wanton heed, and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running,
Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony;
That Orpheus' self may heave his head
From golden slumber on a bed
Of heaped Elysian flowers, and hear
Such strains as would have won the ear
Of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half-regained Eurydice.
These delights if thou canst give,
Mirth, with thee I mean to live.
Dartmouth's Milton web page says: " It is nearly impossible to understand and appreciate John Milton's L'Allegro without also having read its companion piece, Il Penseroso. Whereas l'allegro is "the happy person" who spends an idealized day in the country and a festive evening in the city, il penseroso is "the thoughtful person" whose night is filled with meditative walking in the woods and hours of study in a "lonely Towr." First published in 1645, the two poems complement each other structurally and contain images which are in specific dialogue with one another." This page explains unfamiliar terms and everything else that might need to be explained in the poem.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Italy is Byron's debtor

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
April 20, 1833

I have paid a last visit to the Capitoline Museum & Gallery. One visit is not enough, no, nor two to learn the lesson. The dying Gladiator is a most expressive statue but it will always be indebted to the muse of Byron for fixing upon it forever his pathetic thought. Indeed Italy is Byron's debtor, and I think no one knows how fine a poet he is who has not seen the subjects of his verse, & so learned to appreciate the justness of his thoughts & at the same time their great superiority to other men's.

I know well the great defects of Childe Harold.

In the Gallery I coveted nothing so much as Michel Angelo's Portrait by himself.
Emerson, age 30, continues his visit to Italy during his first travels in Europe. He will leave Rome in a few days and journey across the north to Venice.

Here is a link to the Capitoline Museum home page. The "dying Gladiator" which Emerson admires is usually called the Dying Gaul (in Italian, Galata Morente). Here are Byron's famous stanzas on the statue:

I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand--his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low -
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him: he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch who won.


He heard it, but he heeded not--his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He recked not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
THERE were his young barbarians all at play,
THERE was their Dacian mother--he, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday -
All this rushed with his blood--Shall he expire,
And unavenged?--Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!

In small, full-figure reproduction it's hard to see why the work called forth Bryon's eloquence:

But shows some of its expressive power in detail. Note the contrast between the Gaul and the other statues visible in this image:

{Click to enlarge. source}

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on the statue: Dying Gaul.

Regarding Childe Harold, Emerson reflects Byron himself in alluding to defects since Byron publically declared the work to be pretty bad. Nonetheless, it made a huge impression and was one of the most widely-read poems of its day. Published over a period of years toward the end of the Napoleonic era, it is, says the Wikipedia author, "an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras."

Here is a link to the Full text in Project Gutenberg.

These stanzas from the poem echo the view of Emerson and many contemporaries of the proud heritage and sorry present of Italy during the first half of the 19th century:

Italia! O Italia! thou who hast
The fatal gift of beauty, which became
A funeral dower of present woes and past,
On thy sweet brow is sorrow ploughed by shame,
And annals graved in characters of flame.
Oh God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
Less lovely or more powerful, and couldst claim
Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood, and drink the tears of thy distress;


Yet, Italy! through every other land
Thy wrongs should ring, and shall, from side to side;
Mother of Arts! as once of Arms; thy hand
Was then our Guardian, and is still our guide;
Parent of our religion! whom the wide
Nations have knelt to for the keys of heaven!
Europe, repentant of her parricide,
Shall yet redeem thee, and, all backward driven,
Roll the barbarian tide, and sue to be forgiven.


We gaze and turn away, and know not where,
Dazzled and drunk with beauty, till the heart
Reels with its fulness; there--for ever there -
Chained to the chariot of triumphal Art,
We stand as captives, and would not depart.
Away!--there need no words, nor terms precise,
The paltry jargon of the marble mart,
Where Pedantry gulls Folly--we have eyes:
Blood, pulse, and breast, confirm the Dardan Shepherd's prize.

Here is an image of the Michaelangelo self-portrait to which Emerson refers:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

creatures of the sun

Here is another poem from Parnassus, the anthology compiled by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1874 (pdf).
Nature. How young and fresh am I tonight,
To see't kept day by so much light,
And twelve my sons stand in their maker's sight!
Help, wise Prometheus, something must be done
To show they are the creatures of the sun,
That each to other
Is a brother,
And Nature here no stepdame, but a mother
Chorus. Come forth, come forth, Prove all the numbers then
That make perfection up, and may absolve you men.
[Nature.] But show thy winding ways and arts,
Thy risings and thy timely starts
Of stealing fire from ladies' eyes and hearts.
Those softer circles are the young man's heaven,
And there more orbs and planets are than seven,
To know whose motion
Were a notion
As worthy of youth's study as devotion.
Chorus. Come forth, come forth, prove all the time will gain,
For Nature bids the best, and never bade in vain.
This comes from a masque, Mercury Vindicated from the Alchemists at Court. Jonson's stage direction says the poem is sung in "a glorious bower wherein Nature was placed with Prometheus at her feet, and the twelve masquers standing about them." The Wikipedia entry on it says the masque was a success with the king and may have helped to forward the ambitions of a court favorite whom Jonson wished to see promoted.

postponing one's maturity

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 19, 1835

It is a happy talent to know how to play. Some men must always work if they would be respectable; for the moment they trifle, they are silly. Others show most talent when they trifle. Be it said of W that his excess of reverence made it impossible for him to realize ever that he was a man; he never assumed equality with strangers but still esteemed them older than himself though they were his own age or younger. He went through life postponing his maturity & died in his error.
Emerson is 30 years old when he writes this. His journal and other writings do not show much playfulness, though there are occasional flashes of humor in them. He might be writing of himself in saying some men must always work. The fact that he doesn't identify the deceased "W" shouldn't be taken to mean that he expected the journal entry to be published and didn't wish to embarass W's relatives. It's more likely that he shared parts of the journal with his friends and found it convenient sometimes to be a bit discrete.

• Joost still down and out

Rabobank has announced its line up for the Giro d'Italia and Joost is not in it. He was recovering from a crash in a recent race when he got into an accident during a training ride in Germany. His website says a decision will be made tomorrow whether to operate to repair his knee. There are no broken bones, but he has deep bruises and possibly more serious damage. The site reports information from Joost's girlfriend about his condition.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

fountains of Rome

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
April 17? 1833

What pleasant fountains all over Rome in every villa, garden, & piazza. An eye for beauty is nature's gift to this people; they delight in bright colours & in all ornaments. As we sat in the Caffé, we agreed that it was decorated & furnished with a beauty & good taste which could not be rivaled in America.

No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby -- so helpless & so ridiculous.
Emerson is still on his first trip to Europe. He travelled alone and his companions here in Rome are temporary acquaintences. His appreciation for Rome's beauty contrasts with his report of Naples a month earlier. There, he found it difficult to see things with his own eyes, neither distracted by "trumpery considerations" such as "staring at a few dozen idlers on the street" nor overwhelmed by expectations of magnificence -- "overawed by names." Though Emerson had studied Italian, he is not at this time and never became completely comfortable in any foreign language.

when shall spring visit?

Here is another poem from Parnassus, the anthology compiled by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1874 (pdf).

'Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more;
I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you:
For morn is approaching, your charms to restore,
Perfumed with fresh fragrance, and glittering with dew:
Nor yet for the ravage of winter I mourn;
Kind Nature the embryo blossom will save.
But when shall spring visit the mouldering urn?
O when shall it dawn on the night of the grave?
Here Emerson gives us an extract from a long poem by James Beattie, The Minstrel; or, the Progress of Genius.

{source. There's a long article on Beattie here.}

Monday, April 16, 2007

I sing of Time's trans-shifting

For the remainder of April I hope to reproduce a poem a day out of Parnassus, the anthology compiled by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1874 (pdf).

Here is the first poem in the compilation.
The Argument of His Book

by Robert Herrick

I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds, and bowers,
Of April, May, of June, and July flowers.
I sing of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
Of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal-cakes.
I write of youth, of love, and have access
By these to sing of cleanly wantonness.
I sing of dews, of rains, and piece by piece
Of balm, of oil, of spice, and ambergris.
I sing of Time's trans-shifting; and I write
How roses first came red, and lilies white.
I write of groves, of twilights, and I sing
The court of Mab, and of the fairy king.
I write of Hell; I sing (and ever shall)
Of Heaven, and hope to have it after all.

Robert Herrick

on keeping a journal

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 15-16, 1839

The simple knot of Now & Then will give an immeasureable value to any sort of catalogue or journal kept with common sense for a year or two. See in the Merchant's compting room for his peddling of cotton & indigo, the value that comes to be attached to any Blotting book or Leger; and if your aims & deeds are superior, how can any record of yours (suppose, of the books you wish to read, of the pictures you would see, of the facts you would scrutinize) -- any record that you are genuinely moved to begin & continue -- not have a value proportionately superior? It converts the heights you have reached into table land. The book or literary fact which had the whole emphasis of attention a month ago stands here along with one which was as important in preceding months, and with that of yesterday; &, next month, there will be another. Here they will occupy but four lines & I cannot read these together without juster views of each than when I read them singly.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

in the shade of the cloud of arrows

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
1847, April, undated

What you have learned and done is safe and fruitful. Work and learn in evil days, in insulted days, in days of debt and depression and calamity. Fight best in the shade of the cloud of arrows.
Emerson is 43 years old.

always too young or too old

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 14, 1842

If I should write an honest diary, what should I say? Alas, that life has halfness, shallowness. I have almost completed thirty-nine years, and I have not yet adjusted my relation to my fellows on the planet, or to my own work. Always too young or too old, I do not justify myself; how can I satisfy others?
This was written exactly one century before my birth.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Emerson dreams

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
April 13, 1833

Rome fashions my dreams. All night I wander amidst statues & fountains, and last night was introduced to Lord Byron!
Another post of mine featuring dreams. Emerson is nearing the end of his stay in Rome. This brief entry shows a Romantic side, not often present in his writing. I put a capital R before the word because the Romantic movement in literature was only just coming to an end at the time he wrote. (Keats' Ode On a Grecian Urn had been published only 13 years before.)

At this time Byron wasn't quite 10 years dead. As poets and men the two were pretty much at opposite ends of a spectrum of vivacity. Emerson mentions Byron and his works in quite a few journal entries. He admired the talent, particularly the rhetorical skill, and freedom from cant. A few years after writing this entry, he would write of a fire & brimstone preacher, "I thought Lord Byron's vice better than Rev. Mr. M's Virtue." He also recognized limitations, particularly in the narrow choice of subject. In 1841 he gave a series of anecdotes about his favorite aunt, Mary Moody Emerson, including this: "She hated the poor, low, thin, unprofitable, unpoetical Humanitarians as the devastators of the Church & robbers of the soul & never wearies with piling on them new terms of slight & weariness. 'Ah!' she said, 'what a poet would Byron have been, if he had been born & bred a Calvinist!'"

Late in life Emerson produced Parnassus, an anthology of his favorite poems. As a commonplace book, it's a bit like Minorities by T.E. Lawrence (though Lawrence did not publish his). In this anthology Emerson gives all the reasons why Byron deserves to be read (and why I aim to re-read Don Juan every couple of years). He says "Byron is always egotistic, but intersting thereby, through the taste and genius of his confession or his defiance" (Preface, vii) And later:
Byron's rare talent is conspicuously partial. He has not sweetness, nor solid knowledge, nor lofty aim. He had a rare skill for rhythm, unmatached facility of expression, a firm, ductile thread of gold. His rhymes do not suggest any restraint, but the utmost freedom, as the rules of the dance do not fetter the good dancer, but exhibit his natural grace. In his isolation he is starved for a purpose; and finding no material except of romance, -- first, of corsairs, and Oriental robbers and harems, and, lastly, of satire, -- he revenges himself on society for its supposed distrust of him, by cursing it, and throwing himself on the side of its destroyers. His life was wasted; and its only result was this billiant gift of song with which he soothed his chosen exile. I do not know that it can retain for another generation the charm it had for his contemporaries; but the security with which he pours these perfectly modulated verses to any extent, without any sacrifice of sense for the sake of metre, surprises the reader. (Preface, ix)

holding my infant mother

Bess by Linda Pastan

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"For Jews, the Cossacks are always coming"

The Cossacks by Linda Pastan

life's utility

Here are three entries from the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Only the first is definitely for this day.
April 12, 1837

I find it the worst thing in life that I can put it to no better use. One would say that he can have little to do with his time who sits down to so slow labor & of such doubtful return as studying Greek or German; as he must be an unskilful merchant who should invest his money at three per cent. Yet I know not how better to employ a good many hours in the year. If there were not a general as well as a direct advantage herein we might shoot ourselves.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I opened my eyes

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 11, 1834

Went yesterday to Cambridge and spent most of the day at Mount Auburn [Cemetery]; got my luncheon at Fresh Pond, and went back again to the woods. After much wandering and seeing many things, four snakes gliding up and down a hollow for no purpose that I could see — not to eat, not for love, but only gliding; then a whole bed of Hepatica triloba, cousins of the Anemone, all blue and beautiful, but constrained by niggard nature to wear their last year's faded jacket of leaves; then a black-capped titmouse, who came upon a tree, and when I would know his name, sang chick-a-dee-dee; then a far-off tree full of clamorous birds, I know not what, but you might hear them half a mile. I forsook the tombs, and found a sunny hollow where the east wind would not blow, and lay down against the side of a tree to most happy beholdings. At least I opened my eyes and let what would pass through them into the soul. I saw no more my relation, how near and petty, to Cambridge or Boston; I heeded no more what minute or hour our Massachusetts clocks might indicate — I saw only the noble earth on which I was born, with the great Star which warms and enlightens it. I saw the clouds that hang their significant drapery over us. It was Day — that was all Heaven said. The pines glittered with their innumerable green needles in the light, and seemed to challenge me to read their riddle. The drab oak-leaves of the last year turned their little somersets and lay still again. And the wind bustled high overhead in the forest top. This gay and grand architecture, from the vault to the moss and lichen on which I lay, — who shall explain to me the laws of its proportions and adornments?
This moment of enlightenment, a secular revelation, is a Joycean epiphany: an "apprehension of beauty involves the recognition of integrity, wholeness, symmetry, and radiance" (Bernard Richards, from The English Review).

Mount Auburn Cemetery was only a few years old when Emerson went there. The first American cemetary created as a public park, it was then and still is a beautiful place.

{Fresh Pond, Cambridge, MA: source}

Hepatica triloba, source}

{black-capped titmouse, source}

women on shore

"Women on the Shore" by Linda Pastan

{Two Women on the Shore, 1898: source, and Young Girl on Shore, 1896: source}

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

kindness is necessary to perception

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
April 10, 1837

Love is fabled to be blind, but to me it seems that kindness is necessary to perception, that love is not an ophthalmia but an electuary.

Slavery is an institution for converting men into monkeys.
I'll leave you to look up the two medical terms. The institution of slavery, the bias of the US Constituiton in its favor, and the sectional political battles among the Northern, Southern, and Western states turned Emerson from acute observer to impassioned activist beginning in the 1830s and continuing into the years of the Civil War. He saw clearly that slavery destroyed the lives of slave owners as well as those of the slaves.

today's Pastan poem

Emily Dickinson, by Linda Pastan

Monday, April 09, 2007

a world so wonderful

Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 9, 1840

We walked this afternoon to Edmund Hosmer's and Walden Pond. The South wind blew and filled will bland and warm light the dry sunny woods. The last year's leaves flew like birds through the air. As I sat on the bank of the Drop, or God's Pond, and saw the amplitude of the little water, what space, what verge, the little scudding fleets of ripples found to scatter and spread from side to side and take so much time to cross the pond, and saw how the water seemed made for the wind, and the wind for the water, dear playfellows for each other, -- I said to my companion, I declare this world is so beautiful that I can hardly believe it exists. At Walden Pond the waves were larger and the whole lake in pretty uproar. Jones Very said, 'See how each wave rises from the midst with an original force at the same time that it partakes the general movement!'
This is one of Emerson's more poetic entries. No longer a preacher, in April 1840 Emerson earned his living by giving lectures, supplemented by a small inheritance from the estate of his late wife. He helped found The Dial this year and was building his first book of essays. His daughter, Ellen, was just a bit more than a year old.

A few years later he would purchase land on Walden Pond and help his friend, Henry Thoreau, build a cabin on it.

Jones Very was one of the more eccentric of Emerson's clan of eccentric friends.

The journal entry continues with an odd anecdote about Very:
He [Very] said that he went to Cambridge, and found his brother reading Livy. 'I asked him if the Romans were masters of the world? My brother said they had been: I told him they were still. Then I went into the room of a senior who lived opposite, and found him writing a theme. I asked him what was his subject? And he said, Cicero's Vanity. I asked him if the Romans were masters of the world? He replied they had been: I told him they were still. This was in the garret of Mr. Ware's house. Then I went down into Mr. Ware's study, and found him reading Bishop Butler, and I asked him if the Romans were masters of the world? He said they had been: I told him they were still.'
About Romans that are still masters of the world, there's, coincidentally, an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post on the American Imperium as echo of the Roman. 'Rome' Isn't Just Television. It's Us, by Nicholas Meyer (Sunday, April 8, 2007; Page B02). In this piece about the HBO series, Rome, The author reminds us of the Roman connections that were strongly felt by America's Founding Fathers and draws some parallels between the history of the Roman Republic and ours. In this connection, he says, "As, one by one, our civil liberties and republican traditions are erased, as our adventures in foreign lands end in tragedy, we can see in "Rome" a mirror, as it were, held up to ourselves."

{Jones Very. Source. This is a photo on the Jones Very page on American Transcendentalism web site.}

garden smells that make one restless

Meditation by the Stove by Linda Pastan. One of her very best.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Pastan this day

Wind Chill by Linda Pastan. Appropriate for this abnormally cold April weekend. We awoke yesterday to find snow on all our early-spring blossoms.

Emerson at St. Peter's in Rome, April 8, 1833

The Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson have an entry for this day (or possibly yesterday) in 1833. The entry follows directly after the one I quoted yesterday.
April 7-8, 1833

I love St. Peter's Church. It grieves me that after a few days I shall see it no more. It has a spectacular smell from the quantity of incense burned in it. The music that is heard in it is always good & the eye is always charmed. It is an ornament of the earth. It is not grand, it is so rich & pleasing; it should rather be called the sublime of the beautiful.
Emerson's journal entries are generally clear, but, written for his own purposes, they can be enigmatic in places. The phrase "ornament of the earth" is arresting, but not self-explanatory. One wonders, why is this immense structure "not grand"? And what does he mean by "the sublime of the beautiful"? It sounds like an echo of Edmund Burke's On the Sublime and Beautiful. But Burke separated the one from the other and Emerson is here putting them back together. His meaning seems to be that St. Peter's is a counter-example of the beautiful -- a work of beauty on the scale of the sublime.

(It was Burke who said "terror is in all cases whatsoever ... the ruling principle of the sublime." He said beauty could not be grand and overpowering: "Sublime objects are vast in their dimensions, beautiful ones comparatively small: beauty should be smooth and polished; the great, rugged and negligent; ... the great ought to be dark and gloomy: beauty should be light and delicate; the great ought to be solid, and even massive. They are indeed ideas of a very different nature, one being founded on pain, the other on pleasure ...")

You'll recall that John Henry Newman was in Rome that same Easter. I mentioned some parallels and divergences. Though there's no evidence that they encountered one another, they travelled there for much the same reason, arrived and left at about the same time, and did much the same things. Of St. Peter's Newman wrote:
We have this evening seen St. Peter's illuminated [that's Easter Sunday, April 7] . It is a splendid sight, but so difficult and dangerous in execution that it is surprising they make it so much a matter of course. The men who are employed are let down by ropes outside the Dome. We went up the Dome the other day, which presents the most extraordinary sight of the kind I ever saw. Often as I had been in St. Peter's, I could never realise to myself its dimensions. I measured and measured, and though the problem solvebatur ambulando, as old Aldrich says, my imagination was unconvinced. But when you get aloft and look down inside the Dome, then you see what a mountain the building is. No words can do justice to the strange sight which everything below presents when you are only as high as the first gallery above the arches which support the cupola. The Tabernacle of bronze, which itself is 121 feet high, is shrunk and withered up, and seems to barely rise above the pavement. We went into the ball, but did not venture the cross, which is ascended by a ladder outside. We are not Dornfords—pardon us.
{REV. J. H. NEWMAN TO REV. HENRY JENKYNS, Rome: Easter Day, April 7, 1833.

- Solvitur Ambulando - the problem is solved by walking
- Aldrich - Possibly Henry Aldrich, (1648–1710), dean of Christ Church, Oxford}

{The first photo is taken from St. Peter's dome looking down into the cathedral interior. The second from the dome outside. The others may help one understand what Emerson meant by "sublime of the beautiful." Sources: msmaria's flickr photostream,,}

Joost update

Joost Posthuma's web site has photos of the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde race in which he took second place. Joost was hospitalized to repair a leg wound he suffered in that race and consequently missed the Tour of Flanders. He says, "Hallo all. Unfortunately this year no Ronde van Vlaanderen for me. I had to go to the hospital in Amersfoort for ultra-sound examination of my damaged knee. This wound troubled me during the whole three-day Belgian race. Fortunately the ultra-sound showed no breakage but only a pretty massive bruise. I must do now take a week off from racing to recover and will therefore do my daily cycling quietly on the streets of Binnen. If all goes well, I'll soon be driving down to do Paris-Roubais [April 14th]. Groeten, Joost"

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Emerson in Rome, Easter, 1833

From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 7, 1833

This mornng the Pope said Mass at St Peter's. Rich dresses, great throngs, lines of troops, but not much to be said for the service. It is Easter & the curtains are withdrawn from the pictures & statues to my great joy & the Pope wears his triple crown instead of a mitre.

At twelve o clock the benediction was given. A canopy was hung over the great window that is above the principal door of St Peter's & there sat the Pope. The troops were all under arms & in uniform in the piazza below, & all Rome & much of England & Germany & France & America was gathered there also. The great bell of the Church tolled, drums beat, & trumpets sounded over the vast congregation.

Presently, at a signal, there was silence and a book was brought to the Pope, out of which he read a moment & then rose & spread out his hands & blessed the people. All knelt as one man. He repeated his action (for no words could be heard), stretching his arms gracefully to the north & south & east & west -- pronouncing a benediction on the whole world. It was a sublime spectacle. Then sounded drums & trumpets, then rose the people, & every one went his way.
This passage shows Emerson's great skill as a writer. He writes not for us but for himself, yet with a clarity and economy of words that's enviable.

He's in Rome during his first European tour and he's loving the liveliness of the city and the beauty of its works of art. He had no bent for Catholicism, any more than he had for other doctrinaire -isms: New England's native Calvinism and Unitarianism included.

The Pope is Gregory XVI, an autocratic defender of the independence of the Church against incursions by European states and pressures from Europe's democratic revolutionaries of the 1830s.

In Rome at the same time, but ironically, not at this Mass, was John Henry Newman, English author and later a convert to the Catholic faith. About the same age, he was in some ways like Emerson, in others very different. He was traveling in Italy for much the same reason Emerson was: to "recruit myself" in his words. Both were independent and original thinkers who wrote powerfully and were to be venerated for their wisdom. Both believed strongly in what Emerson would call self-reliance. However, the one was inclined to skepticism in matters of faith and the other to mysticism. One was cerebral and the other sensual. The one liked paintings, sculpture, and architecture; while the other loved music. And of course the one was indifferent to and the other quite drawn to the mysteries of Catholic faith. In letters home, Newman wrote at this time: "As to the Roman Catholic system, I have ever detested it so much that I cannot detest it more by seeing it; but to the Catholic system I am more attached than ever. I fear there are very grave and far-spreading scandals among the Italian priesthood, and there is mummery in abundance; yet there is a deep substratum of true Christianity. ... On the whole, I am much offended by the picture galleries, and am amazed how men of any religious profession and clergymen can admire them."

{John Henry Newman. Source}

today's poem

A New Poet, by Linda Pastan

Friday, April 06, 2007


Zephyr, by Linda Pastan

The poem is appropriate: high winds here these past few days of Spring.

a puzzling soul-mate

Jounal of Ralph Waldo Emerson
April 6, 1827 Charleston

25 March weighed 152 lb.
A new event is added to the quiet history of my life. I have connected myself by friendship to a man who with as ardent a love of truth as that which animates me, with a mind surpassing mine in the variety of its research, & sharpened & strengthened to an energy for action, to which I have no pretension by advantages of birth & practical connexion with mankind beyond almost all men in the world - is, yet, that which I had ever supposed a creature only of the imagination - a consistent Atheist, and a disbeliever in the existence, &, of course, in the immortality of the soul. My faith in these points is strong & I trust, as I live, indestructible. Meantime I love & honour this intrepid doubter. His soul is noble, & his virtue as the virtue of a Sadducee must always be, is sublime.
Emerson is 26 when he writes this. He is traveling in the South to improve his health. In his life, he would lose two brothers and his first wife to tuberculosis and he had symptoms of the disease himself. The previous autumn he had also had eye trouble -- difficulty reading almost to blindness -- and, though impecunious, found money to travel to St. Augustine and Charleston over the winter months. On ship between the two cities he met the man he describes in this passage, Achille Murat, a nephew of Napoleon. Murat was, as Emerson indicates, sophisticated, worldly-wise, and free of conventional regligious pieties. Emerson took him to be morally upright as well. As Joel Porte says, Emerson was amazed to find "that a man without belief or adherence to a creed could nevertheless be good and true." Porte, Emerson in His Journals (52).

Although these days we tie romantic love to erotic attachment, it wasn't so in Emerson's day. He had no cause to restrain the strength of his ardor.

The notation of weight is interesting. Emerson was tall and carried himself well. At 152lb. he wasn't wasted by disease nor at all fleshy.

{Portrait of Achille Murat, scanned from an illustration in Porte. Click to enlarge.}

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Get this! Joost Posthuma took second place in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, a three-day, four-event bike race in Belgium. He was 6 seconds behind the leader, Alessandro Ballan, in the overall general classification. And he came in 6th in this afternoon's time trial.

This is a major race in which the world's best professional cyclists compteted. It's an amazing achievement for him. Awesome. Really. I'm thrilled. You can read about it in CyclingPost.

The race report on Joost's web site says that "Posthuma started the day 13 seconds behind Ballan. He managed to bring the difference down to 4 seconds halfway throgh the time trial, but lost 2 of those before reaching the finish line." The site quotes Joost as saying, "I am happy with my podium spot. I went for all or nothing. The last five kilometers were hard because of the wind and because my legs were giving out." He also suffered from a leg wound that he got in a crash on the first day of the race. He'll be checking into a hospital to get it treated tomorrow.

Here's the Dutch of his statement: ""Ik ben content met mijn podiumplek. Ik ging voor alles of niks, ben volle bak vertrokken en wilde kijken waar het schip zou stranden. De laatste vijf kilometer deden pijn door de wind, zeker ook omdat ik al behoorlijk verzuurd was." Part of it has something to do with a fully loaded canal barge, a ship stranded on the beach, and savage looks. Anyone know Dutch?

Photo source:

From CyclingPost --
Time Trial results:

1. Stijn Devolder (Bel-DSC) 13'25"
2. David Millar (GBr-SDV) 0'07"
3. Vladimir Gusev (Rus-DSC) 0'09"
4. Sébastien Rosseler (Bel-QSI) 0'16"
5. Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat-SDV) 0'18"
6. Joost Posthuma (Ned-RAB) 0'19"
7. Olaf Pollack (Ger-WIE) 0'21"
8. Bert Roesems (Bel-PRL) 0'23"
9. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu-DSC) 0'24"
10. Alessandro Ballan (Ita-LAM) 0'26"

Final general classification:

1. Alessandro Ballan (Ita-LAM) 12h48'07"
2. Joost Posthuma (Ned-RAB) 0'06"
3. Bert Roesems (Bel-PRL) 0'11"
4. Sergiy Matveyev (Ukr-PAN) 0'17"
5. Vladimir Gusev (Rus-DSC) 0'38"
6. Sébastien Rosseler (Bel-QSI) 0'45"
7. Kevin Hulsmans (Bel-QSI) 0'49"
8. Markus Eichler (Ger-UNI) 0'54"
9. Daniele Bennati (Ita-LAM) 0'55"
10. Luca Paolini (Ita-LIQ) 1'06"
Joost's web site has lots of photos. These two show members of his family -- mother, father, & sisters -- at a race held in Holland last month, the Tour of the Green Heart (the green heart being the central, tulip-growing part of the country).

poem of the day

Erosion, by Linda Pastan.

the gray hairs of the Puritans

This is the journal entry of Ralph Waldo Emerson for April 4th (or maybe the 5th), 1831. Aged 28, he could still be a romantic iconoclast. But in this entry he shows empathy for the stolid, thoughtful, and stubborn Calvinists who founded New England.
April 4? 1831

Let us not be such coxcombs as to dishonour the gray hairs of the Puritans. I think of them as men whom God honoured with great usefulness. That solid sense, that expansion of the inner man; that greater reverence for history, for law which they had, may compensate for thrift & mechanical improvements & fine houses which they had not. He that thinks so much, he that acts mainly in reference to principles of the greatest class as to give all his face & manners the expression of simple gravity may be excused if he have little playfulness in his conversation or elegance in his {furniture. There are some serious things in life. & seriousness may be forgiven to the redeemers of suffering Liberty, to the defenders of Religion, to the pious men who kept their integrity in an unholy age.
These principled men were closely akin to my Friesian forebears. By contrast, in The Scarlet Letter, Emerson's friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, would show a more cosmopolitan opinion of those narrow-minded Puritan elders who would seek out sin to suppress and ostracize it and who failed to experience the compassionate empathy which comes with wide-ranging human existence, trodding deliberately, as they did, the steep path to heaven.
Hallum Secessionists
{Christian Reformed Church of Hallum. Source. My great-, great-grandfather was a founding member of this secessionist church at roughly the same time Emerson wrote his journal entry on the Puritans.}

Joost again

It's been a while since I wrote about my favorite bike racer, Joost Posthuma. He spent a day in the White Jersey as best young rider in the third stage of last year's Tour de France, but spent most of the season supporting other riders on his team and when given opportunity to shine on his own, didn't have the legs, luck, or savvy to make it to a top-placing position.

Last year I wrote about him as one of a handful of unassuming, reticent, or not-spotlight-hogging professional athletes in whom I was interested.

I write about him now because Tuesday he made a wise move in a stage race called De Panne-Koksijde, coming in 20 seconds behind the break-away winner, fifth in the stage and (since it was the first stage of the race) fifth overall.

Yesterday, alas, he was only 30th in the 2nd stage, a long 227 kilometres from Zottegem to Idesbald. However, because other top-placers in Tuesday's race did even worse, he ended up 4th in the overall competition.

We'll see how how he does in today's time trial, a speciality of his.


Columnists in the Washington Post are beginning to show some of the spunk that I used to associate with that paper. For example:
Fox-in-the-Henhouse Government

By Ruth Marcus
Wednesday, April 4, 2007; Page A13

The Bush administration's House of Straw seems to be blowing apart, buffeted by alternating gusts of scandal and incompetence.

The tornado of disastrous headlines -- a Pentagon that can't take proper care of its wounded, a Justice Department that can't be trusted to follow the law or tell the truth to Congress, a top White House aide who lied to a grand jury-- has been so overpowering that the day-to-day outrages of life in the Bush administration tend get overlooked.
Read on ....

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

a copyright tool for bloggers

Stanford has a copyright renewal database. Offering simple and advanced searches, it shows renewals for books published between 1924 and 1963. The site says:
Determining the copyright status of books has become a pressing issue as libraries and business concerns develop plans to digitize older literatures and make public domain works widely available. In order to appropriately select materials and manage digital files, these organizations need to determine, efficiently and with some certainty, the copyright status of each work in a large collection. There is therefore significant interest in automating copyright analysis as much as possible.

Copyright status of works published in the US between 1923 and 1963 is of particular concern, as it is dependent on whether the original copyright was renewed. Changes in copyright law have removed this question for works published after 1963. The Copyright Office has never made available in machine-readable form the renewals it received between 1950 and 1977, which would generally cover renewals for books published between 1923 and 1950. This has made it difficult for libraries and archives to determine which books are in the public domain.

Several organizations have taken steps to make the Copyright Office's records more accessible. Most noteworthy is Project Gutenberg, which scanned and transcribed the printed renewal records. You can view their work here. This database builds on their work, making the text searchable by field in a single file. We are also grateful for the early efforts of Michael Lesk in the creation of this database.

We welcome and encourage comments on the database. Please send comments to Mimi Calter at
So, suppose I'm interested to know whether copyright protection still extends to a book published in 1946 by Julia Pettee, I'd put her name in the search box and this is what I'd find:
Title: Subject headings: the history and theory of the alphabetical subject approach to books
Registration Date: 16May46
Renewal Date: 13Jun73
Registration Number: A3388
Renewal Id: R553561
Renewing Entity: Mary Ellen Pettee (C)
Old Class Code: C

Emerson's days go by

I haven't done an entry from the journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson in quite a while. Here is what he wrote on April 4, 1831:
The days go by, griefs, & simpers, & sloth, & disappointments. The dead do not return, & sometimes we are negligent of their image. Not of you Ellen -- I know too well who is gone from me. And here come on the formal duties which are to be formally discharged, and in our sluggish minds no sentiment rises to quicken them.
Emerson is 28. His beloved Ellen had died in February. Still studying for a diviity degree, he has doubts about his calling to follow his father in serving the Unitarian Church.