terça-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2010

I can read Latin, bunch o'fools

Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (The Nun's Priest's Tale, lines 397-400):

For al so siker as In principio,
Mulier est hominis confusio -
Madame, the sentence of this Latyn is,
"Womman is mannes joye and al his blis."


Abuse of Women, Middle English popular Lyric, 14th-15th century:

Of all creatures women be best:
Cuius contrarium verum est.

In every place ye may well see,
That women be trewe as tirtyll on tree,
Not lyberall in langage, but ever in secree,
And gret joye amonge them ys for to be.
Cuius contrarium verum est.

The stedfastnes of women will never be don,
So jentyll, so curtes they be everychon,
Meke as a lambe, still as a stone,
Croked nor crabbed fynd ye none!
Cuius contrarium verum est.

Men be more cumbers a thowsandfold,
And I mervayll how they dare be so bold,
Agaynst women for to hold,
Seyng them so pascyent, softe and cold.
Cuius contrarium verum est.

For tell a women all your cownsayle,
And she can kepe it wonderly well;
She had lever go quyk to hell,
Than to her neyghbowr she wold it tell!
Cuius contrarium verum est.

For by women men be reconsiled,
For by women was never man begiled,
For they be of the condicion of curtes Gryzell
For they be so meke and mylde.
Cuius contrarium verum est.

Now say well by women or elles be still,
For they never displesed man by ther will;
To be angry or wroth they can no skill,
For I dare say they thynk non yll.
Cuius contrarium verum est.

Trow ye that women list to smater,
Or agaynst ther husbondes for to clater?
Nay, they had lever fast bred and water
Then for to dele is suche a mater.
Cuius contrarium verum est.

Thowgh all the paciens in the world were drownd,
And non were lefte here on the grownd,
Agayn in a woman it myght be fownd,
Suche vertu in them dothe abownd!
Cuius contrarium verum est.

To the tavern they will not goo,
Nor to the ale-hows never the moo,
For, God wot, ther hartes wold be woo,
To spende ther husbondes money soo.
Cuius contrarium verum est.

Yff here were a woman or a mayd,
That lyst for to go fresshely arayed,
Or with fyne kyrchers to go displayed,
Ye wold say, 'they be prowde!' It is yll said.
Cuius contrarium verum est.

quarta-feira, 20 de outubro de 2010

Syngynge or floytynge al the day

With hym ther was his sone, a yong squier,
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie,
And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
He was as fressh as is the month of May.
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
He koude songes make and wel endite,
Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale.
He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
And carf biforn his fader at the table.

(The General Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, lines 79-100. I too am very fond of syngynge, floytynge and it is also not wrong to say I sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale. We would do really well, this youthful squire and myself.)

(And here's a modern translation.)

sexta-feira, 8 de outubro de 2010

So old a pain

I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled—
Some thousands—on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,—
Death is but one and comes but once,
And only nails the eyes.

There ’s grief of want, and grief of cold,—
A sort they call “despair”;
There ’s banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross,
Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

(Emily Dickinson)

quinta-feira, 7 de outubro de 2010

When youth and blood are warmer

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

(Robert Herrick)

quarta-feira, 29 de setembro de 2010

In a calm and cheerful mood

Some men are so accustomed to being alone with themselves that they do not compare themselves with others at all but spin out their life of monologue in a calm and cheerful mood, conversing and indeed laughing with themselves alone. If they are nonetheless constrained to compare themselves with others they are inclined to a brooding underestimation of themselves: so that they have to be compelled to acquire again a good and just opinion of themselves from others: and even from this acquired opinion they will tend continually to detract and trade away something. — We must therefore allow certain men their solitude and not be so stupid, as we so often are, as to pity them for it.

(F. Nietzsche, Human, all too human)

domingo, 26 de setembro de 2010

John Henry Newman

Excerpts from "The Idea of a University" (Preface & Introduction):

"The view taken of a University in these Discourses is the following:—That it is a place of teaching universal knowledge. This implies that its object is, on the one hand, intellectual, not moral; and, on the other, that it is the diffusion and extension of knowledge rather than the advancement. If its object were scientific and philosophical discovery, I do not see why a University should have students; if religious training, I do not see how it can be the seat of literature and science."


"Suffice it, then, to say here, that I hold very strongly that the first step in intellectual training is to impress upon a boy's mind the idea of science, method, order, principle, and system; of rule and exception, of richness and harmony. This is commonly and excellently done by making him begin with Grammar; nor can too great accuracy, or minuteness and subtlety of teaching be used towards him, as his faculties expand, with this simple purpose."


"A second science is the Mathematics: this should follow Grammar, still with the same object, viz., to give him a conception of development and arrangement from and around a common centre. Hence it is that Chronology and Geography are so necessary for him, when he reads History, which is otherwise little better than a storybook. Hence, too, Metrical Composition, when he reads Poetry; in order to stimulate his powers into action in every practicable way, and to prevent a merely passive reception of images and ideas which in that case are likely to pass out of the mind as soon as they have entered it. Let him once gain this habit of method, of starting from fixed points, of making his ground good as he goes, of distinguishing what he knows from what he does not know, and I conceive he will be gradually initiated into the largest and truest philosophical {xx} views, and will feel nothing but impatience and disgust at the random theories and imposing sophistries and dashing paradoxes, which carry away half-formed and superficial intellects."


"As the great man's guest must produce his good stories or songs at the evening banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling facts at mid-day, so the journalist lies under the stern obligation of extemporizing his lucid views, leading ideas, and nutshell truths for the breakfast table."


"Men who fancy they see what is not are more energetic, and make their way better, than those who see nothing; and so the undoubting infidel, the fanatic, the heresiarch, are able to do much, while the mere hereditary Christian, who has never realized the truths which he holds, is unable to do any thing. But, if consistency of view can add so much strength even to error, what may it not be expected to furnish to the dignity, the energy, and the influence of Truth!"


"We see that to attempt more is to effect less; that we must accept so much, or gain nothing; and so perforce we reconcile ourselves to what we would have far otherwise, if we could. Thus a system of what is called secular Education, in which Theology and the Sciences are taught separately, may, in a particular place or time, be the least of evils; it may be of long standing; it may be dangerous to meddle with; it may be professedly a temporary arrangement; it may be under a process of improvement; its disadvantages may be neutralized by the persons by whom, or the provisions under which, it is administered."

segunda-feira, 20 de setembro de 2010

domingo, 29 de agosto de 2010

Book curses

A curse against thieves, written in various middle english books:

Thys boke is one
And Godes kors ys anoder;
They take the ton,
God gefe them the toder.

[This book is one (thing),
And God's curse is another;
They that take the one,
God gives them the other.]

Another one, found in a breviary held in a library in Cambridge:

Wher so ever y be come over all
I belonge to the Chapell of gunvylle hall;
He shal be cursed by the grate sentens
That felonsly faryth and berith me thens.
And whether he bere me in pooke or sekke,
For me he shall be hanged by the nekke,
(I am so well beknown of dyverse men)
But I be restored theder agen

[Wherever I might end up over all,
I belong to the Chapel of Gonville Hall;
He that feloniously ferries me and bears me from thence
Shall be cursed by this great sentence:
Whether he bears me in a pouch or sack,
On account of me he shall be hanged by the neck,
(I'm too well known by many men [to not be noticed])
Unless I be returned there again.]

And as it is surely not my wish to be also cursed ; ), here's the source.

segunda-feira, 2 de agosto de 2010

A thanksgiving

When pre-pubescent I felt
that moorlands and woodlands were sacred:
people seemed rather profane.

Thus, when I started to verse,
I presently sat at the feet of
Hardy and Thomas and Frost.

Falling in love altered that,
now Someone, at least, was important:
Yeats was a help, so was Graves.

Then, without warning, the whole
Economy suddenly crumbled:
there, to instruct me, was Brecht.

Finally, hair-raising things
that Hitler and Stalin were doing
forced me to think about God.

Why was I sure they were wrong?
Wild Kierkegaard, Williams and Lewis
guided me back to belief.

Now, as I mellow in years
and home in a bountiful landscape,
Nature allures me again.

Who are the tutors I need?
Well, Horace, adroitest of makers,
beeking in Tivoli, and

Goethe, devoted to stones,
who guessed that—he never could prove it—
Newton led Science astray.

Fondly I ponder You all:
without You I couldn't have managed
even my weakest of lines.

(W.H. Auden)

quinta-feira, 22 de julho de 2010

Litel gold in cofre

A clerk ther was of Oxenford also,
That unto logyk hadde longe ygo.
As leene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
But looked holwe, and therto sobrely.
Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy;
For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
Ne was so worldly for to have office.
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
On bookes and on lernynge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye.
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede,
Noght o word spak he moore than was neede,
And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence;
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.

(The General Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, lines 285-308. A modern translation can be found here.)

sábado, 10 de julho de 2010

There was a time

There was a time when to our view
This dull old world looked fresh and new,
And you loved me and I loved you,
There was a time.

There was a time when young and gay
We frolicked through the livelong day,
And all our whole year was one May,
There was a time.

There was a time we did not dream
That things are other than they seem
And with delusive lustre gleam,
There was a time.

There was a time we had not yet
Learned to fume and cark and fret
And thankless riches hardly get,
There was a time.

There was a time — but it is past;
The child's become a man at last,
And age and death are coming fast,
There was a time.

(James Henry)

sábado, 3 de julho de 2010

Ash fast ash you tesire

Charles G. Leland, To a Friend Studying German

Vill'st dou learn die Deutsche Sprache?
Denn set it on your card,
Dat all the nouns have shenders,
Und de shenders all are hard.
Dere ish also dings called pronoms,
Vitch id's shoost ash vell to know;
Boot ach! de verbs or time-words—
Dey'll work you bitter woe.

Will'st dou learn de Deutsche Sprache?
Denn you allatag moost go
To sinfonies, sonatas,
Or an oratorio.
Vhen you dinks you knows 'pout musik,
More ash any other man,
Be sure de soul of Deutschland
Into your soul ish ran.

Will'st dou learn de Deutsche Sprache?
Dou moost eat apout a peck
A week, of stinging sauerkraut,
Und sefen pfoundts of speck.
Mit Gott knows vot in vinegar,
Und deuce knows vot in rum:
Dis ish de only cerdain vay
To make de accents coom.

Will'st dou learn de Deutsche Sprache?
Brepare dein soul to shtand
Soosh sendences ash ne'er vas heardt
In any oder land.
Till dou canst make parentheses
Intwisted—ohne zahl—
Dann wirst du erst Deutschfertig seyn,
For a languashe ideál.

Will'st dou learn de Deutsche Sprache?
Du must mitout an fear
Trink afery tay an gallon dry,
Of foamin Sherman bier.
Und de more you trinks, pe certain,
More Deutsch you'll surely pe;
For Gambrinus ish de Emperor
Of de whole of Germany.

Will'st dou learn de Deutsche Sprache?
Be sholly, brav, und treu,
For dat veller ish kein Deutscher
Who ish not a sholly poy.
Find out vot means Gemüthlichkeit,
Und do it mitout fail,
In Sang und Klang dein Lebenlang,
A brick—ganz kreuzfidél.

Will'st dou learn de Deutsche Sprache?
If a shendleman dou art,
Denn shtrike right indo Deutschland,
Und get a schveetes heart.
From Schwabenland or Sachsen
Vhere now dis writer pees;
Und de bretty girls all wachsen
Shoost like aepples on de drees.

Boot if dou bee'st a laty,
Denn on de oder hand,
Take a blonde moustachioed lofer
In de vine green Sherman land.
Und if you shoost kit married
(Vood mit vood soon makes a vire),
You'll learn to sprechen Deutsch mein kind,
Ash fast ash you tesire.

sexta-feira, 25 de junho de 2010

Le pont Mirabeau

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l’onde si lasse

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

L’amour s’en va comme cette eau courante
L’amour s’en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l’Espérance est violente

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Passent les jours et passent les semaines
Ni temps passé
Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure
Les jours s’en vont je demeure

(Guillaume Apollinaire)

quinta-feira, 24 de junho de 2010

Beauty's ignorant ear

W.B. Yeats, The Scholars:

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?

quarta-feira, 9 de junho de 2010

Vasilissa ergo gaude

An isorhythmic motet by Guillaume Dufay, dedicated to the marriage of Cleofa Malatesta, daughter of Malatesta di Pandolfo, to Theodore II Palaiologos, son of the Byzantine emperor Manuel II and Despot of the Morea, in 1421.

Another all-time favorite, performed by ensemble La Reverdie.

Vasilissa, ergo gaude,
Quia es digna omni laude,
Cleophe, clara gestis
A tuis de Malatestis,
In Italia principibus
Magnis et nobilibus,

Ex tuo viro clarior,
Quia cunctis est nobilior:
Romeorum est despotus,
Quem colit mundus totus;
In porphyro est genitus,
A deo missus celitus

Iuvenili etate
polles et formositate
multum fecunda
Et utraque lingua facunda
Ac clarior es virtutibus
Pre alliis hominibus.

(Therefore rejoice, princess,
for you are worthy of all praise,
Cleofe, glorious from the deeds
of your Malatesta kin,
leading men in Italy,
great and noble,

More glorious from your husband,
for he is nobler than all;
he is Despot of the Rhomaioi,
he whom all the world reveres;
he was born in the purple,
sent by god from heaven

In youthfull bloom
you abound and in beauty,
very fertile

and eloquent in both tongues,
and you are more glorious for your virtues
above other human beings.)

domingo, 6 de junho de 2010

Meeting and passing

As I went down the hill along the wall
There was a gate I had leaned at for the view
And had just turned from when I first saw you
As you came up the hill. We met. But all
We did that day was mingle great and small
Footprints in summer dust as if we drew
The figure of our being less than two
But more than one as yet. Your parasol

Pointed the decimal off with one deep thrust.
And all the time we talked you seemed to see
Something down there to smile at in the dust.
(Oh, it was without prejudice to me!)
Afterward I went past what you had passed
Before we met and you what I had passed.

(An all-time favorite of mine, by Robert Frost.)

The Good-morrow

I wonder by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved ? were we not wean'd till then ?
But suck'd on country pleasures, childishly ?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den ?
'Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be ;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear ;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone ;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown ;
Let us possess one world ; each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west ?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally ;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.

(John Donne)

sexta-feira, 28 de maio de 2010

Laeta Devote

Corsic Chant from Franciscan manuscripts of the 17th and 18th centuries. First track from this hypnotizing album by Ensemble Organum.

domingo, 16 de maio de 2010

W.H. Auden

Deprived of a mother to love him,
Descartes divorced
Mind from Matter.


Who can picture
Calvin, Pascal or Nietzsche
as a pink chubby boy?


Few can remember
clearly when innocence came
to a sudden end,
the moment at which we ask
for the first time: Am I loved?


Heart, we will forget him!
You and I, to-night!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me,
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging,
I may remember him!

(Emily Dickinson)

sexta-feira, 14 de maio de 2010

In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied

Friedrich Rückert, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen:

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
Sie hat so lange nichts von mir vernommen,
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben!

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgetümmel,
Und ruh' in einem stillen Gebiet!
Ich leb' allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied!

(I am lost to the world
with which I used to waste so much time,
It has heard nothing from me for so long
that it may very well believe that I am dead!

It is of no consequence to me
Whether it thinks me dead;
I cannot deny it,
for I really am dead to the world.

I am dead to the world's tumult,
And I rest in a quiet realm!
I live alone in my heaven,
In my love and in my song.)

Viel Perlen klar

Friedrich Rückert, Liebst du um Schönheit:

Liebst du um Schönheit,
O nicht mich liebe!
Liebe die Sonne,
Sie trägt ein gold'nes Haar!

Liebst du um Jugend,
O nicht mich liebe!
Liebe den Frühling,
Der jung ist jedes Jahr!

Liebst du um Schätze,
O nicht mich liebe.
Liebe die Meerfrau,
Die hat viel Perlen klar.

Liebst du um Liebe,
O ja, mich liebe!
Liebe mich immer,
Dich lieb' ich immerdar.

(If you love for beauty,
Oh, do not love me!
Love the sun,
She has golden hair!

If you love for youth,
Oh, do not love me!
Love the spring;
It is young every year!

If you love for treasure,
Oh, do not love me!
Love the mermaid;
She has many clear pearls!

If you love for love,
Oh yes, do love me!
Love me ever,)
I'll love you evermore!)

quarta-feira, 12 de maio de 2010

Ao longe o mar

Porto calmo de abrigo
De um futuro maior
Inda não está perdido
No presente temor

Não faz muito sentido
Já não esperar o melhor
Vem da névoa saindo
A promessa anterior

Quando avistei
Ao longe o mar,
Ali fiquei
Parada a olhar.

Sim, eu canto a vontade
Canto o teu despertar,
E abraçando a saudade
Canto o tempo a passar

Quando avistei
Ao longe o mar,
Ali fiquei
Parada a olhar.

Quando avistei
Ao longe o mar,
Sem querer deixei-me
Ali ficar...

Joseph Brodsky


Dai-me outra vida e estarei no Caffè Rafaella
a cantar. Ou estarei sentado a uma mesa,
simplesmente. Ou de pé, como um móvel no corredor,
caso essa vida seja menos generosa que a anterior.

Contudo, em parte porque nenhum século daqui em diante
conseguirá passar sem jazz nem cafeína, aguentarei esse desplante,
e pelas minhas rachas e poros, verniz e todo de pó coberto,
observarei, daqui a vinte anos, como a tua flor se terá aberto.

De um modo geral, lembra-te de que estou por ali. Ou melhor, que
um objecto inanimado pode ser o teu pai, sobretudo se
os objectos forem mais velhos do que tu, ou maiores. Não
os percas de vista, pois, sem dúvida, te julgarão.

Seja como for, ama essas coisas, haja ou não encontro.
Além disso, pode ser que ainda te lembres duma silhueta, dum contorno,
ao passo que eu até isso perderei, juntamente com a restante bagagem.
Daí estes versos, algo toscos, na nossa comum linguagem.

quinta-feira, 6 de maio de 2010

e.e. cummings

if you like my poems let them
walk in the evening,a little behind you

then people will say
"Along this road i saw a princess pass
on her way to meet her lover(it was
toward nightfall)with tall and ignorant servants.

quinta-feira, 29 de abril de 2010

Had your life been good

Time has taught you
how much inspiration
your vices brought you,
what imagination
can owe temptation
yielded to,
that many a fine
expressive line
would not have existed,
had you resisted:
as a poet, you
know this is true,
and though in Kirk
you sometimes pray
to feel contrite,
it doesn’t work.
Felix Culpa, you say:
perhaps you’re right.

You hope, yes,
your books will excuse you,
save you from hell;
without looking sad,
without in any way
seeming to blame
(He doesn’t need to,
knowing well
what a lover of art
like yourself pays heed to),
God may reduce you
on Judgment Day
to tears of shame,
reciting by heart
the poems you would
have written, had
your life been good.

(W. H. Auden)

The more loving one

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

W.H. Auden. Thanks to Eduardo Wolf! ; )

segunda-feira, 8 de março de 2010

Made nature different

The last night that she lived,
It was a common night,
Except the dying; this to us
Made nature different.

We noticed smallest things,—
Things overlooked before,
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized, as ’t were.

That others could exist
While she must finish quite,
A jealousy for her arose
So nearly infinite.

We waited while she passed;
It was a narrow time,
Too jostled were our souls to speak,
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot;
Then lightly as a reed
Bent to the water, shivered scarce,
Consented, and was dead.

And we, we placed the hair,
And drew the head erect;
And then an awful leisure was,
Our faith to regulate.

(Emily Dickinson)

segunda-feira, 1 de março de 2010


I vex my heart with fancies dim:
He still outstript me in the race;
It was but unity of place
That made me dream I rank’d with him.

And so may Place retain us still,
And he the much-beloved again,
A lord of large experience, train
To riper growth the mind and will:

And what delights can equal those
That stir the spirit’s inner deeps,
When one that loves but knows not, reaps
A truth from one that loves and knows?

(Lord Alfred Tennyson)

quarta-feira, 10 de fevereiro de 2010

Being better acquainted with the man

Now if there are any who think that I am vainglorious, that I set myself up above others and crow over their low estate, let me tell them that I could tell a pitiful story respecting myself as well as them, if my spirits held out to do it; I could encourage them with a sufficient list of failures, and could flow as humbly as the very gutters themselves; I could enumerate a list of as rank offenses as ever reached the nostrils of heaven; that I think worse of myself than they can possibly think of me, being better acquainted with the man. I put the best face on the matter. I will tell them this secret, if they will not tell it to anybody else.

(Henry David Thoreau's journal, today in 1852)

terça-feira, 9 de fevereiro de 2010

With all your brother Anons

W.H. Auden, Ode to the Medieval Poets:

Chaucer, Langland, Douglas, Dunbar, with all your
brother Anons, how on earth did you ever manage,
without anaesthetics or plumbing,
in daily peril from witches, warlocks,

lepers, The Holy Office, foreign mercenaries
burning as they came, to write so cheerfully,
with no grimaces of self-pathos?
Long-winded you could be but not vulgar,

bawdy but not grubby, your raucous flytings
sheer high-spirited fun, whereas our makers,
beset by every creature comfort,
immune, they believe, to all superstitions,

even at their best are so often morose or
kinky, petrified by their gorgon egos.
We all ask, but I doubt if anyone
can really say why all age-groups should find our

Age quite so repulsive. Without its heartless
engines, though, you could not tenant my book-shelves,
on hand to delect my ear and chuckle
my sad flesh: I would gladly just now be

turning out verses to applaud a thundery
jovial June when the judas-tree is in blossom,
but am forbidden by the knowledge
that you would have wrought them so much better.

terça-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2010

When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick

Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack'd with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.

(Lord Alfred Tennyson)

Ecos na Catedral

Madredeus & Flemish Radio Orchestra.

Os teus olhos são vitrais
Que mudam de cor com o céu
E quando sorriem iguais
E quando sorriem iguais,
Quem muda de cor sou eu.

Tomara teus olhos vissem
O amor que trago por ti
Nem o entardecer me acalma,
Nem o entardecer me acalma,
Na ânsia de te ter aqui.

E o teu perfume, o incenso,
Os ecos de uma oração
Misturam-se num esboço imenso,
Afogam-se na solidão.

Fui para um templo de pedra,
Escolhi um recanto isolado
Que me faça esquecer tua voz,
Esquecer-me da tua voz,
Que me faça acordar do passado.

Escondida em sítio sagrado,
E não me apetece o perdão
Devo estar enfeitiçada
Devo estar enfeitiçada,
Náufrago do coração.

E o teu perfume, o incenso.
Os ecos de uma oração
Misturam-se num esboço imenso.
Afogam-se na solidão.

Não sei se perdoo o meu fado,
Não sei se consigo enfim
Um dia esquecer que teus olhos
Sorriem, mas não para mim.

Os teus olhos são vitrais
Que mudam de cor com o céu...

quarta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2010

Pear's soap

I should like to like Schumann’s music better than I do; I dare say I could make myself like it better if I tried; but I do not like having to try to make myself like things; I like things that make me like them at once and no trying at all.


To know whether you are enjoying a piece of music or not you must see whether you find yourself looking at the advertisements of Pear’s soap at the end of the programme.

(Samuel Butler)

Now that was a sweet play

A lady, whom I meet frequently in the British Museum reading-room and elsewhere, said to me the other day:

“Why don’t you write another Erewhon?”

“Why, my dear lady,” I replied, “Life and Habit was another Erewhon.”

They say these things to me continually to plague me and make out that I could do one good book but never any more. She is the sort of person who if she had known Shakespeare would have said to him, when he wrote Henry the IVth:

“Ah, Mr. Shakespeare, why don’t you write us another Titus Andronicus? Now that was a sweet play, that was.”

And when he had done Antony and Cleopatra she would have told him that her favourite plays were the three parts of King Henry VI.

(Another excerpt from The Notebooks of Samuel Butler. I find his notes very interesting, though I haven't read any of his books yet.)

The youth of an art

The youth of an art is, like the youth of anything else, its most interesting period. When it has come to the knowledge of good and evil it is stronger, but we care less about it.

(From The Notebooks of Samuel Butler.)

Amateurs and professionals

There is no excuse for amateur work being bad. Amateurs often excuse their shortcomings on the ground that they are not professionals, the professional could plead with greater justice that he is not an amateur. The professional has not, he might well say, the leisure and freedom from money anxieties which will let him devote himself to his art in singleness of heart, telling of things as he sees them without fear of what man shall say unto him; he must think not of what appears to him right and loveable but of what his patrons will think and of what the critics will tell his patrons to say they think; he has got to square everyone all round and will assuredly fail to make his way unless he does this; if, then, he betrays his trust he does so under temptation. Whereas the amateur who works with no higher aim than that of immediate recognition betrays it from the vanity and wantonness of his spirit. The one is naughty because he is needy, the other from natural depravity. Besides, the amateur can keep his work to himself, whereas the professional man must exhibit or starve.

The question is what is the amateur an amateur of? What is he really in love with? Is he in love with other people, thinking he sees something which he would like to show them, which he feels sure they would enjoy if they could only see it as he does, which he is therefore trying as best he can to put before the few nice people whom he knows? If this is his position he can do no wrong, the spirit in which he works will ensure that his defects will be only as bad spelling or bad grammar in some pretty saying of a child. If, on the other hand, he is playing for social success and to get a reputation for being clever, then no matter how dexterous his work may be, it is but another mode of the speaking with the tongues of men and angels without charity; it is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

(from The notebooks of Samuel Butler.)

sábado, 16 de janeiro de 2010


The noon’s greygolden meshes make
All night a veil,
The shorelamps in the sleeping lake
Laburnum tendrils trail.

The sly reeds whisper to the night
A name—her name—
And all my soul is a delight,
A swoon of shame.

(James Joyce)

terça-feira, 12 de janeiro de 2010

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the Sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

(W. H. Auden)

segunda-feira, 11 de janeiro de 2010

Neither cry nor laugh

Henry David Thoreau's journal, January 2, 1859:

Essentially your truest poetic sentence is as free and lawless as a lamb’s bleat. The grammarian is often one who can neither cry nor laugh, yet thinks that he can express human emotions. So the posture-masters tell you how you shall walk,—turning your toes out, perhaps, excessively,—but so the beautiful walkers are not made.

sábado, 9 de janeiro de 2010

Sonnet XVII

My poet, thou canst touch on all the notes
God set between His After and Before,
And strike up and strike off the general roar
Of the rushing worlds a melody that floats
In a serene air purely. Antidotes
Of medicated music, answering for
Mankind's forlornest uses, thou canst pour
From thence into their ears. God's will devotes
Thine to such ends, and mine to wait on thine.
How, Dearest, wilt thou have me for most use?
A hope, to sing by gladly? or a fine
Sad memory, with thy songs to interfuse?
A shade, in which to sing--of palm or pine?
A grave, on which to rest from singing? Choose.

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

quinta-feira, 7 de janeiro de 2010

Adam's curse

One of my favorite poems by W.B. Yeats.

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’

And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know —
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’

I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

How to avoid God

C.S. Lewis, in Christian Reflections:

Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you'd be safer to stick to the papers. You'll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.

Your own brand of magic

John Updike, Perfection Wasted.

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market ——
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.

Learning the trees

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees. That's done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves—
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform—
And their venation—palmate and parallel—
And tips—acute, truncate, auriculate.

Sufficiently provided, you may now
Go forth to the forests and the shady streets
To see how the chaos of experience
Answers to catalogue and category.

Confusedly. The leaves of a single tree
May differ among themselves more than they do
From other species, so you have to find,
All blandly says the book, "an average leaf."

Example, the catalpa in the book
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three
Around the stem; the one in front of you
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost;

Maybe it's not catalpa? Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids,
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world

Not always at the joints, competing with
Experience while cooperating with
Experience, and keeping an obstinate
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

And think also how funny knowledge is:
You may succeed in learning many trees
And calling off their names as you go by,
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

(Howard Nemerov)

A brief, dreamy, kind delight

William Butler Yeats, Never give all the heart.

Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.

quarta-feira, 6 de janeiro de 2010

Full fathom five

Henry Purcell, The Tempest. The text is a poem which appears on act I, scene II of William Shakespeare's play. It's sung by Ariel, an airy spirt, to lead Ferdinand - who had just suffered a shipwreck in which his father drowned - to his master Prospero.

FULL fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them,—
Ding-dong, bell.

terça-feira, 5 de janeiro de 2010

Au bleu du parc endormi

Gabriel Fauré - Pleurs d'or. Victoria de los Angeles, soprano; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Gerald Moore, piano.

The wrong of unshapely things

All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

W.B. Yeats, The lover tells of the rose in his heart. One of my favorite poems in the whole world.

The strange music

Other loves may sink and settle, other loves may loose and slack,
But I wander like a minstrel with a harp upon my back,
Though the harp be on my bosom, though I finger and I fret,
Still, my hope is all before me; for I cannot play it yet.

In your strings is hid a music that no hand hath e'er let fall,
In your soul is sealed a pleasure that you have not known at all;
Pleasure subtle as your spirit, strange and slender as your frame,
Fiercer than the pain that folds you, softer than your sorrow's name.

Not as mine, my soul's annointed, not as mine the rude and light
Easy mirth of many faces, swaggering pride of song and fight;
Something stranger, something sweeter, something waiting you afar,
Secret as your stricken senses, magic as your sorrows are.

But on this, God's harp supernal, stretched but to be stricken once,
Hoary time is a beginner, Life a bungler, Death a dunce.
But I will not fear to match them - no by God, I will not fear,
I will learn you, I will play you and the stars stand still to hear.

G.K. Chesterton. Thanks to Julio Lemos!