Tag Archives: english literature

The Wild Swans

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The Wild Swans (1962)

Once upon a time, in a kingdom of the shore

A wicked witch queen out of envious spite

turned her eleven stepsons into swans, wherefore

Elisa the dolorous sister drifted away in a plight

Till she chanced upon the fairy queen in her chariot

Who saw the golden heart of the princess that moved

The fairy caprice and told her with thorny nettles to knit

Shirts for the swans to break the spells with her lips sealed;

Such was Elisa’s vow, and the vow took her to her encounter

With a gallant beauteous king of the strange land faraway

Falling for her silent beauty, keeping her in his chamber of amour;

But the zealous archbishop and his ilk viciously sent her away

To a stake for witchery, for her silence was otherworldly;

As the ambers of fire were bursting around her fast and faster

The swans with crowns appeared in the dusky sky from the yonder

And Elisa threw the shirts at the swans, and lo! the men stood there;

Then the fiery fires blossomed into pretty white flowers around Elisa

Lying on the bed of the flowers, which the king plucked and placed

Upon his lover’s bosoms with drops from his welkin eyes, whereupon

Her spirit returned from a departure to the ether exalted, elated

By the end of the old and the beginning of a new life in the kingdom

Where there’s no other world beyond the lovers’ union heart-to-heart. 

 

P.S: One of my favorite fairytales of all time is “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Andersen because of the travails that the princess Elisa endured for the love of her brothers and her fathomless patience akin to that of martyrs of the early Church in spite of unthinkable pains of horrendous tortures and gruesome ways of execution for their unswerving faith. What’s more, I love the fact that the king was not only infatuated with her external beauty but also her internal virtue distinguished from all other beautiful women who would vie for his kingly attention. Their love was no less glorious than that of Romeo and Juliet, for the king loved her for the dangers she had passed, and she loved him that he loved all about her, still and ever. Hence this is my contribution to #FairytaleTuesday whose theme for today is a fairytale with an element of lovers in love on Twitter. 

universal man: ‘Ben Jonson: A Life’, by Ian Donaldson – review

Ben Jonson: A LifeBen Jonson: A Life by Ian Donaldson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always been drawn into a writer whose noble ambition and unswerving individuality are distinct from those of the officialized popularity of famed celebrities simply because of the sheer provocativeness of the author translated into the textual world of reality, which is a reflection of his conceptions by the barrier he establishes proudly and profoundly against those of others. In fact, it is this unapologetic individuality that enables the author to become what he is capable of in protean varieties; an alchemist of words, a high priest of the temple of Apollo, a mortal equivalent of Hercules, a neo-classist of a new renaissance, an independent scholar of the great leaning, and a humanist committed to the Classical principles to contribute to the new capital of the Arts. The hero of the splendid epithets is no less the poet and playwright than Ben Jonson himself, and it is in this superbly told biography Ben Jonson: A Life that his modern disciple Ian Donaldson resurrects the person of Jonson in flesh and spirit vividly.

Ian Donaldson’s Ben Jonson begins with the burial ground of Jonson and then comes alive as Donaldson presents the protagonist Jonson through a phantasmagorical display of the epochal chapters of Jonson’s life as though to be screened for posterity in Immortal Theater of Art. Donaldson’s capacity of screenwriter and director of Ben Jonson’s dramatic life is deprived of blind idolization of Jonson as a suffering lone wolf-typed writer whose brightness was unfairly adumbrated by that of his contemporary peer William Shakespeare, nor is it intent upon accounting the greatness of Jonson over Shakespeare by elucidating the dichotomic feud between the two equally but differently brilliant literary stars in the constellation of Arts. Also, the book rejects the conventional mode of biography in the frame of “cradle to grave” by guiding the reader through specific epochal moments that profoundly influenced Jonson both personally and professionally during one of the most politically and religiously turbulent periods in the history of Great Britain.

Rich in details of the political and social backgrounds of Jonson’s plays and poems in addition to his personal elements that make him stand out among the contemporary literary figures, Donaldson follows the Thucydidean way of examining the history of Jonson in attempt to transcend the subjectivity of the time and popular opinions on the subject and to balance scholarly objective equilibrium to test the validity of truth about the subject matter to the extent possible by holding his express personal opinion thereon. The result is myriad imaginations and images of Jonson as the reader likes to create, whether it be that of dauntlessly confident Achilles, wisely ambitious Agamemnon, divinely valorous Odysseus, or compassionately passionate Hercules.

Upon reading this book, I saw the images of Rodrigo Mendoza played by Robert De Niro from the excellent film “The Mission” and Ben Jonson as himself springing from my mind’s garden as both of their faces a piece like a great Ancient Greek statue. Both of them are passionately devoted to their causes, unfailingly humane, and admirably courageous in fulfilling their destiny to achieve their noble ambitions for the good of humanity – one for the building of terrestrial heaven governed by deeds according to the Gospel in the case of Fr. Mendoza and the other in the person of Jonson for the reconstruction of British Renaissance based upon classical principles as a stratagem of moral and artistic reform. And behind this fascinating literary witchcraft lays Donaldson’s superb biography of Ben Jonson that successfully resurrects the noble and heroic spirit of his literary Hero whose work is enshrined in the Temple of Divine Arts as a scintillating star of the Humanities. And I am sure that Jonson is so happy with Donaldson’s account of his life that he introduces his biographer to the Immortals (including his chum Shakespeare) and that they are having a divine feast with heavenly wine in a constellation of literary stars evermore.

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‘The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë’, by Syrie James- review

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte BrontëThe Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who would have thought that the woman with a calm and dainty exterior wrapped in an air of impeccable propriety was inwardly a passionate Dido, a willing Ariadne, and a beguiling Cleopatra?  Such a popularly conceived false shadow – by default of nature against her will – might have conveniently belied Truth and Nature of her substances to the eyes of the public, but her labors of love in the form of literary works bear the witness to the person of the Author. She is no less a person than Charlotte Bronte herself who created one of the most unforgettably iconic romantic characters of Jane Eyre, and who tells to readers of the millennium the stories of her own life in this beautiful and truthful The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is neither nonfiction nor fiction eulogizing the greatness of the literary Titaness in the English literature. In fact, it is this mysterious ambit of the genre that gives to the book the status fused with the whimsicality of cross-over nonfiction in the likeness of fiction that reads like an enchanting novel. Drawn on the original diaries, miscellany, and poems written by Charlotte Bronte in frequent collaboration with her equally gifted sisters Emily and Anne, James does a superb job of weaving a tale of her admired literary muse as an admiring votary into one fascinating tribute narrated by Bronte herself as though to render her poetic justice on the truth and beauty of her person which had been largely unrecognized, if not ignored, in the discourse of the tale. In fact, reading this book, you will find yourself reading a posthumously published work of Charlotte Bronte with the style of writing, the tone of the narrative, and the sequence of the story, all of which superbly resurrect the atmospheric ambiance of the 19th Century English province. In this magical craft of writing, you will see Charlotte in the humble personage write in an expense of will and emotions, pages after pages filling them with heartfelt words, producing beautiful melodies of her heart and the soul.

The beauty of this book collapses three centuries, five oceans and seven continents between Charlotte’s lifetime and our reading it, making us intimately acquainted with one of the most celebrated writers in the world. James is excellent in portraying Charlotte Bronte based on the extensive research on the original manuscripts and visitation to the places where she had trodden and lived as authentically as possible, with her immense admiration for the author delicately nuanced in the narrative, thus rendering the story the power of reality and authenticity of truth in the likeness of contemporary memoirs. That said, I am certain that Charlotte Bronte would have given the book the imprimatur willingly and wholeheartedly had she read it for review. And I also believe that her spirit would also love this book and bring it to the world beyond in all and mirth and merriment.

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poesie – i dream myself alive

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Awake I know I dream not

As the sense still alive

Tells what is seen is not

A fancy but a reality alive

Of the wonder of the mind

Working wonders of creation

Of a fiction of the mind

In a mind’s reservoir. 

 

Awake I think when I dream

As the pulses of sense weaken

And the images seen past seem

All but phantasmal panorama seen

In a mind’s theater of illusion – 

Fantastic beasts, wailing ghosts

Enveloped in the cloud of dreams

Lurking in the stupor of the sense. 

 

Awake, awake, awake I become

When the sense divorces fancies

As the mind calls dreams hokum

And claims a seat of imaginations

Till it clears the clouds of ignorance

Darkening the light of the mind wondrous

Of creating the reality of its sovereign own

With no assistance of chants and spells. 

 

P.S.: Thomas Hobble (1588-1679), an English scientist and philosopher, excoriates in his essay “You and Your Dreams” the knavery of sham magicians and magical folk claiming to deal with supernatural beings to induce naive people to believe in superstitions and the power of magic for the promotion of their trades. Hobble enlightens readers that superstitions arise out of the ignorance of distinguishing imaginations, a second-hand reality, from dreams, a detritus of agitated part of the mind. The gist of his argument is that ghosts and haunted places ensue from an intractable combination of the images of the seen and the second-hand images that become distorted imaginations made look real.  In sum, Hobble’s theory of dream interpretation corresponds to the postmortem dream theories of Carl Jung. Hence this poem is my understanding of Hobble’s essay on the aforesaid subject. 

a league of their own

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Reading a section featuring a small, pleasant Q&A type of interview with a writer in The New York Times Book Review on restful weekends gives me a kind of voyeuristic fillip to be privy to the life of the writer; moreover, the usual question of whom to invite for dinner is the gist of such small pleasure. I’ve found it quite stimulating to think about my own list of people to have dinner with. Therefore, I have herein drawn up my own list of invitees to confabulate with. Here’s my list of guests:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The paragon of the First Lady of the United States with Intelligence that ministered to her moral character, she put her philosophy into action by actively participating in social services. Besides, Mrs. Roosevelt possessed a polished but common sense of humor and wits communicative to people of all social strata with her timeless adage: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
  • Joan of Arc: The Virgin of Lorraine, The Patron Saint of France… Such are the epithets of this patriotic French maiden who was burned alive on the counts of witchery and treason, which was of course conspiracy concocted by the French ecclesiastical dignitaries collaborating with the English against whom Joan of Arc fiercely and courageously fought to victory. She was neither a religious fanatic, nor a hallucinated mooncalf, nor a certifiable schizophrenic. She might be a simple peasant woman but a courageous, headstrong, and smart woman of faith who did not even protect her face during battles with the English amid the attacks of sharp arrows, axes, and lances. No wonder did Mark Twain praise the Virgin Knight forthwith: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” Besides, her simplicity of faith excelled the pomposity of ecclesiastical knowledge by saying thus: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing, and we should not complicate the matter.” I can learn many things from Joan as a True Model Woman who embodied Intelligence, Femininity, Courage, and Faith.
  • Marilyn Monroe: Born as Norma Jean Baker, she was not a blonde bimbo whose physical attractiveness belied her ceaseless pursuit of knowledge concomitant with her pursuit of the meaning of life she desperately wanted to ascertain. Monroe enrolled in evening college courses in New York City when she had no schedules during the daytime. Behind her pretty persona of a movie star, there was a profound shadow of existentialist. Also, Monroe’s down-to-earth personality and kind nature would make her a lovely company striking up a convivial conversation at the table full of strangers.
  • Jane Birkin: Her bohemian look – that effortlessly sensual but charmingly delightful facade with simple French Chic style is always timeless and boundless, appealing to Womankind imbuing with a sense of emulation of the style. In fact, such qualities of Birkin had one time convinced me that she was French. She seems to wear sexuality like she’s wearing her favorite set of perfumes, which is never vulgar nor degrading. Once a shy English girl is now a sensuous cosmopolitan woman demonstrating admixture of art and individuality in the most fashionable way. She will be a delightful addition to my lunchtime table.

In view of the above, my guests of honors are an eclectic company of women, past or present, surprisingly and strictly non-professional authors who make a living by writing only, although I did not intend it to be that way. Or maybe my preconception of professional authors – especially women – as highly volatile artists with inflated egos, dazzling intelligence, divine beauty, and impressive achievements might have played a vital role in excluding unconsciously any of them from my circle of companions. But so did Michelangelo; he was never befriended with his contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci, who in fact lambasted his untidiness as a sculptor in comparison with a baker. Nor did Michelangelo make friends with other famous artists. Instead,  he was a friend of some obscure artisan who helped around various artists by doing sorts of drudgery. It all boils down to the fact that having a good company of kindred spirits can do a favorable service to your soul, making you feel charitable and magnanimous, so much so that you can- to quote the swashbuckling Oscar Wilde- “forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”

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