Posted in Poetry

The Masques of Ben Jonson

He was Man of Infinite Varieties
In the Craft of Words with Masques:
A High Priest of Poetry of Delphi,
A Prefect of the Ancient Knowledge,
A Thespian of Comedy and Tragedy,
A Hercules whose Might was Pen,
An Odysseus in Search of Truth,
A Pretorian of Classical Precepts
With the elevated Heart of Passion
And the exalted satisfaction of Reason
Whose Brilliance of Star Outlasts
The Celebrity of Instant Comets.

Posted in book review

The Race is to the Swift, and the Battle to the Strong

It is the Mystifying Absurdities of Human Nature that seems to be more of animal instinct for the Survival of the Fittest. It always makes me wonder when I see people with a terrible temper and callous personalities being successful in their careers. Although Shakespeare said a fool thinks himself to be wise, people seem to think that fool to be wise in real life. That was what came to my mind while reading Samuel Johnson’s weekly essay, The Rambler, No.142, subtitled “A Rural Tyrant,” written on Saturday, July 27, 1751. (Come to think of the date, it seems that Johnson spent his weekend writing essays as in a journal, which is an admiring habit to emulate.)

Johnson tells the readers about a swanky mansion he and his wealthy acquaintance named Eugenio, who had invited Johnson to his rural estate, happened to pass a swanky mansion surrounded by the grandeur of wealth and pretentiousness of power. Until Eugenio had told his learned friend that the villa was known for ghostly hauntings, Johnson’s natural curiosity piqued his search for truth; thus, he began inquiring about the whys and wherefores of the ghost inhabitant. The ghost was Squire Bluster, a bilious, despotic employer of his household personnel and ruthless landlord of his villagers. His capricious fission of tempest kept their financial securities at his whimsical mercy. Bluster enjoyed the powers of terror and, in the height of his perverted joy, insulted those imploring for his mercy with malice and enmity. No wonder nobody in the village repaid his vice with contempt and conferred perennial infamy on his epithet after death – at least corporeally. Notwithstanding the shame, Bluster cared nothing of it and still reigned in horror at his earthly abode because to delight in ghostly terror was his new afterlife enjoyment. Johnson lamented that the evil squire had only the gloomy comfort of reflecting that he was likewise feared if he was hated.

In the same vein, the descendants of Squire Bluster are not a rare family but are ubiquitous boundless of territory, race, and gender. For example, employers are hardly magnanimous and altruistic in their expendable employees’ genuine wellness and demand their employees in the usual, professional pretext of constructive criticism packaged in belittling, castigation, and insulting for the sake of strictly business. But I never subscribe to such façade because we are not automats but with sense and judgment common to all human creatures. You can’t tell the other to grin and bear the insults because they are not supposed to mean personal. If you want your subordinates to do their job correctly, you must be worth receiving such quality labor from them by being respectful of your character. But alas, it is my only vain wish, an empty echo from the valley of my heart because the descendants of Squire Bluster are a multitude and will do whatever they think rightful and deserving. Don’t’ forget that respect from fear is a terror of the sense and a trademark of tyranny, exacting unchallenged obedience from people.

Posted in book review, Miscellany

about Emily Bronte

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The 19th century has produced many a scintillating woman writer whose world of imaginations is beautifully interwoven by the gossamer strands of feminine sensibilities and literary sensitivities tinged with a passionate spirit addressing to that of the reader transcendent of times and spaces. Her world is one enchanting realm of the felicity of beauty, the ire of desire, and the tenacity of will in the witchcraft of words. Such a world belongs to no less a writer than Emily Bronte herself, the elder sister of Charlotte Bronte, who was born on the 30th of this month in 1818. This brief essay about Emily Bronte intends to manifest her commendable trait that is deemed inspiring to aspiring writers who feel estranged from the literary cliques that do not see the hidden jewel of their inner worlds.

Educated mainly at home by reading of the books in her father’s library, Emily Bronte was something of an autodidact who was always seen with a book popped open and a notepad on her side while attending her daily chores at home. Her lack of formal schooling due to her weak disposition and introvert nature might have made her a poor speller. Still, her protean imaginations compensated furnished the marvelous world of her ideation carved by alluring latticework for her literary casements to her stories. Her fascinating imaginativeness creates the vivacities of the emotions, real and alive. Emily Bronte is a forerunner of Beat Generation, whose trailblazer Jack Kerouac championed a tenet of a stream of consciousness in writing. Kerouac, whose mother tongue was French, struggling with the English syntax, urged would-be writers to write without grammatical constraints impeding the flow of thought. The editing should come after the birth of an idea, which proceeds the mastery of grammar. In this regard, Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy, who were also imperfect in grammatical aspects of writing, are in the libertine society of Emily Bronte and Jack Kerouac. They prove that imaginations precede imperialism of grammar.

The lionization of Emily Bronte as an austere, astute literary Titaness in our time, obviates her weakness. It gives her a status infused with intellectual solitude of a learned woman writer and egoistic charge of modern-day celebrity writer. It reminds me of the way William Shakespeare, who was also mostly self-educated, is now revered in the grand fortress of the lofty academia as a figure of cultural and intellectual sophistication denoting one’s social status. So many people adulate the greatness of Emily Bronte and her Wuthering Heights in a simulation of her literary style and the romantic notion of solitude while diminishing her human characteristics that they regard dull and prosaic. She attended the household drudgery and took care of her sickly elderly father even in his peculiar habit of firing guns in the air from the top floor window in the parsonage as a warning to the Luddite civil unrest. Besides, she was not an academically brilliant student during her brief school years in childhood.

I believe that Bronte would feel uncomfortable and discombobulated by such a famous rhapsody of blind admiration without understanding her personality and character that may not appeal to the readers and writers who do not see the beauty of doing simple things in daily life. Emily Bronte was neither Sylvia Plath, a woman of a privileged background whose poetry does not touch the hearts of universal readers, nor Emily Dickinson, a voluntary recluse ensconced in the solitude of leisure. Emily Bronte was an extraordinary writer in the semblance of ordinariness. She possessed imaginativeness that eclipses the brilliance of the other fashionable literary women writers of all ages. That is why her literary world is ao appealing to universal readers and writers, professionals, or amateurs.

Posted in Poetry

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. 

Posted in book review

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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