Archive for January, 2015
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Form:This poem is written as a dramatic monologue: the entire poem is spoken by a single character, whose identity is revealed by his own words. The lines are in blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter, which serves to impart a fluid and natural quality to Ulysses’s speech. Many of the lines are enjambed, which means that a thought does not end with the line-break; the sentences often end in the middle, rather than the end, of the lines. The use of enjambment is appropriate in a poem about pushing forward “beyond the utmost bound of human thought.” Finally, the poem is divided into four paragraph-like sections, each of which comprises a distinct thematic unit of the poem. (1833-42)
The poem’s final line, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield,” came to serve as a motto for the poet’s Victorian contemporaries: the poem’s hero longs to flee the tedium of daily life “among these barren crags” (line 2) and to enter a mythical dimension “beyond the sunset, and the baths of all the western stars” (lines 60–61); as such, he was a model of individual self-assertion and the Romantic rebellion against bourgeois conformity. Thus for Tennyson’s immediate audience, the figure of Ulysses held not only mythological meaning, but stood as an important contemporary cultural icon as well.
“Ulysses,” like many of Tennyson’s other poems, deals with the desire to reach beyond the limits of one’s field of vision and the mundane details of everyday life. Ulysses is the antithesis of the mariners in “The Lotos-Eaters,” who proclaim “we will no longer roam” and desire only to relax amidst the Lotos fields. (ack:sparknotes)
Trivia:The last line was found in the note left by Captain Scott in his ill-fated expedition.
Also read my Pen Portraits-Alfred Tennyson
Photo: Tennyson/lisa abramson-writers-Pinterest)
Posted in 19th Century literature, French literature, stories, tagged Alphonse Daudet, Benny Thomas, Charlie Hebdo, cultural Huns, Jihadisme, La Derniere Classe, short story, the Last Lesson on January 29, 2015| Leave a Comment »
That morning, Franz was taking his way very slowly to school. He had a great dread of being scolded, particularly as the school-master had said that the lesson for the day would be on participles about which Franz did not know a word. Suddenly an idea came to him. He would go through the fields.
It was so warm, so clear. He heard the blackbirds whistling on the borders of the wood, and in the meadow, behind the saw-mill, the Prussians were drilling. Then, as he passed on by the residence of the mayor, Franz saw them putting a notice on the gate. There, for two years, had been given out all the bad news; lost battles for Alsace, calls to arms, the orders of the command. The blacksmith and his apprentice were putting up the notice, and Franz called,
“What has happened, that they are posting a bulletin again?” But the blacksmith spoke gruffly,
“Why do you loiter, little one? It is not safe. Run along quickly to school.”
So Franz made haste at last, although he was sure that the blacksmith was not in earnest, and he arrived all breathless, at his class.
School seemed, somehow, very different to Franz that morning. There was ordinarily a good deal of noise as the children came in from the street, desks were opened, and lessons were repeated out loud and all in unison, and the school-master pounded with his ruler on his table.
Now, however, there was silence.
Although Franz was late, the school-master looked at him without the least anger, and spoke softly as he said, “Go quickly to your place, my little Franz. We have already begun without you.”
Franz seated himself at his desk. Only then, his fear gone, he noticed that the master had on his best green frock coat, his finely plaited shirt and the black silk cap that he never wore except on a day when there were prizes given out in school. All the children were extraordinarily quiet. But what surprised Franz the most was to see at the back of the room, seated on the benches which were ordinarily empty, the people of the village. There was an old soldier with his tri-colored flag, the old mayor of the town, the postman, and many others. Everyone seemed sad. And the old soldier had a spelling book, ragged on the edges, that he held open on his knees, as he followed the pages through his great spectacles.
As little Franz watched all this, astonished, the school-master rose from his chair, and in the same grave, soft voice in which he had spoken to the boy, he said,
“My children, this is the last time that I shall teach your class. The order has come from Berlin that no language but German shall be taught in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. Your new master arrives to-morrow. To-day, you will have your last lesson in French. I pray that you will be very attentive.”
Franz’s last lesson in French! And he could not write it without mistakes! He remembered all the time that he had wasted, the lessons he had missed in hunting for birds’ nests, or skating on the river. He thought of his books that would remind him always now, of his laziness–his grammar, his history, a present from his friend, the school-master, from whom he must part now with so much pain. In the midst of these thoughts, Franz heard his name called. It was his turn to recite.
He would have given a great deal to be able to recite the famous order of the participles, without a mistake, to give them clearly, and without a fault. But he confused them at the first word, and remained standing beside his desk, his heart trembling, not daring to raise his head. He heard the school-master speaking to him,
“I am not going to rebuke you, little Franz. You are already punished. Every day you have said to yourself, ‘Bah, I have plenty of time; to-morrow I will study.'”
“Ah, that has been the great fault in our Alsace, that of always putting off learning until another day. In the meantime, all the world has been quite right in saying of us, ‘How is it that you pretend to be French, and yet are not able to read and write your own language!’ Of all who are here, my poor little Franz, you are not the only one at fault. We all must reproach ourselves.”
Then the school-master told them of his longing to still teach the children the French language. He said that it would always be the most beautiful language of the world. He said that he wanted it treasured in Alsace and never forgotten, because, when a people fall into slavery it is almost like holding the key to their prison if they can speak to each other in the same tongue. Afterward he took a grammar and went over the lesson with the children. All that he read seemed suddenly quite easy to Franz; he had never attended so well, and never before had he understood how patient the school-master was in his explanations.
When the lesson was finished, writing was begun. For this last day, the master had prepared fresh copies.
_France, Alsace. France, Alsace_.
The copies were like little flags, floating all over the schoolroom from the tops of the desks. Nothing broke the great silence but the scratching of the pens upon the paper. Suddenly some May bugs flew in through the window, but no one noticed them. On the roof of the school some pigeons began to coo, and Franz thought to himself, “Will it be commanded that the birds, too, speak to us in a foreign language?”
From time to time, as Franz lifted his eyes from his paper, he saw the school-master sitting quietly in his chair, and looking all about him, as if he wanted to remember always every child and every bit of furniture in his little schoolroom. Only think, for forty years, he had been there in his place, with the playground facing him, and his class always as full! Only the benches and the desks which had once been polished were worn from usage now; the walnut trees in the yard had grown very large, and the hop vine that he, himself, had planted twined now above the window and as far as the roof. It was breaking the heart of the school-master to leave all these things.
But he had the courage to carry on the class to the very end. After the writing lesson, he began the lesson in history. Afterward, the little ones sang their A. B. C.’s all together and at the end of the room the old soldier took off his spectacles and, holding his spelling book in his two hands, he read off the letters with them.
Suddenly the clock in the tower of the village church sounded the hour of noon. Instantly, the trumpet call of the Prussians, returning from their drilling, burst through the windows. The school-master rose, quite pale, in his place. Never had he seemed so great to the children.
“My friends,” he said, “my little friends, I–”
But he could say no more; he was not able to speak the words. He turned to the blackboard and, taking a piece of chalk, he wrote upon it,
“_Vive la France!_”
Afterward, he remained there, his head resting against the wall, and, without speaking, he made a sign with his hand.
“It is finished. You are dismissed.”
Alphonse Daudet’s short story: The Last Class
There is also a YouTube version put up by Mr. Robert Steiner.
In the backdrop of the recent outrage in the Charlie Hebdo office,Paris on Jan 8. 2015 by cultural bankrupts this story should be read as closely as a wake-up call. Any dent on the French Spirit sooner or later shall affect the rest of Europe. So Resist!
The other day I came across a news item: Stephen Hawking is working on a new Theory of Everything. Fine. Einstein before him was wrestling with a similar one even when brought to the nursing home during his final illness. Think of Einstein working on a branch of Science and Stephen Hawking on another branch of a giant tree. The tree is one and our brain has capacity to store information but how much?
According to late Carl Sagan human brain has neurons 10¹¹ with circuits and controlling switches for electro-chemical activities; and every neuron has tiny filaments called dendrites connecting with one another. If we assign each of these connection to a bit of information it can hold only 1 % of the number of atoms that a salt crystal can carry! It is not really mind boggling if we understand the nature of humans to create an order from information the brain gathers.
If we go from a mere speck of salt to the universe we would need a brain as big as the universe itself! Our commonsense experience and evolutionary history has prepared us to understand our workaday world. But if we were to seek exoplanets and other universes these are not reliable guides. When we hit the speed of light our mass increases prodigiously while our thickness decreases to zero in the direction of the motion. Time will cease to mean anything. Without a tangible reference- the context of time and space, would the brain unravel the pulses of information to know anything?
In my view Theory of Everything is a misnomer. It should be qualified as thus: The theory what human reason only can digest.
Take a sample of a tree with an auger. It shall carry everything essential of the whole tree, but also climate changes, time etc.,
What you get of an object is not its material content but its context as well. This context is rooted in our intuition and commonsense experience and beyond. Reason in our workaday world can analyze the object but it is restricted by our own finite nature.
The Theory must go beyond it and also farther than reason. As finite beings we abridge Truth into workable truth that has limited use. So reason alone cannot get hands on Ultimate nature of our universe.