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Archive for January, 2019

As you leave the Port of Vecchio, heading inland in a northwesterly direction, the ground rises fairly steeply and, after a three-hour journey along winding paths obstructed by great masses of rock, and sometimes broken by ravines, you come to the edge of a very extensive maquis. This is the home of the Corsican shepherds, and of those who have fallen foul of the law. I should explain that, in order to save themselves the trouble of manuring their fields, Corsican farmers set fire to an area of woodland. Too bad if the flames spread further than intended; come what may, one can be sure of a good crop if one sows seeds on this land that has been fertilized by the ash from the trees that grew on it. When the ears of grain have been harvested (they leave the straw, which would be troublesome to gather), the tree-roots that have remained in the soil, untouched by the flames, sprout thick clumps of shoots the following spring, which within a few years grow to a height of seven or eight feet. This kind of dense brushwood is known as maquis. It is made up of various species of tree and shrub, tangled and intertwined at Nature’s whim. A man would need an axe to force a way through, and sometimes the maquis can be so dense and overgrown that even the wild sheep cannot penetrate it.
If you have killed a man, go to the maquis above Porto-Vecchio, and you will be able to live in safety there, with a good rifle, gunpowder and bullets. Don’t forget to take a brown cloak with a hood, which does duty for blanket and mattress. The shepherds will give you milk, cheese and chestnuts; and you will have nothing to fear from the law or from the dead man’s relatives, except when you have to go down to the town to replenish your ammunition. When I was in Corsica in 18-, Mateo Falcone had his home half a league from the maquis. He was a man of some means for that district, who lived nobly-that is, without working-from the produce of his flocks that were driven to pasture on the mountains round and about by shepherds who lived like nomads. When I saw him, two years after the event I am about to relate, he looked 50 years old at most. Picture to yourself a small but robust man with tightly curled, jet-black hair, an aquiline nose, thin lips, large bright eyes, and a complexion tanned like cappuccino with cream. His skill with a rifle was said to be extraordinary, even for Corsica, where there are so many good shots. For instance, Mateo would never have shot a wild sheep with buckshot, but would kill it at a hundred and twenty paces with a bullet in the head or in the shoulder, as the mood took him. He used his weapons with as much ease by night as by day, and I have been told of one of his feats of skill which may perhaps seem incredible to anyone who has never travelled in Corsica. At eighty paces, a lighted candle would be placed behind a transparent sheet of paper the size of a plate. He would take aim, then the candle would be extinguished, and one minute later, in total darkness, he would fire, piercing the paper three times out of four.
With such an extra-ordinary talent, Mateo Falcone had earned himself a great reputation. He was said to be both a dangerous enemy and a staunch friend; moreover, he was always ready to do his moral duty, gave alms to the poor, and lived on good terms with everyone in the district of Porto-Vecchio. But rumor had it that in Corte, where he had taken a wife, he had disposed most effectively of a rival, who was said to be as formidable in war as in love: at any rate, Mateo was given credit for a rifle-shot which caught the rival off his guard as he was standing shaving at a small mirror hanging in his window. When the affair had blown over, Mateo married. His wife Giuseppa first bore him three daughters (to his fury), then finally a son, whom he named Fortunato. This boy was the hope of the family, the heir to his father’s name. The daughters had married well: their father could count on the daggers and rifles of his sons-in-law if the need arose. The son was only 10 years old, but already showed great promise.
One autumn day Mateo set out early with his wife to go and inspect one of his flocks in a clearing within the maquis. Little Fortunato wanted to go with him, but the clearing was too far away; and besides, someone had to stay behind to look after the house; so his father refused his request to accompany them. As we shall see, he had cause to regret his decision. He had been away for several hours, and little Fortunato was lying quietly in the sun, gazing at the blue mountains and thinking about the following Sunday, when he would be going to have lunch in town with his uncle the caporal when his meditations were suddenly interrupted by the sound of a gunshot. He got up and looked towards the plain, whence the sound had come. Other gunshots followed at irregular intervals, coming closer all the time. Finally, on the path leading from the plain to Mateo’s house, there appeared a man in a pointed cap of the sort worn by the mountain folk, bearded, in rags, and dragging himself along with great difficulty, leaning on his gun. He had just been shot in the thigh.
This man was an outlaw who had gone by night to buy gunpowder in the town and had been ambushed on the way by Corsican voltigeurs. After putting up a tremendous defence he had managed to get away, hotly pursued and taking shots at his pursuers from behind rocks. But the soldiers were close behind him, and his wound meant that it would be impossible for him to reach safety of the maquis before they caught up with him.
He came up to Fortunato and said to him:
“Are you Mateo Falcone’s son?”
“Yes.”
“I am Gianetto Sanpiero. The yellow-collars are after me. Hide me, I can’t go any further.”
“But what will my father say if I hide you without his permission?”
“He will say you did the right thing.”
“How can I be sure?”
“Hide me quickly, they’re coming.”
“Wait till my father comes back.”
“Wait? Damn it, they’ll be here in five minutes! Come on, hide me, or I’ll kill you.”
With perfect composure, Fortunato replied, “Your gun isn’t loaded, and there are no cartridges left in your carchera.”
“I’ve still got my stiletto.”
“But can you run as fast as me?” with a bound, he was out of reach.
“You are no son of Mateo Falcone! Would you have me arrested by the yellow-collars on your very doorstep?”
The child seemed agitated. “What will you give me if I hide you?” he asked, drawing closer. The bandit rummaged through his carchera, and took from it a five-franc piece, which he had no doubt set aside for buying gunpowder. Fortunato smiled at the sight of the silver coin. He seized it and said to Gianetto, “Have no fear.”
At once he made a large hole in a pile of hay which stood beside the house. Gianetto hid in it, and the child covered him over so as to allow him to breathe, yet so that no one would suspect that there was a man concealed there. He also thought of a most ingenious strategy, worthy of a true renegade. He went and fetched a cat and her kittens and placed them on the pile of hay, to make it look as if it had not been disturbed recently. Then, noticing drops of blood on the path near the house, he carefully covered them with dust, after which he went and lay down again quite calmly in the sun.
A few minutes later six men in brown uniforms with yellow collars, led by a high-ranking officer, arrived at Mateo’s door. The adjutant was a distant relative of Falcone. (It is a well-known fact that in Corsica degrees of kinship are traced much further back than is the case elsewhere.) His name was Tiodoro Gamba. He was a zealous man, much feared by the bandits, several of whom he had already tracked down.
“Good day, little cousin,” he said to Fortunato, accosting him. “How tall you’ve grown! Did you see a man pass this way just now?”
“Oh, I’m not as tall as you yet, cousin,” the child replied with seeming naivety.
“You soon will be. Tell me now, did you see a man pass by?”
“Did I see a man pass by?”
“Yes, a man wearing a pointed black-velvet hat and a jacket with red and yellow embroidery.”
“A man with a pointed hat and a jacket with red and yellow embroidery?”
“Yes. Answer me quickly. And stop repeating my questions.”
“This morning the priest came past our house on his horse-Piero. He asked me how Papa was, and I told him that …”
“Ah, you’re trying to be clever, you little devil! Tell me quickly which way Gianetto went. He’s the man we’re after, and I’m certain he took this path.”
“Who knows?”
“Who knows? I do! I know you saw him.”
“How can I have seen someone pass by, if I was asleep?”
“You weren’t asleep, you little wippersnapper. The shots woke you.”
“What makes you think your guns are so noisy, cousin? My father’s is much louder.”
“To the devil with you, you confounded little scamp! I’m quite certain you saw Gianetto. You may even have hidden him. Come on, lads! Into the house with you, and see whether our man is inside. He was hobbling along on one leg, and the wretch has got too much sense to try to make it to the maquis in that state. Anyway, the bloodstains end right here.”
“And what will Papa say?” asked Fortunato with a mocking laugh. “What will he say when he hears that someone entered his house while he was out?”
“You little rogue!” said Adjutant Gamba, taking him by the ear. “I can soon make you change your tune, you know! If I give you twenty strokes with the flat of my sabre, perhaps then you’ll talk.”
And Fortunato still laughed contemptuously. “My father is Mateo Falcone!” he said with emphasis.
“Do you realize, you little devil, that I can take you away to Corte or Bastia? I’ll make you sleep in a cell, on straw. I’ll clap you in leg-irons and have you guillotined if you don’t tell me where Gianetto Sanpiero is.”
The child burst out laughing at this ridiculous threat. “My father is Mateo Falcone!” he repeated.
“Sir,” muttered one of the soldiers while touching the officer’s sleeve, “Don’t let’s get on the wrong side of Mateo.”
Gamba was plainly in a quandary. He spoke in a low voice to his soldiers, who had already searched the whole house. This was not a very lengthy operation, for a Corsican’s cottage consists of one single square room. The furnishings consist of a table, benches, chests, hunting equipment, and a few household utensils. Meanwhile, little Fortunato stroked his cat, and seemed to take a malicious delight in the perplexity of the soldiers and his cousin. A soldier went up to the pile of hay. Seeing the cat, he gave the hay a half-hearted prod with his bayonet, shrugging his shoulders as if sensing that his precaution was absurd. Nothing stirred; the child’s face betrayed not the slightest emotion.
The adjutant and his men were at their wits’ end. Already they were looking gravely in the direction of the plain, as if tempted to head back the way they had come, when their chief, realizing that threats would make no impression on Falcone’s son, decided to make one last attempt, and see what effect cajolery and bribes would have.
“Little cousin,” he said. “You seem a wide-awake lad; you’ll go far. But you’re ‘messing’ with me, and if I weren’t afraid of angering my cousin Mateo, I’m hanged if I wouldn’t take you prisoner.”
“You don’t say!”
“But when my cousin gets back, I’ll tell him the whole story, and he’ll give you a thrashing as a reward for having lied.”
“Is that so?”
“You’ll see. Look, be a good kid, and I’ll give you something.”
“And I’ll give you a piece of advice, cousin. If you waste any more time, Gianetto will be in the maquis, and then it’ll take more than one fine fellow like you to fetch him out again.” The adjutant took from his pocket a silver watch that was worth at least ten crowns, and, seeing little Fortunato’s eyes light up at the sight of it, he held the watch suspended from its steel chain and said, “You little rogue. Wouldn’t you like to have a watch like this hanging around your neck? You could stroll around the streets of Porto-Vecchio, proud as a peacock, and people would ask you what time it was, and you’d say, “Look at my watch.”
“When I’m grown up, my uncle the caporal will give me a watch.”
“Yes; but your uncle’s son has got one already-but not as nice as this one-and he’s younger than you.”
The child sighed.
“Well, do you want this watch, little cousin?” he said swinging it gently in his direction. Fortunato eyed the watch like a cat that has had a whole chicken placed before it. Sensing it is being teased, it dare not lay a paw on it, and from time to time it looks away, so as not to succumb to temptation nor appear too interested. But it licks its chops continually, and seems to be saying to its tormentor, “What a cruel trick to play on me!”
Yet Adjutant Gamba seemed to be sincere in his offer of the watch. Fortunato did not reach out his hand, but, smiling bitterly, said to him, “What are you trying to put over?”
“I swear I’m not. Just tell me where Gianetto is and the watch is yours.”
Fortunato could not suppress a smile of disbelief; fixing his dark eyes on those of the adjutant, he tried to read in them how much faith he could place in his words.
“May I lose my commission,” exclaimed the adjutant, “if I don’t give you the watch as agreed. My men here are witnesses, and I cannot go back on my word as an officer.”
As he spoke he moved the watch closer and closer until it was almost touching Fortunato’s pale cheek. The child’s face clearly showed the struggle between personal greed and the traditional claims of solidarity against the authorities that was raging within him. His bare chest was heaving, and he seemed to be fighting for breath. And still the watch swung, twisted, and occasionally bumped against the tip of his nose. At last his right hand slowly rose towards the watch; his fingertips touched it; and he felt its full weight in his palm, though the adjutant still held the end of the chain. The dial was pale blue, the case newly polished; in the sunshine it seemed ablaze…The temptation was too great.
Fortunato raised his left hand too, and, with his thumb, pointed over his shoulder at the pile of hay behind him. The adjutant understood-he let go of the chain; Fortunato found himself sole possessor of the watch. He rose with the agility of a fawn and moved ten paces away from the pile of hay, which the soldiers at once began to demolish.
Very soon the hay began to move and a man emerged from it, drenched in blood and with a dagger in his hand. But as he tried to rise to his feet, his wound which had stopped bleeding, prevented him from standing up-he fell. Throwing himself on him, Gamba ripped the stiletto from his grip. Instantly he was tightly bound, despite his struggles.
Gianetto, lying on the ground trussed like a bundle of firewood, turned his head towards Fortunato, who had stepped forward again. “You son of a… ,” he said with more contempt than anger. The child flipped back the silver coin he had accepted from the prisoner, feeling that he no longer deserved it; but the outlaw seemed not to even notice the gesture. With great composure he said to the adjutant, “My dear Gamba, I can’t walk; you’re going to have to carry me into town.”
“You were running faster than a fleeing buck a moment ago,” retorted the victor pitilessly. “But set your mind at rest; I’m so pleased to have caught you that I could carry you on my back for three miles without tiring. In any case, my friend, we’ll make you a stretcher out of some branches and your overcoat, and we can get horses at Crespoli’s farm.”
“That’s good,” said the prisoner, “and just put a bit of straw on the litter, so I’ll be more comfortable.”
While the soldiers were busy improvising a litter with chestnut branches and dressing Gianetto’s wound, Mateo Falcone and his wife suddenly rounded the bend leading from the maquis. The woman was plodding laboriously forward, bent beneath the weight of an enormous sack of chestnuts, while her husband ambled along with only a rifle in his hand, and another slung over his shoulder-it is unbecoming for a man to carry any burden but his weapons.
Mateo’s first thought on seeing the soldiers was that they had come to arrest him. But why should such an idea cross his mind? Had Mateo perhaps tangled with the law? No; he enjoyed a good reputation. He was, as they say, a man of high standing. But he was a Corsican and a man of the mountains, and there are few Corsicans from the mountains who, if they delve in their memories, cannot find some offense-a gunshot, a knifing, or some such trifling matter. Mateo had a clearer conscience than most, for it was more than ten years since he had pointed his gun at any man. But nevertheless he was circumspect, and he prepared mentally to defend himself vigorously should the need arise.
“Woman,” he said to Giuseppa, “put down your sack and be ready.” She instantly obeyed. He handed her the gun that was slung over his shoulder, which might get in the way. He loaded the one he was carrying and advanced circumspectly towards the house, keeping close to the trees at the roadside, and ready, at the slightest hint of hostility, to dash behind the largest trunk, where he could fire from under cover. His wife walked at his heels, carrying his spare gun and his cartridge-pouch. In the event of combat it is the task of a good wife to load her husband’s weapon.
The adjutant, for his part, felt extremely ill at ease at the sight of Mateo advancing with measured steps, gun at the ready and finger on the trigger. “If by any chance,” he thought, “Mateo should turn out to be a relative of Gianetto, or if he were a friend of his and meant to protect him, the very wads from his two guns would hit two of us, as sure as a letter reaches its destination. And if he were to take aim at me, notwithstanding our kinship…”
In this dilemma, he took the courageous course of advancing alone to meet Mateo and tell him of the affair, hailing him like a long-lost friend. But the short distance that separated him from Mateo seemed interminable.
“Hey there, old comrade!” he called. “How are things, my old friend? It’s me, your cousin Gamba.”
Mateo had halted with no word of reply, and as the other spoke he slowly raised the barrel of his gun until, at the moment when the adjutant reached him, it was pointing towards the sky. “Buon giorno, fratllo” (“Good day, brother,” the traditional greeting between Corsicans), said the adjutant, offering him his hand. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”
“Buon giorno, fratello,” answered Mateo much to the officer’s relief.
“As I was passing, I came to say hello to you and cousin Pepa. We’ve had a long haul today, but, although we’re exhausted, there’s no call to feel sorry for us, for we’ve made a splendid catch. We’ve just collared Gianetto Sanpiero.”
“God be praised!” exclaimed Giuseppa. “He stole a milk goat from us only last week.”
These words delighted Gamba.
“Poor devil,” said Mateo. “He was hungry.”
“The rogue defended himself like a lion,” continued the adjutant, somewhat disconcerted that Mateo felt for him. “He killed one of my men and, not content with that, he broke Corporal Chardon’s arm. Not that that matters-Chardon’s only a Frenchman. And then he went and hid so well that the devil himself wouldn’t have discovered him. If it hadn’t been for my little cousin Fortunato here I’d never have been able to find him.”
“Fortunato?” exclaimed Mateo.
“Fortunato?” repeated Giuseppa.
“Yes. Gianetto had hidden under that pile of hay over there. But my little cousin showed me what the game was. I’ll tell his uncle the caporal, so he can send him a fine present for his trouble. And both your names will appear in the report I shall be sending to the Public Prosecutor.”
“Damnation!” muttered Mateo softly.
They had rejoined the squad of soldiers. Gianetto had already been placed on the litter, ready for departure. When he saw Mateo in the company of Gamba, he smiled scornfully. Then, turning towards the door of the house, he spat on the threshold and said, “House of a traitor!”
Only a man resigned to death would have dared call Falcone a traitor. One quick dagger-thrust would instantly have repaid him for the insult once and for all. Yet Mateo merely raised his hand to his brow like a man in despair.
Fortunato had gone inside the house on seeing his father arrive. He soon reappeared with a bowl of milk, which he offered to the prisoner with downcast eyes.
“Keep away from me!” roared the outlaw, in a voice of thunder. Then, turning to one of the voltigeurs, he said to him, “Give me a drink, comrade.”
The soldier handed him his water-bottle, and the bandit drank the water offered to him by a man with whom he had just exchanged rifle shots. Then he asked to have his hands tied across his chest instead of behind his back. “I like to lie comfortably,” he explained.
They hastened to comply with his request. Then the adjutant gave the signal to depart, bade farewell to Mateo, who did not reply, and set off back towards the plains at a brisk march. Almost ten minutes passed before Mateo spoke a word. The child glanced uneasily first at his mother, then at his father, who was leaning on his gun, contemplating him with an expression of concentrated fury.
“A fine beginning!” said Mateo at last, in a voice that was too calm-one terrifying to anyone who knew the man.
“Father!” cried the child, advancing with tears in his eyes as if to throw himself at his feet. But Mateo shouted, “Out of my sight!” And the child stopped and stood sobbing a few paces from his father.
Giuseppa stepped forward. She had just noticed the watch-chain, one end of which was dangling from Fortunato’s shirt.
“Who gave you that watch?” she asked severely.
“My cousin the adjutant.”
Falcone seized the watch and hurled it against a rock, smashing it into a thousand pieces.
“Woman,” he said, “is this child mine?”
Giuseppa’s brown cheeks turned brick-red, “What are you saying, Mateo? -do you realize who you are talking to?”
“This child is the first of his line to have committed a betrayal.”
Fortunato’s sobs and hiccoughs intensified-Falcone continued to stare at him like a wildcat. Finally he struck the ground with the butt of his gun, then shouldered it and set off again on the path leading to the maquis, calling on Fortunato to follow him. The child obeyed. Giuseppa ran after Mateo and seized him by the arm.
“He is your son,” she said in a trembling voice, fixing her dark eyes on those of her husband as if trying to read his thoughts.
“Leave me alone,” replied Mateo, “I am his father.”
Giuseppa kissed her son and retreated, weeping, into the cottage. She fell to her knees before an image of the Virgin and prayed fervently. Meanwhile, Falcone walked a couple of hundred paces along the path and did not stop until he reached a small ravine, into which he descended. He sounded the earth with the butt of his gun and found it soft. Easy to dig-the place seemed suitable.
“Fortunato, go and stand by that big stone,” he said without emotion.
The child did as he was ordered.
“Kneel down and say your prayers.”
“Father! Don’t kill me, father!”
“Say your prayers!” repeated Mateo in a terrible voice.
Stammering and sobbing, the child recited the Our Father and the Apostles’ Creed. At the end of each prayer his father uttered a loud “Amen!”
“Are those all the prayers you know?”
“Father, I know the Hail Mary too, and the Rosary-aunt taught me.”
“It’s rather long, but no matter.”
The child finished the litany in a whisper.
“Have you finished?”
“Oh, father, mercy! Forgive me! I won’t do it again! I’ll beg my uncle the caporal until Gianetto is reprieved!”
He went on speaking. Mateo had raised his gun and was taking aim, saying to his son, “May God forgive you!” The child made a desperate effort to get up and clasp his father by the knees, but he was too late. Mateo fired, and Fortunato fell like a rock-dead.
Without a glance at the corpse, Mateo set off for the house to fetch a spade with which to bury his son. He had gone only a few paces when he met Giuseppa, who had run up in alarm on hearing the rifle-shot.
“What have you done?” she cried.
“Justice.”
“Where is he?”
“In the ravine; I’m going to bury him. He died like a Christian; I shall have a mass sung for him. Tell my son-in-law, Tiodoro Bianchi, to come and live with us.”
The End
Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870)
How the Redoubt was taken

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SCENE.—A street along the hub of the commercial centre of London, closed off space by the Met police more in the vicinity of the Harrods. Lights pick out the line- Scene of crime-Do Not Enter. A posse of police men are at work and a constable officiously noting their findings while another is on his phone reporting to his superiors. To the right there is a kiosk with posters of Salome and the man on the moon a caricature of the author himself. There are stray stragglers who have nothing in their mind but to gawk. And an old cistern surrounded by a wall of green bronze. Moonlight.

One in shadows between munching a sandwich to a passerby
“You are lucky, the blast nearly shattered the Harrods.

The man stops and says, “You are lucky yourself there.’ And strides off
The man with the sandwich wiping his hand, mutters “Yes luck enough to finish my salami”.
Another one who comes along. The man who had a sandwich recognizes him to say,”Lucky dog! You got back in one piece!Bozo”
They hug with friendly affection, “You ought to be at home and not walk among dead things.”
The first man: I saw the Syrian and (pointing to the cistern) he came from there.
The second,”Lucky you did not try nicking him. Suppose your light fingers pulled the belt instead?”
The first man jerks violently. “My head is all scrambled and I see none but Salomé before me.”
Bozo hurriedly walks off and the man left alone:

THE YOUNG SYRIAN
How beautiful is the Princess Salomé to-night!

(A Pause)

Look at the moon! How strange the moon seems! She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman. You would fancy she was looking for dead things.

A Police man suddenly comes towards him

THE LAW
Hey There! Keep your hand out.
(The policeman suspiciously approaches him and frisks him.

OK Beat it!

THE YOUNG SYRIAN

I know who you are. The page of Herodias.

THE LAW (nervously)
Sleep it off. (exit)

THE YOUNG SYRIAN

She has a strange look. She is like a little princess who wears a yellow veil, and whose feet are of silver. She is like a princess who has little white doves for feet. You would fancy she was dancing….

THE AUTHOR
Is it because of salami sandwich or the suicide bomber is not for me to explain. But London is not what she was once. (Brexit)
Benny

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Author, author what you lack in style
Your cackle and bubble run on as the Nile:
Harry Potter of course keeps the pot boiling
Cackle Joanna, the pot is already rawling.

Benny

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In Imitation of Dante’s Divine Comedy

Much was my confusion simulated
By dream within the life and yet the three
Stood a solemn wake about by the bedstead. 48

‘Why three’, I spoke, ‘and perhaps my soul free
Ranging in his sphere did send you hither
Or unbidden, least on truth shall we agree? 51

Choose what theme, although I may yet gather
from discourse what dreams do speak are fleeting
Its substance being laid neither here nor there’. 54

‘Why three?’, Why not five or one for asking
If you concede soul its circumference
Why settle for form and not unbound nothing? 57

In Conception what form you place summons
shades o’ meaning to which soul is but token,
As windswept clouds can toss pell mell a sense- 60

From shapes the eye will find names well spoken
But the wind casts it spell,- and what you read
Yet will vary, but fall within your ken. 63

The Sibyl spoke truly and she my rede
forestalled with words, ‘Look in your mirror
If we be the three Graces,- you concede 66

So much for the soul, it tells no error-
In the glass what form you would take
Paris must fit and here is our answer: 69

Art must but choose chaos so I would make
Names Raphael Michelangelo but
Two digits o’ selfsame Hand from it rake: 72

And so are we One in three forms strut
Imagination without Hand a lie
And without Art, we,- No more than a slut 75.

(To be continued)

Benny

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Sleep is nature’s cure when body has run
His weary rounds, a bed is just the thing;
Still is the body but his soul moves on; 30

Between being and un-being sleep holds something
A balancing act where a starry heaven
To the measure o’ man, but is this soul thing? 33

Death must with sleep settle in dimension
Altogether new for which leave my soul
To know worth and reckon the best bargain. 36

Soul must arbiter for all who their goal,
Being bonded for life and beyond, serves man
A pole star, to lift man out of his hole. 39

Thus it was with me one night when sleep had
Taken ease, I suspect my soul sent the three
Fates of Attic shape who before me stood, 42

The dream with Sibyls set my confines free
As though I lay beneath the vault of Sistine
And the three had stepped out on a spree! 45

(To be continued)
Benny

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Stroll down the colonnade of life, mosaic
Of days lend youth its Byzantine color;
But my soul would loath it as life prosaic. 12

Thus assail’d by doubts and misspent choler
Of youth as ashes when fire has died out
Of his blood, and leave nothing but pother: 15

By the midst o’ my woeful days I struck out
Past my depths, my route on impulse ringed
My soul might yet redeem entire past rout. 18

A walk simple into the woods where hope winged
Alternate with pitfalls along the ground
must give man pause, his purpose unhinged 21

Perhaps my soul would read my tracks and sound
Alarm or set escape route in case of need
Oh no! with my own will I come this round. 24

Long onslaught with Fates and Furies’ full rede
Did unravel much of my confusion,
And yet loath I was let my soul aside. 27

Benny

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Somewhere on the loom of life what I wove
I found design with each shuttle vary
Till its overall sign with my soul strove; 3

Ah me! how hard a thing it is for me
Admit my own hand my own pattern should
Prove a lie and cast it back,-Oh fie 6

Such a life of bitter toil weave its shroud,
Plodding hands with eye for long set in peace
But nothing what my soul’s design had show’d. 9

benny

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FINE carriage with rubber tyres, a fat coachman, and velvet on the seats, rolled up to the house of a landowner called Gryabov. Fyodor Andreitch Otsov, the district Marshal of Nobility, jumped out of the carriage. A drowsy footman met him in the hall.

“Are the family at home?” asked the Marshal.

“No, sir. The mistress and the children are gone out paying visits, while the master and mademoiselle are catching fish. Fishing all the morning, sir.

Otsov stood a little, thought a little, and then went to the river to look for Gryabov. Going down to the river he found him a mile and a half from the house. Looking down from the steep bank and catching sight of Gryabov, Otsov gushed with laughter. . . . Gryabov, a large stout man, with a very big head, was sitting on the sand, angling, with his legs tucked under him like a Turk. His hat was on the back of his head and his cravat had slipped on one side. Beside him stood a tall thin Englishwoman, with prominent eyes like a crab’s, and a big bird-like nose more like a hook than a nose. She was dressed in a white muslin gown through which her scraggy yellow shoulders were very distinctly apparent. On her gold belt hung a little gold watch. She too was angling. The stillness of the grave reigned about them both. Both were motionless, as the river upon which their floats were swimming.

“A desperate passion, but deadly dull!” laughed Otsov. “Good-day, Ivan Kuzmitch.”

“Ah . . . is that you ?” asked Gryabov, not taking his eyes off the water. “Have you come?”

“As you see . . . . And you are still taken up with your crazy nonsense! Not given it up yet?”

“The devil’s in it. . . . I begin in the morning and fish all day. . . . The fishing is not up to much to-day. I’ve caught nothing and this dummy hasn’t either. We sit on and on and not a devil of a fish! I could scream!”

“Well, chuck it up then. Let’s go and have some vodka!”

“Wait a little, maybe we shall catch something. Towards evening the fish bite better . . . . I’ve been sitting here, my boy, ever since the morning! I can’t tell you how fearfully boring it is. It was the devil drove me to take to this fishing! I know that it is rotten idiocy for me to sit here. I sit here like some scoundrel, like a convict, and I stare at the water like a fool. I ought to go to the haymaking, but here I sit catching fish. Yesterday His Holiness held a service at Haponyevo, but I didn’t go. I spent the day here with this . . . with this she-devil.”

“But . . . have you taken leave of your senses?” asked Otsov, glancing in embarrassment at the Englishwoman. “Using such language before a lady and she . . . .”

“Oh, confound her, it doesn’t matter, she doesn’t understand a syllable of Russian, whether you praise her or blame her, it is all the same to her! Just look at her nose! Her nose alone is enough to make one faint. We sit here for whole days together and not a single word! She stands like a stuffed image and rolls the whites of her eyes at the water.”

The Englishwoman gave a yawn, put a new worm on, and dropped the hook into the water.

“I wonder at her not a little,” Gryabov went on, “the great stupid has been living in Russia for ten years and not a word of Russian! . . . Any little aristocrat among us goes to them and learns to babble away in their lingo, while they . . . there’s no making them out. Just look at her nose, do look at her nose!”

“Come, drop it . . . it’s uncomfortable. Why attack a woman?”

“She’s not a woman, but a maiden lady. . . . I bet she’s dreaming of suitors. The ugly doll. And she smells of something decaying . . . . I’ve got a loathing for her, my boy! I can’t look at her with indifference. When she turns her ugly eyes on me it sends a twinge all through me as though I had knocked my elbow on the parapet. She likes fishing too. Watch her: she fishes as though it were a holy rite! She looks upon everything with disdain . . . . She stands there, the wretch, and is conscious that she is a human being, and that therefore she is the monarch of nature. And do you know what her name is? Wilka Charlesovna Fyce! Tfoo! There is no getting it out!”

The Englishwoman, hearing her name, deliberately turned her nose in Gryabov’s direction and scanned him with a disdainful glance; she raised her eyes from Gryabov to Otsov and steeped him in disdain. And all this in silence, with dignity and deliberation.

“Did you see?” said Gryabov chuckling. “As though to say ‘take that.’ Ah, you monster! It’s only for the children’s sake that I keep that triton. If it weren’t for the children, I wouldn’t let her come within ten miles of my estate. . . . She has got a nose like a hawk’s . . . and her figure! That doll makes me think of a long nail, so I could take her, and knock her into the ground, you know. Stay, I believe I have got a bite. . . .”

Gryabov jumped up and raised his rod. The line drew taut. . . . Gryabov tugged again, but could not pull out the hook.

“It has caught,” he said, frowning, “on a stone I expect . . . damnation take it . . . .”

There was a look of distress on Gryabov’s face. Sighing, moving uneasily, and muttering oaths, he began tugging at the line.

“What a pity; I shall have to go into the water.”

“Oh, chuck it!”

“I can’t. . . . There’s always good fishing in the evening. . . . What a nuisance. Lord, forgive us, I shall have to wade into the water, I must! And if only you knew, I have no inclination to undress. I shall have to get rid of the Englishwoman. . . . It’s awkward to undress before her. After all, she is a lady, you know!”

Gryabov flung off his hat, and his cravat.

“Meess . . . er, er . . .” he said, addressing the Englishwoman, “Meess Fyce, je voo pree . . . ? Well, what am I to say to her? How am I to tell you so that you can understand? I say . . . over there! Go away over there! Do you hear?”

Miss Fyce enveloped Gryabov in disdain, and uttered a nasal sound.

“What? Don’t you understand? Go away from here, I tell you! I must undress, you devil’s doll! Go over there! Over there!”

Gryabov pulled the lady by her sleeve, pointed her towards the bushes, and made as though he would sit down, as much as to say: Go behind the bushes and hide yourself there. . . . The Englishwoman, moving her eyebrows vigorously, uttered rapidly a long sentence in English. The gentlemen gushed with laughter.

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard her voice. There’s no denying, it is a voice! She does not understand! Well, what am I to do with her?”

“Chuck it, let’s go and have a drink of vodka!”

“I can’t. Now’s the time to fish, the evening. . . . It’s evening . . . . Come, what would you have me do? It is a nuisance! I shall have to undress before her. . . .”

Gryabov flung off his coat and his waistcoat and sat on the sand to take off his boots.

“I say, Ivan Kuzmitch,” said the marshal, chuckling behind his hand. “It’s really outrageous, an insult.”

“Nobody asks her not to understand! It’s a lesson for these foreigners!”

Gryabov took off his boots and his trousers, flung off his undergarments and remained in the costume of Adam. Otsov held his sides, he turned crimson both from laughter and embarrassment. The Englishwoman twitched her brows and blinked . . . . A haughty, disdainful smile passed over her yellow face.

“I must cool off,” said Gryabov, slapping himself on the ribs. “Tell me if you please, Fyodor Andreitch, why I have a rash on my chest every summer.”

“Oh, do get into the water quickly or cover yourself with something, you beast.”

“And if only she were confused, the nasty thing,” said Gryabov, crossing himself as he waded into the water. “Brrrr . . . the water’s cold. . . . Look how she moves her eyebrows! She doesn’t go away . . . she is far above the crowd! He, he, he . . . . and she doesn’t reckon us as human beings.”

Wading knee deep in the water and drawing his huge figure up to its full height, he gave a wink and said:

“This isn’t England, you see!”

Miss Fyce coolly put on another worm, gave a yawn, and dropped the hook in. Otsov turned away, Gryabov released his hook, ducked into the water and, spluttering, waded out. Two minutes later he was sitting on the sand and angling as before.

The End

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In a quatrain two ideas are set,- each line having 10 syllables and it follows a rhyme sequence. Poetic conventions are like a bowl into which ideas parallel or antithetical are poured. It has internal truth.
For example here we have a well known quatrain of Omar Khayyam:

One Moment in Annihilation’s Waste,
One moment, of the Well of Life to taste-
The stars are setting and the Caravan
Starts for the Dawn of Nothing-Oh, make haste!

Idea of life a journey setting up camp during the harsh day and the idea of breaking it up when coolness of the evening sets in, are all too familiar for the desert dwellers. These two familiar halves are part of human condition but what they recall to mind is the transience of it.

Two ideas complement one another and lead the reader to understand where their juxtaposition is leading to. The quatrain has internal logic or truth. Their familiar circumstances lead us to truth, meaning that the ideas transcend themselves to accept transience of life as true.

Internal truth speaks only for art and literature of man. Now let us discuss this from another literary genre, the world of fairy tales. Remember the gratuitous line almost without exception tacked at the end of a story, ‘and they lived happily ever after’? The heroine in the Frog Prince by kissing the hapless prince under a curse sets him free and they are married. Happily ever after? In reality the prince after decades of married life could prove to be an oaf but then a fairy tale like The Frog Prince is concerned with internal truth and nothing else. Truth of their marriage had Leo Tolstoy treated would be run on similar lines as Anna Karenina.

(This is a companion piece to God of Small sensations)
Benny

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An electron is a small ball of negative charge that is smaller than an atom. Does it have a shape?
Conjure electrons as charges and it surrounds the nucleus of every atom that determine how chemical reactions proceed. Their uses in industry are abundant: from electronics and welding to imaging and advanced particle accelerators they are the main components of atoms making up the world around us.
As far as physicists currently know, electrons have no internal structure — and thus no shape in the classical meaning of this word. In the modern language of particle physics, which tackles the behavior of objects smaller than an atomic nucleus, the fundamental blocks of matter are continuous fluid-like substances known as “quantum fields” that permeate the whole space around us. In this language, an electron is perceived as a quantum, or a particle, of the “electron field.”
Suppose we treat fields as ‘entities’ in terms of space. Firstly we must adapt our definition of shape so it can be used at incredibly small distances, or in other words, in the realm of quantum physics. It gives us a way to define an electron’s properties such that they mimic how we describe shapes in the classical world. For example a photon striking a needle and deflecting it is a new indication of shape. Its shape is comparable to how we perceive in our macroscopic world the rays of light bouncing off different objects around us. It is a sensation of a fleeting flash but as tangible as inspiration when it can fire up another Hafiz or Keats who composed Ode to a Nightingale after hearing the bird. Yes one can dash out a couplet of exquisite beaut or see visions. When it happens it is not merely quantum field but the whole being has had a transcendental experience, which is other worldly to put it baldly. Simply put, we define shapes by seeing how objects react when we shine light onto them and when we are moved with its sensation to find meanings that were never thought up before it is truth. The Ode to the Nightingale has its own truth to which only the poet is the sole arbiter. Its enduring quality derives from it

What replaces the concept of shape in the micro world? Since light is nothing but a combination of oscillating electric and magnetic fields, it would be useful to define quantum properties of an electron that carry information about how it responds to applied electric and magnetic fields. Having said this when we walk on cloud number nine or shuffle our feet as though dragged down by some oppressive mood is how we we respond to space about us.
When I say I can feel presence of God who shall define my space, or its extent or what I can subjectively vouch as true?
Benny

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