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Archive for the ‘19th Century literature’ Category

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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)

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494bde34ec1fe455c26f213a0753c78d photo of Daudet/lisa abramson/writers-pinterest)

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.”

[The end]
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!

benny

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‘Play it loud, play it loud

You damn well know how loud-

Blast those would rather squeak,

We are the band from hell,

‘Blast the bugles left and right

Sound fifes!’ we did as told !

‘We are the band from hell!’

2.

‘Sound bugles Sound them louder.’

But we lost the game sir!

Fanfare of our trumpets

Was no match for lungs in throes

By a mushroom cloud

Expanding and shredding-

Hell’s Bells! Sound the last Post!

3.

Hell to the right and left-

Death retching bucket full

No hands to empty them;

Sick yellow dust full blown

Carries their stench all about-

Hell has come into its own:

Music is fled, so is silence.

benny

 

Original Version:

Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,


All in the valley of Death


Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!
”Charge for the guns!” he said:


Into the valley of Death

Rode the six hundred….

 

 

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Balzac in Art

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Pen Portraits- RL Stevenson
(1850-1894)
Beset for much of his life by ill health, it would have been excusable if Robert Louis Stevenson had retreated into imagination and lived his days in story and poem. He chose another route, travelling the Cévennes accompanied by a donkey, living in an abandoned mine in California with a divorcee 10 years older than him, and settling eventually with her in Samoa, where the locals christened him “Tusitala”, the teller of tales.

Stevenson had been born into smothering conformity. The rationalism and propriety of Edinburgh’s New Town were not to his liking, and he did not want to enter the family business of lighthouse engineer. Having qualified as a lawyer, he found his true self in writing, and proved a master of diverse forms such as poetry for children (A Child’s Garden of Verses), adventure stories for all ages (Treasure Island, Kidnapped) and chilling psychological horror (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). He trusted to reveries, saying “brownies” (spirits) had brought Jekyll and Hyde to him in a dream – albeit a dream affected by the experimental medication he was on at the time.

His most famous book owes a debt to a real-life Edinburgh character, William Brodie, who was gentleman by day and miscreant by night. The young Stevenson knew that a wardrobe in his bedroom had been crafted by Brodie. Bed-bound by childhood ailments, he had also peered down into the gardens below, imagining seas and islands and mysteries to be unravelled.(ack: RLS- My Hero/Ian Rankin-The Guardian of June,8.2012)
When one reads the nonfiction work of Robert Louis Stevenson along with the novels and short stories, a more complete portrait emerges of the author than that of the romantic vagabond one usually associates with his best-known fiction. The Stevenson of the nonfiction prose is a writer involved in the issues of his craft, his milieu, and his soul. Moreover, one can see the record of his maturation in critical essays, political tracts, biographies, and letters to family and friends. What Stevenson lacks, especially for the tastes of this age, is specificity and expertise: he has not the depth of such writers as John Ruskin, Walter Pater, or William Morris. But he was a shrewd observer of humankind, and his essays reveal his lively and perspicacious mind. Though he lacked originality, he created a rapport with the reader, who senses his enthusiastic embrace of life and art. If Stevenson at first wrote like one who only skimmed the surface of experience, by the end of his life he was passionately committed to his adopted land of Samoa, to his own history, and to the creation of his fiction.(www.people.brandeis.edu)
He died on Dec.3,1894

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Bless’d be the One who with grace infinite

Steel’d a heart to hear and do what is right;

Whence did then come this thirst to pass the hour

Or look upon death’s icy cold hands with fright?

(freely translated from Edward FitzGerald-The Rubaiyat)

benny

 

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