Friday, April 09, 2004

The First Dandelion

Simple and fresh and fair from winter's close emerging,
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of shelter'd grass--innocent, golden, calm
as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face.

-Walt Whitman

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Beautiful spring morning! The garden still looks like piles of rocky soil - only with green whiskers everywhere. I have one tomato seedling and several prospective portulacas. Was comparing notes with my friend Bob in Birmingham (I have nothing on him in this realm) and he mentioned that he's got salad greens started as well some emerging asparagus. Oh, to be in England!

"As far as your poetry project, how about some Kipling? This is one of my favourite poems (incidentally set to music by the late Peter Bellamy) and an excellent potted history of rural England…

The Land

When Julius Fabricius, Sub-Prefect of the Weald,
In the days of Diocletian owned our Lower River-field,
He called to him Hobdenius—a Briton of the Clay,
Saying: “What about that River-piece for layin’ in to hay?”
And the aged Hobden answered: “I remember as a lad
My father told your father that she wanted dreenin’ bad.
An’ the more that you neeglect her the less you’ll get her clean.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to, but, if I was you, I’d dreen.”

So they drained it long and crossways in the lavish Roman style—
Still we find among the river-drift their flakes of ancient tile,
And in drouthy middle August, when the bones of meadows show,
We can trace the lines they followed sixteen hundred years ago.

Then Julius Fabricius died as even Prefects do,
And after certain centuries, Imperial Rome died too.
Then did robbers enter Britain from across the Northern main
And our Lower River-field was won by Ogier the Dane.

Well could Ogier work his war-boat—well could Ogier wield his brand—
Much he knew of foaming waters—not so much of farming land.
So he called to him a Hobden of the old unaltered blood,
Saying: “What about that River-piece, she doesn’t look no good?”

And that aged Hobden answered: “’Tain’t for me to interfere,
But I’ve known that bit o’ meadow now for five and fifty year.
Have it jest as you’ve a mind to, but I’ve proved it time on time,
If you want to change her nature you have got to give her lime!”

Ogier sent his wains to Lewes, twenty hours’ solemn walk,
And drew back great abundance of the cool, grey, healing chalk.
And old Hobden spread it broadcast, never heeding what was in ’t.
Which is why in cleaning ditches, now and then we find a flint.

Ogier died. His sons grew English—Anglo-Saxon was their name—
Till out of blossomed Normandy another pirate came;
For Duke William conquered England and divided with his men,
And our Lower River-field he gave to William of Warenne.

But the Brook (you know her habit) rose one rainy autumn night
And tore down sodden flitches of the bank to left and right.
So, said William to his Bailiff as they rode their dripping rounds:
“Hob, what about that River-bit—the Brook’s got up no bounds?”

And that aged Hobden answered: “’Tain’t my business to advise,
But ye might ha’ known ’twould happen from the way the valley lies.
Where ye can’t hold back the water you must try and save the sile.
Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to, but, if I was you, I’d spile!”

They spiled along the water-course with trunks of willowtrees
And planks of elms behind ’em and immortal oaken knees.
And when the spates of Autumn whirl the gravel-beds away
You can see their faithful fragments iron-hard in iron clay.

. . . . .
Georgii Quinti Anno Sexto, I, who own the River-field,
Am fortified with title-deeds, attested, signed and sealed,
Guaranteeing me, my assigns, my executors and heirs
All sorts of powers and profits which—are neither mine nor theirs.
I have rights of chase and warren, as my dignity requires.
I can fish—but Hobden tickles. I can shoot—but Hobden wires.
I repair, but he reopens, certain gaps which, men allege,
Have been used by every Hobden since a Hobden swapped a hedge.

Shall I dog his morning progress o’er the track-betraying dew?
Demand his dinner-basket into which my pheasant flew?
Confiscate his evening faggot under which the conies ran,
And summons him to judgment? I would sooner summons Pan.

His dead are in the churchyard—thirty generations laid.
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made.
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine.

Not for any beast that burrows, not for any bird that flies,
Would I lose his large sound council, miss his keen amending eyes.
He is bailiff, woodman, wheelwright, field-surveyor, engineer,
And if flagrantly a poacher—’tain’t for me to interfere.

“Hob, what about that River-bit?” I turn to him again,
With Fabricius and Ogier and William of Warenne.
“Hev it jest as you’ve a mind to, but”—and here he takes command.
For whoever pays the taxes old Mus’ Hobden owns the land.

-Rudyard Kipling

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Now that the weather has improved considerably, may I suggest a wander around the Charles? There are treasures to be found there.

Here is but one that I came across during one of my constitutionals:

in Just

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



balloonMan whistles

--ee cummings (1894 - 1962)

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Well, he was a master in his native tongue.


Thou knowst how heappily they Friend
Walks upon florid Ways;
Thou knowst how heavens bounteous hand
Leads him to golden days.

But hah! a cruel enemy
Destroies all that Bless;
In Moments of Melancholy
Flies all my Happiness.

Then fogs of doubt do fill my mind
With deep obscurity;
I search myself, and cannot find
A spark of Worth in me.

When tender friends to, tender kiss,
Run up with open arms;
I think I merit not that bliss
That like a kiss me warmeth.

Hah! when my child, I love thee, sayd,
And gave the kiss I sought;
Then I - forgive me tender maid-
She is a false one, thought.

She cannot love a peevish boy,
She with her godlike face.
O could I, friend, that thought destroy.
It leads the golden days.

And other thought is misfortune
Is death and night to me:
I hum no supportable tune,
I can no poet be.

When to the Altar of the Nine
A triste incense I bring,
I beg let Poetry be mine
O Sistres let me sing.

But when they then my prayer not hear
I break my wispring lyre;
Then from my eyes runns down a tear,
Extinguish th'incensed fire.

Then curse I, Freind, the fated sky,
And from th'altar I fly;
And to my Freinds aloud I cry
Be happier than I.

-Johann Wolfgang Goethe

This sort of makes me feel better about the bad poetry of my youth in another language.

Monday, April 05, 2004

This Monday is filled with longing. Longing for that lost hour. Longing for another day to one's self. Longing for warmth, sun, waves crashing on the sand at your toes. While I go and indulge myself in thoughts of these things, I'll leave the word to my friend Pablo:

I consider William Shakespeare's sonnet number 50 to be one of the great ones. It's one of the more accessible, with little that reads as archaic now. It's a simple but powerful evocation of the sadness of separation from another who is one's "all-the-world" (as Sonnet 112 says).

It's also about the empathy that even our animals can have for our own moods. I've never ridden a horse, but I've had pets who can tell when I'm down.

More commentary on this sonnet.

How heavy do I journey on the way,
When what I seek, my weary travel's end,
Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
'Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!'
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,
As if by some instinct the wretch did know
His rider lov'd not speed being made from thee.
The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,
That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,
Which heavily he answers with a groan,
More sharp to me than spurring to his side;
For that same groan doth put this in my mind,
My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Uhg! Cramps! Moody! Chocolated-out. Last week I felt like a fertility goddess. Now, I am woman, hear me roar. What a difficult month it's been. About the only thing that will make up for this is blood tribute. Blood for my tears. Blood for my pain. Blood for my blood.

The Female of the Species.

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag, the wayside cobra, hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can,
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail -
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws -
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale -
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the others tale -
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations, worm and savage otherwise,
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise;
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger; Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue - to the scandal of the Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same,
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity - must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions - not in these her honor dwells -
She, the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else!

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate;
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions - in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him, who denies!
He will meet no cool discussion, but the instant, white-hot wild
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges - even so the she-bear fights;
Speech that drips, corrodes and poisons - even so the cobra bites;
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw,
And the victim writhes with anguish - like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of abstract justice - which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern; shall enthrall but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him and Her instincts never fail,
That the female of Her species is more deadly than the male!

-Rudyard Kipling