Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Circus Animals' Desertion" by William Butler Yeats


I SOUGHT a theme and sought for it in vain,
I sought it daily for six weeks or so.
Maybe at last, being but a broken man,
I must be satisfied with my heart, although
Winter and summer till old age began
My circus animals were all on show,
Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.


What can I but enumerate old themes?
First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose
Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,
Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,
Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,
That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;
But what cared I that set him on to ride,
I, starved for the bosom of his faery bride?

And then a counter-truth filled out its play,
The Countess Cathleen was the name I gave it;
She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away
But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.
I thought my dear must her own soul destroy,
So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,
And this brought forth a dream and soon enough
This dream itself had all my thought and love.

And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread
Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;
Heart-mysteries there, and yet when all is said
It was the dream itself enchanted me:
Character isolated by a deed
To engross the present and dominate memory.
Players and painted stage took all my love
And not those things that they were emblems of.


Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Source of the text - William Butler Yeats, Selected Poems and Four Plays, edited by M.L. Rosenthal.  New York: Scribner Paperback Poetry, 1996, pp. 212-213.

TJB: The aging poet as ringmaster, his old poems as once-fine circus animals yet what he says he’s still got sounds so much richer than all that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Westron wind," anonymous lyric

Westron wind, when will thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.

Source of the text - Medieval English Lyrics: A Critical Anthology, edited with an introduction and notes by R.T. Davies. London: Faber and Faber, 1963, p.291

TJB: Accentual yearn. Is the speaker a sailor in the doldrums or a winter traveler? Does it matter? Either way, why is (s)he afraid of the big rain?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

from "why" by Martha Ronk

from why

If I say I don’t believe you is this impatience
without waiting for an answer which might take days or years.
Hard to sit still to hear what in the interstices might sing.
Again that liquid bird repeating the same story
over and over in the car as you list the placements
of adjectives and verbs out of which arises what seems
to be music in the malleable and soft folding of silver
inside an afternoon parenthesis of what was it again?

Source of the text - Martha Ronk, why/why not.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003, p. 66.

TJB: Poetry as what might sing in interstices, as what seems musical in grammar, as unclassifiable. What did “you” say that “I” might not believe?

Monday, July 26, 2010

from "Squirrel in a Palm Tree" by Rachel Zucker

Source of the text - Rachel Zucker, The Bad Wife Handbook. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, p. 38.

TJB: The dry voice at the back of a woman’s mind speaks a highly empathic prophecy to the mother-mammal-inside then eases into lyric reflection.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"My galley charged with forgetfulness" by Sir Thomas Wyatt

My galley charged with forgetfulness
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
'Tween rock and rock; and eke mine enemy, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every oar a thought in readiness
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance,
Wreathed with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain.
Drowned is reason that should me comfort
And I remain despairing of the port.

Source of the text - Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir Thomas Wyatt: The Complete Poems, edited by R.A. Rebholz.  London: Penguin Books, 1997, p. 81.

TJB: Translation? I’m almost losing it, the bitch’s trying to drive me over the edge, I can’t think straight. But see how nicely he says it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Johnie Armstrong," anonymous ballad

Johnie Armstrong

1  THERE dwelt a man in faire Westmerland,
        Ionnë Armestrong men did him call,
    He had nither lands nor rents coming in,
        Yet he kept eight score men in his hall.

2  He had horse and harness for them all,
        Goodly steeds were all milke-white;
    O the golden bands an about their necks,
        And their weapons, they were all alike.

3  Newes then was brought unto the king
        That there was sicke a won as hee,
    That livëd lyke a bold out-law,
        And robbëd all the north country.

4  The king he writt an a letter then,
        A letter which was large and long;
    He signëd it with his owne hand,
        And he promised to doe him no wrong.

5  When this letter came Ionnë untill,
        His heart it was as blythe as birds on the tree:
    ‘Never was I sent for before any king,
        My father, my grandfather, nor none but mee.

6  ‘And if wee goe the king before,
        I would we went most orderly;
    Every man of you shall have his scarlet cloak,
        Laced with silver laces three.

7  ‘Every won of you shall have his velvett coat,
        Laced with sillver lace so white;
    O the golden bands an about your necks,
        Black hatts, white feathers, all alyke.’

8  By the morrow morninge at ten of the clock,
        Towards Edenburough gon was hee,
    And with him all his eight score men;
        Good lord, it was a goodly sight for to see!

9  When Ionnë came befower the king,
        He fell downe on his knee;
    ‘O pardon, my soveraigne leige,’ he said,
        ‘O pardon my eight score men and mee!’

10  ‘Thou shalt have no pardon, thou traytor strong,
          For thy eight score men nor thee;
      For to-morrow morning by ten of the clock,
          Both thou and them shall hang on the gallow-tree.’

11  But Ionnë looke’d over his left shoulder,
          Good Lord, what a grevious look looked hee!
      Saying, Asking grace of a graceles face —
          Why there is none for you nor me.

12  But Ionnë had a bright sword by his side,
          And it was made of the mettle so free,
      That had not the king stept his foot aside,
          He had smitten his head from his faire boddë.

13  Saying, Fight on, my merry men all,
          And see that none of you be taine;
      For rather then men shall say we were hange’d,
          Let them report how we were slaine.

14  Then, God wott, faire Eddenburrough rose,
          And so besett poore Ionnë rounde,
      That fowerscore and tenn of Ionnës best men
          Lay gasping all upon the ground.

15  Then like a mad man Ionnë laide about,
          And like a mad man then fought hee,
      Untill a falce Scot came Ionnë behinde,
          And runn him through the faire boddee.

16  Saying, Fight on, my merry men all,
          And see that none of you be taine;
      For I will stand by and bleed but awhile,
          And then will I come and fight againe.

17  Newes then was brought to young Ionnë Armestrong,
          As he stood by his nurses knee,
      Who vowed if ere he live’d for to be a man,
          O the treacherous Scots revengd hee’d be.

Source of the text - English and Scottish Popular Ballads, edited from the collection of Francis James Child by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1904, pp. 413-415.

TJB: Rule-of-law as thuggery-tragedy; still, this border-reiver song spends its energy on costume, headcount, time of day & transmission of news.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Cézanne" by Gertrude Stein


    The Irish lady can say, that to-day is every day. Caesar can
say that every day is to-day and they say that every day is as
they say.
    In this way we have a place to stay and he was not met
because he was settled to stay. When I said settled I meant
settled to stay. When I said settled to stay I meant settled to
stay Saturday. In this way a mouth is a mouth. In this way if
in as a mouth if in as a mouth where, if in as a mouth where
and there. Believe they have water too. Believe they have that
water too and blue when you see blue, is all blue precious
too, is all that that is precious too is all that and they meant
to absolve you. In this way Cézanne nearly did nearly in this
way Cézanne nearly did nearly did and nearly did. And was
I surprised. Was I very surprised. Was I surprised. I was sur-
prised and in that patient, are you patient when you find
bees. Bees in a garden make a specialty of honey and so does
honey. Honey and prayer. Honey and there. There where
the grass can grow nearly four times yearly.

Source of the text - Gertrude Stein, Writings 1903-1932.  New York: The Library of America, 1998, p.494.

TJB: Cubist dualistic. It has great grammar & rhythm via short vowels, repetition & many rhymes on day, blue, he & there; so how can it not mean?

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