Thursday, December 24, 2009

To a Friend Concerning Several Ladies

Sour Grapes (1921)
by
William Carlos Williams

To a Friend Concerning Several Ladies

You know there is not much
that I desire, a few chrysanthemums
half lying on the grass, yellow
and brown and white, the
talk of a few people, the trees,
an expanse of dried leaves perhaps
with ditches among them.

But there comes
between me and these things
a letter
or even a look--well placed,
you understand,
so that I am confused, twisted
four ways and--left flat,
unable to lift the food to
my own mouth:
Here is what they say: Come!
and come! and come! And if
I do not go I remain stale to
myself and if I go--
I have watched
the city from a distance at night
and wondered why I wrote no poem.
Come! yes,
the city is ablaze for you
and you stand and look at it.

And they are right. There is
no good in the world except out of
a woman and certain women alone
for certain. But what if
I arrive like a turtle,
with my house on my back or
a fish ogling from under water?
It will not do. I must be
steaming with love, colored
like a flamingo. For what?
To have legs and a silly head
and to smell, pah! like a flamingo
that soils its own feathers behind.
Must I go home filled
with a bad poem?
And they say:
Who can answer these things
till he has tried? Your eyes
are half closed, you are a child,
oh, a sweet one, ready to play
but I will make a man of you and
with love on his shoulder--!

And in the marshes
the crickets run
on the sunny dike's top and
make burrows there, the water
reflects the reeds and the reeds
move on their stalks and rattle drily.

Sources:

Public domain text taken from The Poets' Corner

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ragamuffin


Webster says a synonym for ragamuffin is tatterdemalion, a few other dictionary sources make mention; ragabash, brollaghan, gangrel, and vagabond. Shortened to ragga, the term has even made its way into the music world as the name for fans and the style of clothes they wear to dance halls that play a combination of hip hop and R&B.

Ragamuffin by today's usage has become a term of affection says The Word Detective:

    .....a rambunctious, scruffy child, probably a boy, probably quite dirty, who reduces his clothes to tatters and his parents to dismay on a daily basis. The word carries none of the desperate implications of "urchin," an abandoned child of the streets. All today's "ragamuffin" really needs is a bath.

A ragamuffin was a term used to describe a person in dirty clothes; part of the word obviously comes from the word rag. Muffin is thought to have been derived from mitten (Middle Dutch) since there is no evidence of the term muffin in common usage until the seventeenth century.

During the fourteenth century, it was spelled ragamoffyn as the name of a demon in Piers Plowman, a satire and allegory written during the fourteenth-century some attribute it to William Langland. Written in 1393 it's considered one of the best poems from medieval times about a group of characters named for moral abstractions such as Truth, Wisdom and Will. No one can be sure where Langalnd got the name ragamuffin but some experts think it may be a combination of ragged and ffyn as a distortion of fiend. Some researchers have determined the word goes back even further to 1344 to a woman named Isabella Ragamuffin even then it still carried the same connotations of being dirty and unkept. In 1554 Annibale Caro (1507 - 1566) wrote a collection of comedic prose based on several real people of Rome called The Ragamuffins (Gli straccioni). By the end of the sixteenth century ragamuffin was still being used to refer to being dirty and unkept but in particular now as a reference to a boy. Two centuries later all of the demonic associations were dropped when Charles Dickens created his own idea of what a ragamuffin was when he used it for the character in a novel by the same name called Barnaby Rudge. Inspired by Sir Walter Scott's The Waverley Novels and Ivanhoe it was Dicken's first attempt at historical literature (his second being A Tale of Two Cities). Rudge as the main character, is depicted as a simple but good hearted boy who unwittingly gets involved in the Gordon Riots when he falls into bad company, later arrested and sentenced to death. Sources:

The Maven's Word of the Day

Picture Source

Reggae Mexicano - Base

Word

The Word Detective

Frito pie

¡Hola!

¿What is this Frito Pie?

What you will require:

    One long sleeve cowboy shirt
    Tight blue Levis
    Leather Crazy Horse cowboy boots
    One large white Stetson hat
What you will need to do:

Drive up to the local Circle K. Set a ThirstBuster on the fountain to fill in the mean time get a tall bag of Frito's from the shelf open the side and saunter over to the free condiments for hot dogs. Into the bag put some chili. Put in the microwave for 40 seconds or so.* While you're waiting tuck the long sleeved cowboy shirt that accidentally came out into the back waistband of your Levi's. Oh, the ThirstBuster is full. Go get that and remove the sizzling bag of Frito's from the microwave. Now back to the free condiments. Pull the stems from a couple of jalapeños and add them (these provide some nice heat take a taste and sweat, but not too much). Pour a little bit of savory salsa from the ladle in the condiment bowl. Toss in some roughly chopped onions, whole cherry tomatoes, and some pieces of sharp cheddar cheese. Ah, the pie's done. Grab a spork. Add perhaps some more salt and pepper, maybe some extra cheese. Garnish with a spur-of-the-moment wink at that exceptionally friendly woman standing next to you in line.

Oh my Dan's Frito Pie!

While fresh Frito pie es muy delicioso at the local convenience store, home cooked is good too! This recipe got its beginnings in the 1930's. With the Frito-Lay Company being based in Dallas, this dish is about as Texan as you can get. A quart of homemade is the best chili to use, but canned chili like Hormel will do just fine. I prefer their turkey or vegetarian brands. Chili No Beans could be substituted for it. Two to three cans are enough for a family style meal.

Have ready three cups of corn chips a bowl of grated sharp cheddar cheese and one large chopped onion. In a two quart casserole dish place two cups of corn chips, arrange the diced white onions and half of the grated cheese on top. Pour the chili over the chips, onion, and cheese. Top with the remaining chips and grated cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until the topping browns (around 40 minutes).

As a pico de gallo:
Combine small dices of medium tomatoes, a fresh minced jalapeño, minced with fresh lime juice, a small red onion chopped and handful of cilantro, salt and pepper, to taste.

Condiments:
More grated cheddar and jalapeño jack cheeses, fresh sour cream or for a healthier choice, yogurt, torn cilantro, shredded lettuce, extra chips.

Serve with:
A fresh fruit salad and toasted Mexican rolls (bolillos) brushed with garlic juice and melted butter.

*Warning: Never put metallic bags in a microwave.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dead peasant insurance


    Think about it somewhere in the accounting department is two people looking over a list of employees. "So you think Fred looks well?" says the Chief something officer. "Yeah he will not do, pick Sarah she is taking up sky diving," replies the director of things no one talks about. "Well that is settled ... now lets look at last month profits. ...

Stranger then Blue Canaries, www.heydan.com/

The Axis of Corporate Evil never ceases to amaze. Dead peasant insurance, also called Dead janitors insurance, is a wide spread but little known practice among corporate entities. The "Dead peasant" is industrial slang for the rank and file employee who is worth a considerable sum of money dead or alive.

The Wall Street Journal reports that corporations by the hundreds take out life insurance policies on their own employees with the companies as the beneficiaries. When an employee dies, sometimes years after the employee has left the company, the company receives the death benefit. "Most workers covered this way don't know it, nor do their families," says the Journal.

To make matters more interesting the companies use this little gambit as a tax shelter. It allows corporations to boost profits by taking advantage of the tax-shelter features of life insurance. While the employee is alive they are a great little investment for the employer. Without their knowledge or consent a company as beneficiary can subsequently borrow money against the policy and then claim the interest as a tax deduction. While the employee lives, the company gains from the loans and tax break. When the employee dies, the company gets the death benefit pay out yielding billions of dollars. Read on:

    That was certainly the case with the family of Margaret Reynolds, a 62 year old Ohio woman who died in 1998. Her family received a $21,000 death benefit from her employer, C.M. Holdings. The money was from a life insurance policy the company provided for is employees. What Reynolds did not know during her lifetime, and her family did not know after her death, is that her employer had taken out another life insurance policy on her with itself as the beneficiary. When she died, her family received the $21,000 while her employer received an insurance payout form the "dead peasant policy" of $180,000.

    Reynolds, like many other workers, had been used. Her son was outraged at the news of this deception because during the last years of Reynold's battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease, the family had "begged C.M. Holdings for $5,000 to pay for a specialized wheelchair so they could take her to church," a request the company refused.

Veniality is inherently blind to human suffering. In 1996 the IRS deemed the tax deductions improper and would no longer permit them saying that the corporate owned life insurance or COLI served no legitimate purposes; the agency "is investigating more that 85 companies that it says took 6 billion in illegal deductions." Some COLI policies even cover part-time and short-term workers and, in some cases, workers' relatives. The policies can remain in force long after the worker leaves the company. Many of the companies are challenging the disallowance saying that the death benefits go toward paying for other employee benefits but as a rule the courts do not accept that excuse.

Some argue that since the company pays for the premiums and has every right to benefit from it. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that the company uses the employees name without compensating the employee for that use. A clear case of exploitation; in some cases if the employee is informed they have to give their approval to this practice as a condition of employment. Not only is this unethical in practice it's a big financial drain on the U.S. Treasury, as well as, a major concern to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Congress and the courts. Described as, " A product actively marketed by the insurance industry as an 'attractive, off-balance-sheet asset,'" so far it's been the source of an estimated $6 billion in lost tax revenue to the U.S. Treasury annually and the subject of several pending tax court cases.

It's all the rage among Corporate America's top 1% Enron subsidiary Portland General and Dow Chemical have engaged in this practice. Companies listed by The Examiner as taking out "Dead Peasant" policies include American Electric Power, AT&T, Ball, Basset Furniture, Eaton, Nestle USA, Olin, Pitney Bowes, PPG Industries, Procter & Gamble, Trans World Entertainment and Walt Disney. One attorney for the Hartford Life Insurance Co. hazards a guess that up to 25 % of the Fortune 500 companies have them covering the lives of 5 million to 6 million workers.

Many corporations are currently appealing the their tax dodging tactics to the 6th District Court. Wal-Mart used them in the early 90s when they were most popular as a means of sheltering income from taxes, turning liabilities into assets, and funding costly executive benefits. In 1995 Wal-Mart decided they weren't making any money from these policies and dropped the program. Maybe they mean no new policies. According to the Houston Chronicle, 5 to 6 million corporate serfs have life insurance policies held on them by Fortune 500 magnates, and Wal-Mart holds some 350,000. Wal-Mart launched a program in 1994 promising its employees a $5,000 death benefit. The company was so determined its workers should take advantage of the program that it threatened any who turned it down with the forfeiture of their health insurance.

While no longer legal in Texas, California and a few other states require written consent from employees, even so, many such disclosures don't explain where the proceeds of the death policy will go. One has to wonder how hard the insurance companies have pushed this idea. Welcome to the Brave New Corporate World where everything-- even death --has become a commodity traded by profiteers and an early demise has become the bottom line.

Sources

Dead Peasant Insurance

Dow Chemical

Picture Source

The Examiner

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Seigniorage


Seigniorage-- I came across this word when I was reading the paper and I really had no idea about the concept behind it. Pronounced CEE-nyer-rij (seigniorage) is an absolute monopoly. That is the government makes money by making money. It is the profit or the difference between the monetary face value of the coins and the cost of production, including the market values of the metals they contain. Sometime during the 15th century, coinage became the sovereign right of kings, who prescribed the total charge and the part they were to receive as seigniorage. The concept originated in the days when precious metals comprised the monetary base and were considered as having intrinsic value. The government minted the coins, but private enterprise could profit by producing the metal. Coins were an asset without a corresponding liability. The government as well as individuals could gain financial wealth by acquiring coins. The value of the coins in exchange for goods and services depended on their relative scarcity.

Most governments have some type of seigniorage and by today's standards the precious metal it is commonly based upon is bullion, usually the difference between the value of the bullion used and the face value of the coin. One drawback for governments deciding to adopt a universal money system is the loss of revenues from the issue of their own currency. By sharing seigniorage governments open up a whole new arena of complex political, economic, foreign policy issues. Some countries such as Ecuador have changed their system to dollarization with the US in an effort to stabilize the inflation of their economy.

The United States earns about $25 billion per year in seigniorage. Cumulative seigniorage for a twenty year period 1935 through June 1975 was $7,280,639,514.69. In 1994 seigniorage' in various world accounts were; $30 billion in US, $20 billion in Japan and $12 billion in Germany.

The regulation of e trading is also in the lime light since there is the risk of loss of seigniorage when computer money is intended to replace real cash is used. To compensate for the loss regulators are considering the imposition of a tax on the issue of computer money.

Some trivia about seigniorage I found floating around out there in cyberspace:

  • The penny has by far the lowest seigniorage (profit) rate of any U.S. coin. Each one cent coin costs four-fifths of a cent to make, netting Uncle Sam just one-fifth of a cent, or 20 percent. The "profit" on a quarter, by comparison, is more than 20 cents.
  • Casinos, because they realize their own seigniorage from tokens that are sold by casinos, they are not real interested in using coins, because a lot of folks, as tokens of their visit to casinos, and so forth, take them home, never redeem them for the value they purchased them for. So casinos realize a nice profit, somewhat similar to what the Mint does on its circulating coinage.

As the economy of the world and the internet evolve the concept of seigniorage will continue to be redefined.

Sources

Britannica

New Century of ECO-MONEY

Picture Source

Regulation of International Electronic Trading

Seigniorage

US Treasury Opposes Bill on Dollarisation

Sunday, December 06, 2009

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle


    And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
    And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
    Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
    And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
    And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
    And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
    It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
    And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?
    And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.
    Mark 10: 17 –27 (KJV)
A biblical phrase for the smallest opening imaginable. A remark attributed to Jesus in Mark 10:25. Paraphrased-- he announces that the camel, largest of the familiar animals of the era, can pass through the needle's eye more easily than a wealthy person can enter the kingdom of God. This startling image is toned down by the remark that with God all things are possible. The wealthy young ruler could not possibly abandon all and walks away. Not able to understand that Jesus is telling him that the Lord was prepared to give grace to the young man, if he had only said, O Lord, I cannot abandon my wealth, but give me grace.

His entire commentary draws attention to the dissimilarity between human activity and divine grace. This answer is so general in form that it cannot be regarded as complete; nor would it appear that Jesus expected it to be so regarded.

Some patristic interpreters remove the mixed metaphor in this figure of speech by reading rope (Greek kamilos) in place of camel (Greek kamElos). However, the variant form in the Babylonian Talmud, on the other hand, keeps the animal imagery and tell of the elephant passing through a needle's eye as something impossible. The proverbial saying that; for whatever may be possible with difficulty for a camel would be quite impossible for an elephant. The saying is hyperbolic - an exaggeration, to describe a thing very difficult to do.

Later Medieval affections for moral allegory created the suggestion that needle's eye referred to a narrow pedestrian gate used after nightfall when the large gates of the city were shut. Only by the load being removed from the camel's back, have him go down on his knees and crawl through the small opening, and with much pushing and pulling, could the animal be got through; so the rich man must get rid of his load of riches if he wished to enter the Kingdom of God. However, there is no evidence for any gate with this name and no ancient writer ever records this explanation; yet if it was customary for camels to get through postern gates such an explanation might have been expected from men familiar with the sight.

References

The Bible Study

Needle's Eye by Gary Larrabee

Holy Bible; King James Version.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993.

Friday, December 04, 2009

William Carlos Williams

Now if you really really want to know what makes William Carlos Williams tick go read his poetry. There is a lot of it here on E2 and I have explicated a wide variety of his prose and poetry. If you want to know how his poetry affects me, read Pastoral and I have measured out my life with a pumpkin patch.

Born in Rutherford, NJ on September 17, 1883, he began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Leipzig. After 1910 he practiced medicine in Rutherford and neighboring Paterson. At the same time he carried on his literary work, and his reputation, first as a poet and later as a writer of prose, became world renown.

    When they ask me, as of late they frequently do, how I have for so many years continued an equal interest in medicine and the poem, I reply that they amount for me to nearly the same thing.
    William Carlos Williams

One can easily see some evidence of his idea in his poem:

Complaint

    They call me and I go.
    It is a frozen road
    past midnight, a dust
    of snow caught
    in the rigid wheeltracks.
    The door opens.
    I smile, enter and
    shake off the cold.
    Here is a great woman
    on her side in the bed.
    She is sick,
    perhaps vomiting,
    perhaps laboring
    to give birth to
    a tenth child. Joy! Joy!
    Night is a room
    darkened for lovers,
    through the jalousies the sun
    has sent one golden needle!
    I pick the hair from her eyes
    and watch her misery
    with compassion.

    William Carlos Williams (Sour Grapes1913)

He describes the scene on a house call to a woman in labor. It is past midnight in winter time when the road is frozen. Entering the home where the "great woman" is in misery; she is "sick," "perhaps vomiting," about to give birth to her tenth child. Williams exclaims to the reader "Joy! Joy!" in a room where a completion of love is about to occur he contrasts the anticipation of the event against the bleak as the wintry landscape all the while offering compassion to "pick the hair from her eyes." Williams attended numerous women in labor, many of whom were Italian immigrants. Birth control was not available and families were large. In this poem and in others about childbirth, he expresses obvious admiration and compassion for the poor women he visited in dire settings and circumstances.

His earliest works included Poems (1909) and The Tempers (1913). His mature work, frequently experimental and radical in form and technique, displayed to a great degree an influence by the Imagist movement and its rejection of unconstrained and contrived sentimentality. As a result his work became oriented towards the use of everyday speech and by withholding the emotionality of words he concentrated in concrete and sensory experiences often sensual in relation to nature, hinting at the forbidden and taboo.

    By listening to the language of his locality the poet learns his craft. It is his function to lift, by the use of his imagination . . . his environment to the sphere . . . where they will have a new currency.
    William Carlos Williams
Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh, and singularly American poetic form. He met Ezra Pound while attending the University of Pennsylvania who in turn introduced him to another well known Imagist Hilda Doolittle. As he became more self confident in his work he began to increasingly disagree with the values put forth in the work of Pound and especially T S Eliot, who he felt were too attached to European culture and traditions.
    Times change and forms and their meanings alter. Thus new poems are necessary. Their forms must be discovered in the living language of their day, or old forms, embodying exploded concepts, will tyrannize over the imagination.
    William Carlos Williams
Many publishers avoided his quirky styling early in his career and to a great degree much of it was over shadowed by Eliot's The Waste Land and he frankly believed for some time that:
    Afraid lest he be caught up in a net of words, tripped up, bewildered and so defeated -- thrown aside -- a man hesitates to write down his innermost convictions.
    William Carlos Williams
Thankfully he didn't hesitate for long and created an ideology that there are 'No ideas but in things.' His work really hit its stride in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor. Examples of his later poetry are contained in The Complete Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams (1938) and Collected Poem( 1950). In the latter part of the 1930's Williams started the composition of an extended poem dealing with the American scene in the era of the Great Depression, Paterson Books I-V (1946-1958). His prose works include a widely read assemblage of essays on American history, in the American Grain(1925), and the novels White Mule(1937), as well as, In the Money (1940) and The Build Up(1952). In 1950 Williams received the National Book Award for poetry. Williams's health began to decline after a heart attack in 1963 and he passed away on March 4th in Rutherford. Awarded posthumously a Pulitzer Prize for his verse collection Pictures from Breugal(1962), his autobiography appeared in 1951, and his novel, A Voyage Pagany, in 1970.

He said, I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it. and described his goal in the The Fool's Song:

    I tried to put
    Truth in a cage.
He was practicing physician, who wrote prolifically in all the major genres who encouraged the literary careers of many of his contemporaries.
    "It's what you do with a work of art; it's what you put on the canvas and how you put it on the canvas. It's how the words fit in. Poems are not made of beautiful thoughts; it's made of words, pigments put on, here, there, made actually."
    William Carlos Williams
He inspired and encouraged many to make their own experiments with an American kind of writing making him recognized as a significant figure in modern American literature, and is still widely read.

The Works of William Carlos Williams


Selected Sources

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "William Carlos Williams," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988

Literary Kicks
Accessed Oct 19 2001.

The Poets' Corner
Accessed Oct 19 2001.

William Carlos Williams
Accessed Oct 19 2001.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I
1 Among twenty snowy mountains,
2 The only moving thing
3 Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
4 I was of three minds,
5 Like a tree
6 In which there are three blackbirds.

III
7 The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
8 It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
9 A man and a woman
10 Are one.
11 A man and a woman and a blackbird
12 Are one.

V
13 I do not know which to prefer,
14 The beauty of inflections
15 Or the beauty of innuendoes,
16 The blackbird whistling
17 Or just after.

VI
18 Icicles filled the long window
19 With barbaric glass.
20 The shadow of the blackbird
21 Crossed it, to and fro.
22 The mood
23 Traced in the shadow
24 An indecipherable cause.

VII
25 O thin men of Haddam,
26 Why do you imagine golden birds?
27 Do you not see how the blackbird
28 Walks around the feet
29 Of the women about you?

VIII
30 I know noble accents
31 And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
32 But I know, too,
33 That the blackbird is involved
34 In what I know.

IX
35 When the blackbird flew out of sight,
36 It marked the edge
37 Of one of many circles.

X
38 At the sight of blackbirds
39 Flying in a green light,
40 Even the bawds of euphony
41 Would cry out sharply.

XI
42 He rode over Connecticut
43 In a glass coach.
44 Once, a fear pierced him,
45 In that he mistook
46 The shadow of his equipage
47 For blackbirds.

XII
48 The river is moving.
49 The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
50 It was evening all afternoon.
51 It was snowing
52 And it was going to snow.
53 The blackbird sat
54 In the cedar-limbs.


_______________________

Thus, it might be true . . . that the style of a poem and the style of men are one.
Wallace Stevens "Two or Three Ideas"

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955) worked for a short time as a journalist, completed his law degree and in 1934 became a Vice President at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. He remained there until his death in spite of his increasing popularity and importance as one of the foremost writers of verse in American poetry.

Stevens's most notable poems, many of them dealing with the world of creative imagination in a world deprived of religious meaning include Le Monocle de Mon Oncle, The Emperor of Ice Cream, Sunday Morning, Anecdote of the Jar, Peter Quince at the Clavier and Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

An ambiguous poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird depicts the narrator watching a blackbird through a window and how his mood changes along with each observation. His sensuous and elaborate imagery along elevated precise diction are reminiscence of William Carlos Williams with a bit of T S Eliot thrown in with the use of expressions of subtle philosophical themes creating a characteristic tone that is both lyrical and ironic. By taking blackbirds and contrasting them against thirteen ways to look at them the reader sees the bleakness and monotony of modern life with the richness of nature and of the aesthetic experiences but with a twist.

Focusing on the after images as aberrations, in fact all images are after, they behold for the reader a certain terror. "I do not know which to prefer," writes Wallace Stevens "The beauty of inflections / Or the beauty of innuendoes, / the blackbird whistling / or just after. Every image is an "afterthought" or "aftershock" of something that has already occurred. Like a modern impressionist painting with strokes of words Stevens work is a composite structure built of oblique meanings and surprising shifts that add up to an engaging portrait where symbol, and metaphor coexist. The verses are a journey from the physical to the metaphysical, a journey that is altogether poetic, technical, and philosophical. The poet examines his subjects with as few preconceptions as possible, taking familiar concepts and stripping away all associations until they become strange, producing ideas that are refreshing and new and straddles the ground between the intellect and the senses, leading the reader beyond the realm of theory and practice into the universe of the imagination, where "space" is experienced as something touched, seen, and thought. With this use of traditional Modernist experimental writing one scholar explains: "There is more poetic truth in this agile prose, these vivid, metaphorical descriptions and surprising juxtapositions than any amount of scholarly research could possibly unearth." Stevens solution is is to use multiple metaphors for God: masculine, feminine, non-sexual, and depersonalized. God has many names. If Wallace Stevens can write about "thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird," how many more ways must exist to envision the infinite and eternal God? The disorienting and revelatory shifts of focus in such a charming poem takes the romantic commitment to a specular order of attention, so that his poem has more than a trace of consistency. Emphasizing the geography or contour of the poem on the page, whether it be in monomorphic, polymorphic, or paratactic, the fulcrum in Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird is the word "see". Rhyme also serves a visual as well as aural effect.

Suggestive as Blackbirds may be, the theme of the poem is, "Pay attention to physical reality." What kinds of things are suitable to serve as units in a number? Clouds, ripples on the surface of a liquid, psychological states these things are usually too indefinite to count. How many psychological states did one experience yesterday? How can one objectively determine the answer? There are times which one can, for example, say that there are three clouds overhead. And, after all, this is not the Four Noble Truths, seven types of ambiguity, three theological virtues, or thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird. Are the numbers that these sorts of things compose like Faith, Hope, and Charity form a triad in the way that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost do? Is Faith a thing in the same way that Father or Son is. The bafflement and uncertainty experienced when confronting these questions are reminders to the reader that the ancient conception of the numbers under consideration by the composer is not an exacting scientific concept. It is about nature after all.

The thin ascetic men of Haddam is chided by the poet for ignoring the good blackbirds and real women for golden phantasms. He remands the aristocrat who rides about Connecticut, of all places, in a glass coach as if thinking himself Prince Charming as inexcusable failure to exercise his intelligence. Steven's ends in a section with a tone that is straightforward and matter-of-factly sums it up. No matter what the reader does to interpret what Steven's has seen there remains the last image of one blackbird perched in the cedar tree awaiting the snowfall. The reader can smell the crisp cedar strongly sensed against the dry cold air of the impending weather. The tree is sharply in focus the air icier while the blackbird becomes a shadow.

Wallace Stevens is a poet who manifested an abiding interest in philosophy. His poems consistently display, in both their syntax and modulation of thought, philosophical parallels. Stevens' dominant mode of thought is phenomenological. This can be shown by analyzing parallels between phenomenological methodology and Stevens' poetry. Particularly three poems--"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" (1917), "The Snow Man" (1921), and "The Latest Freed Man" (1938)--embody, respectively, the poem as doing phenomenology,(a philosophical movement that describes the formal structure of the objects of awareness and of awareness itself in abstraction from any claims concerning existence ) the poem as a description of the phenomenological mind, and the poem as a portrait of the phenomenologist.

James A. Clark

For poetry ideas based on comparisons and contrasts, the very subjectiveness of interpretations James A. Clark writes about his book Wallace Stevens: A Portrait of the Artist as a Phenomenologist is an unintentional one of confusing modern poetry with philosophy, a common fault of literary criticism, even so, there are a tremendous variety of benefits to these critical interpretations.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Or woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-linàed slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy-buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my Love.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love.

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)


English playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) is considered the most important Elizabethan dramatist before William Shakespeare and acclaimed as the first great English dramatist, although his career was a brief one lasting a mere six years before he was killed at the age of 29 in a tavern fight. While earlier playwrights focused on comedy; Marlowe worked on tragedy and was responsible for advancing it as a dramatic medium and paving the way for Shakespeare. His masterpiece is The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus He was the first poet to write in blank verse, as well as translations from the works of the ancient Latin poets, Lucan and Ovid.

As a poet Marlowe is best known for this classic romance piece The Passionate Shepherd (1599), which contains the familiar phrase Come live with me and be my Love, / And we will all the pleasures prove .... An ideal example of what is known as a pastoral lyric alluding to the shepherds writing music to their flocks. The tradition goes back to David in the Bible and Hesiod the Greek poet. If the nymph would go just a-maying with the him, they would have a perfect life. The shepherd paints a very pleasant picture of his bucolic world, in which "Melodious birds sing madrigals" and the people will dance to entertain his love. Offering her all the beauty of nature from steepy mountains and the smell a thousand fragrant posies, to artful stitching from the Myrtle; the tree of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. First published in the original text of The Passionate Pilgrim the poem has a carpe diem theme of unbridled passions written in quatrains of iambic tetrameter A kirtle refers to a skirt or petticoat and swain is lover or sweetheart.

So, who really wrote this, Shakespeare, or Christopher Marlowe?" We can refer to this bit of very interesting; truth is stranger than fiction, story about Marlowe's sudden and fearful demise:

    In the spring of 1593, a friend of Kit's (as Christopher Marlowe was often called) was captured and tortured by the Queen's Privy Council.Based on this 'evidence,' the Council was preparing to arrest Kit. But before this arrest could take place, Kit was killed in a brawl at a rooming-house in the town of Deptford. He was staying there with three of his friends--and let me tell you, these were some very interesting friends. Ingram Frizer was a known con artist and (even worse) a moneylender. Nicholas Skeres was Frizer's frequent accomplice and probably a fence. Robert Poley was an occasional courier/spy for Her Majesty's secret service, who had boasted of his ability to lie convincingly under any circumstances. Frizer's master, Thomas Walsingham, was a cousin of the noted spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. On the night of 30 May 1593, the four of them had just finished eating when Frizer and Kit began arguing over the bill. Kit eventually grabbed Frizer's dagger and attacked him from behind, and in the ensuing fight, Frizer regained his dagger and stabbed and killed his friend. He was quickly pardoned on grounds of self-defense, and his employers did not fire or otherwise ostracize him.

    Both the timing of Kit's death and the lack of any retribution against his murderer have led some scholars to theorize that his death was faked and Kit himself took up a new identity to escape the Privy Council. Some go so far as to state that this new identity, was, of course, obviously, that of William Shakespeare.

Many sensible people would reject this theory as rather silly, though it has the makings of a good Bond film. From this historical mystery, the American motion picture screen writer and author of detective fiction, Raymond Chandler lent Marlowe's name to his own hero Philip Marlowe. In a rather perverse way, The Passionate Shepherd has been carried along by others by creating a small industry for poets writing replies. Compare to the eeirily similar Shakespearean Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music, 5. Most can be summarized as "show me a ring first, buddy." A rather fishy tale is The Bait by John Donne. However, the best known answer is by Sir Walter Raleigh another colorful figure of the Renaissance; there have been dozens over the years. Few are as clever as Raleigh's response, The Nymph's Reply.

Selected Sources:

Blair, Bob

The Wondering Minstrels