Poem of the Week

Choriambics

By Algernon Charles Swinburne

 

Love, what ailed thee to leave life that was made lovely, we thought, with love?
What sweet visions of sleep lured thee away, down from the light above?
What strange faces of dreams, voices that called, hands that were raised to wave,
Lured or led thee, alas, out of the sun, down to the sunless grave?
Ah, thy luminous eyes! once was their light fed with the fire of day;
Now their shadowy lids cover them close, hush them and hide away.
Ah, thy snow-coloured hands! once were they chains, mighty to bind me fast;
Now no blood in them burns, mindless of love, senseless of passion past.
Ah, thy beautiful hair! so was it once braided for me, for me;
Now for death is it crowned, only for death, lover and lord of thee.
Sweet, the kisses of death set on thy lips, colder are they than mine;
Colder surely than past kisses that love poured for thy lips as wine.
Lov’st thou death? is his face fairer than love’s, brighter to look upon?
Seest thou light in his eyes, light by which love’s pales and is overshone?
Lo the roses of death, grey as the dust, chiller of leaf than snow!
Why let fall from thy hand love’s that were thine, roses that loved thee so?

Poem of the Week

I thought I should go back to the ancients this week. So here’s an ode by Horace:

Ode I, 5: To Pyrrha

By Horace
Translation by John Milton
What slender youth, bedew’d with liquid odors,
Courts thee on roses in some pleasant cave,
             Pyrrha? For whom bind’st thou
             In wreaths thy golden hair,
Plain in thy neatness? O how oft shall he
Of faith and changed gods complain, and seas
             Rough with black winds, and storms
             Unwonted shall admire!
Who now enjoys thee credulous, all gold,
Who, always vacant, always amiable
             Hopes thee, of flattering gales
             Unmindful. Hapless they
To whom thou untried seem’st fair. Me, in my vow’d
Picture, the sacred wall declares to have hung
             My dank and dropping weeds
             To the stern god of sea.

Poem of the Week

Adam’s Curse

By W.B. Yeats

We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
. . . . . . . . . And thereupon
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know-
Although they do not talk of it at school-
That we must labour to be beautiful.’

I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’

We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.

Masterpiece: Les Misérables

It’s no secret that Les Misérables is one of my favorite stories of all time. I’ve read the book and seen the musical, the film with Liam Neeson, the film with Jean Gabin and the one with Harry Barr. I’ve loved them all.

I lost track of time and missed the premier of Masterpiece’s newest Les Mis, but fortunately, I taped it and am now ready for episode 2.

Beginning with Thénardier (Adeel Akhtar) robbing the pockets of soldiers killed at Waterloo. As luck would have it, Pontmercy, a solider, wakes up and mistakes Thénardier for a savior. Then in the prison where Jean Val Jean (Dominic West) toils away while being abused, beaten and tricked by the guards and Inspector Javert (David Oyelowo), a 19th century French Pharisee. Early on we also see Pontmercy’s wealthy father-in-law who’s taken custody of his grandson when the boy’s mother died. Vehemently opposed to Pontmercy’s politics, the grandfather forbids Pontmercy to see his own son, Marius, a cutie pie in velvet and frilly collars.

Fantine’s story of meeting Felix, Cossette’s father, this production starts earlier in the book than the musical. We get to see the slimy, philandering Felix who loves and leaves poor, naive Fantine. Interwoven with Fantine’s story, we see Jean Valjean get freed from jail and encounter hostility and injustice till he’s welcome by the saintly Bishop Digne.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the story. It’s a lush production. I always have an odd feeling about computer graphics. I can tell it’s not real (or faux real). I sense something lacking in the vast settings that must be computer graphics.

The story spans decades and contains several plot lines. Victor Hugo dedicated each section of the book according to a main character. The screenwriter has woven several sections together and the chronology’s changed. Some things seem to be simultaneous here, when they weren’t in the book. For example, at the end of episode 1, Fantine’s holding her daughter Cossette, who looks like she is at least a year old. Yet Felix just abandoned her a few hours before. I thought Fantine got pregnant after Felix left her. Also, Jean Valjean has just left the Bishop’s. It seems the timing is off between Fantine, whose story doesn’t need much time to progress to the next stage, and Jean Valjean, who took many years to get to the next point when he’ll meet Fantine.

Even though there are some differences between other productions and these do bother me, the annoyance is small and Les Misérables is a story that can’t be ruined. (Knock on wood.) So far this series is off to a good start.

Poem of the Week

I Loved You

By Alexander Pushkin

I loved you, and I probably still do,
And for a while the feeling may remain…
But let my love no longer trouble you,
I do not wish to cause you any pain.
I loved you; and the hopelessness I knew,
The jealousy, the shyness – though in vain –
Made up a love so tender and so true
As may God grant you to be loved again.