Thursday, 8 August 2013

26 - Stephens/Yeats/Hume

David Hume. Of the Dignity or Meanness of Human Nature. Are humans demigods or no different from other animals except in vanity? Hume thinks those with the former opinion are more likely to act well to keep up with their high opinions of themselves, while those with the latter view are more inclined to vice and meanness. He concludes that philosophers who insist on the selfishness of man are misguided by the fallacies that: i) people do good because they gain pleasure from it, and therefore do good only for the selfish purpose of gaining pleasure) the virtuous are not indifferent to praise and therefore are virtuous only for the purpose of gaining applause.

It's interesting that I found Hume very difficult to understand, but I must be getting into his language and way of writing now, as I'm not finding his essays difficult now.

W.B. Yeats. Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen (1921). 'Many ingenious lovely things are gone/ That seemed sheer miracle to the multitude'... Yeats' thoughts on the state of the world. Well, yes, I think I need a decoding book for Mr Yeats! This is a poem we did at Uni, so I know a little about it but have forgotten most of what I learned.

The lines (7-8):
And gone are Phidias' famous ivories
And all the golden grasshoppers and bees.
(and lines later (47-48)) refer to a Greek sculptor who worked on the Parthenon and was famous for his work in ivory and gold, and the grasshoppers were brooches worn by the Greeks. I think he's saying that just as the Greeks thought their fine things would last forever, so did people of Yeats' generation (and so do we, of course). And they thought the rogues were all dead and wars were over. WWI changed that view forever. The lines (26-28):
… a drunken soldiery
Can leave a mother, murdered at her door
To crawl in her own blood, and go scot free
are about a woman called Ellen Quinn, who was shot by the British with a baby in her arms.

In II, Louie Fuller was a dancer in the Folies Bergeres, famous for whirling draperies. The Platonic year is the period in which constellations return to their starting points (?) I found this ref. In VI, Lady Kyteler was a witch, and Robert Artisson her incubus.

I still need a decoding book!


James Stephens (1882-1950). A Rhinoceros, Some Ladies, and a Horse. (From the Classic Irish Stories Book). A boy gets his first job in a theatrical agency and is sacked the next day. An hilarious story, full of funny exaggerations.