Wednesday, 25 May 2016

41 - O'Faolain/Yeats/Newman

Short Story:
Sean O'Faolain: Unholy living and half dying
This is another of those wonderful stories in the Classic Irish stories book, which is full of treasures. O'Faolin (1900-91) was well loved in Ireland for his short stories.

W.B. Yeats: A Woman Homer Sung
A poem about Maud Gonne, Yeats' lover.

John Henry Newman: The idea of a university, part II
This lecture is available online here.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

40 - Corkery/Yeats/Newman

Short Story:
Daniel Corkery: The awakening
I'm loving these Irish short stories, and am rapidly coming to the opinion that the Irish are the best short story tellers in the English speaking world.  Daniel Corkery (1878-1964) was a professor of English at University college Cork, and among his students were Sean O'Faolain and Frank O'Connor. (O'Connor edited the book of Classic Irish Stories that contains this one and the other Irish stories I've read.)
This story is about a fishing boat off the coast of Galway. It's beautifully written.

W.B. Yeats: Why should not old men be mad?
W.B. Yeats:  Blood and the moon
Yeats lived from 1865 to 1939 and was also Irish. The first poem is a bit pessimistic and looks at how young people are oblivious to the broken dreams, but old men have lived to see such things many things.
Blood and the moon was written in 1928, according to the Wikipedia article. I needed to read the article to figure out what the poem was about as there are a lot of references, images and themes that I'm not familiar with. I like Yeats though - his poems are complex, but I get the feeling that the more you read them, the more you'll get out of them.

John Henry Newman: The idea of a university, part 1
An introduction to a series of lectures about what universities are for. He would hate today's universities, churning out poorly educated people trained to do a job! He's very eloquent, and this is the sort of essay you need to read more than once.

Monday, 9 May 2016

39 - Casanova/Yeats/Burke

Short Story:
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova: The maiden and the beast
This is a cute story about a man who goes to look for a flower for his daughter and encounters a beast instead. I'm constantly irritated by the awful English translation (of the Spanish translation), which detracts from the stories. They're ancient stories from Mexico.

W.B. Yeats: A Prayer for Old Age
God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;

From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song's sake a fool?

I pray -- for word is out
And prayer comes round again --
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man. 

Edmund Burke: Terror
Argues that whatever is terrible (ie. causes terror) is sublime as well.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

38 - Moore/Yeats/Burke

Short Story:
George Moore: Homesickness
Written in 1914, about an Irish American who returns to Ireland for an extended stay for health reasons. Interesting contrasts between the busy, chaotic, materialism of New York and the much slower and more peaceful village life in Ireland.

W.B. Yeats: The Stolen Child
An early poem based on an Irish legend about faeries enticing a child away. The refrain is memorable:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

It changes in the last stanza to:

For he comes, the human child
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand

Edmund Burke: The effects of sympathy in the distresses of others
The author claims we have particular delight in other people's misfortunes, and if we didn't have a measure of delight in distress we couldn't have sympathy because we would avoid anyone in distress.
I've always been struck by the attraction we seem to have for misfortunes such as car crashes, so maybe he's right.

Friday, 6 May 2016

37 - Casanova/Whitman/Burke

Short Story:
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova (tr): The fox and the hare
(From a Mexican book I found at a library sale.) A fox and a hare are starving, and the fox decides to steal a pumpkin and fruit from a girl. It's a cruel story, and I think it's a terrible translation as it doesn't read naturally.

Walt Whitman: O Me! O Life!
This is one of the real 'biggies': a forever-keeper poem and I think one of the greatest ever written. It speaks to every one of us:
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Edmund Burke: Of the sublime

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

36 - Casanova/Whitman/Burke

Short Story:
Pablo Gonzalez Casanova:  The lion, the cacomistle, and the fox

This is from a little book of Indigenous Mexican stories I picked up at the library. The cacomistle is a sort of mountain lion, I think. In the stories, all the animals are thieves and are led by a lion, who orders them to steal. They obey because the alternative is to be eaten themselves.

Walt Whitman: As I pondered in silence, and Eidolons
As I Pondered in Silence
As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.
Be it so, then I answer'd,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance
and retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the
field the world,
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.

Edmund Burke: The sublime and the beautiful: pain and pleasure.

Monday, 2 May 2016

35 --- Lavin/Whitman/Burke

Short Story:
Mary Lavin (1912-96): The Will
From the book of Irish short stories. A powerful story of long-concealed emotions, in which a mother dies and leaves nothing to one of her children in the will.

Walt Whitman: One's Self I Sing (1867)
A short and simple poem, but very powerful:
One’s-Self I sing, a simple separate person, 
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse. 

Of physiology from top to toe I sing, 
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say the Form complete is worthier far, 
The Female equally with the Male I sing. 

Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power, 
Cheerful, for freest action form’d under the laws divine, 
The Modern Man I sing.

Edmund Burke (1729–1797): The sublime and the beautiful: novelty
I'm dipping into my Harvard Classics for this one!