Monday, September 27, 2010

Esther reviews the Twilight series

My reasons for liking the Twilight series are as follows. 1) I was finally reading a book that a lot of my friends were reading and excited about. 2) After I finished, I enjoyed the humor of the parodies and reviews of the books to the fullest. My reasons for not liking the books over-much are, well, everything else.

As stated in my first reason it was enjoyable to pick up a pop fiction book, know what the masses are reading, and see what all the fuss is about. The Twilight books are appealing in that they are able to engage and entertain.

John Granger in his article in Touchstone says that he believes the books are so popular because,
They meet a spiritual need. Mircea Eliade, in his book The Sacred and the Profane, suggests that popular entertainment, especially imaginative literature and film, serves a religious or mythic function in a secular culture. When God is driven to the periphery of the public square, the human spiritual capacity longs for exercise, and it often finds it in the “suspension of disbelief” and activity of the imagination that are available in novels and movies.

John Granger's enthusiasm is inspiring and it is refreshing how he reads with his eyes open. His article on Twilight was well done, and he makes some very interesting observations about Meyer's incorporation of Mormon symbolism.
The books are, in fact, a re-telling of the Garden of Eden drama—with a Mormon twist. Here, the Fall is a good thing, even the key to salvation and divinization, just as Joseph Smith, Jr., the Latter-day Saint prophet, said it was. Twilight conveys the appealing message that the surest means to God are sex and marriage.

Granger argues that Meyer's use of the meadow is significant as a symbol.
“Mountain Meadows,” means something much less pastoral and positive and much more visceral and painful to American Latter-day Saints (LDS). The summer of 2003 saw the publication of three books that focused on the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which tragedy Mormon faithful in Southern Utah executed more than 120 men, women, and children on their way to California from Arkansas. All three books paint the Mormon faith as inherently bloodthirsty, violent, secretive, and abusive to women and non-believers. The Twilight novels, especially Breaking Dawn, can be understood as a response to the challenge they posed to Mormon believers like Mrs. Meyer. In brief, Meyer was inspired to write works in which she addresses and resolves in archetypal story the criticisms being made of Mormonism by atheists and non-believing gentiles.

He also points out other items of import. Meyer has Carlisle Cullen's birth in the mid-1660s, the same period when historic Mormonism was born in Europe. She also has Carlisle take up medical practice in the 1840s, the same time as Joseph Smith’s “restoration” of the gospel in America.

For those that do not need the books to serve a religious function, while immensely entertaining, they are...well, just that. They are so easy to read. So easy in fact, that it is nothing at all to read them and then completely forget what was read. (Although my skimming may have had something to do with that...but not much!) Meyer is a good storyteller, even if there isn't much a of plot or character development. One feels like a druggie might, going from book to book, or hit to hit as quickly as possible. She begins interestingly enough, developing her mythology, and setting up her characters, even if her storyline and descriptions seem to wane a bit. There are parts of the books that were taxing to even read. This, in reality, is more a fault of mine, since I cannot take the modern brand of "romantic". I found myself identifying with the reviewer who said, "The part of the story where Edward kisses Bella and her heart literally stops, I just...I don't even know what to do with this. Other than laugh hysterically while I beat my head against the table."

I'm not in the camp that sees the books as dangerous in and of themselves. Unless you are worried that your daughter might try to emulate the writing style. The argument that "it is dangerous" is not only incredibly vague, but is an argument that could be applied to literally anything. The danger lies in the reader not having the discernment or wisdom to see the books for what they are- which is fluff. And, yes, it is potentially dangerous when someone thinks that they are getting a balanced diet while eating marshmallow creme for 3 meals a day, everyday. A little fluff in a well balanced literary diet is no cause for alarm. However, the other side that is just happy that teens are reading and think "any reading is good reading" is like congratulating an anorexic for eating a marshmallow.

These books seem to suit those who have forgotten their child-like ways a long time ago, but not their
childishness. Their soul is forgot, fairies are forgot, but selfish fantasies last forever. However, this is not the whole appeal of the books, and the over-precautions parent who thinks it is, misses quite a lot. If you have filled your daughter's mind with truth, goodness, beauty this story will be read with diversion and amusement. I haven't met an overwhelming amount of girls like that though. These books should pose no threat when they can be read to entertain, but not to form.

Michele Catalano of Heretical Ideas writes,

Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight is being hailed as the next Harry Potter, but in reality it’s just an emo song in literary clothing. With vampires.
A couple of chapters into Twilight, I was seriously flabbergasted. How in the world did this book even get past an editor? Meyer’s writing style reminds me of what would happen if a Harlequin Romance was mashed with the Flowers in the Attic series. The flowery prose, the countless, breathless descriptions of Edward’s teeth, the way Meyer pours out adjectives like a bartender who forgot to put the regulator on the vodka bottle – it all makes for a cringe inducing writing style that makes me wonder if Meyer sold her soul to get this published.

What I found curious were all of the enraged
fans. Those that recognized Meyer's writing as inferior but still enjoyed the the beginning. Below are some reviews that I found extremely funny. Both those of you who thought the books a fun read and those of you who did not, I think will enjoy the following reviews.

1) Edward goes through more mood swings in an hour than a pregnant woman does her whole term. You would think 100+ years would teach him to even out that temper a little. He is awesome. Lest you forget it, he's even awesomer than the rest of his vampire family at everything. And for some reason, he doesn't mind taking high school over and over again - which some would describe as a kind of hell.

2) Anytime somebody gets labeled something histrionic ('The Next J.K. Rowling'), I'm curious. Unquestionably, this author has worked very hard to crank out some seriously long novels that are seriously packed with - well, not really plot, or action, and a great deal of thin, meandering dialogue - so I'm not quite sure what's in each book, but I do not doubt for one second that the passion of her romance writing is bizarrely gripping. I read all three of these books faster than whatever book I last read in the airport, and that's saying something.

3) Yet another heroine who doesn't know she's beautiful and describes herself as shy but never exhibits the trait. The book is told in first person, which is unfortunate, because that means the reader is at ground zero for all of her insipid thoughts.

4) Meyer tends to overuse adjectives and adverbs, but does so in the least descriptive way possible. How did Bella look on her wedding day? I couldn't tell you, since Meyer never bothered to describe her dress other than to say it was satin-y. And how about the rest of the wedding ceremony? There were flowers "everywhere" and everyone looked "amazing." Thanks. I can totally picture that.
5) There were so many errors it was distracting. Dialog tagging: use it. Also, adverbs are not your friends. If Bella "shyly" does one more thing, I'm going beat her with her own arm. If you have to tell us that people are chuckling, giggling, that their eyes are "tightening" (what does that even mean?) then you're failing at description. If you must tell and not show, read some Willa Cather. She gets away with it. You don't. So stop.

6) Bella is also the ultimate Mary Sue, which doesn't help Meyer's writing skills in my eyes. Bella is SO PERFECT. Everyone LOVES HER... injury-prone Bella is adorable. Will Charlie object to Bella Sue getting married at 18? Of course not! Will Bella Sue become the most graceful vampire ever, even though she was the world's clumsiest person? You bet! Bella gets everything she wants in Breaking Dawn and sacrifices nothing.

7) Renesmee - Say it out loud. I dare you.
...Renee and Charlie - So, while Renee has been the primary parent and the person that Bella is closest to for the entire series, suddenly she's just...absent. Laaaame.

8) Here, Bella, dieing and screaming in agony, vomits blood while the mutant baby inside of her destroys her body, internal organs and spine. Edward uses his teeth to bite the baby out of her uterus. Bella dies and then Edward injects vampire venom into her heart with a syringe.
This is how Bella starts her new life with him. TOTAL Slap. In. The. Face.
I was ready to drive to Arizona, find Stephenie Meyer's house, and burn it down.
...If it weren't bad enough that this annoyingly perfect child that absolutely everyone in the book ADORES exists, she is destined to be with JACOB. At the end of the book, Edward calls Jacob SON. I just shuddered again WRITING that.

9) This whole series was a travesty really, but like any good masochist I plodded through. I find it fascinating that the author tiptoes gently over the whole implied sex thing, yet goes above and beyond (wayyyy above and wayyyy beyond) to make sure the Miracle of Childbirth is depicted in a way that would make the makers of the Saw movie franchise proud.

10) I can only hope that the third book doesn't contain the following phrases and/or words, because I HATE THEM BY NOW:
velvet voice
tousled bronze hair
marble slab
perfect face
singing laughter
aching hole
russet skin
angelic anything
it felt like I was dreaming
I wasn't sure if it was a dream
it had to be a dream

Here is part of the parody that I came across.

He led me to a small creek and sank gracefully into the grass at its edge. I tripped over a pebble and landed on my face in the mud. Edward laughed. How could he love me? He was so beautiful, gorgeous, and perfect. Like the statue of David come alive. Like Adonis, a god, an angel.
Edward removed his shoes and rolled up the cuffs of his jeans, and I gasped at the sight of his white, smooth ankles. Sunlight reflected off his toenails, each an ivory glint of perfection. I’d never seen Edward’s feet before. I hadn’t realized he could be more beautiful than he was, but there seemed no end to his beauty.
My heart beat madly in my chest, bounced up into my throat, ricocheted off half a dozen ribs, and finally settled somewhere in the vicinity of my kneecap. I collapsed.
Faster than a speeding bullet, Edward had lifted me in his marble arms and cradled me to his granite chest. “Bella? Bella!” he screamed. “No!”
The sight of his perfect, glorious face so twisted in anguish sent waves of torture through my body. “Edward!” I gasped.
“Will you answer a question?” I asked.
“Of course, my love, my life, my forever,” Edward said, casually tearing boulders apart with his toes. I watched, spellbound for a moment, before remembering myself.
“He stood, stretched, and his shirt rose enough for me to catch a glimpse of his sculpted abs above his waistband. I hyperventilated and passed out.
...Despair settled over me, so thick and heavy I could hardly see. “No, Edward! Don’t leave me! I know we’ve only been together for three hours, but I want to spend forever with you! Please!”
His perfect, glorious, heavenly face dipped toward me, and he touched his cold lips to my neck. He growled deep in his throat, a sound that traveled up and down my spine like lightning.
Then nothing.
Edward looked down at the body of Bella Swan, pale and lifeless in his pale and lifeless arms.
His sobs shook the forest for six long seconds, and then he stood, wiping a drop of blood from the corner of his mouth.
He sprinted for the edge of the forest, moving faster than any living creature, and wondered if that Angela girl would be his new lab partner.
The End

Saturday, September 18, 2010

For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalm 107:9

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I do not write for such dull elves

It is not only well known, but celebrated, that Jane Austen is a talented and precise writer. Her descriptions are not long and flowery as Bronte's are. She possesses clarity of vision as well as humility, and I am convinced she would say the two go hand in hand. She had a keen eye for all the goings on around her, and yet she was modest.

So it is quite diverting to hear critics hail her as a great writer (of course) but then go into scathing detail about her "limitations". "Well now!", they may say, "Here is a writer who lived during the time of the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Terror, the rise and fall of Napoleon, and does not devote a single paragraph to them!"

W. Somerset Maugham answers,
She could not have acted more wisely than she did in avoiding to deal with affairs which from the literary standpoint were of passing interest. Already the novels concerned with the Great War that have been written in the last few years are as dead as mutton.

On the other hand, JA's novels are fresh as daisies because she placed her focus on the enduring idea of how to live. And as she takes her "fine brush" in hand and draws the picture of her own world, we begin to see ours clearly.

Alain de Botton observes,
There are books that speak to us of our own lives with a clarity we cannot match. They prevent the morose suspicion that we do not fully belong to the species, that we lie beyond comprehension. Our embarrassments, our sulks, our envy, our feelings of guilt, these phenomena are conveyed in Austen in a way that affords us bursts of almost magical self-recognition. The author has located words to depict a situation we thought ourselves alone in feeling, and for a few moments, we see ourselves more clearly and wish to become whom the author would have wanted us to be.

As true as this statement is, did she only write about the actions and feelings of her characters? Was there "no blood" as Leithart remarked (see his intro. to Miniatures and Morals)?

A critic, Arnold Kettle, writes,
The silliest of all criticisms of Jane Austen is one which blames her for not writing about the Battle of Waterloo and the French Revolution. She wrote about what she understood and no artist can do more. But did she understand enough?...

Donald Greene answers,
How do we know that Jane Austen did not understand the French Revolution and the Napoleonic War- she lost a relation to the guillotine in the first and had two brothers on active service for many years in the second- as well as Tolstoy, say, who was not born until they were over, or as Arnold Kettle?

Surely, even as a mere movie-goer, one cannot miss the soldiers mentioned on every other page of Pride and Prejudice. And what of our great Captain Wentworth of Persuasion who gives an account of his touch-and-go with death during his navel career one evening to the Musgrove ladies? I wonder, have any of these critics read Mansfield Park? If so, how is it possible to miss the ongoing discussion during the whole of the novel of England and France? The debate over- are we to stay true to our England or be sucked into the French ways of the Crawfords? As Henry Tilney tells Catherine in Northanger Abbey, "Remember that we are English, that we are Christians." This mindset pitted against the French phrases (her menus plaisirs and her tout ensemble) and morals that Mary Crawford seductively tosses around.

Another criticism of JA, perhaps one remembers it well for having been given by Charlotte Bronte who stated, "The passions are perfectly unknown to her." To which Lionel Stevenson adds that JA avoids narrating "scenes of strong feeling". This all quite baffles me. By all accounts, Elizabeth Bennet is a passionate person, and for that matter, so is Darcy. I believe Marianne frequently allowed herself to be quite carried away by the passions on several occasions. Some of the heroines are quieter about it, true. But just because Elinor or Anne Eliot doesn't slam the door on their way out and remember to mind their social manners, doesn't exclude them from passion or strong feeling. Virginia Woolf observes that, "Jane Austen stimulates us to supply what is not there." Even our meek and mild, Fanny Price, has her moments of strong feeling when Henry Crawford is once again being himself. JA tells us, "Now she was angry...Here was again a want of delicacy and regard for others which had formerly so struck and disgusted her. (emphasis mine)

Perhaps, JA agrees with Lady Philosophy. When Lady Philosophy finds Boethius weeping (in his Consolation of Philosophy),the Muses of Poetry with him, she becomes angry.
"Who," she demanded, her piercing eyes alight with fire, "has allowed these hysterical sluts to approach this sick man's bedside? They have no medication to ease his pains, only sweetened poisons to make them worse. These are the very creatures who slay the rich and fruitful harvest of Reason with the barren thorns of Passion. They habituate men to their sickness of mind instead of curing them."

According to Dorothy Van Ghent there are key ingredients when mixing up a novel. She says,
It is the frequent response of readers who are making their first acquaintance with Jane Austen that her subject matter is itself so limited- limited to the manners of a small section of English country gentry, who apparently never have been worried about death or sex, hunger or war, guilt or God- that it can offer no contiguity with modern interests. This is a very real difficulty in an approach to an Austen novel, and we should not obscure it.

Let's see... death, sex, hunger, war, guilt, God...that comes out to six ingredients. I am at a loss to know which of JA's books Professor Van Ghent could have possibly read. It is true that the modern novel one reads now are written more often than not with vividly depicted sex-scenes and blood splattered everywhere. Perhaps that is one of the reasons the subtly of JA is missed. The other reason must be thick-headedness.

Despite the fact that I cannot agree with the "necessary six ingredients", I must point out that these themes are in JA's novels. (Shocking, I know.) Sense and Sensibility begins with the death of Mr Dashwood which shapes the entire story. The death of Mrs Eliot overshadows the beginning story of Persuasion as it overshadows the life of Anne. You also sense this in Northanger Abbey when talking with Elinor Tilney. And let us not forget Mansfield Park and poor Tom, who's impending doom was much talked of within the walls of both Mansfield houses. And who's recovery disappointed one young lady's hopes for a rich husband and large dinner parties.

Jumping right into the discussion of the second ingredient, one can only wonder how it was missed. Illicit sex occurs in 4 of her 6 books. The exceptions being Emma (though it is discussed at length in reference to Harriet Smith's parentage) and Northanger Abbey. Though in NA it isn't absolutely clear that it did not (think Isabella Thorpe and Capt. Tilney), just perhaps more probable. I did not think Lydia and Wickham or Maria Bertram and Crawford possible to miss, even for the naive! Donald Greene wonders if these things are often overlooked because JA "often takes such matters in her stride." W.H.Auden certainly didn't miss it. He told Lord Byron,
You could not shock her more that she shocks me;
Beside her Joyce seems as innocent as grass.

As for hunger (the third ingredient), the Dashwood ladies are quite at a loss at what they are to do after the death of Mr Dashwood until they are met with the kindness of John Middleton. Jane Fairfax is in an even lower state and tells Mrs Elton so when she talks to her of what she dubs the "governess-trade". She talks of "the sale, not quite of human flesh, but of human intellect." Fanny Price is also faced with this in contemplating to her future life when sent by her uncle to the broken-down home of her parents in Portsmouth.

We have already talked of war and rumor of war, but there are so many references here! JA must have received her firsthand information of the royal navy from her brothers, Frank and Charles. All through the book, Persuasion, war (Admiral Croft, Wentworth, Harville), death (Fanny Harville, Lousia), hunger (Mrs Smith), and love (Benwick, Anne) are a fundamental part of the story. Another example is Fanny in Mansfield Park, who worries over her brother, William, going to sea.

As to guilt, JA is, to quote Donald Greene again, of the great portrayers of guilt, to be ranked with Sophocles and Dostoyevsky- guilt and its consequences in the way of misery; guilt and its redemption by remorse, self-examination, the acquisition of new insight, expiation. I can think of few English novelists in whose works the word itself occurs more frequently, except her mentor, Richardson. There are no finer self-recognition scenes in literature than those of Marrianne Dashwood and Elizabeth Bennet-
"How despicably have I acted! I, who have prided myself on my discernment! I, who have valued myself on my abilities! who have often disdained the generous candour of my sister, and gratified my vanity in useless or blameable distrust. How humiliating is this discovery! yet, how just a humiliation!...Till this moment I never knew myself"

Recall Emma Woodhouse who had
never felt so agitated, mortified, grieved, at any circumstance in her life. She was most forcibly struck. The truth of his representation there was no denying. She felt it at her heart. How could she have been so brutal, so cruel to Miss Bates!... Time did not compose her. As she reflected more, she seemed to feel it more. She had never been so depressed... Emma felt the tears running down her cheeks almost all the way home, without being at any trouble to check them, extraordinary as they were.

Emma again has a moment of self-realization when Harriet thinks she'll have Mr Knightly for herself.
Every moment had brought a fresh surprise; and every surprise must be a matter of humiliation to her. How to understand it all! How to understand the deceptions she had thus been practicing on herself, and living under! The blunders, the blindness of her own head and heart! She sat still, she walked about, she tried her own room, she tried the shrubbery- in every place, every posture, she perceived that she had acted most weakly

As Donald Greene writes,
Few other pens have dwelt so long and so convincingly on guilt and misery as Jane Austen's. If the literal-minded critic asks in bewilderment, "Why then does she confuse us by making the statement (Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious objects as soon as I can.) that she does at the end of Mansfield Park?

Jane Austen's reply might once again be, "I do not write for such dull elves/ As have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves" (from her Letters).

I would like to further point the reader to an essay by C.S.Lewis, A Note on Jane Austen, in which he develops this (guilt and misery in JA) more fully.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chesterton on the writings of JA

"... I fancy that Jane Austen was stronger, sharper and shrewder than Charlotte Bronte; I am quite sure that she was stronger, sharper and shrewder than George Eliot. She could do one thing neither of them could do: she could coolly and sensibly describe a man. ..."

G.K. Chesterton What's Wrong
With The World (1910)

"...Charlotte Bronte, understood along her own instincts, was as great; Jane Austen was greater. The latter comes into our present consideration only as that most exasperating thing, an ideal unachieved. It is like leaving an unconquered fortress in the rear. No woman later has captured the complete common sense of Jane Austen. She could keep her head, while all the other women went looking for their brains. She could describe a man cooly; which neither George Eliot nor Charlotte Bronte could do. She knew what she knew, like a sound dogmatist: she did not know what she did not know--like a sound agnostic. But she belongs to a vanished world before the great progressive age of which I write. ...

Jane Austen was born before those bonds which (we are told) protected women from truth, were burst by the Brontes or elaborately untied by George Eliot. Yet the fact remains That Jane Austen knew more about men than either of them. ... When Darcy, in finally confessing his faults, says 'I have been a selfish being all my life, in practice though not in theory,' he gets nearer to a complete confession of the intelligent male than ever was even hinted by the Byronic lapses of the Brontes' heroes or the elaborate exculpations of George Eliot's. Jane Austen, of course, covered an infinitely smaller field than any of her later rivals; but I have always believed in the victory of small nationalities."

G.K. Chesterton The Victorian Age in Literature (1913)


Flannery O'Connor is one of the best I've ever read. Every time the seasons change I am reminded of something she wrote,
He felt he knew now what time would be like without seasons and what heat would be like without light and what man would be like without salvation.
(Now how many writers do you know of that can put all of that into one sentence?)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes

more from Don Colacho

"The feminists are ridiculous; the anti-feminists are vulgar." ~Nicolás Gómez Dávila

from Don Colacho

"There is no idiocy which modern man is not prepared to believe once he stops believing in Jesus Christ." ~Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

O for a beaker full of the warm South

Alas, the poetry contests have come to an end. It was fun while it lasted. Now how about that nice ol' chat about John Keats? I hope we have some fans of his out there. His poetry, as well as his letters, are worth the read. For a taste of his humor how about, Give me Women, Wine, and Snuff.

Give me women, wine, and snuff
Until I cry out 'Hold, enough!'
You may do so sans objection
Till the day of resurrection;
For, bless my beard, they aye shall be
My beloved Trinity.
Some of our fellow inhabitants aren't any good at expressing themselves, and some are good at it, but one could do very well with out having them do it, so to speak. Keats doesn't fit into either one of these categories. He says it all with grace and elegance.
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
Or this one,
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd
By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
She will be bound with garlands of her own.

His odes are considered his best work. Someone once said his Ode to a Grecian Urn was worth any number of little old ladies. Even if some of us may take umbrage with that statement we cannot deny there is something to it. I am particularly fond of his Ode to a Nightingale.

Ode to a Nightingale
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,--
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim-
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain--
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:--Do I wake or sleep?