Lincoln was wrong

Gettysburg

I am writing this blog post from a house that was 23 years old when Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.  That imbues me with a sense of perspective in the history of that speech.  Like the walls of this building those words have endured the assaults of time and have embedded to become stronger.  They have transcended the fickle winds of fashion to become rooted in the fabric of society.

On this day in 1863 Lincoln delivered his speech.  In an age when speeches ran to many hours these words seemed curt to the attendees, who never even settled in to the subject before it was done and dusted.  The photographer at the event failed to take a picture of the president delivering his speech.  The speech was over before he was ready with the camera.  He managed to capture a blurred image of the President descending from the podium after concluding his delivery.

The Gettysburg Address is probably the best known speech in the modern world.   Generations of American children have memorized it for school recitals.  It is held up as a model for brilliant speech.  Short, to the point, not a wasted word, powerful and compelling in its call to the people to build a better future.

In one regard it is wrong.  Lincoln said “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here..”

 

 

 

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A face that launched 1000 ships

Atwood

 

Today is the birthday of Margaret Atwood, born 1939 and still going strong.  If you read my blog regularly you will know I love her poetry and she features regularly on these pages.  Atwood is more than a poet, she is a wordsmith, a crafter of meaning through the manipulation of letter signs.  He poems are finely wrought pieces of jewelry.  They shine in the darkness of ignorance and light up our small lives like beacons of hope and beauty. Guides to a better life.

 

Helen Of Troy Does Countertop Dancing: by Margaret Atwood

The world is full of women
who’d tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they’d say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I’ve a choice
of how, and I’ll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it’s all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything’s for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can’t. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape’s been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there’s only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it’s the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can’t hear them.
And I can’t, because I’m after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don’t let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I’ll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That’s what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They’d like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look–my feet don’t hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I’m rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I’m not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.

Remembering Leonard Cohen

Len

Born on this day in 1934, passed away in 2016, the legend that was Leonard Cohen.  Singer, songwriter, poet, philosopher.  Happy Birthday Len.

My favourite memory is when I was in school or college and living at home in my parents house.  I was up late with a couple of friends and we were listening to music.  Leonard Cohen’s “Famous blue raincoat” which opens with the lyrics

It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better

When my dad came thundering into the room and said “this is ridiculous, you are up too late keeping the house awake.  For God’s sake it’s four in the morning!” and he was then stunned when we cracked up and fell around laughing.

 

The Future: by Leonard Cohen

(After Lorca)

Now in Vienna there are ten pretty women.
There’s a shoulder where death comes to cry.
There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows.
There’s a tree where the doves go to die.
There’s a piece that was torn from the morning,
and it hangs in the Gallery of Frost—
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws.

I want you, I want you, I want you
on a chair with a dead magazine.
In the cave at the tip of the lily,
in some hallway where love’s never been.
On a bed where the moon has been sweating,
in a cry filled with footsteps and sand—
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
take its broken waist in your hand.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
with its very own breath
of brandy and death,
dragging its tail in the sea.

There’s a concert hall in Vienna
where your mouth had a thousand reviews.
There’s a bar where the boys have stopped talking,
they’ve been sentenced to death by the blues.
Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
with a garland of freshly cut tears?
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
take this waltz, it’s been dying for years.

There’s an attic where children are playing,
where I’ve got to lie down with you soon,
in a dream of Hungarian lanterns,
in the mist of some sweet afternoon.
And I’ll see what you’ve chained to your sorrow,
all your sheep and your lilies of snow—
Ay, ay ay ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz
with its “I’ll never forget you, you know!”

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna,
I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise.
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder
my mouth on the dew of your thighs.
And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
with the photographs there and the moss.
And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty,
my cheap violin and my cross.
And you’ll carry me down on your dancing
to the pools that you lift on your wrist—
O my love, O my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
it’s yours now. It’s all that there is.

John Ashbery RIP

John Ashbery

I joked on his last birthday, at the age of 90, how frustrating it must be for the greatest living poet in the USA to share a birthday with Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Sadly Ashbery passed away yesterday, and to add insult to injury he bought the farm on the anniversary of the death of none other than E.E.Cummings.

The beauty for Ashbery was to be so exalted in his lifetime.  His genius was well recognized and celebrated.  Students of poetry will be unraveling his work for centuries to come.  For today we can empathise that if life is a dream this dream has ended and yet has not.

Life is a Dream; by John Ashbery

A talent for self-realization
will get you only as far as the vacant lot
next to the lumber yard, where they have rollcall.
My name begins with an A,
so is one of the first to be read off.
I am wondering where to stand – could that group of three
or four others be the beginning of the line?

Before I have the chance to find out, a rodent-like
man pushes at my shoulders. “It’s that way,” he hisses. “Didn’t they teach you
anything at school? That a photograph
of anything can be real, or maybe not? The corner of the stove,
a cloud of midges at dusk-time.”

I know I’ll have a chance to learn more
later on. Waiting is what’s called for, meanwhile.
It’s true that life can be anything, but certain things
definitely aren’t it. This gloved hand,
for instance, that glides
so securely into mine, as though it intends to stay.

 

Happy Birthday Sara Teasdale

A fatalist poet, Sara Teasdale may be most famous for her poem “I shall not care” which many people mistakenly believe is her suicide note.  In fact she published that poem in 1915.  Her lover, Vachel Lindsay, took his own life in 1931 and she died from an overdose of sleeping pills in 1933.

I Shall Not Care; by Sara Teasdale

When I am dead and over me bright April
shakes out her rain-drenched hair,
tho’ you should lean above me broken-hearted,
I shall not care.

I shall have peace, as leafy trees are peaceful
when rain bends down the bough,
and I shall be more silent and cold-hearted
than you are now.

-o0o-

Her poems are powerful through their simplicity.  “There will come soft rains” became a Ray Bradbury short story, and you can instantly see why.  The poem could and should be the anthem of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) who seek to protect planet earth by eliminating mankind.

There will come soft rains: by Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
and swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

and frogs in the pools singing at night,
and wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

robins will wear their feathery fire
whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

and not one will know of the war, not one
will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
if mankind perished utterly;

and Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
would scarcely know that we were gone.

Day record

Aubergine

My first ever Aubergine flower.

Very tired so I am just going to record what I did today and then crash.

Woke up, let the chickens out.  They are working out well.  3 eggs a day from 6 hens.  Keep it up girls.

Breakfast was our own eggs poached on toast.  Espresso coffee.

Dropped Esha to the train station with her friend Clodagh, on their way to see “Angela’s Ashes:  The musical”.

Recycled bottles and jars in Thurles.

Jerry drove myself and Gavin to Clonmel, Jerry to practice driving.  Gavin to buy school books for 5th and 6th year.  Last big shell out on school books!  Also hit the oriental shop to buy black beans, butter beans, pine nuts, turmeric, won-ton skins, pickled vine leaves and chick peas.

Dealz for hardback a4 copy books.

Had to go to the health food store for the sunflower seeds and tofu.

Over to Tesco in Clonmel for printer ink, lotto, wine, peanuts, baguette, pens.

Home for lunch.  Blue cheese, baguette, apple, tea.

Jerry cut lawns on ride on, Gavin cut small lawn with hand lawnmower. Picked, shelled, blanched and froze peas.  Cleaned out chicken coop.  Planted out aubergines.  Gavin fed tomato plants.  I weeded a lot.

Planted out some pot parsley plants.

Trimmed some branches of the horse chestnut tree.

Cut grass on the driveway.

Watched a bit of the tour de france time trial.

Fed the dog, walked the dog, watered the dog, cuddled the dog, gave out to the dog when it bit my toes.

Louise made pizza and focaccia.  Time to crash in front of the TV.

Life is what happens when you are making other plans..……John Lennon

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Omar Khayyam

Although we know him best for his poetry it is worth remembering that Khayyam was a mathematician of some note, and an astronomer.  As a scientist he had views on religion that were not popular when he lived when he was labeled a skeptic and a sinner.

In truth he was probably more of an agnostic than an atheist and more of  a Sufi mystic than a sinner.  At heart, as he displays in the quatrain below, he believed that we make our own fate.  He rejects the notion, so beloved of venal faithful of all religions, that you can behave badly on earth and be somehow rewarded in the afterlife.

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell

Khayyam