a storm at sea (Milton)

 

 

Meanwhile the Southwind rose, and, with black wings
Wide hovering, all the Clouds together drove
From under Heav’n; the Hills to their supple
Vapour, and Exhalation dusk and moist,
Sent up amain; and now the thicken’d Sky
Like a dark Ceiling stood; down rush’d the Rain
Impetuous; and continu’d, till the Earth
No more was seen: the floating Vessel swum
Uplifted, and secure with beaked prow
Rode tilting o’er the Waves; all dwellings else
Flood overwhelmed, and them with all their pomp
Deep under water rolled; Sea cover’d Sea,
Sea without shore;

— John Milton, Paradise Lost (Book XI)

 

(I have slightly modified the original spelling.)

 

*****************************************************

 

Has anyone ever written (painted in words) a more accurate, telling description of a rainstorm: in this case, a storm at sea (Milton is referring to The Flood)?

And to think that in college (in an English course I took) I couldn’t get into Milton, could not manage to read Paradise Lost.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

 

   February 2021

I never knew.

 

 

I love it when I learn something that should be obvious — something seemingly trivial, but not so, actually — that clears up a fundamental misunderstanding and enables one to see something in an entirely new way.

On CNN tonight, a commentator explained that “high crimes and misdemeanors” means crimes committed by individuals in positions of high office. Thus “high” does not modify “crimes,” which I always thought.

The way I always understood the phrase was — and it never quite made sense to me — that an elected official can be impeached for (1) “high crimes,” meaning very serious ones, perhaps treason or failing to faithfully execute the laws, plus (perhaps) serious crimes committed while in office, such as the usual worst felonies: murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.; or (2) “misdemeanors”: more petty crimes not befitting a public official or showing unfitness for office, such as cronyism or graft.

Wrong!

The adjective “high” modifies both “crimes” and “misdemeanors.” It is not meant to be fused with “crimes.” In context, “high” means committed by persons holding high office.

 

— Roger W. Smith

February 9, 2021

Schubert

 

 

 

 

Posted here, the second movement

Andante con moto

of Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor (Death and the Maiden), performed by the Julliard String Quartet.

 

It speaks for itself — and for Schubert.

With my rudimentary knowledge of musical form, I realized that the second movement is in the form of theme and variations, something we learned about in a so-so music appreciation course I took in college.

 

posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 2021

Lewis Henry Morgan on the language of the Iroquois

 

 

Morgan – Iroquois language

 

 

The text of this post (downloadable Word document above) is from the following book:

League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, Iroquois

by Lewis Henry Morgan

Sage & Brother Publishers, Rochester, NY, 1851

The text is from a reprint of the complete original edition.

Posted here is a major portion of the text of Book III, Chapter II — on the Iroquois language — of Morgan’s classic work. It was of great interest to me when I first read it. I purchased a newly published edition (a reprint of the original work in its entirety) at the Museum of Natural History some time ago and have read the chapter on the Iroquois language many times. It is of great interest to me as a student of language.

 

*****************************************************

 

Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881) was an American anthropologist and social theorist. Morgan, who also worked as a railroad lawyer, was a Republican member of the New York State Assembly in 1861, and of the New York State Senate in 1868 and 1869.

In the 1840s, Morgan had befriended the young Ely S. Parker of the Seneca tribe and the Tonawanda Reservation. With a classical missionary education, Parker went on to study law. With his help, Morgan studied the culture and the structure of Iroquois society. Based on his extensive research, Morgan wrote and published The League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee or Iroquois (1851). He dedicated the book to Parker (who was then 23) and “our joint researches” This work presented the complexity of Iroquois society in a path-breaking ethnography that was a model for future anthropologists. (Wikipedia)

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   January 2021

 

 

 

Lewis Henry Morgan

 

 

political invective

 

I am currently reading

The Literary Underground in the 1660s: Andrew Marvell, George Wither, Ralph Wallis, and the World of Restoration Satire and Pamphleteering

by Stephen Bardle

Oxford University Press, 2012

 

 

It is hard to follow the religious and political disputes of seventeenth century England: the time of the Civil Wars; the execution of Charles I … the time of Cromwell; persecuted dissenters such as John Bunyan and George Fox; the Restoration; retribution against regicides; disputes between religious sects.

Nevertheless, read these two scurrilous poems* and ask yourself, can anyone top our forebears for published invective?

*In Bardle, The Literary Underground in the 1660s, pp. 15-17.

 

When Cuckoo Presbyter first rob’d the Nest
Of th’ Harmless Dove, the smaller birds addrest
Themselves to it, and having learnt by rote,
Found ’twas a harsh, rigid and untun’d Note.
But yet complied, while rub’d with Cuckoos mange,
They took their Conscience-liberty to range;
So they divide the spoyl, and their lewd itch
Fell scratching of the RUMP (in English) Britch;
Whose blasts the Cuckoo’d borrowed Feathers ruggled,
But since Halcyon, both together shuffled.
No Cuckoo now, but Pyebald Sir Jolhn Daw;
Do you kaw me, and Ile you likewise Kaw.

— Anon., A Dialogue between the Two Giants in Guildhall** (London, 1661, pp. 5-6

 

**The allegory (A Dialogue) relates Presbyterian control over the Church — the dove –­ during the Revolution, but also implies anti-monarchical principles, since by representing chem as a ‘cuckoo’, the Presbyterians are associated with attacking the oak of the royal family. (Bardle, pg. 16)

 

 

Tis News to me, that, creatures of their frame,
To any purpose, should repeat my name,
Since, probably, they do not know their own,
But, are the greatest Block-heads in the Town,
Except it be those foolish Pamphleteers
That, use to write such Dialogues as theirs;
(Or, base Invectives tending to th’increase
Of Discord, by the breach of civil peace)

— George Wither, Joco-Serio. Strange News of a Discourse, Between Two dead Giants*** (London, 1661), pg. 3

 

***Wither’s reply to A Dialogue between the Two Giants in Guildhall — entitled Joco-Serio. Strange News of a Discourse, Between Two dead Giants, expressed in an Epigram, to one Inquisitive for News (1661) — highlights the uncomfortable position the writers of A Dialogue had created for themselves. By attacking Wither in a popular, polemical style, the authors of A Dialogue had inadvertently made themselves vulnerable to the common Anglican Royalist argument that linked the disputations of the public sphere with civil strife. (Bardle, pg. 17)

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    January 2021

Forrest, “The Chinese Language”

 

 

2 Forrest. The Chinese Language

 

aaa

 

Posted here (downloadable documents above) are excerpts from the following book which I have just now been rereading:

 

The Chinese Language, Third Edition

By R. A. D. Forrest, M.A.

London: Faber And Faber Ltd, 1973

 

It is a book which I discovered in my college library and read avidly then. (On my own. It was not assigned for a course.)

If you love languages — and love learning about them, as I do — you will find it fascinating.
Forrest writes beautifully and displays great erudition.

I do not know any Chinese. I do have the opportunity, which I value, to get acquainted with Chinese people in New York City and to observe certain notable characteristics which might be inferred about their native language, such as when (to give just one example) they confuse the masculine and feminine singular pronoun.

 

— posted by Roger W, Smith

   January 2021

 

 

 

Roger W. Smith, “Leo Durocher”; “Wesley Branch Rickey”

 

Leo Durocher – Notable Sports Figures

 

Branch Rickey – Notable Sports Figures

 

I am reposting here two articles (downloadable Word files above) I wrote in 2004 for Notable Sports Figures (published by the educational publishing company Gale) about two Hall of Fame baseball figures, Leo (The Lip) Durocher and Branch Rickey.

The word limit was very strict — 3,500 words — and both articles came in at almost exactly that length. Published authors writing for hire (for, say, newspapers or reference books) know how it can be a challenge to cover the topic and write prose that reads well while adhering to such a limit. The amount of research I did was extensive. People don’t usually realize or appreciate how much spade work goes into such a piece.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2020

Purcell!

 

[/audio

 

This track contains mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker’s performance of the aria “When I Am Laid In My Grave” (also known as Dido’s lament) from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas.

It was on  side 2 of a precious LP that I purchased in a Manhattan record store in the 1970s: of a groundbreaking performance conducted by Anthony Lewis (made in the 1950s) of Purcell’s opera.

I don’t think I have ever heard a more beautiful aria. Purcell’s death, at the age 36,  was a tragic loss — speaking in general terms, to music.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2020