Category Archives: literature

the beauty of Walt Whitman’s images

 

 

the beauty of Whitman’s images

 

 

This post is in the format of a 24-page essay (downloadable Word document above).

My essay is entitled “The Beauty of Walt Whitman’s Images.”

 

 

 

from the introduction:

 

I have become well acquainted with Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass through repeated readings — I have committed many lines to memory. From familiarity — and, I suppose one would say, the spiritual comfort Whitman’s poetry gives me — Leaves of Grass has become a sort of Bible for me.

Below is a compilation by me of striking, beautiful, brilliant — so original, and often unique — images that I have culled from Leaves of Grass. I think they prove that Whitman, who is deliberately and studiously non-literary — without affectation and without using common poetic tropes — constantly infuses his poetry with images of startling beauty. That’s the best way I know how to put it.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

    June 2020

James Joyce, Defoe lecture (Trieste, 1912)

 

 

Joyce, ‘Daniele Defoe’ (Italian)

 

Joyce, ‘Daniel Defoe’ (English)

 

 

The above downloadable Word documents contain the full texts — in the original Italian and English translation — of a lecture on Daniel Defoe that James Joyce delivered at the Univerità Populare, Trieste, Italy in 1912.

A bilingual edition of this lecture is virtually unobtainable — in print or on line. (The Defoe lecture, which was accompanied by one Joyce gave on William Blake, was presumed to be lost or unavailable for a long time.)  I managed to obtain separate texts and have transcribed the entire lecture for posting here.

Defoe and his works have long been an interest of mine, and my appreciation as well as interest in him continues to grow.

 

 

Roger W. Smith

   April 2020

“The Editor believes the thing to be a just History of Fact; neither is there any Appearance of Fiction in it” … “some are so bold as to think my book of travels a mere fiction out of mine own brain”

 

 

 

THE PREFACE.

 

IF ever the Story of any private Man’s Adventures in the World were worth making Publick, and were acceptable when Publish’d, the Editor of this Account thinks this will be so.

The Wonders of this man’s Life exceed all that (he thinks) is to be found extant: the Life of one Man being scarce capable of a greater Variety.

The Story is told with Modesty, with Seriousness. and with a religious Application of Events to the Uses to which wise Men always apply them (viz.) to the Instruction of others by this Example, and to justify and honour the Wisdom of Providence in all the Variety of our Circumstances. let them happen how they will.

The Editor believes the thing to be a just History of Fact; neither is there any Appearance of Fiction in it: And however thinks, because all such things are dispatch’d, that the Improvement of it, as well to the Diversion, as to the Instruction of the Reader, will be the same: and as such, he thinks, without farther Compliment to the World. he does them a great Service in the Publication. [italics added]

 
— Daniel Defoe, The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719)

 

 

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THE PUBLISHER TO THE READER.

 
The author of these Travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient and intimate friend; there is likewise some relation between us on the mother’s side.  About three years ago, Mr. Gulliver growing weary of the concourse of curious people coming to him at his house in Redriff, made a small purchase of land, with a convenient house, near Newark, in Nottinghamshire, his native country; where he now lives retired, yet in good esteem among his neighbours.

Although Mr. Gulliver was born in Nottinghamshire, where his father dwelt, yet I have heard him say his family came from Oxfordshire; to confirm which, I have observed in the churchyard at Banbury in that county, several tombs and monuments of the Gullivers.

Before he quitted Redriff, he left the custody of the following papers in my hands, with the liberty to dispose of them as I should think fit.  I have carefully perused them three times.  The style is very plain and simple; and the only fault I find is, that the author, after the manner of travellers, is a little too circumstantial.  There is an air of truth apparent through the whole; and indeed the author was so distinguished for his veracity, that it became a sort of proverb among his neighbours at Redriff, when any one affirmed a thing, to say, it was as true as if Mr. Gulliver had spoken it.

By the advice of several worthy persons, to whom, with the author’s permission, I communicated these papers, I now venture to send them into the world, hoping they may be, at least for some time, a better entertainment to our young noblemen, than the common scribbles of politics and party.

This volume would have been at least twice as large, if I had not made bold to strike out innumerable passages relating to the winds and tides, as well as to the variations and bearings in the several voyages, together with the minute descriptions of the management of the ship in storms, in the style of sailors; likewise the account of longitudes and latitudes; wherein I have reason to apprehend, that Mr. Gulliver may be a little dissatisfied.  But I was resolved to fit the work as much as possible to the general capacity of readers.  However, if my own ignorance in sea affairs shall have led me to commit some mistakes, I alone am answerable for them.  And if any traveller hath a curiosity to see the whole work at large, as it came from the hands of the author, I will be ready to gratify him.

As for any further particulars relating to the author, the reader will receive satisfaction from the first pages of the book.

 

RICHARD SYMPSON.

 

 

 
A LETTER FROM CAPTAIN GULLIVER TO HIS COUSIN SYMPSON.

Written in the Year 1727.

 

I hope you will be ready to own publicly, whenever you shall be called to it, that by your great and frequent urgency you prevailed on me to publish a very loose and uncorrect account of my travels, with directions to hire some young gentleman of either university to put them in order, and correct the style, as my cousin Dampier did, by my advice, in his book called “A Voyage round the world.”  But I do not remember I gave you power to consent that any thing should be omitted, and much less that any thing should be inserted; therefore, as to the latter, I do here renounce every thing of that kind; particularly a paragraph about her majesty Queen Anne, of most pious and glorious memory; although I did reverence and esteem her more than any of human species.  But you, or your interpolator, ought to have considered, that it was not my inclination, so was it not decent to praise any animal of our composition before my master Houyhnhnm: And besides, the fact was altogether false; for to my knowledge, being in England during some part of her majesty’s reign, she did govern by a chief minister; nay even by two successively, the first whereof was the lord of Godolphin, and the second the lord of Oxford; so that you have made me say the thing that was not.  Likewise in the account of the academy of projectors, and several passages of my discourse to my master Houyhnhnm, you have either omitted some material circumstances, or minced or changed them in such a manner, that I do hardly know my own work.  When I formerly hinted to you something of this in a letter, you were pleased to answer that you were afraid of giving offence; that people in power were very watchful over the press, and apt not only to interpret, but to punish every thing which looked like an innuendo (as I think you call it).  But, pray how could that which I spoke so many years ago, and at about five thousand leagues distance, in another reign, be applied to any of the Yahoos, who now are said to govern the herd; especially at a time when I little thought, or feared, the unhappiness of living under them?  Have not I the most reason to complain, when I see these very Yahoos carried by Houyhnhnms in a vehicle, as if they were brutes, and those the rational creatures?  And indeed to avoid so monstrous and detestable a sight was one principal motive of my retirement hither.

Thus much I thought proper to tell you in relation to yourself, and to the trust I reposed in you.

I do, in the next place, complain of my own great want of judgment, in being prevailed upon by the entreaties and false reasoning of you and some others, very much against my own opinion, to suffer my travels to be published.  Pray bring to your mind how often I desired you to consider, when you insisted on the motive of public good, that the Yahoos were a species of animals utterly incapable of amendment by precept or example: and so it has proved; for, instead of seeing a full stop put to all abuses and corruptions, at least in this little island, as I had reason to expect; behold, after above six months warning, I cannot learn that my book has produced one single effect according to my intentions.  I desired you would let me know, by a letter, when party and faction were extinguished; judges learned and upright; pleaders honest and modest, with some tincture of common sense, and Smithfield blazing with pyramids of law books; the young nobility’s education entirely changed; the physicians banished; the female Yahoos abounding in virtue, honour, truth, and good sense; courts and levees of great ministers thoroughly weeded and swept; wit, merit, and learning rewarded; all disgracers of the press in prose and verse condemned to eat nothing but their own cotton, and quench their thirst with their own ink.  These, and a thousand other reformations, I firmly counted upon by your encouragement; as indeed they were plainly deducible from the precepts delivered in my book.  And it must be owned, that seven months were a sufficient time to correct every vice and folly to which Yahoos are subject, if their natures had been capable of the least disposition to virtue or wisdom.  Yet, so far have you been from answering my expectation in any of your letters; that on the contrary you are loading our carrier every week with libels, and keys, and reflections, and memoirs, and second parts; wherein I see myself accused of reflecting upon great state folk; of degrading human nature (for so they have still the confidence to style it), and of abusing the female sex.  I find likewise that the writers of those bundles are not agreed among themselves; for some of them will not allow me to be the author of my own travels; and others make me author of books to which I am wholly a stranger.

I find likewise that your printer has been so careless as to confound the times, and mistake the dates, of my several voyages and returns; neither assigning the true year, nor the true month, nor day of the month: and I hear the original manuscript is all destroyed since the publication of my book; neither have I any copy left: however, I have sent you some corrections, which you may insert, if ever there should be a second edition: and yet I cannot stand to them; but shall leave that matter to my judicious and candid readers to adjust it as they please.

I hear some of our sea Yahoos find fault with my sea-language, as not proper in many parts, nor now in use.  I cannot help it.  In my first voyages, while I was young, I was instructed by the oldest mariners, and learned to speak as they did.  But I have since found that the sea Yahoos are apt, like the land ones, to become new-fangled in their words, which the latter change every year; insomuch, as I remember upon each return to my own country their old dialect was so altered, that I could hardly understand the new.  And I observe, when any Yahoo comes from London out of curiosity to visit me at my house, we neither of us are able to deliver our conceptions in a manner intelligible to the other.

If the censure of the Yahoos could any way affect me, I should have great reason to complain, that some of them are so bold as to think my book of travels a mere fiction out of mine own brain, and have gone so far as to drop hints, that the Houyhnhnms and Yahoos have no more existence than the inhabitants of Utopia. [italics added]

Indeed I must confess, that as to the people of Lilliput, Brobdingrag (for so the word should have been spelt, and not erroneously Brobdingnag), and Laputa, I have never yet heard of any Yahoo so presumptuous as to dispute their being, or the facts I have related concerning them; because the truth immediately strikes every reader with conviction.  And is there less probability in my account of the Houyhnhnms or Yahoos, when it is manifest as to the latter, there are so many thousands even in this country, who only differ from their brother brutes in Houyhnhnmland, because they use a sort of jabber, and do not go naked?  I wrote for their amendment, and not their approbation.  The united praise of the whole race would be of less consequence to me, than the neighing of those two degenerate Houyhnhnms I keep in my stable; because from these, degenerate as they are, I still improve in some virtues without any mixture of vice.

Do these miserable animals presume to think, that I am so degenerated as to defend my veracity?  Yahoo as I am, it is well known through all Houyhnhnmland, that, by the instructions and example of my illustrious master, I was able in the compass of two years (although I confess with the utmost difficulty) to remove that infernal habit of lying, shuffling, deceiving, and equivocating, so deeply rooted in the very souls of all my species; especially the Europeans.

I have other complaints to make upon this vexatious occasion; but I forbear troubling myself or you any further.  I must freely confess, that since my last return, some corruptions of my Yahoo nature have revived in me by conversing with a few of your species, and particularly those of my own family, by an unavoidable necessity; else I should never have attempted so absurd a project as that of reforming the Yahoo race in this kingdom: But I have now done with all such visionary schemes for ever.

April 2, 1727

 

 

— Jonathan Swift, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships (1726)

 

 

 

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For some unaccountable reason, the Preface to Robinson Crusoe is rarely printed in current editions of the book.

 

 

posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2020

the great American novel hasn’t been written yet (review of “Of Time and the River”)

 

 

“the great American novel hasn’t been written yet”

review of Of Time and the River by Thomas Wolfe

TIME Magazine

March 11, 1935

 

 

The Great American Novel has not yet been written. Herman Melville did several chapters of it, Walt Whitman some chapter headings, Henry James an appendectiform footnote. Mark Twain roughed out the comic bits, Theodore Dreiser made a prehistoric-skeleton outline, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos, Ernest Hemingway all contributed suggestions. Last week it began to look as if Thomas Wolfe might also be at work on this hypothetical volume. His first installment (Look Homeward, Angel) appeared five years ago, his second (Of Time and the River) last week. In the interval Author Wolfe had written some 2,000,000 words, now has ready two more volumes of his projected six. Great in conception and scope, Author Wolfe’s big book occasionally falters in execution, but his second volume is written with a surer hand than the first. If installments to come improve at such a rate there will no longer be any question about Wolfe’s great and lasting contribution to U. S. letters.

Scene, as well as subject, of course, is the U. S. Time-scheme will run from 1791 to 1933; the first two volumes cover 1884-1925, the last will go back to an earlier beginning. Readers of Look Homeward, Angel will remember its wildly sensuous account of the Gant family. In Of Time and the River Author Wolfe picks up his story, continues his method: he flays real life until the skin is off it and the blood comes. The skin-narrative can be shortly told. Eugene Gant, youngest of his family, at 19 leaves his Southern home and goes to Harvard. His father, a Jeremiah miscast, is slowly dying. In Cambridge Eugene studies hard at his playwriting course, makes many a queer acquaintance, one good friend: Starwick, a Midwestern esthete. After going home for his father’s funeral, and finishing his Harvard course, Eugene goes to Manhattan, teaches English for a while at a downtown college, then goes abroad. He gets little good out of England, finds Paris more to his taste. There he meets Starwick again, spends hard-living months with him and two U. S. girls, one of whom has left her husband for Starwick. Eugene falls in love with the other, only to find that she, too, loves Starwick. His disappointment, coupled with a suspicion that his friend is not as manly as he might be, leads to a final quarrel. The quartet breaks up, Eugene adventures for a time by himself, finally decides to go home. As he boards the liner at Cherbourg he sees a face, hears a voice, that he knows will haunt him forever. Here the book ends.

But no such bald outline can give even the superficial taste of this big (912-page) book. It contains hundreds of characters, scenes that range from harsh realism through satire and humor to passages of Joycean impressionism, Whitmanesque poetry. In form it is variously a narrative, an epic, a diatribe, a chronicle, a psalm, but in essence it is a U. S. voice. Author Wolfe’s whole theme: “Why is it we have crossed the stormy seas so many times alone, lain in a thousand alien rooms at night hearing the sounds of time, dark time, and thought until heart, brain, flesh and spirit were sick and weary with the thought of it; ‘Where shall I go now? What shall I do?’. . . We are so lost, so lonely, so forsaken in America: immense and savage skies bend over us, and we have no door.”

Of Manhattan and its citizens he writes: “Hard-mouthed, hard-eyed, and strident-tongued, with their million hard gray faces, they streamed past upon the streets forever, like a single animal, with the sinuous and baleful convolutions of an enormous reptile. And the magical and shining air—the strange, subtle and enchanted weather, was above them, and the buried men were strewn through the earth on which they trod, and a bracelet of great tides was flashing round them, and the enfabled rock on which they swarmed swung eastward in the marches of the sun into eternity, and was masted like a ship with its terrific towers, and was flung with a lion’s port between its tides into the very maw of the infinite, all-taking ocean. . . .”

The Author. Thomas Clayton Wolfe’s career closely parallels that of his hero, Eugene Gant. Born in Asheville, N. C. in 1900, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at 19, then took an M.A. at Harvard, where he studied under the late Professor George Pierce Baker in his famed 47 Workshop. After traveling and studying in Europe he got a job as instructor in the English department at New York University. Five years ago he resigned to devote himself to his magnum opus, went to Europe again on a Guggenheim Fellowship. An omnivorous reader, he says of his hero “Within a period of ten years he read at least 20,000 volumes.” After futile searches for “a place to write,” Thomas Wolfe is at present living in Brooklyn. Says Eugene, in autobiographical disgust: ” ‘To write’—to be that most foolish, vain, and impotent of all impostors, a man who sought the whole world over ‘looking for a place to write’, when, he knew now with every naked, brutal penetration of his life ‘the place to write’ was Brooklyn, Boston, Hammersmith, or Kansas—anywhere on earth, so long as the heart, the power, the faith, the desperation, the bitter and unendurable necessity, and the naked courage were there inside him all the time.”

Big, heavyset, wild-eyed, Thomas Wolfe looks the intensely serious writer he is. In Sinclair Lewis’s belligerent speech accepting the Nobel Prize (1930) he said of Wolfe: “He may have a chance to be the greatest American writer. . . . In fact I don’t see why he should not be one of the greatest world writers.” No backscratcher, in Of Time and the River Author Wolfe replies: “A book like Main Street, which made such a stir, is like Main Street.”

 

 

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This review caught my eye. Because it gives a feeling for how Thomas Wolfe (whom I have been intending to read more of, if I can find the time) was perceived relatively early in his career.

Regarding the anonymous Time reviewer’s comment that “The Great American Novel has not yet been written” yet, I disagree that it hadn’t. Of course, Walt Whitman was not a novelist (though he wrote a couple of novels); and the review is written in the breezy style that Time was known for.

I consider it my own opinion, but come to think of it, I think that it was first expressed to me by a former friend of mine, Charles Pierre: namely, that The Great American Novel had been written long before Wolfe and Hemingway existed — by Herman Melville. Moby-Dick. Charlie and I were both reading Moby-Dick at about the same time. There is no doubt on my part as to the truth of this statement.

 
— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2020

“Comme on voit sur la branche au mois de mai la rose”

 

 

 

a9 Platero y yo 2014

 

 

 

 

a13 Platero and I 1978

 

 

 

 

cover - Lyrics of the French Renaissance

 

 

 

XLVIII

RONSARD

 

Libre ya Platero del cabestro, y paciendo entre las castas margaritas del pradecillo, me he echado yo bajo un pino, he sacado de la alforja moruna un breve libro y, abriéndolo por una señal, me he puesto á leer en alta voz:

Comme on voit sur la branche au mois de mai la rose

En sa belle jeunesse, en sa première fleur,

Rendre le ciel jaloux de…

Arriba, por las ramas últimas, salta y pía un leve pajarillo, que el sol hace, cual toda la verde cima suspirante, de oro. Entre vuelo y gorjeo, se oye el partirse de las semillas que el pájaro se está almorzando.

…jaloux de sa vive couleur…

Una cosa enorme y tibia avanza, de pronto, como una proa viva, sobre mi hombro… Es Platero, que, sugestionado, sin duda, por la lira de Orfeo, viene á leer conmigo. Leernos:

…vive couleur,

Quand l’aube de ses pleurs au point du jour l’a…

Pero el pajarillo, que debe digerir aprisa, tapa la palabra con una nota falsa.

Ronsard se debe haber reído en el infierno…

 

 

— Juan Ramón Jiménez, Platero y Yo: Elegía Andaluza

 

 

 

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RONSARD

 

With Platero already free of his halter and grazing among the chaste daisies of the little meadow, I have stretched-out under a pine tree, taken a small book from my Moorish saddleback and opening it at a marker, have begun to read aloud:

Comme on voit sur la branche au mois de mai la rose

En sa belle jeunesse, en sa première fleur,

Rendre le ciel jaloux de…

Above, in the highest branches, hops and chirps a light bird, which the sun, together with the whole green, sighing treetop, turns to gold. Between flights and warbles, one can hear the crackling of the seeds of which the bird is making a meal.

…jaloux de sa vive couleur…

Something enormous and warm suddenly moves, like a living prow, over my shoulder …. It is Platero, who, attracted, no doubt, by Orpheus’ lyre, has come to read with me. We read:

…vive couleur,

Quand l’aube de ses pleurs au point du jour l’a…

But the tiny bird, who must digest quickly, covers the words with a false note.

Ronsard must have laughed in hell. …

 

— Juan Ramón Jiménez, Platero and I: An Andalusian Elegy; translated by Antonio T. de Nicolάs

 

 

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Comme on voit sur la branche au mois de Mai la rose
En sa belle jeunesse, en sa première fleur
Rendre le ciel jaloux de sa vive couleur,
Quand l’Aube de ses pleurs au point du jour l’arrose :

La grâce dans sa feuille, et l’amour se repose,
Embaumant les jardins et les arbres d’odeur :
Mais battue ou de pluie, ou d’excessive ardeur,
Languissante elle meurt feuille à feuille déclose :

Ainsi en ta première et jeune nouveauté,
Quand la terre et le ciel honoraient ta beauté,
La Parque t’a tuée, et cendre tu reposes.

Pour obsèques reçois mes larmes et mes pleurs,
Ce vase plein de lait, ce panier plein de fleurs,
Afin que vif, et mort, ton corps ne soit que roses.

Pierre de Ronsard, Le Second Livre des Amours, II, iv

 

 

Just as, upon the branch, one sees the rose’s
Bud bloom in May, young blossom newly spread
Before the sky. jealous of its bright red,
As Dawn, sprinkling her tears, the morn discloses;

Beauty lies in its leaf, and love reposes,
Wafting its scent on tree, bush, flowerbed:
But, lashed by rain or torrid heat, soon: dead,
Leaf after leaf its fragile grace exposes.’

So too, blooming with youth, as earth and heaven
Honored your beauty, to Fate was it given
To slay your flesh, which now in ash reposes.’

Take thus these tears that I, in tribute, shed,
This jug of milk, these blossoms heaped, outspread,
So that in death, as life, that flesh be roses.

— translation by Norman R. Shapiro, in Lyrics of the French Renaissance: Marot, Du Bellay, Ronsard (Yale University Press, 2002), pp. 288-289

 

 

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“Comme on voit sur la branche” est un extrait du recueil Sur la mort de Marie publié en 1578 par Pierre de Ronsard [1524-1558]. … La vie de Ronsard fut marquée en particulier par 3 femmes, Marie, Cassandre et Hélène, pour lesquelles il écrivit beaucoup. Ronsard composa ses poèmes surtout sur le thème de la fuite du temps, de l’expression des sentiments…

“Comme on voit sur la branche” est un poème officiel écrit sur demande d’Henri III, c’est-à-dire de circonstance, ce roi venait de perdre sa maîtresse Marie de Clèves décédée à 21 ans en 1574. Ce poème fait un parallèle avec la vie de Ronsard qui a été épris d’une paysanne Marie Dupin, morte en 1573.”

 

https://www.bacdefrancais.net/comme-on-voit-sur-la-branche-ronsard.php#introduction

 

 

“Comme on voit sur la branche” is an excerpt from the collection On the Death of Mary published in 1578 by Pierre de Ronsard [1524-1585]. … Ronsard’s life was marked in particular by three women, Marie, Cassandre and Hélène, for whom he wrote a great deal. ….

“Comme on voit sur la branche” is an official poem written on request of Henry III, that is to say under the circumstance that this king had just lost his mistress Marie de Cleves, who died at 21 years of age in 1574. This poem is parallel with the life of Ronsard who was enamored of a peasantm Marie Dupin, died in 1573.

 

 

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“This poem and the one following are from a cycle of thirteen on “La Mort de Marie” (The Death of Marie) that constitute the second part of Le Second Livre des Amours. Most, if not all, of these poems sing Ronsard’s love, not of the idealized Marie d’ Anjou, as is most often thought, but of Marie de Clèves, wife of Henri de Bourbon, prince de Condé. See the Céard­Ménager-Simonin edition, where the editors note the influence on Ronsard of Petrarch’s poems on the death of Laura. Therein Ronsard found a theme that unified the second part of his own Second Livre des Amour.s and concealed its intended subjects: Marie de Clèves and the grieving Henri III. There are numerous echoes of Petrarch in this sequence.

 

Lyrics of the French Renaissance: Marot, Du Bellay, Ronsard, footnote, pg. 288

why academic criticism leaves me cold

 

 

When asked to describe my activities as a research/writer, I say that I am “independent scholar.” I am not and never have been an academic or professorial type, despite having taught literature and writing as an adjunct professor briefly. I have no academic credentials, other than a B.A. degree in the humanities, that would qualify me as an English professor.

My interest in literature comes from a lifetime love of books and reading, of literature and good writing.

I love the books I read for their own sake and am interested usually (very interested) in learning about the authors themselves — their lives and times. I take a great interest in learning about the writers I read qua writers: their style; how they compare to others writers; how they fit into the literary landscape and tradition; their development. Which is to say that, besides reading books for their own sake, I am constantly reading them from a scholarly/critical point of view. But, I never lose sight of the works themselves, which for me are paramount. To put it another way, the pleasure for me of reading is elemental. Yet, at the same time, there is great intellectual pleasure (the greatest I have derived, for the most part) in reading. And, I like to be challenged by deep writers who make one think and earn my admiration.

I am thoroughly uninterested in academic criticism such as that in the latest issue of the journal American Literary History (published by Oxford University Press), the contents of which are below. What this sort of criticism has to do with the actual works, with literature, is problematic — to put it bluntly, there is no connection. This is tendentious, polemical criticism. It shows what academia is up to when it comes to the study of literature, and it seems to be getting worse.

It’s depressing to contemplate.

 

— Roger W. Smith

  November 2018

 

 

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American Literary History Table of Contents

Volume 30 Issue 4

Winter 2018

 

ARTICLES

 

What Was Black Nostalgia?

Jonathan D S Schroeder

 

American Alternatives: Participatory Futures of Print from New York City’s Nineteenth-Century Spanish-Language Press

Kelley Kreitz

 

Crime Fiction and Black Criminality

Theodore Martin

 

The Book Reads You: William Melvin Kelley’s Typographic Imagination

Kinohi Nishikawa

 

The Novel and WikiLeaks: Transparency and the Social Life of Privacy

Scott Selisker

 

Liberalism and the Early American Novel

Stephen Shapiro

 

Attention Spans

Elizabeth Duquette

 

Debunking Dehumanization

Jeannine Marie DeLombard

 

Queer Sociality After the Antisocial Thesis

Benjamin Kahan

 

Archives of Ecocatastrophe; or, Vulnerable Reading Practices in the Anthropocene

Nicole M Merola

 

Four Theses on Economic Totality

Mitchum Huehls

 

Rethinking Pauline Hopkins: Plagiarism, Appropriation, and African American Cultural Production

Richard Yarborough; JoAnn Pavletich; Ira Dworkin; Lauren Dembowitz

 

 

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See also my post:
“Theodore Dreiser under the microscope (of a nutty professor or two)”

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/12/16/theodore-dreiser-under-the-microscope-of-a-nutty-professor-or-two/

 

to autumn

 

 

 

 

Madison Square Park 12-20-p.m. 11-16-2016.jpg

Madison Square Park, New York City; November 2016 (photograph by Roger W. Smith)

 

 

 

Vassar College 12-05 p.m. 10-11-2018.JPG

Poughkeepsie, NY; October 2018 (photograph by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

Pushkin’s favorite month was October.

Spring starts out wet and raw and often wintry at the outset. Fall starts out just plain nice and within a couple of weeks or so has become just plain gorgeous.

By the end of the season, fall has become indistinguishable from winter. But, in the first month or so, fall features clear, sunny days without oppressive heat, which in summer can be unbearable.

By the end of spring, summer is already here and one experiences days that suffuse the senses of old and young with sheer delight. Ask Shakespeare, who wrote of “springtime, the only pretty ring time, / Sweet lovers love the spring.” (As You Like It).

Ask Edvard Grieg or Carl Nielsen.

Autumn has its proponents too.

 

 

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Let Autumn spread his treasures to the sun.
Luxuriant and unbounded …

From heaven’s high cope the fierce effulgence shook
Of parting Summer, a serener blue,
With golden light enliven’d, wide invests
The happy world. Attemper’d suns arise,
Sweet-beam’d, and shedding oft thro’ lucid clouds
A pleasing calm; while broad, and brown, below
Extensive harvests hang the heavy head. …

The sultry south collects a potent blast.
At first the groves are scarcely seen to stir
Their trembling tops; and a still murmur runs
Along the soft-inclining fields of corn.
But as the aerial tempest fuller swells,
And in one mighty stream, invisible.
Immense! the whole excited atmosphere
Impetuous rushes o’er the sounding world;
Strain’d to the root, the stopping forest pours
A rustling shower of yet untimely leaves. …

 

– James Thomson, The Seasons (1726-1730)

 

 

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue.

 

John Keats, ‘To Autumn” (1820)

 

 

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Октябрь уж наступил — уж роща отряхает

Последние листы с нагих своих ветвей;

Дохнул осенний хлад — дорога промерзает.

Журча еще бежит за мельницу ручей,

Но пруд уже застыл; сосед мой поспешает

В отъезжие поля с охотою своей,

И страждут озими от бешеной забавы,

И будит лай собак уснувшие дубравы.

 

 

Теперь моя пора: я не люблю весны;

Скучна мне оттепель; вонь, грязь — весной я болен;

Кровь бродит; чувства, ум тоскою стеснены.

Суровою зимой я более доволен,

Люблю ее снега; в присутствии луны

Как легкий бег саней с подругой быстр и волен,

Когда под соболем, согрета и свежа,

Она вам руку жмет, пылая и дрожа!

 

 

Ох, лето красное! любил бы я тебя,

Когда б не зной, да пыль, да комары, да мухи.

Ты, все душевные способности губя,

Нас мучишь; как поля, мы страждем от засухи;

Лишь как бы напоить, да освежить себя —

Иной в нас мысли нет, и жаль зимы старухи,

И, проводив ее блинами и вином,

Поминки ей творим мороженым и льдом.

 

— Александр Пушкин, Осень (1833-1841)

 

 

 

October has arrived – the woods have tossed

Their final leaves from naked branches;

A breath of autumn chill – the road begins to freeze,

The stream still murmurs as it passes by the mill,

The pond, however’s frozen; and my neighbor hastens

to his far-flung fields with all the members of his hunt.

The winter wheat will suffer from this wild fun,

And baying hounds awake the slumbering groves.

 

This is my time: I am not fond of spring;

The tiresome thaw, the stench, the mud – spring sickens me.

The blood ferments, and yearning binds the heart and mind..

With cruel winter I am better satisfied,

I love the snows; when in the moonlight

A sleigh ride swift and carefree with a friend.

Who, warm and rosy ‘neath a sable mantle,

Burns, trembles as she clasps your hand. …

 

O, summer fair! I would have loved you, too,

Except for heat and dust and gnats and flies.

You kill off all our mental power,

Torment us; and like fields, we suffer from the drought;

To take a drink, refresh ourselves somehow –

We think of nothing else, and long for lady Winter,

And, having bid farewell to her with pancakes and with wine,

We hold a wake to honor her with ice-cream and with ice.

The latter days of fall are often cursed,

But as for me, kind reader, she is precious

In all her quiet beauty, mellow glow.

 

 

— Alexander Pushkin, “Autumn” (1833-1841)

 

 

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“Europeans coming to America are surprised by the brilliancy of our autumnal foliage. There is no account of such a phenomenon in English poetry, because the trees acquire but few bright colors there. … October is the month for painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world.”

— Henry David Thoreau, “Autumnal Tints” (1862)

 

 

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And, Roger W. Smith.

And, yes, the foliage is unmatched in the Northeast. I grew up in Massachusetts like Thoreau, and I never can or will forget the September and October days of my childhood.

 

 

— Posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2018

Çalikuşu (The Autobiography of a Turkish Girl) now available in a complete, new English translation

 

 

The book is available on Amazon:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calikusu cover

 

 

 

 

Çalikuşu (The Wren)

by Reşat Nuri Güntekin

The Complete English Translation

Parts 1-4 Translated from The Turkish by Sir Wyndham Deedes

Part 5 Translated from The Turkish by Tugrul Zure and Edited by Angel Garcia

 

 

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Çalikuşu (The Wren, 1922) is a novel by the Turkish author Reşat Nuri Güntekin (1889-1956). The novel was published in English translation in 1949 under the title of The Autobiography of a Turkish Girl. The English translation, by Sir Wyndham Deedes, was incomplete.

Deedes did not translate the entire novel. The Deedes translation has long been out of print and is almost impossible to acquire.

Now a new, complete translation has been published.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2018

 

 

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PREFACE TO THE NEW EDITION

by Angel Garcia
This book is the result of an unexpected journey down a rabbit hole.

My mother loves foreign dramas. She fell in love with Feride and Kamran, the main characters of a Turkish drama that is available on Netflix. The drama is based on a Turkish book and she pleaded with me to find an English translation (if you know Filipino mothers, you will know the power of their soulful dark eyes and singsong voices). I figured the task would be an easy one, and the perfect Christmas present.

On Netflix, the drama is called Lovebird in English and Çalikuşu in Turkish. A bit of digging online revealed that Çalikuşu actually means “wren” and that the book is a Turkish classic written by Reşat Nuri Güntekin in 1922. An English translation by Sir Wyndham Deedes was written in 1949 but I could not find any available hardcopies. More digging, however, led me to an online file of the English translation, on which I spent many post-workday evenings manually typing it up and formatting it into a manuscript. Mission accomplished! I printed an actual physical book for my overjoyed mother that Christmas.

But I wasn’t fully content. My investigation also revealed that the English translation was incomplete. Fortunately, my engineering colleague and good Turkish friend, Tugrul Zure, was willing to check. I purchased the original Turkish version for him to compare with my manuscript and it was confirmed: the English version of Part 5 had left out many, many pages. Having now watched all the episodes on Netflix and also having read Deedes’ translation, I was intrigued and emotionally invested in Feride’s 192o’s Turkish life. The Netflix version of the story has deviations from the Turkish classic novel and ends much earlier than the classic novel, omitting Feride’s teaching adventures. How did Çalikuşu really end? If I could somehow procure a complete Part 5, would I even be allowed to put it together with Deedes’ Parts 1 to 4?

Luck was on my side. I began a search for the rights holder to Deedes’ work. Sir Wyndham Deedes passed away in 1956 without a wife or children. I instead found his grandnephew, Jeremy Wyndham Deedes, who was kind enough to allow me to use his great uncle’s work in assembling a complete English translation of Çalikuşu. To top it all off, my friend Tugrul was willing to help me translate the complete Part 5. Despite having moved away and preparing to have a baby with his wife on the other side of Canada, be continued to help me remotely.

So, a gigantic thank you Tugrul Zure and also to Jeremy Wyndham Deedes, who has graciously given his permission on behalf of the Deedes’ family. I can only hope that Reşat Nuri Güntekin and Sir Wyndham Deedes would approve.

Mom, enjoy! That goes for you too, Netflix Lovebird fans.

 

 

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a (2).jpg

 

b (3).jpg

 

c (2).jpg

The first page of Part Five, which has hitherto not been translated into English.

 

 

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See also my post:
“A Turkish Novel”
https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/01/03/a-turkish-novel-2/

an early take by Walt Whitman on his conception of himself as America’s poet

 

 

Walt Whitman began his writing career as a journalist. He was known early on for writing anonymous reviews of Leaves of Grass — in other words, reviewing himself, in laudatory terms. A motivation for his doing this was that he clearly felt his poetic endeavor would not be understood by the literati or his countrymen, and indeed his poetry initially baffled most and offended many because of its frankness, or what one might call lack of reticence when it came to topics not discussed in polite society. Even his own family seems not to have for the most part read his poetry or understood it.

Below is an unpublished puff piece by Whitman that was in his papers. It is not un-similar to anonymous reviews of Leaves of Grass he actually wrote. His conception of himself as a sort of literary gatecrasher is amusing. It has more than a grain of truth.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   August 2018

 

 

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We suppose it will excite the mirth of many of our readers to be told that a man has arisen, who has deliberately and insultingly ignored all the other, the cultivated classes as they are called, and set himself to write “America’s first distinctive Poem,” on the platform of these same New York Roughs, firemen, the ouvrier class, masons and carpenters, stagedrivers, the Dry Dock boys, and so forth; and that furthermore, he either is not aware of the existence of the polite social models, and the imported literary laws, or else he don’t value them two cents for his purposes.

 

Notes and Fragments, edited by R. M. Bucke; in Complete Writings of Walt Whitman, vol. IX (New York, 1902), pg. 70

“The Poet”

 

 

In the “Divinity School Address” [given at Harvard Divinity School in 1838, Ralph Waldo] Emerson at times made it sound as though his understanding of Christ had transformed that figure into a type of the artist, a man who … had seen “further” than others with more limited vision–An example is Emerson’s statement of how Christ recognized “that God incarnates himself in man, and evermore goes forth anew to take possession of his World.” … in his later essay “The Poet,” … [Emerson] lambasted contemporary theologians for thinking it “a pretty air-castle to talk of the spiritual meaning of a ship or a cloud, of a city or a contract.” Such men prefer, he noted sardonically, “to come again to the solid ground of historical evidence,” not realizing “the highest minds of the world have never ceased to explore the double meaning, or shall I say the quadruple or centuple or much more manifold meaning, of every sensuous fact.” If his friends were to be faulted for any religious shortcomings, then, it was because they … did not perceive the literal presence of the miraculous in nature’s commonplace facts.

One of Emerson’s most revealing paragraphs in this essay deals specifically with his sense of the poet as a universal Christ-figure. … In “The Poet” Emerson thought it important to suggest how much his contemporaries needed another redeemer, one whose grasp of language and symbol, as well as of divine truth, was comparable to Christ’s, or at least to others among the world’s great prophets. …

Throughout the essay Emerson elaborates the intended equation between Christ and the poet. Like Christ, who stood as ransom before his Father for the entire human race, so, too, the poet is “representative” and “stands among partial men for the complete man.” Further, like the Christ who freed mankind again to the possibility of entering heaven, so the poet is a liberator who “unlocks our chains and admits us to a new thought.” When men are exposed to the truths the poet expresses, they recognize how “the use of his symbols has a certain power of emancipation for all men.” And like the Savior who called all unto him as children, when the poet speaks men “seem to be touched by a wand which makes [them] dance and run about happily, like children.” “Poets,” Emerson brazenly declares, “are thus liberating gods.”

Indeed, throughout the essay Emerson intends to make his readers aware that he means no deception when he equates the work of the Sayer with a process of salvation, for the poet provides a feeling akin to what those of an earlier generation (and, indeed, what some evangelicals of Emerson’s own day) would have called a conversion experience. As he continues in this vein, Emerson sounds as though he were making a narration of the influence of saving grace upon his soul. “With what joy,” he exclaims, “I begin to read a poem which I confide in as an inspiration! And now my chains are to be broken; I shall mount above these clouds and opaque airs in which I live . . . and from the heaven of truth I shall see and comprehend my relations.” The “new birth” is complete, for at such moments, Emerson announces confidently, he becomes “reconcile[d]” to live, while all nature becomes “renovate[d].” “Life will no more be a noise” to him who has experienced the effects of the poet’s vision; and, as self-righteously as any of his seventeenth-century New England ancestors, Emerson claims that then is he able to “see men and women and know the signs by which they may be discerned fools and satans.” The rebirth of his soul is complete, for “this day [when the poet’s message is heard] shall be better than my birthday: then I became an animal; now I am invited into the science of the real.”

This remarkable reworking of the morphology of conversion into an aesthetic experience takes on more significance when the reader is aware of how closely the older forms of religious vocabulary have been melded with terms from the idealistic philosophy to which Emerson had been exposed: He details this dream-vision of transcendence with reference to an explicitly Coleridgean term. “This insight,” Emerson declares, “expresses itself by what is called Imagination” and is best understood not by reference to any religious terminology but as “a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees . . . by sharing the path or circuit of things through forms … ” In the presence of the poet wielding his liberating symbols, man stands, Emerson mystically suggests, “before the secret of the world, there where Being passes into Appearance and Unity into Variety.”

But it is imperative that the poet also become the “Sayer or Namer” and openly declare what has been hidden from his contemporaries because of their imperfect nature and limited vision. “The world being thus put under the mind for verb and noun, the poet is he who can articulate it.” The secret of the universe, to paraphrase Robert Frost, literally sits in the middle of men, and the poet must do all in his power to make the secret apparent.

For through that better perception he stands one step nearer to things, and sees the flowing or metamorphosis; perceives that … within the form of every creature is a force impelling it to ascend into a higher form; and following with his eyes the life, uses the form which expresses that life, and so his speech flows with the flowings of nature.

For the poet the world becomes “a temple whose walls are covered with emblems, pictures and commandments of the Deity,” and it becomes his job to convey the meaning behind those emblems as evocatively as he can. … Emerson indeed believed that “Nothing walks, or creeps, or grows, or exists, which must not in tum arise and walk before him [the poet] as an exponent of his meaning.” Thus, the lessons from men like [the American Swedenborgian Sampson] Reed and {Guillaume] Oegger were assimilated, but along with the important corollary that man must not, like the self-centered mystic, “nail a symbol to one sense, which was a true sense for a moment, but soon becomes old and false.” The poet is he who knows that “all symbols are fluxional; all language is vehicular and transitive, and is good, as ferries and horses are, for conveyance, not as farms and houses are, for homestead.” When man reads the true poet’s works, Emerson believes, he finds himself on a version of Jacob’s ladder, the rungs of which are assembled from the world’s natural facts and by which he is to climb to view the world of spirit.

— Philip F. Gura, The Wisdom of Words: Language, Theology, and Literature in the American Renaissance

 
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I have been reading a fascinating and enlightening monograph: The Wisdom of Words: Language, Theology, and Literature in the American Renaissance by Philip F. Gura (Wesleyan University Press, 1981), from which the above passages are quoted.

Who is the poet whom Emerson foresaw and spoke of? Walt Whitman, as has often been noted.

 
— Roger W. Smith

   July 2018