Life Is Motion
Bonnie and Josie,
Dressed in calico,
Danced around a stump.
Celebrating the marriage
Of flesh and air.
Life Is Motion
Bonnie and Josie,
Dressed in calico,
Danced around a stump.
Celebrating the marriage
Of flesh and air.
The Poems of Our Climate
Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations – one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations there.
Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.
There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
On The Circuit
Among pelagian travelers,
Lost on their lewd conceited way
To Massachusetts, Michigan,
Miami or L.A.,
An airborne instrument I sit,
Predestined nightly to fulfill
By whose election justified,
I bring my gospel of the Muse
To fundamentalists, to nuns,
to Gentiles and to Jews,
And daily, seven days a week,
Before a local sense has jelled,
From talking-site to talking-site
Though warm my welcome everywhere,
I shift so frequently, so fast,
I cannot now say where I was
The evening before last,
Unless some singular event
Should intervene to save the place,
A truly asinine remark,
A soul-bewitching face,
Or blessed encounter, full of joy,
Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan,
With, here, an addict of Tolkien,
There, a Charles Williams fan.
Since Merit but a dunghill is,
I mount the rostrum unafraid:
Indeed, ‘twere damnable to ask
If I am overpaid.
Spirit is willing to repeat
Without a qualm the same old talk,
But Flesh is homesick for our snug
Apartment in New York.
A sulky fifty-six, he finds
A change of mealtime utter hell,
Grown far too crotchety to like
A luxury hotel.
The Bible is a goodly book
I always can peruse with zest,
But really cannot say the same
For Hilton’s Be My Guest.
Nor bear with equanimity
The radio in students’ cars,
Muzak at breakfast, or–dear God!–
Girl-organists in bars.
Then, worst of all, the anxious thought,
Each time my plane begins to sink
And the No Smoking sign comes on:
What will there be to drink?
Is this a milieu where I must
How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig!
Snatch from the bottle in my bag
An analeptic swig?
Another morning comes: I see,
Dwindling below me on the plane,
The roofs of one more audience
I shall not see again.
God bless the lot of them, although
I don’t remember which was which:
God bless the U.S.A., so large,
So friendly, and so rich.
The Snow Man
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Sandall took a look at how Australia’s been dealing with the native population, and argued that there is a lot wrong with the current situation:
“Fifty years ago, the Australian Left strongly favored literacy, health, and the assimilation of indigenes. It was a broadly sensible goal. But Left progressivism is incompatible with the romantic idealization of hunting and gathering: the one wants to go forward, the other wants to go back. As anthropological romanticism triumphed in the sphere of social policy, the Left embraced “Aboriginality” over literacy and vocational skills, assimilation was denounced as supremely evil, and Australia’s northern indigenes began their slide into the oblivion of fixed dependency—illiterate, vocationally disabled, desperately in need of help.”
Now morally, if you extend concern toward the native tribes of North America you might disagree with their treatment at the hands of many a pioneer, settler, rancher and the U.S. Army. The forced migration and stories you’ll hear are not morally uplifting, to say the least. They can be quite awful. But you might also find that a move leftward socially (despite some arguable rewards and benefits to Natives from multiculturalism) is not nearly as good enough reason to scrap personal responsibility, a larger and more free economy (so that people may work and live alongside one another), nor your ability to choose to whom you extend moral concern.
The myth of the Noble Savage, and the sentiment directed at natives can often make things worse. Of course, one current American solution is to include natives in our economy (federally mandated casinos).
Feel free to highlight my ignorance and share any thoughts.
Also On This Site: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?
Did Jared Diamond get attacked for not being romantic enough…or just for potential hubris?: Was he acting as a journalist in Papua New-Guinea?: From The Chronicle Of Higher Education: Jared Diamond’s Lawsuit
One of the few people who might be considered left who’s thought deeply about the matter. Religion has a fair amount to do with it: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…
The Mohegan Sun Casino
My Last Duchess
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will ‘t please you sit and look at her? I said
‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ‘t was not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, ‘Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,’ or ‘Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:’ such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ‘t was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, ‘Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark’—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
—E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will ‘t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!
Vendler reviewed John Serio’s then new “Selected Poems” of Wallace Stevens.
“Stevens’s conscience made him confront the chief issues of his era: the waning of religion, the indifferent nature of the physical universe, the theories of Marxism and socialist realism, the effects of the Depression, the uncertainties of philosophical knowledge, and the possibility of a profound American culture, present and future.”
“Stevens’s poetry oscillates, throughout his life, between verbal ebullience and New England spareness, between the high rhetoric of England (and of religion) and the “plain sense of things” that he sometimes felt to be more American…”
See Also On This Site: Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The Jar…Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow Man…Friday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume
Arguably, the influence of religious belief as well as Natural Law/Natural Right doctrines, traditionally profound influences on American civic life, continues to diminish. So, the thinking goes, we are fast arriving at an increasingly divided civic and political life. The logic of Left political radicalism becomes ever more entrenched in our universities, media and politics, entrenching a more Right-radical, European-style response.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Rod Dreher (The Benedict Option), points to what he believes are signs of the obvious failure of modern, liberal doctrines to replace the kinds of meaning such religious doctrines have provided.
Here are two recent blog posts containing this worldview of his, about which I’ve provided additional summary and commentary (please let me know what I’m missing).
‘Advice For A Weary Ghost‘-A 35 year-old woman feels empty inside, writing to ‘The Cut‘ for advice. She doesn’t have a husband and can’t seem to maintain deep, meaningful relationships. She’s had jobs but not a career. Maybe it’s not just her.
The adviser promotes a surburbanely popularized vision of the rebellious and Romantically-inspired artistic life, reaffirming much of what Dreher and his commenters see as inadequate for most people, most of the time.
This view, I presume, utilizes the wrong maps to steer one’s (S)oul and inform life decisions. Perhaps it allows one to succumb to materialist concerns and potentially materialist doctrines (too strongly measuring one’s life largely by economic, professional and outward successes/failures). It also perpetuates the woman’s confessedly empty, Self-interested pursuits, cutting her off from the happiness of family and loved ones without much to show for it.
The ‘-Isms’ (feminism, environmentalism, political activism etc.) are poor substitutes for a moral, meaningful life. The Church might just the place to be, but Catholic Church leadership, too, is corrupt and covered with the dust of this world. There will increasingly be witch hunts upon religious believers by the new SJW believers.
The lady’s probably not going to be an (A)rtist, the lady giving advice probably ain’t so great an (A)rtist either.
Can the humanities become a lifelong source of wisdom and meaning?
‘Manufacturing Consent To Gender Ideology‘-Boys wanting to be girls, and vice versa, is the latest (C)ause. These outliers upon distributions of human sexual behavior, often shunned, mocked and condemned to limited lives, must not only be included in everyone’s moral concern, but celebrated. Through social activism and protest, they are to become exemplars of the new normal.
Doctrines promising radical liberation, hinging upon revolutionary praxis, go about attacking and reforming current traditions, institutions, laws and arrangements, often grossly mischaracterizing and misrepresenting them to gain advantage. The grudging acknowledgement of freedoms gained through progressive activism and radical thought always come with costs.
And, given the natural ignorance of the human condition, and the basic desire humans have for group meaning, authority, security, identity and purpose, this latest (C)ause which promises liberation, will end-up delivering something quite different.
Cycles of utopianism and dystopianism await, and more disgruntled individuals drifting around aimlessly looking for an ad hoc ethics and politics, sometimes flirting with authoritarian and totalitarian Leftist doctrines as those doctrines become more mainstreamed:
How to live and what to do?
A reasonable summary and comentary?
Are you convinced of such a vision?
On this site, see:
Moral Relativism is actually quite hard to define:
Ross Douthat made similar arguments some years ago while promoting his book ‘Bad Religion:‘
‘…what is the idea of universal human rights if not a metaphysical principle? Can you find universal human rights under a microscope?‘
The Brothers Weinstein put forth one of the deeper defenses of Enlightenment principles I’ve heard while also remaining of the Left, simultaneously pushing against the radical elements of The Left:
Via Mick Hartley, Steve Fitch Photography has neon motel signs glowing into the Western night.
He also has a book simply titled ‘Motel Signs:’
“To me, neon really figured in the migration movement on Route 66. The farther you go out West, the more neon you’d see, especially as a presence on motels. You can see towns like Tucumcari, New Mexico, coming from 20 miles away.”
I may harbor skepticism regarding a more anthropological, back-to-Earth Romantic primitivism found in certain quarters (Berkeley, especially), but I certainly appreciate good composition. Click through for more photos and less pre-judgment.
As posted, what’s more American than an exiled member of the Russian aristocracy intimately making his way into the English language and peering out from a thousand Motor Lodges?
“Nabokov in America” is rewarding on all counts, as biography, as photo album (there are many pictures of people, Western landscapes and motels) and as appreciative criticism. Not least, Roper even avoids the arch style so often adopted by critics faintly trying to emulate their inimitable subject.’
Well, there’s Donald Judd and Marfa, Texas, which looks interesting:
As previously posted, The Critic Laughs, by Hamilton:
Do you long for the days of unabashed American consumerism? Are you nostalgic for nights lit only by a soft, neon glow on the underbellies of clouds? Return to a time when America broadcast its brash, unironic call to the heavens.
But it can be empty, and lonely, and full of hard work and suffering:
Thirst where the grasses burn in early May
And thistle, mustard and the wild oat stay.
There is dust in this air. I saw in the heat
Grasshoppers busy in the threshing wheat.
So to this hour. Through the warm dusk I drove
To blizzards sifting on the hissing stove,
And found no images of pastoral will,
But fear, thirst, hunger, and this huddled chill.
And because this blog likes to keep things a bit mysterious, I think ‘New Slang’ by the Shins (James Mercer) captures three strands I can identify: Western U.S. cowboy folk (Home On The Range), English (England) folk, and Pacific NW hipsterdom, which is interesting to me, and because in the arts, I like to like a song, and think about what’s going on afterwards:
That hipsterdom part likely connects with a lot of powerful modern and postmodern strands which could be affecting all of our institutions sooner or later, but, you know…it’s also just a song.
Is that a real tower against a painted sky?
The Wild Swans At Coole
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water,
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?