Monday, October 31, 2016

Suburban Monastery Death Poem by d. a. Levy

only ten blocks away
buildings burned - perhaps burning now
the august night broken by sniper fire
police men bleeding in the streets
a sniper surrenders (perhaps out of ammunition)
Gun Jammed?
someone sed he was framed in a doorway
like a picture - his hands in the air
when they shot him -

only ten blocks away
from my quiet apartment
with its green ceramic buddhas
& science fiction books
unread skin magazines to be cut up
for collages

only ten blocks away
from my total helplessness
from my boredom enforced by the state
they are looting stores
trying to get televisions
so they can watch the riots
on the 11 pm news

the national guard jeeps patrol
the streets again
the army-green trucks with the
giant white star on the side
moving in the summer lightning

i cd tell you partly
why it happened
but you wouldnt believe me

like in Milwaukee
during a reading
just after i said
"this is a paranoid poem - written when i was
experimenting with paranoid states of consciousness,
but im not there anymore"
& a young girl sat writing
"shows paranoid symptoms"
probably for her psychology class
not hearing me at all

i cld try to tell you
about the hopeless despair
ingrained in ghetto walls
& police brutality or police stupidity
or police reality is more than just words
to define situation
by students looking for a cause.
the situations exist & continue
quietly in the dark while the
protest goes on in daylight -
both unheard.

Really
the police try to protect
the banks - and everything else
is secondary

during the riots
i watched the news
& didnt pick sides for a change

i just sat wondering about all
the living room revolutionaries
safe in the suburbs
who cheered everytime someone
was shot or a building went up
in smoke

ten blocks away
it was real
thousands of tourists
arrived

From one of the lesser schools of modernism, I enjoy The Cleveland Beats as I knew some of them and was once published in some of the same small journals as were they.   I also knew Levy's neighborhood well. It was the location of our city's counter-culture once upon a time and a place where I played the bass in smoky bars and recited poems in an over-lit library.  Levy is reacting to the Glenville Riots of 1968, which were part of the boiling race issues of the era.

More of Levy, not to mention a fellow Cleveland poet, Jau Billera, and another neighborhood "artist", Harvey Pekar, may be found in other portions of The Coracle.

An Update

Received a massive email dump this morning (it's 8:20 on Tuesday morning here) and will try to respond via The Coracle.
1. Yes, I've eaten kangaroo. Also emu and crocodile. Fish and chips is still better, especially as it has Asian overtones, which is typical in the Pacific Rim.


2. Yes, I've both gone surfing and diving. And family, as you know what I tend to do, thus far I've only suffered a sprained wrist and two cracked ribs, neither injury limiting my activities.


3. ESPN Australia has been carrying both the pennant race and The World Series. I've actually found four other Indians fans. Of course, the Series is carried in the mornings here.


4. I had a happy birthday in Fiji, swimming in a pool below a remote waterfall and checking out the World Surfing tournament.


5. Australians are afraid Trump will push the "red button" and that Clinton is a tool of Putin, given that he's had his cronies donate over $100 million to her foundation.


6. Today is a day off for everyone as it's the Melbourne Cup, a combination of the Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl, and Daytona Beach bike week in one. Just spoke with four locals having Foster's for breakfast. That's actually not that unusual here.


7. If all goes well, we'll be home in eight days.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower by Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Another poem of which I am fond, in part because I used to enjoy the cheeseburgers at the White Horse Tavern on Hudson St. in New York, which is where Thomas drank himself to death by the age of 39.  He had written this poem twenty years before his death and it explores the themes he would re-work for the remainder of his career.  I suppose, too, it's because I find it typical of a young person's world view, but it certainly presents the sense of life and will that is particular to the maturing.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Day Lady Died by Frank O'Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don’t know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
                                                        I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

 "Lady" is, of course, Billie Holiday, who died in July of 1957 and whose death greatly affected the cognoscenti in the arts world.  O'Hara sees the notice in the newspaper as he goes about a variety of errands during his lunch hour, all of it rather typical of someone preparing to depart the city for a weekend in the Hamptons.  In the midst of this frantic activity, he pauses as he recalls a special moment when Holiday performed at the 5 Spot Cafe in The Bowery with Mal Waldron on piano.  The juxtaposition of the mundane with the transcendent is a familiar poetic technique; here it is made all the more accessible by references to places that would have been known by O'Hara's audience.


[An aside: For literary surfers, O'Hara is a kind of poet laureate. While he never surfed nor wrote about surfing, he was killed when run over by a dune buggy on the beach at Fire Island.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,—
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed,—
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!
Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year’s dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!

I'm fond of this poem as it formed the theme of my very first sermon.  While it may have been a bit above the consciousness of the congregation whom I was addressing, I was pleased to use this meditation on the life of the soul.  The nautilus, which seals off the chambers of its shell as it grows larger, is an apt metaphor for the spiritual development of a person and for our soul's eventual release to the eternal.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre  
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst  
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.  
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out  
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert  
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,  
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,  
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it  
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  
The darkness drops again; but now I know  
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,  
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

So far, I've seen the final verses of this poem used to lament the coming administrations of both presidential candidates, which is rich considering it is journalists and pundits who are employing verses that are based on some knowledge of Christianity, something that seems beyond the fragile intellect of professional writers and talkers.

A lot of modernism is based on a fear of the coarseness of the contemporary age and what it portends for the future.  Yeats lived from 1865 to 1939 and saw the transformation of the Victorian Age through the carnage of WWI to the beginnings of world-wide fascism.  Written, as it was, the year after the Armistice, Yeats is reacting to the devastation of Europe during the previous five years, between trench warfare, poison gas, tanks, machine guns, clumsily re-drawn national borders, and the devastation of the continent's male population, and cannot help but expect that the second coming, as based on the text of The Book of Revelation, is about to be known through the birth of the "rough beast" that is the anti-Christ.

Monday, October 24, 2016

God's Grandeur by Gerard Manly Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

More Hopkins, more easily read if one reads it without a pause at the end of a verse, as if these are sentences and not portions of a poem.  Then, after his meaning is rendered with more clarity, return and appreciate that liminal structure of the verses.

Despite our clumsy sins, the Holy Ghost ever remains with kindness of regard and the brightness of hope.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Fiddler of Dooney by W. B. Yeats

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea;
My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,
My brother in Moharabuiee.

I passed my brother and cousin:       
They read in their books of prayer;
I read in my book of songs
I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state, 
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle 
And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.

On my sixtieth birthday, having lived 53 years longer than physicians said I was supposed to, looking over the empty Pacific with its remarkable moon and celebrating my new membership in the Order of the Golden Shellback, I think I'll spend the evening dancing like a wave of the sea.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Lines Written in Early Spring by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Since I left the USA in early fall and found myself in New South Wales in early spring, I've been seasonally confused.  [Also, how the heck do you pack for a trip that takes one from fall to summer to spring to winter in the space of four and one-half weeks?  But, I digress....]  Naturally, shortly after stepping out of the Uber car in downtown Sydney, this poem was launched in my head.  It's a simple construction and rhyme and meter scale, but it has a sublime lyricism.

Also, and again as with the previous poem, Wordsworth explores the tension between the unnatural modern life and that cradled in pure nature.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

The poet views a young woman working in a field.  He is of sufficient distance that, although he hears her song and its tune, he cannot discern the words.  That aspect makes the song all the more memorable and haunting.

The same thing happened to me at a beach campfire around 1969 or so, when a young man [well, seven years older than I at the time] with a guitar sang a pleasant song the words of which I couldn't hear because of the sound of the waves.  That, and the fact that since I was only 12, I wasn't permitted into the inner circle of the fireside surfing community.

The thing is, I remembered that song's tune for many years.  Then, when in Canada about sixteen years later, eating steak and kidney pie off of Yonge Street in Toronto, at an open mike night another young fellow [probably seven years younger than I was at the time] with a guitar sang the same song and I finally learned what it was.

Of course, the song of my memory was much better than the actual song.

[For those curious, it was Gordon Lightfoot's "Affair on 8th Avenue".]

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Buffalo Bill's defunct by e. e. cummings

Buffalo Bill's
        defunct
               who used to
               ride a watersmooth-silver
                                        stallion
        and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
                                                         Jesus
        he was a handsome man
                             and what i want to know is
        how do you like your blueeyed boy
        Mister Death

e.e. cummings served with the Red Cross ambulance corps during WWI and was profoundly affected by what he witnessed.  He developed a rather interesting set of grammar and spelling rules that were entirely his own, mostly in reaction to his sense that the world no longer operated according to logical order.  One may see this in his meditation on violence,, as well as in how he chose to spell his name.  It is among the most aural of poetic styles.

Scenes from Down Under

My neighborhood at night.

Where I often find myself at the end of the school day.  One runs into a lot of Americans here, too. 
They have, no kidding, kangaroo and emu pizza.

The frightening entrance to the Luna Park amusements.

End of the street, with quay and bridge visible.  A rather good restaurant is there, too.

Some cuddly neighbors.

The University of Sydney.

The entrance to the Taronga Zoo, which is lush in fauna.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Convergence Of The Twain by Thomas Hardy

       In a solitude of the sea
           Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.
           Steel chambers, late the pyres
           Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.
           Over the mirrors meant
           To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls—grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.
           Jewels in joy designed
           To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.
           Dim moon-eyed fishes near
           Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: "What does this vaingloriousness down here?"...
           Well: while was fashioning
           This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything
           Prepared a sinister mate
           For her—so gaily great—
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.
           And as the smart ship grew
           In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.
           Alien they seemed to be;
           No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,
           Or sign that they were bent
           By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,
            Till the Spinner of the Years
           Said "Now!" And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

Probably the only piece of high art about the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  It's a powerful image, too, of two massive objects, one made by nature and the other by humans, built in separate circumstance far away from one another, that combine at apparent random to create tragedy.

Monday, October 17, 2016

To Emily Dickinson by Hart Crane

You who desired so much—in vain to ask—
Yet fed your hunger like an endless task,
Dared dignify the labor, bless the quest—
Achieved that stillness ultimately best,

Being, of all, least sought for: Emily, hear!
O sweet, dead Silencer, most suddenly clear
When singing that Eternity possessed
And plundered momently in every breast;

—Truly no flower yet withers in your hand,
The harvest you descried and understand
Needs more than wit to gather, love to bind.
Some reconcilement of remotest mind—

Leaves Ormus rubyless, and Ophir chill.
Else tears heap all within one clay-cold hill.

To be honest, I never found Emily Dickinson all that interesting, although that may be because all of my women teachers in junior and senior high school thought she was the bee's knees, mainly because they tended to be introverts, seemingly cat-ladies-in-training, who identified with her.  Hart Crane felt differently, and this poem actually granted me a better appreciation for the shut-in of Amherst.  [Follow the link to a modest profile of Crane from an earlier post on The Coracle.]

Friday, October 14, 2016

Music When Soft Voices Die (To —) by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory—
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the belovèd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Again, a rather clear poem, evocative of Romantic sensibility and the lingering aspect of love.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The World Is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

This is fairly simple, with the narrator [or "voice"] worn down by the superficiality of life that separates one from the natural world.  He would willingly be a pagan if only to believe that the gods and goddesses of old control and inspire our surroundings with a visceral glory and the anthropomorphic embodiment of nature.

As I'm spending a month with no Facebook page, sealed away even from The Coracle [which has been in existence, in one form or another, by one name or another,for fourteen years], and even surrendering e-mail and cell phone, I have a feeling that "the world" will seem rather far away and nature more present than ever.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Windhover by Gerard Manly Hopkins

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
  dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

This one needs to be read a few times. A handy dictionary near-by would not be a bad idea, either.  Simply, it's about resurrection, with "my chevalier", or knight, referring to the narrator's sense of Jesus' role in one's life.  As with a charred log in a dying fire, the crucifixion grants the appearance of death and finality, but live, burning embers of life will be revealed in all of their gold-vermillion splendor when they break free of that which is blue and bleak.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping
     slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
     sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

When I bought my house, it was an abused old thing of confused design and a broad range of construction defects.  It was in need of paint, a new roof, a new boiler, a new oil tank, and some serious re-plumbing and electrical work.  The hot water handle in the bathtub was a pair of vice-grip pliers.

The day after the closing, I sat on what would become the patio, under an arbor of desiccated wood, and planned all that I needed to do to make it a structure capable of supporting life.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, while sitting in one of those absurd plastic Adirondack chairs that one may find hardware stores for about ten bucks, I breathed in a potent perfume of honeysuckle.  I realized that the honeysuckle was mine and that made all the difference.  I then thought of this poem, and Yeats' "bee-loud glade", and knew everything would be alright.  And it was.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Easter Hymn by A. E. Housman

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

I once had a student, upon reading this poem, inform me that it meant that Christianity was dead and there was nothing in which to hope or believe.  Ah, teenagers.  Housman fancied himself, as with many of Modernism's artists, an atheist.  However, as he was a true atheist, and not just a poseur insecure about his intelligence, he respected philosophy's great motto: "I might be wrong."

He gives a hint to that in the second stanza.  Although the narrative relies on the notion of a God incarnate who is, like a deus ex machina, to solve the issues of the world, rather than recognizing that the human race has within it the capacity to do the same without extraordinary supernatural aid, Housman has an innate understanding of the tension that drives faithful witness.

He also seems to be in the process of learning something that is elementary to the Christian experience.  Crucifixion, and all of the death and despair that it enables, is the necessary first step towards Resurrection, as they are two portions of the same experience.  It is a flat vision of the liminal that can only give power to death, but cannot see a greater power in life.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Jerusalem by William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

Blake looked with some alarm and the coming age, as he rightly saw the approaching danger of the suppression of the individual for the collective.  As Blake felt that all that was worthwhile about Being, from its innocence to its experience, was born from unrestrained individuality, he would naturally fear the dark, Satanic force.  The mills he mentions were both literal and a metaphoric reference to Christendom, with its calcified appreciation of the spiritual, rather than the free realm of Christianity.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Did I Mention That Today is National Poetry Day?

It is.

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The sea of faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I have stood on a lonely beach from time to time, usually with a surfboard under my arm, in order to read the water and see the flow of the tide and the power of the rip.  I can't help it, but it often makes me dwell on the melancholy.  It seems, after reading Arnold, that I'm not the only one.

The "sea of faith" to which Arnold refers, and which he identifies as receding in its cohesive importance with the increasing coarseness of his era, has left him disquieted.  He turns to his love, and realizes that the things that one may expect of the world and its institutions are for nought, as it is that which exists between two people that reveals the true nature of love, purpose, and being.  With that realization, the poet can remain in, but not of, a world that clashes in a dark and confused realm.

Waltzing Matilda & Marines' Hymn [Just Because We Needed Some Music]

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport

Deputies catch kangaroo out for evening stroll in Indiana



 

It Has Been Called the Number of God

The Weird Number 0.577 Shows Up in Everything: The Euler-Mascheroni constant pops up in a number of places, but nobody's really sure what it is.

So They Illustrate This Story with a Photo of a Surfer. Classy, Courant.

We're not "complacent".  We know what the oceans are like, we swim in them all of the time and obsess about currents, rips, phases of the moon, tides, and temperature.  It's the people who can't really swim and don't respect Mama Ocean, who decide to flounce around in that unforgiving surf when only a lunatic would be in the water, that one should worry about.

The waves are primo the day before a hurricane's serious edge hits.  So much so that there is actually an International Order of Hurricane Surfers [of which this writer is a three-time member] that is dedicated to making sure that these waves are surfed by experienced watermen.  To date, no member of the Order has ever even been hurt surfing these waves.  Complacent, indeed.

“If I am mistaken, I exist.” – St. Augustine of Hippo


My main concerns for this month include remembering that one doesn't tip in Sydney restaurants [which may be why a martini costs $22], that a flip-flop is a "plugger", that all of their flora and fauna are ten times deadlier than anything found anywhere else on Earth, and that effortless WiFi connectivity is more of an American thing.

So that The Coracle doesn't fall into lassitude during this period, I dusted off some poetry, a subject that I taught for twenty-one years, and will present a poem and eccentric reflection on it each of the weekdays.  Well, and one Sunday, but that's a special occasion and you'll understand when the time comes.

These poems are not presented in any particular order or grouping, save for most of them being representative of Modernism.  They are simply the verses that swum into my consciousness for rhyme, if not reason.  Also, remember that I'm a product of my times and the selections may not be as superficially diverse as one may find in a university curriculum.

The poems are, however, evocative and important in the development of our language's artistic expression.  Since we live in a time of fantastic nihilism, where pop culture has eaten and excreted all of the rest of culture, these poetic works may seem quaint and far removed from the creative expression currently represented in the media.

Good.  Not all of us feel that reality television and hip-hop rappists rappers are examples of a civilization in full flower.

Some poems you may know, others you may remember from school.  One or two, I hope, are new to you.  It doesn't really matter as poetry, like prayer, scripture, the chords of Robert Johnson, and waves, should be new with each encounter.

Related: Why You Should Memorize Poems

Also related: Why (Some) People Hate Poetry

Mondo Absurdia

If you don't know what this is about, look up Dr. Christakis online and see the abuse he and his wife had to take at Yale last year, all of it over Halloween costumes.  Being yelled at and attacked in vulgar terms by a privileged kid from Fairfield County would be, I think, the nadir of one's experience in the Ivy League.

Also, Dr. Sommers receives death threats because, as a philosopher, she prefers that her ideas be built around facts rather than transient feelings.

Why do I offer this?  Because The Episcopal Church runs about ten years behind academia, and this is our future.  Well, should there be an Episcopal Church in ten years.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Things to Pack

Gray Suit
Tuxedo
Vestments
Wetsuit
Guide to Australia's Beaches
Stumpy's Guide to Sharks
Assorted Beach Gear

Yep, that should do it.  Oh, wait.  My passport and plane tickets.  Now, I'm ready.

Oh, wait.  Class notes and whatnot.  Now, I'm ready.

Oh, wait.  Weird moon money.

Okay, now I'm ready.

Monday, October 3, 2016

It Seems That Dad is Going to Visit Us Yet Again This Week

An afternoon e-mail from my sister:
Just had an encounter at the library.

I was working at the reception desk and this gentleman came in and asked if Carl Clements was my dad. I told him "yes" and he said he had heard at a wedding recently that he had died. It was [name redacted]. Remember him? I totally remember that name, and he said his siblings had Dad, too, and he was such a great guy.

He actually got choked up and asked me if he could have a hug, and said he just wanted to tell me what a good teacher and person Dad was. As he was leaving he was like "I'm sorry, I'm kind of shook up". And he said Dad talked about you and me.  Anyhow, just thought I'd tell you because you would probably remember the [redacted] family better than I do. Hope all is well!
Sometimes I forget about the intangible rewards of teaching, and then I'm reminded in small ways; quiet like a hug in a library.

What was God doing before he made the world?

In books 10 and 11 of the Confessions, Augustine takes up the mystery of time and eternity. He deals at length with a question that is often posed by children, but that is not a childish at all: What was God doing before he made the world? There was a stock answer to this question (which Calvin repeated a thousand years after Augustine): “He was busy creating hell for overly curious people like you!” Augustine was aware of this joke, but he knew that it was not a sufficient reply to the serious intent behind the question, and so he gave a different answer. This is what he said: It makes sense to ask what God was doing before he made the world if, and only if, both God and the world are separate items within the same temporal continuum. But they are not. God’s years, unlike ours, do not come and go. They are succeeded by no yesterday, and they give way to no tomorrow. “It is not in time that you precede all times, O Lord. You precede all past times in the sublimity of an ever-present reality. You have made all times and are before all times.” 

So what was this eternal God doing before he made the world? On Augustine’s reading, there was no such “before.” There was no “then” then. Eternity is the dimension of God’s own life. It has no beginning and no end, no parameters or margins or boundaries outside of God himself. On the other hand, time was willed and created by God as a reality distinct from himself. In his treatment of the world, Augustine again proves to be original in his thinking. He says not only that time and the world were created by God but that they were at once created together. They were co-created, so to speak, for time is coextensive with the world. This is how Augustine puts it: God created the world not in time but with time. What this means is that time is not some primordial container—an infinite bucket of moments—in which certain events happen. Time is not a receptacle; it is a relationship.

I Admire the Jews for Being Able to Call This Year Over and Start a New One

Seriously, this year needs to end.  [Well, except for the Cavs winning the championship.  That was great.  Where's my Cavs hat?]

Anyway, here's some information about Rosh Hashana, the celebration of a new year.  This was a holiday known by Jesus and his compadres as the "Feast of Trumpets" [Leviticus 23, Numbers 10 and 29].  As the celebration was originally centered on the Temple in Jerusalem, after the Temple's destruction the traditions described in the video came to be developed in homes and around dinner tables.  There's still a trumpet, though.


He Survived


A wreck in Japan's first auto race in 1936 produced this photo.  The driver quit racing afterwards, which was okay as he went on to create a modest company.  His name was Soichiro Honda.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Perhaps the Saddest Notice of Them All


What has happened, you see, is that the Sydney Swans lost to the Western Bulldogs in the Australian Football League final.  That's like the Indians beating the Red Sox for the pennant.  Since all of Sydney is now sad, it's the perfect setting for my arrival.

[If you have never seen Australian Football, you don't know what you're missing.  It is not our football, soccer, or even rugby; it's an entirely particular sport that demands the most out of its players, none of whom appear to be older than their mid-thirties and all of whom look to be an orthopedic surgeon's meal ticket for decades to come.]

Rig for Silent Running


Since social media must be all politics all the time, just like popular entertainment, sports, and The Episcopal Church, I'm closing down both my Facebook and Twitter accounts until after Election Day.  Ah, the taste of electronic liberation.  They'll be back, maybe, sometime after the election.  Or not.  I don't know. The Coracle will remain, of course.  It's always here and has been, in one form or another, for twelve years now.

Besides, after 80 hours of logistical planning over the last six months, we're ready to move to New South Wales, and that's all I really care about at this point.  It's nice to have a new adventure, even, or especially, at my age.

And now, some inspiration:

"Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul." - Samuel Ullman