Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Daffodils

The Daffodils by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

I wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


Oh, the beauty of daffodils in Spring makes my heart soar! I plant them often in autumn, but alas, the resident squirrels in our garden love to eat the bulbs! And so, our annual crop will never allow me to see even a hundred at a glance!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

'How' to interpret a poem when reading it aloud?

Please visit my new website:
to read and share your comments about how to interpret a poem when reading it aloud. Be sure to listen to the recorded readings of The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All Quiet on the Western Front

Written by Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, was first published in German in 1929. Like the narrator of this novel, Remarque had enlisted in the German army at the age of eighteen. Years later, he noticed that he and his friends who had also been soldiers, were still being negatively affected by their war experiences. On that same day he began to write this novel, and finished it in six weeks. Like A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry (see blog for March 16), All Quiet on the Western Front focuses on the humanity of these young, young men as they are forced to confront the horrors of warfare. It is a tough book to read, but read it you should!

In the novel, the narrator tells us that his schoolmaster, Kantorek, had persuaded all the boys in his class to enlist.
Page 8
There was, indeed, one of us who hesitated and did not want to fall into line. That was Josef Behm, a plump, homely fellow. But he did allow himself to be persuaded, otherwise he would have been ostracized. And perhaps more of us thought as he did, but no one could very well stand out, because at that time even one's parents were ready with the word "coward"; no one had the vaguest idea what we were in for.
There were thousands of Kantoreks, all of whom were convinced that there was only one way of doing well, and that way theirs.
And that is just why they let us down badly.
For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress - to the future. We often made fun of them and played jokes on them, but in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a manlier wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs. They surpassed us only in phrases in cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.
While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one's country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that we were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards - they were very free with all these expressions. We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from the true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Finnegan's Wake

Here is a link to a YouTube posting of James Joyce reading from Finnegan's Wake.

I am making an exception for James Joyce! I have not yet read this book, but I can't help adding the clip so you can hear his voice too.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees

I really loved reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, which came out in 2002. The kernel of the novel is that when people are blessed with inner kindness, they instinctively behave kindly towards other people. If only this were a more common trait! August is the woman who is abundantly wise, kind, and understanding. The novel is wonderful: the story is tough in places and heartwarming in others.

After running away from Lily's home, Rosaleen and Lily have just turned up at the home of August Boatwright and asked for her. They don't even know her but they want to stay with her. They pretend they just want to earn a little money on their way to find Lily's aunt in Virginia.

Page 74:
The narrator is Lily, and August is the first speaker here:
"I'm from Virginia myself," she said, and for some reason this stirred up the current that had moved in my limbs when I'd first entered the room. "All right, then. Rosaleen can help May in the house, and you can help me and Zach with the bees. Zach is my main helper, so I can't pay you anything, but at least you'll have a room and some food till we call your aunt and see about her sending some bus money."
"I don't exactly know her whole name," I said. "My father just called her Aunt Bernie; I never met her."
"Well, what were you planning to do, child, go door to door in Virginia?"
"No, ma'am, just Richmond."
"I see," said August. And the thing was, she did. She saw right through it.

The novel is wonderful

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne was published in 1850 and it was this novel that made him famous. It is totally absorbing and wonderful. We are filled with a range of mixed emotions for Hester: sadness, admiration, fear, pity, but never condemnation. Hester Prynne is an outsider and remains one. She holds very deep feelings of love and loyalty, even though they cause her great grief as she raises her child alone.

In the Puritan setting of the novel, an adulterer is usually put to death. In this case, the adulteress Hester Prynne, gets a lighter punishment. She is given a prison sentence with her infant, is put on public display for three hours, and she is forced to wear the letter 'A' on her clothing for the rest of her life.

Page 58:
...... - was that SCARLET LETTER, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.
"She hath good skill at her needle, that's certain," remarked one of her female spectators; "but did ever a woman, before this brazen huzzy, contrive such a way of showing it!....................
"Oh, peace, neighbors, peace!" whispered their youngest companion; "do not let her hear you! Not a stitch in that embroidered letter, but she has felt it in her heart."

Efforts are made to ascertain who is the father of her baby, and she is told that she will be able to remove the scarlet letter if she names him. She steadfastly refuses.
Page 72:
........"And would that I might endure his agony, as well as mine!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

William Butler Yeats (4th Poem)

Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats

Listen to Yeats as he reads his poem about the 1916 Rising in Dublin.

Then please read some of the comments posted on YouTube in response to the way Yeats reads the poem. What do you think?