Some of the best poetry was written to seduce women, and this poem may be the best of all. The cadences are very stirring. In an argument would not be acceptable today, Donne compares the blood sucked by the flea with the blood lost when the girl yields to him and gives up her virginity. . I posted an old reading four years ago, but I think it's too declamatory. The tone should be more wheedling and intimate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tJ8IlPh_qA Paintings Lovers in 16th Century Costume by Achille Deveria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achille_Dev%C3%A9ria Detail from a painting by Ingres - a bather. MARK but this flea, and mark in this, How little that which thou deniest me is ; It suck'd me first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea our two bloods mingled be. Thou know'st that this cannot be said A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ; Yet this enjoys before it woo, And pamper'd swells with one blood made of two; And this, alas ! is more than we would do. O stay, three lives in one flea spare, Where we almost, yea, more than married are. This flea is you and I, and this Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is. Though parents grudge, and you, we're met, And cloister'd in these living walls of jet. Though use make you apt to kill me, Let not to that self-murder added be, And sacrilege, three sins in killing three. Cruel and sudden, hast thou since Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence? Wherein could this flea guilty be, Except in that drop which it suck'd from thee? Yet thou triumph'st, and say'st that thou Find'st not thyself nor me the weaker now. 'Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ; Just so much honour, when thou yield'st to me, Will waste, as this flea's death took life from thee.
10 years ago
From the 1984 series "Six Centuries of Verse", episode six: Metaphysical and Devotional Poets.
9 years ago
According to Walt Whitman, this is about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It is hard to see anything particularly relevant to that occasion but the American people accepted this poem as a suitable tribute and it became very popular. I suspect it owes a lot to Moby Dick - Melville was the same age as Whitman. Afternote - "relevant" means having some real connection with the matter being discussed. There may be a metaphorical connection but if Walt hadn't said that this was about Lincoln's assassination then nobody would have guessed. The meaning of "relevant" is a trivial issue. I suggest you don't knock yourself out trying to make any points about it having some direct relevance. Here's Vincent Price reading it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbLvv6X6up8 PostScript, 21st November 2011 I'm not the only one to notice the resemblance to Moby Dick. Melville was the same age as Whitman and Walt had not only read his works, he had also written reviews. Coincidentally, he wasn't only born in the same year as Melville, he also died in the same year. Here's a passage from Moby Dick. "Oh, my Captain! my Captain! noble soul! grand old heart, after all! why should any one give chase to that hated fish! Away with me! let us fly these deadly waters!.. etc" Had Whitman already written this poem before Lincoln was assassinated, then made the most of the opportunity? I wouldn't be in the least surprised... http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/45113-o-captain-my-captain
9 years ago
The Hollow Men was written in 1925 Eliot said the name was a mixture of "The Broken Men" of Rudyard Kipling with "The Hollow Land" of William Morris. There are strong references to Guy Fawkes, particularly the ending. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hollow_Men The portrait of T.S. Eliot was by Wyndham Lewis in 1938 The picture is of a Japanese scarecrow, reworked in Paint Shop Pro. Here's the original picture: http://tinyurl.com/y9hwp2h
8 years ago
A poem about the spiritual isolation that afflicts us all, yet which some people feel more keenly than others. The closest we get to being "not alone" is when we are in the gestalt of a mutual, loving relationship as with a partner or children. We are bound in by a closed, exclusive nervous system. The only time we are in actual contact with another person's nervous system is during coitus. Then two people can make a single beast with two backs, as some of the ancients called it, but they must have been missionaries who hadn't seen the Kama Sutra.
3 years ago
This is a video I made for my english glass where we were told to make a presentation to class about the poet John Donne. Hope you like it. This contains extracts from John Donne Biography Publisher A&E Television Networks http://www.biography.com/people/john-donne-9277090#profile
5 years ago
This is the second part of my lecture on A Valediction Forbidding Mourning. I have made every effort to provide a deep insight into the poem while keeping the lecture as simple as possible. That is why no previous knowledge of poetry is necessary for a full understanding of it. I hope you find it useful. Part One - A Preview Part Two - The Three Lives of John Donne, The Mysterious Meaning of Metaphysical Part Three - An Introduction to the Poem, Stanza: 1 & 2 Part Four - Stanza: 3,4 & 5 Part Five - Stanza: 6,7,8,& 9; Comparative Considerations
5 years ago
This poem was published in Transit magazine in 1994, the year of his death. "We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone." Orson Welles "Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours." Dale Carnegie "There's nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. They don't honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can't hear it. Most people's deaths are a sham. There's nothing left to die." Charles Bukowski Could man be drunk for ever With liquor, love, or fights, Lief should I rouse at morning And lief lie down at nights. But men at whiles are sober And think by fits and starts, And if they think, they fasten Their hands upon their hearts. ...A E Housman The rare pictures of Bukowski came from this French website http://charlesbukowski.free.fr/photographies.html The photo with Linda was taken in '85 the words have come and gone, I sit ill. the phone rings, the cat sleeps. Linda vacuums. I am waiting to live, waiting to die. I wish I could ring in some bravery. it's a lousy fix but the tree outside doesn't know: I watch it moving with the wind in the late afternoon sun. there's nothing to declare here, just a waiting. each faces it alone. Oh, I was once young, Oh, I was once unbelievably young!
5 years ago
Tennyson wrote this poem after the death of his beloved friend Arthur Henry Hallam in 1833. This isn't the whole poem - I abridged it to about half the original size. The full poem is here: http://poetry.about.com/od/poemsbytitlet/l/bltennysontwovoices.htm In 1833 there were very few atheists: Darwin's Origin of Species was not published until 1859. The only credible explanation for the wonders of nature was that they were created by God. You could drop tiny seeds into ordinary soil, and in a few weeks they would become flowers with colours that were more intense than anything made by man. This apparent miracle seemed to imply the existence of God. People still look at flowers in spring and experience the same sense of wonder. Suicide - or self-destruction - is actually pro-survival in an evolutionary sense. Evolution works for the genes, not for the individual. Genes encode survival strategies. Survival of the Fittest implies the destruction of the unfit. Misery is negative-feedback: it signifies that your survival strategies are not working. The lethargy and ineffectuality misery induces would in a primitive environment quickly remove you from the gene pool. The remedy is not to end your life, but to change the circumstances in which you are living. Your genes might work better in a different environment. There are many people who overcame disadvantages and, like Tennyson, came back from the brink of suicide to become happy and successful. Well, happy or not, he was successful and he lived to be 83. Not many Victorians did that. We inherit the capacity to learn things. For example, genes can't pass on language but they can pass on the ability to learn a language. Language is one of the great advantages of humanity. The sum of human learning and experience rolls forward like a snowball gathering size and weight. We also inherit the capacity to believe things. At one time, when mankind lived in small communities, common beliefs created bonds between members of a tribe. People who believed the same things would act together against a common threat. Now that people with different beliefs can communicate more freely, beliefs have become the cause of most of mankind's troubles. The most obvious Belief Systems are religions and superstitions. It's less obvious that social sciences, such as Psychiatry, Politics, Medicine, are substantially Belief Systems. Whatever is currently believed is held to be true and beneficial - even though it is obvious that past beliefs were wrong and dangerous. There is a persisting maxim that one should fight for one's beliefs. A better maxim would be that one should purge oneself of all beliefs.
5 years ago
This a poem that can be taken at face value. It's an act of penance: a confession by the poet that he attacked a creature that wasn't an immediate threat, being conditioned that such creatures are a threat to mankind and they must be killed. Humans have an instinctive fear of snakes, they're archetypal enemies, and other primates also have this instinctive fear - our DNA is substantially the same. He's also dismayed that he made the snake do something undignified, he humiliated it. You might say that he adjusted his attitude to the most ethical stance, then wrote a poem about it - but writers do tend to do that. The snakes in the images might not be native to Sicily. A snake came to my water-trough On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat, To drink there. In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree I came down the steps with my pitcher And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me. He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough And rested his throat upon the stone bottom, And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness, He sipped with his straight mouth, Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body, Silently. Someone was before me at my water-trough, And I, like a second comer, waiting. He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do, And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do, And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, And mused a moment, And stooped and drank a little more, Being earth-brown, earth-golden From the burning bowels of the earth On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking. The voice of my education said to me He must be killed, For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, The gold are venomous. And voices in me said, If you were a man You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off. But must I confess how I liked him, How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, To drink at my water-trough And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless, Into the burning bowels of this earth? Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured? I felt so honoured. And yet those voices: If you were not afraid, you would kill him! And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more That he should seek my hospitality From out the dark door of the secret earth. He drank enough And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken, And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black, Seeming to lick his lips, And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air, And slowly turned his head, And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream, Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face. And as he put his head into that dreadful hole, And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, And entered farther, a sort of horror, A sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole, Deliberately going into the blackness, And slowly drawing himself after, Overcame me now his back was turned. I looked round, I put down my pitcher, I picked up a clumsy log And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter. I think it did not hit him, But suddenly that part of him that was left behind Convulsed in undignified haste. Writhed like lightning, and was gone Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front, At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination. And immediately I regretted it. I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act! I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education. And I thought of the albatross And I wished he would come back, my snake. For he seemed to me again like a king, Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, Now due to be crowned again. And so, I missed my chance With one of the lords of life. And I have something to expiate: A pettiness.
7 years ago
I was given a book for Christmas: "Postmodern American Poetry" - a Norton Anthology. In fact, I had asked for it because my daughters say they never know what to get for me. I was hoping to find something I could read aloud. So far I haven't found a single poem - but I drew some tentative conclusions. All poetry, before the 20th century and the postmodern era, depended on sound. Rhyme, metre, alliteration, onomatopoeia and all those other things that Ezra Pound collectively called "melopoeia" were essential. Poetry had to be audible. Even the classic haiku was 17 syllables, supposed to be all that could be said in one breath, defining a single thought or image. Poetry used to be an audible artform. This also made it the only truly portable artform: you can own the original Ode to a Nightingale - if you are willing to commit it to memory. Postmodern poetry is more a visual artform. What matters in this postmodern period is how the words look on the printed page. That now seems to matter more than how they sound when read aloud. E E Cummings was an innovator of this trend, though he didn't entirely abandon melopoeia for typography. Many of his poems can be read aloud - but some are distinctly typographical art. Poetry - or any artform - is like a science, in that it depends on what went before. Once every nuance has been wrung from a technique then it's necessary to find a way out of its confines - to throw off the chains. The hallmark of true genius is technical innovation. The rules are now so relaxed that the postmodern poet has no craft to learn. It has been observed that "any fool can write vers libre" and chop it into lines so that it resembles poetry on the printed page. But, because there is no melopoeia, there is little point in reading it aloud. There may be a clue in what George Bernard Shaw said, "England and America are two countries divided by a common language." The dominant voice of America is the voice of the salesman or the evangelist. The everyday speech of Americans is more pitched, more assetive, more emphatic. Americans are taught to read poetry with emphasis, to drive home the "message". One problem is that you can't have both emphasis and metre: emphasis defeats metre. Shakespeare's sonnets aren't what Shakespeare intended if they are read with no regard for the tune, like this: "SHALL I compare THEE to a SUMMER'S DAY? THOU art MORE lovely and MORE temperate..." It is important to know now the stresses make an iambic pentameter. Some change is permissible, but not so much that the underlying form is lost: "Shall I comPARE thee TO a SUMMer's DAY? Thou ART more LOVEly AND more TEMperATE..." It's meditation on a theme, not a sales pitch, not this week's unmissable special offer. Yet this manner of reading seems to be what is approved by American educationalists. Perhaps that is why melopoeia is non-existent in most Postmodern American poetry. This poem by John Donne is the voice of a sophisticated, intelligent man talking to his mistress. They have just awakened in the morning in their little room. Her head is on the pillow next to his, and so close that he can see his face reflected in her eyes. Here's David Mason reading it for Poetry Out Loud. David Mason has criticised the way I read, so I chose his reading to represent the American style - and I accept that most Americans prefer poetry read this way. They want emphasis: to them it seems like I'm not trying hard enough. http://poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/listen-to-poetry "Lovers" is Valencia Street Art executed in coloured chalks. The last picture is a Tarot Card - the Lovers.
7 years ago
I did this one when I first joined YouTube from an old mp3 file. It sounds terrible now so I hope this version is better. Yeats' portrait is by Augustus John. That prompts me to tell you a story about Augustus John - provided for amusement only - you must decide for yourself whether you think it's true. I has a third-share of a flat in Brighton, the other shares belonging to an Ethiopian Prince and Jack who had a National Diploma in painting. One evening we went to a party in the Old Steine and I got talking to an gentleman in a striped shirt. Jack wandered off for half an hour of so and when he came back I asked him whether he met anybody interesting. He said. "I was talking to some old buffer about painting. He seems to know a thing or two" The man in the striped shirt said "He ought to - he's Augustus John". This makes a better story if I don't give the punch-line away before telling it. The falcon comes from here http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flying_falcon.jpg