In Defense of Keats

Poor fellow, Certain Parties have been attacking him lately with undue cause.

To begin with, I think it’s appropriate to utilize a passage from Lewis’ “The Four Loves:”
[The human mind]…wants to make every distinction a distinction of value; hence those fatal critics who can never point out the differing quality of two poets without putting them in an order of preference as fi they were candidates for a prize. We must do nothing of the sort about the pleasures.”

I do not deny that Dickinson is an excellent poet, but I prefer to follow Lewis’ maxim of properly appreciating the differences between the poets.

Consider this passage:
“I stood tip-toe upon a little hill,
The air was cooling, and so very still…”

Can’t you feel the exhiliration and quiet sense of adventure in that?

Or:
“Linger awhile upon some bending planks
That lean against a streamlet’s rushy banks,
And watch intently Nature’s gentle doings:
They will be found softer than ring-dove’s cooings. “

Isn’t this a true CM concept, watching intently Nature’s doings?

“The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead; “

Again, don’t you sense the scene he is describing? Don’t all the hot suns, cooling trees and running bird voices that you have experienced come instantly to mind when reading this passage? He has taken a moment of quiet human ecstasy and crystallized it into words.

As for the accusation that Emily Dickinson really reflected whereas Keats just “sat down and thought about writing a great poem” (paraphrased): Has the author of this accusation considered the fact that Dickinson lived a full thirty years longer than Keat did? He died of consumption before he reached the age of 26; Dickinson passed away when she was 56. Certainly, 56 is not an “old” or “ancient” age, but it’s a lot more living than is afforded to someone who died at age 26. Don’t you think that Keats perhaps felt the pressure to see and write as much as possible before the merciless consumption took him? He actually gives us evidence of this in one of his poems (published posthumously):
WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact’ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love! – then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink”

Yes, he had a teeming brain. A teeming brain that was not allowed the luxury of much time for reflection, but only time to write, write and write.

~ The HeadGirl, who didn’t realize how much she really loved Keats until she wrote this 🙂

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(Untitled)

Hum… so I notice that the Headmistress has been posting about our school. What I am going to post about is related to our school, although it’s from our poetry book, not biography, The book is called “The Roar on the Other Side,” by Suzzane U. Clark. We were reading about density in poetry. The quote I love is:
“Think of density as a loaf of whole-grain bread taken straight from the oven. It is thick and hearty, tasting faintly of molasses. Lines of poems should be like this, full of rich details and meaningfull ingredients. How unlike store-bought white bread that can be wadded up like a peice of paper.
Too, true, too true. The same in my opinion applies to books, also. Take some frivolous books(like ones by Grace Livingston Hill, perhaps? *ducks*), and compare them to such works of art by people like Tolkien, Spenser, & Dumas (that reminds me… I need to read “The Count of Monte Christo again). The twaddle just doesn’t hold up.
Well, there’s my serious thought for the day, Mother. 🙂

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News Stories to Watch

Oil for Food and the UN Scandal:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/cRosett/?id=110005904

http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=4136428
———-
More on Eason Jordan and the way the print paper is handling the situation. Tell me what you think of this:

http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/3841
————-
The Patriot Act:
http://www.patriotdebates.com/

(note: I haven’t read everything at that site, but they promise civil debate, so I hope they mean it).

—————-
The Gates, a work of art in New York, or is it? You tell me:

http://www.christojeanneclaude.net/tg.html

http://www.gospelcom.net/navs/twentysomeone/latest/wp-trackback.php/110

—————–

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Christopher Columbus, Mariner

JennyAnyDots and Pipsqueak are reading through this book by Samuel Eliot Morison for school. Today they’ll be reading the last portion of chapter 18 and the first two pages or so of chapter 19 (many parents would wish to preview this section).
Sometimes they trace the maps in the book (Pipsqueak says they especially did this at the beginning of the book, and she ‘remembers it most distinctly.’)
They narrate at the end of every reading, telling me what they read about. They prefer to write their narrations.

Periodically in their reading, I have asked them write down an essay question on a slip of paper and place in an envelope. At the end of the term these questions will form a portion of their exams.

Were I writing the essay question today I might ask one of the following:

Tell me some of the hardships Columbus faced and how he dealt with them.
What did you learn about Columbus’ character from today’s reading?
Tell me what you read of Columbus’ dealings with the Indians.

In fact, these questions might well be rephrased to introduce the reading:
“We’ll be reading about some of the hardships Columbus and his men faced, and how they handled them. We will also be reading further about his dealings with local Indians. I wonder what this will tell us about his character?”

Sentences I would choose for the Copybook:
-“I don’t say it rained,” recorded Columbus, “Because it was like another deluge.”

-Ferdinand remembered that the hardtack had become so full of weevils that some men waited for darkness to eat a porridge made of it, but others did not even trouble to wait, “Because they might lose their supper had they been so nice.”

(both from page 134)

*****
The quote about the rain especially resonates with me today because last night as I pulled into our driveway, long overdue for a new layer of gravel, I bogged down in the bog that passes for a driveway in our part of the country. And there the van sits, stuck until the Headmaster has time to help me get it out, or until the ground freezes again, whichever comes first.
We won’t say it’s been raining here, because it’s like another deluge.

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Bedtime traditions

Tonight young Whose-its picked the bedtime story. She chose How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin, from the Just-So Stories by Rudyard Kipling.

So, Whose-its and What-its tucked away in their bunks, I settled down in the rocking chair in the corner, covered up with a blanket and began to read.

-I have to cover up with a blanket because the chair is in front of a window, and the windows are about a hundred years old- no joke- and on windy nights the two rag rugs and the buckwheat filled cloth tube used for a draft-stopper are not quite enough to stop the influx of fresh air. But I do have a blanket, so I cover up and read to the First-years.

They giggle sleepily in all the right places. The dim light from the teddy bear lamp behind me has a soporific effect. Whose-its snuggles down into her pillow in the position that always precedes sleep. Whats-it stares owlishly at me while I read. As I peek at him over the top of the book, I see he is struggling to keep his eyes open.

I reach the end of the story, the part guaranteed to waft sleeping children all the way to the ‘luxurious city of Uninterrupted Slumber.’ In our book (not in all versions, but in the one we have) it reads like this:

“But the Parsee came down from his palm tree, under his hat from which the rays of the sun were reflected in more-than-oriental splendor, packed up the cooking-stove, and went away in the direction of Orotava, Amygdala, the upland meadows of Anantarivo and the marshes of Sonaput- where all small people, beginning to breathe slowly and evenly, must inevitably also accompany him- in order to arrive easily and unknowingly at the enormous battlements of the luxurious city of Uninterrupted Slumber.”

Doesn’t that give you a pleasantly drowsy feeling? Can’t you just feel your pulse rate subsiding to a gentle, monotonous blub…….. blub…….blub?

Not so my small people
They perked up immediately.
“What does that mean?”
“What does what mean,” I ask.
“All of it,” they say, “All of the part you just read. Where is that place? What is it?”

“Well,” I say, “I don’t know about Anantarivo and Sonaput and all that, but I do know that the rest of it means something like this,

“Where all small people (that means people like you two yahooligans), beginning to breathe slowly and evenly (that’s when you breathe like this {I demonstrate} just as you are starting to fall asleep, like you should be doing now already); must inevitably accompany him (that means you can’t help it, you have to follow where the Parsee is going eventually, so you might as well give up and do it now); in order to arrive easily and unknowingly (that means you get there without knowing it, it’s such an easy thing to do that you ought to have done it already without even realizing you were doing it. Already) at the enormous battlements (that’s the fancy wall around a castle) of the luxurious city of Uninterrupted Slumber (Slumber- that’s sleep, that is- you know, what you should be doing now! Slumber, like in the lullabye ‘Slumber, Oh Slumber, Rosika.)”

This last reference was a tactical error. You do know what follows.

They: No, we don’t know. Sing it to us. We don’t remember.

It’s a simple lullaby, minor key, soothing melody:
Slumber, oh slumber, Rosika
Slumber, oh slumber, Rosika
I am so sleepy
you too are sleepy
We are so sleepy, both of us.

Whose-its: So why does the story end that way? Who are the small people he wants to fall asleep?

DeputyHeadmistress: I expect it was his children, and he told the story to them. [editorial note: It seems I was wrong. As near as I can tell, it was for his niece, and I’m not sure that the ending in our book wasn’t a liberty taken by later editors]

Whose-its: Just like you’re telling the story to me.

DeputyHeadmistress: Yes, very like that.

Whose-its: And then when I am grown, I’ll read it to
my children, and then they’ll grow up and read it to their children. Like that.

DeputyHeadmistress: Yes, like that, because that’s the sort of thing our family likes to do.

Whats-it: Can you read us some Mother Goose now?

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