The Road to Bethlehem

THE ROAD TO BETHLEHEM

If as Herod, we fill our lives with things and again things;
If we consider ourselves so important that we must fill
Every moment of our lives with action;
When will we have the time to make the long slow journey
Across the burning desert as did the Magi;
Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds;
Or to brood over the coming of the Child as did Mary?
For each one of us there is a desert to travel,
A star to discover,
And a being within ourselves to bring to life.

~ Author Unknown

Casper (name)

Casper (name) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*

I read “The Road to Bethlehem” online and saved a copy of the poem but not the URL of the website where I found it. The poem was attributed to Anonymous, and I haven’t been able to find the author’s name. If you know who wrote it, please send the name and, if possible, other documentation in a comment, so I can give the poet credit for his creation and can seek information about copyright. Until I know more, I will assume the poem is in the public domain.

Poetry: Huck Finn Praises Emmeline Grangerford’s Tribute to Stephen Dowling Bots

English: Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001...

English: Stamp from Deutsche Post AG from 2001, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn Deutsch: Briefmarke der Deutschen Post AG aus dem Jahre 2001, Tom Sawyer und Huckleberry Finn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Mark Twain is given official credit for this poem, but it was really composed by Emmeline Grangerford, whose family Huckleberry Finn met on his Adventures down the Mississippi River.

Below, Huck quotes Emmeline’s tribute to Stephen Dowling Bots, who came to a watery end. He also records what happened to Emmeline, whose compulsive rhyming finally led to her sadful demise.
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
This young girl kept a scrap-book when she was alive, and used to paste obituaries and accidents and cases of patient suffering in it out of the Presbyterian Observer, and write poetry after them out of her own head. It was very good poetry. This is what she wrote about a boy by the name of Stephen Dowling Bots that fell down a well and was drownded:

 
Ode to Stephen Dowling Bots, Dec’d.
 
And did young Stephen sicken,
      And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
      And did the mourners cry?
*
No; such was not the fate of
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
      ‘Twas not from sickness’ shots.
*
No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
      Nor measles drear, with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
      Of Stephen Dowling Bots.
*
Despised love struck not with woe
      That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
      Young Stephen Dowling Bots.
*
O no. Then list with tearful eye,
      Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
      By falling down a well.
*
They got him out and emptied him;
      Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
      In the realms of the good and great.

 
If Emmeline Grangerford could make poetry like that before she was fourteen, there ain’t no telling what she could a done by-and-by. Buck said she could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn’t ever have to stop to think. He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn’t find anything to rhyme with it she would just scratch it out and slap down another one, and go ahead. She warn’t particular, she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about, just so it was sadful. Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her “tribute” before he was cold. She called them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker- the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme the dead person’s name, which was Whistler. She warn’t ever the same, after that; she never complained, but she kind of pined away and did not live long.

###
Note: The stamp is German. Here’s a link to a Russian stamp honoring Mark Twain, if a buyer hasn’t already snapped it up.

Select Tender Type or, Another Reason Literature Is Useful (Repost)

Below is a piece I originally posted, under a slightly different title, several years ago. I don’t know why the text looks as it does, but it will stay that way until tech support and I find a remedy. I hope you will read and enjoy anyway.

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in

Ophelia, oil on canvas, size: 49 x 29 in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At HEB this afternoon, having verified that I had, indeed, spent my last sou on a cup of coffee at Waterloo Writers, I ran my credit card through the scanner. The resulting screen read, Select Tender Type.

Tender.

Such a formal, old-fashioned word for this new-fangled device.

It reminded me of the scene in which Polonius asks Ophelia about her relationship with Hamlet:

Polonius: What is between you? give me up the truth.

Ophelia: He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders
Of his affection to me.

Polonius: Affection! pooh! you speak like a green girl,
Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.
Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?

Ophelia: I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

Polonius: Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby;
That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly;
Or–not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus–you’ll tender me a fool.

 

Poor Ophelia. She was a sweet thing, and young, and the men in her life treated her so shabbily.

But even while Polonius belittles his daughter to her face, the way Shakespeare moves tender through the passage, varying its meaning from one line to the next, makes the language as briliant as its meaning is dark. Polonius, as Hamlet later implies, is a rat—and he pays for his treachery a couple of acts down the road—but he has such a way with words.

Thinking of Polonius and Ophelia reminded me of Lord Capulet‘s rage when Juliet tells him she will not marry Paris. He explodes, and Juliet adds fuel to the fire.

Capulet: How! will she none? doth she not give us thanks?
Is she not proud? doth she not count her blest,
Unworthy as she is, that we have wrought
So worthy a gentleman to be her bridegroom?

Juliet or The Blue Necklace (1898) by John Wil...

Juliet or The Blue Necklace (1898) by John William Waterhouse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Juliet: Not proud, you have; but thankful, that you have:
Proud can I never be of what I hate;
But thankful even for hate, that is meant love.

Capulet: How now, how now, chop-logic! What is this?
‘Proud,’ and ‘I thank you,’ and ‘I thank you not;’
And yet ‘not proud,’ mistress minion, you,
Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds,
But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,
To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church,
Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.
Out, you green-sickness carrion! out, you baggage!
You tallow-face!

“Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds, / But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next,…” Beautiful. Just seeing it on the page gives me the shivers.

To some, Capulet sounds like a terrible father, but, as I pointed out to my freshmen, year after year, Juliet starts it. She’s rude and disrespectful. Her father doesn’t know she’s already married; he thinks she would be thrilled to marry Paris. But she behaves like a brat. It’s no wonder Capulet threatens to drag her on a hurdle thither.

The two female characters present an interesting contrast: Ophelia refuses to speak for herself; Juliet shouts. But neither one lasts to the end of Act V.

A scholarly paper might lurk in there somewhere: “Shakespeare’s Women: A Study of the Consequences of Self-Actualization Within the Context of the Father-Daughter Relationship Complicated by Nascent Heterosexual Bonding, with a Focus on Hamlet’s Ophelia and Romeo and Juliet’s Juliet.”

Or perhaps not.

By the time I finished with the Capulets, the cashier had almost finished scanning. While she bagged the items, I had time to wonder whether the name of Jasper FForde‘s protagonist, Thursday Next, was inspired by the once-projected date for Juliet’s wedding.

Queen Guinevere's maying, by John Collier, 1900

Queen Guinevere’s maying, by John Collier, 1900 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also remembered that The Idylls of the King contains a line echoing Thank me no thankings, nor, proud me no prouds; I believe it’s spoken by Guinevere–maybe–but I’ve not been able to locate it, and it looks as if I’ll have to re-read the entire Idylls to ease my mind.

But I did catch the next lines that drifted by: Guinevere, jealous of Elaine, takes up Lancelot’s gift of diamonds

 

“And thro’ the casement standing wide for heat
Flung them and down they flash’d, and smote the stream.
Then from the smitten surface flash’d, as it were
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away.”

 

That image—diamonds falling into the sunlit stream, and water splashing up, like diamonds to meet them—remains with me when the rest of the book has passed from memory.

Well. By this time, the cashier and I had completed our transaction. I wheeled the groceries to the car. End of shopping.

End of post.

Except to point out that I stood for ten minutes in one of the most boring places imaginable and forgot to be bored.

I was busy elsewhere.

 

 

 

The Soul Selects

For Maryellen ~

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

Emily Dickinson

file0001603028445

Enhanced by Zemanta
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
*****
Image by hotblack
 
 

Crystal

Crystal Barrow, ~ 1919

Crystal Barrow, ~ 1919

For my mother
born in Martindale, Texas, 1917
In all her seventy-five years, she never grew old.

*

The courage that my mother had
Went with her, and is with her still:
Rock from New England quarried;
Now granite in a granite hill.

The golden brooch my mother wore
She left behind for me to wear;
I have no thing I treasure more:
Yet, it is something I could spare.

Oh, if instead she’d left to me
The thing she took into the grave!-
That courage like a rock, which she
Has no more need of, and I have.

~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

An Evening of Patience

George Grossmith as Bunthorne in Patience

George Grossmith as Bunthorne in Patience. Bunthorne is an idyllic poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent the evening at a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience or, Bunthorne’s Bride and feel compelled to share.

Patience is the story of two poets–Reginald Bunthorne, an idyllic poet; and Archibald Grosvenor, a fleshly poet–both of whom love Patience, the milkmaid. Patience, a happy girl who at first says she has never loved anyone except her great-aunt, confesses she does loves her childhood friend, Grosvenor; and Grosvenor loves Patience.

Patience, however, having been told that pure love is unselfish, says she cannot love Grosvenor, because her love would be selfish, since she really loves him. She says she must love Bunthorne, because, since she does not love him, that love would be unselfish and therefore pure.

Are still with me?

Bunthorne, at first delighted with Patience’s profession of love, becomes jealous when the handsome Grosvenor appears and attracts the attention of the twenty lovesick maidens, who leave Bunthorne to tag along after Grosvenor (from Monday to Saturday, until he requests a half-holiday). The jealous Bunthorne makes Patience miserable, which is exactly what a person loving unselfishly is supposed to be…

And then there are Jane and the 35th Dragoons.

And more complications.

In the passage below, Bunthorne reads one of his poems to the twenty lovesick maidens and the completely un-lovesick Patience.

*****

Bunthorne. … The poem is finished, and my soul has gone out into it. That was all. It was nothing worth mentioning, it occurs three times a day. (Sees Patience, who has entered during this scene.) Ah, Patience! Dear Patience! (Holds her hand; she seems frightened.)

Angela. Will it please you read it to us, sir?

Saphir. This we supplicate. (All kneel.)

Bunthorne. Shall I?

Dragoons. No!

Bunthorne. (annoyed – to Patience) I will read it if you bid me!

Patience(much frightened) You can if you like!

Bunthorne. It is a wild, weird, fleshy thing; yet very tender, very yearning, very precious. It is called, “Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!”

Patience. Is it a hunting song?

Bunthorne. A hunting song? No, it is not a hunting song. It is the wail of the poet’s heart on discovering that everything is commonplace. To understand it, cling passionately to one another and think of faint lilies. (They do so as he recites)

“OH, HOLLOW! HOLLOW! HOLLOW!”

What time the poet hath hymned
The writhing maid, lithe-limbed,
Quivering on amaranthine asphodel,
How can he paint her woes,
Knowing, as well he knows,
That all can be set right with calomel?

When from the poet’s plinth
The amorous colocynth
Yearns for the aloe, faint with rapturous thrills,
How can he hymn their throes
Knowing, as well he knows,
That they are only uncompounded pills?

Is it, and can it be,
Nature hath this decree,
Nothing poetic in the world shall dwell?
Or that in all her works
Something poetic lurks,
Even in colocynth and calomel?
I cannot tell.

Exit Bunthorne.

Angela. How purely fragrant!

Saphir. How earnestly precious!

Patience. Well, it seems to me to be nonsense.

Saphir. Nonsense, yes, perhaps – but oh, what precious nonsense!

Sydney Granville as Grosvenor

Sydney Granville as Grosvenor. Grosvenor is a fleshly poet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Precious nonsense: Mr. Gilbert’s words describe Bunthorne’s poem–and the entire play.

As Andy Griffith said of Hamlet, it’s a pretty good show.