Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thomas Grey's "Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard"

Etta Wilson has been posting about poetry this week and it brought back to mind one of my favorite poems of all time. So bear with me and enjoy:


The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

Yet e'en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, --

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

'The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'

The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melacholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.

By Thomas Gray (1716-71).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pencil vs. Camera

This is such a fun mix in visual mediums. Check it out!

Pencil vs. Camera

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

NewsFlash: Books make a difference!

Found this article rather interesting: Children Who Grow Up With Books Fare Better.

And my question is this -

are you surprised?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Authors on the move

I've mentioned Canadian YA author Eric Walters before, but just found out he's doing something even more remarkable (and with Eric it's always a long list of remarkable). He is part of a group that is walking across the desert in Tunisia. He's joining the founder of impossible2possible (i2P) and several young people in this adventure. Their goal is to raise awareness of water issues in Africa and funds for Ryan's Well. You can learn more about the adventure here.

Travels can prompt stories and I expect Eric will come back with plenty. Books like My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the Worldby Margriet Ruurs are fascinating glimpses into aspects of these travels, and sometimes plain silliness comes out of them too. An artist friend has a visual journal of her travels in the number of art pieces that have been prompted by her travels overseas. Do you enjoy books that give a definite sense of place? What about art? Is one easier to convey than the other?

In my travels today, I was in one of the bookstores in the San Francisco airport this morning and was browsing, as usual, checking out what was selling, what people were looking at, and what was on sale. There was a large group of children's titles for sale that made me vaguely sad (love a sale; hate to see children's books undervalued) and some titles that surprised me with the instant assumptions I formed about the book.

There were also some titles that I had some pretty strong reactions to that probably had nothing to do with the story. I've been known to buy a book for the cover, and I walked right past some today, even skirted around them, again because of the cover. I didn't have time to test all the titles (Did the back copy match my assumptions? Was the writing as evocative as the cover?...) before I had to run catch my own flight.

Gotta fly ...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poems to music (Natalie Merchant)

A link from a colleague sent me to this video of Natalie Merchant's adaptations of a collection of early poems. The music and staging are delightful but even more so is the fact that the words of these sometimes little-know 19th-century writers are living again. Can you picture your words being revived in a hundred years or more?


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Outsider talk

I've been planning to write about jargon for a while now. But the more I think about it, the longer the post gets in my head and I put it off (again).

But I found this word:

exonym (n.) : a name given to a person or place by foreigners; a name used by people not native to the place of reference; a place name or a personal name used by foreigners instead of the native-language version used by its inhabitants.

Examples are Moscow (the English version of Moskva); Germany (Deutschland); Japan (Nippon); Vienna (Wien). It's also been fairly common with names - using a name that sounds similar but is different from a person's personal name, often because of linguistic differences and often to make assimilation easier. ie. Charles for Karl; Julia for Juanita, etc.

As a writer, this intrigues me. Like jargon, it represents a certain kind of "inside" knowledge.

I write for English readers. But if I were to set a story in Moscow, which name would I use? Would it lend authenticity to refer to Moskva or just confuse the reader? (It certainly confuses my spell checker.) Tom Clancy uses the exonyms for many Russian cities but sometimes a Russian character would use the native name. Does the time frame or historic setting make a difference? Brock and Boede Thoene also use exonyms in their historic series.

And the last question: are those writers' examples enough to draw a "rule-of-thumb" by?

Fortunately for me, my next story is set in a pond. Which the characters simply refer to as "home."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tax time translations

It's tax time here both on a quarterly and annual level, and in reviewing some of the information on quarterly taxes and self-employment tax, I came across this statement on the IRS site:

"The subject of employment taxes is not as formidable when you consult our comprehensive resources."

I have to tell you that after three hours of research that don't answer my questions, several seemingly contradictory sections, and learning that the rules change if I'm a farmer or a fisherman ...

that's a very funny statement.

Ha ha ... ha ha ... ha ha ha ...