Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Biblical Hebrew

One of the world's coolest web sites. Worth wasting hours upon, as I shall attempt to amply demonstrate.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Book, Two Books and Half a Book

In reverse order...

The Epic of Gilgamesh is quite worth the read. Some awkward moments (that are generally hilarious), but as a whole, it demonstrates how little human society has changed in the past three millennia. It is enjoyable, though some parts are aggravating, as there are many missing sections. I've already found about six allusions that I'd heard in other places and will assume Gilgamesh to be the origin of (take it, Lady Astor: "this is the sort of nonsense with which we shall not put up.").

Foucault's Pendulum is good, if you have a mind that likes lots of details. Lots of details. Lots and lots of names that are completely irrelevant to anything you'll ever encounter (save a doctoral thesis on Umberto Eco's education), and he's not nearly so character driven as is someone like Dunnett, so the classical allusions work as a pleasant distraction, rather than an insight. It's the difference between a bunny-trail to an Italian gent out for a stroll (Eco) and a bunny trail to a Gaelic rabbit-hunter (Dunnett). But it's good, at least so far.

Lemony Snicket's okay. It works for what it is, but isn't all that good even at that. I read all three of them in about two hours, and have to say that the movie improved upon the book in several essential ways, the chief of them being the just ending. Not worth much more of a review: prose was alright (not a single commonplace in any of them), so, ah well. That's why I like libraries.

The American Libraries' Ezra Pound is staggering. Worth just about any price. Pound is amazing: along with Eliot, he's probably the best of the modernist poets: according to Eliot, he is "il miglor fabrio," which may be true, but I'm not yet willing to grant, as I've read Murder in the Cathedral, Four Quartets and Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in the past month, and am still a novice to Pound. He, like Eliot, is chalk full of classical allusions, and, if possible, is at times even less accessible, though when he is intelligible, he is heartbreaking. I'll include a few samples below.

Grace Before Song

Lord God of heaven that with mercy dight
Th' alternate prayer wheel of the night and light
Eternal hath to thee, and in whose sight
Our days as rain drops in the sea surge fall,

As bright white drops upon a leaden sea
Grant so my songs to this grey folk may be:

As drops that dream and gleam and falling catch the sun,
Evan'scent mirrors every opal one
Of such his splendor as their compass is,
So, bold My Songs, seek ye such a death as this.

Thu Ides Til

O thou of Maydes all most wonder sweet
That art my comfort eke and my solace
Whan thee I find in any wolde or place
I doon thee reverence as is most meet
To cry thy prayse I nill nat be discreet
Thou hast swich debonairite and grace
Swich gentyl smile thy alderfayrest face
To run thy prayse I ne hold not my feet.
My Lady, tho I ne me hold thee fro
Nor streyve with thee by any game to play
But offer only thee myn own herte reede
I prey by love that thou wilt kindness do
And that thou keep my song by night and day
As shadow blood from myn own herte y-blede.

And a few lines, here and there:

Thou that art sweeter than all orchard's breath
And clearer than the sun gleam after rain...

If any flower mortescent lay in sun-withering dust
If any old forgotten sweetness of a former drink
Naught but stilt fragrance of autumnal flowers
Mnemonic of spring's bloom and parody of powers...

Let light flow about thee
As a cloak of air

,,,and drinks with me the soft wind and the keen.

Such peace as this would make death's self most sweet
Could I but know, Thou maiden of the sun,
That thus thy presence would go forth with me
Unto that shadow land where ages' feet
Have wandered, and where life's dreaming done
Love may dream on unto eternity.

We dwelt, amid the
Ancient boulders
Gods had hewn
And druids runed

And so on it goes. He truly is magnificent, and well worth the time that he will indubitably take.

So, to my faithful reader, I enclose my recipe for a pleasant Saturday evening:

1). Pipe of black cavendish or cherry cavendish with a touch of apple
2). Glass of some red alcoholic beverage (port would do quite nicely, bud-light with food coloring would not. Rum o.k.)
3). A type of soft cheese to be spread upon crackers (crackers permitted, if they behave quietly and with decorum)
4). A pen (twelve is the usual number, but fewer will be accepted)
5). Blank 3x5 notecard used as a bookmark
6). Ezra Pound's poetry
7). For the lucky number, a short, curly-haired honest thief (who knows riddles)

Apply moderately, and as desired.

Blessed Lord's Day to all.

Wodehousian Fun