One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Return: Kierkegaard

I think I agree with Elizabeth B.: K.'s journals are perhaps the most readable (not that I've dared to read him all). Perhaps I'll get back to them someday, but for tonight I'm just looking for a random Hogarthian line of red (swiped many years ago when I only had "real" books!).


And the winner is:

It is said that experience makes a man wise. That is a very unreasonable thing to say. If there were nothing still higher than experience, experience would make him mad.

Elizabeth Bishop to Marianne Moore: P.S.

     P.S. Have you seen Kierkegaard's Journals? I've been reading it off and on for several months -- there are wonderful things in it and it's the first of his books I've been able to understand. And did you like the Four Quartets?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Marianne Moore's "The Fish" (1921)

The Fish


through black jade.

       Of the crow-blue mussel-shells, one keeps

       adjusting the ash-heaps;

              opening and shutting itself like



injured fan.

       The barnacles which encrust the side

       of the wave, cannot hide

              there for the submerged shafts of the



split like spun

       glass, move themselves with spotlight swiftness

       into the crevices—

              in and out, illuminating



turquoise sea

       of bodies. The water drives a wedge

       of iron through the iron edge

              of the cliff; whereupon the stars,



rice-grains, ink-

       bespattered jelly fish, crabs like green

       lilies, and submarine

              toadstools, slide each on the other.




       marks of abuse are present on this

       defiant edifice—

              all the physical features of





       of cornice, dynamite grooves, burns, and

       hatchet strokes, these things stand

              out on it; the chasm-side is




       evidence has proved that it can live

       on what can not revive

              its youth. The sea grows old in it.

Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish" (1946)

The Fish

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled with barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels-until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Colorado Lagoon: Jellies (Babies), Slimehenge, and Poppies (Sleepy)

The Lagoon: Always magical. Charlie and I just got back from his favorite short circuit: the bridge and back. Ebb-tide. Patches of slime in slanting light. The return of the jellies (just babies).





Reading: Elizabeth Bishop's Letters

Read her poetry years ago and liked much of it. Picked up both her poems and letters (ONE ART) via Kindle. Didn't know about the connection between her and Marianne Moore. Am jumping between Bishop and Boswell.


Excerpt (from a letter to Marianne Moore) from ONE ART:

     I cannot imagine why I left without leaving you the picture of the Temple of Paestrum. I often become slightly confused at the very point of bestowal and feel that perhaps, after all, it is inadequate or unwanted -- but I'm sure I thought you admired the Temple as much as I did! I am glad that you liked the leaves and I do hope they arrived wearing something of the original coloring. They fade fairly slowly, but they do fade. It was a "Sea Grape" ...  I am enclosing another -- the front side is yellow marked with a marvelous blurred (as if done on blotting paper) cerise, at the moment, I'm afraid it will be faded, but you will still be able to see the peculiar linings on the back ...
     You mustn't mock my simple fancies about the Negroes, George Herbert, etc. I will try to surprise you with a poem about them soon. The Partisan Review accepted the story, but I hope I shall be able to make several changes before they print it. I am so afraid you will not like it. I have just had another letter from Miss Norman, and I am wondering if you think that to send the two little "sleeping" poems ["Sleeping on the Ceiling" and "Sleeping Standing Up"] to her would be all right. I have another story, though, that -- if you are not too busy (but please tell me truly if you are) -- I should like to have you see. Twice a Year might possibly like it.

Morning Sauna: Colorado Lagoon

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lady Grange (1679 - 1745)

Rachel Chiesley, usually known as Lady Grange (1679–1745), was the wife of Lord Grange, a Scottish lawyer with Jacobite sympathies. After 25 years of marriage and nine children, the Granges separated acrimoniously. When Lady Grange produced letters that she claimed were evidence of his treasonable plottings against the Hanoverian government in London, her husband had her kidnapped in 1732. She was incarcerated in various remote locations on the western seaboard of Scotland, including the Monach Isles, Skye and the distant islands of St Kilda.

Lady Grange's father was convicted of murder and she is known to have had a violent temper; initially her absence seems to have caused little comment. News of her plight eventually reached her home town of Edinburgh however, and an unsuccessful rescue attempt was undertaken by her lawyer, Thomas Hope of Rankeillor. She died in captivity, after being in effect imprisoned for 13 years. Her life has been remembered in poetry, prose and plays.

[From Wikipedia:,_Lady_Grange]

The Extraordinary Fact of Lady Grange

Excerpt from Boswell's Journal:

After dinner to-day, we talked of the extraordinary fact of Lady Grange's being sent to St Kilda, and confined there for several years, without any means of relief. [Footnote: The true story of this lady, which happened in this century, is as frightfully romantick as if it had been the fiction of a gloomy fancy. She was the wife of the Lords of Session in Scotland, a man of the very first blood of his country. For some mysterious reasons, which have never been discovered, she was seized and carried off in the dark, she knew not by whom, and by nightly journies was conveyed to the Highland shores, from whence she was transported by sea to the remote rock of St Kilda, where she remained, amongst its few wild inhabitants, a forlorn prisoner, but had a constant supply of provisions, and a woman to wait on her. No inquiry was made after her, till she at last found means to convey a letter to a confidential friend, by the daughter of a Catechist who concealed it in a clue of yarn. Information being thus obtained at Edinburgh, a ship was sent to bring her off; but intelligence of this being received, she was conveyed to M'Leod's island of Herries, where she died....]

Summer Dreaming: Scotland

Though nothing's 100%, I'm already dreaming about Scotland. Already there in Boswellian time (Johnson is getting too cozy in Dunvegan Castle). Hoping to see De Quincey (in situ) and a few other sights (see below). Nota Bene: None of these photos are mine. All hail from Wikipedia. If it happens, of course I'll have pics of my own.




Sunday, February 7, 2016

William Drummond (Hawthornden) [1585 - 1649]

William Drummond (13 December 1585 – 4 December 1649), called "of Hawthornden", was a Scottish poet.


Drummond's most important works are the Cypresse Grove and the poems. The Cypresse Grove exhibits great wealth of illustration, and an extraordinary command of musical English. It is an essay on the folly of the fear of death. "This globe of the earth," says he, "which seemeth huge to us, in respect of the universe, and compared with that wide pavilion of heaven; is less than little, of no sensible quantity, and but as a point." This is one of Drummond's favourite moods; and he uses constantly in his poems such phrases as "the All," "this great All." Even in such of his poems as may be called more distinctively Christian, this philosophic conception is at work.[4]

A noteworthy feature in Drummond's poetry, as in that of his courtier contemporaries Aytoun, Lord Stirling and others, is that it manifests no characteristic Scottish element, but owes its birth and inspiration rather to the English and Italian masters. Drummond was essentially a follower of Spenser, but, amid all his sensuousness, and even in those lines most conspicuously beautiful, there is a dash of melancholy thoughtfulness - a tendency deepened by the death of his first love, Mary Cunningham. Drummond was called "the Scottish Petrarch"; and his sonnets, which are the expression of a genuine passion, stand far above most of the contemporary Petrarcan imitations. A remarkable burlesque poem Polemo Middinia inter Vitarvam et Nebernam (printed anonymously in 1684) has been persistently, and with good reason, ascribed to him. It is a mock-heroic tale, in macaronic Latin enriched with Scottish Gaelic expressions, of a country feud on the Fife lands of his old friends the Cunninghams.

[From Wikipedia:]

We spoke of death. . .

Excerpt from Boswell's journal (trip to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson):

We spoke of death. Dr. Johnson on this subject observed, that the boastings of some men, as to dying easily, were idle talk, proceeding from partial views. I mentioned Hawthornden's Cypress Grove, where it is said that the world is a mere show; and that it is unreasonable for a man to wish to continue in the show-room, after he has seen it. Let him go cheerfully out, and give place to other spectators. JOHNSON. 'Yes, sir, if he is sure he is to be well, after he goes out of it. But if he is to grow blind after he goes out of the show-room, and never to see any thing again; or if he does not know whither he is to go next, a man will not go cheerfully out of a show-room. No wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to go into a state of punishment. Nay, no wise man will be contented to die, if he thinks he is to fall into annihilation: for however unhappy any man's existence may be, he yet would rather have it, than not exist at all. No; there is no rational principle by which a man can die contented, but a trust in the mercy of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ.' This short sermon, delivered with an earnest tone, in a boat upon the sea, which was perfectly calm, on a day appropriated to religious worship, while every one listened with an air of satisfaction, had a most pleasing effect upon my mind.

Bolsa Chica State Beach

Still fighting a bad cold, but I couldn't sleep and I had to get out and walk. Read some (Boswell and Johnson in the Hebrides) at the Sunset Beach Starbucks. Walked for a short while along the beach. Seems a marathon was going on.







Saturday, February 6, 2016

Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)

Samuel Johnson (18 September 1709 [O.S. 7 September] – 13 December 1784), often referred to as Dr Johnson, was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. Johnson was a devout Anglican and committed Tory, and has been described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history".[1] He is also the subject of "the most famous single biographical work in the whole of literature," James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson.[2]

Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, Johnson attended Pembroke College, Oxford for just over a year, before his lack of funds forced him to leave. After working as a teacher he moved to London, where he began to write for The Gentleman's Magazine. His early works include the biography Life of Mr Richard Savage, the poems London and The Vanity of Human Wishes, and the play Irene.

After nine years of work, Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published In 1755. It had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been described as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship".[3] This work brought Johnson popularity and success. Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson's was viewed as the pre-eminent British dictionary.[4] His later works included essays, an influential annotated edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare, and the widely read tale The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia. In 1763, he befriended James Boswell, with whom he later travelled to Scotland; Johnson described their travels in A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. Towards the end of his life, he produced the massive and influential Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets, a collection of biographies and evaluations of 17th- and 18th-century poets.

Johnson was a tall and robust man. His odd gestures and tics were disconcerting to some on first meeting him. Boswell's Life, along with other biographies, documented Johnson's behaviour and mannerisms in such detail that they have informed the posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome,[5] a condition not defined or diagnosed in the 18th century. After a series of illnesses, he died on the evening of 13 December 1784, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. In the years following his death, Johnson began to be recognised as having had a lasting effect on literary criticism, and he was claimed by some to be the only truly great critic of English literature.


James Boswell (1740 - 1795)

Picked up (downloaded) Boswell's account of B & J's trip to the Hebrides (thought it might be fun to read before I go to Scotland in the summer -- nothing certain yet, and I certainly don't know if I'll have the chance to travel so far afield). Enjoying the read thus far.


James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (/ˈbɒzˌwɛl, -wəl/; 29 October 1740 – 19 May 1795), was a Scottish biographer and diarist, born in Edinburgh. He is best known for the biography he wrote of one of his contemporaries, the English literary figure Samuel Johnson, which the modern Johnsonian critic Harold Bloom has claimed is the greatest biography written in the English language.

Boswell's surname has passed into the English language as a term (Boswell, Boswellian, Boswellism) for a constant companion and observer, especially one who records those observations in print. In A Scandal in Bohemia, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes affectionately says of Dr. Watson, who narrates the tales, "I am lost without my Boswell."

[From Wikipedia:]