Thomas Whichello

"Fungi from Yuggoth," in which this poem appears, was written between December 1929 and January 1930.

Transcript:

John Whateley lived about a mile from town,
Up where the hills began to huddle thick;
We never thought his wits were very quick,
Seeing the way he let his farm run down.

He used to waste his time on some queer books
He’d found around the attic of his place,
Till funny lines got creased into his face,
And folks all said they didn’t like his looks.

When he began those night-howls we declared
He’d better be locked up away from harm,
So three men from the Aylesbury town farm
Went for him—but came back alone and scared.

They’d found him talking to two crouching things
That at their step flew off on great black wings.

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The music is from "Decoherence" by Scott Buckley.

This poem was printed in 1808, in the preface to "Milton, a Poem." It is said to concern the legend that Jesus Christ, when a young man, visited England with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathaea. Joseph is said to have been a tin-merchant, and Jesus his ship’s carpenter. They first landed at Cornwall, and travelled as far as the Mendip Hills in Somerset. After the death of Jesus, Joseph returned to England, and built the first English church at Glastonbury.

The poet speculates that Jesus brought heaven to earth when he came to our country; and then resolves a moral and intellectual fight to rebuild heaven in the present day. This is why I emphasize the word "we" in the penultimate line, which seems to contrast the Jerusalem of ancient time against the one that is now to be built.

The popular title "Jerusalem" derives from the title of the hymn by Sir Hubert Parry, who wrote music for Blake's words in 1916. Jerusalem is often considered to be the English national anthem.

A minor note concerning pronunciation. In modern Received Pronunciation, it is most common to say the word pasture as /'pɑːstjə/ (pah-sture). But in Walker’s Pronouncing Dictionary, published in 1791, I find that what is now the American pronunciation, /'pæs.tʃɚ/ (pas-ture), was the standard one in Britain at the time of Blake; so I have preferred it in this recording. (Walker gives to “pasture” the same vowel-sound as in “pat,” “patch,” and "pasty,” and a different one from that in the word “bath.”) The same pronunciation is also used in many British dialects.

Transcript:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

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Beethoven's "Piano Concerto no. 5 in Eb 'Emperor', Op. 73 - II. Adagio un poco mosso" performed by Ursula Oppens and DuPage Symphony Orchestra is licensed and adapted under CC BY 3.0.

This poem is free to copy or use for any and all purposes under CC BY 4.0 (attribution only).

Transcript:

Plato! though Athens blindly worships you,
The mob prefers imposing things to true.
But I look past, and search the man inside;
I see your heart, and trample on its pride!

You love to flatter wealthy men and kings,
And treasure what the name of wisdom brings;
But I pursue her in my way of life,
A godlike poverty, immune to strife.

Did not your master, who so nobly fell,
Teach you that wisdom should be living well?
But you, forsaking him for lesser aims,
Have changed philosophy to mental games.

I choose, though by your lovely books outlived,
The happy conscience of a life well lived!

Ode to Man is a name often given to the first stasimon or "standing song" in Sophocles' play Antigone, a poem which the chorus would sing while standing in the orchestra. The Ode is often compared with the famous speech in Shakespeare beginning, "What a piece of work is man." D'Angour (2021) says of the Ode to Man that it "has become the most famous ode in Greek tragedy."

The English translation below and in the video is free to use under CC-BY-4.0 (attribution only).

Timestamps:

00:00 Strophe a
01:14 Antistrophe a
02:22 Strophe b
03:22 Antistrophe b

Transcript:

An Ode to Man, from the Antigone of Sophocles

The Turn

Many wonderful things there are, and nothing more wonderful than man. This being travels across even the grisly sea, in the stormy southern wind, passing through swelling waves that threaten to engulf him. And even the eldest of the gods—Earth, imperishable, inexhaustible—he wears away; as year by year the plough goes round, and he turns up the soil with the race of horses.

The Counterturn

Casting round nets, the light-hearted tribe of birds he captures, and the clans of wild beasts; and with mesh-woven cords, he carries off the tribe of the deep, that dwells in the open sea: all-contriving man! By his arts, he tames the beast that dwells in the field, and roams over the mountains. The shaggy-maned horse he binds for his own use, putting the yoke upon its nape; and uses likewise the tireless, mountain-haunting bull.

The Turn

Both the power of speech, and wind-swift thought, and the feelings of social life, he has developed for his own benefit; and in the open sky, has learned to fly from inhospitable frosts, and the arrows of the raging storm. He is all-inventing! He comes to no situation without recourse: hell alone shall he find no way to escape. For diseases without remedy, he has invented means of escape.

The Counterturn

With ingenious skill, with art past expectation, at times towards evil, at others towards good he creeps. When the laws of the land he honours, and the justice of the gods, to which he is sworn, he stands high in the city; but he has no city at all, who lives with evil because of his recklessness. Never may he share my hearth, nor share my thoughts, who acts in such a way!

Σοφοκλέους Ἀντιγόνη, στάσιμον πρῶτον

Strophe a

πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀν-
θρώπου δεινότερον πέλει:
τοῦτο καὶ πολιοῦ πέραν
πόντου χειμερίῳ νότῳ
χωρεῖ, περιβρυχίοισιν
περῶν ὑπ᾽ οἴδμασιν, θεῶν
τε τὰν ὑπερτάταν, Γᾶν
ἄφθιτον, ἀκαμάταν, ἀποτρύεται,
ἰλλομένων ἀρότρων ἔτος εἰς ἔτος,
ἱππείῳ γένει πολεύων.

Antistrophe a

κουφονόων τε φῦλον ὀρ-
νίθων ἀμφιβαλὼν ἄγει
καὶ θηρῶν ἀγρίων ἔθνη
πόντου τ᾽ εἰναλίαν φύσιν
σπείραισι δικτυοκλώστοις,
περιφραδὴς ἀνήρ: κρατεῖ
δὲ μηχαναῖς ἀγραύλου
θηρὸς ὀρεσσιβάτα, λασιαύχενά θ᾽
ἵππον ὀχμάζεται ἀμφὶ λόφον ζυγῶν
οὔρειόν τ᾽ ἀκμῆτα ταῦρον.

Strophe b

καὶ φθέγμα καὶ ἀνεμόεν
φρόνημα καὶ ἀστυνόμους
ὀργὰς ἐδιδάξατο καὶ δυσαύλων
πάγων ὑπαίθρεια καὶ
δύσομβρα φεύγειν βέλη
παντοπόρος: ἄπορος ἐπ᾽ οὐδὲν ἔρχεται
τὸ μέλλον: Ἅιδα μόνον
φεῦξιν οὐκ ἐπάξεται:
νόσων δ᾽ ἀμηχάνων φυγὰς
ξυμπέφρασται.

Antistrophe b

σοφόν τι τὸ μηχανόεν
τέχνας ὑπὲρ ἐλπίδ᾽ ἔχων
τοτὲ μὲν κακόν, ἄλλοτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἐσθλὸν ἕρπει,
νόμους γεραίρων χθονὸς
θεῶν τ᾽ ἔνορκον δίκαν,
ὑψίπολις: ἄπολις ὅτῳ τὸ μὴ καλὸν
ξύνεστι τόλμας χάριν.
μήτ᾽ ἐμοὶ παρέστιος
γένοιτο μήτ᾽ ἴσον φρονῶν
ὃς τάδ᾽ ἔρδει.

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Joachim Andersen’s 24 Etudes for Flute, Op. 15 - VI. Moderato in B minor, played by Paolo Dalmoro is licensed and adapted under CC-BY-3.0.

Bach’s Flute Sonata in A minor, H. 562 - I. Poco Adagio, played by Lydia J. Roth is licensed and adapted under CC-BY-3.0.

All footage is taken from spring of this year. A list of things that appear in the video:

0:01 Daffodils
0:13 Hawthorn tree
0:38 Bluebells
00:53 Cowslips
01:08 Beech bud with hornbeam leaf
01:22 Beech tree
01:25 Ash tree
01:30 Wallflower
01:43 Stinging nettles
01:59 Yew tree
02:07 Teasels
02:13 Periwinkles
02:21 Dandelions
02:57 Buttercups
03:07 Daisies
03:12 Clematis
03:36 Oak tree
04:28 Barley
04:37 Primroses
04:52 Cedar tree
05:03 Dead daffodils
05:10 Yew tree (again)
05:38 Magnolias
05:50 Annual honesty
05:55 Horse chestnut tree
06:34 Columbines
06:57 Red campions
07:15 Wild roses
07:39 Rapeseed
08:07 Willow tree
08:52 China roses

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The music is Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" (a symphonic poem), performed by Columbia University Orchestra.

It is argued here that the true lover is quiet and reserved, and fears to speak his love.

Astrophil and Stella, composed in the 1580s, has been called the first "real" sonnet sequence in the English language. (Roche 2000:661.)

"The two quartos of Astrophel and Stella, published in 1591 for Thomas Newman, started the late Elizabethan sonnet craze. Although Astrophel and Stella was not the first Petrarchan sonnet sequence in English, it was obviously the most influential. Between 1591 and 1609, the year in which Shakespeare's sonnets were published, about forty sonnet sequences were published, so various in form that no single definition of a 'sonnet sequence' is quite adequate." (Davis 2011:79.)

In explanation of lines 2 and 3, some Elizabethan men would wear roses, ribbons, and locks of their mistress' hair, as a sign of their devotion to her.

"Is there not here resident about London a crew of terrible hacksters in the habit of gentlemen, well apparelled, and yet some wear boots for want of stockings, with a lock worn at their left ear for their mistress' favour?" -- Greene, in The Defence of Cony-Catching, 1592.

Transcript:

Because I breathe not love to every one,
Nor do not use set colours for to wear,
Nor nourish special locks of vowed hair,
Nor give each speech a full point of a groan,

The courtly nymphs, acquainted with the moan
Of them which in their lips Love’s standard bear:
What, he! (say they of me): now I dare swear
He cannot love; no, no, let him alone.

And think so still, so Stella know my mind.
Profess indeed I do not Cupid’s art;
But you, fair maids, at length this true shall find,
That his right badge is but worn in the heart:

Dumb swans, not chattering pies, do lovers prove;
They love indeed who quake to say they love.

This beautiful poem is a justification of Divine Providence. It was written in 1773, just before the second onset of a depressive illness, in which Cowper attempted suicide by drowning.

The wind chime, with which I mark off the stanzas, is a reference to the mysteriousness of the wind, which "bloweth where it listeth." The dandelion is another reference to the wind; since its seeds (like divine purposes) are carried by the wind to grow in whatever place it sees fit.

Transcript:

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

"In 1876, Wilde was moved by the atrocities against Christians in the Balkans, where the Slavs had rebelled against Turkish rule. In the following year, he wrote 'Sonnet on the Massacre of the Christians in Bulgaria', modelled after Milton's 'On the Late Massacre in Piedmont.' (Beckson and Fong 1997:61)

The figure at timestamp 1:42 is Ivan Stratsimir, the last ruler of mediaeval Bulgaria, who was killed in a crusade against the Turks. At 1:47 is Vasil Levski, a national hero of Bulgaria, who brought about a revolution to liberate Bulgaria from Turkish rule. The building at 1:49 is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, built to honour the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish war, as a result of which Bulgaria gained independence.

Transcript:

Christ, dost thou live indeed? or are thy bones
Still straightened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?
And was thy Rising only dreamed by her
Whose love of thee for all her sin atones?

For here the air is horrid with men’s groans,
The priests who call upon thy name are slain,
Dost thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
From those whose children lie upon the stones?

Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
Curtains the land, and through the starless night
Over thy Cross the Crescent moon I see!

If thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
Come down, O Son of Man! and show thy might,
Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!

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Mahler's Symphony no. 5 - I. Trauermarsch by Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony is licensed and adapted under CC BY 3.0.

This hymn speaks of the importance of Aphrodite to the island of Cyprus, the lovely gifts which she gives to mankind, and of her own personal loveliness.

It is thought that Homer knew nothing of the story of Aphrodite's birth from the sea. ("Homer," says Jackson (2010:158), "does not recognize any connection between Aphrodite and the sea.") But it is nevertheless such a pleasing story that I have chosen the imagery for the concept of this video. In Homer, Aphrodite is the daughter of Zeus and Dione. The Iliad shows her mother as Dione (cf. book 5); and in the fifth Homeric hymn, she is called Διὸς θυγάτηρ Ἀφροδίτη (Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus).

According to Hesiod, the name Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη) is related to the ancient Greek word for foam, ἀφρός. He adds that she grew amid the foam, and was born from it full-grown, "an awful and lovely goddess." (Theogony, 188-201.) He also says that Aphrodite "was born in billowy Cyprus," hence her name Cyprogenes; and that she is called Cythereia because "she came to holy Cythera first." (Cythera is an Ionian island.)

Martin West (2003:193) says of Salamis that it refers, not to the island, but to "the town in Cyprus." There is a climax, therefore, in lines 4 and 5, from Aphrodite's guardianship over a town in Cyprus, to the entire island. Hence an alternate reading makes good sense, which reads "πάσης Κύπρου" (all Cyprus). ("As preserved in ψ," Olson 2012:110.) But "εἰναλίης Κύπρου" (sea-girt Cyprus) is a more pleasing image.

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Transcript:

(This translation is free to use under CC BY 4.0.)

To Aphrodite

Of Cyprus-born Aphrodite (or Cythereia) I will sing, who to mortal men
gives kindly gifts. Upon her lovely face,
she ever wears a smile; and lovely is the bloom that runs over it.
Hail, goddess! the guardian-queen of well-built Salamis,
and sea-girt Cyprus. Give me a lovely song!
But as for me, I will remember both you and another song.

Εἲς Ἀφροδίτην

κυπρογενῆ Κυθέρειαν ἀείσομαι, ἥτε βροτοῖσι
μείλιχα δῶρα δίδωσιν, ἐφ᾽ ἱμερτῷ δὲ προσώπῳ
αἰεὶ μειδιάει καὶ ἐφ᾽ ἱμερτὸν θέει ἄνθος.
χαῖρε, θεά, Σαλαμῖνος ἐϋκτιμένης μεδέουσα
εἰναλίης τε Κύπρου: δὸς δ᾽ ἱμερόεσσαν ἀοιδήν.
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ σεῖο καὶ ἄλλης μνήσομ᾽ ἀοιδῆς.

First published in 1807 in "Poems, in Two Volumes."

Transcript:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

For those who are curious to read about the Orphic hymns, I have made a number of extracts below. Irrespective of the extent to which they contain the genuine teachings of Orpheus, they have unquestionable literary merit. They were highly regarded during the Renaissance, when Ficino and his circle of friends enjoyed setting and singing them to music. Ficino himself made a translation of them from the Greek, and his biographer says that he "sang them to the lyre in the ancient style with remarkable sweetness." Athanassakis and Wolkow (2013) draw attention to “the relative purity of language and nearly flawless hexameter” of the hymns.

There appears to be no English prose-translation in the public domain, so I give one of my own for this little hymn. (Free to use under CC BY 4.0.)

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Transcript:

A hymn to Ares. The fumigation from frankincense.

Unbreakable, strong-willed, mighty, courageous daemon,
Arms-loving, unconquerable, man-killing stormer of walls,
Lord Ares, rattling with armour, ever bespattered with blood,
Rejoicing in deadly slaughter, raising the turmoil of war, inspiring terror,
You who long for coarse battle with swords and spears:
Put an end to raging strife; relieve suffering that grieves the heart;
Incline to the yearning of Aphrodite, and the revels of Dionysus,
Exchanging the force of arms for the works of Demeter,
Loving peace, that rears up youth, the bestower of bliss.

Ἄρεος, θυμίαμα λίβανον.

Ἄρρηκτ', ὀμβριμόθυμε, μεγασθενές, ἄλκιμε δαῖμον,
ὁπλοχαρής, ἀδάμαστε, βροτοκτόνε, τειχεσιπλῆτα,
Ἆρες ἄναξ, ὁπλόδουπε, φόνοις πεπαλαγμένος αἰεί,
αἵματι ἀνδροφόνωι χαίρων, πολεμόκλονε, φρικτέ,
ὃς ποθέεις ξίφεσίν τε καὶ ἔγχεσι δῆριν ἄμουσον·
στῆσον ἔριν λυσσῶσαν, ἄνες πόνον ἀλγεσίθυμον,
εἰς δὲ πόθον νεῦσον Κύπριδος κώμους τε Λυαίου
ἀλλάξας ἀλκὴν ὅπλων εἰς ἔργα τὰ Δηοῦς,
εἰρήνην ποθέων κουροτρόφον, ὀλβιοδῶτιν

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"The Orphic Hymns stand as a particular example of a very old genre that survived throughout antiquity. A hymn is essentially a poem sung in praise of a god, often with a request or prayer.

The Orphic Hymns constitute a distinct collection, and should be seen as one part of a vast ancient literature that modern scholars label 'Orphic'... 'Orphic' is a sort of catch-all term that is used to designate anything and everything directly or indirectly connected to Orpheus. And who this figure was leads to even more ambiguity. We do not know if he ever existed. Traditionally he was from the wilds of Thrace, a foreigner to the Greeks, and a bard of great renown, sometimes thought to be even earlier than Homer and Hesiod. He was so proficient with his stringed instrument, the lyre, that he could sway inanimate objects and even bring the lord and lady of the dead to tears... He knew of secret rites, usually those of Dionysus, and particularly those dealing with the salvation of the soul after death, and these he taught to his fellow man in the form of mysteries.

A date of composition cannot be assigned to the Hymns with any certainty. A few ancient sources make direct or oblique references to Orphic hymns, but they need not refer to our Hymns.

They may have existed quite early and gone unnoticed. After all, antiquity treated the much older Homeric hymns with astonishing indifference. Those scholars who place the composition of the Orphic Hymns within the first four centuries of our era are probably closer to the truth. The relative purity of the language and the nearly flawless hexameter would argue for the earlier part of this period.” (Athanassakis & Wolkow, 2013.)

"In a letter written when he was nearly 60, Ficino looks back over a lifetime of cultural achievements in his native city: 'This age, like a golden age, has brought back to light those liberal disciplines that were practically extinguished: grammar, poetry, oratory, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and the ancient singing of songs to the Orphic lyre.' He is referring to both his own and his friends' well-attested skill at improvising or composing musical settings for the hymns of Orpheus, which he himself had translated from the Greek." (Voss 2002:227.)

Thomas Taylor, the first modern commentator on the Hymns, was convinced that they were used in the Eleusinian Mysteries, and written by Orpheus himself. He provides an elaborate argument for this opinion (1824:xxxiii). One of his reasons is a quotation from Pausanias, in which that writer refers to the Orphic hymns as “few and short,” just like our collection.

“Whoever has devoted himself to the study of poetry knows that the hymns of Orpheus are all very short, and that the total number of them is not great. The Lycomidae know them and chant them over the ritual of the mysteries. For poetic beauty they may be said to come next to the hymns of Homer, while they have been even more honoured by the gods.” (Pausanias 9:30.)

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Evening Fall (Harp) by Kevin Macleod is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Recorded in April 2022. From Act III, Scene 1, of Henry VIII.

The tale of Orpheus shows the miraculous power which the ancients imputed to poetry and music. His songs were said to charm all things, from the wild animal to the heartless stone. Shakespeare makes use of this story to emphasize, more particularly, the power of music to relieve anxiety and grief.

Shakespeare makes Orpheus a lute-player; though strictly speaking, he played the lyre, a harp-shaped instrument that belongs to the lute family. The lute was a highly regarded instrument in Shakespeare's day, and there are many references to its power in his works. e. g. :

"... thy tongue
Makes Welsh as sweet as ditties highly penned,
Sung by a fair queen in a summer’s bower,
With ravishing division, to her lute.” -- Henry IV, Part 1, Act 3, Scene 1.

For "as" in line 5, understand "as if." i. e., to paraphrase: "To the music of Orpheus, plants and flowers ever sprung; as if the sun and showers, in whatever place he played, had made an everlasting spring."

Lines 7, 8, and 9, are a reference to the journey of Orpheus with the Argonauts, in which the poet is said to have calmed the seas with his music.

The picture in the thumbnail, and at the end of the video, is "Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld," by Camille Corot. So moving was Orpheus, we are told, that, when his beloved Eurydice died, the king of the underworld was overwhelmed with his music, and permitted her to return to him.

The music is "Chaconne" by Jan Antonín Losy, a pre-eminent baroque lute-player, played by Michael Podolski.

Transcript:

Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.

Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.

Recorded in April 2022. From Milton's Poems, published in 1645.

Transcript:

Lady that in the prime of earliest youth,
Wisely hast shun'd the broad way and the green,
And with those few art eminently seen,
That labour up the Hill of heav'nly Truth,

The better part with Mary, and with Ruth,
Chosen thou hast, and they that overween,
And at thy growing vertues fret their spleen,
No anger find in thee, but pity and ruth.

Thy care is fixt and zealously attends
To fill thy odorous Lamp with deeds of light,
And Hope that reaps not shame. Therefore be sure

Thou, when the Bridegroom with his feastfull friends
Passes to bliss at the mid hour of night,
Hast gain'd thy entrance, Virgin wise and pure.

Recorded in April 2022. From Act 2, Scene 5, of As You Like It.

Transcript:

Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

Who doth ambition shun
And loves to live i' the sun,
Seeking the food he eats,
And pleased with what he gets,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

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Music: Prélude à l'après midi d'un Faune by Debussy, licensed and adapted from Natalia Ensemble under CC BY 3.0.

Recorded in April 2022. First published on 11 January, 1818.

Transcript:

I met a Traveller from an antique land,
Who said, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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The music is “Decoherence” by Scott Buckley, licensed and adapted under CC-BY.

Recorded in April 2022. First published in "Poetical Sketches, by W. B.," printed in the year 1783.

Poetical Sketches was Blake’s first collection of poetry. Only forty copies were printed, and it went virtually unnoticed by the public. “Nevertheless, Blake himself was proud enough of the volume that he was still giving copies to friends as late as 1808; and when he died, several unstitched copies were found amongst his belongings.”

On the basis of the last stanza, Spring, in this poem, is generally understood to be a man. But I have not thought it improper, for the concept of this video, to portray him as a woman.

Transcript:

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Through the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell one another, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn’d
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languish’d head,
Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee!

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The music is “Adrift Among Infinite Stars” by Scott Buckley, licensed and adapted under CC-BY.

Recorded in April 2022. Written in 1653.

"It was during the international pamphlet controversy that Milton translated the first eight psalms, which were generally interpreted by Protestants as the lamentations of a godly man suffering unjust torment at the hands of his enemies... In undertaking these translations, Milton was conforming to the established Protestant precedent of seeking comfort in Scripture in time of personal trial." (Collette 1972.)

"Upon Milton, the Psalms seem to have exerted an early and lasting influence... In Paradise Regained, Bk. IV, 334-49, he gives his opinion of Sion's songs 'to all true tastes excelling.'" (Baldwin 1919.)

Transcript:

Lord, how many are my foes
How many those
That in arms against me rise
Many are they
That of my life distrustfully thus say,
No help for him in God there lies.
But thou, Lord, art my shield my glory,
Thee through my story
Th' exalter of my head I count
Aloud I cried
Unto Jehovah, he full soon reply'd
And heard me from his holy mount.
I lay and slept, I wak'd again,
For my sustain
Was the Lord. Of many millions
The populous rout
I fear not though encamping round about
They pitch against me their Pavillions.
Rise Lord, save me my God, for thou
Hast smote ere now
On the cheek-bone all my foes,
Of men abhor'd
Hast broke the teeth. This help was from the Lord;
Thy blessing on thy people flows.

Recorded in April 2022. Written in 1863.

Transcript:

I've seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room –
In search of Something – as it seemed –
Then Cloudier become –
And then – obscure with Fog –
And then – be soldered down
Without disclosing what it be
'Twere blessed to have seen –

Recorded in March 2022. From "Hesperides," published in 1648.

Transcript:

No wrath of men or rage of seas
Can shake a just man's purposes:
No threats of tyrants or the grim
Visage of them can alter him;
But what he doth at first intend,
That he holds firmly to the end.

Recorded in March 2022.

Transcript:

No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of gold. For this reason I charge you not to be over-anxious about your lives, inquiring what you are to eat or what you are to drink, nor yet about your bodies, inquiring what clothes you are to put on. Is not the life more precious than its food, and the body than its clothing? Look at the birds which fly in the air; they do not sow or reap or store up in barns, but your Heavenly Father feeds them; are you not of much greater value than they? Which of you by being over-anxious can add a single foot to his height? And why be anxious about clothing? Learn a lesson of the wild lilies. Watch their growth. They neither toil nor spin, and yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his magnificence could array himself like one of these. And yet if God so clothes the wild herbage which to-day flourishes and to-morrow is cast into the oven, is it not much more certain that he will clothe you, you men of little faith? Do not even begin to be anxious, therefore, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For all these are questions that Gentiles are always asking; but your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things—all of them. But make His Kingdom and righteousness your chief aim, and then these things shall be given you in addition. Do not be over-anxious, therefore, about to-morrow, for to-morrow will bring its own cares. Enough for each day are its own troubles.

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The translation is from the Weymouth New Testament (1903-1929), with a few minor changes by the Rev. Basil King. (The Conquest of Fear, 4.4.)

Recorded in March 2022. From Shakespeare’s Sonnets, first printed in 1609.

A translation of this poem into prose:

Once upon a time, Cupid fell asleep, and so lay down his torch that sets hearts on fire. Many maidens of the goddess Diana (whose lives were devoted to chastity) stumbled upon him as they were passing by. But Diana herself, most beautiful of them all, seized hold of the torch—that torch which had warmed so many loyal and loving hearts. Thus the General of Desire was disarmed by the hand of a virgin.

Diana quenched the torch in a nearby well. The well was cool; but so hot was that fire, that the well was set a-blaze forevermore. It grew into a bath, and a remedy for men who came to cure their diseases.—But I, the slave of love for my mistress, sought help for my affliction there, and could find none. Love’s fire, therefore, heats water; but water does not cool love.

Commentary:

Shakespeare makes use of several periphrases. “The little Love-God” and “the General of hot desire” are Cupid. “Nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep” are assistants to the goddess Diana, or Artemis. “The fairest votary” is Diana herself.

Diana was a virgin goddess; hence her followers “vowed chaste life to keep,” and she is said to have a “virgin hand.” She was also the goddess of the hunt; so we may infer that she and her maidens happened upon Cupid while they hunted.

(All text above is free to use under CC BY 4.0.).

Transcript:

The little Love-god lying once asleep,
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand

The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
And so the General of hot desire
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.

This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy,
For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,

Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.

Recorded in March 2022. Written in 1870.

Transcript:

The Life we have is very great.
The Life that we shall see
Surpasses it, we know, because
It is Infinity.

But when all Space has been beheld
And all Dominion shown
The smallest Human Heart's extent
Reduces it to none.

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The music is from "Expand" by Hazy. Youtube Channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCaoTsijoAZvN-yYEsEvgQjQ

Recorded in March 2022. From "Pamphilia to Amphilanthus," a sonnet sequence first published in The Countess of Montgomery's Urania in 1621.

From Ben Jonson's "To the Lady Mary Wroth":

"For in your verse all Cupid’s armory,
His flames, his shafts, his quiver, and his bow,
His very eyes, are yours to overthrow.
But then his mother’s sweets you so apply,
Her joys, her smiles, her loves, as readers take
For Venus’ ceston every line you make."

Transcript:

When night's black mantle could most darkness prove,
And sleep, death's image, did my senses hire
From knowledge of myself, then thoughts did move
Swifter than those most swiftness need require:

In sleep, a chariot drawn by winged Desire
I saw; where sat bright Venus, Queen of love,
And at her feet her son, still adding fire
To burning hearts, which she did hold above.

But one heart, flaming more than all the rest,
The Goddess held, and put it to my breast.
'Dear son, now shoot,' said she, 'thus must we win.'

He her obeyed, and martyred my poor heart.
I waking hoped as dreams it would depart;
Yet since, O me, a lover I have been.

Recorded in March 2022. From "Hesperides," published in 1648.

Glossary: A "luster" is a period of five years. It derives from the Latin "lustrum," which was "a ceremonial purification of the people, performed every five years, after the taking of the census." "Threescore lusters," therefore, is three hundred years.

The Latin associations of "luster" carry forward into the second half of the couplet. The "dictator" held an office of absolute power in ancient Rome; and the oak is imagined as presiding in that office over the wood, which is his “state.”

Transcript:

All things decay with time: the forest sees
The growth and downfall of her aged trees;
That timber tall, which threescore lusters stood
The proud dictator of the state-like wood,—
I mean (the sovereign of all plants) the oak—
Droops, dies, and falls without the cleaver's stroke.

The music is "Silent Turmoil" by myuu.

Recorded in March 2022. Composed between 1832 and 1837, and first published in 1924.

Transcript:

Ragwort, thou humble flower with tattered leaves,
I love to see thee come and litter gold,
What time the summer binds her russet sheaves;
Decking rude spots in beauties marigold

That, without thee, were dreary to behold,
Sun-burnt and bare:—the meadow bank, the baulk
That leads a waggon-way through mellow fields
Rich with the tints that harvest’s plenty yields,

Browns of all hues; and everywhere I walk,
Thy waste of shining blossoms, richly shields
The sun-tanned sward, in splendid hues, that burn

So bright and glaring, that the very light
Of the rich sunshine, doth to paleness turn,
And seems but very shadows in thy sight.

(The punctuation is my own.)

Line 4 of the poem is often transcribed "beauties manifold." However, the other reading, "beauties marigold," seems preferable to me. The brilliance of beauties _marigold_ is set in antithesis against the otherwise _dreary_ (or colourless) spots which it decks.

I have also often seen "beauty's marigold"; but I prefer to take marigold as an adjective.

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Created 3 years ago.

188 videos

Category Arts & Literature

My principal aim in this channel is to read literature that I consider interesting or great, in the most meaningful way I can. With emphasis, inflection, and pause, I want to make classic works intelligible and enjoyable to everybody; including those to whom, on the printed page, they appear perplexing or meaningless. More specifically, I am also trying to develop a new way of reading that truly allows words to sink in, giving the listener time to understand, imagine, and feel, as completely as possible, every separate concept that is heard. If any of my uploads seem excessively slow, or otherwise ill, then I can only plead as an excuse for it, that I am still in an early stage of growth and experimentation; and intend to improve, gradually, with every new recording I make, for the rest of my life. My ultimate hope (however many years it may take to achieve) is to make even authors like Spenser or Milton, as understandable as a common newspaper.