Ulysses by Tennyson

Good morning everyone, today I’m gonna share another of my favorite poems with you. It’s Ulysses by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Tennyson was born on August 6, 1809 and his writing is considered to he at the very heart of the Victorian Age. He was the forth of twelve children. He would become the Poet Laurette of England and Ireland for most of Queen Victoria’s reign. Even after his death in 1892 he remains one of Britain’s most famous poets.

Ulysses concerns the old age of Homer’s Odysseus or Ulysses as the Roman’s would call him. In Homer’s original works Ulysses was the brilliant mind who concocted the Trojan horse. After the Trojan War Ulysses and his men would be forced to sail the seas for a number of years as a result of angering the gods. However many years after Troy they would find their way home. This sequel of sorts deal with the heroes in old age longing for the sea and adventure one last time. Hope you enjoy and keep checking in with Mid-American Culture for fresh content daily.

Ulysses

BY LORD Alfred TENNYSON

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

What You Took In

Trapped with no way out.
Think, plan, and figure.
Sometimes you awaken and the walls seem…closer.
Made it out before.
Always ending up back in the dark.
The dust floats through the air,
I wish I could telepathically send it for help.
Half a lifetime walled away.
I don’t wanna die here, like this.
All you have is what you took in.

In Times of Trouble: Great Books When You Are Down

Hello everyone, yesterday the terrible news came out that celebrity chef and tv host Anthony Bourdain had passed away. It was only a few weeks ago I was writing about Frightened Rabbit’s lead singer Scott Hutchinson who had also passed away under duress. I’m immensely saddened by the loss of these people who came into our lives and shared a bit of themselves with us. The world can be hard and hurtful at times. Politics are a mess and people seem to be at each other’s throats over the most basic things. When the world seems extra heavy, there are a few good reads I like to take a time out with that always seem to brighten my mood and I’ll share them with you now.

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut is the tale of a 71year old painter, named Rabo Karabekian living in a 19 bedroom home he inherited from his late wife. He lets a writer move in named Circe, who actually writes under a pen name and is quit famous and successful. She eventually convinces Rabo to write an autobiography detailing his long and eventful life. The book is full of funny and heartbreaking stories from the streets of San Francisco as a young immigrant boy, to the European theater of World War II. It ends up as a lifting tale that I believe ranks with Vonnegut’s best work.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris is one of my all time favorite books. Sedaris is a humorist and essayist whom I was lucky enough to go to a reading in Dayton, Ohio when my wife bought me tickets for my 40th birthday. Sedaris signed a book for me and asked about my grandfather’s watch I was wearing. He added it into his signature in my book.

The book is chocked full of hilarious observations that start out pretty funny, but Sedaris can flip on a dime and it can be quite poignant as well. His stories often revolve around his middle class up bring in North Carolina or his hitchhiking across the country. His funniest stuff comes from a lot of the crap jobs he had while living in Chicago and New York, plus his endless, but charming quibbles with his boyfriend Hugh. However in this book the last 1/3 is dedicated to his battle to quit smoking and moving to Japan for 3months to accomplish it. I also have this book on audio, read by the author and I’ve listened to it numerous times. It’s a great companion on long drives by yourself.

If you’ve seen any of my other posts on Mid-American-Culture you may have read a couple of the Robert Frost posts I’ve done. He’s hands down my favorite poet and when the world has beaten me down, I’ll often settle down with a book of his poetry and be taken away to days on the farm around New England, or walking along the old stone wall. Here’s his poem After Apple Picking;

After Apple-Picking

BY ROBERT FROST

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree

Toward heaven still,

And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill

Beside it, and there may be two or three

Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.

But I am done with apple-picking now.

Essence of winter sleep is on the night,

The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight

I got from looking through a pane of glass

I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough

And held against the world of hoary grass.

It melted, and I let it fall and break.

But I was well

Upon my way to sleep before it fell,

And I could tell

What form my dreaming was about to take.

Magnified apples appear and disappear,

Stem end and blossom end,

And every fleck of russet showing clear.

My instep arch not only keeps the ache,

It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.

I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin

The rumbling sound

Of load on load of apples coming in.

For I have had too much

Of apple-picking: I am overtired

Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,

Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

For all

That struck the earth,

No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,

Went surely to the cider-apple heap

As of no worth.

One can see what will trouble

This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.

Were he not gone,

The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his

Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,

Or just some human sleep.

Lastly Matt Fraction and David Aja had a spectacular run on Marvel’s Hawkeye where the title character and his alter ego Clint Barton battled countless Russian mob members and his own brand of depression. He reconnects with his brother Barney and has some help with his side kick Kate Bishop, AKA the other Hawkeye. Fraction delivers a tour de force character arc here and David Aja’s minimalist art is brilliant. I recommend this comic series to everyone I meet and I’ll suggest it to you as well. It’s always a great place to return too.

So there you go. Some great reads to dive into and get away from it all. But also, call your mom. Talk to your dad. Check on your friends, it’s a cold world sometimes and we could all use a hand. Don’t be ashamed of needing that hand. Someone can help you today and you return the favor tomorrow. It may sound cheesy but it works. Of course if you can’t find anyone else and you’ve reached your breaking point please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800- 273-8255. Take care everyone and keep up to date with more Mid-American-Culture.

Rapid Fire Reviews: Volume III

Hello everybody, and welcome to the third edition of Rapid Fire Reviews, a series in which I share some quick thoughts on albums I’ve listened to recently. Today, we have four wildly different albums to get through, so let’s get started!

Continue reading “Rapid Fire Reviews: Volume III”

I Miss Sylvia Plath

Good morning everyone, in sticking with my Saturday Poem sharing I present my favorite Sylvia Plath poem, The Colossus. The poem was released in 1960 as part of a collection called The Colossus and Other Poems. The collection stands as the only selections of poetry Sylvia published before her death at age 30 in 1963.

The poem is full of wonderful imagery that was a hallmark of her work, she had a way of telling you something in her poem but also leaving it to the reader’s own interpretation. My favorite line is ” I crawl like an ant in mourning”

Sylvia was prolific in her short 30 years on the planet, I’d invite you to grab a cup of coffee and pull it close and enjoy this poem and then search out more of her work, she also published a novel, The Bell Jar that has a place among the best American literature. Have a great day and keep reading.

The Colossus

I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It’s worse than a barnyard.
Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered
In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.

Stopping for Death with Emily D.

Good Saturday to you all, today I’ll share another of my favorite poems with you. It’s Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson. This poem was published in 1890 after Emily’s death. She was not a known poet in her life time, she came for a very wealthy family that were apparent pillars of the community. Emily was often thought of as ecentric and probably a little weird which makes you love her even more. She was known to wear mostly white and keep to herself and write. As she grew older she about became a complete recluse and rarely left her room. When she died her younger sister found 1800 poems that Emily had written. She was first published posthumously in 1890 by some acquaintances, although grossly over edited from the original work. Emily didn’t title her poems, and her puncuation and sentence structure was wild and free roaming. Her early publishers didn’t trust her instinct and I assume they mansplaned editing and poetry and made some cash selling bastardized, but still great poetry. Scholar Thomas Johnson would find and return Dickinson’s work to her original writing and publish a collection as she intended in 1955.

Here is my favorite Emily Dickinson poem as she intended, Number 479.

Because I could not stop for Death – (479)

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –

The Emperor of Ice Cream

Hello everyone. Hope you all are staying dry on this rainy Saturday in February. Today I’m gonna share one of my favorite poets with you, Wallace Stevens.

Wallace Stevens was born in October 2nd, 1879 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was Harvard Educated and a graduate of the New York Law School. He was a fantastic Modernist American Poet, he spent his life as an insurance agent. He lived 2 lives of sorts. This was especially evident at his funeral in 1955 when a large turn out gathered to pay their respects. Half the crowd were friends from his long professional life. The other half were fans of his poetry. Either side had the full picture of the man in his entirety.

The poem I’m sharing is a study upon a elderly lady’s death and the work about way to which life inevitably goes on. It’s called The Emperor of Ice-Cream.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.