Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Time Out

There's a FOXTROT cartoon that I'm quite fond of--Jason, the 10-year-old wunderkind wanders into the kitchen sometime in early October and announces to his mother, "Well, I'm done with my homework." "For the week?" she asks. "For the year," he explains, as if this is the most natural thing in the world. Then turns around, saying, "Excuse me, I have to go meld with the TV for the next few months." Well, I don't have months, but I have a new Xbox 360 on the way and a week to myself, so, with all due respect to my readers--and bear in mind, I love you all more than I can--f*** off, I'm having fun! Come back in a week when I'm miserable again--it's always more entertaining to read about someone's unhappiness than their stuporific joy--don't believe me? Go talk to a friend who's in the first flush of joyful, mutual love--then go talk to someone in the midst of a horrific break-up. Yeah, I think you get the point. Later...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sisyphus and Me--Twins Separated at Birth?

I'm getting bad about updates, I know--in my defense, I was handed, on one day (Friday), 22 exams (essay based, and in addition to the 22 I already had) and 44 end-of-term papers to grade. So, you know, that's where I've been. Not having fun or anything.

Fortunately--if such a word can be applied as perversely at this one--my parents have corralled me into house-sitting this weekend, so I've got an empty (minus the dogs) house and total silence (beach house, nothing but waves and gulls--very soothing, except I can't take the time to nap, dammit), and no distractions...God, how I wish I had distractions. See, this was what was good about being married. In precisely this sort of situation, when I need it the most, there'd be someone to walk in the room and say, "I'm bored--can we go out and play?"

To which I wouldn't even take the time to respond--I'd just leap out of the chair and grab the car keys and her wrist, and the eye wouldn't even be able to follow us, we'd be out of the room so fast--one of those movie moments where the next thing you see/hear is the slamming door. And if she were to say, "Can we stay in and play"--well, so much the better! But, no. Alone. With nothing to do but be professionally productive and responsible. Dammit.

OK, back to the grading. This concludes this test of the Possibility of An Actual Life Broadcast System--if this had been an Actual Life, you wouldn't have heard a damn thing. Well, maybe just that slamming door...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I Got Blisters On Me Fingers!!!

It's true, actually. I spent the day (well, several hours of it) putting together a new computer desk--one that required the use of hammer and screwdriver, not just one of those "comes with the package" s-shaped octaganal screw-thingies. I'm actually quite handy with tools--you wouldn't think it to look at me. Or to know me, really. But thanks to--of all things--my experience as a Theater major, I can both build--using power tools and lumber and everything!--and sew; given a pattern, I can make a shirt from scratch. I never have, since I have more important things to do with my life, but still--if I ever decide I want to move to Indonesia and work for pennies a day, hey, I gots da skeelz. But I haven't built anything in awhile, and as a result, my hands are of the delicate scholarly type, so yes, I'm blistered. And yes, typing hurts. Which is why this entry will end here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Busy, busy, busy...

Marathon office hours continue as frantic students realize at the last minute that they don't understand the assigned text or the essay prompt and that not doing so might just affect their grade on the paper. So I'm beseiged night (via e-mails questions and drafts) and day (the aforementioned office hours) and thus have nothing to report or new to bitch about. Same old, same old, moan, moan, moan...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Finals Week

Nothing much going on--no grading yet to do (though I proctor my first final in 1/2 an hour, so that'll change anon--"anon"? God I'm pretentious--soon, OK?)--yet I'm running hither and yon--oh God, I'm doing it again--listening to the unabridged Don Quixote in the car during my daily commute--filling prescriptions at the pharmacy--seeing my pill-shrink to discuss the notion of eliminating one of my drugs, just because I'm tired of the side-effects--and maybe reducing one of the others--and there's e-mail and blogging and World of Warcraft--whoops, did I just cop to that--nevermind, no--um, porn--lots and lots of porn--phew, dodged that bullet--anyway--scrambling is the order of the day--imagine what it would be like if I were busy!

One thought did occur to me: if you're a hard-core Fundamentalist Christian, and believe that the Bible is the unfiltered Word of God, shouldn't you be required to know both Hebrew and Classical Greek so you can read the version untouched by human hands...? Of course, most fundamentalists don't even speak *one* language ('tongues' doesn't count), so I guess asking them to master two particularly tricky ones might be too much to ask. Nevermind, go picket another family planning clinic...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Post St. Patrick's Day

So inasmuch as my last name is decidedly Irish (and unpronounceably so), I had everybody and his cousin coming up to me yesterday and the day before, wanting to know what I was going to do to celebrate. "I mean, dude, I'm not Irish--"--this was the general sentiment--"--and I'm gonna get so fucking wasted, I may go permanently blind. So you must be going to go seriously insane, am I right?" No, no you're not. Irish people don't really act any different on March 17th as they do on any other day. We get drunk, but no drunker than usual--it was a Friday night, so I guarantee you that the Irish populations of Chicago, Boston, New York, et al. went out and got good and properly s***-faced, but they did the same thing last week, and they'll do the same thing next week. It's just not that big of a deal with us. Yeah, yeah, yeah--we're Irish, and today, for one day, that's cool. Tomorrow we'll go back to being bog-trotters, potato-eaters, poetic drunks. BFD. It's mostly a day for grade-school children to physically abuse their peers for not wearing green, and for the makers of green dye to poison alcoholics across the nation by forcing them to choke down gallons of their product in cheap beer. Not a great, great day for Our People, is what I'm saying. Being proud of being Irish is like being proud of being tall--you had nothing to do with it--and anyway, these days, it's really no scandal to be a Mick--the days of No Irish Need Apply signs are long gone--now we're corrupt police officials and alderman, and rule over our own corners of the metropolis with the iron fisted brutality that was once wielded against us. Progress! So. Go out on St. Paddy's Day--get drunk, get into a fight, go home and abuse the wife and kids. But remember, it's not "tradition"--it's just Friday.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Last Days

To all my fellow teachers, profs, and lecturers--is it just me, or do last days inherently suck? Much worse than first days--which likewise suck, but that's because you've got to do procedural crap and the students don't know or trust you and it's awkward and you don't really have time to build up a good solid head of 'thinking-out-loud' performative steam. But that's another bitch-and-moan for another day. Last days--what do you say?

"And so...there you go! All you'll ever need to know about this particular subject!" I think not.

"And so...now you can see just how much there is to learn about this subject..." Weak, very weak--impotence disguised as idealism.

"OK, so, here's what'll be on the final..." Pragmatic, but dull--do you really want to send them out with that ashy taste in their mouths?

"OK, well, um...it's been swell, thank you all so much..." Kissing up? Not pretty.

The fact is, and I tell my students this, that the last day of class is not like the last chapter in a mystery novel--it's not all going to magically tie together in the end. And frankly, I add, if I had anything important to say, I'd've said it already. They're wiped and terrified about the final and their last essays. I'm wiped in anticipation of grading those same documents. We're all tired and cranky and we just want to go home. Plus--you know--you've gotten to know and like these kids. (At least, I usually have.) And once the class ends--well, it's like the end of the run of a play--everybody hugs and cries and says "Oh, we must keep in touch"--and then you go your separate ways and never speak again. C'est la vie et le monde. And so for me, last days are anticlimactic and kind of hollow. Does anybody have any suggestions as to how to fix this?--and don't recommend bringing candy or pizza--that too is kissing up, and I just won't do it...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


To be honest, I'm only posting so as to confirm that I continue to sustain life functions. I'm picking up classes for a colleague who covered for me when I went on that campus visit (will those people ever get around to just saying "no" and putting me out of my misery???), and that means that I'm on my feet lecturing for three straight hours--it's a wee bit tiring, mentally and physically, and all I really want to do at the end of the day is slap my arm, find the vein, insert the sweet syringe of cable television, and press the plunger. Mmmmm...laugh tracks...So I've nothing profound or witty to say, alas. (That is, even less so than usual.) For interim amusement, I refer you to the blogs of those who have posted in response to mine--their clean and shiny places of self-expression put mine to shame--enjoy them as I do...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Down With Love--and with A Certain Show

--as a topic of fulmination, at any rate. I woke up this morning, looked over my last two posts, rolled my eyes, and muttered, "Give me a f***ing break." (And yes, I actually spoke in asterisks. It's not easy--very glottal.) Love and its absence is fundamentally boring, isn't it? Someone who's happy in love is tedious and irritating, someone who's unhappy in love is...tedious and irritating. Basically, it's an emotion--and thus, while it's engaging to experience it, it's dull to talk about it, especially at length. I mean, sex is fun, but would you want to read a long, explicit description of--OK, bad example. Food--better--one of my favorite things to do at restaurants is to take the bottle of wine and, reading the description of the 'flavors' and 'overtones' and the 'finish' of said vintage, ask my compatriots what it is they think they're tasting. Nobody ever gets it right--"vanilla!" "blackberry!" "chocolate!" "cherry!" "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!"--and we all laugh at the purple prose of the most bizarre description-- "a smooth finish of chutney and baked potato"--describing food is just...pointless. Taste doesn't translate well into prose. Much less something like love. So, f*** it. Moving on--

Have I mentioned that I could not give less of a rat's ass about the premiere tonight of The Sopranos? I couldn't. Not if you paid me. I no longer care--and, like most HBO subscribers, I once cared a lot. But now? Meh. I feel about the show the way I felt about The Godfather III--even before it came out and was revealed to be a scar on the face of an otherwise masterful cinematic narrative--can we ever forget the soul-dead look on Michael's broodinf face at the end of that second film--goddammit, that's how the story ends!--my first thought upon hearing that it was being made was, "Do we really need any more of this?" No, no we don't. I don't care about these people anymore. I simply don't. The first few seasons were brilliant, and then David Chase because an 800-pound gorilla--someone whom no one would say "no" to--as in "No, David, that idea doesn't work"--or "No, David, I think we need the story to focus on this character"--instead, we got meandering crap, material so dull that even actors as brilliant as David Strathairn and Steve Buscemi couldn't save it. We're now at the stage where, Tony and Co. having killed off all the interesting characters, we have to introduce new characters just so that they can eventually be killed in that last episode. To hell with it. Yes, Adriana's murder was chilling beyond words--no doubt about it. But one brilliant moment or two does not a season justify. Much less a season that comes around about as often as a presidential election. I'm done. I'm out. Y'all can watch--I'm going to read Gibbon, play XBox, and go to bed feeling free and easy...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I Feel For You--Or Do I?

Goodness, I seem to be provoking a lot of responses these days. (Apart from my selection of a Hopkins poem for my Friday contribution--that appears either entirely unobjectionable and/or totally boring. Probably the latter--I still like it, though.)

Still, with all due appreciation--and I do appreciate it--the last post wasn't a cry for attention--no, really! That is, oddly enough, I didn't mean it be about me, per se, but about a problem with love--a problem that I think a lot of people have, and which, admittedly, I used myself as an example of (since I think I'm about as bad as a person can be on that level and not qualify as a clinical sociopath.) That is: empathy.

Is empathy possible? Freud would say that it's a delusion--a pleasant one, but a delusion ne'er-the-less. I think Montaigne would agree--though he'd be spritely and sweet about it, and we wouldn't be nearly so creeped out after reading his version of the same sentiment. We are, aren't we, fundamentally isolated in our own heads, right? I mean, like the stoned hippie asks while staring at the lava lamp, "Like, what if the color blue that I see is, like, a totally different color than the color blue you see? Whoa..." But it's true. Blue is what you see, not what I see. I can't ever really know what you see--and how much less can I know what you feel? So when we think of love as being tied up with empathy--hurting when someone else hurts--being happy when someone else is happy--isn't it counter-intuitive? Is it really possible?

Of course it is, you say. And, truth be told, I agree. The sweeping fiat of "there's no such thing as love" is just plain silly--we may not agree on what the word means--does anyone?--but humanity's been grooving on each other for too long for us to deny the existence of something that merits the name "love." I mean, when logic goes up against empiricism, we go with empiricism--isn't that what the whole Age of Enlightenment was about?


So love exists. Maybe not the absolute, aestheticized love of Sapphic odes and Puccini arias, but it exists. There may be no such thing as soul-mates, true, but "close enough" is good enough. Agreed.

But surely, for love to be "close enough," there has to be something in us that's open to giving it. Love--real love--is an exchange, isn't it? I mean, isn't that why we laugh at Don Quixote and Cervantes's mocking of courtly love--the one-sided adoration of the non-existant belle dame sans merci? We laugh because love requires a minimum of two people; otherwise, it's just, um, self-pleasuring, let's say. And between those two people, there has to be something given and received, yes? And each one has to do both? Yes? No?

Hmm. Maybe no. Maybe I'm just attempting to prescribe the unprescribable. Maybe love it completely and utterly individual phenomenon. And what works for two particular people (or, three, what the hell!) isn't what will work for, or be a model for, anybody else.

But can we really swing so far into that absolute? I think not. De gustibus non disputandum, and all that, but come on--there's a reason we can all tell stories about "our worst blind date ever" and know that those listening will laugh in sympathy--there are rules--maybe not absolute, but strong enough to act as guideposts--sure, we may color outside the lines, but that doesn't mean that the lines aren't there.

So let's say that there is a convention to love. Surely (I'm using that word a lot--though I want credit for not making a single Airplane reference--until now) part of that convention is "you gotta give to get"--and, in addition "you gotta want to give"--I don't agree with much of what Paul said--almost none of it, really--but he has a point when he writes about love, and how one can do wonderful things, but if one does them without love, it profits one nothing. (Though a man who saves lives and eases pain without love may profit others immensely, so maybe he doesn't have a point. Stupid multi-dimensional nature of experience...) But to love really is to love givingly--right? Isn't it? I think so. I think love means patience without a big show of being patient. It means sacrifice without grumbling--it means giving without whining--it means being there for the boring stuff and not checking your watch every five minutes. I means a lot. And it's worth it, God knows. It's really, really worth it.

But it's only worth it if we're worth it. And I still find myself wanting. Then again--maybe my problem is that it means so much to me--that I value it so highly and miss it so much--that I think that in order to be worth something so amazing and wonderful, I have to be equally amazing and wonderful. And given how I feel about love--well, I don't think anyone could be that wonderful, not all the time. Hmm. That's probably a healthy conclusion. Certainly my shrink would agree. And hey, it means I'm free to be a snivelling, childishly selfish prick and still feel like I'm owed love, right now, dammit. Goody.

Friday, March 10, 2006

More Night Thoughts

What I hope will be my last word on this subject for awhile:

It occurs to me, as I ponder, Job-like, the injustice of the universe that has robbed me of love and companionship that, unlike poor Job, I actually have a single, grim little piece of comfort--I can at least know why I'm alone right now. Because, to a great extent, I deserve to be. To wit:

I'm not especially loveable. Or indeed, even moderately so. Or indeed, even slightly so. I am, in fact, quite unloveable.

I don't say this out of false modesty, or self-pity, or out of some depression-induced sense of self-loathing. I don't think I'm a bad person, or a hateful one. I'm not. But to be loved--to be worthy of being loved--one has to be exceptional in a certain way, a way in which I'm not exceptional at all.

What way, you ask. Well, give me moment--it's hard to articulate and I've been drinking. (More red wine, which suggests that perhaps I am acting out of self-loathing, only I'm drinking from my parents' cellar, which means it's good red wine, so back off.)

In order to be loveable, one must be capable of love oneself, yes? And I wonder, sometimes, whether or not I am. In any meaningful sense. Meaningful? Yes, in the sense of being giving. Not just giving--happily giving. Because my greatest fault--and I have many--is that I'm terribly selfish. It really is all about me, when it comes right down to it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want other people hurt, and I care if they are, but mostly--almost entirely--when I act in a good and kind way, I do so because I like being thought of as good and kind. Hobbes, of course, would say that that's what we all do--that we act virtuously out of enlightened self-interest. Freud would agree--hell, even Christ suggests that the basis of morality is "Do as you would be done by"--be good and you increase the odds that others will be good to you. And perhaps love operates like that. Perhaps, somehow, one has to force oneself outside of one's self and into the wants and needs of others because those wants and need matter more. I think of Dickens's Marley describing the duty of humanity : "It is required of every man...that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death." Spirit going forth--that's love, isn't it?

I don't seem to have that. Not with any kind of dependability. Get me in the right mood--on the right day, and sure, I'm tender and self-sacrificing, and so on. Romantic, even. But mostly? Mostly, there's something in me that--pulls back from it. From feeling bad when the person I'm with feels bad--from confrontations where I'll have to hear what I don't want to hear about myself--from being genuinely open and being found wanting. Why, I don't know. Afraid of being hurt? Simple, childish, foot-stomping me-first-ness? Maybe--though the one's cowardly and the other's contemptible. Whatever the reason, though, if you can't be giving--if you can't be adoringly giving on a consistent basis--do you deserve to be loved? I don't think so. And that means that I don't, doesn't it? For all of my ability to be charming, and patient, and kind--and I've got those, I really do--I think that I'm too selfish to deserve love. I think that I place myself first too often, too easily. And I don't deserve to be loved, then.

Sigh. Now that's depressing.

Friday Poem - March 10

Spring and Fall: to a young child
by Gerard Hopkins

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Light at the End of the Tunnel---

--is the headlights of the oncoming train.

Which is to say that I finally--finally--finished my grading. Yes, you won't have to hear me Bitch & Moan about that for...well, at least another week.

Unfortunately, I chose to celebrate my completion of grading by doing what all people in my romantic situation do--drinking alone. Several--rather too many--glasses of incredibly cheap red wine last night. On an empty stomach.

And this morning, I ponder--does anything give you a worse hangover than cheap red wine? (Except for drinking champagne over several hours under a hot sun, which as a practice is, I believe, banned under the Geneva convention--my God is that a suicidal practice.)

So today will be spent, head in hands, whimpering about how life isn't fair. Which should amuse my students to no end...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Responding to Reader Response

Janet posted an articulate and valid response to my recent diatribe against Eva Longoria and her ilk--it's well worth reading, and a reminder that, despite my attempts to keep this blog an intellectually totaliatarian space, other people will insist on having their own opinions. In the interest of giving both sides of the dialogue fair play, I trancribe her remarks verbatim:

I'm sorry that men are being deprived of their "flesh". Not. I hate to dissolve the arguement, but women feel better when they have muscles instead of fat. When slender, we enjoy meals more, we have more energy...

I am a dancer and am very pleased with my body. I am not constantly hungry. I am not emancipated. I am a women who can do twelve jetes in a row, high kicks for over two minutes and run the mile without sweating.

Granted, there are several celebrities that could use a few deep-fried twinkies. But Julia Roberts, Penelope Cruz and Gwyneth Paltrow do not fall into this catagory. These stars are a few that DO respect their bodies. They are slender, as well as intelligent and talented. You do not have to have sex with them. Some men prefer bigger women. But I can bet that Julia Roberts isn't feeling sorry for her lack of fleshy eye-candy. It isn't weight that make these women beautiful. Have you looked at their smiles? Listened to them laugh?

Next time a women walks by, do not focus on the size of her waist and hips. They are what they are. Rather, think to yourself, "I wonder if she likes snow and roasting marshmallows?"

Points well taken. My response:

Actually, my objection isn't at the thinness of such women--which, as you point out, can be healthy--it's the fact that just because they're thin, they're hot. Thinness (or fleshiness) isn't the definitive quality of beauty. My objection is that these are not beautiful women--they're simply not, and yet we're told that they are because they conform to the one requirement of beauty that these people acknowledge--thinness.

(And no, I'm not imagining that Julia Roberts--or indeed, any woman with a scrap of self-esteem--gives a rat's ass what I think about her. Why should she? My anger isn't directed at her--let her live her life as she chooses--but at the forces surrounding her that shove her down my throat as the epitome of movie-star gorgeousness. Which, dammit, she isn't. It isn't just about sex--it's about being told that this is what I want. And yes I have seen them smile, and dammit, Roberts and Cruz are horse-faced when they do, and there's something disturbingly rodent-like about Longoria under the same conditions. I'm sorry--and in their defense, they could be dropped from the top of the ugly tree, hit every branch and land among the roots, and still look better than I, so, you know, I'm not delusional about their relative visual appeal. And Ionly feel justified in commenting on their personal appearances because others--including their own representatives, have put this issue into play. Otherwise, I'd have the respect not to discuss an issue that's none of my business. Well, OK, I might, but I'd be nice about it.)

There are, I will concede, beautiful women who are on the thin side of the 'norm' (whatever that is.) But I should also add that the thinness of these women isn't, by my eye, based on muscle but the absence thereof. And as for feeling better, well, of course--and those of us old enough to remember Linda Hamilton in TERMINATOR 2 can attest that a well-toned women can be seriously attractive. I'd certainly be willing to trade your ideal of a worked body for the death-camp chic that seems to predominate.

As for these women being intelligent, well, um, Gwyneth Paltrow in particular needs to stop spouting off ignorant comments about 'culture' for me to buy into such a notion. They're actresses, and while their success in a challenging profession is to be admired, it's no guarantee of genuine brains.

As for what I think when a woman walks by, I don't think anything. I'm far too self-absorbed to notice. (And trust me, no woman wants to be thought about by me, anyway--she'd have to run straight home and scrub herself clean.)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Nope, Nope, Nope

Not going to do it. Not going to comment on the Oscars. I mean, really, who gives a s***? Between this and the Winter Olympics, I think we've all been force fed our yearly ration of "S*** You Couldn't Care Less About But Which We're Going To TELL You You Care About Because We Paid For All This Airtime," haven't we? And it's only March! Sigh. OK, I watched a little bit of it. I'm a Jon Stewart fan, so what the hell, I'll stay for the monologue. And I stuck around for Clooney's acceptance speech, where he said "I don't know how you measure art"--and I wanted to leap out of the chair yelling "Yes! Exactly! Precisely! That's why this whole thing is bulls***! Now throw that statuette into the first row and walk off!" But no--I mean, the speech was still cool and all, but...sigh. Then I went back to my grading. Which conceivably sucked even worse than watching the rest of the Oscars. But not much. (I've been using the word "sucked" and variations on it far too often of late. So let me swap in "blew." There, much better.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Not A Good Weekend

Which sounds like I'm going start reporting yet another return of the black fog, but no, I'm psychologically quite fit. (Not "as a fiddle," of course, and what the hell does that mean, anyway? Is there some reason a cello is out-of-shape? And what about something not even in the strings section--somebody tell me why a baritone sax isn't fit, pray?)

But no, it's just the damned grading. Endless. Sisyphean. It's weekends like this that I wish I'd gone into physics. Lucky bastards only have scan-trons to grade. Drop the sheet in the slot and wait for the grade to pop out. (I know, I know, there are science-types out there getting irate and saying, "It's not like that at all--our work is hard and our grading sucks too!" But let me indulge in my mopish fantasy, all right, guys?) But paper after paper after paper discussing the exact same plot point of the exact same novel (did I mention that the plot point is a suicide? yeah, that's an added plus)--it's got me listening to Depeche Mode's "Blasphemous Rumors" and Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" on my Ipod and getting really, really into them--I should add "Mad World" and just be done with it all, I suppose.

Anyway, so, this weekend sucks. And no, I haven't heard anything. The phrase "They shoot horses, don't they?" comes to mind...(And no, I repeat, I'm not depressed. I'm just reacting quite sensibly to a serious of rotten concurrences. Actually, it's kind of refreshing to look around and know that my cranky morbidity is actually coming from outside my own head. Nice thing, sanity.)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Poem - March 3

A long poem--no need to bother if you're pressed for time--but one I read and reread and never stop feeling fulfilled and inspired by reading.

by 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
Vest 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 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 for ever 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 breath 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 had 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,
'Tis 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 the 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.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Still No News

Massive stack of grading this weekend--45 versions of the exact same paper, I fear--such is the pitfall of teaching a massive survey course--everyone ends up with the exact same assignment on the exact same passage and drawing the exact same obvious conclusions that they express in the exact same language. Next stop, Groundhog Day's Punxsatawney, where I'll live the same paper over and over and over--only, thank God, in my world, suicide will work the first time. No note will be necessary; I'll just position my corpse so that I'm pointing towards the huge stack of remaining ungraded papers--everyone will understand...

Meantime, no word from anyone. Which means "No" from everyone. When they want you, they tell you. When they don't, they dawdle, because who the hell cares if they piss you off? I say again (and again) (and again): This sucks.