SAHM the Libby
I am total crap when it comes to poetry. Because of a bad experience in fourth grade I have stayed away form poetry until a few years ago. I am not a critic though, just a reader, I can tell you what I liked and that is it. I Bought a Poet's guide to Poetry by Mary Kinziea few years ago but I didn't finish it. I'm going to read it again. Along with the reading list I posted I have another one to read along side: Joseph Campbell, The Trivium, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, A History of Reading, etc., and that Kinzie is on the list. I'm planning to get through it before I get to more of those great poets, most of them are further down on my list so I have a bit of time to learn how to assess poetry. Perhaps though poetry is like opera, more fun when you don't know what's going on and you can access your emotional reaction more.

In any case, Richmond Lattimore has set the book up in sections, the poet's name as the heading with a few paragraphs about the poet and then a page or two of his selections. Almost every poem and epitaph are fragments and often there is very little known about the author. Here are my favorites.

Alcman of Sparta

No longer, maiden voices sweet-calling, sounds of allurement,

can my limbs bear me up; oh I wish, I wish I could be a seabird

who with halcyons skims the surf-flowers of the sea water

with careless heart, a sea-blue-colored and sacred waterfowl.

Stesichorus of Himera

Palinode to Helen

That story is not true.

You never sailed in the benched ships.

You never went to the city of Troy.

Ibycus of Rhegium

In spring time the Kydonian

quinces, watered by running streams,

there where the maiden nymphs have

their secret garden, and grapes that grow

round in shade of the tendriled vine,


Pindar of Thebes


O shining and wreathed in violets, city of singing,

stanchion of Hellas, glorious Athens

citadel of divinity.

War is sweet to those who have not tried it. The experienced

man in frightened at the heart to see it advancing.

Do not against all comers let break the word that is not needed.

There are times when the way of silence is best; the word in its power

can be the spur to battle.

Mistress of high achievement, O lady Truth,

do not let my understanding stumble

across some jagged falsehood.

SAHM the Libby
apo·the·o·sis\ə-ˌpä-thē-ˈō-səs, ˌa-pə-ˈthē-ə-səs\
1 : elevation to divine status : deification
2 : the perfect example : quintessence

Once again curtsy or Merriam-Webster online.
Next week I'll be beginning the Greek plays, first Aeschylus then Sophocles. Watch out things are about to get wild!
SAHM the Libby
“...[B]ecause mythology was historically the mother of the arts and yet, like so many mythological mothers, the daughter, equally of her own birth. Mythology is not invented rationally; mythology cannot be rationally understood. Theological interpreters render it ridiculous. Literary criticism reduces it to metaphor. A new and very promising approach is opened, however, when it is viewed in the light of biological psychology as a function of the human nervous system, precisely homologous tot he innate and learned sign stimuli that release and direct the energies of nature-of which our brain itself is but the amazing flower.” -Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, Primitive Mythology

People say of the Iliad and the Odyssey that Homer was saying life is either a battle or a journey. If that is true Homer believed life was a battle. Only about a third of the Odyssey is Odysseus' journey, it is the most fascinating part. The rest is about Telemachus, Penelope, and at least a third is dealing with the suitors. All people in ancient Greece are subject tot he whims of the gods and the plans of destiny but none more than the women. Just as I never believed the war was about Helen I don't believe that the fault lied in the suitors. They complain many times that Penelope gave them all words and signs that their presence was wanted. Of course men can say that but it because they interpreted her words and movements to suit his own desires. Penelope though laments, when she learns that the suitors are plotting to kill her son, that she hadn't kicked them all out long ago, that tells me she had the choice to do so. Hospitality is very important to the Homeric people, that is the great moral lesson that seems to preoccupy the Odyssey the most, how to be a good host and a good guest. If you are not it can warrant death as the suitors learn. Just as many people read the meeting of Telemachus and Helen, where she says that just as Menelaus was sacking Troy she had had a change of heart and that the only reason she went with Paris in the first place was because she had been tricked by Aphrodite, and smile knowingly, that is how I read Penelope and the suitors. The Iliad and the Odyssey would be more interesting from the female perspective. Helen, Penelope, and Briseis are by far the more interesting characters.

The events that you would expect at the ending of the Iliad, the Trojan horse, the death of Paris and Achilles (remember his heel), and the sacking or Troy, are briefly mentioned in the Odyssey. I suppose that the stories were so well known to Homers audience he spent his time detailing other the other aspects but for me it was a shame. I would have preferred hearing about those things than many of the other scenes. A particularly fascinating scene of the Odyssey is when Odysseus goes to the gates of Hades. I read this part very closely because it is from Greece that we get our Western concepts of the soul and the after life, though it is till too soon for the happy side. The golden resurrection god, Dionysus, wouldn't be born into Greek mythology for some time.

To my mind the Odyssey is really the dreams of a child about his absent father. The ideal. When a child grows up missing a parent he concocts fairy tales about that parent, “He didn't abandon me, he's really an international spy, brave handsome and rich, and he left to protect me, but he'll come back and we'll have adventures together.” Perhaps this interpretation says more about me. Perhaps it says something about Homer.

SAHM the Libby

Thought grows out of environment. Ideally speaking the translator of such a book as the Analects ought to furnish a complete analysis of early Chinese society, of the processes which were at work within it and of the outside forces to which it reacted. Unfortunately our knowledge of the period is far too incomplete for any such synthesis to be possible. The literary documents are scanty and of uncertain date; scientific archeology in China has suffered constant setbacks and is still in its infancy. All that I have attempted in the following pages is to arrange such information as is accessible under a series of disconnected headings, in a convenient order, but without pretense of unity or logical sequence.


The Confucius of whom I shall speak here is the Confucius of the Analects. One could construct half a dozen other Confuciuses by tapping the legend at different stages of its evolution. We should see the Master becoming no longer a moral teacher but a 'wise man' according to the popular conception of wisdom that existed in non-Confucian circles in China and in our own Middle Ages, an answerer of grotesque conundrums, a prophet, a magician even. We should see the disappointed itinerant tutor of the Analects turning into a successful statesman and diplomatist employed not only in his own country but in neighboring States as well.

-Arthur Waley

SAHM the Libby
Conflate \kən-ˈflāt\
1 a : to bring together : fuse b : confuse
2 : to combine (as two readings of a text) into a composite whole
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
SAHM the Libby
Here are some tips for reading the Iliad. On the first page of your reading journal keep a list of the characters and whose side they are fighting for, Troy or the Greeks. Also keep a list of names, the Greeks and Trojans are called by several names, as well as the individual people. It's also a good idea to have a basic idea of Greek mythology.

The Iliad drips with testosterone. Where does it get a romantic image from? There is no romance in either the Iliad or the Odyssey. The Iliad begins with an argument between Achilles and Agamemnon over a woman they call Briseis. She is one of Achilles spoils of war. We laments many times how he won her from her family on one of the many Achaean campaigns into the surrounding country around Troy. Agamemnon takes her from Achilles who then refuses to fight with the Greeks. Achilles goddess mother then goes to Zeus and has him side with the Trojans because of the dishonor done to her son. Homer, being Greek, has an obvious bias to the Greeks because even though he says the Trojans are winning any affront to a Greek hero is met with equal violence to the Trojans so you have to assume that while the Greek heroes are far superior the victory is happening at the level of the common soldier who is faceless and barely mentioned in the Iliad. The violence is graphically described and through the whole thing I kept thinking that this ten year war is being fought over one runaway wife. It seems unlikely to me. Since we know that there is a historical Troy and a war leveled the city I read this thinking of real people. When Achilles says that he will overthrow the city and kill every man and his male children and capture all the women I feel these are real people being spoken about. And I don't believe that they fought over Helen. But her story with Paris is not my idea of romance. By the time we join their story they have been together nine years, she's a fish wife and he's a weeny unable to face her husband Menelaus in battle. I never for a moment believed that it is true love that Achilles speaks of when he laments the loss of Briseis. Its as unromantic as any story I've ever heard. She is his rape victim (for I don't believe a woman would willingly lay with a man who's just killed her entire family and kidnapped her).

I didn't like Achilles, he's a meathead, not my idea of a hero. He finally comes back to the battle after Hector kills his friend Patroklos. Achilles takes it very personally, which seemed unsportsmanlike. Its a war. I can understand revenge but the humiliation of his body after Hectors manly speech as they face off it just seemed petty. The most moving scene is when Priam goes to Achilles to beg for his sons body back. Achilles looks at the old man, a king and a father, who has been reduced to begging to the man who killed his son, and thinks of his own father, and though he swore he would never give the body back he is touched and gives Hector to his father.

The Iliad does not end as you would expect it to. There is no mention of the Trojan horse and in fact Troy hasn't been sacked. They tell us it will be, always there is the sense of destiny, heightened by the involvement of the gods, but we do not see it happen. It ends with the burial of Hector.

Note- I'm going to Seattle for the weekend with my husband. We'll be back late on Monday. I'll continue my thoughts on Homer next Friday from the Iliad through the Odyssey. I'm reading the Greek Lyrics now and hope to be finished Wednesday and then I'll be on to the Analects of Confucius. Have a good weekend.
SAHM the Libby
There was something wrong
with the animals:
their tales were too long, and they had
unfortunate heads.
Then they started coming together,
little by little
fitting together to make a great landscape,
developing birthmarks, grace, pep.
But the cat,
only the cat
turned out finished,
and proud:
born in a state of total completion,
it sticks to itself and knows exactly what it wants.

Men would like to be fish or fowl,
snakes would rather have wings,
and dogs are would-be lions.
Engineers want to be poets,
flies emulate swallows,
and poets try hard to act like flies.
But the cat
wants nothing more than to be a cat,
and every cat is pure cat
from its whiskers to its tail,
from sixth sense to squirming rat,
from nighttime to its golden eyes.

Nothing hangs together
quite like a cat:
neither flowers nor the moon
such consistency.
It's a thing by itself,
like the sun or a topaz,
and the elastic curve of its back,
which is both subtle and confident,
is like the curve of a ship's prow.
The cat's yellow eyes
are the only
for depositing the coins of the night.

O little
emperor without a realm,
conqueror without a homeland,
diminutive parlor tiger, nuptial
sultan of heavens
roofed in erotic tiles:
when you pass
in rough weather
and poise
four nimble paws
on the ground,
of all earthly things
(because everything
feels filthy
to the cat's immaculate paw),
you claim
the touch of love in the air.

O freelance household
beast, arrogant
vestige of night,
lazy, agile
and strange,
O fathomless cat,
secret police
of human chambers
and badge
vanished velvet!
Surely there is nothing
in your manner,
maybe you aren't a mystery after all.
You're known to everyone, you belong
to the least mysterious tenant.
Everyone may believe it,
believe they're master,
owner, uncle
or companion
to a cat,
some cat's colleague,
disciple or friend.

But not me.
I'm not a believer.
I don't know a thing about cats.
I know everything else, including life and its archipelago,
seas and unpredictable cities,
plant life,
the pistil and its scandals,
the pluses and minuses of math.
I know the earth's volcanic protrusions
and the crocodile's unreal hide,
the fireman's unseen kindness
and the priest's blue atavism.
But cats I can't figure out.
My mind slides on their indifference.
Their eyes hold ciphers of gold.

By Pablo Neruda
from Odes to Common Things

This book is also full of lovely charming drawings.
SAHM the Libby
Orgulous: Excessively proud, arrogant

Misused Words: discrete/discreet. Discreet means careful or prudent, discrete means separate, distinct, and unconnected. Arthur was discreet about his affair. He was able to manage two discrete households.

SAHM the Libby
I could not have chosen two more disparate books on the topic. It is very clear that Nabokov greatly disliked the book while Johnson is very eager to praise and excuse the book.

Nabokov devotes an entire chapter (actually it is an entire lecture, the book is a compilation of his notes for a class he gave at Harvard) on the cruelty of the book. He argues that the book is not funny but we are made to laugh at his pain and humiliation. For me, however, the funny part of the scene is not the pain he incures when he charges the windmills and has his face bashed in but his insistence that the windmills are giants and Sancho's plain arguments that they are in fact windmilld. I have no idea what a seventeenth century Spaniard would have found funny so I don't know what parts of the scenes are intended to be funny, I can only say for myself it wasn't the physical pain Don Quixote endured that I found funny but perhaps I was laughing cruelly at the insanity of an old man. I agree with Nabokov that the second book was particularly awful, the Duke and Duchess are noxious and evil. I don't think Nabokov wouldn't have liked The Three Stooges very much.

Nabokov also argues that the side stories have no function in the novel but are in fact fillers. He believes that they were old stories Cervantes had lying around that he just added. Nabokov says that even the readers of his time felt this way which is why he responds the way he does in the opening of the second book and why there are no such stories in that half. Johnson, however, says that these 'interpolated stories' are a common feature of books in Cervantes day. If that is true then why was he criticized for them by his contemporaries? If there is some greater meaning to those stories they should have been clearer in his day. In fact Carroll Johnson alludes several times to the reasons for the side stories but never delivers.

The second book deals with the usurpation of his character. This is why I read critiques about the book, in such old writings there is only so much you can do on your own, there are historical details that a layperson (like myself) won't know. It was ten years in between the publishing of the first book and the second and in that time another book was written by some other guy. A lot of the characters we see in the second half are that other writers creations. This is also why Cervantes kills Don Quixote, to keep others from taking his errant knight on any other unsanctioned escapades.

Johnson brings a lot of knowledge to the subject which illuminates many of the scenes. One example is the scene where Don Quixote accosts some merchants on the road. In Cervantes' Spain only Jews were merchants, this would have been immediately apparent to the reader. Don Quixote levels his lance at them and tells them that they must declare Dulcinea del Toboso the fairest lady in the world they say they've never seen her so how can they say honestly that she is beautiful at all. Johnson claims this is a satire of the forced conversion of the Jews and Moors which was an event that happened many times in the hundred or so years before Cervantes birth. He offers a few more examples but none so clear as that one. I still felt that Nabokov was correct in saying that Don Quixote was ill-planned so I wonder how much these kinds of scenes could play out to a greater meaning.

It's been a month since a read these books so they are a bit foggy in my memory which teaches me a blogger rule, to be faster with my reviews and stresses the need to keep a reading journal. I am going to read them both again after my logic stage reading of Don Quixote which I will begin after I have finished Le Morte d'Arthur.

SAHM the Libby
Parlous \ˈpär-ləs\ 1. perilous; dangerous; risky 2. dangerously clever; cunning; mischievous, shrewd, etc.
SAHM the Libby
When to use 'that':
When a time element comes after the verb: Freddy said that on Friday he would rake the leaves, or, Freddy said on Friday that he would rake the leaves.
When the point of the sentence comes late: Johnny found that the old violin hidden in a trunk in his attic wasn't a real Stradivarius.
When there are two more verbs after the main one: Silvio thinks the idea stinks and Paulie does to. This is confusing, does Silvio think that the idea stinks or that Paulie does? A that in the right place clears this up.
SAHM the Libby
It's been a decade and I'm still not used to that 2000 bit, it looks odd. I guess I know what kind of old lady I'm going to be.

Two New Year babies: E.M. Forster, 1879, and J.D. Salinger, 1919.
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