Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Are they motivations for change? Are they wishes unlikely to be kept? Does it matter whether we keep them or not if they signal an awareness for the possibility of change? Ben Franklin said of New Year’s; “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man (or woman).” Ben, that sounds like you are taking all the fun out of NYE celebrations. Let’s make that our goal on January 2 and dabble in vice for a couple more days.
I always have one or two New Year’s resolutions. They are usually modest nudges towards change of something that I know that I can achieve, something I am already trending towards but want to strengthen my commitment. I don’t set resolutions with expectations of something unrealistic. I purposefully dream small on New Year’s eve, the New Year still a shimmer of possibility, the past year something more substantial of accomplishments to be savored and celebrated.
William Shakespeare’s sense of humor is in full display in the sonnet below. Is the capitalized “Will” referring only to himself, or the greater mass of our collective wills? The word “will” is included twelve times in fourteen lines, making it the most willful sonnet I have ever come across, but as he says; “The sea, all water, yet receives rain still.” One simply can’t have too much will or William. Enjoy.
There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part, So just give me a happy middle And a very happy start.
–Shel Silverstein – Every Thing on I
I think praying mantis have romance figured out. There are certain species of mantis and arachnids that the females bewitch their male suitors with enticing pheromones (Chanel #5) and after having wild sex with them, they bite off their heads while the males are still in orgasmic bliss, consuming them for a little post-coital protein snack so that they don’t have to get out of bed to go to the fridge. The only downside is Pfizer’s business model for Viagra would be shot to hell, no repeat customers but at least us miserable sex-smitten suckers would be put out of our misery in one final act of glory, or is that gory…..
I am not suggesting that we legalize patricide or boyfriendicide but in the #metoo moment that we currently live in I do think we might be able to pass a bill that would reinstate the use of public stocks as punishment for a week as part of a rehabilitation program prior to going to prison 5 to 10 years for men like Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein.
But what happens when love ends the good old-fashioned way, it disappears behind a pail of dirty diapers or under a mountain of bills, and the vagaries of life and health overcome romance? That’s when we are left to wondering, why wasn’t love enough and regretting that we somehow couldn’t make it work.
by William Shakespeare
That you were once unkind befriends me now,
And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,
Needs must I under my transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammered steel.
For if you were by my unkindness shaken,
As I by yours, you’ve passed a hell of time;
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffered in your crime.
O! that our night of woe might have remembered
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
And soon to you, as you to me, then tendered
The humble salve, which wounded bosoms fits!
But that your trespass now becomes a fee;
Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
I am fascinated by the culture of memes that exists on social media. I know people for whom memes are an important way that they create a positive mindset each morning. They search out a meme shared by one of their group of friends on Facebook as a way to optimistically start their day. Or find one and proudly post it as a way to inspire themselves and their 586 Facebook friends.
In my opinion, meme’s only have the illusion of being profound. Under the veneer of wisdom is something a little vacuous. Does it make me a bad person that I am a thumbsdowner of memes? I worry that we have lost something when wisdom has to come in a form, so bite size and trivial, that it is completely removed from the context from which it arose. Oh well, to all the lovers of memes, Meme Out and leave us poor curmudgeons off your DL.
I am, however, not a cynic when it comes to Hope. Hope is the fuel that drives most of us to work on Monday mornings. Hope is the glue that holds relationships together. Hope is the future that may never arrive but looks good in the distance. Hope is embedded in love that parents have for their children.
I like the contrast between these two poems. Hope is a feathered thing for Emily and for William the feathered thing is the child we chase after. I think they both got it right.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste.
Then can I drown an eye unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan th’ expense of many a vanished sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored, and sorrows end.
Loss is the unflinching gift and mantle of time, unforgiving, unstoppable and inevitable. I have been surrounded by loss the past few weeks. It can feel overwhelming and strangely rejuvenating at the same time.
Loess soils are some of the most productive soils in North America. Loess soils are found in the corn belt from Nebraska to Ohio and Missouri to Minnesota. These soils were formed over millions of years by deposition of small particles from the wind. These particles originated from erosion caused by wind, rain, freeze/thaw, glaciers, the grinding and wearing down that our environment imposes on even the stoutest of mountains. Loess is a sedimentary deposit of mineral particles which are finer than sand but coarser than dust or clay, it slowly accumulates to as much as 6 feet of depth and loess is formed. Loess often develops into extremely fertile agricultural soil. It is full of minerals, has good internal structure and drains water well, all the things plants require to prosper.
Loss and Loess are phonetically identical. Do you find it interesting that soil scientists have categorized the soils of the most productive farmland in the world as the accumlation of the unpredictable and random deposition of the debris of the surrounding environment? Is there a metaphor there for the human condition? Is our loss less the wearing down of our beings, but rather the creation of fertile soil from which we will sprout new life…
A Sequence of Sonnets on the Death of Robert Browning
By Algernon Charles Swinburne
What secret thing of splendour or of shade
Surmised in all those wandering ways wherein
Man, led of love and life and death and sin,
Strays, climbs, or cowers, allured, absorbed, afraid,
Might not the strong and sunlike sense invade
Of that full soul that had for aim to win
Light, silent over time’s dark toil and din,
Life, at whose touch death fades as dead things fade?
O spirit of man, what mystery moves in thee
That he might know not of in spirit, and see
The heart within the heart that seems to strive,
The life within the life that seems to be,
And hear, through all thy storms that whirl and drive,
The living sound of all men’s souls alive?
O tears, no tears, but rain from beauty’s skies,
Making those lilies and those roses grow,
Which aye most fair, now more than most fair show,
While graceful pity beauty beautifies:
O honeyed sighs, which from that breast do rise,
Whose pants do make unspilling cream to flow,
Winged with whose breath, so pleasing zephyrs blow,
As can refresh the hell where my soul fries:
O plaints, conserved in such a sugared phrase
That eloquence itself envies your praise,
While sobbed-out words a perfect music give:
Such tears, sighs, plaints, no sorrow is but joy;
Or if such heavenly signs must prove annoy,
All mirth farewell, let me in sorrow live.
Happy 100! This is my one-hundredth blog entry. A milestone of sorts and a thank you to those of you that take the time to read it and find a bit of enjoyment in the ramblings of my poetic journey.
What have I learned in 7 months and 100 blog posts? Nothing particularly profound but a few things that you might find interesting. First, I find it fascinating how I have yet to scratch the surface of the depth of the body of sonnets by poets from around the world spanning centuries. I have no idea how long I can keep this blog fresh and interesting, but so far, my obsession has not waned and the pond is still full of colorful poem-fish yet to bite on my curiosity’s line.
Second, I am always surprised by which posts people find interesting and read both when it’s initially posted and then keep coming back to later on. Among the first 99 postings, the two that were most read are titled; How Many Moments Must (Amazing Each) and Gratefulness. What about each of them is interesting and keeps people coming back to them or finding them on their google searches and reading them for the first time? I suspect that the common thread is both are blog posts dealing with poems of inspiration. They are blog posts that are positive and focus on mindfulness. The blog post Gratefulness is unusual in the depth in which I share my inner thoughts around my goal of the mindset of gratitude and welcoming gratefulness as a force capable of shaping my world view.
If you haven’t read either of the posts, type in Gratefulness or How Many Moments Must into the search bar and they will pop right up and you can check out for yourself why they are the most popular posts of the first 100 I have written.
Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my blog. I welcome your feedback. Has this blog introduced you to a new poet or a new poem that you have found memorable?
by William Shakespeare
Where art thou, Muse, that thou forget’st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, restive Muse, my love’s sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make Time’s spoils despised every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life;
So thou prevent’st his scythe and crooked knife.
Were I on bended knee,
And you upon a throne?
What would you decree?
What would I bemoan?
Have we any choice?
Is there any sense?
Not by human voice.
Nor by recompense.
by William Shakespeare
That god forbid, that made me first your slave,
I should in thought control your times of pleasure,
Or at your hand th’ account of hours to crave,
Being your vassal bound to stay your leisure.
O let me suffer, being at your beck,
Th’ imprisoned absence of your liberty;
And patience tame to sufferance bide each check,
Without accusing you of injury.
Be where you list, your charter is so strong
That you yourself may privilege your time
To what you will; to you it doth belong
Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime.
I am to wait, though waiting so be hell,
Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well
Happy Twelfth Night! Depending on how you start counting the 12 days of Christmas, it was either yesterday or today and marks the end of the holidays and the beginning of Epiphany. It’s time to take down festive decorations and settle in to the pleasant gloom of January. Twelfth Night has lost some of its relevance, but my Mother honored the tradition of taking down her Christmas tree on twelfth night.
Historically Twelfth night was an excuse for a party. Few of us are waking up to bake a cake with a pea and bean inside and invite friends over to drink wassail, but it sounds like the kind of silliness we need right now as a distraction from Trumpism. Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night with the intention of it being performed on Twelfth Night. A comedy with serious themes on love and service. Sounds like life….
In case you are inspired to throw a Twelfth Night shindig this evening, here’s a delicious wassail recipe. Serve it hot with a slice of cake.