Hic Draconis

The Wonderful Art of Cartography

 

The edges of  old maps
Were clearly marked,
“Dragons be here”,
To advise those
Brave souls venturing
Beyond home
Of the perils that lurk
In these recesses
Of Earth.

Shy, inky, fire creatures
Inhabit the corners
Of the world,
Guarding boundaries,
Shouldering the areas
Where mapmakers’
Knowledge could
Not or should
Not reach.

Quests were planned
Around the empty spaces
Where dragons were.
Or else in search for
The named unknown
Hovering on horizons
Not in deterrence,
But enticement.
And that was
Wonder.

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Beauty and the Beat

I am shamelessly stealing this from Julie at The Corner With a View. But seriously, how could I not?

“If you got good credit you can be wife!”!!!!

This is a brilliant juxtaposition. Really. I almost want to see a whole movie with this premise.

Er, no. I want someone else to see the movie, and then tell me about so I can giggle without some of those images stuck in my head.

De Luain

In the Absence of Thalia – and oh! what a hole that leaves in our dreary lives! – I, Melpomene the Tragic shall fill in the Monday Special.

It is hot now, almost into July. Where I am now, in the Midwest, the corn is a little more than knee-high. The sky is a large, wide blue, interspersed with fluffy, round clouds of whimsy. And the lazy days of Summer are interrupted only by all the weeding that needs to be done around here.

And porch painting.

And housecleaning.

Ya know. All those chores that for some reason can only be done on nice Summer days.

 

In lighter news, Terpsichore has experimented another special cocktail known as The Union Club.

Urania is planing a cross-country road trip, which might include such attraction as: The World’s Biggest Ball of String, The Cowchip Throwing Capital of the World, and The Suitcase of DEATH.

Calliope has been painting a study of the Gypsy Madonna by Titian.

I am meanderingly reading through Sayer’s Gaudy Night, yet again. Savoring every bit of delicious word play and philosophical discussion that falls out of that wonderful book . . .

And Our Dear Absent One is undoubtably listening to strings, at her string  retreat. I am told by an undisclosed source that if you want to get a small taste of the craziness she has been enjoying, type “Gilles Apap” into a Youtube search and follow your nose.

Er, ears. Follow your ears.

I not sure exactly what all that means, but for the sake of continuity, I will give you a Monday Musical Selection that at least has some strings in it.

Also, it mentions Monday. Albeit in Gaelic.

The story told is that of Hunchback Donall, who heard the fairies singing “Monday, Tuesday . .  .” and then they – silly fairies! – could not remember what went next. And poor Donal was so distressed by the lack of narrative completion that finally sang out, “Monday, Tuesday, WEDNESDAY!” And the fairies were so delighted with his addition that they took away his hunchback.

May all your Mondays come to a similarly pleasant conclusion!

Love,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Muses

 

De Luian, De Mairt, by Gaelic Storm

One night through the black,
Poor Donall hunch back
His cart down the glenside was bringing;
When he heard the sweet sound
Of the faeries all round
And this is the song they were singing:
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt…

He stopped in his track,
Poor Donall hunch back,
At the voices so beautifully blending.
Though the music was sweet
It was quite incomplete,
For they couldn’t remember the ending:
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt…

Though poor Donall was shy,
He could never stand by
And leave their frustrations unheeded.
So he stifled his fear,
And he sang soft and clear,
Adding the word that they needed.
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, agus Ceadaine.

And the faeries were glad,
So grateful he had
Put an end to the song they were voicing,
With their magical knack
Took the hump from his back,
And Donall went homeward rejoicing:
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain, Dia Mairt
Dia Luain …Dia Mairt…. Ceadaine!

 

(P.S. There is an addendum to the tale of Donall the ex-hunchback.

Another hunchback heard the story, and decided to try to imitate Donall’s good fortune. He went off to the woods, and waited around until he heard the fairies singing, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday . . . ” and in his eagerness, he promptly gave them ALL the rest of the song: ” . . . Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday!” But fairies have very little memory space, and when they heard all these long confusing names they forgot even the weekdays that they had already learned! And then, in a fury, the cursed this man and sent him home to two humps on his back!

Moral: Pretend that Monday through Wednesday is that there is to the week, and you will get through much easier!)

The Stories of Summer

Thalia has challenged me to proffer a Summer Reading List, and I am in the mood to oblige.

It is odd that we still phrase it as such, a “summer” list. When, now that we are supposedly grown up and out of school and in “real” jobs, our summers are just as busy as the rest of our time.

In fact, more so, because in the nice weather we want to be swimming or canoeing or hiking or running about with firecrackers!

So really, it ought to be a winter reading list. For when all we want to do is curl up by the fire and let the dark, drowsy days lull us into exploring the imagination.

But summer reading was what was requested. So here it goes part one!


A Humorous Read:

The Luck of Bodkins
By P. G. Wodehouse

For some reason, this seems to be one of the lesser known of Wodehouse’s work. Every time read it I am seized with a desire to make into a stage play.

It is fairly typical of his shenanigans, only, on a boat. In the middle of the ocean. With a jealous fiancée, a flippant movie star, a charming ne’er-do-well, and a desperate movie magnate. Not to mention all of their respective romantic partners, indeliable (no, that is not a mistype) lipstick, smuggled pearls, and a Mickey Mouse doll.

And a baby alligator.

Moreover, the opening sentence is brilliant. “Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to talk French.”

How can you resist?

A Classic Read:

The Sun Also Rises
By Earnest Hemingway

Part of my personal quest for the summer is to actually read some of those classics of American Literature. I have always been more fond of British Lit, and despite dipping into O’Connor and Walker Percy and a few others, I have managed to avoid the BIG names.

So I read some Hemmingway.

And to my shock, I enjoyed it. In part because this is one of his earlier and lighter works, I think. It lacks the nice, tidy conclusion that my heart craves, but it does have a moments of intense human experience. I had expected the layers of significance and symbolism, but I had not expected the humor.

Of course, my enjoyment was in a darkly perverse, cynically amused sort of way.

“The road to Hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs!”
“He’s a taxidermist.”
“But that was in another country. And besides, all the animals were dead.”

So if you feel like trying to read some of the American Greats, I suggest starting here.

A Must Read Before You Die:

Gilead
by Marilyn Robinson

This book is an extraordinary work art, employing words so delicately, precisely, and beautifully that my heart trills over every sentence. And yet the story, or rather, the narrative remains in the fore, crafted and buoyed, not distracted from, by the language.

It written in the form of a long letter from an elderly and dying minister to his very young son. It is in part a history, in part a  love story, in part an introduction to father the boy will never know, and it is entirely a meditation.

One of my professors once described modern though as being “discoursive”, constantly moving and progressing, while classical thought was contemplative, staying at one point and considering all that passes.

This book, while being very modern, is contemplative in the softest, most gentle, loving, self-revealing way possible. It was described to me as being a tale revealing the sheer miracle of existence, which is   . . . true. But is also very narrow a summary of the simple grace, sunshine, life, and humanity that bubble up and overflow each page.

If I make it sound saccharine or preachy, forgive me. It is not. It is a gently melancholy book, told in a peacefully strange style. It is beautiful.

For the good of your soul, read it.

That should keep y’all going for about a week, right?

For Posterity’s Sake: Poetry & Wine

Last week  my household hosted a party.

A wine tasting party.

And lest you think that we were being all hoity-toity and elegant, let me specific: this was wine-tasting AND poetry!

To be specific, the extremely haughty instructions we issued were as follows:

Continue reading

Mel’s Meme: Best Love Story

Literature, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, does not reduce reality but gives us a higher sense of what is real. In particular, love stories might not be the most true to the “reality” of this current world.

Knights in shining armor rarely appear on the modern landscape.

One look across a crowded room does not often result in a life long romance.

And few men can woo their ladies with beautiful song, dance, or poetry.

But we hold up these ideals of love not so that we are disappointed with our own prosaic lives, but so we can recognize the full beauty of Love as it was meant to be.

So when a love story exists as reality, all hope is renewed.

 

The Love Story:

John and Abigail Adams.

 

I cheat. I know.

But hey, their letters are published in a book! And, they most certainly a story, albeit a slightly quieter one than in fiction.

Therefore, I will maintain that they are part of the literary tradition. Their letters are beautiful, and definitely part of the American literary canon.

I was dithering about trying to choose my favorite fictional loving relationship – everything from Anne and Wentworth in Persuasion to Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado – and could not make up my mind. But a then a friend posted a selection of the Adams’ correspondence, and their romance struck me afresh.

These letters, written while Abby was at home with the children at Braintree John was either riding the circuit, away in Boston for his law practice, attending congress, or being an ambassador to France,  convey a glimpse both what amazing people they were individually, and how well they suited each other and made their relationship work.

Miss Adorable

Without dramatics or extremes – other than a revolutionary war and the subsequent creation of Country and Government –  these two created one of the most beautiful love stories in both history and literature. Through the medium of day-to-day concerns and discussions and even something like arguments, their tender, intimate, sweet, respectful love for one another is immediately apparent.

Their relationship is not centered around themselves, but their personal union is a source of stability, joy, and grace for the people they know, from their neighbors to their children.Indeed, these personal letters reveal their biggest plans for the future of their beloved new country. Their love for each other radiates outward into a love for the world, and practical plans to make that world better.

Their letters reveal a mutual concern over the country and its formation, and frank discussion of necessary freedoms and reforms. Abigail gives a compelling argument for more freedom for women in this new country! And John has marvelous ideas not only for for forming  a government, but forming a flourishing culture.

They both worry over the mortal and immortal care of their family, and spend time developing a course of education for their children. And not just the course of study, but how to make the children fond of their readings. John wrote,

“The Education of our Children is never out of my Mind. Train them to Virtue, habituate them to industry, activity, and Spirit. Make them consider every Vice, as shamefull and unmanly: fire them with Ambition to be usefull—make them disdain to be destitute of any usefull, or ornamental Knowledge or Accomplishment. Fix their Ambition upon great and solid Objects, and their Contempt upon little, frivolous, and useless ones. It is Time, my dear, for you to begin to teach them French. Every Decency, Grace, and Honesty should be inculcated upon them.”

The sentence, “My dear, it is time you began to teach them French”, just kills me with its casual endearment, absolute assumption of ability, and complete trust. I cannot wait for the day that my husband remarks, “my dear, it is time we began to teach the children Old English”.

And the  sweet chiding and teasing and endearments between the two! Abigail opens a letter with the rebuke, “I wish you would ever write me a letter half as long as I write you!” and lists all the information that should like to receive. John drily replies, ” You justly complain of my short Letters, but the critical State of Things and the Multiplicity of Avocations must plead my Excuse” . . . an refers her to pamphlets he has enclosed.

They can share every worry and thought, exchange news and discuss how it applicable to their lives, from concerns over the state of the farm and state affairs, to sharing the latest studies on child development. They remark on their readings and experiences, sharing what they have studied, thought, and learned. They both have an appreciation of beauty and joy that seems to have been nourished by their association with each other. Their discussions and shared experiences brought to the fore those aesthetics and virtues needed in so young a country.

They are both friends and lovers. They have the kind of best relationship, where they work together and truly share their lives.

The affection between them is clear through every subject they discuss and in every tone they use. John’s endearments for Abigail are at once teasing and sweet, from “Miss Adorable”, to “Portia”. And Abby return with intense and lively description of home life, including her husband as much as possible despite his absence.

Their love, while singularly bereft of heroic rescues and grand adventures or gestures, is perhaps best exemplified in these simple, tender, and beautiful letters.

To me, it is the height of romance that John can address a letter simply to, “Dearest Friend”, and close with, “I am, with the tenderest Affection and Concern, your wandering John Adams”.

In Which A Brilliant Idea is Born

 

 

Thalia: Once upon a time, in a fair world long, long ago . . .  we dreamt of writing a story together. Remember?

Melpomene: Ah, yes. Or rather, we planned to take similar plot elements and characters, and each write our own story. Just to compare.

Thalia: It’s still a great idea. We had a title, too. “No Excuses on a Clear Day”

Melpomene: We are still doing it. Sometime in the future. A tale filled with humanity, rainfall, mobsters, explosions, and toupees.

Thalia: Toupees! You mean the secret  . . .

Melpomene: SSHHHHH! Don’t give it away!

Thalia: Right. Sorry. But we can make it pretty as well as clever?

Melpomene: Yep! Make it poetci!

Thalia: Yaaaay!

Melpomene: I mean, “poetic”. I mistyped. Sorry.

Thalia: It can be “poetci” too.

Melpomene: AhahahahaAAA! I have a BRILLIANT idea!

Thalia: Ummm . . . “Poetci” looks like Polish?

Melpomene: No. We need to start a po-etsy site!

Thalia: Like Etsy? Only . . . for POETRY?

Melpomene: EXACTLY!

Thalia: OH! Yes. Yes, we should!

Melpomene: We would be given commissions for specific poems.  That we then we would write!

Thalia: Oh man . . . .

Melpomene: And THEN, (wait for it,) we would GET PAID!

Thalia: Ob.vio.sly. GETTING PAID!

Melpomene: Ha!

Thalia: And then we could get RICH!

Melpomene: People NEED poems for all sorts of special occasion, right?

Thalia: Like birthdays, or love confessions, or funerals!

Melpomene: As long as we don’t write for students who are supposed to be perfecting the sonnet form for themselves, we should be alright.

Thalia: I can actually see this working . . . Let’s practice!

Melpomene: Okay. Say . . . a poem celebrating Uncle Greg’s 67th b-day. He loves everything aviation related, and likes Wendell Berry. Go!

Thalia: Okay. I think I can do this.

As soaring overhead
the Angels
So today our banners
And with our banners so
our hearts
Soar above our daily drudge
Yet take with it a homely mission:
To write upon the sky our missive,
Uncle Greg, here’s to many another one!

Melpomene: Aww! It needs some work, but a nice start.

Thalia: I think that it would be rather fun to do this for folks. Especially since they would have to provide the topic.

Melpomene: And, preferably, indicate the form and tone.

Thalia: We have played Blitz Poems often enough to be good at this!

Melpomene: It might not often aspire to be high poetry . . .

Thalia: But it would be pretty, thoughtful, and personal!

Melpomene: Sweet, funny ones . . . .

Thalia: Or deep, angsty ones!

Melpomene: For Your Heartfelt Confession, We Find Expression.

Thalia: Poets, Inc.!

Melpomene: How has this idea not been done already?

Thalia: I DON’T KNOW! It’s BRILLIANT!

Melpomene: According to my cursory internet search, our only competition is an antique seller on Etsy proper.

Thalia: NOT poetry.

Melpomene: And a Dutch website for. . . .  soap?

Thalia: Soap?

Melpomene: I can’t figure it out. Is that silver polish?

Thalia: Uh, possibly. But either way, again, NOT POETRY!

Melpomene: Now we just need a business plan.

Thalia: How to market and drum up interest?

Melpomene: That. I am thinking we start off at fifty cents a line?

Thalia: Pshaw! Cheap!

Melpomene: At least until we build a reputation.

Thalia: And clientele.We need some sample clientele.

Melpomene: And ideas and examples, and possibly a trial website . . .

Thalia: Alright. Let’s do it.

Melpomene: Poetci.com, here we come!

Thalia: Excelsior!

Thalia and Melpomene toast to a day of brilliance.

Love Calls

Today, March the first, is the birthday of the poet Richard Wilbur.

He is 92 years old.

He is awesome.

Have a poem to celebrate.

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
                     Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.
    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;
    Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
                                             The soul shrinks
    From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
               “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”
    Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
    “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
                      keeping their difficult balance.”

The title is taken from a quotation of St. Augustine, who is comparing love to the classical understanding of gravity. But I love how Wilbur takes the notion even further! Concerning himself not with the ordinary of the World – drying laundry outside a window, cursing the need to wake up . . .  – but in seeing that common thing with wonder and import.

His choice of words make the entire scene palpable to the reader. The very sound of the words is music to the imagination. He is a treasure.