188. (William Shakespeare)

Many of Shakespeare’s plays involve a recurring movement or transformation, which I will describe in terms that are broadly metaphysical and mostly instinctive. Backing them up, explaining them, might happen in some later posts. For now, I’ll set out the nature of the shift. The transformation happens in the plays when the superfluous is recognized to be irreplaceable. Or rather, that recognition happens in the … Continue reading 188. (William Shakespeare)

187. (Charles Williams)

When anyone remembers Charles Williams these days, it is probably for one of two reasons. Either they know of Williams through his association with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. He was a brief but dazzling member of the Inklings and features centrally in the enjoyable recent biography of that group, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip and Carol Zaleski. Otherwise, they know of Williams … Continue reading 187. (Charles Williams)

182. (Herman Melville)

Like many exciting periods in literary history, the middle of the nineteenth century saw in American authors intense and often implicit debates over how to read the world; literature is often, for Emerson, for Hawthorne, for Melville, for Thoreau, not a representation of the world, but a transcription and guide to how it is to be read. Hawthorne explored the method of typology, the logic … Continue reading 182. (Herman Melville)

179. (Theodor Fontane)

Effi Briest: a nineteenth-century European bourgeois world that doesn’t have the melodramatic horrors of hell or the hopeless delusions of fatuous romance. The heroine, Effi, does not, cannot, realize how miserable she is; nobody in the novel’s world, not even the narrator, does; but it is obvious and terrible to see. For mof the novel, her misery is felt mostly in the diminished tones of her … Continue reading 179. (Theodor Fontane)

173. (Eugenio Montale)

The final poem in La Bufera e altro, “Il sogno del prigionero,” “The Prisoner’s Dream,” is also the second poem in the section titled “Conclusioni provvisiorie,” “Provisional Conclusions.”  Below is the Arrowsmith translation: . Here, except for a few signs, you can’t tell dawn from night. . The zigzag of starlings over the watchtowers on days of fighting, my only wings, a thread of arctic air, the … Continue reading 173. (Eugenio Montale)

170. (Eugenio Montale)

A second in a series of readings of poems by Eugenio Montale, from his collection La Bufera e altro.  Here, from the fifth selection of the collection, “Silvae,” is the poem ” ‘Ezekiel Saw the Wheel’.” The original title is an English quotation, alluding, believes William Arrowsmith, whose translation I consult, to a African-American slave spiritual. Arrowsmith’s translation: Was it you, strange hand, that snatched me from … Continue reading 170. (Eugenio Montale)

144. (Philip Larkin)

[COMPLETE VERSION.]  A chief complaint against Larkin is the insularity, his reaction to modernism that confuses an affirmation of Hardy’s special and lasting richness with a rejection of the internationalism that characterizes Pound and Eliot. It is the Larkin we see in a conversation with 1964 Ian Hamilton (collected in Further Requirements); asked “Do you read any foreign poetry,” the reply is stodgy and affected: “Foreign … Continue reading 144. (Philip Larkin)