Monday, September 15, 2003

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

GR-R-R--there go, my heart's abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims--
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!

At the meal we sit together;
Salve tibi! I must hear
Wise talk of the kind of weather,
Sort of season, time of year:
Not a plenteous cork-crop: scarcely
Dare we hope oak-galls, I doubt:
What's the Latin name for "parsley"?
What's the Greek name for "swine's snout"?

Whew! We'll have our platter burnished,
Laid with care on our own shelf!
With a fire-new spoon we're furnished,
And a goblet for ourself,
Rinsed like something sacrificial
Ere 'tis fit to touch our chaps--
Marked with L. for our initial!
(He-he! There his lily snaps!)

Saint, forsooth! While Brown Dolores
Squats outside the Convent bank
With Sanchicha, telling stories,
Steeping tresses in the tank,
Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,
--Can't I see his dead eye glow,
Bright as 'twere a Barbary corsair's?
(That is, if he'd let it show!)

When he finishes refection,
Knife and fork he never lays
Cross-wise, to my recollection,
As I do, in Jesu's praise.
I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp--
In three sips the Arian frustrate;
While he drains his at one gulp!

Oh, those melons! if he's able
We're to have a feast; so nice!
One goes to the Abbot's table,
All of us get each a slice.
How go on your flowers? None double?
Not one fruit-sort can you spy?
Strange!--And I, too, at such trouble,
Keep them close-nipped on the sly!

There's a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails;
If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?

Or, my scrofulous French novel
On gray paper with blunt type!
Simply glance at it, you grovel
Hand and foot in Belial's gripe;
If I double down the pages
At the woeful sixteenth print,
When he gathers his greengages,
Ope a sieve and slip it in't?

Or, there's Satan!--one might venture
Pledge one's soul to him, yet leave
Such a flaw in the indenture
As he'd miss till, past retrieve,
Blasted lay that rose-acacia
We're so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine . . . .
'St, there's Vespers! Plena gratia
Ave, Virgo! Gr-r-r--you swine!

By Robert Browning
*This was a 'hot-favourite' with all of us in FYBA - I love it for its sheer vitality, wit and honesty of expression! Check out the line : He-he There his lily snaps! - Isn't the sheer malice in the sentence completely delightful? One malicious poem I absolutely admire!

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

By William Wordsworth


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

By W.H.Davies
*A note of Thanks to Deepak, who reminded me of the poem! I'd forgotten about it - we did it in school!

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Feminist Fables

Bird Woman

Once there was a child who sprouted wings. They sprang from her shoulder blades, and at first they were vestigial. But they grew rapidly, and in no time at all she had a sizeable wing span. The neighbours were horrified. 'You must have them cut,' they said to her parents. 'Why?' said the parents. 'Well it's obvious,' said the neighbours. 'No,' said the parents, and this seemed so final that the neighbours left. But a few weeks later the neigbours were back. 'If you won't have them cut, atleast have them clipped.' 'Why?' said the parents. 'Well atleast it shows that you are doing something.' 'No,' said the parents and the neighbours left. Then for the third time, the neighbours appeared. 'On atleast two occasions you have sent us away,' they informed the parents, 'but think of that child. What are you doing to the poor little thing?' 'We are teaching her to fly,' said the parents quietly.

The Gods

In their extreme old age a childless couple was granted a daughter. This made them very happy, and they prayed to the gods every morning and evening to bless their child. They prayer was granted. As their daughter grew up it soon became obvious that she was a remarkable child. She could run further and faster than anyone in the village, her manners were good, she sang rather well, and she excelled in her studies. There was only one thing wrong, which spoilt everything. This was not a defect. The gods hadn't cheated. She was indeed blessed with great ability. But everyone in the village was critical of her. 'To be so damned good,' they said, 'is not womanly.'

Whore, Bitch, Slut, Sow

Once upon a time there was a wicked woman who was generally known as Whore, Bitch, Slut, Sow. Being a strong-minded woman and totally unashamed of being herself, she made a petition to the Chief Judge. She asked that the labels she bore be changed to some others that would more accurately express her wickedness as a person, rather than as they did at present, merely as a woman. The judge, as it happened was bored at the time. 'Very well,' he said, 'you can have a hearing, and the learned of the city will be asked to submit an alternative label.' The day came for alternative label, but the Eldest Scholar looked embarrassed, 'The fact is, Your Honour, we have not been able to reach agreement.' 'Really?' said the Judge, 'Well I should have expected as much. I suppose you got lost in philosophical discussion?Never mind. Sit down. I'll do the job.' 'How about "thief"?' he said turning to the woman. 'May it please you, Your Honour,' said the Eldest Scholar, '"thief" is excellent, but this woman renders service for moneys received, so unfortunately , Your Honour, that particular term is not applicable.' 'Well, how about "beggar"?' said the Chief Judge. But the Learned Scholar interpolated again, 'It is not clear, Your Honour, that being a beggar is in itself a sign of wickedness. Moreover this unfortunate woman does not beg.' 'Oh', said the Judge 'how about "bastard"? No I suppose you will find some other objection. Well, what is the problem? Why are we having so much trouble?' 'The truth is, Your Honour,' the scholar replied, ' that her wickedness consists in the fact that she is a woman.' 'Ah!' said the Learned Judge, 'That is the answer. Go away Woman, That is you name and your new label.'

By Suniti Namjoshi.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lighting they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

By Dylan Thomas


Fear death?---to feel the fog in my throat,
The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote
I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,
The post of the foe;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form;
Yet the strong man must go:
For the journey is done and the summit attained,
And the barriers fall,
Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,
The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so---one fight more,
The best and the last!
I would hate that Death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
And made me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers,
The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave.
The black minute's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend voices that rave,
Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain.
Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
And with God be the rest!

By Robert Browning


Looking for Maya, Atima Srivastava's second novel, is the story of Mira, a young woman fresh out of university and set to embark on a brilliant career. She is bright, ambitious, hungry for life and dangerously naive. When her boyfriend takes off for the summer Mira is left alone in London where she falls into the orbit of Amrit,older,sophisticated,a man accustomed to calling the tune. Both have a great deal to learn and to lose. Exploring themes of love, passion, friendship and the ambiguities of cultural identity,this is an acutely observed and moving novel.