Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kubla Khan or, A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Dead poet's society - session III
Wednesday Feb 13 2008

Recited By: Gaurav

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Forgotten beauty of poetry

As a young student in school, the class that I looked forward to the most was English. There were good teachers and not so good teachers but it didn’t matter to me as I was transported into another world reading the poems or enacting the plays in my head. In my mind I created my own scene of Portia and Shylock as I read Merchant of Venice. I had not seen daffodils but I fell in love with it as I read Wordsworth’s poem.
Over the years, I forgot about this passion as I studied Engineering and went on with my career . Occasionally I felt this same emotion when I walked out on an early spring morning trampling the dew covered grass to see a fruit or flower that had just bloomed in my garden.
When we started the dead poets’ society, I was a little apprehensive as I have enjoyed reading poetry in solitude but I discovered that it was a lot more fun to share the joy with friends.
I had forgotten this part of me and I am so happy to have discovered it again. It is in those moments that we feel close to nature, do we actually live. Poetry is one that goes straight to your heart makes you feel one with nature. It is a beautiful thing never to be forgotten again !

The Leech Gatherer (Resolution and Independence)

William Wordsworth
Dead Poets Society - session III
Recited by Ashwini

The poem describes the mood swing that the poet undergoes while wandering in the woods. He happens to meet an old man who was stirring the pond & finds out that the old man makes his living by selling leeches. Leeches were used in medicine in those days to suck out bad blood from wounds. The poet feels that it is the hand of Providence that has led him to this man to show him how the old man was persevering in his job without any complaints, remorse or pain.

There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.

All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops; -on the moors
The Hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist; that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.

I was a traveller then upon the moor;
I saw the Hare that raced about with joy;
I heard the woods and distant waters roar;
Or heard them not, as happy as a boy:
The pleasant season did my heart employ:
My old remembrances went from me wholly;
And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy!

But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joy in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low,
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
Dim sadness -and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.

I heard the Skylark warbling in the sky;
And I bethought me of the playful Hare:
Even such a happy Child of earth am I;
Even as these blissful creatures do I fare;
Far from the world I walk, and from all care;
But there may come another day to me -
Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.

My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,
As if life's business were a summer mood:
As if all needful things would come unsought
To genial faith, still rich in genial good:
But how can He expect that others should
Build for him, sow for him, and at his call
Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?

I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
Of Him who walked in glory and in joy
Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
By our own spirits are we deified;
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.

Now, whether it were by peculiar grace,
A leading from above, a something given,
Yet it befell that, in this lonely place,
When I with these untoward thoughts had striven,
Beside a pool bare to the eye of heaven
I saw a Man before me unawares:
The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs.

As a huge Stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence;
Wonder to all who do the same espy,
By what means it could thither come, and whence;
So that it seems a thing endued with sense:
Like a Sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself;

Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead,
Nor all asleep -in his extreme old age:
His body was bent double, feet and head
Coming together in life's pilgrimage;
As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.

Himself he propped, his body, limbs, and face,
Upon a long grey Staff of shaven wood:
And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
Upon the margin of that moorish flood
Motionless as a Cloud the Old-man stood;
That heareth not the loud winds when they call;
And moveth all together, if it move at all.

At length, himself unsettling, he the Pond
Stirred with his Staff, and fixedly did look
Upon the muddy water, which he conned,
As if he had been reading in a book:
And now a stranger's privilege I took;
And, drawing to his side, to him did say,
"This morning gives us promise of a glorious day."

A gentle answer did the Old-man make,
In courteous speech which forth he slowly drew:
And him with further words I thus bespake,
"What occupation do you there pursue?
This is a lonesome place for one like you.
"He answered, while a flash of mild surprise
Broke from the sable orbs of his yet vivid eyes.

His words came feebly, from a feeble chest,
But each in solemn order followed each,
With something of a lofty utterance drest -
Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
Of ordinary men; a stately speech;
Such as grave livers do in Scotland use,
Religious men, who give to God and Man their dues.

He told, that to these waters he had come
To gather Leeches, being old and poor:
Employment hazardous and wearisome!
And he had many hardships to endure;
From pond to pond he roamed, form moor to moor;
Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance;
And in this way he gained and honest maintenance.

The Old-man still stood talking by my side;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole Body of the Man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.

My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;
And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.-
Perplexed, and longing to be comforted,
My question eagerly did I renew,
"How is it that you live, and what is it you do?"

He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said that, gathering Leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the Pools where they abide.
"Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."

While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
The Old-man's shape, and speech, all troubled me:
In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
He, having made a pause, the same discourse renewed.

And soon with this he other matter blended,
Cheerfully uttered, with demeanour kind,
But stately in the main; and when he ended,
I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
"God," said I, "be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lament for Boromir (JRR Tolkien)

Dead poet's society - session III
Wednesday Feb 13 2008

Recited By: Vinod

The Lament for Boromir is very poignant. The most interesting part of this poem is that Legolas composes the second verse, and Aragorn composes the first and the third stanzas; while, Tolkien believes that in his plot, Legolas is a better poet than Aragorn, and brings that out in the imagery of the verses. The second stanza is far more poetically dense in terms of expression, poetic depth, even construction as opposed to the stanzas 1 and 3. Talk about getting into the character and writing in the moment!!

Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows
The West Wind comes walking, and about the walls it goes.
'What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?
Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?'
'I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey;
I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed away
Into the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more.
The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.'
'O Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar,
But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.'

From the mouths ofthe Sea the South Wind flies,from the sandhills andthe stones;
The wailing of the gulls it bears, and at the gate it moans.
'What news from the South, O sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?
Where now is Boromir the fair? He tarries and I grieve.'
'Ask not of me where he doth dwell --- so many bones there lie
On the white shores and the dark shores under the stormy sky;
So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing Sea.
Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!'
'O Boromir! Beyond the gate the seaward road runs south,
But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey sea's mouth.'

From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
'What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.'
'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.'
'O Boromir! The Tower of Gaurd shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.'

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

The World was Young, the Mountains Green -- or Why the Dwarves Chose to Live in Darksome Holes (JRR Tolkien)

Dead poet's society - session III
Wednesday Feb 13 2008

Recited By: Vinod

These days, the writing of heroic fantasy has become a mass-production industry; scarcely a week goes by without an author inventing a brave new world and subsequently being acclaimed as "the true inheritor of Tolkien's mantle", or some such. Unfortunately, fantastic settings alone do not an epic make, and 90% of new fantasy writing is crap - the same generic swords and sorcery, thud and blunder, repeated ad nauseam.

Tolkien is different. His imaginary homelands are not just names on the (by now obligatory) frontispiece map, they're countries, with rich histories and vibrant cultures; his invented tongues are not meaningless agglomerations of random syllables, they're carefully designed showcases of the linguist's art, with comprehensive lexica and detailed etymologies; his many invented beings are not cardboard cutout monsters, they're creatures who live and breathe and walk the pages of his books as convincingly as do his human heroes and heroines. The suspension of disbelief in Tolkien is total.

And then there's his verse. Tolkien's verse has genuine poetic merit, and it's not in the least bit self-conscious; when his characters break into song (which, mind you, occurs fairly often in his books), it always seems the perfectly natural thing to do. Today's poem is an excellent example: in "The Fellowship of the Ring" (the first volume of "The Lord of the Rings"), the eponymous fellowship are forced to detour through the dark and deserted Dwarven mines of Moria. One of the party asks why the Dwarves chose to live in such darksome holes; in reply, Gimli, the lone representative of that race in the Fellowship, half sings, half chants a poem describing the glory of the Dwarven kingdom in the Elder Days... at the end of the recital, the reader is left with the realization that the story of Moria couldn't have been told any other way: mere prose is simply too dry to communicate the wonder and the beauty that was Khazad-dum.

As always with Tolkien, the form reinforces the content to marvellous effect: the language is intentionally archaic, the alliteration pronounced (but never obtrusive), the sense of nostalgia and loss almost palpable. Notice how Gimli never explicitly states just what it was that caused Moria's abandonment: his reticence seems to imply that the events being recounted occurred at a great remove from the here and now; this in turn enhances the mystery, the vague undercurrent of dread that runs through the poem (and especially through the last stanza). This lack of particularity might be annoying in what is ostensibly a historical tale, but this is definitely one of those cases where less is more: a straightforward cataloguing of facts could never hope to capture the audience's attention the way Gimli's hypnotically beautiful couplets do.

And beautiful they certainly are: Tolkien's feel for the English language, for the music of words and the perfection of images, is flawless. It's a pity that his poetic output was (by and large) limited to within the confines of his invented universe (wide though they were); he could easily have been this century's successor to Kipling and Tennyson, so perfect is his verse, so effortless his prosody...

The World was Young, the Mountains Green

The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone,
When Durin woke and walked alone.
He named the nameless hills and dells;
He drank from yet untasted wells;
He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,
And saw a crown of stars appear,
As gems upon a silver thread,
Above the shadow of his head.

The world was fair, the mountains tall,
In Elder Days before the fall
Of mighty kings in Nargothrond
And Gondolin, who now beyond
The Western Seas have passed away:
The world was fair in Durin's Day.

A king he was on carven throne
In many-pillared halls of stone
With golden roof and silver floor,
And runes of power upon the door.
The light of sun and star and moon
In shining lamps of crystal hewn
Undimmed by cloud or shade of night
There shone for ever fair and bright.

There hammer on the anvil smote,
There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
The delver mined, the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
And metal wrought like fishes' mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in hoard.

Unwearied then were Durin's folk;
Beneath the mountains music woke:
The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,
And at the gates the trumpets rang.

The world is grey, the mountains old,
The forge's fire is ashen-cold;
No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
The darkness dwells in Durin's halls;
The shadow lies upon his tomb
In Moria, in Khazad-dum.
But still the sunken stars appear
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.

-- J. R. R. Tolkien

P.S.: Some stuff in the initial funda isnt mine, thanks to Amit, a friend of mine.

The Diverting History of John Gilpin

By William Cowper

Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2008.
Dead Poets' Society -- Session 3
Recited by Itisha.

John Gilpin was a citizen
Of credit and renown,
A train-band captain eke was he,
Of famous London town.

John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear,
"Though wedded we have been
These twice ten tedious years, yet we
No holiday have seen.

"To-morrow is our wedding-day,
And we will then repair
Unto the 'Bell' at Edmonton,
All in a chaise and pair.

"My sister, and my sister's child,
Myself, and children three,
Will fill the chaise; so you must ride
On horseback after we."

He soon replied, "I do admire
Of womankind but one,
And you are she, my dearest dear,
Therefore it shall be done.

"I am a linendraper bold,
As all the world doth know,
And my good friend the calender
Will lend his horse to go."

Quoth Mrs. Gilpin, "That's well said;
And for that wine is dear,
We will be furnished with our own,
Which is both bright and clear."

John Gilpin kissed his loving wife.
O'erjoyed was he to find.
That though on pleasure she was bent,
She had a frugal mind.

The morning came, the chaise was brought,
But yet was not allowed
To drive up to the door, lest all
Should say that she was proud.

So three doors off the chaise was stayed,
Where they did all get in;
Six precious souls, and all agog
To dash through thick and thin.

Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,
Were never folks so glad!
The stones did rattle underneath,
As if Cheapside were mad.

John Gilpin at his horse's side
Seized fast the flowing mane,
And up he got, in haste to ride,
But soon came down again;

For saddletree scarce reached had he,
His journey to begin,
When, turning round his head, he saw
Three customers come in.

So down he came; for loss of time,
Although it grieved him sore,
Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,
Would trouble him much more.

'Twas long before the customers
Were suited to their mind,
When Betty screaming came downstairs,
"The wine is left behind!"

"Good lack!" quoth he, "yet bring it me,
My leathern belt likewise,
In which I bear my trusty sword
When I do exercise."

Now Mistress Gilpin (careful soul!)
Had two stone bottles found,
To hold the liquor that she loved,
And keep it safe and sound.

Each bottle had a curling ear,
Through which the belt he drew,
And hung a bottle on each side,
To make his balance true.

Then over all, that he might be
Equipped from top to toe,
His long red cloak, well brushed and neat,
He manfully did throw.

Now see him mounted once again
Upon his nimble steed,
Full slowly pacing o'er the stones,
With caution and good heed.

But finding soon a smoother road
Beneath his well-shod feet,
The snorting beast began to trot,
Which galled him in his seat.

"So, fair and softly!" John he cried,
But John he cried in vain;
That trot became a gallop soon,
In spite of curb and rein.

So stooping down, as needs he must
Who cannot sit upright,
He grasped the mane with both his hands,
And eke with all his might.

His horse, who never in that sort
Had handled been before,
What thing upon his back had got,
Did wonder more and more.

Away went Gilpin, neck or nought,
Away went hat and wig;
He little dreamt, when he set out,
Of running such a rig.

The wind did blow, the cloak did fly
Like streamer long and gay,
Till, loop and button failing both.
At last it flew away.

Then might all people well discern
The bottles he had slung;
A bottle swinging at each side,
As hath been said or sung.

The dogs did bark, the children screamed,
Up flew the windows all;
And every soul cried out, "Well done!"
As loud as he could bawl.

Away went Gilpin--who but he?
His fame soon spread around;
"He carries weight! he rides a race!
'Tis for a thousand pound!"

And still as fast as he drew near,
'Twas wonderful to view
How in a trice the turnpike-men
Their gates wide open threw.

And now, as he went bowing down
His reeking head full low,
The bottles twain behind his back
Were shattered at a blow.

Down ran the wine into the road,
Most piteous to be seen,
Which made the horse's flanks to smoke,
As they had basted been.

But still he seemed to carry weight.
With leathern girdle braced;
For all might see the bottle-necks
Still dangling at his waist.

Thus all through merry Islington
These gambols he did play,
Until he came unto the Wash
Of Edmonton so gay;

And there he threw the wash about
On both sides of the way,
Just like unto a trundling mop,
Or a wild goose at play.

At Edmonton his loving wife
From the balcony spied
Her tender husband, wondering much
To see how he did ride.

"Stop, stop, John Gilpin!--Here's the house!"
They all at once did cry;
"The dinner waits, and we are tired;"
Said Gilpin--"So am I!"

But yet his horse was not a whit
Inclined to tarry there;
For why?--his owner had a house
Full ten miles off, at Ware.

So like an arrow swift he flew,
Shot by an archer strong;
So did he fly--which brings me to
The middle of my song.

Away went Gilpin, out of breath,
And sore against his will,
Till at his friend the calender's
His horse at last stood still.

The calender, amazed to see
His neighbour in such trim,
Laid down his pipe, flew to the gate.
And thus accosted him:

"What news? what news? your tidings tell;
Tell me you must and shall--
Say why bareheaded you are come,
Or why you come at all?"

Now Gilpin had a pleasant wit,
And loved a timely joke;
And thus unto the calender
In merry guise he spoke:

"I came because your horse would come;
And, if I well forebode,
My hat and wig will soon be here,
They are upon the road."

The calender, right glad to find
His friend in merry pin,
Returned him not a single word,
But to the house went in;

Whence straight he came with hat and wig,
A wig that flowed behind,
A hat not much the worse for wear,
Each comely in its kind.

He held them up, and in his turn
Thus showed his ready wit:
"My head is twice as big as yours,
They therefore needs must fit."

"But let me scrape the dirt away,
That hangs upon your face;
And stop and eat, for well you may
Be in a hungry case."

Said John, "It is my wedding-day,
And all the world would stare
If wife should dine at Edmonton,
And I should dine at Ware."

So turning to his horse, he said
"I am in haste to dine;
'Twas for your pleasure you came here,
You shall go back for mine."

Ah! luckless speech, and bootless boast!
For which he paid full dear;
For while he spake, a braying ass
Did sing most loud and clear;

Whereat his horse did snort, as he
Had heard a lion roar,
And galloped off with all his might,
As he had done before.

Away went Gilpin, and away
Went Gilpin's hat and wig;
He lost them sooner than at first,
For why?--they were too big.

Now Mistress Gilpin, when she saw
Her husband posting down
Into the country far away,
She pulled out half-a-crown;

And thus unto the youth she said
That drove them to the "Bell,"
"This shall be yours when you bring back
My husband safe and well."

The youth did ride, and soon did meet
John coming back amain;
Whom in a trice he tried to stop,
By catching at his rein.

But not performing what he meant,
And gladly would have done,
The frighted steed he frighted more,
And made him faster run.

Away went Gilpin, and away
Went postboy at his heels,
The postboy's horse right glad to miss
The lumbering of the wheels.

Six gentlemen upon the road,
Thus seeing Gilpin fly,
With postboy scampering in the rear.
They raised the hue and cry.

"Stop thief! stop thief! a highwayman!'"
Not one of them was mute;
And all and each that passed that way
Did join in the pursuit.

And now the turnpike-gates again
Flew open in short space;
The toll-man thinking, as before,
That Gilpin rode a race.

And so he did, and won it too,
For he got first to town;
Nor stopped till where he had got up,
He did again get down.

Now let us sing, Long live the King,
And Gilpin, long live he;
And when he next doth ride abroad.
May I be there to see.

Dead Poets Society - Session III

Wednesday Feb 13 2008
Arun & Ashwini's place

Vinod - 2 of Tolkien's poems/songs
Ashwini - "The Leche Gatherer" or "Resolution and Independence" by William Wordsworth
Gaurav - "Kubla Khan" or "A vision in a dream. A Fragment." by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Itisha - "The Diverting History of John Gilpin" by William Cowper