Love, Poems, and February 14th

“And neither the angels in Heaven above // Nor the demons down under the sea // Can ever dissever my soul from the soul // Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.”

Amongst some of the earliest lines of poetry I can recall, the unwavering dedication of Poe’s protagonist to his beloved has long been a beautiful source of wonder. And on the eve of the most romantic 24 hours in the Gregorian calendar for those who celebrate it, such an all-consuming love makes for perfect fodder for Valentine’s day cards and celebrations.

I can’t help but wonder though, what would the holiday look like if the below example from The Bard was more often followed instead?

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The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

“Now, if the enumeration of so many edifices, brief as we have tried to be, has not shattered in the reader’s mind the general image of old Paris as fast as we have endeavored to construct it, we will recapitulate it in a few words.

Have you ever read a book that’s changed you in some way? I talk not of powerful biographies, or religious scripture here, though admittedly both have the potential to evoke great personal change, but the humble novel. Perhaps it’s a stupid question. Most people, after all, would answer yes; literature carries with it that special sort of magic which, on its smallest scale, can move a reader from apathy, to elation, to abject grief, and to all manner of sentiment in between. Some pieces go further than just triggering a cascade of changing emotion through their course, and have the added ability to elicit a change in outlook by their close as well.

But what about challenging the type of reader you are though, and changing the way it is you read?

(Part discussion, part book review. Spoilers within.)

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Wilde, Women, and Today’s World

“It is the usual history of a man and a woman as it usually happens, as it always happens. And the ending is the ordinary ending. The woman suffers. The man goes free.”

So says Mrs Arbuthnot to son Gerald in Wilde’s ‘A Woman of No Importance’, as she begins to explain her discord with a proposition he puts forward about the future. Her sentiment stems from personal experience, carrying with her as she does years of untold secrets, and a fate condemning of her alone. But in this day and age, with a shifting social landscape, and battles for equality being waged (and won) across many fronts, to what extent do her words still ring true?

(Spoilers within.)

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The Seagull

“Your turning cold on me is terrible, I can’t believe it, it’s as if I’d woken up and found the lake had suddenly dried up or drained away into the ground.”

Having recently been in a bit of a reading rut, of late I’ve found myself turning away from the more conventional novels on my reading list, and opting for plays instead. This in turn has lead me away from my To-Be-Read pile entirely, and towards a longstanding favourite: Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’.

Now though it is obviously a multi-layered piece, at its heart, it tells the story of a young playwright and his doomed relationships with the women that surround him. And so if you asked me to summarise the play in oh, say, fourteen lines, I think I would end up with something that went a little like this:

(Spoilers within.)

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Poetry’s Echo

“I love life; I love each day, // I love when sunlight starts to stray // Through swaying trees, then pirouettes // Enhancing dancing silhouettes.”

I first encountered JM Robertson’s poetry a little over ten years ago, when I found myself in possession of his book ‘Words of an Edinburgh Lad’. It was, amongst others, and in particular, his poem entitled ‘I Love Life’ that somehow made a home amongst the clutter of a teenage mind, vivid imagery determined to remain unforgotten despite the years that went by.

What was it about Robertson’s poetry that made it more arresting than its prosaic counterpart?

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Boule de Suif | Longreads

“Elle se sentait en même temps indignée contre tous ses voisins et humiliée d’avoir cédé, souillée par les baisers de ce Prussien entre les bras duquel on l’avait hypocritement jetée.”

– She was conscious at the same time of anger against all her neighbours and humiliation at having given way, as if she had been defiled by the embraces of the Prussian, into whose arms their hypocrisy had cast her.

(Spoilers within.)

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This Is Just To Say

“Time is a storm in which we are all lost. Only inside the convolutions of the storm itself shall we find our directions.”

William Carlos Williams said it well when he compared time to a chaotic force to be reckoned with. With the eye reputedly it’s calmest point, and convolutions of the storm far more testing, it is easy to see why he believed it is in these convolutions, or difficult times, that we are shaped, and emerge with a sense of direction.

For each person ‘convolutions of the storm’ will appear in different sizes and on different occasions; alas, it is that time of year again where I find myself facing some of mine.

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