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Month: November, 2012

XXlX. I think of thee! – my thoughts do twine and bud – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXlX. I think of thee! – my thoughts do twine and bud

I think of thee! – my thoughts do twine and bud
About thee, as wild vines, about a tree,
Put out broad leaves, and soon there’s nought to see
Except the straggling green which hides the wood.
Yet, O my palm-tree, be it understood
I will not have my thoughts instead of thee
Who art dearer, better! rather, instantly
Renew thy presence. As a strong tree should,
Rustle thy boughs and set thy trunk all bare,
And let these bands of greenery which insphere thee
Drop heavily down, – burst, shattered, everywhere!
Because, in this deep joy to see and hear thee
And breathe within thy shadow a new air,
I do not think of thee – I am too near thee

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“set thy trunk all bare” indeed, Elizabeth is
letting more than just her hair down here, she
is “twin[ing] and bud[ding] / About thee”, she
is, ahem, “hid[ing] the wood” of her “strong
her “palm-tree”, her abandon is letting
her “wild vines” engulf him, “I do not think of
thee – I am too near thee”,
she exults, she is
“breath[ing] within thy shadow a new air”

this is of course communion of the very
highest order, transubstantiation,
metamorphosis, and she is here its
highest priestess

all, note, in ever rhyming, ever thumping,
iambic pentameter, enough to make you


XXVlll. My letters! all dead paper, mute and white – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXVlll. My letters! all dead paper, mute and white

My letters! all dead paper, mute and white!
And yet they seem alive and quivering
Against my tremulous hands which loose the string
And let them drop down on my knee to-night,
This said, — he wished to have me in his sight
Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring
To come and touch my hand . . . a simple thing,
Yet I wept for it! — this, . . . the paper’s light. . .
Said, Dear, I love thee; and I sank and quailed
As if God’s future thundered on my past.
This said, I am thine — and so its ink has paled
With lying at my heart that beat too fast.
And this . . . O Love, thy words have ill availed
If, what this said, I dared repeat at last!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


after a meticulous search of my archive, I
finally found the last place I’d been wrong,
if you remember well I’d written the date so
it could be found at any moment, just like
this one, March 28, 2012, check it out

if I’ve chosen to preface my comment on
Barrett Browning‘s 28th sonnet from
the Portuguese
with a personal
exculpation it’s because here I so easily
could be incorrect, Elizabeth is to my mind
here too abstruse, obtuse, too cute, I think,
for her own convoluted words

who is doing what to whom in this flurry
of what was “said”, we wonder

she is speaking to the paper – “dead”,
“mute and white”, note – which says what
had been said by her then improbable lover,
that he wished to see her, “to have me in his
sight “,
that he loves her, “Dear, I love thee”,
that he’s hers, “I am thine”, but what is this
insuperable “thy words have ill availed / If,
what this said, I dared repeat at last

an analysis that will not cede the secrets
of a text after a certain moment by a
reasonably informed and probing
analyst is no longer a shortcoming of the
analyst but of the poem, I submit, and
such, I feel, is here the case, though that
position is entirely assailable, I might be
merely, in this instance, stupid, but I
doubt it

the Metaphysical Poets were good at that,
establishing confounding parallels, Donne,
Herbert, Marvell, revered poets Elizabeth
surely would have aspired to mimic

“Love”, I’ll propose, in line 14, is a
composite of Love itself – Amor, a Platonic,
anthropomorphized conception – and
Robert Browning, who had become by this
time her spouse, to whom these recollections
are indirectly directed – remember she’s still
speaking to the paper – who utters this Delphic,
which is to say, inscrutable, pronouncement

then again it could be herself, Elizabeth,
hypothesizing, for she hasn’t italicized this
statement as she has earlier the others

therefore she could be – instead of he, they,
invoking her – invoking them, though “And
in the second last line suggests that
he, Robert Browning, is speaking again,
and yet the “L” is capitalized this time
where it hadn’t been for Robert anywhere


I will venture, for the sake of conclusion,
that she means that had these been the
last expressions of his devotion, or he,
does she mean, of hers, these letters
would indeed be also dead

but I could be entirely wrong

November 14, 2012


un-still lifes‏

  Fairy tale. Garden of Eden. - Martiros Saryan
                                           Fairy tale. Garden of Eden (1904)

                                                           Martiros Saryan    
animals are also poems, just by even standing
well, mammals, I meant, and, of course, birds 
psst: sometimes I think that the Fall from the Garden
           of Eden is not behind us but before us, we are
           the cancer, we are the terror, we have eaten
           irresponsibly from the Tree of Knowledge, not
           for better but for, too often it would appear,
           unfortunately, worse

XXVll. My own Belovèd, who hast lifted me – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXVll. My own Belovèd, who hast lifted me

My own Belovèd, who hast lifted me
From this drear flat of earth where I was thrown,
And, in betwixt the languid ringlets, blown
A life-breath, till the forehead hopefully
Shines out again, as all the angels see,
Before thy saving kiss! My own, my own,
Who camest to me when the world was gone,
And I who looked for only God, found thee!
I find thee; I am safe, and strong, and glad.
As one who stands in dewless asphodel
Looks backward on the tedious time he had
In the upper life,–so I, with bosom-swell,
Make witness, here, between the good and bad,
That Love, as strong as Death, retrieves as well.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


the Asphodel Meadows were a mythological
nether field where souls wandered aimless
after death, bereft of their earthly memories,
washed away by the river Lethe they’d had
to cross to enter the Underworld, can you
dig it

very few have returned from There, notably
Eurydice, who, profoundly grieved by
Orpheus, her swain, is granted leave to
come back by the god of the Underworld,
Hades, as a grace for Orpheus’ uncanny,
uneartlhy, musical ability, though with one
dire condition, that he, Orpheus, Lot-like,
not look back, but that’s an entire other story

love however is what has resurrected her here,
according to Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
afforded her another, transformed, life, she

for transcendental apparently love, not only
ineluctable death, according to her earlier
staunch expectations, had proved able to
stir her from her earlier in-, or “asphodel”,
as she calls it, existence

as love does


“The Carnival of the Animals” – Saint-Saëns/Nash/Disney

in the same spirit of “music as literature” as in
Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage“, or Mussorgsky‘s
Pictures at an Exhibition especially, Camille
Saint-Saëns, composed his Le carnaval des
through an anthropomorphised menagerie 
where the description is impressionistic rather
than narrative, which is to say more painterly
he composes in patches of musical textures
instead of melodic and linear paragraphs,
incompatible with the original association
of music as melody, or song, one’s response
would become thereby more intellectual
than emotional, one does not swoon, or
even sway, in other words, as marvel at the
synesthetic imagination, which lets you see
sounds and hear pictures
you’ll hear here, or “hear, hear”, the turtles
doing their determined interpretation of the 
can-can, at an improbable crawl, in playful
reference to Offenbach‘s “Galop infernal”,
mad gallop, from his Orpheus in the  
Underworld, other such instances of 
compositional salutations follow, not at
all an unusual practice among composers,
great and small 
you’ll be enchanted by the shimmering
ethereality of the aquarium, by the grace
and majesty of the now mythic swan,
among other zoological bedazzlements, 
in 14 movements, in therefore essentially
a symphony, a piece for orchestra with
several movements
here they are        
I.      Introduction et marche royale du Lion
               (Introduction and Royal March of the Lion)
II.     Poules et Coqs 
               (Hens and Cocks)
III.    Hémiones (animaux véloces) 
               (Wild Asses)
IV.   Tortues
V.     L’Éléphant 
                (The Elephant)
VI.    Kangourous 
VII.   Aquarium
VIII.  Personnages à longues oreilles
                (Personages with Long Ears)
IX.    Le coucou au fond des bois 
                (The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods)
X.     Volière
XI.    Pianistes
XII.   Fossiles
XIII.  Le Cygne
                (The Swan)
XIV.  Finale
you’ll want to read the poems that Ogden 
Nash later wrote about them, his very own
Carnival of the Animals“, that now often
accompany the piece, a mistake, I find, for
exposing two entirely idiosyncratic and 
incompatible sensibilities opposite each
other, thereby taking away from each 
but Walt Disney has, and you will too have,
a great deal of fun nevertheless with both
of them, though they’re somewhat in his
version abridged, no swan