Monday, 11 December 2017

Poetry Revisited: Winter Nightfall by Robert Bridges

Winter Nightfall

(from New Poems: 1899)

The day begins to droop,—
Its course is done:
But nothing tells the place
Of the setting sun.

The hazy darkness deepens,
And up the lane
You may hear, but cannot see,
The homing wain.

An engine pants and hums
In the farm hard by:
Its lowering smoke is lost
In the lowering sky.

The soaking branches drip,
And all night through
The dropping will not cease
In the avenue.

A tall man there in the house
Must keep his chair:
He knows he will never again
Breathe the spring air:

His heart is worn with work;
He is giddy and sick
If he rise to go as far
As the nearest rick:

He thinks of his morn of life,
His hale, strong years;
And braves as he may the night
Of darkness and tears.

Robert Bridges (1844-1930)
English poet

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Book Review Déjà Vu: An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15929364-an-artist-of-the-floating-world

On the occasion of the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies held today in Stockholm (and Oslo for the Peace Prize), I'm reblogging my review of the picturesque novel An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro. I originally posted it in July, i.e. less than three months before the British author born in Japan to Japanese parents was officially announced this year's recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's the first time not that I read a book penned by a writer whom the Swedish Academy would later honour with this prestigious and remunerative prize, but that I reviewed such a one here on Edith's Miscellany.

»»» click here to read my review

Friday, 8 December 2017

Book Review: Splithead by Julya Rabinowich

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10796117-splitheadWhatever certain politicians may say about migration these days, there are only very few people who leave their country to settle down for good in another without a really good reason. Many put up with all kinds of hardship including mortal danger just to get away because even death and slavery seem better than what they have or can expect if they stay. No matter what drives them from home and where they arrive, the mere fact that they are strangers dooms them to a hard life on the margin of society unless they manage somehow to fit themselves in. The struggle to adapt to a new environment can be very painful and terrifying because it means to break with their past. This is the experience that the narrating protagonist of Splithead by Julya Rabinowich still haunts three decades after her parents moved with her seven-year-old self from Leningrad to Vienna in the late 1970s.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Poetry Revisited: Out in the Snow by Louise Chandler Moulton

Out in the Snow

(from Swallow-Flights: 1878)

The snow and the silence came down together,
Through the night so white and so still;
And young folks housed from the bitter weather,
Housed from the storm and the chill—

Heard in their dreams the sleigh-bells jingle,
Coasted the hill-sides under the moon,
Felt their cheeks with the keen air tingle,
Skimmed the ice with their steel-clad shoon.

They saw the snow when they rose in the morning,
Glittering ghosts of the vanished night,
Though the sun shone clear in the winter dawning,
And the day with a frosty pomp was bright.

Out in the clear, cold, winter weather—
Out in the winter air, like wine—
Kate with her dancing scarlet feather,
Bess with her peacock plumage fine,

Joe and Jack with their pealing laughter,
Frank and Tom with their gay hallo,
And half a score of roisterers after,
Out in the witching, wonderful snow,

Shivering graybeards shuffle and stumble,
Righting themselves with a frozen frown,
Grumbling at every snowy tumble;
But young folks know why the snow came down.

Louise Chandler Moulton (1835-1908)
American poet, story-writer and critic

Friday, 1 December 2017

Book Review: Grape Harvest by Miguel Torga

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13248808-grape-harvestMy first choice for this week’s review of a Portuguese classic had actually been O Delfim by bestselling author José Cardoso Pires, but after having finished this gorgeous masterpiece from 1968 I noticed with great dismay that it has never been translated into English! Because I take care to present here only books that are or have once been available in English, this meant that I had to switch hurriedly to another literary gem from Portugal. In the end, I picked Grape Harvest by Miguel Torga, a novel from 1945 set in the picturesque landscape of the wine-growing estates in the valley of the Douro River. Like every autumn, people of all ages from the poor mountain villages descend there to earn during two weeks a meagre though desperately needed extra gathering and pressing the grapes to fill the wine-casks of the owner of Cavadinha who is a tough and unsentimental businessman.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Poetry Revisited: Silence Sings by Thomas Sturge Moore

Silence Sings

(from The Vinedresser and Other Poems: 1899)

So faint, no ear is sure it hears,
So faint and far;
So vast that very near appears
My voice, both here and in each star
Unmeasured leagues do bridge between;
Like that which on a face is seen
Where secrets are;
Sweeping, like veils of lofty balm,
Tresses unbound
O'er desert sand, o'er ocean calm,
I am wherever is not sound;
And, goddess of the truthful face,
My beauty doth instil its grace
That joy abound.

Thomas Sturge Moore (1870-1944)
English poet, author and artist

Friday, 24 November 2017

Book Review: The Dragon Painter by Mary McNeil Fenollosa

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8456840-the-dragon-painter-illustrated-editionIn a strictly patriarchal society it can be bad luck bordering on disaster for a man to grow old without a male heir to continue the family tradition, especially when it’s a glorious one. The cultural pressure can be so strong that a man resorts to steps that by modern western standards are rather drastic and strange, if not downright loathsome. Divorce or even murder and following remarriage to father a son with another, younger and presumably more fertile woman like English King Henry VIII is one way, marrying off a daughter and adopting the son-in-law is another. The latter is what the ageing protagonist of The Dragon Painter by Mary McNeil Fenollosa does in Tōkyo of the early twentieth century, when a friend of the family sends a young man from the mountains to him whose exceptional talent and commitment make him worthy to carry on the name of the famous family of painters.