28 October 2003

Happiness is… [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I am convinced that happiness, if it is at all sustainable or durable, must for most people consist in resigning oneself to the pervasive and inescapable total crapness of the world.

NP: The Decemberists, Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect

26 October 2003

Love’s Wisdom [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I know, I know. Enough with the poetry already. One last poem and I’m done for awhile. Probably. I found this in a review written by Ambrose Bierce, who is one of my all-time favorite American authors, right up there with Poe. It was written by Alfred Austin, who succeeded Tennyson as Poet Laureate (in part because Swinburne was deemed “impossible,” being as Bierce said “Swinburne would very likely have knocked off the Prime Minister’s hat and jumped upon it”). I was startled to find such a bold and beautiful sentiment embodied in such a wonderful sonnet by an otherwise forgettable poet. I have for some time thought that the reasoning Austin presents is the strongest argument for suicide—not that one needs or, indeed, would likely resort to, argument—of the literal as well as more metaphorical varieties. It pleases me greatly to find it so well expressed:

Love’s Wisdom

Now on the summit of Love’s topmost peak
   Kiss we and part; no further can we go;
   And better death than we from high to low
Should dwindle, and decline from strong to weak.
We have found all, there is no more to seek;
   All we have proved, no more is there to know;
And Time can only tutor us to eke
   Out rapture’s warmth with custom’s afterglow.
We cannot keep at such a height as this;
   For even straining souls like ours inhale
But once in life so rarified a bliss.
   What if we lingered till love’s breath should fail!
Heaven of my earth! one more celestial kiss,
   Then down by separate pathways to the vale.

[No worries, folks, I’m nowhere near the peak.]

NP: Gene, Truth, Rest Your Head

22 October 2003

Versification Diversification [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I have sailed on stormy seas;
I have felt a flowing breeze
Softly stir on starry nights;
I’ve seen the snow, on sunny heights,
The whirling wind of Winter brings;
The golden leaves on Autumn’s wings;
Spring’s softest rains, and strongest showers;
The quiet passion of Summer’s flowers;
I have witnessed all these scenes:
I know what ‘unrequited’ means.

NP: Blümchen, Eisblumen

19 October 2003

R.E.M. [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Finally, I’ve seen R.E.M. in concert. They have been one of my favorite bands for years and years, since Shari Kornelly and John Young and Greg Thompson first helped me develop some critical faculties concerning music. The show was a week and a half ago (Wednesday night) at the Patriot Center, a horrible venue for concerts, but the show was nevertheless superb. The setlist was perfect. I can actually remember most of it [update—they have the setlist up on the official website, and I had it right except for three songs I had forgotten. It is complete below.—ed] They played:

  1. Finest Worksong
  2. Begin the Begin
  3. Exhuming McCarthy [!!!]
  4. Drive
  5. Animal
  6. Fall On Me
  7. Daysleeper
  8. Bad Day
  9. The One I Love
  10. Rockville (Don’t Go Back To) [sung by Mike Mills]
  11. Orange Crush [!!!!!]
  12. World Leader Pretend
  13. I Believe
  14. Losing My Religion
  15. Find The River
  16. She Just Wants to Be
  17. Walk Unafraid
  18. Man on the Moon

The band abruptly left the stage after an underwhelming choice for last song, and we stood there clapping for a good ten minutes hoping for an encore. Our arms were getting tired and sore, and the clapping was audibly flagging as several people left the show, before the band finally returned to the stage and Michael Stipe announced that he had found a new burst of energy, and that they would play a little longer than they “were supposed to.” They then played the best encore imaginable, ending in my life’s theme song:

  1. Life and How to Live It
  2. Nightswimming
  3. Final Straw
  4. Imitation of Life
  5. It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Thanks, guys. It was, all in all, a horrible week, but the show was fantastic.

NP: R.E.M., We Walk

5 October 2003

de rigeur [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Comme d’habitude, I will be working late this week, and unable to gather the energy or time to write. Comme d’habitude, I turn to poetry to ease the tension. This time, circumstance would have it that I am reading Auden. I offer two to you so that you may read along with me:

Alone

Each lover has a theory of his own
About the difference between the ache
Of being with his love, and being alone:

Why what, when dreaming, is dear flesh and bone
That really stirs the senses, when awake,
Appears a simulacrum of his own.

Narcissus disbelieves in the unknown;
He cannot join his image in the lake
So long as he assumes he is alone.

The child, the waterfall, the fire, the stone,
Are always up to mischief, though, and take
The universe for granted as their own.

The elderly, like Proust, are always prone
To think of love as a subjective fake;
The more they love, the more they feel alone.

Whatever view we hold, it must be shown
Why every lover has a wish to make
Some other kind of otherness his own:
Perhaps, in fact, we never are alone.

Leap Before You Look

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

NP: Slowdive, When the Sun Hits