❝ So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell
Blue skies from pain Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell? .
Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage? . How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here
— Gilmour & Waters (emphasis is mine)
Jump to 6:06 in the video below to get to the purported point of poem. Yet, I am really asking and really wondering, is there merit in analysing every-fucking-thing? I mean to say, therapeutically speaking, is it not oftentimes best to stick to our own imagination and interpretation of a given poem’s point rather than to seek out it’s actual point (if indeed the poet’s stated this in a non-cryptic and unambiguous preface or footnote)…
I’ll give you my penny’s worth without writing another word:
❝ Just as does The Mayfly —
There was a moment in time, under a iridescent blinding light.
Where I shone so very bright and everything was alright.
I had in my grasp the flower of rejuvenation.
It’s nectar was desert rose, it’s sent jasmine carnation.
I was rapt by its blossoming beauty but it’s clasp and grip led me to take it for granted.
I placed it in a bouquet, my drops of dew sowed others too that I’d casually collected.
It was the time and place where I was made.
It’s now a haunting taste that I’m forbade.
For a ‘Naja haje’ snatched us apart one fang to our heart one to our soul.
Time gnawed away, memories darkened and heaven was rewritten as hell. — far from you, I shall die.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Epic of Gilgamesh
❝ S/he’s the unforgettable, ever-changing and eternally great being that consumes me in every single way.
— Tolstoy (1867) & Bidoonism (2020)
* Video One. — The Epic of Gilgamesh is the earliest substantive work of literature currently known to humankind; it was written down (etched with sun-dried, hand-sharpened Euphrates marsh reed quill into a freshly kneaded tablet of Tigris bank clay) by the Sumerians in c. 2,100 BC (yep.. over 4,000 years ago). In the video — retreived, youtu.be/QUcTsFe1PVs — you hear the opening lines of part of the epic, accompanied by a long-neck, three-string, Sumerian lute known as a “gish-gu-di.”
** Video Two. — Light in Babylon are a celebration of the cosmopolitan traditions of both Istanbul and its Sephardic Jewish community; wih the stunning voice of Elia Kamal and the beautiful sound of the “san-tur.”
*** Inspiration. — A lecture on The Epic of Gilgamesh, given in 2017 at the Harvard Semitic Museum by Andrew George (Professor of Babylonian, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London).
❝ Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all. ❞
❝ Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. ❞
❝ Something that is loved is never lost. ❞
One&Only You are the only one for me
The Love of Paris and Helen By Jacques-Louis David (1788)
No one No one else compares to you
Ovid was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature.
Love can kill
Love can save
& now, some poetry
The following five poems were all penned by Toni Morrison. In my humble opinion, amongst other things, they talk of love (“Once more you know / You will never die again”), sexual awakening (“fruit that had lost its green” / “Red cherries become jam”), identity and place (“the fish mistake my hair for home”).
I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call. 2
Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see. 3
I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be. ❞
“The Perfect Ease of Grain”
❝ The perfect ease of grain
Time enough to spill
The flavor of a woman carried through the rain. –
Down home dreams
A rushed by shapely prayer.
Evening lips part to hush
Questions raised at dawn. –
The melon yields another slice.
Ecstasy becomes us all.
Red cherries become jam. –
Deep juvenile sleep
A whistle trace
White shorelines in green air.
Welcome doors held open
When goodbye is “So long.” –
The perfect poise of grain
Time enough to spill
The flavor of a woman remembered on a train. ❞
“Someone Leans Near”
❝ Someone leans near
And sees the salt your eyes have shed. –
You wait, longing to hear
Words of reason, love or play
To lash or lull you toward the hollow day. –
Silence kneads your fear
Of crumbled star-ash sifting down
Clouding the rooms here, here. –
You shore up your heart to run. To stay.
But no sign or design marks the narrow way. –
Then on your skin a breath caresses
The salt your eyes have shed. –
And you remember a call clear, so clear
“You will never die again.” –
Once more you know
You will never die again. ❞
“It Comes Unadorned”
❝ It comes
Like a phrase
Strong enough to cast a spell;
Like the turn of sun through hills
Or stars in wheels of song.
The jeweled feet of women dance the earth.
Arousing it to spring.
Shoulders broad as a road bend to share the weight of years.
Profiles breach the distance and lean
Toward an ordinary kiss.
It comes naked into the world like a charm. ❞
I Am Not Seaworthy”
❝ I am not seaworthy.
Look how the fish mistake my hair for home.
I had a life, like you. I shouldn’t be riding the sea.
I am not seaworthy.
Let me be earth bound; star fixed
Mixed with sun and smacking air.
Give me the smile, the magic kiss
To trick little boy death of my hand.
I am not seaworthy. Look how the fish mistake my hair for home. ❞
❝ The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?— –
See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me? ❞ — Percy Bysshe Shelley
1. The poet
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) was one of the major (Latter-day) English Romantic poets. It is pleasing to note that Shelley refused to add sugar to his tea. This was a political statement against slavery for in those times, sugar plantations depended upon slave labour.
What is love? Oh Jay. . . poem by poem, step by step we will learn what it is, what it means and how it manifests. “Love’s Philosophy” in spite of its title, has little to do with philosophy per se. ‘Philosophy’ in the context of this poem can be seen as the poet’s argument; the narrator’s point of view.
The first stanza begins with descriptions of the natural world and its interconnectedness. And from this the lovesick narrator turns to the human who occupies their thoughts. In the second stanza the narrator’s pleas intensify. The narrator places us in the position of his beloved and asks us to look around and ‘see the mountains kiss high heaven’. At poem’s end, we are none the wiser, did the narrator win the heart and body of the one they so dearly desired, or did they not? It is worth noting too that each stanza seems to conclude with something of a rhetorical question. Words aren’t required to answer such questions, but lips are.
This poem uses lots of natural imagery and simple verse forms (but very cleverly so) and is thus a good example of a Romantic Period poem. Needless to say, the poem’s theme is by no means original; countless poets before Shelley used the connections so evident in nature to justify the ‘naturalness’ of a desired romantic/love relationship. As many point out, there’s an influence from John Donne (or similar) — consider Donne’s 1615 poem, “A Lecture upon the Shadow”:
Stand still, and I will read to thee /
A lecture, love, in love’s philosophy.
Consider too, Donne’s poem, “The Flea,” which evokes nature in a sort of odd but somehow cute way:
And in this flea, our two bloods mingled be /
Despite its focus on a well versed theme, it is the quality of the language and the brilliance of the structure that renders “Love’s Philosophy” a valid additional contribution to the thesis that is as follows: love is as natural as the birds and bees so darling, just accept my love for you and, sweetheart just accept my lining and lustful kisses for your lovely and luscious lips! As has been the way since Sappho and Catullus this theme — this insatiable subject — can be seen as part of the “nature-justifies-love nexus”:
In this poem the age-old argument is put forward by a swain (man) to a maid (lady) — but it would be equally valid for any other human to human combination, for “love,” my dear reader, is “love.” .
This then’s the ancient argument with its logic and strength rooted in nature’s garden: — As all of the natural world is in intimate contact — water, wind, mountains, sun-rays moonbeams and even birds, bees and the fragrant Jasminum Sambac, Rose and Honeysuckle too. What about you? why can you not just submit to the laws of nature and submit your lips to mine? As Shelley writes, “What is all this sweet work worth / If thou kiss not me?”
I would argue in fact that the overt influence to Donne is more likely a note of acknowledgment and due deference by Shelley. We all, after all, pen verse upon the shoulders of giants (for all its goods and all its ails). “Love’s Philosophy” reiterates the ‘connection’ that exists between all things in the natural world and between the poem’s narrator and his object of desire. As there is unity in nature, there too should be unity in human relationships (both platonic and sexually intimate). As I wrote somewhere before:
❝ Inevitably chemistry becomes physical as ultimately: everything’s biological. ❞
The natural imagery in this poem is relatively simplistic and uncomplicated: ‘fountains’, ‘rivers’ and ‘oceans’ are all unmodified and description free. While they may be ‘simple,’ they are nonetheless perfectly and skillfully chosen. Note the words closely associated with physicality and intimacy:
mingle / mix / a sweet emotion / kiss / clasp
Repetitive uses of ‘clasp’ — how the waves hold one another & how the immaterial light of the sun seems to touch the earth — stress the interconnections between elements of the natural world . The poem certainly has sensual, if not sexual, connotations (arguably it is designed to persuade not shock. The logic is thus, if in nature things ‘clasp’ one another freely, and if nature’s elements readily ‘mix’ and bond with each other, even obeying the command of God (if, unlike Shelley, his contemporary readers still believed in God’s command to procreate), then turning down the poet’s request for a kiss would be for the object in question, like him/her disagreeing with the laws of nature ;).
Anaphora — To refresh our memories anaphora, dear reader, is the repeated use of a word or phrase to reinforce meaning. In this poem anaphora will have most likely have been used to emphasise the narrator’s quiet desperation:
And the rivers.../ And the waves.../ And the sunlight.../ And the moonbeams.
Enjambment — Enjambment is when a line of poetry carries on into the next line, without punctuation or pause but carrying sense. As critics say, enjambment helps the flow of meaning and pairs up passages of the poem. In “Love’s Philosophy,” Shelley does this between lines 3/4, 6/7 & 11/12.
Lines 11 & 12 enjambed. No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
Personification — In essence, personification means giving non-human objects human characteristics, we see this in various places in the poem:
-- Fountains mingle with the river
-- Winds of heaven mix forever with a sweet emotion
-- The mountains kiss high heaven
-- The waves clasp one another
-- Moonbeams kiss the sea
The dominant foot in this poem is the trochee, where the first syllable is stressed and second non-stressed, producing a falling rhythm (the opposite of the iambic). As there are four feet per line (except in lines 4, 8 & 16) the metre is technically termed as a: trochaic tetrameter.* However, some lines have iambic — da–DUM — and anapaestic rhythm — da–da–DUM — and this altered beat ties in with the poem’s meaning at given points.
Line 1. The foun/tains min/gle with / the river,
Iambic feet start this poem. Steady and traditional da–DUM tetrameter.
Line 2. And the riv/ers with the o/cean,
Two anapaests da–da–DUM da–da–DUM with an extra beat – this line rises and falls.
Line 3. The winds / of hea/ven mix / for ever
Iambic tetrameter again, like the first line.
Line 4. With a / sweet e/motion;
This shortened line is unusual, reflecting an abrupt fall (three trochees = trochaic trimeter).
Line 5. Nothing / in the / world is / single;
This line is the first true trochaic tetrameter, that first stressed beat stamping its authority on what is a definitive statement.
Line 6. Allthings / by a law / divine
An opening spondee — stressed stressed, to add emphasis or to break up monotonous rhythm: DUM–DUM — gives energy to the rising anapaest — a metrical foot consisting of three syllables, the first two are unstressed and the last is stressed: da–da–DUM — and iamb — an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one: da–DUM.
Line 7. In one / spirit / meet and / mingle -
Trochaic tetrameter again — A trochee is a reverse iamb: DA–dum (like say, ‘BRAIN-dead’.
Line 8. Why not / I with / thine?
Here we might interpret it as (1) two trochees and an extra stressed beat or (2) an anapaest and iamb.
Line 9. See the / mountains / kiss high / heaven,
Here we’ve a trochaic tetrameter, said to be a classic foot for the expression of poetic grief and emotional confusion. . .
Line 10. And the / wavesclasp / one a/nother;
Trochees plus that gripping spondee, followed by the softer pyrrhic — a metrical foot of two short or unaccented syllables.
Line 11. No sist/er-flower / would be / forgiv/en
Nine syllables make this an iambic tetrameter with a fading extra syllable.
Line 12. If it / disdained / its broth/er;
Note the tripping rhythm as the opening trochee moves into the iambic finish and the natural pause with fading extra syllable.
Line 13. And the / sunlight / clasps the / earth
Trochees with the extra stressed beat at the end.
Line 14. And the / moonbeams / kiss the / sea:
Line 15. What is / all this / sweet work / worth
Note this line and the previous two end with a strong masculine beat, reflecting a little more enthusiasm?
Line 16. If thou / kiss not / me?
And the final shortened line, again two trochees and the stressed beat, me, all by itself.
Know this, oh my sweetest one — breathe, feel and hear these words from two centuries ago:
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. – ❞
* I rely heavily on Andrew Spacey (2019). I/m still undergraduate and my mother tongue is knot an English won; I couldn’t even distinguish between a gramophone and a homophone.