Sunday, July 31, 2011

Here's a depressing little summer sonnet from poem-a-day at

by William Cullen Bryant

A power is on the earth and in the air,
From which the vital spirit shrinks afraid,
And shelters him in nooks of deepest shade,
From the hot steam and from the fiery glare.
Look forth upon the earth—her thousand plants
Are smitten; even the dark sun-loving maize
Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze;
The herd beside the shaded fountain pants;
For life is driven from all the landscape brown;
The bird hath sought his tree, the snake his den,
The trout floats dead in the hot stream, and men
Drop by the sunstroke in the populous town:
As if the Day of Fire had dawned, and sent
Its deadly breath into the firmament.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One More Tale of Genji…

… by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Royall Tyler, this time. I have the full Waley translation and the Seidensticker. I used to turn up my nose at abridged versions, but I got in the mood again– a damp gray summer early evening on the back screened porch, and I just wanted to dip, and to taste Genji on the Kindle. The translation is good, with the poems laid out in a very readable way. So many sleeves made sopping wet– I mean dew covered, and during Genji’s exile, soaked by waves of salt water. Such a different ethos, all the fathers and mothers trying to give their well-brought up accomplished daughters to the emperor or other high status men as concubines. Then with political machinations, raising the daughter’s status to possible Empress Mother and the power of the family as well. And then there’s how Genji essentially kidnaps the little girl and eventually has sex with her and continues to keep her and make her his ideal woman, even while continuing his other affairs, although never failing in attention to the many women he loves and does not abandon them. As always, a fascinating excursion into an alternative reality. Dim, all those curtains and blinds, sex enhanced by handwriting.

And yes, it works on the Kindle, the grayness of the screen matches the weather, the spray of mountain waterfalls, the night time creeping in bedrooms, the dawn when you send your love note. And as to the lower classes–the people who clean the latrines and actually dye the fabrics and cook the meals and empty the chamberpots– they apparently do not exist at all.