America's Most Surprising Poet

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (1855). Preface to Leaves of Grass.
Vol. 39, pp. 388-398 of The Harvard Classics

Walt Whitman is the most original and startling of modern poets. An irony of his life is that while he wrote for the contemporary masses, only a limited number of followers appreciated his genius, now universally recognized.
(Walt Whitman born May 31, 1819.)

 1 AMERICA does not repel the past or what it has produced under its forms or amid other politics or the idea of castes or the old religions … accepts the lesson with calmness … is not so impatient as has been supposed that the slough still sticks to opinions and manners and literature while the life which served its requirements has passed into the new life of the new forms … perceives that the corpse is slowly borne from the eating and sleeping rooms of the house … perceives that it waits a little while in the door … that it was fittest for its days … that its action has descended to the stalwart and well shaped heir who approaches … and that he shall be fittest for his days.

When the Throb of the War Drum Is Stifl'd

Friday, 30 May 2014

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). The Building of the Ship
Vol. 42, pp. 1280-1290 of The Harvard Classics

(Memorial Day.)
At the close of the war, a torn and bleeding nation set about to rebuild its shattered frame. The result was a stronger nation rising from an almost disrupted union.

‘BUILD me straight, O worthy Master!
  Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
  And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!’

Adventures in Bagdad

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sheherezade in the palace of her husband

Stories from the Thousand and One Nights.
Vol. 16, pp. 177-184 of The Harvard Classics

A Bagdad merchant dreamed of the money he would make from the sale of a tray of glassware, and of marrying the king's daugh­ter. But, daydreaming, he kicked over the tray.

Nights 24–32
The Barber’s Fifth Brother

MY fifth brother (El-Feshshar [“Alnaschar”]) was cropped of his ears, O Prince of the Faithful. He was a pauper, who begged alms by night, and subsisted upon what he thus acquired by day: and our father was a very old man, and he fell sick and died, leaving to us seven hundred pieces of silver, of which each of us took his portion; namely, a hundred pieces. Now my fifth brother, when he had received his share, was perplexed, not knowing what to do with it; but while he was in this state, it occurred to his mind to buy with it all kinds of articles of glass, and to sell them and make profit: so he bought glass with his hundred pieces of silver, and put it in a large tray, and sat upon an elevated place, to sell it, leaning his back against a wall. And as he sat, he meditated, and said within himself, Verily my whole stock consisteth of this glass: I will sell it for two hundred pieces of silver; and with the two hundred I will buy other glass which I will sell for four hundred; and thus I will continue buying and selling until I have acquired great wealth. Then with this I will purchase all kinds of merchandise and essences and jewels, and so obtain vast gain. After that, I will buy a handsome house, and memluks, and horses, and gilded saddles; and I will eat and drink; and I will not leave in the city a single female singer but I will have her brought to my house that I may hear her songs.—All this he calculated with the tray of glass lying before him.—Then, said he, I will send all the female betrothers to seek in marriage for me the daughters of Kings and Wezirs; and I will demand as my wife the daughter of the chief Wezir; for I have heard that she is endowed with perfect beauty and surprising loveliness; and I will give as her dowry a thousand pieces of gold. If her father consent, my wish is attained; and if he consent not, I will take her by force, in spite of him: and when I have come back to my house, I will buy ten young eunuchs, and I will purchase the apparel of Kings and Sultans, and cause to be made for me a saddle of gold set with jewels; after which I will ride every day upon a horse, with slaves behind me and before me, and go about through the streets and markets to amuse myself, while the people will salute me and pray for me. Then I will pay a visit to the Wezir, who is the father of the maiden, with memluks behind me and before me, and on my right hand and on my left; and when he seeth me, he will rise to me, in humility, and seat me in his own place; and he himself will sit down below me, because I am his son-in-law. I will then order one of the servants to bring a purse containing the pieces of gold which compose the dowry; and he will place it before the Wezir; and I will add to it another purse, that he may know my manly spirit and excessive generosity, and that the world is contemptible in my eye; and when he addresseth me with ten words, I will answer him with two. And I will return to my house; and when any person cometh to me from the house of the Wezir, I will clothe him with a rich dress: but if any come with a present, I will return it; I will certainly not accept it. Then, on the night of the bridal display, I will attire myself in the most magnificent of my dresses, and sit upon a mattress covered with silk; and when my wife cometh to me, like the full moon, decked with her ornaments and apparel, I will command her to stand before me as stands the timid and the abject; and I will not look at her, on account of the haughtiness of my spirit and the gravity of my wisdom; so that the maids will say, O our master and our lord, may we be thy sacrifice! This thy wife, or rather thy handmaid, awaiteth thy kind regard, and is standing before thee: then graciously bestow on her one glance; for the posture hath become painful to her.—Upon this, I will raise my head, and look at her with one glance, and again incline my head downwards; and thus I will do until the ceremony of displaying her is finished; whereupon they will conduct her to the sleeping-chamber; and I will rise from my place, and go to another apartment, and put on my night-dress, and go to the chamber in which she is sitting, where I will seat myself upon the divan; but I will not look towards her. The tirewomen will urge me to approach her; but I will not hear their words, and will order some of the attendants to bring a purse containing five hundred pieces of gold for them, and command them to retire from the chamber. And when they have gone, I will seat myself by the side of the bride; but with averted countenance, that she may say, Verily this is a man of a haughty spirit. Then her mother will come to me, and will kiss my hands, and say to me, O my master, look upon thy handmaid with the eye of mercy; for she is submissively standing before thee. But I will return her no answer. And she will kiss my feet, again and again, and will say, O my master, my daughter is young and hath seen no man but thee; and if she experience from thee repugnance, her heart will break: incline to her, therefore, and speak to her, and calm her mind. And upon this I will look at her through the corner of my eye, and command her to remain standing before me, that she may taste the savour of humiliation, and know that I am the Sultan of the age. Then her mother will say to me, O my master, this is thy handmaid: have compassion upon her, and be gracious to her:—and she will order her to fill a cup with wine, and to put it to my mouth. So her daughter will say, O my lord, I conjure thee by Allah that thou reject not the cup from thy slave; for verily I am thy slave. But I will make her no reply; and she will urge me to take it, and will say, It must be drunk; and will put it to my mouth: and upon this, I will shake my hand in her face, and spurn her with my foot, and do thus.—So saying, he kicked the tray of glass, which, being upon a place elevated above the ground, fell, and all that was in it broke: there escaped nothing: and he cried out and said, All this is the result of my pride! And he slapped his face, and tore his clothes; the passengers gazing at him, while he wept, and exclaimed, Ah! O my grief!

Master of Melodious Lyrics

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Thomas Moore

Thomas Moore (1779–1852)
Vol. 41, pp. 816-822 of The Harvard Classics

Any one of these poems, "The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls," "The Last Rose of Summer," "The Light of Other Days," would alone have made Moore immortal.
(Thomas Moore born May 28, 1779.)

The Light of Other Days

OFT in the stilly night
  Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
  Of other days around me:
    The smiles, the tears
    Of boyhood’s years,
  The words of love then spoken;
    The eyes that shone,
    Now dimm’d and gone,
  The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus in the stilly night
  Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
  Of other days around me.

When I remember all
  The friends so link’d together
I’ve seen around me fall
  Like leaves in wintry weather,
    I feel like one
    Who treads alone
  Some banquet-hall deserted,
    Whose lights are fled
    Whose garlands dead,
  And all but he departed!
Thus in the stilly night
  Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
  Of other days around me.

Lessing's Courageous Stand for Toleration

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781). The Education of The Human Race
Vol. 32 pp.185-195 of The Harvard Classics

To advance freedom of thought, Lessing published an essay of one hundred paragraphs outlining the history of religion. The wrath of orthodox churchmen was hurled at his head, and Lessing was left alone to defend his daring theories.


  THAT which Education is to the Individual, Revelation is to the Race.


  Education is Revelation coming to the Individual Man; and Revelation is Education which has come, and is yet coming, to the Human Race.

  Whether it can be of any advantage to the science of instruction to contemplate Education in this point of view, I will not here inquire; but in Theology it may unquestionably be of great advantage, and may remove many difficulties, if Revelation be conceived of as the Educator of Humanity.

Daughter Declares Her Love

Monday, 26 May 2014

Cordelia in the court of King Lear

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of King Lear.
Vol. 46, pp. 215-225 of The Harvard Classics

Goneril and Regan falsely swore they loved their father, King Lear, more than life itself. Cordelia could find no words to ex­press her sincere devotion. Then King Lear made the decision that started a series of exciting events.
(Shakespeare's first daughter, Susanna, baptized May 26, 1583.)

Act I
Scene I

[King Lear’s palace]

  Kent.  I THOUGHT the King had more affected 1 the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.
  Glou.  It did always seem so to us; but now, in the division of the kingdom, it appears not which of the Dukes he values most; for qualities 2 are so weigh’d, that curiosity in neither can make choice of either’s moiety. 3
  Kent.  Is not this your son, my lord?
  Glou.  His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often blush’d to acknowledge him, that now I am braz’d 4 to ’t.
  Kent.  I cannot conceive you.
  Glou.  Sir, this young fellow’s mother could; whereupon she grew round-womb’d, and had, indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
  Kent.  I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so proper. 5
  Glou.  But I have a son, sir, by order of law, some year elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account. 6 Though this knave came something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was his mother fair; there was good sport at his making, and the whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this noble gentleman, Edmund?
  Edm.  No, my lord.
  Glou.  My Lord of Kent. Remember him hereafter as my honourable friend.
  Edm.  My services to your lordship.
  Kent.  I must love you, and sue to know you better.
  Edm.  Sir, I shall study deserving.
  Glou.  He hath been out 7 nine years, and away he shall again. The King is coming.

Do What You Fear

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Emerson in 1878

Ralph Waldo Emerson. (1803–1882). Essays and English Traits.
Vol. 5, pp. 121-131 of The Harvard Classics

Emerson startled the world by fearlessly declaring his beliefs. Such apparent paradoxes as we find in his inspirational essay, "Heroism," makes him the most stimulating yet profound thinker America has produced.
(Emerson born May 25, 1803.)

VII. Heroism

Paradise is under the shadow of swords.

IN the elder English dramatists, and mainly in the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, there is a constant recognition of gentility, as if a noble behavior were as easily marked in the society of their age as color is in our American population. When any Rodrigo, Pedro or Valerio enters, though he be a stranger, the duke or governor exclaims, “This is a gentleman,” and proffers civilities without end; but all the rest are slag and refuse. In harmony with this delight in personal advantages there is in their plays a certain heroic cast of character and dialogue,—as in Bonduca, Sophocles, the Mad Lover, the Double Marriage,—wherein the speaker is so earnest and cordial and on such deep grounds of character, that the dialogue, on the slightest additional incident in the plot, rises naturally into poetry. Among many texts take the following. The Roman Martius has conquered Athens,—all but the invincible spirits of Sophocles, the duke of Athens, and Dorigen, his wife. The beauty of the latter inflames Martius, and he seeks to save her husband; but Sophocles will not ask his life, although assured that a word will save him, and the execution of both proceeds:—

  Valerius. Bid thy wife farewell.
  Soph. No, I will take no leave. My Dorigen,
Yonder, above, ’bout Ariadne’s crown,
My spirit shall hover for thee. Prithee, haste.
  Dor. Stay, Sophocles,—with this tie up my sight;
Let not soft nature so transformed be,
And lose her gentler sexed humanity,
To make me see my lord bleed. So, ’t is well;
Never one object underneath the sun
Will I behold before my Sophocles:
Farewell; now teach the Romans how to die.
  Mar. Dost know what ’t is to die?
  Soph. Thou dost not, Martius,
And, therefore, not what ’t is to live; to die
Is to begin to live. It is to end
An old, stale, weary work and to commence
A newer and a better. ’T is to leave
Deceitful knaves for the society
Of gods and goodness. Thou thyself must part
At last from all thy garlands, pleasures, triumphs,
And prove thy fortitude what then ’t will do.
  Val. But art not grieved nor vexed to leave thy life thus?
  Soph. Why should I grieve or vex for being sent
To them I ever loved best? Now I’ll kneel,
But with my back toward thee: ’t is the last duty
This trunk can do the gods.
  Mar. Strike, strike, Valerius,
Or Martius’ heart will leap out at his mouth.
This is a man, a woman. Kiss thy lord,
And live with all the freedom you were wont.
O love! thou doubly hast afflicted me
With virtue and with beauty. Treacherous heart,
My hand shall cast thee quick into my urn,
Ere thou transgress this knot of piety.
  Val. What ails my brother?
  Soph. Martius, O Martius,
Thou now hast found a way to conquer me.
  Dor. O star of Rome! what gratitude can speak
Fit words to follow such a deed as this?
  Mar. This admirable duke, Valerius,
With his disdain of fortune and of death,
Captived himself, has captivated me,
And though my arm hath ta’en his body here,
His soul hath subjugated Martius’ soul.
By Romulus, he is all soul, I think;
He hath no flesh, and spirit cannot be gyved,
Then we have vanquished nothing; he is free,
And Martius walks now in captivity.

They Had No Money - Yet Bought and Sold

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith. (1723–1790). Wealth of Nations.
Vol. 10, pp.27-33 of The Harvard Classics

Debts were not always paid in money. Not so long ago the butcher paid for his keg of beer with a slab of beef, and oxen were exchanged for land and wives. Adam Smith tells the inter­esting story of the origin and use of money.

Book I
IV. Of the Origin and Use of Money

WHEN the division of labour has been once thoroughly established, it is but a very small part of a man’s wants which the produce of his own labour can supply. He supplies the far greater part of them by exchanging that surplus part of the produce of his own labour, which is over and above his own consumption, for such parts of the produce of other men’s labour as he has occasion for. Every man thus lives by exchanging, or becomes in some measure a merchant, and the society itself grows to be what is properly a commercial society.

A Plea for an Unfortunate

Friday, 23 May 2014

Thomas Hood

Thomas Hood (1798–1845)
Vol. 41, pp. 907-911 of The Harvard Classics

From the river her body was tenderly lifted - the girl who could find no place in the vast city. Thomas Hood pleads for her - eloquently and justly. Read this gem of pathos.
(Thomas Hood born May 23, 1799.)

The Bridge of Sighs

ONE more Unfortunate
Weary of breath
Rashly importunate,
Gone to her death!

Take her up tenderly,
Lift her with care;
Fashion’d so slenderly,
Young, and so fair!

True Love in Difficulty

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni (1785–1873). I Promessi Sposi.
Vol. 21, pp. 7-24 of The Harvard Classics

Because of a fancy for a peasant girl, the tyrannical lord of an Italian village sent desperadoes to threaten the priest if he mar­ried the girl to her village lover.
(Manzoni died May 22, 1873.)

Chapter I

THAT branch of the lake of Como, which extends towards the south, is enclosed by two unbroken chains of mountains, which, as they advance and recede, diversify its shores with numerous bays and inlets. Suddenly the lake contracts itself, and takes the course and form of a river, between a promontory on the right, and a wide open shore on the opposite side. The bridge which there joins the two banks seems to render this transformation more sensible to the eye, and marks the point where the lake ends, and the Adda again begins—soon to resume the name of the lake, where the banks receding afresh, allow the water to extend and spread itself in new gulfs and bays.

An Honest Man Defined

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Alexander Pope

Alexander Pope (1688–1744). An Essay on Man.
Vol. 40, pp. 430-440 of The Harvard Classics

The sharp tongue of Alexander Pope made him celebrated, yet widely feared. In a representative product of his versatile pen, he gracefully combines his flashing wit with sage advice.
(Alexander Pope born May 21, 1688.)

Epistle IV—Of the Nature and State of Man with Respect to Happiness

OH Happiness! our being’s end and aim!
Good, pleasure, ease, content! whate’er thy name:
That something still which prompts th’ eternal sigh,
For which we bear to live, or dare to die,
Which still so near us, yet beyond us lies,
O’er-look’d, seen double, by the fool, and wise.

Shakespeare's Finest Work

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Shakespeare's Sonnets

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). Sonnets
Vol. 40, pp. 270-276 of The Harvard Classics

The most concentrated beauty of Shakespeare's unbounded crea­tive genius is found in his sonnets. Written as personal messages to friends and not intended for publication, they reveal the inner Shakespeare more truly than do any of his great plays.
(Sonnets entered in the London Stationers' Register, May 20, 1609.)

A Sea Dirge

FULL fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them,—
Ding, dong, bell.

Golden Advice on Manners

Monday, 19 May 2014


Epictetus. (c.A.D. 50–c.A.D. 138). The Golden Sayings of Epictetus.
Vol. 2, pp. 128-138 of The Harvard Classics

When a man is invited to a banquet he must be satisfied with the dishes put before him. Epictetus reasoned that man should be content with what life offers, and in serenity find happiness.

Knowest thou what a speck thou art in comparison with the Universe?—That is, with respect to the body; since with respect to Reason, thou art not inferior to the Gods, nor less than they. For the greatness of Reason is not measured by length or height, but by the resolves of the mind. Place then thy happiness in that wherein thou art equal to the Gods.

The Night Life of Flowers

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Hans Christian Anderson

Hans Christian Andersen. (1805–1875) Tales.
Vol. 17, pp. 334-341 of The Harvard Classics

Flowers often tire of their stationary life and sometimes at night frolic away to a ball in a beautiful castle. Thus a fanciful story-teller accounts for their drooping condition in the morning.

Little Ida’s Flowers

“MY poor flowers are quite dead!” said little Ida. “They were so pretty yesterday, and now all the leaves hang withered. Why do they do that?” she asked the Student, who sat on the sofa; for she liked him very much. He knew the prettiest stories, and could cut out the most amusing pictures: hearts, with little ladies in them who danced; flowers, and great castles in which one could open the doors; he was a merry student. “Why do the flowers look so faded to-day?” she asked again, and showed him a nosegay, which was quite withered.

  “Do you know what’s the matter with them?” said the Student. “The flowers have been at a ball last night, and that’s why they hang their heads.”

  “But flowers cannot dance!” cried little Ida.

  “O yes,” said the Student, “when it grows dark, and we are asleep, they jump about merrily. Almost every night they have a ball.”

An Honest Life's Reward

Saturday, 17 May 2014


Plato. (427?–347 B.C.). The Apology, Phædo and Crito.
Vol. 2, pp. 24-30 of The Harvard Classics

Condemned for impiety, Socrates felt so justified in the virtue of his past action that instead of receiving a death sentence, he told the judges he should be maintained at public expense as a public benefactor.

The Apology of Socrates


THERE are many reasons why I am not grieved, O men of Athens, at the vote of condemnation. I expected this, and am only surprised that the votes are so nearly equal; for I had thought that the majority against me would have been far larger; but now, had thirty votes gone over to the other side, I should have been acquitted. And I may say that I have escaped Meletus. And I may say more; for without the assistance of Anytus and Lycon, he would not have had a fifth part of the votes, as the law requires, in which case he would have incurred a fine of a thousand drachmæ, as is evident.

Favorite Superstitions of Celtic Imagination

Friday, 16 May 2014

Ernest Renan

Ernest Renan.. The Poetry of The Celtic Races II
Vol. 32, pp. 145-155 of The Harvard Classics

Chessboards on which, of their own accord, black pieces played against white; chariots that swiftly turned hither and yon without a driver; pots in which a coward's meat would not cook - all these are woven into bewitching stories.

AT a first glance the literature of Wales is divided into three perfectly distinct branches: the bardic or lyric, which shines forth in splendour in the sixth century by the works of Taliessin, of Aneurin, and of Liwarc’h Hen, and continues through an uninterrupted series of imitations up to modern times; the Mabinogion, or literature of romance, fixed towards the twelfth century, but linking themselves in the groundwork of their ideas with the remotest ages of the Celtic genius; finally, an ecclesiastical and legendary literature, impressed with a distinct stamp of its own. These three literatures seem to have existed side by side, almost without knowledge of one another. The bards, proud of their solemn rhetoric, held in disdain the popular tales, the form of which they considered careless; on the other hand, both bards and romancers appear to have had few relations with the clergy; and one at times might be tempted to suppose that they ignored the existence of Christianity. To our thinking it is in the Mabinogion that the true expression of the Celtic genius is to be sought; and it is surprising that so curious a literature, the source of nearly all the romantic creations of Europe, should have remained unknown until our own days. The cause is doubtless to be ascribed to the dispersed state of the Welsh manuscripts, pursued till last century by the English, as seditious books compromising those who possessed them. Often too they fell into hands of ignorant owners, whose caprice or ill-will sufficed to keep them from critical research.

Glimpses Into the Beyond

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Dante climbs the flinty steps

Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). The Divine Comedy.
Vol. 20, pp. 102-114 of The Harvard Classics

The best part of the Divine Comedy for a few minutes' reading is the "Inferno." There the reader finds the most vivid descriptions, the most startling and unforgettable pictures.
(Dante born May 15, 1265.)

Inferno [Hell]
Canto XXV

ARGUMENT.—The sacrilegious Fucci vents his fury in blasphemy, is seized by serpents, and flying is pursued by Cacus in the form of a Centaur, who is described with a swarm of serpents on his haunch, and a dragon on his shoulders breathing forth fire. Our Poet then meets with the spirits of three of his countrymen, two of whom undergo a marvelous transformation in his presence.

Jenner's Amazing Smallpox Cure

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner (1749–1823). The Three Original Publications on Vaccination Against Smallpox.
Vol. 38, pp. 145-154 of The Harvard Classics

Edward Jenner found that disease in the heel of a horse, trans­mitted through a cow to the dairy attendants, was an agent in making human beings immune from smallpox. His amazing experiments inaugurated a new epoch.
(Edward Jenner makes his first vaccination May 14, 1796.)

An Inquiry Into the Causes and Effects of the Variolæ Vaccinæ, Or Cow-Pox. 1798

THE DEVIATION of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases. From the love of splendour, from the indulgences of luxury, and from his fondness for amusement he has familiarised himself with a great number of animals, which may not originally have been intended for his associates.

What Does Your Dog Think of You?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Robert Burns

Robert Burns (1759–1796). Poems and Songs.
Vol. 6, pp. 151-157 of The Harvard Classics

Two dogs fell a-gossiping about their masters and about a dog's life among the humble Scotch folk. Each "rejoic'd they werena men but dogs; an' each took aff his several way."

The Twa Dogs

’TWAS 1 in that place o’ Scotland’s isle,
That bears the name o’ auld King Coil,
Upon a bonie day in June,
When wearin’ thro’ the afternoon,
Twa dogs, that were na thrang at hame,
Forgather’d ance upon a time.
  The first I’ll name, they ca’d him Caesar,
Was keepit for His Honor’s pleasure:
His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,
Shew’d he was nane o’ Scotland’s dogs;
But whalpit some place far abroad,
Whare sailors gang to fish for cod.
  His locked, letter’d, braw brass collar
Shew’d him the gentleman an’ scholar;
But though he was o’ high degree,
The fient a pride, nae pride had he;
But wad hae spent an hour caressin,
Ev’n wi’ al tinkler-gipsy’s messin:
At kirk or market, mill or smiddie,
Nae tawted tyke, tho’ e’er sae duddie,
But he wad stan’t, as glad to see him,
An’ stroan’t on stanes an’ hillocks wi’ him.
  The tither was a ploughman’s collie—
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie,
Wha for his friend an’ comrade had him,
And in freak had Luath ca’d him,
After some dog in Highland Sang, 2
Was made lang syne,—Lord knows how lang.
  He was a gash an’ faithfu’ tyke,
As ever lap a sheugh or dyke.
His honest, sonsie, baws’nt face
Aye gat him friends in ilka place;
His breast was white, his touzie back
Weel clad wi’ coat o’ glossy black;
His gawsie tail, wi’ upward curl,
Hung owre his hurdie’s wi’ a swirl.
  Nae doubt but they were fain o’ ither,
And unco pack an’ thick thegither;
Wi’ social nose whiles snuff’d an’ snowkit;
Whiles mice an’ moudieworts they howkit;
Whiles scour’d awa’ in lang excursion,
An’ worry’d ither in diversion;
Until wi’ daffin’ weary grown
Upon a knowe they set them down.
An’ there began a lang digression.
About the “lords o’ the creation.”

His Wife's Golden Hair Enshrined His Poems

Monday, 12 May 2014

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)
Vol. 42, pp. 1149-1153, 1178-1181 of The Harvard Classics

The manuscripts of many of the best poems of Rossetti were buried with his wife. Friends prevailed upon him to allow them to be exhumed - and these poems, once buried with the dead, are now a treasure of the living.
(Rossetti born May 12, 1828.)

The Blessèd Damozel

THE BLESSÈD Damozel lean’d out
  From the gold bar of Heaven:
Her blue grave eyes were deeper much
  Than a deep water, even.
She had three lilies in her hand,
  And the stars in her hair were seven.

Latest Gossip in Malfi

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Title page for The Duchess of Malfi

John Webster (1580?–1634). The Duchess of Malfi.
Vol. 47, pp. 821-837* of The Harvard Classics

Latest news abroad in Malfi: The Duchess has run off with her butler. But this happened before the days of newspapers or radio, so Webster made from it an exciting play.

*Correction from the original text which prompted to read pages 721-737 which would have been from the play, Philaster rather than The Duchess of Malfi.

Act IV
Scene II

[Enter Madman]
Here by a Madman this song is sung to a dismal kind of music

O, let us howl some heavy note,
  Some deadly dogged howl,
Sounding as from the threatening throat
  Of beasts and fatal fowl!
As ravens, screech-owls, bulls, and bears,
  We ’ll bell, and bawl our parts,
Till irksome noise have cloy’d your ears
  And corrosiv’d your hearts.
At last, whenas our choir wants breath,
  Our bodies being blest,
We ’ll sing, like swans, to welcome death,
  And die in love and rest.

A Knight Among Cannibals

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh. The Discovery of Guiana
Vol. 33, pp. 326-341 of The Harvard Classics

Savages who drink the powdered bones of their dead mixed with wine, Amazons who hold riotous festivals, the worship of golden statues, all the primitive wonders of Guiana are described by the famous Elizabethan gallant, Sir Walter Raleigh.

  Although, as I am persuaded, Guiana cannot be entered that way, yet no doubt the trade of gold from thence passeth by branches of rivers into the river of Amazons, and so it doth on every hand far from the country itself; for those Indians of Trinidad have plates of gold from Guiana, and those cannibals of Dominica which dwell in the islands by which our ships pass yearly to the West Indies, also the Indians of Paria, those Indians called Tucaris, Chochi, Apotomios, Cumanagotos, and all those other nations inhabiting near about the mountains that run from Paria thorough the province of Venezuela, and in Maracapana,and the cannibals of Guanipa, the Indians called Assawai, Coaca, Ajai, and the rest (all which shall be described in my description as they are situate) have plates of gold of Guiana. And upon the river of Amazons, Thevet writeth that the people wear croissants of gold, for of that form the Guianians most commonly make them; so as from Dominica to Amazons, which is above 250 leagues, all the chief Indians in all parts wear of those plates of Guiana. Undoubtedly those that trade [with] Amazons return much gold, which (as is aforesaid) cometh by trade from Guiana, by some branch of a river that falleth from the country into Amazons, and either it is by the river which passeth by the nations called Tisnados, or by Caripuna.

Relation of Art to Freedom

Friday, 9 May 2014

Friedrich Schiller

J. C. Friedrich von Schiller. Letters upon the Æsthetic Education of Man
Vol. 32, pp. 209-217 of The Harvard Classics

Who has ever thought the arts had anything to do with freedom? Schiller did. Forced by a German noble to enter a mili­tary school, he escaped. Struggling to achieve freedom, he wrote a series of letters on the relation of art to freedom.
(Friedrich von Schiller died May 9, 1805.)

Letter I

BY your permission I lay before you, in a series of letters, the results of my researches upon beauty and art. I am keenly sensible of the importance as well as of the charm and dignity of this undertaking. I shall treat a subject which is closely connected with the better portion of our happiness and not far removed from the moral nobility of human nature. I shall plead this cause of the Beautiful before a heart by which her whole power is felt and exercised, and which will take upon itself the most difficult part of my task in an investigation where one is compelled to appeal as frequently to feelings as to principles.

Behind the Screen in the School for Scandal

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816). The School for Scandal.
Vol. 18, pp. 164-176 of The Harvard Classics

Lady Teazle hides in haste when her husband is unexpectedly announced. Situations which set many tongues wagging and fed the fire of gossip in Scandal-land, startle the reader.
("School for Scandal" produced at Drury Lane, May 8, 1777.)

Act Fourth
Scene III

A Library in JOSEPH SURFACE’S House

  Jos. Surf.  No letter from Lady Teazle?
  Ser.  No, sir.
  Jos. Surf.  [Aside.] I am surprised she has not sent, if she is prevented from coming. Sir Peter certainly does not suspect me. Yet I wish I may not lose the heiress, through the scrape I have drawn myself into with the wife; however, Charles’ imprudence and bad character are great points in my favour.  [Knocking without.
  Ser.  Sir, I believe that must be Lady Teazle.
  Jos. Surf.  Hold! See whether it is or not, before you go to the door: I have a particular message for you if it should be my brother.
  Ser.  ’Tis her ladyship, sir; she always leaves her chair at the milliner’s in the next street.
  Jos. Surf.  Stay, stay; draw that screen before the window—that will do;—my opposite neighbour is a maiden lady of so curious a temper—[SERVANT draws the screen, and exit.] I have a difficult hand to play in this affair. Lady Teazle has lately suspected my views on Maria; but she must by no means be let into that secret,—at least, till I have her more in my power.

A Bishop Bargains

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Robert Browning

Robert Browning (1812–1889)
Vol. 42, pp. 1074-1078 of The Harvard Classics

A haughty aristocrat, who murdered his wife for enjoying life more than he, now bargaining for a new bride; a crafty bishop begging and bullying his heirs for a tomb richer than that of his rival; these are subjects of Browning's pen.
(Robert Browning born May 7, 1812.)

My Last Duchess

THAT’S my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:” such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad.
Too easily impressed: she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
—E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

A Poor Artist Defies a Rich Duke

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Benvenuto Cellini

Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571). Autobiography.
Vol. 31, pp. 373-384 of The Harvard Classics

"Benvenuto, the figure cannot succeed in bronze," so spoke the patron Duke. Cellini, stung to fury, passionately burst out: "You do not understand art." Feverishly he began the casting of the statue - but read his own account of the tilt with the Duke.


HAVING succeeded so well with the cast of the Medusa, I had great hope of bringing my Perseus through; for I had laid the wax on, and felt confident that it would come out in bronze as perfectly as the Medusa. The waxen model produced so fine an effect, that when the Duke saw it and was struck with its beauty—whether somebody had persuaded him it could not be carried out with the same finish in metal, or whether he thought so for himself—he came to visit me more frequently than usual, and on one occasion said: “Benvenuto, this figure cannot succeed in bronze; the laws of art do not admit of it.” These words of his Excellency stung me so sharply that I answered: “My lord, I know how very little confidence you have in me; and I believe the reason of this is that your most illustrious Excellency lends too ready an ear to my calumniators, or else indeed that you do not understand my art.” He hardly let me close the sentence when he broke in: “I profess myself a connoisseur, and understand it very well indeed.” I replied: “Yes, like a prince, not like an artist; for if your Excellency understood my trade as well as you imagine, you would trust me on the proofs I have already given. These are, first, the colossal bronze bust of your Excellency, which is now in Elba; 1 secondly, the restoration of the Ganymede in marble, which offered so many difficulties and cost me so much trouble, that I would rather have made the whole statue new from the beginning; thirdly, the Medusa, cast by me in bronze, here now before your Excellency’s eyes, the execution of which was a greater triumph of strength and skill than any of my predecessors in this fiendish art have yet achieved. Look you, my lord! I constructed that furnace anew on principles quite different from those of other founders; in addition to many technical improvements and ingenious devices, I supplied it with two issues for the metal, because this difficult and twisted figure could not otherwise have come out perfect. It is only owing to my intelligent insight into means and appliances that the statue turned out as it did; a triumph judged impossible by all the practitioners of this art. I should like you furthermore to be aware, my lord, for certain, that the sole reason why I succeeded with all those great arduous works in France under his most admirable Majesty King Francis, was the high courage which that good monarch put into my heart by the liberal allowances he made me, and the multitude of workpeople he left at my disposal. I could have as many as I asked for, and employed at times above forty, all chosen by myself. These were the causes of my having there produced so many masterpieces in so short a space of time. Now then, my lord, put trust in me; supply me with the aid I need. I am confident of being able to complete a work which will delight your soul. But if your Excellency goes on disheartening me, and does not advance me the assistance which is absolutely required, neither I nor any man alive upon this earth can hope to achieve the slightest thing of value.”

Strange Adventures in Man's Clothes

Monday, 5 May 2014

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681). Life Is a Dream.
Vol. 26, pp. 7-21 of The Harvard Classics

Disguised as a man, a Russian noblewoman exploring the moun­tains of Poland came upon a secret prison. Fate linked the lives of this woman and the unknown prisoner.
(Calderon, after a life of adventure, died May 5, 1681.)

Act I
Scene I

A pass of rocks, over which a storm is rolling away, and the sun setting: in the foreground, half-way down, a fortress.
Enter first from the topmost rock ROSAURA, as from horseback, in man’s attire; and, after her, FIFE 1

THERE, four-footed Fury, blast-engender’d brute, without the wit
Of brute, or mouth to match the bit
Of man—art satisfied at last?
Who, when thunder roll’d aloof,
Tow’rd the spheres of fire your ears
Pricking, and the granite kicking
Into lightning with your hoof,
Among the tempest-shatter’d crags
Shattering your luckless rider
Back into the tempest pass’d?
There then lie to starve and die,
Or find another Phaeton
Mad-mettled as yourself; for I,
Wearied, worried, and for-done,
Alone will down the mountain try,
That knits his brows against the sun.

A Champion of Science

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Thomas Henry Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley. Science and Culture
Vol. 28, pp. 209-219 of The Harvard Classics

When science was struggling for a place in popular education, Huxley distinguished himself as its champion. While the arts were to beautify life and increase pleasure, Huxley saw science as a means of benefiting man's prosperity.
(Huxley born May 4, 1825.)

SIX 1 years ago, as some of my present hearers may remember, I had the privilege of addressing a large assemblage of the inhabitants of this city, who had gathered together to do honor to the memory of their famous townsman, Joseph Priestley; and, if any satisfaction attaches to posthumous glory, we may hope that the manes of the burnt-out philosopher were then finally appeased.

Why "Machiavellian"?

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Niccolo Machiavello

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527). The Prince.
Vol. 36, pp. 7-17 of The Harvard Classics

Traveling from court to court in the stirring days of the Renaissance, Machiavelli studied the intrigues of princes. His writings have affected the destiny of mighty dynasties.
(Machiavelli born May 3, 1469.)

I. Of the Various Kinds of Princedom, and of the Ways in Which They Are Acquired

ALL the States and Governments by which men are or ever have been ruled, have been and are either Republics or Princedoms. Princedoms are either hereditary, in which the sovereignty is derived through an ancient line of ancestors, or they are new. New Princedoms are either wholly new, as that of Milan to Francesco Sforza; or they are like limbs joined on to the hereditary possessions of the Prince who acquires them, as the Kingdom of Naples to the dominions of the King of Spain. The States thus acquired have either been used to live under a Prince or have been free; and he who acquires them does so either by his own arms or by the arms of others, and either by good fortune or by merit.

First Sparks of Electricity

Friday, 2 May 2014

Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday. The Forces of Matter, Delivered before a Juvenile Auditory at the Royal Institution of Great Britain during the Christmas Holidays of 1859–60
Vol. 30, pp. 61-72 of The Harvard Classics

Everything has to have a beginning, so too with the science of electricity. Here we learn the very rudiments, the inceptions of science that have revolutionized the world. Faraday explains in a simple way the truths of electricity.

Lecture V.—Magnetism—Electricity

WONDER whether we shall be too deep to-day or not. Remember that we spoke of the attraction by gravitation of all bodies to all bodies by their simple approach. Remember that we spoke of the attraction of particles of the same kind to each other—that power which keeps them together in masses—iron attracted to iron, brass to brass, or water to water. Remember that we found, on looking into water, that there were particles of two different kinds attracted to each other; and this was a great step beyond the first simple attraction of gravitation, because here we deal with attraction between different kinds of matter. The hydrogen could attract the oxygen and reduce it to water, but it could not attract any of its own particles, so that there we obtained a first indication of the existence of two attractions.

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