"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kiss Today



"IN this Æglogue two shepheards boyes taking occasion of the season, beginne to make purpose of loue and other pleasaunce, which to springtime is most agreeable. The speciall meaning hereof is, to giue certaine markes and tokens, to know Cupide the Poets God of Loue. But more particularlye I thinke, in the person of Thomalin is meant some secrete freend, who scorned Loue and his knights so long, till at length him selfe was entangled, and unwares wounded with the dart of some beautifull regard, which is Cupides arrowe.

Thomalin, why sytten we soe,
As weren ouerwent with woe,
Vpon so fayre a morow?
The ioyous time now nighest fast,
That shall alegge this bitter blast,
And slake the winters sorowe.

Sicker Wyllie, thou warnest well:
For Winters wrath beginnes to quell,
And pleasant spring appeareth.
The grasse now ginnes to be refresht,
The Swallow peepes out of her nest,
And clowdie Welkin cleareth.
" [Welkin = sky, heavens]

Woodcut illustration
and poet's introduction and opening stanzas
for the Month of March
from "The Shepheardes Calender," 1579
by Edmund Spenser, English Poet (1552 - 1599)

With the coming of March, Cupid, "little Love," as the shepherds call him, has awakened and is sneaking about the woods, "abroad at his game." He flits behind trees and bushes, betrayed by the vivid colors of his "winges of purple and blewe . . . spotted winges like Peacockes trayne." [You'll notice that Spenser wrote back in the good old days when you didn't have to remember your apostrophes!]

Also easy to envision is Emily Dickinson's breezy personification of March walking down the path and bursting through the front door. The narrator welcomes March with open arms, a kiss perhaps. Sometimes March is a Lion, sometimes a Lamb, but for Dickinson, March is a Gentleman Caller:

Dear March, come in!
How glad I am!
I looked for you before.
Put down your hat--
You must have walked --
How out of breath you are!
Dear March, how are you?
And the rest?
Did Nature leave you well?
Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,
I have so much to tell! --Emily Dickinson

March and the Poet are left to catch up on all the latest gossip before April arrives, much as Spenser's two shepherds discuss their strategies for love and courtship in the coming months, one imparting advice to the other:

"Let be, as may be, that is past:
That is to come, let be forecast.
Now tell vs, what thou hast seene.

In other words:

Kiss today goodbye,
The sweetness and the sorrow.
Wish me luck, the same to you.
But I can't regret
What I did for love,
what I did for love.

Look my eyes are dry.
The gift was ours to borrow.
It's as if we always knew,
And I won't forget
what I did for love,
What I did for love.

Love is never gone.
As we travel on,
Love's what we'll remember.

Kiss today goodbye,
And point me toward tomorrow.
We did what we had to do.
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for

lyrics by by Edward Kleban
from A Chorus Line
music by Marvin Hamlisch

In the center are the two conversing shepherds, behind them is winged Cupid, and above them is the zodiac symbol for Aries, the Ram. To the left is Love's victim, "entangled [in a fowling net], and unwares wounded by the dart . . . of Cupides arrowe" and to the right is Thomalin fighting with Love, throwing stones to no avail.

Thomalin's rueful conclusion about the difficulties
of Love in the Springtime,
i.e., the Sweetness and the Sorrow:
Of Hony and of Gaule in loue there is store:
The Honye is much, but the Gaule is more.

Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, March 14th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Take a look at
my running list of recent reading

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Year of the Tiger


At an art exhibit many years ago, I saw a wooden sculpture of a cat sitting atop a metal climbing frame, entitled "Little Tiger in the House." How I would love to see that again, but I don't know where to find it or who the sculptor was. How could I have neglected to write that name down?

Two of my own Little Tigers in the House
Josef (left, in 1993) & Pine (right, in 2007)
Same Chairs: Refinished & Reupholstered

In observation of the Year of the Tiger, here a few of my favorite fortune cookie proverbs that I have saved over the years.

1. "Answer just what your heart prompts you."

As I was once advised in real life (not in a cookie) when I was mulling over a potentially very bad decision: "You can go ahead and toy with that idea all you want, but I don't think your psyche will ever let you do it." How reassuring to think that my psyche was on the job, looking out for me, prompting me.

That thought has never left me. Even now, it is very reassuring to think that my psyche should care so much about me and be so trustworthy, that at some level, I have my own best interests at heart -- not just selfishly, but protectively! I am not self - destructive. The capacity to choose correctly is already within me, quietly working away on my behalf, giving me the confidence to answer just what my heart prompts me!

As Steve Jobs advises, "Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become" (Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005).

2. "Stop searching forever, happiness is just next to you."

Not in Oz. In Kansas.

3. "Launch a regiment for a new healthier you!"

This is my all - time favorite. I like the idea, even if unintentional, that it might require more than a "regimen" -- it might require a "regiment"! You have to be aggressive in the quest for health and happiness!

I don't recall exactly when or where these fortunes came into my life, but I've had them magneted to three successive refrigerators for well over a decade and have transported them with me through two moves -- that's how much I value them!

I carefully removed them from my refrigerator in 2001, and packed them for our move across town, from one side of Philadelphia to the other; and again in 2004 when we returned to Indiana. Just little scraps of paper, but I'm hanging on to them. So many others have gone by the wayside -- all that take-out, all those buffets -- but these three are keepers.

Fortune cookies always remind me of that section in The Joy Luck Club, when the Joy Luck Aunties first come to America and find work at the cookie factory, inserting silly, pointless fortune-like dictums into the hot cookies as they come off the assembly line: axioms such as "Money is the root of all evil. Look around you and dig deep."

Auntie An-mei then translates back into Chinese for Auntie Lindo:

"Money is a bad influence. You become restless and rob graves."

"What is this nonsense," I [Lindo] asked her, putting the strips of paper in my pocket, thinking I should study these classical American sayings.

"They are fortunes, she [An-mei] explained. "American people think Chinese people write these sayings."

"But we never say such things!" I said. "These things don't make sense. These are not fortunes, they are bad instructions"

from The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan, 262

It's true. Break open your fortune cookie or your Christmas Cracker and more often than not you will find some ridiculous little proverb whose so-called meaning evaporates even as your read it aloud. Luckily, though, every once in awhile, Fate makes an exception and offers an idea you can run with, one that will speak to your heart and bring you Good Fortune.Joy Luck: "It's not that we had no heart or eyes for pain. We were all afraid. We all had our miseries. But to despair was to wish back for something already lost. . . . What was worse . . . to sit and wait . . . Or to choose our own happiness? . . . So we decided to hold parties and pretend each week had become the new year. . . . And each week we could hope to be lucky. That hope was our only joy. And that's how we came to call our little parties Joy Luck" (from The Joy Luck Club, 24 -25).

Happy New Year of the Tiger! Joy! Luck! Good Fortune!

Next Fortnightly Post
Sunday, February 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Take a look at
my running list of recent reading