Monthly Archives: May 2014

Wisdom from Seneca

All passages come from Seneca’s priceless The Letters of a Stoic [the Robin Campbell translation]

“Letter II”…It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more. What difference does it make how much there is laid away in a man’s safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interests, if he is always after what is another’s and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already (34).

 

“Letter III”
-Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one (though I should call the first the worthier and the second the safer behaviour) (36).

“Letter V”
-The very name of philosophy, however modest the manner in which it is pursued, is unpopular enough as it is: imagine what the reaction would be if we started dissociating ourselves from the conventions of society. Inwardly everything should be different but our outward face should conform with the crowd…Let our aim be a way of life not diametrically opposed to, but better than that of the mob. Otherwise we shall repel and alienate the very people whose reform we desire; we shall make them, moreover, reluctant to imitate us in anything for fear they may have to imitate us in everything (37).
-…one’s life should be a compromise between the ideal and the popular morality. People should admire our way of life but they should at the same time find it understandable (37-38).

’Cease to hope,’ he [Hecato] says, ‘and you will cease to fear.’ …Widely different though they are, the two of them march in unison like a prisoner and the escort he is handcuffed to. Fear keeps pace with hope…both belong to a mind in suspense, to a mind in a state of anxiety through looking into the future. Both are mainly due to projecting our thoughts far ahead of us instead of adapting ourselves to the present. Thus it is that foresight, the greatest blessing humanity has been given, is transformed into a curse. Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present (38).

“Letter XVI”
-…making noble resolutions is not as important as keeping the resolutions you have made already. You have to preserve and fortify your pertinacity until the will to good becomes a disposition to good (63).

 

“Letter XVIII

...it takes a more developed sense of fitness, on the other hand, not to make oneself a person apart, to be neither indistinguishable from those about one nor conspicuous by one’s difference, to do the same things but not in quite the same manner (66-67).
-It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself to deal with difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favours on it then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs. .If you want a man to keep his head when the crisis comes you must give him so training before it comes.

“Letter XXXVIII”
-What is required is not a lot of words but effectual ones.
-…precepts have the same features as seeds: they are of compact dimensions and they produce impressive results—given, as I say, the right sort of mind, to grasp at and assimilate them. The mind will then respond by being in its turn creative and will produce a yield exceeding what was put into it. (82)

“Letter XL”
-…there’s no state of slavery more disgraceful than one which is self-imposed (95).

“Letter XCI”
So the spirit must be trained to a realization of its lot. It must come to see that there is nothing fortune will shrink from, that she wields the same authority over emperor and empire alike and the same power over cities as over men. There’s no ground for resentment in all this. We’ve entered into a world in which these are the terms life is lived on—if you’re satisfied with that, submit to them, if you’re not, get out, whatever way you please. Resent a thing by all means if it represents an injustice decreed against yourself personally; but if this same constraint is binding on the lowest and the highest alike, make your peace with destiny, the destiny that unravels all ties (181-82).

From Ovid’s *Metamorphoses* [Lines on Impermanence and Inter-being];

From Ovid’s Metamorphoses [Lines on Impermanence and Inter-being]; all passages from the Horace Gregory translation (which, unfortunately, does not contain line numbers. The passages appear in the section called “The Philosopher,” who seems to be Pythagoras]

And so I ride (which is my metaphor)
A full-sailed ship upon an endless sea,
A universe where nothing stays the same.
Sea, sky, wind, earth, and time forever changing—
Time like a river in its ceaseless motion:
On, on, each speeding hour cannot stand still,
But as waves, thrust by waves, drive waves before them
So time runs first or follows forever new:
The flying moment gone, what once seemed never
Is now, which vanishes before we say it,
Each disappearing moment in a cycle,
Each loss replaced within the living hour

[Book XV, p. 419]

Nothing retains the shape of what it was,
And Nature, always making old things new,
Proves nothing dies within the universe,
But takes another being in new forms.
What is called birth is change from what we were,
And death the shape of being left behind.
Though all things melt or grow from here to there,
Yet the same balance of the world remains.

Nothing, no nothing keeps its outward show,
For golden ages turn to years of iron;
And Fortune changes many looks of places.
I’ve seen land turn to miles of flood-tossed waters,
Or land rise up within a restless sea;
Shells have been found upon a sanded plain
With never an ocean or a ship in sight,
Someone has seen an anchor turn to rust,
Caught among brushes on a mountaintop.
Stormed by great cataracts, a wide plateau
Turns to a valley and Spring floods have swept
Far hills into chambers of the sea.
And where a swamp once flowed beneath the willows,
Is now a strip of sand, and where a desert was,
A little lake sways under growing reeds.
[p. 421-22]

*Hamlet*–impermanence and inter-being

Hamlet [5.1.198-205]

Hamlet:

Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander
returneth to dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make
loam; and why of that loam whereto he was converted
might they not stop a beer barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
O, that that earth which kept the world in awe
Should patch a wall t’ expel the winter’s flaw!

4.3.26-30 [King=K, Hamlet=H]
H: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a
king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.

K: What dost thou mean by this?

H:
Nothing but to show you how a king may go a
progress through the guts of a beggar.

“Stalker”

A traditional ballad by Paul Burgess [Traditional ballad form=stanzas of 4 lines; lines 1 and 3-unrhymed iambic tetrameter; lines 2 and 4, rhymed iambic trimeter; ballad writers are encouraged to use strategically placed anapests.]

“Stalker”
While resting in her lover’s arms,
She whispered quietly,
“Wherever you decide to go,
You’ll never escape from me.”

Then gently he replied, “My love,
I’d rather not be free.”
Again she said, more quietly than before,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

In time he’d had enough and thought,
“She surely will agree
To end our love,” but she only said,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

One day he rose before the sun,
To leave at five ‘til three
And found this message scratched on his car:
“You’ll never escape from me.”

Some months he passed in soothing peace,
Enjoying liberty,
‘til seeing carved on his door these words:
“You’ll never escape from me.”

Another time he came upon
His kitten nailed to a tree,
And its collar held a note that read,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

The kitten’s killer called to say,
“You have no empathy,”
Then these familiar words of hers,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

He sensed a person in his house,
Though no one had a key.
With ev’ry bullet fired, she screamed,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

She put the gun inside her mouth
And counted, “One, two, three,”
Then whispered quietly sev’ral times,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

The trigger only clicked in vain,
For no ammo left had she.
While loading one more slug she hummed,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

Before she could destroy herself,
A threat’ning man she’d see
Who aimed his weapon while he said,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

Then Sergeant Jones prepared her to live
In police custody
Where prison walls to her would say,
“You’ll never escape from me.”

5 Limericks a Day [to Keep the Dr. Away] By Paul O’Burgess (Day 13)

“A Wife’s Warning”
“If you forget to water my plants,
You’ll discover some pins in your pants.
You won’t know when or where
‘til you sit in a chair
And regret not wat’ring my plants.”

“An Odd Duck”
There was once a man who would stare
At objects that really weren’t there.
He’d stare at his wife,
The love of his life—
A gal made of delusions and air.

“Fishboy”
A boy who resembled a fish
Was captured then served as a dish.
‘Twas a pity he died
Once salted and fried
By a lady who’d thought him a fish.

“Fisherboy”
A boy who resides near the brooks
Is having some trouble with hooks.
He should probably wait
‘til he masters the bait
Before he tries baiting more hooks.

“Cowboy”
There’s a lad with a cow for a pet
Who once asked, when his heart was upset,
“Oh, cow, what shall I do?
The cow’s answer was “Moo!”
He’s since “mooed’ at all people he’s met.

 

 

I Have a Muse. It’s Dr. Seuss.

Dawne shares some valuable thoughts on poetry and a clever poem of her own.

Dawne Webber

I took a college level course in creative writing over the summer. A few hours of class were devoted to reading poetry. Except for two tokens poems by Robert Frost, they were all free verse.

I liked some of the free verse but personally, I have a fondness for the classics: Tennyson, Dickinson, Frost. Free verse reigned supreme in class though.  A little bit of pompous literary bias going on, but I overlooked it.

Until we were told to write three poems. That was literally the extent of our instruction into writing poetry. I’ve made the foray into poetry a few times on this blog. Actually, it’s fauxetry because I have no idea how to write poetry. Except for the rhyming. I rhyme and meter with the best of them.

But rhyming was frowned upon. So I tried my hand at free verse. Words flowed out of me, oh so…

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“The Magic Fish” a Faerie Tale

A Faerie Tale in Formal Verse [Couplets of Iambic Pentameter] by Paul Burgess

A lady came across a magic fish
that vowed to grant her anything she’d wish.
He asked, “How ’bout a young and charming prince?”
The lady’s answer caused the fish to wince:
“What’s wanted by this starving little lass
could be supplied by any normal bass.
As soon as we arrive at Mother’s hut,
you’ll be prepared to go inside my gut.
I requested that a genie give me fish–
He sent you, and to eat you now’s my wish.