Tag Archives: Renaissance

“The Blinding of the Cyclops Polyphemus”

Modern Heroic Couplets by Paul Burgess–inspired by a scene in Homer [Book 9 of The Odyssey; one might view these lines as a compressed adaptation and modernization of a much longer passage.]

While clutching at his mutilated eye,
To Ulysses, the Cyclops gave reply:
“An oracle, whose words I could recite,
Predicted that the man who’d take my sight
Would be the famous hero Ulysses.
From mini morsels, shorter than my knees,
I had no fear of death or even harm—
A shadow might have caused me more alarm!
Assuming only force could make me blind,
I was not ready for a deadly mind.

 

–Anyone interested in Homer, Classical Poetry, or Early Modern English Literature* should check out George Chapman’s brilliant translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey. The following link leads to information on an inexpensive edition of the translation so famously praised by Keats: http://www.amazon.com/Chapmans-Homer-Odyssey-Classics-Literature/dp/1840221178/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401367076&sr=1-3&keywords=wordsworth+classics+chapman%27s+homer

*from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods in which Shakespeare was one among several brilliant minds

“Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas”

Below you’ll find a cheesy, didactic poem I composed in ’06 when an assignment required us to write about a work of art. The poem demonstrates, yet again, why I tend to stick to “nonsense” verse.

“Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas
Head dangling over oily crimson ground—
A grisly dripping feast for a hound—
Does he now curse the sweetly singing sound
Of that once discarded instrument he found?

As he’s being peeled like some soft, ripe fruit,
Does he wish he’d never blown into that flute?
For the tunes he played, he grew to so admire
As to claim them fine as those of Apollo’s lyre.

Did he unwisely neglect to recall
The tragic fate that one day did befall
Arachne—challenger of the grey-eyed Goddess—
Notoriously punished for her art’s success?

Perhaps he remembers, as coldly his death nears,
How came old King Midas to possess asses’ ears
And realizes that he has been such a sorry fool
To incite the wrath of a god not often cruel.

Though the ever-steady hand of Phoebus slowly flays
The sinful satyr, ‘tis truly hubris that slays
Him and dyes the barks of pines forever red
As the one on which his final blood is bled.

Edgar Allan Poe, Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots, and Ernest Hemingway–4 Clerihews by Paul Burgess

“Edgar Allan Poe”
Edgar “Raven” Allan Poe
To cemeteries liked to go
And mourn the cousins lying dead
Who nevermore would share his bed. *

*While many of my clerihews are absurd, this one comes somewhat close to the truth.

“Marie Antoinette”
The queen, Marie Antoinette,
In Vegas made a foolish bet.
She wagered both her neck and head
On men forgetting what she’d said.

“Mary Queen of Scots”
Mary, lovely Queen of Scots,
Refused to sleep on hay or cots.
She cried, “This cot’s no feather bed!”
Queen Bess* replied, “Off with her head!”

*Elizabeth I’s nickname.

“Ernest Hemingway”
Insecure old* Ernest Hemingway
Was afraid that people’d think him gay*,
So he vowed he’d never leave Japan
‘til he’d fought Godzilla like a man.*

*In the first foot of each line, I have used anapests instead of iambs.
*Hemingway was the sort of “manly man” who would exaggerate his masculinity to alleviate his sexual confusion.

*I apologize for the sexist assumption that only men would fight Godzilla.

Elizabeth I–the 5th Clerihew by Paul Burgess

A clerihew about the brilliant “virgin” queen:

“Elizabeth I”
Good Queen Elizabeth the First
Among all liars was the worst.
She was a virgin, people said,
Including those who shared her bed.
(Alternate ending: Because they’d rather keep their head[s]…)

Devil’s Derivations (or Etymologies from Hell) By Dr. Burgess [#3]

“Television”
Although the television was invented in the 20th century, the word “television”—originally the phrase “tell ye vision”—was coined centuries earlier by Henry VIII’s friend Tomas Morris. A passage in Morris’s pastoral allegory Mootopia mentions a device that would save people the effort of thinking through views or arriving at their own opinions. The device would tell one how to view all aspects of life; as one character in Mootopia says to another,
         With it to tell ye vision, you’ll need no eyes.
         It’ll tell ye, “Here you’ll love and there despise.”

Inventors in the 20th century were inspired by the idea of a product that they thought might increase economic productivity by reducing the amount of effort that people would need to put into thought. When trying to find a name more appealing than “idiot box,” inventors remembered Tomas Morris’s famous “Tell ye vision” couplet and decided that “television” had a nice ring.

Devil’s Derivations (or Etymologies from Hell) [Day 2]

“Foreign”
Two words still in use combined to form this originally xenophobic term. Like the Ancient Greeks, who considered all non-Greeks “barbarians,” the Early Modern Brits thought of all outsiders as enemies and referred to other kingdoms as places where the “foe reigns”. [Pronunciation of the first syllable has changed gradually from “foe” to “for”].

The earliest recorded use of the term appears in Gilliam Tremblestaff’s tragedy Spamlet:
“As long as Philip wears the crown in Spain,
That land I’ll loathe and always call ‘foe-reign'”.