thought for the day
nytimes illiteracy #2: false heroines

Author Birthdays

LimeyMoi Two important writers birthdays this weekend and I forgot both of 'em until just now: Yesterday was the 127th anniversary of the birth of my favorite woman writer, Virginia Woolf. I've always loved the way she captures thought processes and interior life, and the metaphors she uses to describe it. Here's a little excerpt from my favorite of her books, The Waves to illustrate what I mean. This is Bernard:

". . . I am at liberty now to sink down, deep, into what passes, this omnipresent, general life. . . . I have no ambition. I will let myself be carried on by the general impulse. The surface of my mind slips along like a pale-grey stream reflecting what passes. . . . We insist, it seems on living. Then again, indifference descends. . . . And, what is this moment of time, this particular day in which I have found my self caught? The growl of traffic might be any uproar --- forest trees or the roar of wild beasts. . . . beneath these pavements are shells, bones and silence."

This is such a beautifully poetic book, full of breathtaking images like the last one. Now I want to read this again.

And today is the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth, generally celebrated by the consumption of haggis and scotch, playing of bagpipes and the recitation of poetry. And though Burns is best known for his Scottish patriotic sentiments as well as for his poems and songs, and for his drinking and swiving, I think he must have had a bit of a gentle heart, if my my favorite poem of his is any indication (this is from the "official" Burns site, so the links to odd Scottish terms go back to their glossary):

To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murd'ring pattle!

I'm truly sorry man's dominion,
Has broken nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An' fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
'S a sma' request;
I'll get a blessin wi' the lave,
An' never miss't!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It's silly wa's the win's are strewin!
An' naething, now, to big a new ane,
O' foggage green!
An' bleak December's winds ensuin,
Baith snell an' keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin fast,
An' cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell-
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro' thy cell.

That wee bit heap o' leaves an' stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou's turn'd out, for a' thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter's sleety dribble,
An' cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,
An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!


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Looks as if it is too late for me to send them birthday greetings. ;-)

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