Saturday, November 9, 2013

Washington Irving Biography

Washington Irving (1783-1859)

v     Irving was America’s first internationally best-selling author.

v     He was also an essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat, serving as minister (ambassador) to Spain from 1842-46.

v     He’s most famous today for his short stories Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, both included in his collection The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., published in 1819. Geoffrey Crayon was the narrator for many of his books.

v     Irving started his career in 1802, age 19, by writing letters to a newspaper, The New York Chronicle. He used the pseudonym, or fake name, Jonathan Oldstyle.

v     In 1807, he and his brother William started a magazine named Salmagundi which made fun of New York culture and politics––similar to today’s Mad Magazine. In this magazine he coined the name Gotham City, for New York City. Gotham actually means “goat’s town.”

v He used many pseudonyms (also called pen names) including William Wizard, and Lancelot Langstaff. Pen names were common in the US in the 19th century, as writers feared literary critics who could ruin their reputations. 
v     In this magazine he coined the name Gotham City, for New York City. Gotham actually means “goat’s town”.

v     He wrote a 5 volume biography of George Washington and another of Mohammad.

The Alhambra, an 11th century palace in Granada, Spain

v     He wrote history books about Christopher Columbus, the Alhambra, and New York City (NYC). His history of NYC, written under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker. The New York Knicks basketball team is named after him - for a long time Knickerbocker was synonymous with New Yorkers. It's also the name of a kind of trouser worn by the Dutch, still worn today in American football and baseball - baggy, and ending just below the knee:

v     In the history of New York, Irving wrote of a dream of St. Nicholas flying in the sky in a wagon, starting the myth of Santa Claus as he’s known today.

v     Irving was appointed first chairman of the Astor Library, beginning the New York Public Library.

v     In England, he won a medal from the Royal Society of Literature, and an honorary doctorate from Oxford.

Personal Life:

Washington Irving was born in Manhattan, NYC, the youngest of eleven children (eight survived. One was actually named Ebenezer! Can you believe it?). His parents were Scottish-English immigrants and merchants. He was born the same year that the USA won the American Revolution, so he was named after Gen. George Washington. At six, he got to meet George Washington, who was living in New York at the time.

Irving’s health was always weak, so his family sent him on many journeys to get him out of the city. He traveled all through New York State and the Catskill mountains, and then throughout Europe. Coming home, he started the magazine Salmagundi, and then started a marketing campaign for his History of New York City. He posted missing-person ads in various newspapers for Diedrich Knickerbocker, as if he were a real person. And, when he published his book under the same name, it was so famous it was an instant hit.

In the War of 1812, Irving served on the staff of Governor Daniel Tomkins. Afterwards, he moved to England in a failed attempt to revive his family’s merchant business, and stayed there for seventeen years, devoting his life to writing stories. He had troubles with copyright piracy. He sent his stories to be published in New York, only to find copies being printed in the UK. So, he found a good publisher, John Miller in London, and started publishing his works at the same time in America and England.
In 1826 Irving went to Madrid to study some documents that had just been made public concerning Columbus and the conquest of America. He wrote A History of the Life of Christopher Columbus which was very successful, and his first work published in his own name. He mixed fact with fiction, creating the genre romantic history. He began the myth that, before Columbus, Europeans believed the world was flat.
In 1832 Irving returned to America and toured the American west, writing A Tour On The Prairies.

Sunnyside, Irving's home in Tarrytown, NY

He bought a home (now a museum) in Tarrytown, near Sleepy Hollow, where he entertained and encouraged many younger authors, including Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens, who came during his American tour. Poe, the "tomahawk man", wasn’t so kind in return, saying,
Irving is much over-rated (precenený), and a nice distinction might be drawn between his just and his surreptitious (secretive) and adventitious (accidental) reputation—between what is due to the pioneer solely (len ako priekopník), and what to the writer.” He was also criticized by others for spending too many years in Europe, writing, “of and for England, rather than his own country.”
Irving’s appointment as Minister to Spain was very difficult, due to the turbulent politics there. He wrote:
“I am wearied and at times heartsick of the wretched politics of this country. . . . The last ten or twelve years of my life, passed among sordid speculators in the United States, and political adventurers in Spain, has shewn me so much of the dark side of human nature, that I begin to have painful doubts of my fellow man; and look back with regret to the confiding period of my literary career, when, poor as a rat, but rich in dreams, I beheld the world through the medium of my imagination and was apt to believe men as good as I wished them to be.”
He died, age 76, of a heart attack in his bedroom. According to legend, his last words were, “Well, I must arrange my pillows for another night. When will this end?” His death was commemorated in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

In The Churchyard In Tarrytown
How sweet a life was his; how sweet a death!
Living, to wing with mirth the weary hours,
Or with romantic tales the heart to cheer;
Dying, to leave a memory like the breath
Of summers full of sunshine and of showers,
A grief and gladness in the atmosphere

The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart
by Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

    TRUE!—nervous—very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses—not destroyed—not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily—how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

    It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

    Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded—with what caution—with what foresight—with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it—oh so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly—very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha!—would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously—oh, so cautiously—cautiously (for the hinges creaked)—I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights—every night just at midnight—but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

    Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers—of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back—but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

    I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying out—"Who's there?"

    I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening;—just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

    Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief—oh, no!—it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself—"It is nothing but the wind in the chimney—it is only a mouse crossing the floor," or "it is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp." Yes, he had been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel—although he neither saw nor heard—to feel the presence of my head within the room.

    When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little—a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it—you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily—until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the-crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

    It was open—wide, wide open—and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness—all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

    And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses?—now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man's heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

    But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment!—do you mark me well? I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now a new anxiety seized me—the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The old man's hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once—once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

    If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

    I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye—not even his—could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out—no stain of any kind—no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all—ha! ha!

    When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o'clock—still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart,—for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

    I smiled,—for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search—search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

    The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct:—it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definiteness—until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

    No doubt I now grew very pale;—but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased—and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound—much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath—and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly—more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men—but the noise steadily increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed—I raved—I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder—louder—louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!—no, no! They heard!—they suspected!—they knew!—they were making a mockery of my horror!—this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!—and now—again!—hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

    "Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks!—here, here!—it is the beating of his hideous heart!"


1. Is the narrator crazy? Why?

2. What job does the narrator have?

3. The narrator says he hears the old man’s heart. What does he really hear?

Monday, November 4, 2013

William Shakespeare: Biography

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

v     Poet and playwright, considered the greatest writer in the English language. His plays have been translated into every language and are the most popular on Earth.

v     While popular in his own lifetime, Shakespeare’s popularity grew to its highest point in the 19th century.

v     He wrote 38 plays consisting of comedies, tragedies, historical works, and romances, also known as tragicomedies.

v     Shakespeare’s comedies include: As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Taming of the Shrew.

v     Shakespeare’s tragedies include: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and Julius Caesar.

v     Shakespeare’s histories include: Richard II & III, and Henry IV, V, VI, & VIII.

v     Shakespeare’s romances include: The Tempest, and The Winter’s Tale.

v     He also wrote 154 sonnets, 2 long narrative poems, and other poems. His poems Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, and A Lover’s Complaint all deal with the guilt and confusion that result from uncontrolled lust.

v     Not very much is known about Shakespeare. Few documents survive, making him a mysterious person. His sonnets offer tantalizing clues, but nothing concrete about his personal life. Even portraits of him were drawn or painted after his death.

v     We know that Shakespeare collaborated with other authors in many of his works, but it’s not always clear who worked with him or when. Scholars say George Wilkins wrote half of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Thomas Middleton may have helped with several plays. And John Fletcher also worked with him on a few.

v     There are theories that some of his works may have been written by others, such as Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, or Edward de Vere – but there’s no evidence to prove it.

Shakespeare's First Folio, Title Page
Engraving by Martin Droeshout

v     The first authoritative edition of his work is the First Folio, published in 1623. Other versions existed before, called quartos. Quartos were printed on cheap paper, and had many errors. They were similar to the pirated versions of films and CD’s which people sell today.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

v     His home town of Stratford-upon-Avon is home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, a theatre troupe which performs his plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. 3 million tourists visit there every year.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, in London

v     In 1997 Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was reconstructed and opened in Southwark, London, near its original spot.

Famous Quotes:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

As You Like It – “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts...”

Hamlet – “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

Julius Caesar – “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Romeo & Juliet – “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?”

Sonnet 18 – “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate...”

Personal Life:

Shakespeare's childhood home in Stratford

Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small town near Birmingham, in central England. He is remembered there as the “Bard of Avon”. His father, John, was a glove maker and an alderman (a town council member). Shakespeare was the 3rd of eight children, and the eldest surviving son. Scholars believe he attended the King’s New School in Stratford, which would have taught him Latin and grammar. He never attended university. Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Arden came from a Catholic family, at a time when Catholocism was outlawed. It’s possible Shakespeare was Catholic, but there’s no evidence.

            At eighteen, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, age twenty-six. They had three children, Susanna (born six months after the wedding), and twins Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet died at age eleven. Susanna grew up and married a physician. Judith married a vintner, just two months before Shakespeare’s death.

At twenty-one he started an acting career in London, joining a theatre troupe called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which performed throughout the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and into to reign of King James I, who became their patron. Shakespeare wrote plays and sometimes acted, rarely taking the leading roles. He also acted in many plays by Ben Johnson.

They played in a number of theatres. After a dispute with one landlord, they tore down the theatre, and carried all the timbers to Southwark where they rebuilt it, naming it the Globe Theatre. It was the first theatre built by and for actors. It burned down in 1613, the same year Shakespeare retired – someone had fired a cannon during a performance, and it hit the roof, starting the blaze. In 1614 it was rebuilt, but it closed down again in 1642. Plays were often closed due to plague – there were 60 months of closure between 1603-1610.

The Globe Theatre, in 1647, illustrated by Václav Hollar
            In 1613 Shakespeare moved to Stratford-upon-Avon, age 49, a wealthy man. He died three years later. Although he has a commemorative plaque at Westminster Abbey, he wasn’t buried there. He was buried in Holy Trinity Church and his body still rests there. An epitaph reads:

Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he yt moves my bones

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Raven Vocabulary

dreary/bleak/desolate – depressing, giving no hope. Typical of a cold, wet, gray day, when all the leaves have fallen from the trees.

to ponder/divine – to wonder, or think about some mystery

weary - tired

lore – stories and legends

ember – a piece of wood or coal that’s burning in the fire

surcease (of sorrow) – and end (of sadness)

to entreat – to ask for or beg

to implore – to beg very strongly

a window lattice – a window decoration, made of wood or iron:

a flirt and flutter of wings – birds fly by flapping their wings.

days of yore – the past

obeisance – a sign of greeting, usually to bow.

a mien/bearing – an attitude, how someone feels at the moment, usually seen through body language.

to perch – to sit. We use this word mostly for birds.

a bust – a sculpture of a person’s head. In this poem it’s the head of Athena, goddess of wisdom:

a placid bust – a quiet and peaceful bust.

to beguile – to trick someone. The narrator is tricked into smiling.

a grave/grim/stern/ghastly countenance – strict, shocking, and horrible appearance.

the crest of a bird – the feathers on his head.

a craven – a coward, (zbabelec).

a fowl – a bird

a gaunt/ungainly fowl – a bird with ugly proportions, a bit fat.

discourse – speaking. The narrator is surprised the raven can speak.

sublunary – lunar means ‘of the moon’, so sublunary is anything ‘under the moon’ – earthly, mortal. ‘Sublunary being’ here means people.

to speak aptly – to speak well, skillfully.

your only stock and store – your only ability. The narrator thinks this bird has only learned one word. If you can only play one song on the guitar, that’s your only stock and store.

to adjure – to ask for, or advise. Here it means to ask for. The narrator thinks the previous owner of this raven must have had a sad life, asking for hope and getting only despair.

to link fancies – to think about a mystery, connecting the dots.

to croak – to make a sound like a frog. If you have a very dry mouth and try to speak, it might sound like a croak. The writer is making fun of the bird's voice. In slang, to croak means to die.

velvet – (zamat), a soft fabric used for clothing and furniture.

to gloat – to shine

a censer – (kadideľnica) a container for incense (kadidlo), burned in churches during mass (omša):

respite – peace and relaxation, to rest between hard work or suffering.

nepenthe – anesthetic, a drug that relieves pain.

to quaff – to drink

the Tempter – the devil, the one who tempts you.

a tempest – a storm

undaunted – resolved, determined, with no doubt or hesitation.

balm in Gilead – a balm is a medicine. This reference comes from the Old Testament: Jeremiah chapter 8 v. 22: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” Also, ‘There is balm in Gilead’ was a traditional folk song at the time.

to adore – to love

Aidenn – heaven, a different spelling of Eden, as in the Garden of Eden.

to clasp – to hold

to part/quit the bust – to leave or separate. “Be that word our sign in parting” means get the hell out.

a plume – a feather

a token – a souvenir

a beak – the mouth of a bird, (zobák)

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

by Edgar Alan Poe (1809-1849)

The Raven, Lithograph by Édouard Manet

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visiter," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door––
                                        Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; -- vainly I had tried to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow -- sorrow for the lost Lenore––
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore––
                                        Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me -- filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door––
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door; ––
                                        This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you " ––here I opened wide the door;––
                                        Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" ––
                                        Merely this, and nothing more.

Then into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore––
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; ––
                                        'Tis the wind and nothing more!"

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door––
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door––
                                        Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore––
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
                                       Quoth the raven "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning -- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no sublunary being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door––
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
                                       With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered -- not a feather then he fluttered––
Till I scarcely more than muttered "Other friends have flown before––
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
                                       Quoth the raven "Nevermore."

Wondering at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster so when Hope he would adjure––
Stern Despair returned, instead of the sweet Hope he dared adjure––
                                       That sad answer, "Never––nevermore."

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore––
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
                                       Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
                                        She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee -- by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite -- respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore;
Let me quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
                                        Quoth the raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! -- prophet still, if bird or devil!––
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted––
On this home by Horror haunted -- tell me truly, I implore––
Is there -- is there balm in Gilead? -- tell me -- tell me, I implore!"
                                        Quoth the raven "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil -- prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us -- by that God we both adore––
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore––
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
                                        Quoth the raven "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting––
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! -- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
                                       Quoth the raven "Nevermore."

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                                        Shall be lifted––nevermore


Edgar Allan Poe Biography

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

v     Poe was a writer, poet, editor, and harsh literary critic, once called the "tomahawk man".
v     His stories are among the most famous and important of the American Romantic movement, alternatively called Dark Romanticism and Gothic literature. His stories are full of mystery and the macabre (hrozný a strašidelný).
v     He was the first American to try to make a living just from writing. It was very difficult. There were no international copy-right laws, so publishers could simply take the best English writings and print them freely, rather than paying an American to write something. Often times they’d refuse to pay a writer, or do so much later than promised.
v     Poe became instantly famous all across America in 1845 with his poem The Raven. He was only paid $9 for its publication.

v     Poe was also the first American writer to be more popular in Europe than America. His stories were translated into French by Charles Baudelaire.
v     He invented the detective story genre with his detective character C. Auguste Dupin.
“Each [of Poe's detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed.... Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
v     Poe wrote some of the earliest science fiction. Jules Vern wrote a sequal to one of Poe’s stories – The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket.
v     In 1848 Poe wrote an essay titled Eureka: A Prose Poem, discussing his theories regarding cosmology. Although it was filled with scientific errors, and Poe never considered it a scientific article, it predicted the Big Bang theory 80 years before it was accepted by science.

v A group called the Mystery Writers of America present an award each year called the Edgar Award, in his honor.
Poe's Personal Life
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts to a family of poor traveling actors. At a young age his father abandoned his family, and his mother died soon after from consumption (tuberculosis). Poe and his two siblings became orphans, and they were sent to different families.
Edgar’s older brother Henry was a poet and, for a time, a sailor, traveling around the world. He was an inspiration to Edgar. He died of tuberculosis and/or alcoholism in 1831. There’s some uncertainty as to whether Henry or Edgar wrote certain poems.
Edgar was taken in by John Allan of Richmond Virginia, a merchant and slave-trader. Edgar’s relation with this family was difficult, which led Edgar's rebellious nature. Poe sometimes lied about his name and age, calling himself at various times Henri Le Rennet, and Edgar A. Perry.
From 1815-1820 the Allans moved to England, and Edgar attended a number of boarding schools. Returning from England, Edgar argued with John Allan about money for university. Edgar said he needed it for tuition and books, but meanwhile he owed large gambling debts. After a year he decided to run away to Boston, finding any jobs he could. He wrote his first book of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems anonymously, “by a Bostonian.”
Unable to find a good job, Poe enlisted in the US Army at the age of 18, and served for two years. But, he complained to his superior that he wanted to end his service early, and apply to West Point, a military college. His commanding officer agreed so long as Poe reconciled with his foster father, John Allan.
Arriving home, he discovered his foster mother had died the day before. Embarrassed for not writing to Edgar, John Allan agreed to support him at West Point. But, John Allan soon remarried, and amid several affairs and illegitimate children that John had, Edgar and he argued so often that John soon disowned him.
After two years at West Point, Edgar decided to quit, refusing to attend formations, classes, or church, for which he was court-martialed. His next book of poems was financed in part from fellow students who raised $170 to publish it.
Edgar went from magazine to magazine throughout America, working as an editor, literary critic, and author. He never stayed very long in one place, and struggled with alcohol, like his brother. At age 26 he married his 13 year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. Their marriage lasted twelve years, until she died of tuberculosis.
As a critic, Edgar particularly disliked transcendentalism as well as the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He felt Longfellow was a plagiarist, and the transcendentalist philosophy was “metaphor––run mad” and “mysticism for mysticism’s sake”. Ralph Waldo Emerson didn’t like Poe much, either. He referred to Poe as “the jingle man,” and said of The Raven “I see nothing in it.”
Poe died age 40, in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance." He was taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died four days later. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he wound up in the street, and, wearing clothes that were not his own. Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say Poe's final words were "Lord help my poor soul." All medical records, including his death certificate, have been lost. Newspapers at the time reported Poe's death as "congestion of the brain" or "cerebral inflammation", common euphemisms for disreputable causes such as alcoholism. A recent film starring John Cusack even suggested a conspiracy, but the film was highly fictional.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

v     Nature was an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson, written in 1836. It’s about 22 pages long.

v     This essay explains transcendentalism – that you can find divinity (Godliness) in nature, all around you. Emerson called it a Universal Soul, or Reason. The idea is that, if everything on Earth was made by God, then each little thing tells you something about God.

“What is a farm but a mute gospel? The chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects, sun, ––it is a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring to the last stack which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields. But the sailor, the shepherd, the miner, the merchant, in their several resorts, have each an experience precisely parallel, and leading to the same conclusion: because all organizations are radically alike. Nor can it be doubted that this moral sentiment which thus scents the air, grows in the grain, and impregnates the waters of the world, is caught by man and sinks into his soul. The moral influence of nature upon every individual is that amount of truth which it illustrates to him. Who can estimate this? Who can guess how much firmness the sea-beaten rock has taught the fisherman?”

v     Emerson believed that nature united everything, from animals to the arts and sciences:

“Not only resemblances exist in things whose analogy is obvious, as when we detect the type of the human hand in the flipper of the fossil saurus, but also in objects wherein there is great superficial unlikeness. Thus architecture is called "frozen music," by De Stael and Goethe. Vitruvius thought an architect should be a musician. "A Gothic church," said Coleridge, "is a petrified religion." Michael Angelo maintained, that, to an architect, a knowledge of anatomy is essential.”

v     This essay is divided into eight sections, titled: Nature, Commodity, Beauty, Language, Discipline, Idealism, Spirit, and Prospects

v     In the essay, nature isn’t just the woods and rivers. It’s the physical world – everything around you, including art, science, and your physical body - everything but your soul.

v     In the section titled Nature, Emerson discusses how it serves human needs: as entertainment/delight, for communication, and for understanding our world.

v     Emerson argued that people do not fully accept nature’s beauty and all it has to offer. He said most people don’t see, or notice, nature the way a child does. That we lose something by growing up – a poetic or artistic way of seeing.

v     He suggested that people stay in solitude to better develop their relation with nature.

“In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child.”

v     Commodity has to do with all the gifts from the earth. the main idea is we shouldn’t gripe or complain about our world, but be thankful for everything it offers.

“this ocean of air above, this ocean of water beneath, this firmament of earth between? this zodiac of lights, this tent of dropping clouds, this striped coat of climates, this fourfold year? Beasts, fire, water, stones, and corn serve him. The field is at once his floor, his work-yard, his play-ground, his garden, and his bed.”

v     Emerson didn’t believe that human technology was against nature. His argument was that it imitated nature.

“The useful arts are reproductions or new combinations by the wit of man, of the same natural benefactors. He no longer waits for favoring gales, but by means of steam, he realizes the fable of Aeolus's bag, and carries the two and thirty winds in the boiler of his boat.”

v     Emerson felt that the natural world was a gift so beautiful, it made us all richer than kings:

“Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous. The dawn is my Assyria; the sun-set and moon-rise my Paphos, and unimaginable realms of faerie; broad noon shall be my England of the senses and the understanding; the night shall be my Germany of mystic philosophy and dreams.”

v     What makes the world so beautiful isn’t simply all the nice, scenery, but the fact that it’s there even when not expected, to remind us of our place, and to provide beauty when we’re struggling.

“Go out of the house to see the moon, and ’t is mere tinsel; it will not please as when its light shines upon your necessary journey.”

v     In Language, Emerson explains how all our words and expressions come from nature.

“An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.”

v     Emerson uses the word Discipline to mean a subject, like a school subject. Nature is itself a subject you can learn from. It’s a teacher, lesson book, and a classroom. Every science class you take, every literature and history class, even PE, they’re all different sides of the discipline of nature.

v     Through the discipline of nature, we learn common sense, and the nature of property, debt, and credit. Emerson compared property to snow:

“if it fall level to-day, it will be blown into drifts to-morrow”

v     Through the discipline of nature, we can learn morals – right and wrong:

“All things are moral; . . . every chemical change from the rudest crystal up to the laws of life; every change of vegetation from the first principle of growth in the eye of a leaf, to the tropical forest and antediluvian coal-mine; every animal function from the sponge up to Hercules, shall hint or thunder to man the laws of right and wrong, and echo the Ten Commandments. Therefore is nature ever the ally of Religion: lends all her pomp and riches to the religious sentiment.”

v     Everything we buy and consume can teach us morals. Think of common objects like pencils, cups, shoes, coats, eyeglasses, etc. Emerson saw them as servants:

“. . . the use of commodity, regarded by itself, is mean and squalid. But it is to the mind an education in the doctrine of Use, namely, that a thing is good only so far as it serves; . . .”