resilience

Rummaging around in the library that day I happened upon this by a favorite former professor, Jody Maxmin (I didn’t know she was also a poet):

Resilience

When it became apparent
to the long-wandering Ithacan,
weary and morose, far from home,
that Euryalos’ snide sneer —
“you don’t look like an athlete” —
was aimed at the very soul of his being,
his first impulse was to doubt himself,
to doubt he still possessed the
necessary strength to shine
among the curious Phæacians.
His arm seemed too unpractised,
his will worn too thin by the consuming sea,
to lift the discus, let alone attempt to throw it.
But then, remembering the rousing words of Peleus,
“To be the best and excel over others,”
he sensed the fiery old determination
coursing through his tawny limbs,
and he grabbed the biggest discus,
and hurled it way beyond the rest.

[Printed as a headquote in The Ages of Homer: A Tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule]

resilience

to & fro

Upon the foure and twentieth day of the eleventh moneth, which is the moneth Sebat, in the second yere of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the sonne of Barachiah, the sonne of Iddo the Prophet, saying:
I saw by night, and behold a man riding vpon a red horse, and he stood among the mirtle trees that were in the bottome, and behinde him were there red horses, speckled and white.
Then said I, O my Lord, what are these? And the Angel that talked with me, said vnto me, I wil shew thee what these be.
And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered, and said, These are they, whom the Lord hath sent to walke to and fro through the earth.
And they answered the Angel of the Lord that stood among the mirtle trees, and said, Wee haue walked to and fro through the earth: and behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.

to & fro

slow reading

Readings

You asked me what is the good of reading the Gospels in Greek.
I answer that it is proper that we move our finger
Along letters more enduring than those carved in stone,
And that, slowly pronouncing each syllable,
We discover the true dignity of speech.
Compelled to be attentive we shall think of that epoch
No more distant than yesterday. Yet still it is the same eon.
Fear and desire are the same, oil and wine
And bread mean the same. So does the fickleness of the throng
Avid for miracles as in the past. Even mores,
Wedding festivities, drugs, laments for the dead
Only seem to differ. Then, too, for example,
There were plenty of persons whom the text calls
Daimonizomenoi, that is, the demonized
Or, if you prefer, the bedeviled (as for “the possessed”
It’s no more than the whim of a dictionary).
Convulsions, foam at the mouth, the gnashing of teeth
Were not considered signs of talent.
The demonized had no access to print and screens,
Rarely engaging in arts and literature.
But the Gospel parable remains in force:
That the spirit mastering them may enter swine,
Which, exasperated by such a sudden clash
Between two natures, theirs and the Luciferic,
Jump into water and drown (which occurs repeatedly).
And thus on every page a persistent reader
Sees twenty centuries as twenty days
In a world which one day will come to its end.

[Czesław Miłosz, Bells in Winter (1978)]

slow reading

ignis fatuus

An idiosyncrasy peculiar to the herring is that, when dead, it begins to glow; this property, which resembles phosphorescence and is yet altogether different, peaks a few days after death and then ebbs away as the fish decays. For a long time no one could account for this glowing of the lifeless herring, and indeed I believe that it still remains unexplained. Around 1870, when projects for the total illumination of our cities were everywhere afoot, two English scientists with the apt names of Herrington and Lightbown investigated the unusual phenomenon in the hope that the luminous substance exuded by dead herrings would lead to a formula for an organic source of light that had the capacity to regenerate itself. The failure of this eccentric undertaking, as I read some time ago in a history of artificial light, constituted no more than a negligible setback in the relentless conquest of darkness.
[W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn]

ignis fatuus

eyes, peeled

Reading, like speech, is an ancient, preliterate craft. We read the tracks and scat of animals, the depth and lustre of their coats, the set of their ears and the gait of their limbs. We read the horns of sheep, the teeth of horses. We read the weights and measures of the wind, the flight of birds, the surface of the sea, snow, fossils, broken rocks, the growth of shrubs and trees and lichens. We also read, of course, the voices that we hear. We read the speech of jays, ravens, hawks, frogs, wolves, and, in infinite detail, the voices, faces, gestures, coughs and postures of other human beings. This is a serious kind of reading, and it antedates all but the earliest, most involuntary form of writing, which is the leaving of prints and traces, the making of tracks.

[Robert Bringhurst, A Story as Sharp as a Knife (1999)]

eyes, peeled

Wych Elm

I wrapped my tears in an ellum leaf
And left them under a stone…

[From Ezra Pound’s “La Fraisne” (1909). Some editions preface the poem with a note: “Scene: The Ash Wood of Malvern.” Fraisne = mod. French Frêne (Latin Fraxinus, English Ash). All of the trees mentioned in the poem are found in the Malvern Hills.]

Wych Elm