Top 10 Books I read in 2017

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I read 34 books in 2017. Short of my goal of 50. This year I set my goal at 48 and will up my game.

Of the 34 books I read here are my top 10 favorites:

  1. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
  2. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy
  3. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
  4. Across the River and into the Trees, by Ernest Hemingway
  5. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, by Simone de Beauvoir
  6. Old Path White Clouds, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  7. Sabbath’s Theater, by Philip Roth
  8. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
  9. Shakespeare The Inventor of the Human, by Harold Bloom
  10. So you Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood, by Patrick Modiano

The God of Small Things is by far my favorite book of the year.

What are some of yours?

ALL NIGHT DINER

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Night of the all-night diners, the yellow window machine shop night where daylight was being prepared on lathes . Night of the thunderous anvils preparing the cities ironheart for tomorrow’s iron traffic. Night of the city lovers, the Saturday night till Sunday morning lovers, Making Love on a rented bed with the rent not due till Monday.

-Nelsen Algren, Man with the Golden Arm

Leda and The Swan

A Poem by William Butler Yeats

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Statue of Leda and the Swan in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian

 

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still

Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed

By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,

He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

 

How can those terrified vague fingers push

The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?

And how can body, laid in that white rush,

But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

 

A shudder in the loins engenders there

The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead.

Being so caught up,

So mastered by the brute blood of the air,

Did she put on his knowledge with his power

Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Analysis

In this poem, W. B. Yeats tell the story of Leda and the Swan from Greek Mythology. The rape of the girl Leda by the god Zeus, who has taken the form of a swan.

Leda felt a sudden blow with the wings of the swan still beating above her. Her thighs were caressed by the dark webs of the swan’s feet. The nape of her neck was caught in his bill. He held her helpless breast upon his breast. How, Yeats asks, can Leda’s terrified vague fingers push the feathered glory of the swan from between her thighs? And, how can her body help but feel the strange heart beating where it lies? A shudder in the loins engenders the broken wall, the burning roof, and tower, and Agamemnon dead. The speaker wonders whether Leda, caught up by the swan and mastered by the brute blood of the air assumed his knowledge as well as his power before the indifferent beak could let her drop.

The poem is about a moment in time which ended the mythological age and began the modern era with the fall of Troy. This poem is a sonnet which is a 14 line poem in iambic pentameter.  The structure is Petrarchan. The Rhyme scheme is ABAB, CDCD, EFG, EFG.

According to Greek mythology, Zeus raped Leda who was married to King Tyndareus of Sparta. After the rape she slept with her husband. Subsequently she laid two eggs from which she hatched two set of twins: Helen and Pollux who were the children of Zeus and Castor and Clytemnestra who were the children of Tyndareus. This event, with the abduction of Helen, eventually brought about the Trojan War (the broken wall, the burning tower/ and Agamemnon dead). After the war, when King Agamemnon returned, Clytemnestra had her husband killed. According to Yeats’ interpretation, the lasting impact of the war was that it brought an end to the mythological era and gave birth to modern history.

 

 

The Traveler

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Benn Bell, Nairobi, Kenya

“He did not think of himself as a tourist. He was a traveler. The difference was partly one of time. Whereas the tourist hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging to no more one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. It would be very difficult indeed to tell anyone, of the many places he lived, precisely where he felt most at home.

Another important difference between the tourist and the traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization as his own without question; not so with the traveler, who compares it with the others and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

-Paul Bowels, The Sheltering Sky

 

 

The God of Small Things

A Book Review

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The God of Small Things is a novel written by Indian activist and writer Arundhati Roy. She has been on my radar for many years now, ever since I started watching her on panel shows on TV. I was impressed by her brilliance as a speaker and thinker on issues that I care deeply about such as inequality, social justice, and the environment. And I have always been fascinated by the Indian subcontinent.

When I learned she had written a novel I went out and purchased it right away. Sad to say it sat on my bookshelves for a few years before I got around to reading it. I am one of those “too many books, too little time” people.

What prompted me to go ahead and read the novel was the fact that 17 yeas after the publication of The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy wrote and published another novel, her second, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.  I was very excited abut this and went out and purchased it also. I am now in the middle of that wonderful book. But, I get ahead of myself.

In the intervening 17 years between novels Miss Roy has written several other books. Works of nonfiction that reflect her other intellectual pursuits and human rights activism. These books include: Capitalism, A Ghost Story; Walking With the Comrades; Kashmir, The Case for Freedom; and Listening to the Grass Hoppers: Field Notes on Democracy.  She was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 1997 for Literature.

The God of Small Things is by far the best book I have read all year and I have only praise for it. Miss Roy is a master stylist and her prose reads like poetry. Her book is full of vivid imagery, symbolism, and metaphors. It is constructed like a sublime piece of architecture with each piece fitting into place like a jig saw puzzle.

The book is a bit of a challenge to read as it does not flow in a straight linear progression. Rather, it jumps around in time in flash backs and flash forwards. But stick with it, it is well worth the ride.

The novel is a story of an Indian family writ large on a grand scale. Some have compared Roy to Faulkner, but I think she comes closer to Gabriel Garcia Marqeuz. There is forbidden love, family drama, political unrest, and magical realism.

Estha and Rahel are seven year old fraternal twins, boy and girl, growing up in a small southern Indian town. They live with their mother Ammu and the rest of their extended family. Their uncle Chacko runs the family pickle factory. One fateful day their cousin Sophie Mol from England is invited to spend the Christmas holidays with them. Tragedy ensues and Sophie Mol is drowned in a boating accident.

In telling the story, Roy incorporates other larger issues taking place in India at the time, such as issues of cast, class, and political unrest.

There are many memorable passages in the novel, but this one in particular stands out:

“D’you know what happens when you hurt people?’ Ammu said. ‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”

This was said to seven year old Rahel when she apparently said something carelessly which hurt her mother, which is something seven-year olds sometimes do. When Ammu said this to Rahel, “…a cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel’s heart. Where its icy legs touched her, she got goose bumps on her careless heart. A little less her Ammu loved her.” This passage haunted me for the rest of the novel and it haunts me still.

This is a novel of life, love, fear, death, pain, and loss. It is wonderfully written and I highly recommend.

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl Who Played Go

 Book Review

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The game of Go has long intrigued me. I learned how to play years ago from a wizard who lived down the stairs. We wiled away the hours playing the game of Go. I moved away and never played again until recently. I took it up once again and discovered it had never really left me. I became reacquainted with Go because of a novel written by a young Chinese girl that sparked my interest all over again.

When The Girl Who Played Go first came out in 2003, I read a review about the book that was intriguing. I vowed to keep an eye out for it. In those days one didn’t just automatically add a book to one’s Amazon Wish list. One liked to find books the old fashioned way, serendipity. One liked to stumble across them by accident in some far flung and obscure bookstore in the Midwest, or northeast, or wherever. Years went by and I never saw the object of my desire. By then it was locked away in the recesses of my memory and I was no longer consciously looking for it at all.
Then one day in, 2007, in a crowded book store in Philadelphia, I ran across a book entitled, The Master of Go. To my imperfect memory I thought this must be the book I had long sought. I picked it up, took it home and put in a shelf where it languished a few more years. When I finally got around to reading it, I thought, this is strange. This doesn’t seem like the book I had read about all those years ago. This book, written by Yasunari Kawabata, was about a modern day Go player, in Japan. While I enjoyed the book very much, it was a realistic depiction of an elderly gentleman who was a Go master and the rigors of tournament play in Japan. I read the book and put it away and started a new book and didn’t give the Master of Go another thought; until the year 2012. I ran across another book on Go in Louisville, Kentucky at the Half Price Book store where I am wont to go. It was entitled, The Girl Who Played Go. Eureka! Sweet mystery of life, finally I found you! The Girl Who Played Go, written by Shan Sa, was my long sought after book. I immediately purchased the book and took it home and began reading. Friends it was worth the wait.
Go is a territorial contest. In Chinese the game is called, Wei Qi, which means, “surrounding game.” Go has roots in both China and Japan. Most Westerners are unfamiliar with the game of Go. It has simpler rules than chess but is far more subtle and takes longer to master. It is a game that is not structured around the theme of a small battle, like chess. Rather, it is more like a large scale war. In Go, every piece is identical: an ivory or ebony stone is played on a square grid by the contestants. Each piece has the power to turn the tide of a war. Go is powerful metaphor for the story told by Shan Sa in her novel, The Girl Who Played Go.
The Girl who Played Go is a wonderfully written novel set within the framework of the game of Go. It takes place in a small city in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in 1936. An unnamed Japanese soldier has been sent with his battalion to seek out the Chinese resistance movement within the region. Simultaneously, a bored Chinese schoolgirl finds solace obsessively playing Go in the local square eponymously name The Square of a Thousand Winds. In an attempt to infiltrate the enemy, the Japanese soldier joins the city’s Go players, and falls into a game and into love with the girl who played Go. The story of the soldier and the girl are told in alternating, short, chapters. Dramatic events in the lives of the protagonists are repeatedly brought together and interwoven.
The game of Go is a metaphor for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the resistance one young girl is able to mount by remaining undefeated at the game. Manchuria has been occupied by the Japanese for several years as the story opens, but there is an active insurgency movement. The girl, however, lives a relatively sheltered life. She is quickly maturing, and becomes sexually active during the unfolding events. The game of go symbolizes the play between man and woman, as well as the conflict between China and Japan.
The story is well presented with some scenes that are picture-perfect observations of life as illustrated by the following examples. “A carp pirouettes in a large jar that serves as an aquarium.” “The appeal of a prostitute has the transient, furtive freshness as the morning dew.” ” Prostitutes have no illusions and this makes them the soldier’s natural soulmates. Already damned, they dare not dream of eternity, and they cling to us like shipwrecked mariners clinging to flotsam. There is a religious purity to our embraces.” “The boys with white silk scarves around their necks, posture like tragic poets.” “In the game of Go, only aesthetic perfection leads to victory.’’ “He has the nobility of a man who prefers the turnings of the mind to the barbarities of life.” “It has taken many years for the game of go to initiate me into the freedom of slipping between yesterday, today, and tomorrow. From one stone to the next, from black to white, the thousands of stones have ended up building a bridge far into the infinite expanse of China.”
Shan Sa has an extraordinary background. She was born in Beijing, started writing at seven and enjoyed success as a teenage poet. At 18 she moved to Paris to study philosophy. She worked for a time with the artist Balthus. Writing in French, she won a Goncourt with her first novel. Her novel, The Four Lives of the Willow won the Prix Caze. In 2001, she was again awarded the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens for her novel, The Girl Who Played Go. Her works have been published in 30 languages worldwide. Since 2001, Shan Sa has continued to write literature and paint. Her works have been shown in Paris and New York, and Japan. In 2009, Shan Sa was awarded by the French Cultural Ministry, Knight of Order of Arts and Letters. In 2011, she was awarded by the French President, The Knight of National Order of Merit.

LUST

The editors of WordPress have chosen “Lust” as the word of the day for my daily inspiration. I am happy to accommodate them with my own interpretation and inspired rendering of this volatile, combustible, and knocked out loaded word.

I take you to the lust capitals of the world, two sister cites really, which gives an extra added dimension to the word lust, if you catch my meaning.

So here we have visual evidence of the lusty nature of these two great cities: Philadelphia and Paris.

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A Philly stripper goes into the Candy Store for stripper supplies.

 

“Of all the worldly Passions, lust is the most intense.”

-Buddha

 

 

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Purple Orchid, Philadelphia

“She was perfect, pure maddening sex, and she knew it, and she played on it, dripped it, and allowed you to suffer for it.”
–  Charles Bukowski

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Ozz Gentleman’s Club, Philadelphia

“Lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity.”
― Blaise Pascal

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Club Ozz, Philadelphia

“I live for sex. I celebrate it, and relish the electricity of it, with every fibre of my being. I can see no better reason for being alive.”
― Fiona Thrust

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Sex Shop on South Street in Philly

“The world is divided into those who screw and those who do not. He distrusted those who did not—when they strayed from the straight and narrow it was something so unusual for them that they bragged about love as if they had just invented it.”
― Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

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Leather and Latex, Philly

 

“Lust’s Passion will be served; it demands, it militates, it tyrannizes.”

-Marquis de Sade

 

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Moulin Rouge in Paris where girls who can Cancan

“Lust is to the other passions what the nervous fluid is to life; it supports them all, lends strength to them all ambition, cruelty, avarice, revenge, are all founded on lust.”
–  Marquis de Sade

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Pussy’s Gentleman’s Club, Paris

“I can resit anything but temptation.”

– Oscar Wilde

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Sex Shop, Paris

“There’s something here, my dear boy, that you don’t understand yet. A man will fall in love with some beauty, with a woman’s body, or even a part of a woman’s body (a sensualist can understand that) and he’ll abandon his own children for her, sell his father and mother, and his country, Russia, too. If he’s honest, he’ll steal; if he’s humane, he’ll murder; if he’s faithful, he’ll deceive.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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La Diva, Paris

 “Only the united beat of sex and the heart can create ecstasy.”

-Anais Nin

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New Girl’s, Paris

“To have her here in bed with me, breathing on me, her hair in my mouth – I count that as something of a miracle.”

-Henry Miller

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Paris Museum of Erotic Art

 

All photos by me.

 

Little Sister

Top 10 Best Lines from Raymond Chandler’s Little Sister

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  1. She had a low lingering voice with sort of a moist caress in it like a damp bath towel.
  2. She looked almost as hard to get as a haircut.
  3. She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.
  4. She picked a cigarette out of a box, tossed it in the air, caught it between her lips effortlessly and lit it from a match that came from nowhere.
  5. “Shut up, you slimy, blackmailing, keyhole peeper!”
  6. She put a couple of cold blue bullets into me with her eyes.
  7. She looked as if it would take a couple of weeks to get her dressed.
  8. She reached up and pulled a fingertip down the side of my cheek. It burned like a hot iron.
  9. Marlowe, a private detective. Not the brainiest guy in the world, but cheap. He started out cheap and he ended cheaper still.
  10. It could have been a beautiful friendship. Except for the ice pick, of course.

Bonus Dialogue

“Do you always wear black?”

“Yes. It is more exciting when I take my clothes off.”

“Do you have to talk like a whore?”

“You do not know very much about whores, amigo. They are always most respectable. Except of course the very cheap ones.”

 

 

The Gambler (2014)

Movie Review

Gambler 2014

The Gambler (2014) is a remake of the classic 1974 film of the same name. That film, directed by Karel Reisz, was loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella, The Gambler. It is interesting how life imitates art and how art imitates life. The 1974 version was written by James Toback, who had a gambling addiction at the time, came from a wealthy family, and taught creative writing at New York City College. It was his first screenplay and he based it on his own true life experiences with more than just a nod to Dostoevsky.   Dostoevsky was addicted to gambling as well and wrote the novella, based on his own experiences, in 26 days to pay off a gambling debt.

The 2014 version stars Mark Wahlberg as the college professor who teaches literature by day and gambles by night. Wahlberg gives a creditable performance as the gambling addicted professor Jim Bennett. Jim gets in trouble with not one but three different mob figures as he courts danger by getting deeper in debt with each one and staying only one step ahead of complete annihilation. At one point he is $240,000 in debt. One of these mob figures is Frank, played to near perfection by John Goodman, who takes a fatherly interest in Jim and drops philosophical axioms on him in every scene they play together. Still, you wouldn’t want to cross him or any of the others.

John Goodman as Frank

Jessica Lange plays the wealthy mother who bails him out one last time. Her performance is out sized, over the top, and a total delight to watch. We see where Jim may have gotten some of his issues. Brie Larson plays the girl. She is gorgeous to look at but doesn’t have much to do.

The 2014 film is directed by Rupert Wyatt who brought you Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).  The screenplay was written by William Monahan whose previous efforts include The Departed which was known for its crackling dialogue and starred once again, Mark Wahlberg. Not quite as successful here, but not bad. As already mentioned, this movie is a remake of the 1974 movie written by James Toback and starring James Caan.

The locations are different and the cinematic style is very different. The 2014 version takes place in the Los Angeles underworld and filmed in a very slick fashion in colors of cold dark blues and reds. The 1974 version was much grittier and took place in New York City.

Gambler 1974

It is axiomatic to say that every film made in the 1970’s is better than any film made in the decades that followed. That is certainly true in this case. In my view the 1974 version was much better. James Caan sizzled as the main character, Axel, who strutted around with his shirt half unbuttoned and his hairy chest exposed as cocky as a bantam rooster, or more to the point like an actual erect cock throbbing with energy and enthusiasm. He exudes sexuality and cockiness. Lauren Hutton plays the girl and Paul Sorvino plays the mob guy, Hips.

Axel is into self-destruction and self-loathing.

“What do all gamblers have in common?”

“They’re in it to lose.”

I liked the ending in the 1974 version better as well. In the 2014 version, after Jim just barley pulls out a win at the last minute and squares all deals and saves his ass, he is seen running to meet up with Amy. This is a hopeful ending that, let’s face it, doesn’t make much sense. It is more of a Hollywood ending one might say. In the 1974 version, after Axel pulls off a last minute win and saves himself from certain disaster, we see him heading down into a dangerous section of New York.

“Don’t go down there Axel,” Hips warns, “they’re cannibals down there (which I guess is code for black people). They will eat you alive!”

Axel, following what must be a death wish, goes into a black whorehouse and picks up a girl and takes her to her room. He is followed by her pimp. Axel then tries to rip her off by not paying her. The whore screams for her pimp who crashes into the room brandishing a knife. A fight ensues and it looks like Axel is winning. He knocks the knife out of the pimp’s hand, the black whore picks up the knife and slashes Alex across the cheek with it. Alex flees the room clutching a rag to his bleeding face.

As he is leaving the flop house he catches a look at himself in a mirror and sees the bloody slash on his face that will no doubt be like a Heidelberg scar that he will carry around with him like a red badge of courage for the rest of his life. Roll credits.

In the novella, at the  end, the protagonist, Alexey, is down and out having lost most of his money on roulette. He meets an old friend who gives him news of his love interest, Polina. This gives Alexey hope as he learns from his friend that Polina is in Switzerland and that she does love him after all. But alas, it is a false hope because in the final analysis, Alexey is still a gambler at heart and cannot escape his fate.

 

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Fyodor Dostoevsky

What all three characters have in common is a gambling addiction. In a letter to a friend Dostoevsky says the thing about his gambler, “… is that all his vitality, his strength, his impetus, his courage, have gone into roulette.” Gambling is not just an addiction, but an overwhelming compulsion that seizes its victims by the mind, body and spirit.

This magnificent obsession is on  fine display in both movies and the novella. For my money the 1974 version of the Gambler is the best. Do I get any bets?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Poetry of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

A Critical Review

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William Butler Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He was the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 1923. He had the gift for enchanting the ear. His themes were: Life and Death, Love and Hate, man’s condition, and the meaning and patterns of history.

The poems present images and magical incantations that resonate deeply with the reader apart from their literal meaning.  Hear the music…visualize the pictures they project. Yeats considered himself to be one of the last Romantic poets. The element of song is always present in his works. Everywhere the theme of music and singing recurs constantly.

He believed that certain patterns or cycles of civilization existed throughout history, the most important being what he called gyres, interpenetrating cones representing mixtures of opposites of both a personal and historical nature portrayed as rotating gyres forever whirling into one another’s centers, merging, and then separating. Yeats used the term “gyre” in his most famous poem, “The Second Coming.”

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer”

He contended that gyres were initiated by the divine impregnation of a mortal woman, first, the rape of Leda by Zeus, then later, the immaculate conception of Mary. Yeats found that within each 2000 year era, certain symbolic moments of balance occurred at the midpoints of the 1000 year cycle designating moments of high achievement in the culture. Yeats cited as examples the glory of Athens at 500 B.C., Byzantium at 500 A.D., and the Italian Renaissance at 1500  A.D.

Certain patterns of history recur that are entirely indifferent to human suffering. History, like art, teaches us that only through identification with the impersonal can we transcend human suffering and limitations. A symbol of this transcendence for Yeats was the Byzantine Civilization. Byzantium became for Yeats the purest embodiment of the union and subsequent transfiguration through art of the fleshly condition and the ideal of holiness. (Byzantium is the name given to both the state and the culture of the Eastern Roman Empire in the middle ages. Istanbul is now the name of what was formally called Constantinople, the empire’s capital city).

He was a symbolist poet, using allusive imagery and symbolic structures throughout his career. He chose words that, in addition to a particular meaning, they suggested abstract thoughts that may seem more significant and resonant. His use of symbols is usually something physical that is both itself and a suggestion of other  possibly immaterial and  timeless qualities.

Yeats employed the continental stanza and used straightforward syntax. He wrote in iambic pentameter which is a line of verse with five metrical feet, each consisting of one short (unstressed) syllable) followed by one long (stressed) syllable. For example: “Two households, both alike in dignity.” He also used what is known as the heroic couplet, which is a pair of rhyming iambic pentameters. This is a traditional form of English poetry used for epic and narrative poetry.

Yeats was 62 when he wrote, “Sailing to Byzantium.”

Sailing to Byzantium, by William Butler Yeats

I

That is no country for old men. The young

In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,

—Those dying generations—at their song,

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,

Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long

Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

Caught in that sensual music all neglect

Monuments of unageing intellect.

II

An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress,

Nor is there singing school but studying

Monuments of its own magnificence;

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium.

III

O sages standing in God’s holy fire

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,

Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,

And be the singing-masters of my soul.

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is; and gather me

Into the artifice of eternity.

IV

Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;

Or set upon a golden bough to sing

To lords and ladies of Byzantium

Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Allusions and terminology

“Perne in a gyre”- a perne is a bobbin. A gyre is a circular motion. A perne in a gyre is your life spinning out before you.

“No Country for Old Men”, a title to a popular book by Cormac McCarthy and a popular movie by the Cohen Brothers

“The Dying Animal”, the title to a popular book by Philip Roth, and a popular movie made from the book.

“The Golden Bough” is from Roman Mythology. It was a tree branch that allowed Aenas to travel safely through the underworld guided by Sybil so that he could learn of the fate of his people. It is referenced in the epic poem he Aeneid by Virgil.

“God’s Holy Fire” is a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Easter. A blue light emanates within Jesus’ tomb which forms a column of fire from which candles are lit.

Byzantium, by William Butler Yeats

The unpurged images of day recede;

The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed;

Night resonance recedes, night-walkers’ song

After great cathedral gong;

A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains

All that man is,

All mere complexities,

The fury and the mire of human veins.

 

Before me floats an image, man or shade,

Shade more than man, more image than a shade;

or Hades’ bobbin bound in mummy-cloth

May unwind the winding path;

A mouth that has no moisture and no breath

Breathless mouths may summon;

I hail the superhuman;

I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.

 

Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,

More miracle than bird or handiwork,

Planted on the starlit golden bough,

Can like the cocks of Hades crow,

Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud

In glory of changeless metal

Common bird or petal

And all complexities of mire or blood.

 

At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit

Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,

Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,

Where blood-begotten spirits come

And all complexities of fury leave,

Dying into a dance,

An agony of trance,

An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.

 

Astraddle on the dolphin’s mire and blood,

Spirit after spirit! The smithies break the flood,

The golden smithies of the Emperor!

Marbles of the dancing floor

Break bitter furies of complexity,

Those images that yet

Fresh images beget,

That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.

 

 The Second Coming, by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

References

 Information for this article was gleaned from the flowing sources:

  1. William Butler Yeats, Selected Poems and Plays, Edited with and Introduction by M. L. Rosenthal
  2. The Poetry Foundation
  3. Wikipedia