Ulysses by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Rembrandt Bust of an Old Man.jpg
Rem­brandt Bust of an Old Man” by Rem­brandt –Licensed under Pub­lic Domain via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

 

It lit­tle prof­its that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these bar­ren crags,

Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a sav­age race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I can­not rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoyed

Greatly, have suf­fered greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when

Through scud­ding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roam­ing with a hun­gry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And man­ners, cli­mates, coun­cils, governments,

Myself not least, but hon­ored of them all;

And drunk delight of bat­tle with my peers,

Far on the ring­ing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all expe­ri­ence is an arch where through

Gleams that untrav­eled world whose mar­gin fades

For ever and for­ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unbur­nished, not to shine in use!

As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life

Were all too lit­tle, and of one to me

Lit­tle remains: but every hour is saved

From that eter­nal silence, some­thing more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearn­ing in desire

To fol­low knowl­edge like a sink­ing star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,—

Well-loved of me, dis­cern­ing to fulfill

This labor, by slow pru­dence to make mild

A rugged peo­ple, and through soft degrees

Sub­due them to the use­ful and the good.

Most blame­less is he, cen­tered in the sphere

Of com­mon duties, decent not to fail

In offices of ten­der­ness, and pay

Meet ado­ra­tion to my house­hold gods,

When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the ves­sel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me—

That ever with a frolic wel­come took

The thun­der and the sun­shine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honor and his toil;

Death closes all: but some­thing ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbe­com­ing men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twin­kle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sit­ting well in order smite

The sound­ing fur­rows; for my pur­pose holds

To sail beyond the sun­set, and the baths

Of all the west­ern stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal tem­per of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

From Samson Agonistes by John Milton

The Death of Samson; Unknown maker, Italian, probably Genoese School; about 1650; Oil on canvas

The Death of Sam­son; Unknown maker, Ital­ian, prob­a­bly Genoese School; about 1650; Oil on canvas

  Mes­sen­ger: Occa­sions drew me early to this City,
And as the gates I entered with Sun-rise,
The morn­ing Trum­pets Fes­ti­val pro­claimed
Through each high street: lit­tle I had dis­patched
When all abroad was rumored that this day
Sam­son should be brought forth to shew the peo­ple
Proof of his mighty strength in feats and games;
I sor­rowed at his cap­tive state, but minded
Not to be absent at that spec­ta­cle.
The build­ing was a spa­cious The­ater
Half round on two main Pil­lars vaulted high,
With seats where all the Lords and each degree
Of sort, might sit in order to behold,
The other side was open, where the throng
On banks and scaf­folds under Sky might stand;
I among these aloof obscurely stood.
The Feast and noon grew high, and Sac­ri­fice
Had filled their hearts with mirth, high cheer, & wine,
When to their sports they turned. Imme­di­ately
Was Sam­son as a pub­lic ser­vant brought,
In their state Liv­ery clad; before him Pipes
And Tim­brels, on each side went armed guards,
Both horse and foot before him and behind
Archers, and Slingers, Cat­aphracts and Spears.
At sight of him the peo­ple with a shout
Rifted the Air clam­or­ing their god with praise,
Who had made their dread­ful enemy their thrall.
He patient but undaunted where they led him.
Came to the place, and what was set before him
Which with­out help of eye, might be assayed,
To heave, pull, draw, or break, he still per­formed
All with incred­i­ble, stu­pen­dous force,
None dar­ing to appear Antag­o­nist.
At length for inter­mis­sion sake they led him
Between the pil­lars; he his guide requested
(For so from such as nearer stood we heard)
As over-tired to let him lean a while
With both his arms on those two mas­sive Pil­lars
That to the arched roof gave main sup­port.
He unsus­pi­cious led him; which when Sam­son
Felt in his arms, with head a while inclined,
And eyes fast fixed he stood, as one who prayed,
Or some great mat­ter in his mind revolved.
At last with head erect thus cried aloud,
Hith­erto, Lords, what your com­mands imposed
I have per­formed, as rea­son was, obey­ing,
Not with­out won­der or delight beheld.
Now of my own accord such other trial
I mean to shew you of my strength, yet greater;
As with amaze shall strike all who behold.
This uttered, strain­ing all his nerves he bowed,
As with the force of winds and waters pent,
When Moun­tains trem­ble, those two mas­sive Pil­lars
With hor­ri­ble con­vul­sion to and fro,
He tugged, he shook, till down they came and drew
The whole roof after them, with burst of thun­der
Upon the heads of all who sate beneath,
Lords, Ladies, Cap­tains, Coun­cilors, or Priests,
Their choice nobil­ity and flower, not only
Of this but each Philis­t­ian City round
Met from all parts to sol­em­nize this Feast.
Sam­son with these immixt, inevitably
Pulled down the same destruc­tion on him­self;
The vul­gar only escaped who stood without.

Birches by Robert Frost

William Turner - Crossing the Brook.jpg
William Turner — Cross­ing the Brook” by J. M. W. TurnerPage, Image. Licensed under Pub­lic Domain via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swing­ing them.
But swing­ing doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny win­ter morn­ing
After a rain.

They click upon them­selves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.

Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crys­tal shells
Shat­ter­ing and avalanch­ing on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of bro­ken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.

They are dragged to the with­ered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right them­selves:
You may see their trunks arch­ing in the woods
Years after­wards, trail­ing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should pre­fer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn base­ball,
Whose only play was what he found him­self,
Sum­mer or win­ter, and could play alone.

One by one he sub­dued his father’s trees
By rid­ing them down over and over again
Until he took the stiff­ness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer.

He learned all there was
To learn about not launch­ing out too soon
And so not car­ry­ing the tree away
Clear to the ground.

He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climb­ing care­fully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.

Then he flung out­ward, feet first, with a swish,
Kick­ing his way down through the air to the ground.

So was I once myself a swinger of birches.

And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of con­sid­er­a­tions,
And life is too much like a path­less wood
Where your face burns and tick­les with the cob­webs
Bro­ken across it, and one eye is weep­ing
From a twig’s hav­ing lashed across it open.

I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.

May no fate will­fully mis­un­der­stand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.

I’d like to go by climb­ing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.

That would be good both going and com­ing back.

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

The Old Stoic by Emily Bronte

David_Brutus

Riches I hold in light esteem,

And Love I laugh to scorn;

And lust of fame was but a dream,

That van­ished with the morn:

And if I pray, the only prayer

That moves my lips for me

Is, “Leave the heart that now I bear,

And give me liberty!”

Yes, as my swift days near their goal:

’Tis all that I implore;

In life and death a chain­less soul,

With courage to endure.

On First Looking on Chapman’s Homer by John Keats

Eclipse Header

Much have I trav­elled in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and king­doms seen;

Round many west­ern islands have I been,

Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chap­man speak out loud and bold:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies,

When a new planet swims into his ken;

Or like stout Cortes when with eagle eyes

He stared at the Pacific—and all his men

Looked at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

An Historian gets the Flu by Donovan Craig

Historian Gets the Flu Wen Image

The day was going badly for my body until glo­ri­ous King Alexan­der shat­tered the enemy for­ma­tion with a light­ning cav­alry charge from between my tem­ples to the base of my neck. Astride wild Bucephalus he cut a fig­ure of ter­ri­ble beauty.

The Emperor Napoleon has ordered a bar­rage of can­non to dis­lodge the forces entrenched in my lungs. A part of his hum­ble begin­nings is his time as a lowly artillery­man. I cough vio­lently to aid him in his work.

Han­ni­bal, for my ben­e­fit, has buried the hatchet with the Romans. He and grim Sci­pio have sur­rounded the enemy with great slaugh­ter behind my left knee. How long can such an alliance hold?

The aching in my right shoul­der is where Stonewall Jack­son him­self has his oppo­nents trapped in a with­er­ing cross­fire of mus­ket shot and grate. Ear­lier an explo­sion knocked the Gen­eral from his horse. The con­cen­tra­tion of this odd, oth­er­worldly man is unbro­ken as he dusts him­self off.

Julius Cae­sar is direct­ing the whole oper­a­tion from a base just under my heart. No detail of bat­tle escapes his great mind, infi­nitely per­cep­tive and utterly ruth­less, the most gifted killer of them all.

Though the day is uncer­tain,  I’m heart­ened that my defense has fallen into such capa­ble hands. A more cru­cial bat­tle was never fought. The fallen are dis­charged in giant waves through a shiv­er­ing tide of clammy sweat.

Thoughts While Learning To Code

Three Robots in Outer Space

Prim­i­tive Man viewed magic as a child­ish approx­i­ma­tion of sci­ence. Magi­cians, sor­cer­ers, shamans and the like, used people’s intu­itive under­stand­ing of cause and effect plus sim­ple incredulity to claim con­trol over the  work­ings of the world with charms, spells and potions. Even­tu­ally, even sav­ages real­ized that the tricks of the magi­cians didn’t work. How­ever, if the super­nat­ural forces which con­trolled the world around him could not be com­manded, prim­i­tive man rea­soned, per­haps they could be pla­cated or amused.  Magic evolved into worship.

Today we lives in the era of sci­ence, but I won­der if the atti­tude of the aver­age man is not so dif­fer­ent from what it was in those ear­lier times.  He might under­stand the lit­tle pieces of the world that he encoun­ters daily, but the sys­tem, how it all fits together, that’s too large and com­plex for him. There’s the king­dom of the keep­ers of secret knowl­edge and it’s as obscure to him as it has ever been.

Con­sider the pow­ers granted to him; the abil­ity to fly through the air, col­lapse time, freeze it, com­mu­ni­cate instantly at a dis­tance, heal the body etc. They allow him to gid­dily glimpse omnipo­tence but then befud­dle the deep­est part of him­self.  And does he not sense, behind it all,  some dimly per­ceived con­scious­ness, per­haps just now awak­en­ing. Where is it com­ing from?

So, in the wee hours of a sup­pos­edly new age he holds  two trains of thought in his mind at once. One the one hand, he’s con­fi­dent that if he knows how to talk to this thing that gives him power, then he can con­trol it. That it will do pre­cisely what he wants it to do when he uses the cor­rect com­mands in the cor­rect order.  But also, like the Athe­ni­ans in the Aere­opa­gus, he prays to an unknown God that the whole thing doesn’t break down, or die, or worst of all, become angry with him.