Archive | British Literature RSS feed for this section

Henry Fielding, “Tom Jones”

19 Dec

IT is possible, however, that Mr. Allworthy saw enough to render him a little uneasy; for we are not always to conclude that a wise man is not hurt, because he doth not cry out and lament himself, like those of a childish or effeminate temper. But indeed it is possible he might see some faults in the captain without any uneasiness at all; for men of true wisdom and goodness are contented to take persons and things as they are, without complaining of their imperfections, or attempting to amend them. They can see a fault in a friend, a relation, or an acquaintance, without ever mentioning it to the parties themselves, or to any others; and this often without lessening their affection. Indeed, unless great discernment be tempered with this overlooking disposition, we ought never to contract friendship but with a degree of folly which we can deceive: for I hope my friends will pardon me when I declare, I know none of them without a fault; and I should be sorry if I could imagine I had any friend who could not see mine. Forgiveness of this kind we give and demand in turn. It is an exercise of friendship, and perhaps none of the least pleasant. And this forgiveness we must bestow, without desire of amendment. There is, perhaps no surer mark of folly, than an attempt to correct the natural infirmities of those we love. The finest composition of human nature, as well as the finest china, may have a flaw in it; and this, I am afraid, in either case, is equally incurable; though, nevertheless, the pattern may remain of the highest value.

Advertisements

Big Brother

3 May

I came across a new edition of a classic Penguin book the other day:

Photo taken in Univ. of WA Co-Op bookstore, May 2, 2013

Photo taken in Univ. of WA Co-op bookstore, May 2 2013

Upon closer inspection:

Photo taken in Univ. of WA Co-op bookstore, May 2 2013

Auden

17 Nov

I’ve written about Auden elsewhere (like on my Japanese blog, introducing the poem “Musée des Beaux Arts”), and just thought I’d include here one of his relatively less anthologised poems (though a very good one).

 

“Epitaph on a Tyrant”

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,

And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;

He knew human folly like the back of his hand,

And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;

When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,

And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

Emily Jane Bronte

3 Nov

It is rare among authors accomplished in two disparate genres to see both their accomplishments receive equal acknowledgement. Robert Louis Stevenson’s essays are often urbane and stimulating, but we would sooner invoke the presence of a “Stevenson, author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” than a “Stevenson, author of Virginibus Puerisque D.H. Lawrence wrote very good poetry, but will almost always be thought of as “D.H. Lawrence,  novelist” before we recall the existence of “D.H. Lawrence, poet”.  Appreciation is somewhat more evenly distributed across the two spheres in Thomas Hardy’s case, but again it could be said that the memory of the novelist overtakes that of the poet.

So it is with Emily Jane Bronte. The achievement of Wuthering Heights so overshadows everything else she published that her poetry sometimes goes unread. But her best poems – “No coward soul is mine”; “Long neglect has worn away”; “Often rebuked, yet always back returning” – are equally deserving of attention.

The last is probably my favourite of her poems. “What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?” In this poem at least, what is worth revealing is all there, “Often rebuked, yet always back returning”. It’s a startling achievement:

Often rebuked, yet always back returning
   To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
   For idle dreams of things which cannot be:
 
To-day, I will seek not the shadowy region;
   Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
   Bring the unreal world too strangely near.
 
I’ll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
   And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
   The clouded forms of long-past history.
 
I’ll walk where my own nature would be leading:
   It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
   Where the wild wind blows on the moment side.
 
What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
   More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
   Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.