two poems by e.e. cummings
March 3, 2009, 12:00 pm
Filed under: literature, poetry

i sing of Olaf glad and big

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but—though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments—
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
“I will not kiss your fucking flag”

straightaway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but-though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skillfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat—
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ (of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain


February 24, 2009, 3:39 pm
Filed under: mythology

The Fáfnismál, found in the Codex Regius, details the section from the Volsung Saga in which Sigurd kills Fafnir and, after learning of Regin’s planned treachery, kills him too.


Sigurd and Regin went up to the Gnitaheith, and found there the track that Fafnir made when he crawled to water. Then Sigurd made a great trench across the path, and took his place therein. When Fafnir crawled from his gold, he blew out venom, and it ran down from above on Sigurd’s head. But when Fafnir crawled over the trench, then Sigurd thrust his sword into his body to the heart. Fafnir writhed and struck out with his head and tail. Sigurd leaped from the trench, and each looked at the other. Fafnir said:

“Youth, oh, youth! of whom then, youth, art thou born?
Say whose son thou art,
Who in Fafnir’s blood thy bright blade reddened,
And struck thy sword to my heart.”

Sigurd concealed his name because it was believed in olden times that the word of a dying man might have great power if he cursed his foe by his name. He said:

“The Noble Hart my name, and I go
A motherless man abroad;
Father I had not, as others have,
And lonely ever I live.”

Fafnir spake:
“If father thou hadst not, as others have,
By what wonder wast thou born?
(Though thy name on the day of my death thou hidest,
Thou knowest now thou dost lie.)”

Sigurd spake:
“My race, methinks, is unknown to thee,
And so am I myself;
Sigurd my name, and Sigmund’s son,
Who smote thee thus with the sword.”

Fafnir spake:
“Who drove thee on? why wert thou driven
My life to make me lose?
A father brave had the bright-eyed youth,
For bold in boyhood thou art.”

Sigurd spake:
“My heart did drive me, my hand fulfilled,
And my shining sword so sharp;
Few are keen when old age comes,
Who timid in boyhood be.”

Fafnir spake:
“If thou mightest grow thy friends among,
One might see thee fiercely fight;
But bound thou art, and in battle taken,
And to fear are prisoners prone.”

Sigurd spake:
“Thou blamest me, Fafnir, that I see from afar
The wealth that my father’s was;
Not bound am I, though in battle taken,
Thou hast found that free I live.”

Fafnir spake:
“In all I say dost thou hatred see,
Yet truth alone do I tell;
The sounding gold, the glow-red wealth,
And the rings thy bane shall be.”

Sigurd spake:
“Some one the hoard shall ever hold,
Till the destined day shall come;
For a time there is when every man
Shall journey hence to Hel.”

Fafnir spake:
“The fate of the Norns before the headland
Thou findest, and doom of a fool;
In the water shalt drown if thou row ‘gainst the wind,
All danger is near to death.”

Sigurd spake:
“Tell me then, Fafnir, for wise art famed,
And much thou knowest now:
Who are the Norns who are helpful in need,
And the babe from the mother bring?”

Fafnir spake:
“Of many births the Norns must be,
Nor one in race they were
Some to gods, others to elves are kin,
And Dvalin’s daughters some.”

Sigurd spake:
“Tell me then, Fafnir, for wise thou art famed,
And much thou knowest now:
How call they the isle where all the gods
And Surt shall sword-sweat mingle?”

Fafnir spake:
“Oskopnir is it, where all the gods
Shall seek the play of swords;
Bilrost breaks when they cross the bridge,
And the steeds shall swim the flood.

“The fear-helm I wore to afright mankind,
While gaurding my gold I lay;
Mightier seemed I than any man,
For a fiercer never I found.”

Sigurd spake:
“The fear-helm surely no man shields
When he faces a valiant foe;
Oft one finds, when the foe he meets,
That he is not the bravest of all.”

Fafnir spake:
“Venom I breathed when bright I lay
By the hoard my father had;
(There was none so mighty as dared to meet me,
And weapons nor wiles I feared.)”

Sigurd spake:
“Glittering worm, thy hissing was great,
And hard dist show thy heart;
But hatred more have the sons of men
For him who owns the helm.”

Fafnir spake:
“I counsel thee, Sigurd, heed my speech,
And ride thou homeward hence;
The sounding gold, the glow-red wealth,
And the rings thy bane shall be.”
(V. “For it often happens that he who gets a deathly wound yet avenges himself.”)

Sigurd spake:
“Thy counsel is given, but go I shall
To the gold in the heather hidden;
And, Fafnir, thou with death dost fight,
Lying where Hel shall have thee.”

Fafnir spake:
“Regin betrayed me, and thee will betray,
Us both to death will he bring;
His life, methinks, must Fafnir lose,
For the mightier man wast thou.”

Regin had gone to a distance while Sigurd fought Fafnir, and came back while Sigurd was wiping the blood from his sword. Regin said:

“Hail to thee, Sigurd! Thou victory hast,
And Fafnir in fight hast slain;
Of all the men who tread the earth,
Most fearless art thou, methinks.”

Sigurd spake:
“Unknown it is, when all are together,
(The sons of the glorious gods,)
Who bravest born shall seem;
Some are valiant who redden no sword
In the blood of a foeman’s breast.”

Regin spake:
“Glad art thou, Sigurd, of battle gained,
As Gram with grass thou cleanest;
My brother fierce in fight hast slain,
And somewhat I did myself.”

Sigurd spake:
“Afar didst thou go while Fafnir reddened
With his blood my blade so keen;
With the might of the dragon my strength I matched,
While thou in the heather didst hide.”

Regin spake:
“Longer wouldst thou in the heather have let
Yon hoary giant hide,
Had the weapon availed not that once I forged,
The keen-edged blade thou didst bear.”

Sigurd spake:
“Better is heart than a mighty blade
For him who shall fiercely fight;
The brave man well shall fight and win,
Though dull his blade may be.

“Brave men better than cowards be,
When the clash of battle comes;
And better the glad than the gloomy men
Shall face what before him lies.

“Thy rede it was that I should ride
Hither o’er mountains high;
The glittering worm would have wealth and life
If thou hadst not mocked at my might.”

Then Regin went up to Fafnir and cut out his heart with his sword, that was named Rithil, and then he drank blood from the wounds. Regin said:

“Sit now, Sigurd, for sleep will I,
Hold Fafnir’s heart to the fire;
For all his heart shall eaten be,
Since deep of blood I have drunk.”

Sigurd took Fafnir’s heart and cooked it on a spit. When he thought that it was fully cooked, and the blood foamed out of the heart, then he tried it with his finger to see whether it was fully cooked. He burned his finger, and put it in his mouth. But when Fafnir’s heart’s-blood came on his tongue, he understood the speech of birds. He heard nut-hatches chattering in the thickets. A nut-hatch said:

“There sits Sigurd, sprinkled with blood,
And Fafnir’s heart with fire he cooks;
Wise were the breaker of rings, I ween,
To eat the life-muscles all so bright.”

A second spake:
“There Regin lies, and plans he lays
The youth to betray who trusts him well;
Lying words with wiles will he speak,
Till his brother the maker of mischief avenges.”

A third spake:
“Less by a head let the chatterer hoary
Go from here to Hel;
Then all of the wealth he alone can wield,
The gold that Fafnir gaurded.”

A fourth spake:
“Wise would he seem if so he would heed
The counsel good we sisters give;
Thought he would give, and the ravens gladden,
There is ever a wolf where his ears I spy.”

A fifth spake:
“Less wise must be the tree of battle
Than to me would seem the leader of men,
If forth he lets one brother fare,
When he of the other the slayer is.”

A sixth spake:
“Most foolish he seems if he shall spare
His foe, the bane of the folk;
There Regin lies, who hath wronged him so,
Yet falsehood knows he not.”

A seventh spake:
“Let the head from the frost-cold giant be hewed,
And let him of rings be robbed;
Then all the wealth which Fafnir’s was
Shall belong to thee alone.”

Sigurd spake:
“Not so rich a fate shall Regin have
As the tale of my death to tell;
For soon the brothers both shall die,
And hence to Hel shall go.”

Sigurd hewed off Regin’s head, and then he ate Fafnir’s heart, and drank the blood of both Regin and Fafnir. Then Sigurd heard what the nut-hatch said:

“Bind, Sigurd, the golden rings together,
Not kingly is it aught to fear;
I know a maid, there is none so fair,
Rich in gold, if thou mightest get her.

“Green the paths that to Gjuki lead,
And his fate the way to the wanderer shows;
The doughty king a daughter has,
That thou as a bride mayst, Sigurd, buy.”

Another spake:
“A hall stands high on Hindarfjoll,
All with flame is it ringed without;
Warriors wise did make it once
Out of the flaming light of the flood.

“On the mountain sleeps a battle-maid,
And about her plays the bane of the wood;
Ygg with the thorn hath smitten her thus,
For she felled the fighter he fain would save.

“There mayst thou behold the maiden helmed,
Who forth on Vingskornir rode from the fight;
The victory-bringer her sleep shall break not,
Thou heroes’ son, so the Norns have set.”

Sigurd rode along Fafnir’s trail to his lair, and found it open. The gate-posts were of iron, and the gates; of iron, too, were all the beams in the house, which was dug down into the earth. There Sigurd found a mighty store of gold, and he filled two chests full thereof; he took the fear-helm and a golden mail-coat and the sword Hrotti, and many other precious things, and loaded Grani with them, but the horse would not go forward until Sigurd mounted on his back.

Excerpts from Stephen Crane’s The Black Riders
February 17, 2009, 2:37 pm
Filed under: literature


In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter — bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”


I stood upon a high place,
And saw, below, many devils
Running, leaping,
and carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said, “Comrade! Brother!”


Once I saw mountains angry,
And ranged in battle-front.
Against them stood a little man;
Aye, he was no bigger than my finger.
I laughed, and spoke to one near me,
“Will he prevail?”
“Surely,” replied this other;
“His grandfathers beat them many times.”
Then did I see much virtue in grandfathers —
At least, for the little man
Who stood against the mountains.


I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never — ”

“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.


Supposing that I should have the courage
To let a red sword of virtue
Plunge into my heart,
Letting to the weeds of the ground
My sinful blood,
What can you offer me?
A gardened castle?
A flowery kingdom?

What? A hope?
Then hence with your red sword of virtue.


A man feared that he might find an assassin;
Another that he might find a victim.
One was more wise than the other.


With eye and with gesture
You say you are holy.
I say you lie;
For I did see you
Draw away your coats
From the sin upon the hands
Of a little child.


If I should cast off this tattered coat,
And go free into the mighty sky;
If I should find nothing there
But a vast blue,
Echoless, ignorant —
What then?


God lay dead in heaven;
Angels sang the hymn of the end;
Purple winds went moaning,
Their wings drip-dripping
With blood
That fell upon the earth.
It, groaning thing,
Turned black and sank.
Then from the far caverns
Of dead sins
Came monsters, livid with desire.
They fought,
Wrangled over the world,
A morsel.
But of all sadness this was sad —
A woman’s arms tried to shield
The head of a sleeping man
From the jaws of the final beast.


A spirit sped
Through spaces of night;
And as he sped, he called,
“God! God!”
He went through valleys
Of black death-slime,
Ever calling,
“God! God!”
Their echoes
From crevice and cavern
Mocked him:
“God! God! God!”
Fleetly into the plains of space
He went, ever calling,
“God! God!”
Eventually, then, he screamed,
Mad in denial,
“Ah, there is no God!”
A swift hand,
A sword from the sky,
Smote him,
And he was dead.

BONUS VIDEO: A baby porcupine with the hiccups, eating a banana slice.

D-d-d-double Feature!
February 3, 2009, 12:00 pm
Filed under: music

Another duo of works today: one by Olivier Messiaen, one by Ottorino Respighi. This KЛИHOM post has been brought to you by the letter O and the numbers 4 and 5.

This is the fifth movement from Olivier Messiaen’s only symphony, the Turangalila-symphonie. Commissioned by Serge Koussevitsky, it is the second part of a trilogy based around the myth of Tristan and Isolde, in which it is preceded by the song cycle Harawi and succeeded by the choral work Cinq Rechants. The work prominently features the ondes Martenot, and this movement, titled “Joy of the Blood of the Stars”, is based around a fast variant of the symphony’s “statue theme.”

While all four movements of Ottorino Respighi’s 1924 work Pines of Rome are excellent, the first three can’t beat the fourth, “Pines of the Appian Way,” for sheer awe-inspiring brilliance. Written to depict a legion advancing triumphantly on the road to the capital, it follows movements depicting the titular pines at the Villa Borghese, near a catacomb, and at the Janiculum. According to noted font of facts Wikipedia, Pines of Rome, minus the second movement and the English horn solo from this movement, was used in Fantasia 2000 to accompany humpback whales. My Fantasia knowledge is sadly lacking.

Walt Whitman’s “Beat! Beat! Drums!”
January 27, 2009, 12:01 pm
Filed under: literature

Today, a special inaugural double-post! Aren’t you lucky devils. This poem, one of the rare instances in which Walt Whitman resisted the temptation to keep talking until everyone was bored to tears, is called “Beat! Beat! Drums!” It was written and published as a patriotic piece, meant to inspire the North, but it seems to betray a bit of Whitman’s true attitudes toward the disruptions caused by war. Let me know what you think!

Beat! beat! drums!–Blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows–through doors–burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation;
Into the school where the scholar is studying;
Leave not the bridegroom quiet–no happiness must he have now with his bride;
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, plowing his field or gathering his grain;
So fierce you whirr and pound, you drums–so shrill you bugles blow.

Beat! beat! drums!–Blow! bugles! blow!
Over the traffic of cities–over the rumble of wheels in the streets:
Are beds prepared for sleepers at night in the houses? No sleepers must sleep in those beds;
No bargainers’ bargains by day–no brokers or speculators–Would they continue?
Would the talkers be talking? would the singer attempt to sing?
Would the lawyer rise in the court to state his case before the judge?
Then rattle quicker, heavier drums–you bugles wilder blow.

Beat! beat! drums!–Blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parley–stop for no expostulation;
Mind not the timid–mind not the weeper or prayer;
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man;
Let not the child’s voice be heard, nor the mother’s entreaties;
Make even the trestles to shake the dead, where they lie awaiting the hearses,
So strong you thump, O terrible drums–so loud you bugles blow.

Farandole from Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2
January 27, 2009, 12:00 pm
Filed under: music

This is the fourth movement, a farandole, from the second suite of incidental music composed by Georges Bizet for Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlesienne. The second suite was arranged and published four years after Bizet’s death by Ernest Guiraud. This particular performance is conducted by everyone’s favorite Latvian conductor, Mariss Jansons.