”Abraham Lincoln is my name” – A short poem by Abe

President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) had many talents, and one of his less known was his interest in poetry. He started to write poetry at an early age and one early attempt to greatness is perhaps shown in the following few lines written about 15 or 17. About 9 poems seemed to have survived and are included in the Collected Works by Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln is my nam[e]
And with my pen I wrote the same
I wrote in both hast and speed
and left it here for fools to read.

Source

wikipedia.org
wikipedia.commons

Advertisements

“A Night Scene”- A poem by Mary Shelley

Everyone knows Mary Shelley (1797-1851) as the writer of well-known Gothic novel Frankenstein – The Modern Prometheus (1818), but she wrote poetry as well. Shelley was the daughter of political philosopher William Godwin (1756-1836) and her mother the was well-known writer and “early feminist” Mary Wollonstonecraft (1759-1797). She never knew her mother who died shortly after giving birth to Mary. Her parents were liberals and her father gave her a good education even if it was informal. As a young girl Mary Shelley started to write short stories and maintained a lifelong interest in writing. She wrote novels, drama, poetry and about her travels. She married the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816 and they travelled a lot and lived a somewhat unconventional life together until he drowned in Switzerland. They met in 1814 and Mary’s father never accepted their marriage. Mary got pregnant before they married which gave the pair social difficulties. After her husband’s death Mary focused on their young son and her writing. Mary Shelley died of a brain tumour at the age of 53 in London. She had been ill for over a decade.

Context and literary themes

This poem “A Night Scene” is about a woman called Isabel. The poem is quite lenghty and has a number of themes common to any writer of the Romantic period. Pay attention to the vivid descriptions of light, the Stars and the Night. How does they frame the story told in the poem? What can be said about the woman named Isabel? Notice how the protagonist takes on a male perspective: “That on that couch my Isabel reclines. I see yon brilliant star and waving tree,”

The Poem: “A Night Scene”

I see thee not, my gentlest Isabel;

Ambrosial night, with her mysterious spell,

Has woven shadows thick before thy face,

Drawing impervious veils athwart the space

That does divide us; thy bright eyes alone

A lucid beam into the dark have thrown,

Till the long lashes and the downcast lid

Quench it again, and the bright orbs are hid.

I see thee not: the touch of they soft hand,

And thy deep sighs, fraught with emotion bland,

Are to my sense the only outward signs

That on that couch my Isabel reclines.

I see yon brilliant star and waving tree,

Through which its beams rain down inconstantly;

I see ten thousand of those radiant flowers

Which shed light on us in dim silver showers,

High in the glorious heavens; I see full well

All other forms – not thine, my Isabel.

Sweet Mystery! I know that thou art there–

I scent the fragrance of thy silken hair;

The lines that do encircle thee I trace;

That spot is hallow’d by thy lovely face;

Thy woman’s form, in soft voluptuousness,

Enriches vacant air in yon recess;

Yet to my eyes no sign of thee appears,

And the drear blank suggests a thousand fears.

Speak, Isabel! – And yet not thus were broken

The cruel spell – for have not spirits spoken?

Are then thine eyes no nearer than that star,

Which unattainably doth shine afar?

Thy voice as immaterial as the wind

That murmurs past, yet leaves no form behind?

And is the visiting of this soft gale,

Rich with the odours of the flow’rets pale,

Which sweeps my bosom with delicious fanning,

My thrilling limbs with arms aerial spanning,

Is it as truly real, as warmly glowing

As thy dear form, rich with the life-tide flowing?

Ah, darling, quick thine arms around me throw,

Press thy warm lips upon my night-cool brow,

In thy dark eyes thy fair soul I must read –

One kiss, sweet heaven, ’tis Isabel indeed!


Sources

List of works by Mary Shelley – Information about the poem cited. 

wikipedia.org (various entries about Mary Shelley and her literary works)

“Ozymandias” a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Today I’m going to write about a very famous poem called Ozymandias. This poem is so famous throughout the history of poetry it hits a high score on most lists involving any expertise on why and how it’s considered so good. Well, one may one how come any poetry written several hundred years ago. What can it possible tell us today? How can something considered to be so good be so hard to understand?

Context and themes

Ozymandias is a sonnet and was published in a well-known London-paper The Examiner on 11 of January in 1818. The poet was Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Ask yourself who do you think would like to hear this poem? Who is Ozymandias? He presents himself as the king of kings…this title is somewhat biblical, but fact is that in antiquity, Ozymandias (Ὀσυμανδύας) was a Greek name for pharaoh Ramesses II who ruled Egypt many hundreds of years before Christianity. Shelley started to write the poem in 1817, soon after the announcement of the British Museum’s acquisition of a large fragment of a statue of Ramesses II from the thirteenth century BCE, leading some scholars to believe that Shelley was inspired by this event. Shelley wrote the poem in friendly competition with poet Horace Smith (1779–1849), who also wrote a sonnet on the same topic with the same title.

Themes: hubris and time


Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Sources

Wikipedia.org (various entries)

Rome or the countryside? – A letter from the World of late Antiquity

LIVING THE BUSY city life or moving to the quiet life on the countryside? That’s the question.  Even during the late Antiquity people pondered over this. Let’s take a look on a letter from the well-known Jerome (347-420) who lived in Rome while busy spreading Christianity through teaching and writings on Christian morality. He also liked to befriend Roman ladies from the Aristocracy who had promised to remain virgins for the rest of their lives. He eventuelly became a Saint and is regared as a Father of the Church.

I. Context

This letter is adressed to Marcella (325-410), a Christian widow. As wikipedia comments on her life: “After her husband’s early death, Marcella decided to devote the rest of her life to charity, prayer, and mortification of the flesh and was convinced that God was directing her to a life of poverty and service. She left behind her fashionable dresses for a coarse brown garment and abandoned her usual extravagant hair styling and makeup. Along with other women, Marcella formed a community known as the brown dress society, spending their time praying, singing, reading the Bible, and serving the needy. Her palatial home was now a refuge for weary pilgrims and for the poor.” I will not quote the entire letter, but simply point out a few sentences. 

From: Jerome

To: Marcella

Date: Rome, 385 A.D.

II. The Letter

“Wherefore, seeing that we have journeyed for much of our life through a troubled sea, and that our vessel has been in turn shaken by raging blasts and shattered upon treacherous reefs, let us, as soon as may be, make for the haven of rural quietude. There such country dainties as milk and household bread, and greens watered by our own hands, will supply us with coarse but harmless fare. So living, sleep will not call us away from prayer, nor satiety from reading. In summer the shade of a tree will afford us privacy. In autumn the quality of the air and the leaves strewn under foot will invite us to stop and rest. In springtime the fields will be bright with flowers, and our psalms will sound the sweeter for the twittering of the birds. When winter comes with its frost and snow, I shall not have to buy fuel, and, whether I sleep or keep vigil, shall be warmer than in town. At least, so far as I know, I shall keep off the cold at less expense. Let Rome keep to itself its noise and bustle, let the cruel shows of the arena go on, let the crowd rave at the circus, let the playgoers revel in the theatres and— for I must not altogether pass over our Christian friends— let the House of Ladies hold its daily sittings.”

Sources

Butler, Alban. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. 12 vols. Ed. David Hugh Farmer and Paul Burns. New full ed., Tunbridge Wells, UK: Burns & Oates and Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1995–2000.

Select Letters of St. Jerome. Jerome, Saint. F.A. Wright. William Heinemann Ltd.; Harvard University Press. London; Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1933.

Translated by W.H. Fremantle, G. Lewis and W.G. Martley. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893.)

wikipedia.org (various entries)

Jerome making notes.

Ode 1:37 on the Death of Cleopatra – A poem by Horace

A. CONTEXT

On the Life and Name of Cleopatra 

Cleopatra VII Philopator (Greek: Κλεοπάτρα Φιλοπάτωρ; 69-30 BC), known to history simply as Cleopatra, was the last active ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt, briefly survived as pharaoh by her son Caesarion. After her reign, Egypt became a province of the recently established Roman Empire. Her title in Greek philopátōr means the one who loves the father. On the etymology of her given name wikipedia informs Cleopatra is derived from the Greek name Κλεοπάτρα (Kleopatra) which meant “she who comes from glorious father” or “glory of the father” in the feminine form, derived from κλέος (kleos) “glory” combined with πατήρ (pater) “father” (the masculine form would be written either as Kleopatros (Κλεόπατρος), or Patroklos (Πάτροκλος). She was a member of the Ptolemaic Dynasty who ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. Unlike her Ptolemaic predecessors who spoke Greek only; Cleopatra also learned the Egyptian language. She married her biological brother which was custom but didn’t produce any offspring until she met Julius Caesar.

B. THE POEM

Horace on Cleopatra and his Ode

Horace or Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 BC. –  8 BC), was on of the most famous Roman poets. He achieved great fame through his Odes [Carmina] but wrote also in Hexameter. He’s considered to be the first person who wrote an autobiography since he talks so much about himself through his poetry. According to English wikipedia: “Horace left Rome, possibly after his father’s death, and continued his formal education in Athens,[…] The Academy was now dominated by Epicureans and Stoics, whose theories and practises made a deep impression on the young man from Venusia.” The Odes were developed as a conscious imitation of the short lyric poetry of Greek originals – Pindar, Sappho and Alcaeus are some of Horace’s models.

The poem is a praise and celebration over the defeat of Cleopatra who comitted suicide and Egypt was then taken over by the Roman Empire. The news of her death likely reached Horace in Rome in the Autumn 30 BC. There are many interpretations of this poem. I quote John Cornington’s interpretation of Ode 1:37, published for the first time in 1882:

Now drink we deep, now featly tread
A measure; now before each shrine
With Salian feasts the table spread;
The time invites us, comrades mine.

‘Twas shame to broach, before today,
The Caecuban, while Egypt‘s dame
Threaten’d our power in dust to lay
And wrap the Capitol in flame,

Girt with her foul emasculate throng,
By Fortune’s sweet new wine befool’d,
In hope’s ungovern’d weakness strong
To hope for all; but soon she cool’d,

To see one ship from burning ‘scape;
Great Caesar taught her dizzy brain,
Made mad by Mareotic grape,
To feel the sobering truth of pain,

And gave her chase from Italy,
As after doves fierce falcons speed,
As hunters ‘neath Haemonia’s sky
Chase the tired hare, so might he lead

The fiend enchain’d; she sought to die
More nobly, nor with woman’s dread
Quail’d at the steel, nor timorously
In her fleet ships to covert fled.

Amid her ruin’d halls she stood
Unblench’d, and fearless to the end
Grasp’d the fell snakes, that all her blood
Might with the cold black venom blend,

Death’s purpose flushing in her face;
Nor to our ships the glory gave,
That she, no vulgar dame, should grace
A triumph, crownless, and a slave.

Sources

Horace. The Odes and Carmen Saeculare of Horace. John Conington. trans. London. George Bell and Sons. 1882.

For the Latin version of Horace’s ode; published by wellesley.edu, please visit this link.

wikipedia.org [various entries].

Cleopatra portrayed worshipping with her son Caesarion, carvings on the Dendera temple.

“Lindisfarne” – A poem by Sir Walter Scott with photos from my journey there

Lindisfarne ruins seen from the graveyard

Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Old Mortality, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

Walter Scott’s poem Lindisfarne is very much like a travel description of the Northumberland area starting a few miles from Lindisfarne in Tynemouth outside Newcastle upon Tyne, believe it or not. The 6th line mentions Tynemouth’s priory and bay. From here the poem travels further along the coast up to Bamburgh. And from Bamburgh to Lindisfarne. In fact, one can see Lindisfarne from the Bamburgh Castle which is also mentioned in the poem as king Ida’s Castle.

Holy Island has a recorded history from the 6th century AD. It was an important centre of Celtic Christianity under Saints Aidan of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert, Eadfrith of Lindisfarne and Eadberht of Lindisfarne. After the Viking invasions and the Norman conquest of England, a priory was reestablished. A small castle was built on the island in 1550.

I travelled through Newcastle, Tynemouth, Bamburgh and Holy Island in 2011. All photos by me in this post.

Scott’s poem – First lines

(From Marmion)

AND now the vessel skirts the strand
Of mountainous Northumberland;
Towns, towers, and halls successive rise,
And catch the nuns’ delighted eyes.
Monk-Wearmouth soon behind them lay, [5]
And Tynemouth’s priory and bay;
They marked, amid her trees, the hall
Of lofty Seaton-Delaval;
They saw the Blythe and Wansbeck floods
Rush to the sea through sounding woods; [10]
They passed the tower of Widdrington,
Mother of many a valiant son;
At Coquet Isle their beads they tell
To the good saint who owned the cell;
Then did the Alne attention claim, [15]
And Warkworth, proud of Percy’s name;
And next they crossed themselves to hear
The whitening breakers sound so near,
Where, boiling through the rocks, they roar
On Dunstanborough’s caverned shore; [20]
Thy tower, proud Bamborough, marked they there,
King Ida’s castle, huge and square,
From its tall rock look grimly down,
And on the swelling ocean frown;
Then from the coast they bore away, [25]
And reached the Holy Island’s bay.

Tynemouth priory


Bamburgh Castle
IN THE second section of the poem Scott describes the sorrounding nature of Lindisfarne and mentions the tide as well.

Second section of Scott’s poem

The tide did now its flood-mark gain,
And girdled in the saint’s domain:
For, with the flow and ebb, its style
Varies from continent to isle; [30]
Dry-shod, o’er sands, twice every day,
The pilgrims to the shrine find way;
Twice every day, the waves efface
Of staves and sandalled feet the trace.
As to the port the galley flew, [35]
Higher and higher rose to view
The castle with its battled walls,
The ancient monastery’s halls,
A solemn, huge, and dark red pile,
Placed on the margin of the isle. [40]

The Holy Island is a tidal island

 
Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory
Much of the place was under renovation when I visited the place in 2011.

The Lindisfarne castle is located in what was once the very volatile border area between England and Scotland. Not only did the English and Scots fight, but the area was frequently attacked by Vikings. The castle was built in 1550, around the time that Lindisfarne Priory went out of use. The raids of the Vikings is mentioned in the third and final section of Scott’s poem.

Third section of Scott’s poem


In Saxon strength that abbey frowned,
With massive arches broad and round,
That rose alternate, row and row,
On ponderous columns, short and low,
Built ere the art was known, [45]
By pointed aisle and shafted stalk,
The arcades of an alleyed walk
To emulate in stone.
On the deep walls the heathen Dane
Had poured his impious rage in vain; [50]
And needful was such strength to these,
Exposed to the tempestuous seas,
Scourged by the winds’ eternal sway,
Open to rovers fierce as they,
Which could twelve hundred years withstand [55]
Winds, waves, and Northern pirates’ hand.
Not but that portions of the pile,
Rebuilded in a later style,
Showed where the spoiler’s hand had been;
Not but the wasting sea-breeze keen [60]
Had worn the pillar’s carving quaint,
And mouldered in his niche the saint,
And rounded, with consuming power,
The pointed angles of each tower;
Yet still entire the abbey stood, [65]
Like veteran, worn, but unsubdued.

The Lindisfarne Castle seen from the Churchyard

Journals by Lizzie Borden’s lawyer Andrew J. Jennings to be conserved and published

The Jennings’ journals surface after 120 years

img_0653
The Jenning’s Journals. People has searched for a final clue here. Did she or didn’t she?

Andrew Jackson Jennings (1849-1923) was Lizzie Borden’s attorney during the two weeks of trial in 1893. Lizzie herself had already spend 9 months in prison prior up to the trial. During the trial about a year after the murders the prosecution received several blows. Lizzie Borden’s inquest was not considered valid since she was high on morphine when the police questioned her. Her attorney also complained her legal rights was set aside a she was questioned without any attorney present. The autopsies didn’t reveal any signs of poison being present so the pharmacist testimony about Lizzie trying to buy prussic acid (cyanide) a day before the murders was ruled out.

THE CONSERVATION OF THE JENNING’S JOURNAL is good news to all people interested in the local history of Falls City, New England and the murder case. The murder of Lizzie Borden’s parents remains one of the most sensational and unsolved crimes in the american history. As the prime suspect Lizzie Borden was found not guilty of murder the local citizens of Fall River alienated her and the nursery rhyme Lizzie Borden took an axe…rendered her guilty for all time.

The Jennings’ journals consists of a scrap-book with newspaper clips concerning the unsolved case and a reference ledger. At time miss Borden had the best attorney money could buy at this time, Andrew Jackson Jennings. When the journals were opened people searched for evidence of Lizzie’s guilt. There was none. If Lizzie had confessed murder to her lawyer he certainly wouldn’t have written anything down about it which would be left to other people to read about.

lizzie_borden
Lizzie A. Borden (1860-1927)

THE TRIAL of Lizzie Borden has often been compared to O.J Simpson’s trial. Both were rich and was accused of double-murder. Both faced death penalty.  Both had good lawyers who may have helped them get away with murder. During the trials media showed a great interest in both cases and produced sensational headlines. Both of them did crime after they were acquitted of the murders. Lizzie Borden was however never sentenced again, but she did take up on a bad habit from her youth – shoplifting. This resulted in a police warrant but she was able to make it fair with the shop keepers by paying for what she had stolen. This was not a problem since Lizzie and her sister Emma became millionaires after the death of their father.

But the murder trial was not the last time the American Justice System would hear about Lizzie Borden. There was another incident embarrassing to Lizzie who never moved away from Fall City. Only a few years after acquittal a judge received a letter from a married man accusing his wife of lesbianism and Lizzie’s name was mentioned as evidence from a correspondence. The judge dismissed the accusation as frivolous.

Crime Scene, August 4th 1892 

Abby Borden was killed first and then the killer hid in the house for about one and half hour until Andrew Borden arrived home. One dead body and a killer waiting for one and a half hour in the building without anyone in the household taking ay notice. This murder case must be unique. Andrew came home a bit early that day because he was not feeling well. Upon arrival Andrew is surprised he cannot enter his house, it’s locked. After awhile Lizzie opens the door.

While Abby Borden was clubbed down with the through hatched 19 blows Andrew Borden’s face was hacked out beyond recognition. One of his eyeballs was split. The photos from the crime scene are hideous and Mr Borden had literally no face left! Lizzie also gives the maid Bridget Sullivan alibi. During the trial Lizzie showed some strange behaviour. She was often seen giggling and behaving irrational. Many times she was looking at her lawyer for some support almost asking him how to behave properly. After the trial and Lizzie’s acquaintance Bridget moved from Fall River never to be heard from again. In the town’s Central Church the Borden family owned a pew. Once acquitted Lizzie wanted go back to her church. When she got there she noticed all seats around hers was empty. She understood that people had moved away from her on propose and after the experience she never sat her foot in that church again.

Tensions within the family revealed

There was much tension within the family and the house. The irish maid Bridget Sullivan probably didn’t like working there and she wasn’t even addressed by her own Christian name. Instead the family  used the previous maids name whenever they called on Bridget. At court Bridget was asked bout this – didn’t she find it derogatory?  Bridget Sullivan answered she didn’t mind this.

MUCH OF THE FUSS in the family sprung from Andrew Borden’s marriage to Abby McDuffy. They married 2-3 years after the death of Emma and Lizzie’s biological mother. His daughters never seemed to have accepted the new wife and at one point Lizzie stopped calling Mrs Borden “mother”.

At the age of 32 Lizzie was given 4 dollars a week in pocket-money and it’s possible she thought 4 dollars wasn’t enough for her. The shoplifting also embarrassed her father but he paid all these expenses whenever a shopkeeper needed to talk to him about Lizzie’s behaviour in the store. On one occasion she stole jewellery at home. More tensions arouse in the household as Andrew announced he was going to buy a new house to their stepmother’s sister. When Lizzie and Emma heard this they stopped taking meals together with Abby and prefered eating in another room. It could not have been easy for Abby Borden to be a new mother to these girls and there was a big difference in age between her and Andrew. After the death of his first wife he needed someone to take her place and Abby was unmarried. The marriage was likely not a love match. WHEN the police asked questions about her mother Abby Borden, Lizzie was quick to respond that she was not her real mother, but a stepmother.

The incest-theory has been put forth several times and has been viewed by many as a possible trigger to murder. Especially since victims of incest often blame both parents. Her biological father gave Lizzie his own middle name, Andrew. At her inquest 32 years later she stated her full legal name: Lizzie Andrew Borden. “You were so christened?” the district attorney asked. “I was so christened,” she replied. After the trial Borden would change her first name Lizzie into Lizbeth although she continued to sign legal documents with both names.

And the motive?

It’s suggested money was the prime motive behind the killings of Andrew Borden and his wife Abby. Andrew Borden had worked hard all his life as a business man and upon his death his wealth was worth 8.000.000 dollars. The only persons who could have profited from their deaths were the daughters, Lizzie and Emma Borden. It’s known that Lizzie wanted a better lifestyle and was not happy at the house at 92 2nd Street. It was not a modern place and they had no electricity or any running water installed. Water was drawn from a pump in a sink room. The father refused to move the family elsewhere since the house was located in the city and not too far away from his office. More tensions come forth after her father revealed he was going to change his will including some of his new wife’s relatives. After the trial the sisters inherited their father’s fortune and Lizzie Borden and her sister could finally live at French Street on the Hill.

Emma Borden continued to maintain her belief in her sister’s innocence as long as she lived. She died only nine days after the death of her infamous sister who had left her out of her will. Clause 28 of Lizzie’s will read: “I have not given my sister, Emma L. Borden, anything as she had her share of her father’s estate and is supposed to have enough to make her comfortable.” She signed the will as both Lizzie A. Borden and Lizbeth A. Borden. People who inherited Lizzie Borden were friends, loyal servants and The Animal rescue of Fall River. She also left a huge sum of money to the perpetual care of her father’s gravesite.

Other suspects?

After the killings and the trial there were no more beastly murders involving hatchets around. Things got quiet in Fall river. The sisters sold their old home and moved up to the Hill were other family members already lived. And no other suspect or suspects was heard or inquired. After Lizzie was acquitted the police continued to receive letters from all around the world for years from people who wanted to help solve the case.

The Scottish poems in Lizzie’s house

She had the following lines inscribed on the mantle of her house at French Street. It has the following lines:

“The Green Leaf of Loyalty’s beginning to fall
The Bonnie white Rose it is withering an’ all
But I’ll water it with the Blood of usurping tyranny
And green it will grow in my ain countree”

The Bonnie white rose in the poem may be something she choose to identify with. Another line of poetry is located over the fire-place in Lizzie’s bedroom:

“And old time friends, and twilight plays
And starry nights, and sunny days
Come trouping up the misty ways
When my fire burns low.”

Sources & Newspapers reports on the Jenning Journals’

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2012/03/11/journals-from-lizzie-borden-lawyer-surface-after-years/TS5Hyd99Xq7U9CRwsFWCuN/story.html

http://www.heraldnews.com/article/20130802/NEWS/308029408

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/LizzieBorden/bordenhome.html

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/211803/lizzie-border-wasp-florence-king

https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2012/03/13/journals_of_lizzie_bordens_lawyer_may_may_shed_new_light_on_the_infamous_murders.html

wikipedia.org [various entries; photos; biographies related to the Lizzie Borden Case]