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Old 04-10-2001, 09:12 AM
cgaver cgaver is offline
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From 'smelly' topic-starters no one can resist,
to talk of Auden; "comic poets"; "sonorous sense",
our emblematic poetshouldn't be dismissed.
So onward with a que that's from J.L's defense...

Darkness
by George Gordon Byron

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
And twined themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again;--a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought--and that was death,
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails--men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress--he died.
The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they raked up,
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful--was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--
A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
They slept on the abyss without a surge--
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon their mistress had expir'd before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them--She was the Universe.


And if you thought this was long,
next up, Spenser's The Faerie Queen...
just kidding, Alan
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Old 04-10-2001, 09:52 AM
cgaver cgaver is offline
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That end line should read, "Just kidding, Tim." I forgot my moderator for a moment...

Tim, or anyone, I would have edited this, but I'm having trouble accessing choices on the page. The "quick links" pop menu to the left comes out when I point to various parts of the screen and limits what I can do. I couldn't click on the "edit" icon for instance because of it.
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Old 04-10-2001, 10:02 AM
mandolin mandolin is offline
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cgaver, this poem was printed in a Scientific American issue principally devoted to studies of nuclear winter -- it was inpired by the events of 1816, "the year without a summer," caused by the eruption of Tarnbora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia in 1815, which spewed perhaps as much as 100 cubic miles of dust and ashes into the atmosphere. From a Vermont newspaper of June 15, 1816: "Some account was given . . . of the unparalleled severity of the weather. It continued, without any essential amelioration, from the 6th to the 10th instant -- freezing as hard five nights in succession as it usually does in December. On the night of the 6th, water froze an inch thick -- and on the night of the 7th and morning of the 8th, a kind of sleet or exceeding cold snow fell, attended with high wind, which measured in places where it was drifted, 18 to 20 inches in depth. Saturday morning the weather was more severe than it generally is during the storms of winter."

More here and here.

The poem goes over the edge into bathos, I think, but people really believed the end had come. There had been cold summers since 1812, and that year (1816) there was famine across Europe and there were sunspots large enough to be seen by the naked eye -- well, through smoked glass without magnification. Under the circumstances, Byron may be forgiven.

BTW -- Thursday I'll be able to get online at home, instead of stealing time from work, and I'll be able to participate again. Looks like I've missed a great deal.
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Old 04-10-2001, 10:39 PM
cgaver cgaver is offline
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Dear Mandolin,

Thanks for the meteorological context. The information is interesting and reminds me, specifically, of the winter Sylvia Plath died, which I believe was one of the most bitterly cold winters in London on record, and the winters that preceded the Salem Witch Trials, which were also particularly harsh and unusually cold. We are not disconnected from our environs, though I think our modern lives might deceive us into such a belief.

"Bathos" is one of those words that always makes me smile. Perhaps that's because it evokes the image of someone take a bath in the symbolic water of sentimentality, or something like that. I think the Romantics find little support or interest in the 21st century, but I wouldn't be surprised if they are "discovered" again and reread in another century or so. That is, of course, barring any realized manifestation of Byron's dream.

Thanks again for the quote from Scientifc American.
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Old 04-11-2001, 08:10 AM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Thanks Cynthia, for posting the Byron. Luscious stuff, however purple. Thanks also to Mandolin for giving it context. It is well to remember how baseless Byron's angst proved, when we hear the gaseous proponents of "global warming."

Alan Sullivan
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Old 04-11-2001, 10:28 AM
Joel Lamore Joel Lamore is offline
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I don't know that Byron is really expressing "angst" about the odd weather. He's taking a real circumstance and the general anxiety of the time and transforming it, imagining it, extending it to a give a vision of an apocalypse not like many imagined before, but more like the entropic heat-death of the universe. As I've noted elsewhere on this board, if this poem catches you in the right mood, it can provide an entertaining little frisson.

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Old 04-12-2001, 05:14 PM
cgaver cgaver is offline
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J.L., I agree. I the poem originates out from that same darkly bent mindspace that inspired the "ghost story" sessions in Switzerland, in 1816 (Byron, Mary Shelley, et al.) that gave birth to Frankensteinand the "gothic" movement and mystique...

And AS, I am still moaning from your pun! I doubt that you will much care for my 'environmental' sestet, but I may inflict you with it on your metrical board anyway! It could use your, and others', suggestions I think after some things were pointed out in workshop...
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Old 04-13-2001, 11:48 AM
graywyvern graywyvern is offline
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thanks, this is always my favorite Byron poem.

once i saw it reprinted in full in the newsprint
program guide for our local freeform radio station,
KCHU, circa 1975.

g.
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