A Word to Husbands
by Ogden Nash
To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
Ogden Nash Biography
A master of light, whimsical, and sometimes nonsensical verse, Nash started his writing career at Doubleday Page Publishers, where he wrote his first children's book with Joseph Algers, The Cricket of Garador, in 1925. After six years of writing advertising copy as an editor and publicist at Doubleday, Nash claimed, he began his career in humorous poetry by scribbling one afternoon. His scribbles were to become a poem called Spring Comes to Murray Hill, which he threw away. Upon some thought, however, he retrieved it from the wastebasket and sent it to The New Yorker. His first piece of satiric verse was published in 1930.
After "Murray Hill" Nash's work began to appear in other periodicals. He was prolific enough that he published a collection of his poetry, Hard Lines, in 1931. Hard Lines sold out seven printings in its first year and catapulted Nash into his role as the master of light verse. In 1932 Nash left Doubleday to join the editorial staff of The New Yorker. His steady and lengthy affiliation with the magazine helped establish its distinctive tone and sense of humor. According to poet Archibald MacLeish, Nash "altered the sensibility of his time." Even after the widespread reception of his first book, however, Nash still insisted that the whole thing was an accident. He had already become quite popular with the general public through his work in The New Yorker and "Information Please," a radio quiz show. Eventually he began to write full-time, publishing over two dozen books of poetry and prose in his lifetime.
In an environment in which people cared little about poetry, Nash managed to be one of the most popular and most quoted poets of his time, coining such phrases as "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker." His turn of the phrase, his puns, and his nonsensical rhymes appealed to people of all ages. While speaking in the Library of Congress auditorium, Nash suggested that the average man, surviving the perils of the nuclear age, needed not only missiles, submarines, and a fallout shelter, but also a few lighthearted laughs to save him.
Although the Atlantic Monthly heralded Nash as "God's gift to the United States" for his insightful commentary on 20th-century America, his work had international appeal. He was known as the Everyman of his time, the poet of the ordinary and universal. His poems were humorous not only because they made people laugh, but also because they contained some truth of human experience. His signature style used exaggeration, an element of surprise, and absurdity juxtaposed with the universal experience with which the average reader can identify. He was well regarded by critics and the public alike for his inventive titles, his unlikely rhymes, and his ridiculous play on words. Throughout his career a variety of publications from the Boston Herald to the Saturday Review of Literature sang critical praise for his work.
Although a great fan of Edward Lear and the limerick, Nash possessed a style that was very irregular indeed. Sometimes his poems contained only a handful of words; at other times they went on for several lines before ending in a clever or sometimes nonsensical rhyme. On many occasions he invented a word to fit the rhyme: "Each spring they beautify our suburb, the ladies of the garden cluburb" ("Correction: Eve Delved and Adam Span"). His other rhymes include such sets as nostrilly/tonsilly/irresponsilly ("Fahrenheit Gesundheit") and tortoises/porpoises/corpoises ("Don't Cry, Darling, lt's Blood All Right").
Not only are his lines and rhymes irregular, but the length of his poems varied greatly. Some verses would go on for pages at a time, while others began and ended abruptly in two lines. It is quite possible that Nash has written on of the shortest poems in the English language, "Reflection on a Wicked World": "Purity is obscurity." The themes of his poems varied wildly as well. From getting eyeglasses as an old man to traveling in Europe, no subject was too banal or far-fetched for Nash. His middle-class life and family provided no end of inspiration. He wrote of proud parenting, the folly of being a husband, suburban crowds, diets, vacations, fatherhood, and anything else he could think of.
Through his numerous volumes Nash became well established as a writer of light verse. Even after Hollywood expressed interest in his work, poetry remained his primary source of income. Although none of his screenplays were produced, his work was oppositioned several times, providing enough money for him and his wife to travel to Europe. Eventually he returned to the East Coast to continue writing verse. He also lectured extensively throughout the United States and England. Through his lecture tours he developed a deep respect and keen understanding of his fellow man, which his work reflected. His television appearances in the 1950s (such as "Masquerade Party") also helped increase his popularity.
Nash also renewed his interest in children’s literature in the 1950s. He believed that his writing was not just for kids, but rather lay in a gray area between child and adult worlds. In his numerous volumes for children, such as Custard the Dragon (1959), Nash continues his setting for universal truth. Nash’s approach to children is neither condescending nor mocking, however; in fact, his whimsical yet serious attitude toward the young has gained him respect among children of all ages.
When he was not writing poetry, Nash appeared on various radio game and comedy shows in the 1940s and wrote scores for TV shows in the 1950s, including lyrics for the show "Peter and the Wolf." In 1943 Nash collaborated with Kurt Weill and S. J. Perelman on One Touch of Venus, a musical comedy. He continued to write, publish and lecture until very close to the end of his life.
In function of my travel to the Amazon region, in the period of 09 to the 21st of July of 2013, on Monday on 08th of July of 2013 they will be anticipating the referring topics the lessons of grammar, curiosities, challenges and poems and poetries, too many topics will be lifted and retaken from the 22nd of July of 2013.
Regarding the corrections of the exercises, they can keep on sending, since so what will return I will correct all in the arrival order.
Good studies to all and use this period to revise the matter and to explore other topics that still have not if risked.
Greetings to all of Brazil.
Bear In There
by Shel Silverstein
There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire--
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there--
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.
Shel Silverstein Biography
A truly unique and multi-faceted artist, Shel Silverstein was a renowned poet, playwright, illustrator, screenwriter, and songwriter. Best known for his immensely popular children’s books including The Giving Tree, Falling Up, and A Light in the Attic, Silverstein has delighted tens of millions of readers around the world, becoming one of the most popular and best-loved children's authors of all time.
Born in Chicago on September 25, 1930, Sheldon Allan Silverstein grew up to attain an enormous public following, but always preferred to say little about himself. “When I was a kid,” he told Publishers Weekly in 1975, “I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn’t play ball. I couldn’t dance. So I started to draw and to write. I was lucky that I didn’t have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style.”
Silverstein drew his first cartoons for the adult readers of Pacific Stars and Stripes when he was a G.I. in Japan and Korea in the 1950’s. He also learned to play the guitar and to write songs, a talent that would later produce such hits as “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” for Dr. Hook.
Shel Silverstein never planned on writing for children – surprising for an artist whose children’s works would soon become available in more than 30 languages around the world. In the early 1960’s Tomi Ungerer, a friend whose own career in children’s books was blossoming, introduced Silverstein to his editor, Harper Collins’ legendary Ursula Nordstrom. That connection led to the publication of The Giving Tree in 1964. The book sold modestly at first, but soon the gentle parable about a boy and the tree that loved him was admired by readers of all ages, recommended by counselors and teachers, and being read aloud from pulpits. Decades after its initial publication, with more than five and a half million copies sold, The Giving Tree holds a permanent spot atop lists of perennial bestsellers.
Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein’s first collection of poems, was published in 1974 and was hailed as an instant classic. Its poems and drawings were applauded for their zany wit, irreverent wisdom, and tender heart. Two more collections followed: A Light in the Attic in 1981, and Falling Up in 1996. Both books dominated bestseller lists for months, with A Light in the Attic shattering all previous records for its 182-week stay on the New York Times list. His poetry books are widely used in schools as a child’s first introduction to poetry.
Silverstein enjoyed a long, successful career as a songwriter with credits that included the popular “Unicorn Song” for the Irish Rovers and “I’m Checking Out” written for the film Postcards from the Edge and nominated for an Academy Award in 1991. In 1984, Silverstein won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album for Where the Sidewalk Ends – “recited, sung and shouted” by the author. He performed his own songs on a number of albums and wrote others for friends, including 1998’s Old Dogs with country stars Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Jerry Reed; and his last children’s recording Underwater Land with singer/songwriter and longtime friend Pat Dailey.
Shel Silverstein loved to spend time in Greenwich Village, Key West, Martha’s Vineyard, and Sausalito, California. Up until his death in May 1999, he continued to create plays, songs, poems, stories, and drawings, and most importantly, in Shel’s own words, “have a good time.”
Those good times show in the charm and humor of Underwater Land. Its seventeen tracks are a perfect blend of Silverstein’s irreverent wit and Dailey’s inviting vocal style. Produced by Silverstein, and featuring his whimsical artwork, the CD is now available from Olympia Records.
If those I loved were lost
by Emily Dickinson
If those I loved were lost
The Crier's voice would tell me --
If those I loved were found
The bells of Ghent would ring --
Did those I loved repose
The Daisy would impel me.
Philip -- when bewildered
Bore his riddle in!
Emily Dickinson Biography
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a family well known for educational and political activity. Her father, an orthodox Calvinist, was a lawyer and treasurer of the local college. He also served in Congress. Dickinson's mother, whose name was also Emily, was a cold, religious, hard-working housewife, who suffered from depression. Her relationship with her daughter was distant. Later Dickinson wrote in a letter, that she never had a mother.
Dickinson was educated at Amherst Academy (1834-47) and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (1847-48). Around 1850 she started to compose poems - "Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine, / Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine!" she said in her earliest known poem, dated March 4, 1850. It was published in Springfield Daily Republican in 1852.
The style of her first efforts was fairly conventional, but after years of practice she began to give room for experiments. Often written in the metre of hymns, her poems dealt not only with issues of death, faith and immortality, but with nature, domesticity, and the power and limits of language. From c.1858 Dickinson assembled many of her poems in packets of 'fascicles', which she bound herself with needle and thread. A selection of these poems appeared in 1890.
In 1862 Dickinson started her life long correspondence and friendship with Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911), a writer and reformer, who commanded during the Civil War the first troop of African-American soldiers. Higginson later published Army Life in a Black Regiment in 1870. On of the four poems he received from Dickinson was the famous 'Safe in their Alabaster Chambers.'
by Edgar Allan Poe
Romance, who loves to nod and sing
With drowsy head and folded wing
Among the green leaves as they shake
Far down within some shadowy lake,
To me a painted paroquet
Hath been—most familiar bird—
Taught me my alphabet to say,
To lisp my very earliest word
While in the wild wood I did lie,
A child—with a most knowing eye.
Of late, eternal condor years
So shake the very Heaven on high
With tumult as they thunder by,
I have no time for idle cares
Through gazing on the unquiet sky;
And when an hour with calmer wings
Its down upon my spirit flings,
That little time with lyre and rhyme
To while away—forbidden things—
My heart would feel to be a crime
Unless it trembled with the strings.
Edgar Allan Poe Biography
EDGAR ALLEN POE was born in Boston, January 19, 1809, and after a tempestuous life of forty years, he died in the city of Baltimore, October 7, 1849.
His father, the son of a distinguished officer in the Revolutionary army, was educated for the law, but having married the beautiful English actress, Elizabeth Arnold, he abandoned law, and in company with his wife, led a wandering life on the stage. The two died within a short time of each other, leaving three children entirely destitute. Edgar, the second son, a bright, beautiful boy, was adopted by John Allen, a wealthy citizen of Richmond. Allen, having no children of his own, became very much attached to Edgar, and used his wealth freely in educating the boy. At the age of seven he was sent to school at Stoke Newington, near London, where he remained for six years. During the next three years he studied under private tutors, at the residence of the Allen's in Richmond. In 1826 he entered the University of Virginia, where he remained less than a year.
After a year or two of fruitless life at home, a cadetship was obtained for him at West Point. He was soon tried by court-martial and expelled from school because he drank to excess and neglected his studies. Thus ended his school days.
In 1829 he published "Al Aaraaf, and Minor Poems." "This work," says his biographer, Mr. Stoddard, "was not a remarkable production for a young gentleman of twenty." Poe himself was ashamed of the volume.
After his stormy school life, he returned to Richmond, where he was kindly received by Mr. Allen. Poe's conduct was such that Mr. Allen was obliged to turn him out of doors, and, dying soon after, he made no mention of Poe in his will.
Now wholly thrown upon his own resources, he took up literature as a profession, but in this he failed to gain a living. He enlisted as a private soldier, but was soon recognized as the West Point cadet and a discharge procured.
In 1833 Poe won two prizes of $100 each for a tale in prose, and for a poem. John P. Kennedy, one of the committee who made the award, now gave him means of support, and secured employment for him as editor of the "Southern Literary Messenger" at Richmond. After a short but successful editorial work on "The Messenger," his old habits returned, he quarreled with his publishers and was dismissed. While in Richmond he married his cousin, Virginia Clem, and in January, 1837, removed to New York. Here he gained a poor support by writing for periodicals.
His literary work may be summed up as follows: In 1838 appeared a fiction entitled "The Narrative of Arthur Gorden Pym;" 1839, editor of Burton's "Gentleman's Magazine," Philadelphia; next, editor of "Graham's Magazine;" 1840, "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque," in two volumes; 1845, "The Raven," published by the "American Review;" then sub-editor of the "Mirror" under employment of N. P. Willis and Geo. P. Norris; next associate editor of the "Broadway Journal."
His wife died in 1848. His poverty was now such that the press made appeals to the public for his support.
In 1848 he published "Eureka, a Prose Poem."
He went to Richmond in 1849, where he was engaged to a lady of considerable fortune. In October he started for New York to arrange for the wedding, but at Baltimore he met some of his former boon companions, and spent the night in drinking. In the morning he was found in a state of delirium, and died in a few hours.
The most remarkable of his tales are "The Gold Bug," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Murders of the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter," "A Descent into Maelstrom," and "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." "The Raven" and "The Bells" alone would make the name of Poe immortal. The teachers of Baltimore placed a monument over his grave in 1875.
Poe has been severely censured by many writers for his wild and stormy life, but we notice that Ingram and some other prominent authors claim that he has been willfully slandered and that many of the charges brought against him are not true. His ungovernable temper and high spirit led him into disputes with his friends, hence he was not enabled to hold any one position for a great length of time. Like Byron and Burns, he had faults in personal life, but his ungovernable passions are sleeping, while the sad strains of "The Raven," the clear and harmonious tones of "The Bells," and the powerful images of his fancy live in the immortal literature of his time.
Seeker Of Truth
by E. E. Cummings
seeker of truth
follow no path
all paths lead where
truth is here
E. E. Cummings Biography
Edward Estlin Cummings was born October 14, 1894 in the town of Cambridge Massachusetts. His father, and most constant source of awe, Edward Cummings, was a professor of Sociology and Political Science at Harvard University. In 1900, Edward left Harvard to become the ordained minister of the South Congregational Church, in Boston. As a child, E.E. attended Cambridge public schools and lived during the summer with his family in their summer home in Silver Lake, New Hampshire. (Kennedy 8-9) E.E. loved his childhood in Cambridge so much that he was inspired to write disputably his most famous poem, "In Just-" (Lane pp. 26-27)
Not so much in, "In Just-" but Cummings took his father's pastoral background and used it to preach in many of his other poems. In "you shall above all things be glad and young," Cummings preaches to the reader in verse telling them to love with naivete and innocence, rather than listen to the world and depend on their mind.
Attending Harvard, Cummings studied Greek and other languages (p. 62). In college, Cummings was introduced to the writing and artistry of Ezra Pound, who was a large influence on E.E. and many other artists in his time (pp. 105-107). After graduation, Cummings volunteered for the Norton-Haries Ambulance Corps. En-route to France, Cummings met another recruit, William Slater Brown. The two became close friends, and as Brown was arrested for writing incriminating letters home, Cummings refused to separate from his friend and the two were sent to the La Ferte Mace concentration camp. The two friends were finally freed, only due to the persuasion of Cummings' father.
This experience proved quite instrumental to Cummings writing; The Enormous Room is Cummings' autobiographical account of his time in the internment camp. E.E. was extremely cautious to attempt to publish The Enormous Room, however after great persuasion by his father, Cummings finally had a copy of the manuscript sent to Boston to be read. (Kennedy p. 213) Cummings greatest fan, Edward wrote after reading his son's manuscript, "I am sure now that you [E.E] are a great writer, and as proud of it now, as I shall be when the world finds out." (p. 213)
Cummings and Brown returned back to the states in January only to see Cummings drafted back to the war that summer. When Cummings returned after the armistice, he moved back in with Brown and soon met his first wife, Elaine Orr (p. 165). In 1920, Cummings began to concentrate on his writing and painting. For the next six years, Cummings wrote many pieces of work, Tulips and Chimneys (1923), & (1925), XLI Poems (1925), and Is 5 (1926). Also during that time, Cummings and Elaine's marriage ended in a rather complicated divorce. Cummings had no concept of how to treat his new wife correctly, so she found herself love in the arms of another man (p. 264).
In the same year that Is 5 was published, Cummings' father was abruptly killed and his mother was injured seriously in a car accident. With his new love-interest, Anne Barton, Cummings found out of his father's death at a small party in New York. Cummings and his sister, Elizabeth, immediately rushed to their mother's bedside. Although she was not expected to live through the week, Rebecca was inspired by her children to continue living and she miraculously survived a fractured skull. E.E. explained the catastrophe in these words,
"... a locomotive cut the car in half, killing my father instantly. When two brakemen jumped from the halted train, they saw a woman standing- dazed but erect- beside a mangled machine; with blood spouting (as the older said to me) out of her head. One of her hands (the younger added) kept feeling her dress, as if trying to discover why it was wet. These men took my sixty-six year old mother by the arms and tried to lead her toward a nearby farmhouse; but she threw them off, strode straight to my father's body, and directed a group of scared spectators to cover him. When this had been done (and only then) she let them lead her away." (Kennedy 293)
Cummings' father was an incredible influence on his work. At his death, Cummings' entered "a new poetic period." (p. 386) His father's death sobered E.E. to write about more important facets of life. Cummings began his new era of poetry by paying tribute to his father's memory in his poem, "my father moved through dooms of love" (Lane p. 41ñ43). This poem, used to cope with the death of his role model, was not a somber funeral drone, but rather, a celebration of the life and love that his father brought to Cummings' life and poetry. While making notes about his father, Cummings wrote, "He was the handsomest man I ever saw. Big was my father and strong with lightblue skies for eyes." (Kennedy p. 385)
From his father's death to 1932, Cummings survived a poor showing of his play Him (1927), and published two other works of his artistic talents in CIOPW (1931), and ViVa (1931). Cummings also successfully married and divorced Anne Barton in the five years after the accident that took his father away from him (p. 296). 1932 is an important year for Cummings because it is the year that he met the woman that he would ultimately spent his remaining life with. Marion Morehouse was twelve years younger than E.E. It is uncertain whether E.E. and Marion ever officially exchanged vows, although their role in each other's lives was certainly that of husband and wife (p. 338-340).
With a beautiful "wife", Cummings traveled the world. He ventured to Tunisia, Russia, Mexico, and France, among many other visits he made to lands across the Atlantic. Throughout these trips, Cummings manages to publish eight works: The Red Front (1933), Eimi (1933), No Thanks (1935), Tom (1935), Collected Poems (1940), 1x 1 (1944), and Santa Claus (1946). In Europe, Cummings wrote many anti-war poems in protesting America's involvement in Europe and the Pacific. E.E. wrote the poem "plato told" to continue the work that his late-father had done as the Executive Secretary of the World Peace Foundation. (Kennedy p. 286) His work was cut short for a brief period with the sudden deterioration of his mother's health. In January of 1947, Rebecca suffered a stroke and was put into a coma. She died a couple weeks later, never regaining consciousness. One of his poems was read at her funeral service, "if there are any heavens." (p. 413)
This memorial for Cummings mother is a true testament to the knowledge that E.E. had about his parents' love. He paints a picture to the reader of Cummings father waiting in heaven for his wife (Cummings' mother). His parents are described as strong and determined spirits, yet they have a comforting demeanor. Obvious from this poem, Cummings truly loved his parents, and had a sense of closure knowing that with his mother's death, the two were finally together.
Fifteen years after his mother's death, Edward Estlin Cummings collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage at his summer home in Joy Farm. Soon after his death, three more volumes of his verse were published (p. 484). Counting these works, Cummings died leaving behind over twenty-five books of prose, poetry, charcoal and pencil drawings, plays and stories. He did all this in his sixty-eight years of life.
I Taught Myself To Live Simply
by Anna Akhmatova
I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.
Anna Akhmatova Biography
Anna Andreyevna Akhmatova was born Anna Gorenko into an upper-class family in Odessa, the Ukraine, in 1889. Her interest in poetry began in her youth, but when her father found out about her aspirations, he told her not to shame the family name by becoming a "decadent poetess". He forced her to take a pen name, and she chose the last name of her maternal great-grandmother. She attended law school in Kiev and married Nikolai Gumilev, a poet and critic, in 1910. Shortly after the marriage, he travelled to Abyssinia, leaving her behind. While Gumilev was away, Akhmatova wrote many of the poems that would be published in her popular first book, Evening. Her son Lev was also born in 1912. He was raised by his paternal grandmother, who disliked Akhmatova. Akhmatova protested this situation, but her husband supported his family. She would visit with her son during holidays and summer. Later, Akhmatova would write that "motherhood is a bright torture. I was not worthy of it."
Upon Evening's publication in 1912, Akhmatova became a cult figure among the intelligentsia and part of the literary scene in St. Petersburg. Her second book, Rosary (1914), was critically acclaimed and established her reputation. With her husband, she became a leader of Acmeism, a movement which praised the virtues of lucid, carefully-crafted verse and reacted against the vagueness of the Symbolist style which dominated the Russian literary scene of the period. She and Gumilev divorced in 1918. Akhmatova married twice more, to Vladimir Shileiko in 1918, whom she divorced in 1928, and Nikolai Punin, who died in a Siberian labor camp in 1953. The writer Boris Pasternak, who was already married, had proposed to her numerous times.
Nikolai Gumilev was executed in 1921 by the Bolsheviks, and, although Akhmatova and he were divorced, she was still associated with him. As a result, after her book Anno Domini MCMXXI was published in 1922, she had great difficulty finding a publisher. There was an unofficial ban on Akhmatova's poetry from 1925 until 1940. During this time, Akhmatova devoted herself to literary criticism, particularly of Pushkin, and translations. During the latter part of the 1930s, she composed a long poem, Requiem, dedicated to the memory of Stalin's victims. In 1940, a collection of previously published poems, From Six Books, was published. A few months later it was withdrawn.
Changes in the political climate finally allowed her acceptance into the Writer's Union, but following World War II, there was an official decree banning publication of her poetry and Andrey Zhadanov, the Secretary of the Central Committee, expelled her from the Writer's Union, calling her "half nun, half harlot". Her son, Lev, was arrested in 1949 and held in jail until 1956. To try to win his release, Akhmatova wrote poems in praise of Stalin and the government, but it was of no use. Later she requested that these poems not appear in her collected works. She began writing and publishing again in 1958, but with heavy censorship. Young poets like Joseph Brodsky flocked to her. To them, she represented a link with the pre-Revolutionary past which had been destroyed by the Communists.
Though Akhmatova was frequently confronted with official government opposition to her work during her lifetime, she was deeply loved and lauded by the Russian people, in part because she did not abandon her country during difficult political times. Her most accomplished works, Requiem (which was not published in its entirety in Russia until 1987) and Poem Without a Hero, are reactions to the horror of the Stalinist Terror, during which time she endured artistic repression as well as tremendous personal loss.
Akhmatova also translated the works of Victor Hugo, Rabindranath Tagore, Giacomo Leopardi, and various Armenian and Korean poets, and she wrote memoirs of Symbolist writer Aleksandr Blok, the artist Amedeo Modigliani, and fellow Acmeist Osip Mandelstam. In 1964 she was awarded the Etna-Taormina prize and an honorary doctorate from Oxford University in 1965. Her journeys to Sicily and England to receive these honors were her first travels outside Russia since 1912. Two years before her death at the age of 76, Akhmatova was chosen president of the Writers' Union. Akhmatova died in Leningrad, where she had spent most of life, in 1966.
by Pablo Neruda
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.
The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.
It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.
I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.
I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.
That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the
And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.
There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical
I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.
Pablo Neruda Biography
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), whose real name is Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, remarried doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls' secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily "La Mañana", among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia - his first publication - and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.
Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic production during that difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked his literary breakthrough.
The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el Corazón (1937). The same year he returned to his native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was characterised by an orientation towards political and social matters. España en el Corazón had a great impact by virtue of its being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.
In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, Consul General in Mexico, where he rewrote his Canto General de Chile, transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto General, was published in Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately 250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes the central part of Neruda's production. Shortly after its publication, Canto General was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living abroad.
In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla's repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities; one example is Las Uvas y el Viento (1954), which can be regarded as the diary of Neruda's exile. In Odas elementales (1954- 1959) his message is expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects of the hymns - things, events and relations - are duly presented in alphabetic form.
Neruda's production is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras Completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962 the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two volumes. Among his works of the last few years can be mentioned Cien sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife Matilde Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Arte de pajáros (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (1967), Las manos del día (1968), Fin del mundo (1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.
What with the physical shocks incidental to my first interview
with Professor Challenger and the mental ones which accompanied
the second, I was a somewhat demoralized journalist by the time I
found myself in Enmore Park once more. In my aching head the one
thought was throbbing that there really was truth in this man’s
story, that it was of tremendous consequence, and that it would
work up into inconceivable copy for the Gazette when I could
obtain permission to use it. A taxicab was waiting at the end of
the road, so I sprang into it and drove down to the office.
McArdle was at his post as usual.
“Well,” he cried, expectantly, “what may it run to? I’m thinking,
young man, you have been in the wars. Don’t tell me that he
“We had a little difference at first.”
“What a man it is! What did you do?”
“Well, he became more reasonable and we had a chat. But I got
nothing out of him-nothing for publication.”
“I’m not so sure about that. You got a black eye out of him,
and that’s for publication. We can’t have this reign of terror,
Mr. Malone. We must bring the man to his bearings. I’ll have a
leaderette on him to-morrow that will raise a blister. Just give
me the material and I will engage to brand the fellow for ever.
Professor Munchausen-how’s that for an inset headline? Sir John
Mandeville redivivus-Cagliostro-all the imposters and bullies
in history. I’ll show him up for the fraud he is.”
“I wouldn’t do that, sir.”
“Because he is not a fraud at all.”
“What!” roared McArdle. “You don’t mean to say you really
believe this stuff of his about mammoths and mastodons and great
“Well, I don’t know about that. I don’t think he makes any
claims of that kind. But I do believe he has got something new.”
“Then for Heaven’s sake, man, write it up!”
“I’m longing to, but all I know he gave me in confidence and on
condition that I didn’t.” I condensed into a few sentences the
Professor’s narrative. “That’s how it stands.”
McArdle looked deeply incredulous.
“Well, Mr. Malone,” he said at last, “about this scientific
meeting to-night; there can be no privacy about that, anyhow.
I don’t suppose any paper will want to report it, for Waldron has
been reported already a dozen times, and no one is aware that
Challenger will speak. We may get a scoop, if we are lucky.
You’ll be there in any case, so you’ll just give us a pretty
full report. I’ll keep space up to midnight.”
My day was a busy one, and I had an early dinner at the Savage
Club with Tarp Henry, to whom I gave some account of my adventures.
He listened with a sceptical smile on his gaunt face, and roared
with laughter on hearing that the Professor had convinced me.
“My dear chap, things don’t happen like that in real life.
People don’t stumble upon enormous discoveries and then lose
their evidence. Leave that to the novelists. The fellow is as
full of tricks as the monkey-house at the Zoo. It’s all bosh.”
“But the American poet?”
“He never existed.”
“I saw his sketch-book.”
“You think he drew that animal?”
“Of course he did. Who else?”
“Well, then, the photographs?”
“There was nothing in the photographs. By your own admission you
only saw a bird.”
“That’s what HE says. He put the pterodactyl into your head.”
“Well, then, the bones?”
“First one out of an Irish stew. Second one vamped up for
the occasion. If you are clever and know your business you
can fake a bone as easily as you can a photograph.”
I began to feel uneasy. Perhaps, after all, I had been premature
in my acquiescence. Then I had a sudden happy thought.
“Will you come to the meeting?” I asked.
Tarp Henry looked thoughtful.
“He is not a popular person, the genial Challenger,” said he.
“A lot of people have accounts to settle with him. I should say he
is about the best-hated man in London. If the medical students
turn out there will be no end of a rag. I don’t want to get into
“You might at least do him the justice to hear him state his own case.”
“Well, perhaps it’s only fair. All right. I’m your man for
When we arrived at the hall we found a much greater concourse
than I had expected. A line of electric broughams discharged
their little cargoes of white-bearded professors, while the dark
stream of humbler pedestrians, who crowded through the arched
door-way, showed that the audience would be popular as well
as scientific. Indeed, it became evident to us as soon as we had
taken our seats that a youthful and even boyish spirit was abroad
in the gallery and the back portions of the hall. Looking behind
me, I could see rows of faces of the familiar medical student type.
Apparently the great hospitals had each sent down their contingent.
The behavior of the audience at present was good-humored,
but mischievous. Scraps of popular songs were chorused with
an enthusiasm which was a strange prelude to a scientific lecture,
and there was already a tendency to personal chaff which promised
a jovial evening to others, however embarrassing it might be to
the recipients of these dubious honors.
Thus, when old Doctor Meldrum, with his well-known curly-brimmed
opera-hat, appeared upon the platform, there was such a universal
query of “Where DID you get that tile?” that he hurriedly removed
it, and concealed it furtively under his chair. When gouty
Professor Wadley limped down to his seat there were general
affectionate inquiries from all parts of the hall as to the exact
state of his poor toe, which caused him obvious embarrassment.
The greatest demonstration of all, however, was at the entrance
of my new acquaintance, Professor Challenger, when he passed down to
take his place at the extreme end of the front row of the platform.
Such a yell of welcome broke forth when his black beard first
protruded round the corner that I began to suspect Tarp Henry
was right in his surmise, and that this assemblage was there not
merely for the sake of the lecture, but because it had got rumored
abroad that the famous Professor would take part in the proceedings.
There was some sympathetic laughter on his entrance among the
front benches of well-dressed spectators, as though the
demonstration of the students in this instance was not unwelcome
to them. That greeting was, indeed, a frightful outburst of
sound, the uproar of the carnivora cage when the step of the
bucket-bearing keeper is heard in the distance. There was an
offensive tone in it, perhaps, and yet in the main it struck me
as mere riotous outcry, the noisy reception of one who amused and
interested them, rather than of one they disliked or despised.
Challenger smiled with weary and tolerant contempt, as a kindly
man would meet the yapping of a litter of puppies. He sat slowly
down, blew out his chest, passed his hand caressingly down his
beard, and looked with drooping eyelids and supercilious eyes at
the crowded hall before him. The uproar of his advent had not
yet died away when Professor Ronald Murray, the chairman, and Mr.
Waldron, the lecturer, threaded their way to the front, and the
Professor Murray will, I am sure, excuse me if I say that he has
the common fault of most Englishmen of being inaudible. Why on
earth people who have something to say which is worth hearing
should not take the slight trouble to learn how to make it heard
is one of the strange mysteries of modern life. Their methods
are as reasonable as to try to pour some precious stuff from the
spring to the reservoir through a non-conducting pipe, which
could by the least effort be opened. Professor Murray made
several profound remarks to his white tie and to the water-carafe
upon the table, with a humorous, twinkling aside to the silver
candlestick upon his right. Then he sat down, and Mr. Waldron,
the famous popular lecturer, rose amid a general murmur of applause.
He was a stern, gaunt man, with a harsh voice, and an aggressive
manner, but he had the merit of knowing how to assimilate the
ideas of other men, and to pass them on in a way which was
intelligible and even interesting to the lay public, with a
happy knack of being funny about the most unlikely objects,
so that the precession of the Equinox or the formation of a
vertebrate became a highly humorous process as treated by him.
It was a bird’s-eye view of creation, as interpreted by science,
which, in language always clear and sometimes picturesque, he
unfolded before us. He told us of the globe, a huge mass of
flaming gas, flaring through the heavens. Then he pictured the
solidification, the cooling, the wrinkling which formed the
mountains, the steam which turned to water, the slow preparation
of the stage upon which was to be played the inexplicable drama
of life. On the origin of life itself he was discreetly vague.
That the germs of it could hardly have survived the original
roasting was, he declared, fairly certain. Therefore it had
come later. Had it built itself out of the cooling, inorganic
elements of the globe? Very likely. Had the germs of it arrived
from outside upon a meteor? It was hardly conceivable. On the
whole, the wisest man was the least dogmatic upon the point.
We could not-or at least we had not succeeded up to date in
making organic life in our laboratories out of inorganic materials.
The gulf between the dead and the living was something which our
chemistry could not as yet bridge. But there was a higher and
subtler chemistry of Nature, which, working with great forces
over long epochs, might well produce results which were impossible
for us. There the matter must be left.
This brought the lecturer to the great ladder of animal life,
beginning low down in molluscs and feeble sea creatures, then up
rung by rung through reptiles and fishes, till at last we came to
a kangaroo-rat, a creature which brought forth its young alive,
the direct ancestor of all mammals, and presumably, therefore, of
everyone in the audience. (“No, no,” from a sceptical student in
the back row.) If the young gentleman in the red tie who cried
“No, no,” and who presumably claimed to have been hatched out of
an egg, would wait upon him after the lecture, he would be glad
to see such a curiosity. (Laughter.) It was strange to think that
the climax of all the age-long process of Nature had been the creation
of that gentleman in the red tie. But had the process stopped?
Was this gentleman to be taken as the final type-the be-all and
end-all of development? He hoped that he would not hurt the
feelings of the gentleman in the red tie if he maintained that,
whatever virtues that gentleman might possess in private life,
still the vast processes of the universe were not fully justified
if they were to end entirely in his production. Evolution was
not a spent force, but one still working, and even greater
achievements were in store.
Having thus, amid a general titter, played very prettily with his
interrupter, the lecturer went back to his picture of the past,
the drying of the seas, the emergence of the sand-bank, the
sluggish, viscous life which lay upon their margins, the
overcrowded lagoons, the tendency of the sea creatures to take
refuge upon the mud-flats, the abundance of food awaiting them,
their consequent enormous growth. “Hence, ladies and gentlemen,”
he added, “that frightful brood of saurians which still affright
our eyes when seen in the Wealden or in the Solenhofen slates,
but which were fortunately extinct long before the first
appearance of mankind upon this planet.”
“Question!” boomed a voice from the platform.
Mr. Waldron was a strict disciplinarian with a gift of acid
humor, as exemplified upon the gentleman with the red tie, which
made it perilous to interrupt him. But this interjection
appeared to him so absurd that he was at a loss how to deal
with it. So looks the Shakespearean who is confronted by a
rancid Baconian, or the astronomer who is assailed by a flatearth
fanatic. He paused for a moment, and then, raising his
voice, repeated slowly the words: “Which were extinct before
the coming of man.”
“Question!” boomed the voice once more.
Waldron looked with amazement along the line of professors upon
the platform until his eyes fell upon the figure of Challenger,
who leaned back in his chair with closed eyes and an amused
expression, as if he were smiling in his sleep.
“I see!” said Waldron, with a shrug. “It is my friend Professor
Challenger,” and amid laughter he renewed his lecture as if this
was a final explanation and no more need be said.
But the incident was far from being closed. Whatever path the
lecturer took amid the wilds of the past seemed invariably to
lead him to some assertion as to extinct or prehistoric life
which instantly brought the same bulls’ bellow from the Professor.
The audience began to anticipate it and to roar with delight when
it came. The packed benches of students joined in, and every
time Challenger’s beard opened, before any sound could come forth,
there was a yell of “Question!” from a hundred voices, and an
answering counter cry of “Order!” and “Shame!” from as many more.
Waldron, though a hardened lecturer and a strong man, became rattled.
He hesitated, stammered, repeated himself, got snarled in a long
sentence, and finally turned furiously upon the cause of his troubles.
“This is really intolerable!” he cried, glaring across the platform.
“I must ask you, Professor Challenger, to cease these ignorant and
There was a hush over the hall, the students rigid with delight
at seeing the high gods on Olympus quarrelling among themselves.
Challenger levered his bulky figure slowly out of his chair.
“I must in turn ask you, Mr. Waldron,” he said, “to cease to make
assertions which are not in strict accordance with scientific fact.”
The words unloosed a tempest. “Shame! Shame!” “Give him a
hearing!” “Put him out!” “Shove him off the platform!” “Fair
play!” emerged from a general roar of amusement or execration.
The chairman was on his feet flapping both his hands and
bleating excitedly. “Professor Challenger-personal-viewslater,”
were the solid peaks above his clouds of inaudible mutter.
The interrupter bowed, smiled, stroked his beard, and relapsed
into his chair. Waldron, very flushed and warlike, continued
his observations. Now and then, as he made an assertion, he shot
a venomous glance at his opponent, who seemed to be slumbering
deeply, with the same broad, happy smile upon his face.
At last the lecture came to an end-I am inclined to think
that it was a premature one, as the peroration was hurried
and disconnected. The thread of the argument had been rudely
broken, and the audience was restless and expectant. Waldron sat
down, and, after a chirrup from the chairman, Professor Challenger
rose and advanced to the edge of the platform. In the interests
of my paper I took down his speech verbatim.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began, amid a sustained interruption
from the back. “I beg pardon-Ladies, Gentlemen, and Children-I
must apologize, I had inadvertently omitted a considerable
section of this audience” (tumult, during which the Professor
stood with one hand raised and his enormous head nodding
sympathetically, as if he were bestowing a pontifical blessing
upon the crowd), “I have been selected to move a vote of thanks
to Mr. Waldron for the very picturesque and imaginative address
to which we have just listened. There are points in it with
which I disagree, and it has been my duty to indicate them as
they arose, but, none the less, Mr. Waldron has accomplished his
object well, that object being to give a simple and interesting
account of what he conceives to have been the history of our planet.
Popular lectures are the easiest to listen to, but Mr. Waldron”
(here he beamed and blinked at the lecturer) “will excuse me when
I say that they are necessarily both superficial and misleading,
since they have to be graded to the comprehension of an
ignorant audience.” (Ironical cheering.) “Popular lecturers
are in their nature parasitic.” (Angry gesture of protest from
Mr. Waldron.) “They exploit for fame or cash the work which has
been done by their indigent and unknown brethren. One smallest
new fact obtained in the laboratory, one brick built into the
temple of science, far outweighs any second-hand exposition which
passes an idle hour, but can leave no useful result behind it.
I put forward this obvious reflection, not out of any desire to
disparage Mr. Waldron in particular, but that you may not lose
your sense of proportion and mistake the acolyte for the high priest.”
(At this point Mr. Waldron whispered to the chairman, who half rose
and said something severely to his water-carafe.) “But enough
of this!” (Loud and prolonged cheers.) “Let me pass to some
subject of wider interest. What is the particular point upon
which I, as an original investigator, have challenged our
lecturer’s accuracy? It is upon the permanence of certain types
of animal life upon the earth. I do not speak upon this subject
as an amateur, nor, I may add, as a popular lecturer, but I speak
as one whose scientific conscience compels him to adhere closely
to facts, when I say that Mr. Waldron is very wrong in supposing
that because he has never himself seen a so-called prehistoric
animal, therefore these creatures no longer exist. They are
indeed, as he has said, our ancestors, but they are, if I may use
the expression, our contemporary ancestors, who can still be
found with all their hideous and formidable characteristics if
one has but the energy and hardihood to seek their haunts.
Creatures which were supposed to be Jurassic, monsters who would
hunt down and devour our largest and fiercest mammals, still exist.”
(Cries of “Bosh!” “Prove it!” “How do YOU know?” “Question!”)
“How do I know, you ask me? I know because I have visited their
secret haunts. I know because I have seen some of them.”
(Applause, uproar, and a voice, “Liar!”) “Am I a liar?”
(General hearty and noisy assent.) “Did I hear someone say that I
was a liar? Will the person who called me a liar kindly stand up
that I may know him?” (A voice, “Here he is, sir!” and an
inoffensive little person in spectacles, struggling violently,
was held up among a group of students.) “Did you venture to call
me a liar?” (“No, sir, no!” shouted the accused, and disappeared
like a jack-in-the-box.) “If any person in this hall dares to
doubt my veracity, I shall be glad to have a few words with him
after the lecture.” (“Liar!”) “Who said that?” (Again the
inoffensive one plunging desperately, was elevated high into the air.)
“If I come down among you-” (General chorus of “Come, love, come!”
which interrupted the proceedings for some moments, while the
chairman, standing up and waving both his arms, seemed to be
conducting the music. The Professor, with his face flushed,
his nostrils dilated, and his beard bristling, was now in a
proper Berserk mood.) “Every great discoverer has been met with
the same incredulity-the sure brand of a generation of fools.
When great facts are laid before you, you have not the intuition,
the imagination which would help you to understand them. You can
only throw mud at the men who have risked their lives to open new
fields to science. You persecute the prophets! Galileo! Darwin,
and I-” (Prolonged cheering and complete interruption.)
All this is from my hurried notes taken at the time, which give
little notion of the absolute chaos to which the assembly had by
this time been reduced. So terrific was the uproar that several
ladies had already beaten a hurried retreat. Grave and reverend
seniors seemed to have caught the prevailing spirit as badly as
the students, and I saw white-bearded men rising and shaking
their fists at the obdurate Professor. The whole great audience
seethed and simmered like a boiling pot. The Professor took a
step forward and raised both his hands. There was something so
big and arresting and virile in the man that the clatter and
shouting died gradually away before his commanding gesture and
his masterful eyes. He seemed to have a definite message.
They hushed to hear it.
“I will not detain you,” he said. “It is not worth it. Truth is
truth, and the noise of a number of foolish young men-and, I
fear I must add, of their equally foolish seniors-cannot affect
the matter. I claim that I have opened a new field of science.
You dispute it.” (Cheers.) “Then I put you to the test. Will you
accredit one or more of your own number to go out as your
representatives and test my statement in your name?”
Mr. Summerlee, the veteran Professor of Comparative Anatomy, rose
among the audience, a tall, thin, bitter man, with the withered
aspect of a theologian. He wished, he said, to ask Professor
Challenger whether the results to which he had alluded in his
remarks had been obtained during a journey to the headwaters of
the Amazon made by him two years before.
Professor Challenger answered that they had.
Mr. Summerlee desired to know how it was that Professor
Challenger claimed to have made discoveries in those regions
which had been overlooked by Wallace, Bates, and other previous
explorers of established scientific repute.
Professor Challenger answered that Mr. Summerlee appeared to be
confusing the Amazon with the Thames; that it was in reality a
somewhat larger river; that Mr. Summerlee might be interested to
know that with the Orinoco, which communicated with it, some
fifty thousand miles of country were opened up, and that in so
vast a space it was not impossible for one person to find what
another had missed.
Mr. Summerlee declared, with an acid smile, that he fully
appreciated the difference between the Thames and the Amazon,
which lay in the fact that any assertion about the former could be
tested, while about the latter it could not. He would be obliged
if Professor Challenger would give the latitude and the longitude
of the country in which prehistoric animals were to be found.
Professor Challenger replied that he reserved such information
for good reasons of his own, but would be prepared to give it
with proper precautions to a committee chosen from the audience.
Would Mr. Summerlee serve on such a committee and test his story
Mr. Summerlee: “Yes, I will.” (Great cheering.)
Professor Challenger: “Then I guarantee that I will place in
your hands such material as will enable you to find your way.
It is only right, however, since Mr. Summerlee goes to check my
statement that I should have one or more with him who may check his.
I will not disguise from you that there are difficulties and dangers.
Mr. Summerlee will need a younger colleague. May I ask for volunteers?”
It is thus that the great crisis of a man’s life springs out at him.
Could I have imagined when I entered that hall that I was about to
pledge myself to a wilder adventure than had ever come to me in
my dreams? But Gladys-was it not the very opportunity of which
she spoke? Gladys would have told me to go. I had sprung to my feet.
I was speaking, and yet I had prepared no words. Tarp Henry, my
companion, was plucking at my skirts and I heard him whispering,
“Sit down, Malone! Don’t make a public ass of yourself.” At the
same time I was aware that a tall, thin man, with dark gingery hair,
a few seats in front of me, was also upon his feet. He glared back
at me with hard angry eyes, but I refused to give way.
“I will go, Mr. Chairman,” I kept repeating over and over again.
“Name! Name!” cried the audience.
“My name is Edward Dunn Malone. I am the reporter of the Daily
Gazette. I claim to be an absolutely unprejudiced witness.”
“What is YOUR name, sir?” the chairman asked of my tall rival.
“I am Lord John Roxton. I have already been up the Amazon,
I know all the ground, and have special qualifications for
“Lord John Roxton’s reputation as a sportsman and a traveler is,
of course, world-famous,” said the chairman; “at the same time it
would certainly be as well to have a member of the Press upon
such an expedition.”
“Then I move,” said Professor Challenger, “that both these
gentlemen be elected, as representatives of this meeting, to
accompany Professor Summerlee upon his journey to investigate and
to report upon the truth of my statements.”
And so, amid shouting and cheering, our fate was decided, and I
found myself borne away in the human current which swirled
towards the door, with my mind half stunned by the vast new
project which had risen so suddenly before it. As I emerged from
the hall I was conscious for a moment of a rush of laughing
students-down the pavement, and of an arm wielding a heavy
umbrella, which rose and fell in the midst of them. Then, amid a
mixture of groans and cheers, Professor Challenger’s electric
brougham slid from the curb, and I found myself walking under the
silvery lights of Regent Street, full of thoughts of Gladys and
of wonder as to my future.
Suddenly there was a touch at my elbow. I turned, and found
myself looking into the humorous, masterful eyes of the tall, thin
man who had volunteered to be my companion on this strange quest.
“Mr. Malone, I understand,” said he. “We are to be
companions-what? My rooms are just over the road, in the Albany.
Perhaps you would have the kindness to spare me half an hour, for
there are one or two things that I badly want to say to you.”
by Seamus Heaney
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
Seamus Heaney Biography
Seamus Heaney was born in April 1939, the eldest member of a family which would eventually contain nine children. His father owned and worked a small farm of some fifty acres in County Derry in Northern Ireland, but the father's real commitment was to cattle-dealing. There was something very congenial to Patrick Heaney about the cattle-dealer's way of life to which he was introduced by the uncles who had cared for him after the early death of his own parents. The poet's mother came from a family called McCann whose connections were more with the modern world than with the traditional rural economy; her uncles and relations were employed in the local linen mill and an aunt had worked "in service" to the mill owners' family. The poet has commented on the fact that his parentage thus contains both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution; indeed, he considers this to have been a significant tension in his background, something which corresponds to another inner tension also inherited from his parents, namely that between speech and silence. His father was notably sparing of talk and his mother notably ready to speak out, a circumstance which Seamus Heaney believes to have been fundamental to the "quarrel with himself" out of which his poetry arises.
Heaney grew up as a country boy and attended the local primary school. As a very young child, he watched American soldiers on manoeuvres in the local fields, in preparation for the Normandy invasion of 1944. They were stationed at an aerodrome which had been built a mile or so from his home and once again Heaney has taken this image of himself as a consciousness poised between "history and ignorance" as representative of the nature of his poetic life and development. Even though his family left the farm where he was reared (it was called Mossbawn) in 1953, and even though his life since then has been a series of moves farther and farther away from his birthplace, the departures have been more geographical than psychological: rural County Derry is the "country of the mind" where much of Heaney's poetry is still grounded.
When he was twelve years of age, Seamus Heaney won a scholarship to St. Columb's College, a Catholic boarding school situated in the city of Derry, forty miles away from the home farm, and this first departure from Mossbawn was the decisive one. It would be followed in years to come by a transfer to Belfast where he lived between 1957 and 1972, and by another move from Belfast to the Irish Republic where Heaney has made his home, and then, since 1982, by regular, annual periods of teaching in America. All of these subsequent shifts and developments were dependent, however, upon that original journey from Mossbawn which the poet has described as a removal from "the earth of farm labour to the heaven of education." It is not surprising, then, that this move has turned out to be a recurrent theme in his work, from "Digging", the first poem in his first book, through the much more orchestrated treatment of it in "Alphabets"(The Haw Lantern, 1987), to its most recent appearance in "A Sofa in the Forties" which was published this year in The Spirit Level.
At St. Columb's College, Heaney was taught Latin and Irish, and these languages, together with the Anglo-Saxon which he would study while a student of Queen's University, Belfast, were determining factors in many of the developments and retrenchments which have marked his progress as a poet. The first verses he wrote when he was a young teacher in Belfast in the early 1960s and many of the best known poems in North, his important volume published in 1975, are linguistically tuned to the Anglo-Saxon note in English. His poetic line was much more resolutely stressed and packed during this period than it would be in the eighties and nineties when the "Mediterranean" elements in the literary and linguistic heritage of English became more pronounced. Station Island (1984) reveals Dante, for example, as a crucial influence, and echoes of Virgil - as well as a translation from Book VI of The Aeneid - are to be found in Seeing Things (1991). Heaney's early study of Irish bore fruit in the translation of the Middle Irish story of Suibhne Gealt in Sweeney Astray (1982) and in several other translations and echoes and allusions: the Gaelic heritage has always has been part of his larger keyboard of reference and remains culturally and politically central to the poet and his work.
Heaney's poems first came to public attention in the mid-1960s when he was active as one of a group of poets who were subsequently recognized as constituting something of a "Northern School" within Irish writing. Although Heaney is stylistically and temperamentally different from such writers as Michael Longley and Derek Mahon (his contemporaries), and Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian and Ciaran Carson (members of a younger Northern Irish generation), he does share with all of them the fate of having be en born into a society deeply divided along religious and political lines, one which was doomed moreover to suffer a quarter-century of violence, polarization and inner distrust. This had the effect not only of darkening the mood of Heaney's work in the 1970s, but also of giving him a deep preoccupation with the question of poetry's responsibilities and prerogatives in the world, since poetry is poised between a need for creative freedom within itself and a pressure to express the sense of social obligation felt by the poet as citizen. The essays in Heaney's three main prose collections, but especially those in The Government of the Tongue (1988) and The Redress of Poetry (1995), bear witness to the seriousness which this question assumed for him as he was coming into his own as a writer.
These concerns also lie behind Heaney's involvement for a decade and a half with Field Day, a theatre company founded in 1980 by the playwright Brian Friel and the actor Stephen Real. Here, he was also associated with the poets Seamus Deane and Tom Paul in, and the singer David Hammond in a project which sought to bring the artistic and intellectual focus of its members into productive relation with the crisis that was ongoing in Irish political life. Through a series of plays and pamphlets (culminating in Heaney's case in his version of Sophocles' Philoctetes which the company produced and toured in 1990 under the title, The Cure at Troy), Field Day contributed greatly to the vigour of the cultural debate which flourished throughout the 1980s and 1990s in Ireland.
Heaney's beginnings as a poet coincided with his meeting the woman whom he was to marry and who was to be the mother of his three children. Marie Devlin, like her husband, came from a large family, several of whom are themselves writers and artists, including the poet's wife who has recently published an important collection of retellings of the classic Irish myths and legends (Over Nine Waves, 1994). Marie Heaney has been central to the poet's life, both professionally and imaginatively, appearing directly and indirectly in individual poems from all periods of his oeuvre right down to the most recent, and making it possible for him to travel annually to Harvard by staying on in Dublin as custodian of the growing family and the family home.
The Heaneys had spent a very liberating year abroad in 1970/71 when Seamus was a visiting lecturer at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. It was the sense of self-challenge and new scope which he experienced in the American context that encouraged him to resign his lectureship at Queen's University (1966-72) not long after he returned to Ireland, and to move to a cottage in County Wicklow in order to work full time as a poet and free-lance writer. A few years later, the family moved to Dublin and Seamus worked as a lecturer in Carysfort College, a teacher training college, where he functioned as Head of the English Department until 1982, when his present arrangement with Harvard University came into existence. This allows the poet to spend eight months at home without teaching in exchange for one semester's work at Harvard. In 1984, Heaney was named Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, one of the university's most prestigious offices. In 1989, he was elected for a five-year period to be Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, a post which requires the incumbent to deliver three public lectures every year but which does not require him to reside in Oxford.
In the course of his career, Seamus Heaney has always contributed to the promotion of artistic and educational causes, both in Ireland and abroad. While a young lecturer at Queen's University, he was active in the publication of pamphlets of poetry by the rising generation and took over the running of an influential poetry workshop which had been established there by the English poet, Philip Hobsbaum, when Hobsbaum left Belfast in 1966. He also served for five years on The Arts Council in the Republic of Ireland (1973-1978) and over the years has acted as judge and lecturer for countless poetry competitions and literary conferences, establishing a special relationship with the annual W.B. Yeats International Summer School in Sligo. In recent years, he has been the recipient of several honorary degrees; he is a member of Aosdana, the Irish academy of artists and writers, and a Foreign Member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1996, subsequent to his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, he was made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.