Readings: Weeks 5-6

WEEK 5

The Ideal & the Real.   "Hotel California" (The Eagles - LL) "'Tis Not So Above" (from Hamlet) - "The Girl from Ermita" ("Ermita," Goh Poh Seng - also see Worksheet B) - "When I Have Fears" ("Fears," John Keats) - ♫ YT "Everything is Everything" ("Everything," Lauryn Hill - LL)

WEEK 6

Love: Idealism & Reality.   "Lola" (The Kinks - LL) - "Donna Julia" (Byron, from Don Juan) - Don Juan de Marcos (film shown in class)

WEEK 5

"'Tis Not So Above"  (from Hamlet 1.3, 1.3, 3.3)                                                             

[Having murdered his brother (“the primal eldest curse”) and married Gertrude, Claudius tries to repent. This is going to be difficult, however, because it means giving up 1) the kingship, and 2) Gertrude. Later, in Hamlet 4.7, Claudius says about Gertrude: “She’s so conjunctive to my life and soul, / That, as the star moves not but in his sphere, / I could not but by her.”]

Claudius: O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what's in prayer but this two-fold force,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardoned being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murder'?
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardoned and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compelled,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay!
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.  

[Retires and kneels. Enter Hamlet.]    

Hamlet: Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven;
And so am I revenged. That would be scanned:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread;
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought,
'Tis heavy with him: and am I then revenged,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
No! Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't;
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damned and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays:
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.  

[Hamlet exits]

Claudius: [Rising] My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.  

 

The Girl From Ermita   (Goh Poh Seng)

If you ever come to Manila,
come down to red-light Ermita
Where nightly I ply my trade.

They call me Fely,
I was born in Samar,
I’m the girl with the bird in her head.

Yes, a bird in my head!
If you look deep into my eyes
you can see it flying about.

You ask what kind of bird it is?
Why, a white gull of course!
For I was born in Samar by the sea.

And how did it get there;
this white gull in my head?
Well, it flew in when I was fourteen.

But you don’t really want                
to hear the same old hard-luck story!
There are no new legends anymore.

Better take me away somewhere,
take me in your sweaty arms,
and your eyes, cold as death,

You can feed on the peach of my skin,
let your savage heart
release its black secrets.

You can do what
you like with me,
I know all the positions.

Come, lie with me
and I will be your love.
Don’t you believe me?

Yes, come lie down with me,
it will only cost a hundred pesos,
and it’s good therapy.

I’ll give good value for your money,
I have the techniques
learned through ten thousand nights.

I will embrace you
and the stars outside
will mind their own bloody business.

The wind will not complain,
the trees not grumble,
and all the cops have been bribed.

Or perhaps you think yourself too grand,
too good and holy
to pay to lie with me?

Perhaps you’re afraid
the universe will roar in disgust
if you pay for my body?

Don’t you know by now
life’s a market-place where
you can buy cow meat, goat meat and my meat?

I was born in Samar in Visayas
where the sea ran silver when I was a child
and clouds and trees were my friends.

Of my own father,
I only know
he was a carabao of a man.

And like the carabao,
he was patient and ignorant,
his feet stubborn in the loam.

But his eyes.
I remember his eyes:
they held such innocence!

When I was twelve, he died,
and my mother and I
lived on, any old how.

Come to think of it,
I don’t know how we did it!
Then my mother remarried.

We shifted to an old lean-to
with my step-father.
I had turned fourteen.

For a time I was content enough.
I was only a child then and you know
how children can grow smiles even out of a dungheap!

Then one night my step-father
lay his hands on my green breasts,
and I was too petrified to move.

I endured for many months
my step-father’s hands
till one night I could not suppress my cry.

My mother came to intervene:
it drove my step-father wild
as a mad, rampaging bull.

He punched me in the face,
kicked my mother in the ribs,
left us black and blue.

The next day I drew
a real deep breath
and ran away from home.

The ferry boat crossing the sea
delivered me from my past:
my childhood lay like broken glass.

An hour after
we reached Cebu city,
I got myself picked up

By a dirty old man
who fed me, gave me shelter and clothes,
and treated me like a household pet.

I was suprised how soon
I got used to his caresses,
no longer reacting with nausea and tears.

So five years passed.
Five Christmases and five Easters
I stayed with my dirty old man.

In our second year
I bore him a bastard girl:
a child, when I was myself a child

Of sixteen.
But already the months
began to wall me in.

When I was eighteen
I went with a handsome man
who took me away to Batangas.

For a brief few months
I blossomed like the sampaguita
with this first young man in my life.

A tangerine time it was,
with ice-cream on Sundays,
dances and kisses under the moon.

And then it was over.
His wife came screaming for our blood
and he returned to her like a pup.

Well, life’s like that.
I came to Manila
in search of fame and gold,

But found only dust
in the crowded streets
of the capital.

I became a salesgirl
and had to sleep with my boss.
I became a go-go dancer,

Ground my bum in the faces of fools
who drooled like rotten fruit,
while klieg lights tore at my skin.

Now I’m landed here
where life has got me in its jaws
and I no longer wait for miracles.

I no longer care
to look into the eyes of my johns,
for they hold no more secrets.

Now I simply lie flat on my back,
my face upturned to the sugary sky
which the stars eat like white ants.

Now I fuck for a refrigerator,
or for my daughter’s school fees:
my girl’s just turned eight this May.

Yes, I will turn a trick for a meal,
and men can take me
in any position they wish.

The white scream never flies
out of my black mouth,
the radios will remain silent,

The newspapers advertise soap,
the priests launder
the limp souls of their sinners.

Yes, at night I can be your sweet mango,
but comes the dawn,
I’ll be as sour as a calamansi.

There’s still some acid in me,
you know that?
You, who sit there listening so dumbly!

So I’ve unloaded my story
and my head’s just an empty hole
with nameless echoes in it.

Are you quite sure
you don’t want
to take me to bed?

Come, lie down with me,
I will be your true love,
for only a hundred pesos.

But you only laugh
green and gold and purple
and fly free into the night.

For you are the white gull
who left secret spaces again
inside my head!

But if you ever come back to Manila,
come down to red-light Ermita,
where nightly I ply my trade.

They call me Fely,
I was born in Samar by the sea,
I’m the girl with a hole in her head.

(Batangas-Manila, November 1979,

from https://gohpohseng.wordpress.com/poems/the-girl-from-ermita/)

 

When I have fears  (1818, John Keats)

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-piléd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; -- then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

 

**♫ + YT "Everything is Everything" (Lauryn Hill)

 

WEEK 6

Don Juan

1630 - Tirso de Molina: El burlador de Sevilla (play)

1787 - Mozart: Don Giovanni (opera)

1819-24 - Byron: Don Juan (poem)

1995 - Byron/Levon: Don Juan de Marcos (film) 

Byron's Don Juan (pronounced "Don Jewan" -- unlike the Spanish pronunciation) is a very long poem that follows the adventures of a young Spaniard. While the original character of Don Juan -- created by by De Molina and borrowed by Mozart -- seduces women without caring about them, Byron’s Don Juan is a decent, innocent young man who tends to be seduced by women.

The narrator is a Spanish gentleman, yet he also serves as a mouthpiece for Byron at times. He is at times serious yet most often comic and ironic.

In what ways does Byron replace idealism with realism? How does he use the final rhyme of his stanzas to subvert their seriousness or idealism? Where do we see a deeper, serious, Romantic sensibility in Byron despite his humorous skepticism?

Canto 5, Stanza 1

    When amatory poets sing their loves  
    In liquid lines mellifluously bland,
    And pair their rhymes as Venus yokes her doves,
    They little think what mischief is in hand;
    The greater their success the worse it proves,
    As Ovid's verse* may give to understand;          
    Even Petrarch’s self,* if judged with due severity,        
    Is the Platonic pimp of all posterity.                        

*Ovid = Classical Roman poet known for racy poetry about the gods  *Petrarch = 14th C. Italian poet known for sensuous, abstruse love poetry about the unattainable Laura

In the following excerpt (from Don Juan, Canto One), we find the beautiful twenty-three year-old Donna Julia married to Don Alfonso, a man of fifty. She's in love with Juan, who is sixteen years old. At the end of the following excerpts, Julia and Juan are sitting together under the moonlight, trying to be platonic and chaste.

Julia

From Canto 1

69.

Juan she saw, and, as a pretty child,
Caressed him often -- such a thing might be
Quite innocently done, and harmless styled,
When she had twenty years, and thirteen he;
But I am not so sure I should have smiled
When he was sixteen, Julia twenty-three;
These few short years make wondrous alterations,
Particularly amongst sun-burnt nations.

70.

Whate'er the cause might be, they had become
Changed; for the dame grew distant, the youth shy,
Their looks cast down, their greetings almost dumb,
And much embarrassment in either eye;
There surely will be little doubt with some
That Donna Julia knew the reason why,
But as for Juan, he had no more notion
Than he who never saw the sea of Ocean.

71.

Yet Julia's very coldness still was kind,
And tremulously gentle her small hand
Withdrew itself from his, but left behind
A little pressure, thrilling, and so bland
And slight, so very slight, that to the mind
'T was but a doubt; but ne'er magician's wand
Wrought change with all Armida's fairy art*   
Like what this light touch left on Juan's heart.              

[*Armida = sorceress & temptress in Tasso, a 16th C. Italian poet]

72.

And if she met him, though she smiled no more,
She looked a sadness sweeter than her smile,
As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store
She must not own, but cherished more the while
For that compression in its burning core;
Even Innocence itself has many a wile,
And will not dare to trust itself with truth,
And Love is taught hypocrisy from youth.

73.

But Passion most dissembles, yet betrays
Even by its darkness; as the blackest sky
Foretells the heaviest tempest, it displays
Its workings through the vainly guarded eye,
And in whatever aspect it arrays
Itself, 'tis still the same hypocrisy;
Coldness or Anger, even Disdain or Hate,
Are masks it often wears, and still too late.

74.

Then there were sighs, the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft,
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left;
All these are little preludes to possession,
Of which young Passion cannot be bereft,
And merely tend to show how greatly Love is
Embarrassed at first starting with a novice.

75.

Poor Julia's heart was in an awkward state;
She felt it going, and resolved to make
The noblest efforts for herself and mate,
For Honour's, Pride's, Religion's, Virtue's sake:
Her resolutions were most truly great,
And almost might have made a Tarquin* quake:
She prayed the Virgin Mary for her grace,
As being the best judge of a lady's case.

[Tarquin = early Roman king]

76.

She vowed she never would see Juan more,
And next day paid a visit to his mother,
And looked extremely at the opening door,
Which, by the Virgin's grace, let in another;
Grateful she was, and yet a little sore--
Again it opens, it can be no other,
'Tis surely Juan now -- No! I'm afraid
That night the Virgin was no further prayed.

77.

She now determined that a virtuous woman
Should rather face and overcome temptation,
That flight was base and dastardly, and no man
Should ever give her heart the least sensation,
That is to say, a thought beyond the common
Preference, that we must feel, upon occasion,
For people who are pleasanter than others,
But then they only seem so many brothers.

78.

And even if by chance -- and who can tell?
The Devil's so very sly -- she should discover
That all within was not so very well,
And, if still free, that such or such a lover
Might please perhaps, a virtuous wife can quell
Such thoughts, and be the better when they're over;
And if the man should ask, 'tis but denial:
I recommend young ladies to make trial.

79.

And, then, there are such things as Love divine,
Bright and immaculate, unmixed and pure,
Such as the angels think so very fine,
And matrons, who would be no less secure,
Platonic, perfect, "just such love as mine;"
Thus Julia said -- and thought so, to be sure;
And so I'd have her think, were I the man
On whom her reveries celestial ran.

80.

Such love is innocent, and may exist
Between young persons without any danger.
A hand may first, and then a lip be kissed;
For my part, to such doings I'm a stranger,
But hear these freedoms form the utmost list
Of all o'er which such love may be a ranger:
If people go beyond, 'tis quite a crime,
But not my fault -- I tell them all in time.

81.

Love, then, but Love within its proper limits,
Was Julia's innocent determination
In young Don Juan's favour, and to him its
Exertion might be useful on occasion;
And, lighted at too pure a shrine to dim its
Ethereal lustre, with what sweet persuasion
He might be taught, by Love and her together --
I really don't know what, nor Julia either.

82.

Fraught with this fine intention, and well fenced
In mail of proof -- her purity of soul --
She, for the future, of her strength convinced,
And that her honour was a rock, or mole,
Exceeding sagely from that hour dispensed
With any kind of troublesome control;
But whether Julia to the task was equal
Is that which must be mentioned in the sequel.

83.

Her plan she deemed both innocent and feasible,
And, surely, with a stripling of sixteen
Not Scandal's fangs could fix on much that's seizable,
Or if they did so, satisfied to mean
Nothing but what was good, her breast was peaceable --
A quiet conscience makes one so serene!
Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That all the Apostles would have done as they did.

84.

And if in the mean time her husband died,
But Heaven forbid that such a thought should cross
Her brain, though in a dream! (and then she sighed)
Never could she survive that common loss;
But just suppose that moment should betide,
I only say suppose it -- inter nos:*      * [just between us]
(This should be entre nous,* for Julia thought
In French, but then the rhyme would go for nought.)

85.

I only say, suppose this supposition:
Juan being then grown up to man's estate
Would fully suit a widow of condition,
Even seven years hence it would not be too late;
And in the interim (to pursue this vision)
The mischief, after all, could not be great,
For he would learn the rudiments of Love,
I mean the seraph* way of those above.

[* highest rank of angel]

86.  

So much for Julia! Now we'll turn to Juan.
Poor little fellow! he had no idea
Of his own case, and never hit the true one;
In feelings quick as Ovid's Miss Medea,*   
He puzzled over what he found a new one,
But not as yet imagined it could be a
Thing quite in course, and not at all alarming,
Which, with a little patience, might grow charming.

* [The Roman writer Ovid revisits the Greek tragic heroine Medea in his Art of Love (2 A.D.). Byron may be suggesting that underneath good intentions and morality is a dangerous current of uncontrollable emotion. In Medea's case, the emotions are extreme and she wreaks a terrible revenge on her husband Jason.

In the following stanzas Byron makes fun of two first generation Romantic poets, Wordsworth and Coleridge. Wordsworth is known for his common style and his nature mysticism. Coleridge is the author of the famous poems "Kubla Khan" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." His writing are strongly influenced by German idealistic philosophy.]

90.

Young Juan wandered by the glassy brooks,
Thinking unutterable things; he threw
Himself at length within the leafy nooks
Where the wild branch of the cork forest grew;
There poets find materials for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eligible,
Unless, like Wordsworth, they prove unintelligible.

91.

He, Juan (and not Wordsworth), so pursued
His self-communion with his own high soul,
Until his mighty heart, in its great mood,
Had mitigated part, though not the whole
Of its disease; he did the best he could
With things not very subject to control,
And turned, without perceiving his condition,
Like Coleridge, into a metaphysician.

92.

He thought about himself, and the whole earth,
Of man the wonderful, and of the stars,
And how the deuce they ever could have birth:
And then he thought of earthquakes, and of wars,
How many miles the moon might have in girth,
Of air-balloons, and of the many bars
To perfect knowledge of the boundless skies; --
And then he thought of Donna Julia's eyes.

93.

In thoughts like these true Wisdom may discern
Longings sublime, and aspirations high,
Which some are born with, but the most part learn
To plague themselves withal, they know not why:
'Twas strange that one so young should thus concern
His brain about the action of the sky;
If you think 'twas Philosophy that this did,
I can't help thinking puberty assisted.

94.

He pored upon the leaves, and on the flowers,
And heard a voice in all the winds; and then
He thought of wood-nymphs and immortal bowers,
And how the goddesses came down to men:
He missed the pathway, he forgot the hours,
And when he looked upon his watch again,
He found how much old Time had been a winner --
He also found that he had lost his dinner.

95.

Sometimes he turned to gaze upon his book,
Boscan,* or Garcilasso*; -- by the wind   *[Spanish poets]
Even as the page is rustled while we look,
So by the poesy of his own mind
Over the mystic leaf his soul was shook,
As if 'twere one whereon magicians bind
Their spells, and give them to the passing gale,
According to some good old woman's tale.

96.

Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, not knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet's lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted,
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And hear the heart beat with the love it granted,
With -- -- several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet.    [...]

103.

'Twas on a summer's day -- the sixth of June:
I like to be particular in dates,
Not only of the age, and year, but moon;
They are a sort of post-house, where the Fates
Change horses, making History change its tune,
Then spur away o'er empires and o'er states,
Leaving at last not much besides chronology,
Excepting the post-obits* of theology.              

[post-obits = legal responsibilities or bonds after death]

104.                                                        

'Twas on the sixth of June, about the hour
Of half-past six -- perhaps still nearer seven --
When Julia sate within as pretty a bower
As e'er held houri in that heathenish heaven
Described by Mahomet, and Anacreon Moore,
To whom the lyre and laurels have been given,
With all the trophies of triumphant song --
He won them well, and may he wear them long!

105.

She sate, but not alone; I know not well
How this same interview had taken place,
And even if I knew, I should not tell --
People should hold their tongues in any case;
No matter how or why the thing befell,
But there were she and Juan, face to face --
When two such faces are so, 'twould be wise,
But very difficult, to shut their eyes.

106.

How beautiful she looked! her conscious heart
Glowed in her cheek, and yet she felt no wrong:
Oh Love! how perfect is thy mystic art,
Strengthening the weak, and trampling on the strong!
How self-deceitful is the sagest part
Of mortals whom thy lure hath led along! --
The precipice she stood on was immense,
So was her creed in her own innocence.

107.

She thought of her own strength, and Juan's youth,
And of the folly of all prudish fears,
Victorious Virtue, and domestic Truth,
And then of Don Alfonso's fifty years:
I wish these last had not occurred, in sooth,
Because that number rarely much endears,
And through all climes, the snowy and the sunny,
Sounds ill in love, whate'er it may in money.

108.

When people say, "I've told you fifty times,"
They mean to scold, and very often do;
When poets say, "I've written fifty rhymes,"
They make you dread that they'll recite them too;
In gangs of fifty, thieves commit their crimes;
At fifty love for love is rare, 'tis true,
But then, no doubt, it equally as true is,
A good deal may be bought for fifty Louis.*  *[French coin]

109.

Julia had honour, virtue, truth, and love
For Don Alfonso; and she inly swore,
By all the vows below to Powers above,
She never would disgrace the ring she wore,
Nor leave a wish which wisdom might reprove;
And while she pondered this, besides much more,
One hand on Juan's carelessly was thrown,
Quite by mistake -- she thought it was her own;

110.

Unconsciously she leaned upon the other,
Which played within the tangles of her hair;
And to contend with thoughts she could not smother
She seemed by the distraction of her air.
'Twas surely very wrong in Juan's mother
To leave together this imprudent pair,
She who for many years had watched her son so --
I'm very certain mine would not have done so.

111.

The hand which still held Juan's, by degrees
Gently, but palpably confirmed its grasp,
As if it said, "Detain me, if you please;"
Yet there's no doubt she only meant to clasp
His fingers with a pure Platonic squeeze;
She would have shrunk as from a toad, or asp,
Had she imagined such a thing could rouse
A feeling dangerous to a prudent spouse.

112.

I cannot know what Juan thought of this,
But what he did, is much what you would do;
His young lip thanked it with a grateful kiss,
And then, abashed at its own joy, withdrew
In deep despair, lest he had done amiss, --
Love is so very timid when 'tis new:
She blushed, and frowned not, but she strove to speak,
And held her tongue, her voice was grown so weak.

113.

The sun set, and up rose the yellow moon:
The Devil's in the moon for mischief; they
Who called her CHASTE, methinks, began too soon
Their nomenclature; there is not a day,
The longest, not the twenty-first of June,
Sees half the business in a wicked way,
On which three single hours of moonshine smile --
And then she looks so modest all the while!

114.

There is a dangerous silence in that hour,
A stillness, which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and tower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o'er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o'er it throws
A loving languor, which is not repose.

115.

And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where 'twas placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else 't were easy to withdraw her waist;
But then the situation had its charm,
And then -- God knows what next -- I can't go on;
I'm almost sorry that I e'er begun.

116.

Oh Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
With your confounded fantasies, to more
Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
Your system feigns o'er the controlless core
Of human hearts, than all the long array
Of poets and romancers: --You're a bore,
A charlatan, a coxcomb* -- and have been,  *[vain person]
At best, no better than a go-between.

117.

And Julia's voice was lost, except in sighs,
Until too late for useful conversation;
The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes,
I wish, indeed, they had not had occasion;
But who, alas! can love, and then be wise?
Not that Remorse did not oppose Temptation;
A little still she strove, and much repented,
And whispering "I will ne'er consent"-- consented.

 

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