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I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea’s face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I go must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

~John Masefield

In June upon my return from Hong Kong, I wrote a post called “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in Language” that postulated the following: “the measurement of expression necessarily disturbs a statement’s meaning, and vice versa.” I only mean to codify a common problem in translation, namely, that it is more difficult to translate some things (poetry, evocative words) than others (scientific treatises). Although I should note that some translators are better than others, like Anne Carson, who delivered outstanding translations of Sappho’s poetry in If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho.

One reason that she triumphs is that she complements the translations with a comprehensive glossary. Here is an example:

koma is a noun used in Hippokratic texts of the lethargic state called “coma” yet not originally a medical term. This is the profound, weird, sexual sleep that enwraps Zeus after love with Hera; this is the punishing, unbreathing stupor imposed for a year on any god who breaks an oath; […] Otherworldliness is intensified in Sappho’s poem by the synaesthetic quality of her koma–dropping from leaves set in motion by a shiver of light over the tree: Sappho’s adjective aithussomenon (”radiant-shaking”) blends visual and tactile perceptions with a sound of rushing emptiness.

Adding this context to the translation allows us to compensate for the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle by giving us much of the meaning we are missing. Many linguists believe that each language is capable of expressing anything another language is, and to the extent that any approximation is possible, this kind of glossary really aids full translation of both expression and meaning. Another reason she is a successful is that she creates new words in English using standard word formation rules that give us a better sense of the original meaning. For example, as you may notice from that excerpt, she translates the Greek word aithussomenon as ‘radiant-shaking.’ Like many translators, she could have opted for ‘radiant’ or ‘quivering’ or some other simple gloss.

The translation issue isn’t merely academic. Computer scientists, engineers, and linguists have been engaged in creating and improving natural language processing, which can be said to involve everything from parsing human language into constituents that a computer can process for speech recognition programs or text interface with Ask Jeeves, Bing, Wolfram Alpha, etc. If you type the following search query, “What should I do on a first date?” the computer must be able to wring your intended meaning out of it, first, and then determine the most relevant information to respond with, second. Obviously, this is a gross simplification. And still more distantly, natural language processing is critical to the development of artificial intelligence. The prospect of an artificial intelligence without the ability to communicate with us is frightening, as might be seen by Orson Scott Card’s discussion of varelse.

The “principle” might affect NLP thus: assuming morphemes (the smallest units of meaning in language) were discrete and stored as matrices, then science terms would have more characteristics whose meanings were always relevant than non-science terms, and context would change values in the matrix less (if at all) for science terms. For example, let us assume that we are storing words in a 1×23 matrix, and each column stores a binary value for a certain category of language for the following categories: (1) Utility-Miscellaneous, (2) Utility-Mating, (3) Utility-Energy, (4) Utility-Safety, (5) Adj-Bright, (6) Adj-Dark, (7) Adj-Good, (8) Adj-Bad, (9) Noun-Person, (10) Noun-Place, (11) Obj-This, (12) Obj-That, (13) Tense-Past, (14) Tense-Present, (15) Tense-Future, (16) Probability-Unknown-Question, (17) Probability-Possible-Doubt, (18) Probability-Certainty, (19) Singular, (20) Plural, (21) Verb-Eat, (22) Verb-Sex, (23) Verb-Sense. Just act like these are all the categories of words that would have been important to you as a pre-Pleistocene human. Translating the question, “How many are there?” might get you the following calculation (omitting tense and a few other umm… critical things):

PLURAL: [0000000000000000001000] +
PROB-UNK-QUESTION: [00000000000000010000000] = [00000000000000010001000]

It won’t elicit a response that gives you the exact number probably, but it might get a response like “many” which would just be the plural meaning along with the certainty meaning. Some cultures do not have numbers beyond, say, three. After that, they have words for certain magnitudes. So an acceptable response might look like this:

PLURAL: [0000000000000000001000] +
PROB-CERTAINTY: [00000000000000000100000] = [00000000000000000101000]

The human need for information would have transformed this caveman style language into modern language with its recursive grammars, but I am just showing you an example of a rudimentary NLP model based on lexical storage in matrices. Why are matrices important? Depending on what you want to accomplish, you can change the dimensions and values of the categories for matrix operations that could, in turn, symbolize grammatical sentences. Perhaps you could get meaningful dot or cross products, or even develop meaningful 3D imagery based on ‘lexical vectors.’ Just as an example of the flexibility, you could convert the system I listed above in the following way: (1) Utility (Miscellaneous, Mating, Energy, Safety), (2) Adjectives (Bright, Dark, Good, Bad), (3) Nouns (Person, Places), (4) Objectives (This, That), (5) Tense (Past, Present, Future), (6) Probability (Unk-Q, Possible, Certainty), (7) Number (Singular, Plural), (8) Verbs (Eat, Sex, Sense). Instead of having 1×23 matrices, you’d now have 1×8 matrices but more values inside the matrices. So the aforementioned question “how many are there?” would now end up being: [00000120] with the answer being: [00000320].

Assume now that you develop a vocabulary of 10,000 words using this matrix system. First, poetry form dictates meaning for poetry words, so there would have to be values dedicated to how the context changes the meaning of the words. This means you will not be able to deal with fixed matrix dimensions or values, as a matter of definition. Not so with scientific treatises, so no context is necessary and these words, once stored, may remain just so absent changes needed for syntactic purposes. Second, the traits of the scientific word, that is, the characteristics that make up a definition for a scientific word will be certain. There is no doubting that an intrinsic quality of a proton is its positive charge. Without it, and perhaps slightly heavier, you have a neutron. But the word ‘love,’ the subject of so much in art, requires flexibility. To the extent that it does in fact have any intrinsic meaning, it could have equal parts longing and affection, desire and intention to couple — none of them being necessarily tied together. That means you have to attach simultaneous meanings and probabilities. This implies significantly greater computation costs for an NLP system that is able to finally comprehend poetry. Finally, as our discussion of the principle suggests, it also means that the closer a translation comes to locking down the expression in a translation (as Carson does above: it takes a full paragraph to get at the full expression of koma), the more of its intended intrinsic meaning that can only be derived from the original word and context are lost. Does any essence remain?

He who binds to himself a joy
does the winged life destroy:
But he who kisses the joy as it flies,
lives in eternity’s sun rise.

~William Blake

An excerpt from Brian Murphy’s 2005 book The Root of Wild Madder, an exploration of the majestic, sometimes Delphic, and always offbeat world of Persian rugs:

The challenges of taking literature across languages are huge and thoroughly discussed. Poetry takes the chore to a higher level.

First, let me say that this statement can be generalized beyond its application to literature. It pertains, in fact, to all language, beyond that of prose or the written form. This means it applies just as well to spoken verse, which is, after all, contemporary poetry’s origin, though much popular poetry was originally based on spoken verse– think Sappho. Second, the statement seems intuitive, but is worth a little bit of discussion. I think a common statement of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle applies well:

The measurement of position necessarily disturbs a particle’s momentum, and vice versa.

Or, in terms of language:

The measurement of expression necessarily disturbs a statement’s meaning, and vice versa.

Scientific treatises are rarely translated because the specificity of the terms usually leaves very little ambiguity and only exist in one language (English). There’s no problem in measuring expression because the meaning usually speaks for itself. But words used in poetry are often far more ambiguous and we praise the form for its ability to prod, poke, provoke, and elicit from seemingly humble expressions. The more energy spent on translating, that is, measuring the expression, the more the actual meaning in fact changes. The closer we come to a precise measurement of electron positions in orbitals, the more the position is disturbed, meaning we will lose other types of information. We are trading one for another. In the translation of language, poetry being the hardest, the more precise measurement we obtain of the statement, binding words from one language to words of another, the more the new expression through translation necessarily differs from the other in meaning.

Of course, some translations of poetry are still wildly successful or evocative. But they are not and can never be the same, leaving alone for the time being the differences in interpretation caused by different neural structures arising from different language structures! As I mentioned in my post on Anne Carson’s book of Sappho’s poetry:

Carson uses words such as sweetbitter, honeyvoiced, mythweaver, songdelighting. These are not words that we really have in English, but their composition follows standard rules for word formation and seem to be quite intelligible. Translators should never shirk from creating new words in order to translate. We need some frame of reference to understand these terms, after all. And if these new words help us see things we already understood in new ways, like a metaphor might, then these truly expand our power of comprehension, opening our minds to possibilities that we had never before considered.

Adding new words in English is exactly what we do when there’s something new to be described that another language does better, or if the word has some sort of economy. I applaud translators capable of this feat, for word creation is the best weapon short of borrowing (which defeats the purpose of translation) for defeating the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in language.

Margaret Atwood visited The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)  today, as part of the Man Hong Kong International Literary Festival. She sounded much the same as she did at MIT in 2004, but she looked more grandmotherly, though not elderly. Her humor was very much in bloom. The subject of the “conversation” between her and the Chair of the Department of English, Professor Parker, was her recent poem “The Door” which comes from her collection of poems also titled The Door. This collection has been well-received, though not highly acclaimed.

I am going to respect the author’s wishes, that you might actually buy her book with the poem in it, so I will not paste the poem here. However, I will look at a few lines and discuss. The poem, as with much of Atwood’s work, is about time. I have discussed on this blog the power of paradox, especially as it pertains to time. Atwood admitted to being cognizant of this, remarking that this poem about time is simple — simple in structure, few if any dependent clauses, not unlike a circle. And just like a circle, with its properties mostly well-defined, tremendous mystery still abounds. We cannot grasp all the nuance and consequence of a circle, much less time, that constant companion we seem so well-acquainted with.

Her poem “The Door” generally describes our relationship with time. In each phase of our life, from youth to adolescence to adulthood to maturity and old age, we see the door opening and closing before us. At first, we are fearful of what’s inside. Later, we simply don’t notice it. Afterward, we become mildly curious about it, then very curious, and finally, we confide in it. It is a good poem, and you should go to a Barnes & Noble to flip open her book and read it. Even think about buying it, for there are enough good poems within to warrant it.

She began the conversation saying that novels come to her as scenes, poems as lines. Rhythmic lines, where meaning is not embedded in the content alone, but in the structure. She said that poetry often does begin with experience, but it is condensed human emotional experience, a matter of evocation versus mere self-expression, which would be like just shouting in the woods. Rather, evocation calls feeling out of the audience. Many bits of the personal information markers are shed, as the experience becomes condensed.

As for doors, they can sometimes be doors to the past, but they are always doors to the future. They represent people’s concept of time. Every culture has ways of marking time with recurring events, most based on the cycle of the sun and/or moon, and there are “power points” where another world seems closer, existing on hinges. Heaven has gates, just as Hell, yes? ( Yes, and Gore Vidal is not allowed in. ) Toward the end of the poem, and the end of the subject’s life, we suppose:

The door swings open:
O god of hinges,
god of long voyages,
you have  kept faith.
It’s dark in there.
You confide yourself to the darkness
You step in.
The door swings closed.

The god of hinges is Hermes: always young, wings on sandals, no spouse, messenger of the gods, conductor of souls to the underground, invented articulation…. You want him on your side. And have you ever heard of “Hermetically sealed?” ( Yes, and while we’re at it, Norman Mailer isn’t allowed in either. ) As to keeping the faith, Atwood suggests we cast our minds to those wanting eternal life, but who do not ask for eternal youth; there is always a catch with eternal youth, a cost, as with vampires. Also, in the end, darkness seems to have new meaning. It is not scary anymore, for we confide in it. Think, Atwood says, of how awful it would be if the sun was out all the time?

One final remark on the poem: the door is only closed to the outside observer. We do not know if it is death. We do not know what is inside that door, which the subject caught glimpses of all her life. Beware false assumptions.

Someone asked Atwood: when did your fascination with unpackaging old bits of bizarre history begin? After some rumination, Atwood replied that it must come from the back of comic books, which said to “send away for the decoder ring.” In the end, she says, it is all about secrets. She added, before this, that she loves to read diaries and recommends The Assassin’s Cloak, selections from the world’s greatest diarists. The Bookling discovers, “A diary is an assassin’s cloak which we wear when we stab a comrade in the back with a pen.” – Willian Soutar, 1934

Speaking of secrets, you didn’t think I would leave you hanging without linking to her poem, “Siren Song,” did you? As a bonus, you get to hear an actual reading of it from the author herself.

I leave all the scarlet flowers
For the woman I love
And hiding my tears from her
I pick
The flower of forgetfulness

~Yamakawa Tomiko

There is no need to embellish upon the record of timeless verse that comes to us from the Hellenes. Its achievements continue to echo through the annals of history, not merely to inform, but to awe. The contributions from strong women remain especially visible, I would argue for more than in other cultures broadly termed the West (to what degree this results from chance I do not know). These women include the likes of Kassiane, Theodorou, Karelli, Aravantinou, Votsi, and countless others — and this is all to say nothing of its female warriors, political leaders, and troublesome muses.

Someone who has been considered both a troublesome muse (the tenth, according to Plato) as well as a poet who could only have come out of legend is Sappho. Unfortunately, the vast majority of her work is lost to antiquity and those who lived in it. She is best known in general discourse as a lesbian poet. This is hardly surprising– she lived in Lesbos! But this is surely not the most important characteristic of Sappho, nor, really, is it related to particularly defining motivation. Sappho’s truest concern was love, and a comprehensive appraisal of her work must study that concern in the context of her time.

As someone who studied Sappho many years ago, I always vowed to return to her again in the future. I found that opportunity when I encountered Anne Carson’s book, If Not, Winter. Compellingly, its translator/editor does not set out to write or revise history. In this way, Carson’s compilation of the entire corpus of Sappho’s work puts Sappho brilliantly into the context of her time. By not bloviating (or worse, fulminating) on the issue of her gender identity and sexual temptations, Carson leaves these issues unmarked in the discursive sense. Had she drawn attention to them, she would have marked them, thereby insulating the original author and her subject material from the general readership. Instead, Carson promptly deals with the issue on the second page of her introduction to the work, casually dismissing concerns:

Controversies about her personal ethics and way of life have taken up a lot of people’s time throughout the history of Sapphic scholarship. It seems that she knew and loved women as deeply as she did music. Can we leave the matter there?

Gladly! Many other arguments still rage regarding Sappho. For instance, scholars are not sure whether or not she was literate. One thing scholars seem to agree on, however, is that she was a brilliant musician, who composed her poetry to be sung with the lyre. At a time when poetry was both more dominant in general culture and less prevalent in the publication, her poetry must have been almost universally considered alluring and powerful. Even from only the sad, small, precious fragments that survive today, there can be no doubt of this. Consider this, the only surviving, complete poem:

Deathless Aphrodite of the spangled mind,
child of Zeus, who twists lures, I beg you
do not break with hard pains,
O lady, my heart

but come here if ever before
you caught my voice far off
and listening left your father’s
golden house and came,

yoking your car. And find birds brought you,
quick sparrows over the black earth
whipping their wings down the sky
through midair–

they arrived. But you, O blessed one,
smiled in your deathless face
and asked what (now again) I have suffered and why
(now again) I am calling out

and what I want to happen most of all
in my crazy heart. Whom should I persuade (now again)
to lead you back into her love? Who, O
Sappho, is wronging you?

For if she flees, soon she will pursue.
If she refuses gifts, rather will she give them.
If she does not love, soon she will love
even unwilling.

Come to me now: loose me from hard
care and all my heart longs
to accomplish, accomplish. You
be my ally.

If you think that a full analysis of this poem is beyond me, you would be right. Nevertheless, I should point out that there is a real narrative unfolding, with multiple voices, confused intentions, and possibly, in light of the role of angels as pointed out in the last post, some extraordinary angst. If we knew more about her, we might know how much was conscious irony and how much was sincere. It seems as though these words are just the tip of the iceberg, while so much more meaning lies beneath the surface. This is part of why the translator decided that the subheading of the book would be “Fragments of Sappho.” But the main reason is because the translator chose to place each and every remaining fragment of Sappho’s work on their own pages. In this manner, she accords all of Sappho’s works an equal dignity. Sometimes the fragments are only a sentence, phrase, or word long.

As compiled, the fragments seem like golden rays of light revealed through dense clusters of summer leaves. We cannot get a sense of the full day, but we know both the resplendent glory of the fragments as well as their soothing nature: somewhere, far away, another human, perhaps not so unlike us, lived with dilemmas we could empathize with and figured out some insight that we, too, could arrive at in time.

In another poem, Sappho writes of love, saying that “what you love” is the most beautiful thing on earth. She explains this by using Helen of Troy as an example, before her mind turns to her lost love, Anaktoria. The last half of the poem is mostly removed and it is difficult if not impossible to tell what she was talking about. After her lament, Carson translates the gaps as:

]
]
]
]
]
toward[

]
]
]
out of the unexpected.

Out of the unexpected! Is it possible that Sappho ended on an ambiguous, but hopeful note? Does it refer to paradox? Did it resolve with a moral tale? We cannot currently know the answers to these questions. But we have posed a great many of them, and therein lies the main use of Sappho for the modern day reader. I think Carson understood it better than any of us. For each fragment, we must deal with a new set of questions that we can only arrive at by assessing the meaning of Sappho’s fragments in relation to our own narrative experiences. For example:

do I still yearn for my virginity?

Or:

I might go

Or as she exults in her ability:

yes! radiant lyre speak to me
become a voice

Each of these echos resounds, for we know Sappho’s power. It would be as if someone had to assess Michael Jordan’s career from a complete video of his 1991 NBA Finals, highlights from 1992 NBA Finals, a clip of MJ swinging a baseball bat, a few clips of Jordan dribbling up court from 1997, 1998, and 1999. We might be acutely aware of how inspiringly talented MJ was from the evidence we possessed alone, and the accolades awarded by his peers (we have some of this of Sappho as well). When I read these fragments, I have a sense of Shelley’s “Ozymandias.” Carson is our traveler in an antique land, perusing that ancient language, reading its extraordinary lyrics, dealing in all the relics. Sappho sculpted her own “shatter’d visage,” and we may wonder if a woman who knew so much happiness would be immortalized in a frown, though this may be all we have left. Carson delivers each fragment, no matter how small, to give us a sense of the “colossal wreck, boundless and bare,” as the “lone and level sands” of antiquity “stretch far away.”

Another fragment:

neither for me nor the honey bee

Needless to say, Sappho’s poetry is referred to for its highly erotic content. More interesting to me is how the author translates from the original Greek (placed on the left-hand side of each page there is a fragment, translated in English on the right). Carson uses words such as sweetbitter, honeyvoiced, mythweaver, songdelighting. These are not words that we really have in English, but their composition follows standard rules for word formation and seem to be quite intelligible. Translators should never shirk from creating new words in order to translate. We need some frame of reference to understand these terms, after all. And if these new words help us see things we already understood in new ways, like a metaphor might, then these truly expand our power of comprehension, opening our minds to possibilities that we had never before considered. For example, typically, when we think of our “past,” we think of what is behind us. Not so in Cherokee culture. For them, the past is ahead of them, in front of their eyes anyway, because they can see it.

The translator in this case, Ms. Carson, appends thorough notes explaining difficult, tricky, or ambiguous translations. They certainly contain many insights. My favorite is the the discussion on the Greek word koma:

koma is a noun used in Hippokratic texts of the lethargic state called “coma” yet not originally a medical term. This is the profound, weird, sexual sleep that enwraps Zeus after love with Hera; this is the punishing, unbreathing stupor imposed for a year on any god who breaks an oath; […] Otherworldliness is intensified in Sappho’s poem by the synaesthetic quality of her koma–dropping from leaves set in motion by a shiver of light over the tree: Sappho’s adjective aithussomenon (“radiant-shaking”) blends visual and tactile perceptions with a sound of rushing emptiness.

My favorite definition is the first. That Zeus! Anyway, you will come to see the words synaesthetic and synesthesia much more often in the coming years, as I sense a resurgence of interest in the subject. Essentially, it is the fusion of senses, be it one’s seeing music or numbers, feeling texture in colors, and so on. Some say it comes from a curious biological happenstance in about 3% of the population, whereas others think it merely figments of people’s imaginations. ( The same debate rages over Fibromyalgia. ) Synaesthesia does not necessarily give anyone an advantage in comprehension or some extra computational capacity. If one is forced to see colors in numbers, and the colors are random noise, then this may actually distort an understanding of numbers.

Whatever the basis for synaesthesia, it seems that it fills a role similar to fictions. In my post, “The Angels Within,” I discussed the role of fiction and literature in our lives as filling a need. Simply, fiction can fill gaps in our identity, take us to places we could not otherwise go though we desire to, and allow us an escape from spatiotemporal confines. If we have explored the meaning of our most common adjectives, phrases, and emotions, then there really isn’t much space for the quality of being transcendent. Synaesthesia solves that problem. Fusing the senses might convey a sense of the ethereal or it might seem like it is opening a door into a world where the rules are entirely different. Either way, the concept synaesthesia allows us to transcend ordinary meanings, as if we lived in R^3 but suddenly inhabited R^5 or R^6; the point is that the possibilities would seem comparatively endless.

Poetry probably has a superior capacity to convey the essence of the synaesthetic because the more words you have, and most other literary forms have more words, the more anchored these new terms, concepts, and sensations become in what is already known. The power of the synaesthetic, however, lies precisely in its formless, abstract qualities. If Sappho’s poetry refers to words such as aithussomenon (“radiant-shaking”), then we might gain from a closer reading of what is left of her work.

Still, Sappho’s numerous actual expressions of love and longing will remain the most resonant aspects of her work. They certainly seem at least the equal of any opera that I have seen, and granted, I have seen only a few. From my favorite part in Puccini’s Tosca:

The stars were gleaming,
The ground was fragrant…
The creak of the garden gate,
light footsteps in the sand,
the smell of her hair. She came
and fell into my arms.

Oh tender kisses, sweet caresses,
While, trembling, I beheld
Her beautiful form freed of its gown.

Gone forever is my dream of love.
Time has fled, and I die in despair!
I die in despair,
But never have I loved life so much!!

Compare it to some of Sappho:

I simply want to be dead.
Weeping she left me.

with many tears and said this:
Oh how badly things have turned out for us.
Sappho, I swear, against my will I leave you.

And I answered her:
Rejoice, go and
remember me. For you know how we cherished you.

But if not, I want
to remind you
]and beautiful times we had.

For many crowns of violets
and roses
]at my side you put on

and many woven garlands
made of flowers
around your soft throat.

And with sweet oil
costly
you anointed yourself

and on a soft bed
delicate
you would let loose your longing

and neither any[          ]nor any
holy place nor
was there from which we were absent

no grove[           ]no dance
]no sound
[

The book itself admirably translates Sappho so that we may have a glimpse of her in her own context, but also in a way that preserves her and puts her in a highly respectful position amongst fellow poets and artists. New York Times reviewer Dinitia Smith seems to agree that this book is an excellent compendium of Sappho’s work:

Of course Sappho also composed poetry: erotic, sensual, desperate poetry, filled with the anger of desire, wonder at the beauty of the desired one, the sweet languor of gratification. And now her verse has been elevated to new heights in a gorgeous translation by the poet Anne Carson, who is also director of graduate studies, classics, at McGill University in Montreal. […] Sappho’s poetry is filled with a golden eroticism. It is redolent of Attic sunshine, the sweet smells of the Aegean, Grecian meadows.

Other fawning reviews of If Not, Winter may be found here. She will long be a part of our discourse on fiction. Perhaps Sappho herself had some sense of the gravity of her issues and the life she breathed into them:

someone will remember us
I say
even in another time

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a far better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
–the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

~ ee cummings

[PS – Bittergrace has great taste in poetry, but I have to call Doctor Who into question. Straying far from Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica will get you somewhere you have never been, but in a bad way.]

A precious, mouldering pleasure ‘t is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore ;
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old ;
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If you forget me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
Read the rest of this entry »