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Friday, February 10, 2012

Pound, Sieber, and Bayes

In 1951, Ron Bayes was a PFC in the Army, and stationed in Iceland. He was worried about the prolonged imprisonment of Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth's. Though Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, and Archibald MacLeish were the public face of Pound's release, Bayes has always been proud of his less visible involvement. So am I.

And I remember well his story of being utterly floored the first time he read the opening line of the Pisan Cantos-- "The enormous tragedy of the dream in the peasant's bent shoulders."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Not one death but many"

One of the central lines to Charles Olson's "The Kingfishers" owes much to this passage from Plutarch:

But we have a ridiculous fear of one death, we who have already died so many deaths, and still are dying! For not only is it true, as Heracleitus used to say, that the death of heat is birth for steam, and the death of steam is birth for water, for the case is even more clearly to be seen in our own selves; the man in his prime passes away when an old man comes into existence, the young man passes away into the man in his prime, the child into the young man, and the babe into the child. Dead is the man of yesterday, for he is passed into the man of today; and the man of today is dying as he passes into the man of tomorrow. Nobody remains one person, nor is one person; but we become many persons, even as matter is drawn about some one semblance and common mould with imperceptible movement. Else how is it that, if we remain the same persons, we take delight in some things now, whereas earlier we took delight in different things; that we love or hate opposite things, and so too with our admirations and disapprovals, and that we use other words and feel other emotions and have no longer the same personal appearance, the same external form, or the same purposes in mind?

-from "The E at Delphi", Putarch, trans. Frank Cole Babbitt

Monday, January 30, 2012

Wake Island Rail

Adventures In Wikipedia Dredging, Episode II

The flightless bird of the Pacific atoll of Wake, killed to extinction by starving Japanese soldiers in 1945:

Friday, January 27, 2012


This is the sort of prize that dredging Wikipedia via the 'random article' button will bring you: the epitaph of Hanno, the great white elephant, penned by Pope Leo X:

"Under this great hill I lie buried

Mighty elephant which the King Manuel
Having conquered the Orient
Sent as captive to Pope Leo X.
At which the Roman people marvelled, --
A beast not seen for a long time,
And in my brutish breast they perceived human feelings.
Fate envied me my residence in the blessed Latium
And had not the patience to let me serve my master a full three years.
But I wish, oh gods, that the time which Nature would have assigned to me,
and Destiny stole away,
You will add to the life of the great Leo.

He lived seven years
He died of angina
He measured twelve palms in height.
Giovanni Battista Branconio dell'Aquila
Privy chamberlain to the pope
And provost of the custody of the elephant,
Has erected this in 1516, the 8th of June,
In the fourth year of the pontificate of Leo X.

That which Nature has stolen away
Raphael of Urbino with his art has restored."