Monday, April 26, 2010

The Poet's Pen

"Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." Henry James

In 1907, Rudyard Kipling became not only the youngest recipient (and remains so), but also the first English language writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature "in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author".

Depending on any given political climate, Kipling's reputation has rose and fallen, particularily in India. Born in 1865, many of his stories and verse center around the colonial rule of India and long-forgotten military conflicts.

From Collected Verse of Rudyard Kipling:

Buddha at Kamakura (1892)

‘And there is a Japanese idol at Kamakura.’

O ye who tread the Narrow Way
By Tophet-flare to Judgment Day,
Be gentle when ‘the heathen’ pray
To Buddha at Kamakura!

To Him the Way, the Law, apart,
Whom Maya held beneath her heart,
Ananda’s Lord, the Bodhisat,
The Buddha of Kamakura.

For though He neither burns nor sees,
Nor hears ye thank your Deities,
Ye have not sinned with such as these,
His children at Kamakura,

Yet spare us still the Western joke
When joss-sticks turn to scented smoke
The little sins of little folk
That worship at Kamakura—

The grey-robed, gay-sashed butterflies
That flit beneath the Master’s eyes.
He is beyond the Mysteries
But loves them at Kamakura.

And whoso will, from Pride released,
Contemning neither creed nor priest,
May feel the Soul of all the East
About him at Kamakura.

Yea, every tale Ananda heard,
Of birth as fish or beast or bird,
While yet in lives the Master stirred,
The warm wind brings Kamakura.

Till drowsy eyelids seem to see
A-flower ’neath her golden htee
The Shwe-Dagon flare easterly
From Burma to Kamakura,

And down the loaded air there comes
The thunder of Thibetan drums,
And droned—‘Om mane padme hum’s’
A world’s-width from Kamakura.

Yet Brahmans rule Benares still,
Buddh-Gaya’s ruins pit the hill,
And beef-fed zealots threaten ill
To Buddha and Kamakura.

A tourist-show, a legend told,
A rusting bulk of bronze and gold,
So much, and scarce so much, ye hold
The meaning of Kamakura?

But when the morning prayer is prayed,
Think, ere ye pass to strife and trade,
Is God in human image made
No nearer than Kamakura?

Collected Verse of Rudyard Kipling, 1935,Offered for sale by Chewybooks as of April 26, 2010.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Growth of the Soil

"The man comes, walking toward the north. he bears a sack, the first sack, carrying food and some few implements. A strong, coarse fellow, with a red iron beard, and little scars on face and hands; sites of old wounds - were they gained in toil or fight? Maybe the man has been in prison, and is looking for a place to hide; or a philosopher, maybe, in search of peace.

"Here and there, where the moors give place to a kindlier spot, an open space in the midst of the forest, he lays down the sack and goes exploring; after awhile he returns, heaves the sack to his shoulder again, and trudges on.

"The worst of his task had been to find the place; this no-man's place, but his. Now, there was work to fill his days.

"He had sought about for a woman to help each time he had been down to the village with his loads of bark, but there was none to be found.....And the man himself was no way charming or pleasant by his looks, far from it; and when he spoke it was no tenor with eyes to heaven, but a coarse voice, something like a beast's.

"Well, he would have to manage alone.

"Spring came; he worked on his patch of ground, and planted potatoes. his live stock multiplied...he made a bigger shed for them...and put a couple of glass panes in there too.

"And then at last came help; the woman he needed. She tacked about for a long time, this way and that across the hillside, before venturing near; it was evening before she could bring herself to come down.

"They went into the hut and took a bit of the food she had brought, and some of his goats' milk to drink; then theymade coffee, that she had brought with her in a bladder. Settled down comfortably over their coffee until bedtime. And in the night, he lay wanting her, and she was willing.

"She did not go away next morning; all that day she did not go, but helped about the place; milked the goats, and scoured pots and things with fine sand, and got them clean. She did not go away at all.

"Inger was her name. And Isak was his name."

Norwegian author Knut Hamsun was a Norwegian author praised by King Haakon VII of Norway as Norway's soul. In 1920, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his 1917 epic novel, Growth of the Soil.

Unfortunately, Hamsun was a devotee of the Nazi movement, both before World War II and even after Germany invaded Norway. In 1943, to show his devotion he mailed his Nobel medal to Joseph Goebbels, and even wrote an obituary for Hitler shortly after news of his death in a bunker in Berlin. After the war, Hamsun nearly stood trial for treason against Norway, but due to his mental state and advanced age, the charges were dropped.

Growth of the Soil by Knut Hamsun. Not offered for sale by Chewybooks as of April 23, 2010 (retained for personal collection)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Wisest and Best

"Once upon a time there were two little Princesses whose names were Violetta and Gambetta; and they lived in Mountainy Castle. They were twins, and they were so like each other that when Violetta came in from a walk with her feet wet, Gambetta was sometimes told to go and change her stockings, because the Queen couldn't tell which from the other.

"But that didn't often happen, because if Princess Violetta was out for a walk, Princess Gambetta was almost sure to be out with her. Indeed they were so fond of one another that you might have thought they were tied together with a piece of string. All the same, the Queen used to be so fussed and worried by the confusion that, what with one thing and another, she persuaded the King to appoint a special Lord to distinguish between them.

"And he was called the Lord High Teller of the Other From Which."

Owen Barfield was a British philosopher and a founding member of The Inkling Society while at Oxford University. Fellow members of The Inkling Society included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein among others. Regular meetings were held on Thursday nights for the purpose of reading and discussing the members unfinished works. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings was the first to be read to the group.

Barfield was extraordinary close to C.S. Lewis during his life, serving as Lewis' legal and financial advisor, and executor of his estate. Lewis called Barfield the “wisest and best of my unofficial teachers,” dedicating the first Narnian chronicle to his friend’s adopted daughter Lucy.

The Silver Trumpet (1925) , a children's fairy tale, was the first published work of Owen Barfield.

"And now the story must hurry on, for there are many more things to be told yet, so many, that if you knew all that is still to happen you would say it had scarcely begun. Therefore you must try to imagine to youself what took place...."

The Silver Trumpet, by Owen Barfield, offered for sale by Chewybooks, as of April 22,2010.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21, 1910

In Redding, Connecticut, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, most popularly known as Mark Twain, died at the age of 74 years.

"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year [1910], and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almight has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.' "

Words from Mr. Clemens that are more than immediately relevant and appropriate:

"In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second hand, and without examination.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them. "

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bone-Covered Barns

"How many folks have a whole barn side covered with bones?

"The side of a large barn-like structure was covered with a mixture of large bones and slogans, especially warning all persons against the abuse of drugs. I wondered what Oscar considered the "potions" dispensed by most of his ilk. Surrounding the property were pens containing pigs, turkeys, chickens. By far the most interesting cages were a series of wire tunnels connecting several buildings 20 to 30 feet apart. I soon learned this was a "run" for the "30-some" squirrels that are a part of Oscar's collection of critters. Inside the large barn was a red van-like Detroit monster elaborately decorated with the most outrageous set of moose antlers. Out back of his house...there was an open field with a scarecrow silhouetted against the stark and distant swamp. Oscar told me this is where many of the herbs and roots come from that he uses in his practice...with a sly glance he told me "I get some of my bones there, but when I was in the service, we dug up a graveyard and that was interesting to me.

"Oscar Gilchrist has impeccable credentials as a hoodoo man, as he is a third generation bones doctor. His grandfather was a practitioner in Jamaica.

"...if your quest is a visit with "the bonesman", you can find the answer to everything...When you see Oscar, pains disappear, debts go away, and "if you take that power stick to the county seat and walk around the courthouse, they won't have no trial 'cause they can't get a jury. Friend of mine borrowed that one with all the bones and won the lottery; gave me a couple of thousand when he brought it back."

"People got troubles everywhere and they come to the Bonesman."

Interview with Oscar Gilchrist (The Bonesman), Nicols, South Carolina, by author Dr. A. Everette James from Essays in Folk Art, offered for sale by Chewybooks, as of April 1, 2010