Saturday, October 13, 2007

How can man die better?

Published in 1842, the "Lays of Ancient Rome" is collection of ballads about heroic episodes in Roman history composed by Thomas Babington Macaulay. Incidentally, Lord Macaulay is the person we should all thank for a bilingual colonial India and for the Indian Penal Code! :)

But I digress. Coming back to the Lays...

I just wrapped up Forsyth's "The Afghan"... and on a couple of occasions, the lead character quotes lines from the lead poem of the Lays, "Horatius". The poem
concerns Horatius Cocles' heroic defense of the bridge to Rome against the Tuscan Army. I happened to read the poem, and while all of its 70 verses makes for an awesome read, the following lines are particularly powerful!

Then out spake brave Horatius,
the Captain of the Gate:
"To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods

Friday, October 12, 2007

One Art

Comcast can be so good to you sometimes! You sign up as a new subscriber, speak sweetly with the operator, and you could end up with a free year-long subscription to the HBO suite of channels!

While flipping through the aforementioned channels I happened across a screening of "In Her Shoes" - this movie adaptation of the Jennifer Weiner novel, starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine, is surprisingly good and is highly recommended, but that's not what this post is about! This movie introduced me to one of my favorite poems! Believe it or not, the first time I encountered Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art" was when Cameron Diaz mumbled painfully through it during this movie... and as I watched that scene again today, I couldn't help but be reminded of the beauty of those words... and the emotions behind it! Read on:

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

— Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

In defense of the split infinitive...

{This post is a 'reply' to NK's comment on an earlier post of mine. You can find the original post and that comment here.}

Strictly speaking, the debate about the validity of split infinitives still rages on and using them is more a matter of personal preference than a grammatical no can do.

For my part, as far as solecisms go, I love an occasional split infinitive. Moreover, as Wikipedia sagely reminded me, one of the most famous split infinitives occurs in the opening sequence of the Star Trek television series: to boldly go where no man has gone before! And I say if it works for Captain Kirk, it works for me! :-)

Actually, Wikipedia has a very fair and balanced discussion on the subject. I think this line sums it up best: "Most experts on language now agree that the split infinitive is sometimes appropriate. Those who use it consciously may see it as a form of hyperbaton, and some major poets have employed this to good effect." There! I seem to have won half the battle. Now if only I can finish that epic poem I started... ;-)

Speaking of poets and split infinitives, I would be remiss if I didn't include the Bard's Sonnet 142 here:

Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;
Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profan'd their scarlet ornaments
And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.
Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov'st those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good Grammar Is Hot!

Found this on a Facebook community which goes by the name "Good Grammar Is Hot"! :-)

Now, I am no grammar prude (and have been known to make more than an acceptable number of grammatical errors on my off days), but I must admit that meeting blokes who completely butcher the Queen's tongue with reckless abandon is mildly infuriating... Actually, scratch that - it's not so much people who make mistakes that irk me as it is people who are affronted when you offer constructive feedback. I, for one, say that there's no easier way to learn than to proactively seek criticism when you commit a faux pas... but until I keep meeting people who don't subscribe to that viewpoint, I say more power to the grammar sheriff! ;-)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tell All The Truth...

Found this one posted on another subway wall today... Emily Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant". MTA's "Poetry In Motion" initiative continues to entertain!
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—