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.