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Spoor of Desire: Selected Poems
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Tourist Snapshots was available from Randy Fingland's CC Marimbo, P.O. Box 933, Berkeley CA. CC Marimbo has, unfortunately ceased publishing, though I still have a few copies to spare.

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Literature Blogs
Literature blog

Wednesday, December 1, 2021


The index has grown to the point of becoming unwieldy, leading me to offer first a brief sketch of its contents.

For the most part the site contains literary criticism with topics ranging around the globe and through the centuries. There are also other essays, translations, travel stories, a few memoirs, a few political comments. With rare exceptions (mostly early) I do not post my poetry here.

In the literary essays I am willing to discuss virtually anything. This site is strong on literary theory, ancient Greek, medieval European, and Asian literatures, and includes a series of treatments of blues songs as poetry.

Some of the essays are technical and include academic jargon, probably indigestible to a lay reader. Others are directed toward a general audience. Perhaps the most accessible are those in the Every Reader’s Poets series which assume no background knowledge. 

The index now features hypertext connections. Simply click on any title below to read it.

Though this listing serves, I think, a clear purpose, not every posting falls easily into the categories. One essay might equally be placed under literary theory or medieval texts while another might fit under memoir, politics, or travel. Translations with comment might be either criticism or translation. Poke around a bit.

The categories are:

1. speculative, familiar, performance pieces, and other essays

2. literary theory

3. Greek texts (and a few Latin)

4. medieval European texts

5. other criticism
A. 16th-19th century
B. 20th century to the present 
C. Asian texts
D. songs
E. Notes on Recent Reading
F. Rereading the Classics
G. Every Reader's Poets

6. translation

7. poetry

8. politics

9. memoirs

10. travel

1. Speculative, familiar, performance pieces, and other essays
Agnostic Credo and Vita (October 2015)
American Taste at Midcentury (December 2021)
Axiology and Subjectivity (October 2014)
Annual Report (August 2014)
Beards (December 2013)
Biking (November 2009)
Biking as a Spiritual Discipline (April 2017)
Cell Phones (June 2017)
Contronyms (March 2019)
Cookbooks (April 2014)
Dead Reckoning (February 2011)
Deer (December 2012)
Documents of the first Surreal Cabaret (March 2012)
Documents of the second Surreal Cabaret (June 2012)
Documents of the third Surreal Cabaret (October 2013)
Documents of the fourth Surreal Cabaret (July 2014)
Documents of the fifth Surreal Cabaret (February 2015)
Spit (November 2021)
Still Biking (November 2012)
A Structural View of Certain Oracles (August 2015)
Suburbs (September 2019) 
Supermarkets (October 2010)
Taking Off (November 2009)
This and That (September 2017)
This and That 2 (September 2018)
An Uninformed Take on Ballet (June 2018)
Walking the Via Negativa (February 2018)
Worn Tools (June 2013)

2. Literary theory
Afloat on the Ocean of Words (April 2016)
Allusion (March 2015)
Conservatism and Popular Art (December 2019)
Art and the Marketplace (April 2010)
Efflorescences of Female Poets (July 2018)
False and Homophonic Translation (March 2018)
The Familiar Note in Poetry (January 2017)
The Formation of a Christian Rhetoric (April 2011)
How and Why to Signify (July 2011)
Idea of Comedy (January 2012)
The Inconsequential Bayonets of Art: Militant Rhetoric and the Avant-Garde (May 2010) 
On the Intrusion of Non-aesthetic Criteria in Value Judgements about Art (September 2020)
Lament for the Loss of the Avant-Garde (March 2010)
Millenarian Rhetoric and the Avant-Garde (August 2010)
On the Proper Ends of Literary Study [James Seaton] (July 2014)
Notes on Pan (June 2014)
Oedipus and the Meaning of Polysemy (July 2011)
A Take on Plato's Parmenides (April 2021)
A Structural View of the Ephesiaca (April 2018)
Two Brief Notes on Daphnis and Chloe (May 2018)
Two Passages from Marcus Aurelius (June 2011)
The Web of Myth in the Hymn to Heracles (June 2012)

4. Medieval European texts
The Aesthete of Desire: Lancelot and Courtly Love (July 2012)
The Aesthetics of Ambiguity in a Medieval Lyric (December 2012)
Aesthetic Principles of the Middle English Romance (July 2010)
Appropriation of Biblical Narrative in Patience (February 2013)
Bernart and the Music of Ideas (September 2016)
The Buddha in Europe: the Apologue of the Man and the Unicorn in Barlaam and Ioasaph (January 2011)
Chaucer’s Version of the Golden Age (June 2011)
A Conventional Ending in a Middle English Romance (September 2011)
Courtly Love in Romance of the Rose (August 2012)
Distant Rhyme in Two Medieval English Lyrics (August 2011)
The Early English Carol (June 2010)
Figures of Love in Lydgate's Temple of Glas (January 2014)
Formal Play in a Canso by Cercamon (June 2019)
Functions of Alliteration in Thirteenth Century Lyrics (February 2011)
Gamelyn: An Outlaw's Ethics (April 2019)
Geoffrey of Vinsauf (April 2010)
Hypermetric Lines in Beowulf (January 2011)
Icelandic Antinomies in the Grettis saga (January 2019)
An Introduction to the Troubadours (January 2010)
Mechthild von Magdeburg (July 2010)
A New Look at Jaufré: Amor de Lonh as Criticism (December 2010)
Odin and Poetry (December 2015)
Openings in the Middle English Romance (July 2010)
The Pearl-Poet’s Use of Link-Rhymes (November 2011)
Phonetics and Semantics in the Last Line of Beowulf (March 2011)
Piers Plowman and the Man in the Moon (October 2011)
The Prima Etade of Literary Ambition [Petrarch] (March 2011)
Sir Isumbras and the Functions of the Fabulous (October 2019)
Tone in Middle English Double Entendre Songs (March 2020)
Transformation of Convention in Early Minnesang (April 2011)
The Transvestite Knight: Ulrich’s Frauendienst in Performance (May 2020)
Tristan's World (August 2020)
Two Early Ballad Tales of Robin Hood (October 2014)
The Uses of the Monstrous: Chaucer's "Anelida and Arcite" (October 2018)
William IX (September 2010)
Who is Piers Ploughman? (June 2013)

5. Other criticism

A. 16th-19th century
Transformation of Plot in Several Stories by Aphra Behn (November 2021)
Travelers [Marco Polo, Twain, Robert Byron](April 2012)
Trollope's Appeal (December 2012)
Trouble in Elysium: Carew's "A Rapture" (August 2019)
Two Notes on Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance (July 2014)
The Use of Nostalgia in Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life (August 2015)
William Morris's Revolutionary Narratives (July 2020)

B. 20th century to the present
Another Look at The Seven Lively Arts (June 2013)
Apologia for a Fondness for Pound (November 2012)
Archives of the First Majority Gallery (December 2018)
Are Uncle Tom's Children Bound by History? (April 2014)
Art and Life in the Haight Ashbury (January 2020)
The Artist as Demiurge: Seligmann on Space (December 2017)
Banjo (March 2017)
A Brief History of Negritude (February 2017)
Burns' and Lovick's Vietnam (November 2017)
Celebrities of Performance Poetry (July 2018)
Comics (February 2010)
Comic Strips and the Absurd (March 2020)
Jelly Roll Morton's "The Murder Ballad" (July 2021)
"Lady Maisry" (November 2013)
"Moon Goin' Down" [Charley Patton] (May 2013)
The Mule in Blues Imagery (August 2017)
"Nottamun Town" (April 2018)
The Paraklausithyron Blues (May 2016)
The Poetry of the Blues (August 2019)
"Preachin' the Blues" [Son House] (November 2018)
"The Red Rooster" [Willie Dixon] (March 2014)
Robert Johnson and the Devil (September 2012)
Skip James' Blues Imagery (May 2015)
“Spoonful” and the Accretion of Meaning (December 2012)
"The Three Ravens" (August 2013)
Trinidadian Smut (April 2016)
Truckin' (November 2014)
The Verbal Dance of the Blues (September 2020) 
“Walkin’ Blues” [Son House] (December 2011)

E. Notes on Recent Reading
Notes on Recent Reading [Melville, Greene, and Whalen] (September 2011)
Notes on Recent Reading 2 [Crane, The Crowning of Louis, Thornlyre] (October 2011)
Notes on Recent Reading 3 [Kipling, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Lynn’s Tao-te-ching] (November 2011)
Notes on Recent Reading 4 [Sarah Scott, de La Fayette, Wharton] (January 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 5 [The Deeds of God in Rddhipur, Burney, Cooper] (January 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 6 [Jewett, Addison, Crabbe] (February 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 7 [Nabokov, Austen, Grettis Saga] (April 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 8 [Bakhtin, Lewis, Brown] (May 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 9 [Plutarch, Tacitus, Williams](June 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 10 [Voltaire, France, Dryden](July 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 11 [Wright, Kerouac & Burroughs, Gilbert] (August 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 12 [Huxley, Norris, Dōgen](September 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 13 [Mirabai, Wood, Trocchi] (November 2012)
Notes on Recent Reading 14 [Algren, Hauptmann, Rolle] (January 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 15 [Hemingway, Orwell, Gaskell]{February 2013}
Notes on Recent Reading 16 [Howells, Ford, Mann] (April 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 17 [McCarthy, Chang, Snorri](July 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 18 [Radcliffe, Stendhal, Erasmus](October 2013)
Notes on Recent Reading 19 [Powers, Zhang Ji, Vietnamese folk song] (February 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 20 [Rowe, Stevenson, Issa] (May 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 21 [Fussell, Mahfouz, Watts] (August 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 22 [Waugh, Belloc, Okakura] (October 2014)
Notes on Recent Reading 23 [Naipaul, Dinesen, Spillane] (January 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 24 [Fielding; Izumo , Shōraku, and Senryū; Plath] (June 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 25 [Baskervill, Gissing, Capote] (July 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 26 [Tuchman, Premchand, Cocteau] (November 2015)
Notes on Recent Reading 27 [Forster, Sackville-West, Capote] (January 2016)
Notes on Recent Reading 28 [Verne, Waley, Hurston] (March 2016)
Notes on Recent Reading 29 [Achebe, Jewett, Villiers de l'Isle-Adam] (October 2016)
Notes on Recent Reading 30 [Bradford, Scott, Marquand] (April 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 31 [Marlowe, Trollope, p'Bitek] (August 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 32 [Morrison, Cary, Kawabata] (October 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 33 [Tourneur, Peacock, Greene] (December 2017)
Notes on Recent Reading 34 [Hawthorne, Huncke, Bentley] (January 2018)
Notes on Recent Reading 35 [Scott, Norris, Jacobs] (August 2018)
Notes on Recent Reading 36 [Norris, Rexroth and Laughlin, Sand] (November 2018)
Notes on Recent Reading 37 [Waley, Wharton, London] (January 2019)
Notes on Recent Reading 38 [London, Vonnegut, Cather] (June 2019)
Notes on Recent Reading 39 [Aristophanes, Machiavelli, Braddon] (September 2019)
Notes on Recent Reading 40 [Saunders, Adichie, Radhakrishnan] (January 2020)
Notes on Recent Reading 41 [McCarthy, Priestley, Ehirim] (July 2020)
Notes on Recent Reading 42 [Bulgakov, Tedlock, Wlliams] (October 2020) 
Notes on Recent Reading 45 [Williams, Muir, Waugh] (September 2021)

A Few Stabs at Li Bai (November 2021) 
Four Poems from the German of Richard Huelsenbeck (January 2010)
Four Quatrains by Wang Wei (January 2013)
Hans Arp (April 2010)
The Homeric Hymn to Dionysos (February 2012)
Horace I.21 (July 2016)
Hugo Ball (July 2010)
Hymn to Aphrodite (August 2010) 
Hymn to Heracles the Lion-Hearted (June 2012)
Hymn to the Night [Novalis](March 2012)
Hymn to the Night II [Novalis] (July 2012)
Hymn to Pan (May 2014)Kleist's Zoroaster (June 2020)
Leonidas of Tarentum (May 2010)
A Mixed Bag of German Translations (August 2014)
The Orphic Hymn to Hekate (July 2019)
Platonic Love (July 2020)
Praxilla (June 2020)
Rimbaud's "The Lice-Pickers" (March 2014)
"Rot" by Johannes Becher (September 2018)
Seven Poems from Léon-Gontran Damas (February 2017)
Some Anonymous Middle High German Lyrics (August 2011)
Three Horatian Odes (November 2012)
Translations of William IX (September 2010)
Wordsworth Speaks German (July 2011)
Yet Two More Versions of Wang Wei (June 2011)

7. Poetry 
African poems (August 2010) 
Domestic Incidents from the Life of the Lama Swine Toil (June 2017)
How to Be a Poet (June 2010)
The Liturgies of the Lama Swine Toil (September 2012)
Mexican poems (September 2010) 
Poems from New Mexico (July 2010)
Produce poems (May 2010)
The Soap Opera of the Pair Who Forgot Themselves, but only Temporarily (August 2012)
Some Sonnets (April 2010)
Three Poems from Peru (August 2011)
Two Lyrics on Death from Central America (January 2012)
Two Political Pieces (April 2019) 
Words with Images (March 2019)

8. Politics 
Black Lives Matter (August 2016)
Economic Democracy (July 2013)
The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Port Huron Statement (June 2012)
Hard Rain Still Fallin’ (September 2010)
How to Get Serious about Fighting Crime (January 2010)
Local Politics (May 2015)
In Memory of a Generation's People's Heroes (October 2015)
Nationalism (June 2018)
Occupy Wall Street (November 2011)
Pestilential Times (June 2020)
The Role of Higher Education (November 2010)
The Socialist Martin Luther King (February 2016)
The Triumph and Tragedy of Revolution (December 2016) 
Two Exemplary Anecdotes from the Sixties Student Movement (September 2013)
Utopia (November 2015)
Voluntary Poverty (October 2011)
Why I am a Socialist (March 2010)

9. Memoirs 
Baby Boomer Reads the Beats (April 2012)
A Brief Literary Life (September 2012)
Edouardo (July 2018)
A Garland of Greek Professors (December 2010)
A Glimpse of Robert Bly (August 2012)
Grandparents (December 2009)
High School (August 2014)
Hip Poets of Seventies San Francisco (January 2011)
How I Came to Work at Scott Foresman (July 2017)
How I Was Hired to Teach in Nigeria (May 2011)
IWW (April 2011)
March in Cicero (December 2009)
A Memorable Roomer (June 2014)
Menus (August 2021)
My Most Politically Active Year (February 2011)
Nova Academy (March 2011)
Pestering Allen [Ginsberg] (March 2012)
Poetry on the Loose (September 2011)
A Scholar's Debut (October 2012)
Sherman Paul (August 2016)
Suburbanite in the City (November 2010)
Tim West (March 2013)
Vignettes of the Sixties (October 2019)
VISTA Trains Me (June 2011)

10. Travel 
Arrival in Nigeria (August 2015)
Acadiana [Lafayette, Louisiana] (May 2010)
An Armenian Family in Bordeaux (December 2014)
Carnival [Portugal] (May 2012)
Cookie Man [Morocco] (October 2011)
Creel (October 2010)
Dame Fortuna in Portugal (May 2012)
Dinner with Mrs. Pea [Thailand] (April 2013)
Election Day in Chichicastenango (January 2012)
An Evening in Urubamba (July 2011)
Favored Places (July 2019)
Festival in Ogwa [Nigeria](January 2011)
Fictional Destinations (April 2020)
On the Ganges' Shore (August 2013)
The Guru of Guinness (July 2016)
Haarlem (July 2010)
Hitchhiking in Algeria (September 2010)
Hitchhiking in France (January 2014)
Hungarian Food (December 2010)
Introduction to Tourist Snapshots (June 2010)
Jemaa el Fna (December 2010)
Knee-deep in History [Vietnam, Cambodia] (February 2014)
Najibe’s Stories (September 2011)
Nigerian Names and Vehicle Slogans (March 2011)
A Palm Wine Shack [Nigeria] (December 2011)
Portraits from a Floating World: Anonymous (October 2016)
Portraits from a Floating World: Najibe and Sandro (February 2010)
Portraits from a Floating World: Gahlia and Jack (June 2010)
Portraits from a Floating World: Leslie Spector and Pa’ahssyzy (August 2010)
A Problem on the Border [Algeria] (June 2011)
A Reading in Kathmandu (November 2009) 
Sacred Space as Sideshow [Prague] (February 2010)
St. Joseph’s Day at the Laguna Pueblo (April 2011)
A Stroll around Lake Bled (May 2013)
Strong Stuff [Marrakech] (October 2012)
Tetouan (November 2010)
The Theory of Souvenirs (April 2012)
Travel Pictures (January 2019)
A Trip to India (January 2016)
Two Parades [India and Peru] (August 2011)
The Valley of Beautiful Women [Eger, Hungary] (March 2010)
Vignettes of Sunny Nigeria (March 2011)
A Waterfall near Marrakech (February 2011)

American Taste at Mid-century


     My daughter has a taste for what is now broadly called Mid-century Modern style, the sort of thing I rejected in my youth, when its soulless spare designs struck me as the last gasp of boring Bauhaus aesthetics, with results like the dread “tossed rubber bands” Formica pattern in my parents’ kitchen of which they were so proud.  A plastic laminate with a cheerful facade that could be convincingly clean in a way that a wood surface could not seemed to me to sum up the moment.  Yet similar patterns remain available today due to the admiration of younger generations.  Taste, whether in kitchen counters or sonnets, is rarely absolute; it is dynamic and highly dependent on context as the meaning of choices varies with the timing of the swing of the pendulum of aesthetic norms.  The meaning of taste changes as it evolves and is largely determined by the moment, as the avantgarde becomes normative and then inevitably old-fashioned, and new symbolic associations grow like crystals or mushrooms, appearing on old images overnight.  

     Growing up in the Midwest during the 1950s, coming to fancy myself a young aesthete, I was quite naturally a Europhile.  Such impressions were, of course, largely literary at first.  Mark Twain could establish rare common ground with Henry James in portraying Americans as crass and cultureless.  James himself and Stephen Crane and Pound and Eliot and Hemingway and Gertrude Stein preferred to live abroad.  The intellectuals of my generation never doubted that the most artistic films were made by Fellini, Visconti, Godard, and maybe Tony Richardson.  Hollywood did not seem even to compete.  Europeans, we thought, knew how to live.  They sat in cafes, drinking wine and tossing off witticisms while Americans sat with beer watching (American) football, silent except for occasional eruptions of cheering.  Every time one heard an English accent or saw a Parisian lift his eyebrows from the middle the comparative sophistication of the Other seemed self-evident.

     In spite of my ironic tone, I do not believe that this opinion was entirely without basis.  Prosperous, indeed economically dominant as post-World War II America was, the two most characteristically American products during that era were cars and breakfast cereals.  These have in common that each is wasteful and overpriced, designed to extract the very maximum price for the least value, in obedience to the profit-oriented laws of capitalism. 

     For this reason, American cars during the ‘fifties were as inefficient as possible, oversize boats sprouting ostentatious spaceship fins, insouciant about gas mileage while the Europeans chugged about in tiny Renaults, Fiats, and Volkswagens while others, still rebuilding from the war, made do with bicycles and motorcycles.  In the U. S. manufacturers made substantial unnecessary model changes every year, not to improve the product, but to make it clear to the neighbors that one had purchased the newest model.  The bulk of the price of an American car went not to pay for the labor and materials that went into its construction, but into the dealer’s cut, the advertising budget, into style, image, and conspicuous consumption.

     A remarkably similar pattern could be applied to food.  While the British ate a hearty breakfast of eggs and sausage, beans and fried bread, Germans often consumed cold cuts and cheese, while the French were often satisfied with a croissant and a few inches of baguette with dabs of butter and confiture, American were persuaded to purchase the cheapest carbohydrates, puffed to seem like more and eventually coated with heaps of sugar and strange artificial colors and flavors, a variety of food one would assume was strictly for children had one not observed so many adults eating Froot Loops in chain motel breakfast bars. 

     And then there is American bread, in those dear gone days American bread was Wonder bread, a brand launched in 1921, a food of fabulous lightness and blandness.  Henry Miller made this sort of loaf the basis for his analysis.  “What do I find wrong with America?  Everything.  I begin at the beginning, with the staff of life: bread.  If the bread is bad the whole life is bad.” [1]  He goes on to say that the only way to get decent bread in America is to go to an ethnic neighborhood. 

     Another culinary oddity marking the U. S. A. was a fondness for chewing gum.  Semi-culinary, anyway.  Here is another example of convincing customers to pay for as close to nothing as possible.   This product, originally made from spruce resin like the Native Americans chewed, and then chicle, is these days based on a wholly artificial base of synthesized polymers, plasticisers and resins, primarily polyisobutylene a material used as well in the manufacture of inner tubes.  Chewing gum was popularized by energetic marketing efforts, making Wrigley’s one of the top five advertisers through the ‘twenties. [2]  The company sent free samples to everyone listed in any American telephone book in 1915 and again in 1919 (by which time the number of people with telephones had multiplied fivefold). For years the company sent gum to every child as a second birthday present.  These efforts were so successful and the habit of chewing became so popular that gum was included in military field rations and introduced like Spam and American cigarettes by service members abroad.

     What was dramatically true of bread was true of food in general.  The markets of my youth had no Asian, Caribbean, or Hispanic foods.  (One cannot count Chun King’s chop suey, those cardboard-like stiff taco shells, or little tins labeled curry or chili powder.)  Though this continent contributed raw materials of incalculable value to world cuisine – including hot peppers now relished around the world -- in the Eisenhower era blandness prevailed.  I don’t believe I touched a fresh clove of garlic until I was cooking on my own.  The contrasts of American taste with the rest of the world, once stark and clear, have softened or vanished.  The milestone marked when salsa picante sales surpassed ketchup indicates a broad new acceptance of spices, herbs, and flavor that had been lacking in the era of casseroles made with canned soup.  So-called artisanal breads are available in all supermarkets, and chewing gum usage, a key indicator of this sort of American exceptionalism, is waning in most sectors.

     That super-refinement of flour and sugar, the heightened artificiality of food in general, the impetus toward commodification intolerant of oddly-shaped carrots or soil on the winter squash in that earlier time, corresponded with distinctive hygiene practices focused on the impossible pursuit of the unnaturally immaculate body.  Just as Americans shrank from real food, they harbored puritanical suspicions of their own bodies.

     Advertising in the early twentieth century began to suggest that shaving the armpits was obligatory to wear the new fashions.  An advertisement for depilatory in the May 1915 Harper’s Bazaar declares its use mandatory for those in “summer dresses,” particularly if they may be doing “modern dancing.” 

     Women’s shaving their legs followed soon after, but did not become common practice until the ‘forties when the War Production Board sharply curtailed silk and nylon stockings manufacturing.  By the 1950s virtually all American women, but very few foreign ones, shaved their legs.  (Pubic shaving remained to be discovered until decades later.)

     Advertising encouraging women to shave or use depilatories emphasized the social opprobrium suffered by nonconformists.  The Ashes and Roses (of Paris) brand threatens the negative judgement of observers.  “The fastidious woman today must have immaculate underarms if she is to be unembarrassed.”  Likewise, the Zip company announces, “You need not be embarrassed!”  In an advertisement headlined “Unloved” a lady relates her loveless life which turned to happiness once she began using products of a certain Madame Lanzette.

     A similar fear of social censure fueled the market for mouthwash and deodorant.  Listerine had been produced primarily for use by medical workers in the late nineteenth century, but in 1921 the company mounted an advertising campaign introducing the neologism “halitosis,” and their sales multiplied by a factor of forty in six years.  Listerine popularized the catchphrase ‘Even your best friends won’t tell you” as well as the poignant “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”  Another of Listerine’s campaigns asked “You 5,000,000 women who want to get married: How’s Your Breath Today?”  “Don’t fool yourself. Since Halitosis never announces itself to the victim, you simply cannot know when you have it.”  One advertisement notes that hairdressers observe that one third of their clients, including women from “the wealthy classes,” were “halitoxic.”  

     People were convinced that they not only were likely to be offending others with bad breath, they had to worry as well about body odor, another embarrassing affliction indiscernible to the sufferer and likewise a threat to romantic attachments.  Antiperspirants were like Listerine originally produced for medical use, to counteract sweating on the hands during surgery, but in the early twentieth century, marketers of Odorono made their pitch to consumers in general, and to women in particular with lines like “the most humiliating moment of my life – when I overheard the cause of my unattractiveness to men.”  Odorono was also the source of a new euphemism: b. o. for body odor, a trait so horrifying one must avoid saying even its name.  This campaign was so successful that in my own elementary school days in the 1950s, my classmates would harass some unfortunate victim by meaningfully intoning those two letters that, they realized, signified total social rejection. 

     A great deal of America’s distinguishing characteristics seemed to many of my generation to be very much of a piece.  The puritan’s distaste with the body created markets for products that had never before existed while people were at the same time enticed into spending their wages on food and automobiles that were for the most part great puffs of illusion.  And this world of artifice was generated wholly by the conjuring tricks of advertising capable of extracting the cash from consumers with words and images in a grotesque parody of a work of art.   The most powerful nation in the world did not, many of its artists and writers thought, know how to live.

     Some rebelled.  And some of the revolution seemed to end up with a result very like the ancien régime.  In the sixties we made yogurt and granola at home, and now we find their super-sweetened degenerate cousins filling vast supermarket displays.  At least yucca and tofu are available there as well.   Deodorant and, to a lesser degree, mouthwash are simply taken for granted.  We can drive a hybrid or electric car though SUVs and trucks dominate the sales (and profit) chart.  American puritanism seems locked not so much in struggle as in symbiosis with American hedonism as the country sags in financial clout and corporations become globalized.  Good quality bread is now in demand by the affluent as is good beer while the rest of the world welcomes the hungry ghosts of fast and prepared food.  In Bangkok there is a long line at the Macdonald’s and in London the pubs offer a standard menu of options, all frozen in the kitchen while in even Paris real French bread is becoming elusive.   If America has gained greater sophistication, the rest of the world seems to have lost a significant part of what it once had.  So much has to do with money.  Now that everyone, it seems, is traveling the world, I am afraid that the tourist often finds life abroad has a good deal in common with life at home, as more and more people settle for the specious satisfactions of consumerism and find an imaginative life in the fanciful flights of advertising.


1.  “The Staff of Life,” Remember to Remember.

2.  Daniel Robinson, “Marketing Gum, Making Meanings: Wrigley in North America, 1890—1930,” Enterprise & Society, Vol. 5, No. 1.

Nineteenth Century Versions of Jaufre Rudel


     Texts of the poems discussed are appended to this essay.  Numbers in brackets refer to endnotes while those in parentheses are line numbers.


     The twelfth century Troubadour Jaufre Rudel enjoyed a sort of vogue during the nineteenth century, not so much for his verses as for his legendary biography. [1]  The medievalist taste of the era, familiar from works like Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and pre-Raphaelite painting, found his vida irresistible.  The poet’s apparent death during the second Crusade and his works celebrating the value of “amor de lonh” (“love from afar”) were the basis for the tale that, in spite of never having seen her, he had fallen in love with the Countess of Tripoli, an area in northern Lebanon and parts of western Syria then under European rule.  The vida relates that he fell ill while traveling and survived only long enough for the noble lady to arrive and embrace him, so impressing her that she thereupon entered a convent.  The cansos themselves are perhaps most productively read as expressions of a super-refined love, purified almost to the point of transcending the physical altogether under an impulse similar to that which underlies the stilnovismo of Dante.  Like the mystical poems of Mechthild and John of the Cross, they express the simultaneous selflessness and selfishness of love, the intense desire for union with another, never quite satisfied except perhaps in moments of transport.

     For the nineteenth century, though, the poems were beside the point.  Appropriations of Jaufre arose from the vida alone.  Though the theme of the exaltation of love persisted and the basic terms of the story remained consistent, the legend was put to a variety of uses.  A survey of poems appropriating the story by Uhland, Heine, Swinburne, and Carducci will, not surprisingly, indicate the attitudes and values not of the Middle Ages, but of the more modern era.  Like other literary conventions, the narrative elements some Structuralists would call mythemes are capable of embodying a variety of meanings and engendering multiple variations.

     Ludwig Uhland’s “Rudello” (1815) is a Romantic myth idealizing Provence as a poetic land in a way similar to Keats’ attitude toward ancient Greece, implicitly praising strong emotion while describing a hero doomed for loving too much.  Yet there is little darkness in this spiritualized whimsy, later set to music by Schumann.  The opening, reminiscent of a medieval allegory, fancifully traces the parentage of the courtly love lyric, southern France’s “reichste Blüte” (“finest flower”) (11), to “Frühling” (spring) and “Minne” (love).  In Uhland’s telling, the poet’s passion is so potent that it summons up the spirit of the beloved who sweeps about his chamber as an apparition.

Denn nur in geheimen Nächten

Nahte sie dem Sänger leise,

Selbst den Boden nie berührend,

Spurlos, schwank, in Traumesweise. (25-28)


(For only in the shrouded night does she softly approach the singer, never even touching the floor, without a trace, wavering, in the manner of a dream.”


This insubstantial vision came to him verbally, through her Märe (34), her reputation, a word which suggests Märchen or fairy tale, and she then becomes the inspiration for his own poetry.


Wollt er sie mit Armen fassen,

Schwand sie in die Wolken wieder,

Und aus Seufzern und aus Tränen

Wurden dann ihm süße Lieder. 29-32


(Should he try to take her in his arms, she will vanish into vapor, and from his sighs and tears sweet songs came to him.)


     Arriving in the Countess’ port, he expires as she approaches, eliciting her tributes in the form of a funeral, a monument, and the making of gilded codices of his poetry with jeweled covers, until she is taken by the same sort of “unnennbaren Sehnen” (“ineffable longing”) (80) he had experienced, leading her to seek a cloistered life.  Thus perfect love is placed just beyond language and beyond the possibility of realization; unsatisfied desire is the result of even the greatest love.  The trajectory is set toward the Liebestod of Wagnerian drama in which fulfillment occurs only with extinction and the lover descends unconscious and drowns (“ertrinken,/ versinken ---/ unbewußt”) in the moving totality of the world breath. (“in des Welt-Atems wehendem All”).

     In Heinrich Heine’s “Geoffroy Rudèl und Melisande von Tripoli” [2] the vida becomes the basis for a ghost story reminiscent of E. T. A. Hoffman, told in the form of a ballad rather than a Gothic Novelle.  Heine’s innovations include imagining tapestries illustrating the story woven by his beloved, including the moment of the poet’s death.  “Alas!  The welcoming kiss was at the same time a kiss of farewell.”  (“Ach! der Kuß des Willkomms wurde/ Auch zugleich der Kuß des Scheidens  21-22)  The tone is that of a gossipy raconteur, a host perhaps, relating a curious and colorful local legend.  Even the narrative of Jaufre’s life is here secondary, though.  The focus is on the spectral hijinks of the lovers’ spirits who flitter about like spooks in an Ub Iwerks cartoon. 


In Blay Castle every night

One hears a rustling, cracking, shaking, 

The tapestry figures

Suddenly come to life.



In dem Schlosse Blay allnächtlich

Gibt's ein Rauschen, Knistern, Beben,

Die Figuren der Tapete

Fangen plötzlich an zu leben.


With the coming of day, these insubstantial specters “shyly scurry back” (“huschen scheu zurück” 67) to being nothing but interior decoration.  The intended effect is quaintness, picturesqueness, just the sort of thing tourists might be told on a castle tour.  The profundity of the poet’s love is replaced by his oddly curious fate.              

     Algernon Charles Swinburne’s “The Triumph of Time” uses the Jaufré legend as the basis for a typically self-dramatizing pose with its persona swooning near death when denied his love.  The stanza is elaborate with iambs stumbling over anapests in breathless tetrameters that snap to order at each line’s end, regularly rhyming ababccab.  The poet’s legend is related in a few lines.  Due to his love for the distant lady he hinds himself failing “for her love’s sake.”  (325)  She approaches, bids him “Live” (331), and he revives for a moment, enjoying then the full joys of love, so that he dies “praising God for his gift and grace. (329)  Lest this be taken as a dramatic climax, it is followed by eight stanzas of the poet’s lamenting his greater suffering.  He vows never again to smell roses. (353)  Moreover, he spitefully declares, “I shall hate sweet music my whole life long.” (360)  Planning to continue his protestations into the afterlife, he concludes “If I cry to you then, will you hear or know?” (392)

     For Swinburne Jaufré’s story turns out to be simply the case of a lover in less distress than his own.  Still he works up considerable froth with his usual overwrought protestations, arguing that death would be far preferable to his death-in-life, deprived of the object of his affections who had married someone else, all the more rapidly perhaps once she glimpsed the poet in pursuit.  He expresses a passion about passion commensurate with the Troubadour’s and with a similar foregrounding of technical and musical effects.  Swinburne, here as elsewhere, dissipates his effect by excessive repetition.

     In Giosue Carducci’s “Geoffrey Rudel” (1888) Mélisande is substituted for her mother Hodierna and Bertrand, an aide to Jaufre, is introduced.  The poem begins on shipboard with the poet already mortally stricken.  The focus is on the climactic moment with the insight of the dying man who declares,


– Contessa, che è mai la vita?

E’ l’ombra d’un sogno fuggente.

La favola breve è finita,

il vero immortale è l’amor.     73-76


“Lady, what is this life of ours?

The fleeting shadow of a dream.

Now end the fable’s transient hours,

‘Tis only love that knows not death.


In cosmic affirmation of that realization, the sun suddenly breaks though and shone “dal cielo sereno” just as the princess’ blond hair falls as though beams of light (irragio) on the body of the poet. 


E il sole dal cielo sereno

calando ridente ne l’onda

l’effusa di lei chioma biona

su ‘l morto poeta irraggiò.”        85-88


The sun broke through his misty veil.

From sky serene shone on the sea.

The lady’s golden locks set free

Like light o’er the dead poet fell.”


The poem is a stirring craftsmanlike set-piece, nearly a tableau, meant to point a moral, almost a revival of the old verses in emblem books. 

     The polysemous potential of Jaufre’s story is evident in these uses alone, but this survey far from exhausts the recent revisionary versions of the story.  Stendhal reprints the vida as section CLXIII of De l’Amour (1822) and Rostand spun out the tale over four acts in La princesse lointaine (1895), a vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt.  Twentieth century retellings include “Rudel and the Lady of Tripoli” by A. Mary F. Robinson (known also as Madame Duclaux) (1902) and A Knight's Life in the Days of Chivalry by Walter Clifford Meller (1924).  This last was a source for in Alfred Döblin’s extraordinarily ironic picture of Jaufie (as Döblin unaccountably calls the poet) in his last novel Hamlet or The Long Night Comes to an End.  Döblin seeks to undo the accumulation of Romantic and sentimental associations for the story by a distinctively bathetic treatment like Joyce had provided in Ulysses.  In this belated version Jaufie is escaping the consequences of an adulterous affair when he sails toward the princess who turns out to be old and ugly as well as a drinker of human blood (in search of youth).  His real love, called Petite Lay, is a commoner, in eligible for engagement in courtly love.   These later turns of the legend are beyond the scope of this article. 


     The body of associations Döblin was overturning are apparent in the review of four nineteenth century poetic treatments from three different countries.  Though they make no changes in the fundamental terms of the story, each conveys a wholly different tone. 

     Uhland makes of Jaufre a grand Romantic ideal, though exotic and unattainable, an idealized location in time and place, itself a “love from afar,” like that later parodied in Edgar Arlington Robinson’s “Miniver Cheevy” who absurdly “loved the days of old.”  It is that retrospective view, the longing for the past, that first distinguishes this reading from the work of Jaufre itself.  Yet such a nostalgic sensibility had appeared in the vida itself, less than a century after the poet had died, a reflex placing the symbolic action with only a mediated relation to lived experience. 

     In Heine’s ballad this exalted notion of a poetic Provence is transformed into the quaint and picturesque setting for an entertaining story of poltergeist-like spirits haunting a French castle.  The focus has passed from momentous and potent emotion to the curious side-effects that followed the decease of the two lovers.  The tone is that of a storyteller, passing time about the fireside.

     One might have thought that Jaufre’s story is as extreme and extravagant an example of romantic devotion a poet might conceive.  Yet the reader of Swinburne finds that for him Jaufre is merely an occasion for the swooning aesthete to more dramatically paint his own self-portrait, recovering the emotional energy but using the medieval example to emphasize his own greater capacity for love.

     Finally, for Carducci the legend provides the occasion for an operatic full-dress scene of insight into the evanescence of experience, delineated with magisterial control.  Carducci synthesized Romanticism in his celebration of passion with a highly Classical attention to craft.




1.  The vida is short enough to include here in its entirety in both Old Occitan and in English.

Jaufres Rudels de Blaia si fo mout gentils hom, princes de Blaia. Et enamoret se de la comtessa de Tripol, ses vezer, per lo ben qu’el n’auzi dire als pelerins que venguen d’Antiocha. E fez de leis mains vers ab bons sons, ab paubres motz. E per voluntat de leis vezer, et se croset e se mes en mar, e pres lo malautia en la nau, e fo condug a Tripol, en un alberc, per mort. E fo fait saber a la comtessa et ella venc ad el, al son leit e pres lo antre sos bratz. E saup qu’ella era la comtessa, e mantenent recobret l’auzir e·l flairar, e lauzet  Dieu, que l’avia la vida sostenguda tro qu’el l’agues vista; et enaissi el mori entre sos bratz. Et ella lo fez a gran honor sepellir en la maison del Temple; e pois, en aquel dia, ella se rendet morga, per la dolor qu’ella n’ac de la mort de lui.

Jaufré Rudel, of Blaye, was a very noble man, prince of Blaye. He fell in love with the Countess of Tripoli, without ever having seen her, because of the good things he heard being said about her by pilgrims who came from Antioch. And he made about her many verses with good melodies but with weak wordings. And because he longed to see her, he took up the cross [= joined the Crusades] and set out to sail the seas. He fell ill in the ship and was taken to Tripoli, to an inn, near dead. The Countess was notified about him, and she came to him—came right up to his bed, and took him in her arms. He recognized that it was the countess, and, instantly, he recovered his sense of hearing and his sense of smell [for smelling her perfume], and he praised God for keeping him alive long enough for him to have the power of vision to see her. That is how he died, enfolded in her arms. She had him buried in the house of the Temple, honoring him greatly. Then she became a nun, that same day, because of the sorrow she felt over his death.


2.  Published in Romanzero (1851).  The Countess is the historic figure Hodierna in many retellings.  Here the role is passed down to her daughter Melisande. 






Ludwig Uhland


In den Talen der Provence

Ist der Minnesang entsprossen,

Kind des Frühlings und der Minne,

Holder, inniger Genossen.


Blütenglanz und süße Stimme

Konnt an ihm den Vater zeigen,

Herzensglut und tiefes Schmachten

War ihm von der Mutter eigen.


Selige Provencer Tale,

Üppig blühend wart ihr immer,

Aber eure reichste Blüte

War des Minneliedes Schimmer.     12


Jene tapfern, schmucken Ritter,

Welch ein edler Sängerorden!

Jene hochbeglückten Damen,

Wie sie schön gefeiert worden!


Vielgeehrt im Sängerchore

War Rudellos werter Name,

Vielgepriesen, vielbeneidet

Die von ihm besungne Dame.


Aber niemand mocht erkunden,

Wie sie hieße, wo sie lebte,

Die so herrlich, überirdisch

In Rudellos Liedern schwebte;       24


Denn nur in geheimen Nächten

Nahte sie dem Sänger leise,

Selbst den Boden nie berührend,

Spurlos, schwank, in Traumesweise.


Wollt er sie mit Armen fassen,

Schwand sie in die Wolken wieder,

Und aus Seufzern und aus Tränen

Wurden dann ihm süße Lieder.


Schiffer, Pilger, Kreuzesritter

Brachten dazumal die Märe,

Daß von Tripolis die Gräfin

Aller Frauen Krone wäre;                   36


Und so oft Rudell es hörte,

Fühlt' er sich's im Busen schlagen,

Und es trieb ihn nach dem Strande,

Wo die Schiffe fertig lagen.


Meer, unsichres, vielbewegtes,

Ohne Grund und ohne Schranken!

Wohl auf deiner regen Wüste

Mag die irre Sehnsucht schwanken.     44


Fern von Tripolis verschlagen,

Irrt die Barke mit dem Sänger;

Äußrem Sturm und innrem Drängen

Widersteht Rudell nicht länger.


Schwer erkranket liegt er nieder,

Aber ostwärts schaut er immer,

Bis sich hebt am letzten Rand

Ein Palast im Morgenschimmer.


Und der Himmel hat Erbarmen

Mit des kranken Sängers Flehen,

In den Port von Tripolis

Fliegt das Schiff mit günst'gem Wehen.       56


Kaum vernimmt die schöne Gräfin,

Daß so edler Gast gekommen,

Der allein um ihretwillen

Übers weite Meer geschwommen:


Alsobald mit ihren Frauen

Steigt sie nieder unerbeten,

Als Rudello, schwanken Ganges,

Eben das Gestad betreten.


Schon will sie die Hand ihm reichen,

Doch ihm dünkt, der Boden schwinde;

In des Führers Arme sinkt er,

Haucht sein Leben in die Winde.


Ihren Sänger ehrt die Herrin

Durch ein prächtiges Begängnis,

Und ein Grabmal von Porphyr

Lehrt sein trauriges Verhängnis.                    72


Seine Lieder läßt sie schreiben

Allesamt mit goldnen Lettern,

Köstlich ausgezierte Decken

Gibt sie diesen teuren Blättern;


Liest darin so manche Stunde,

Ach! und oft mit heißen Tränen,

Bis auch sie ergriffen ist

Von dem unnennbaren Sehnen.


Von des Hofes lust'gem Glanz,

Aus der Freunde Kreis geschieden,

Suchet sie in Klostermauern

Ihrer armen Seele Frieden.                            84




Ludwig Uhland


In the valleys of Provence

The courtly love song arose,

Child of springtime and of love,

Lovely, fervent companions.


The radiance of blossoms and sweet voices

Reminds one of its father,

The ardour of the heart and deep pining

Came to it from its mother.


Blessed valleys of Provence,

You were ever lushly blooming,

But your richest blossom

[Was]1 the shimmer of the courtly love song.  12


Those valiant, trim knights,

What a noble guild of minstrels!

Those greatly delighted ladies,

How beautifully they were celebrated!


Highly honoured in the choir of minstrels

Was Rudello’s worthy name,

Praised much, envied much

That woman whom he lauded in song.


But no one was able to ascertain

What she was called, where she lived,

She who so gloriously, transcendently

Hovered in Rudello’s songs;                                24


For only in secret nights

Did she quietly approach the singer,

Not ever even touching the ground,

Traceless, swaying, as in a dream.


If he wished to catch her in his arms,

She vanished once more into the clouds,

And out of sighing and out of tears

Sweet songs were born to him.


Mariners, pilgrims, crusaders

At that time brought the tidings

That the Duchess of Tripoli

Was the queen of all women;                      36


And whenever Rudello heard it,

He felt a pulsing within his breast,

And he felt himself compelled to go to the shore

Where the ships lay ready.


Ocean, precarious, turbulent,

Bottomless and limitless!

Upon your agitated desert

Mad longing might well range.


Far off course from Tripoli

The barque strays about with the minstrel;

Rudello can no longer withstand

The outer tempests and the inner urging.    48


Gravely ill he lies stricken,

But he constantly gazes eastward,

Until at the final horizon there arises

A palace in the shimmer of morning.


And Heaven takes mercy

On the ailing minstrel’s pleading;

Into the Port of Tripoli

The ship flies, driven by favourable winds.


Barely has the beautiful Duchess heard

That such a noble guest has arrived,

A guest who for her sake alone

Has travelled over the wide sea:                   60


Immediately with her ladies

She descends to the shore, unasked,

Just as Rudello, with tottering gait,

Steps ashore.


Already she extends her hand to him,

But he feels as if the ground has disappeared from under his feet;

He sinks into the captain’s arms,

And breathes his last into the winds.


The Lady honours her minstrel

With a stately burial,

And a monument of porphyry

Tells of his tragic fate.                                  72


His songs she has scribed --

All of them -- in gold letters;

Magnificently decorated covers

She places upon these precious leaves;


Many an hour she spends reading the book,

Alas! and oft with burning tears,

Until she too has been seized

By the nameless yearning.


Departed from the gay brightness of the court,

From her circle of friends,

In the stone walls of a convent

She seeks peace for her poor soul.              84




Geoffroy Rudèl und Melisande von Tripoli

Heinrich Heine


In dem Schlosse Blay erblickt man

Die Tapete an den Wänden,

So die Gräfin Tripolis

Einst gestickt mit klugen Händen.


Ihre ganze Seele stickte

Sie hinein, und Liebesträne

Hat gefeit das seidne Bildwerk,

Welches darstellt jene Szene:


Wie die Gräfin den Rudèl,

Sterbend sah am Strande liegen,

Und das Urbild ihrer Sehnsucht

Gleich erkannt in seinen Zügen.


 Auch Rudèl hat hier zum ersten

Und zum letzten Mal erblicket

In der Wirklichkeit die Dame,

Die ihn oft im Traum entzücket.          16


Über ihn beugt sich die Gräfin,

Hält ihn liebevoll umschlungen,

Küßt den todesbleichen Mund,

Der so schön ihr Lob gesungen!


Ach! der Kuß des Willkomms wurde

Auch zugleich der Kuß des Scheidens,

Und so leerten sie den Kelch

Höchster Lust und tiefsten Leidens.


 In dem Schlosse Blay allnächtlich

Gibt's ein Rauschen, Knistern, Beben,

Die Figuren der Tapete

Fangen plötzlich an zu leben.


Troubadour und Dame schütteln

Die verschlafnen Schattenglieder,

Treten aus der Wand und wandeln

Durch die Säle auf und nieder.            32


Trautes Flüstern, sanftes Tändeln,

Wehmutsüße Heimlichkeiten,

Und postume Galantrie

Aus des Minnesanges Zeiten:


 »Geoffroy! Mein totes Herz

Wird erwärmt von deiner Stimme,

In den längst erloschnen Kohlen

Fühl ich wieder ein Geglimme!«       40


»Melisande! Glück und Blume!

Wenn ich dir ins Auge sehe,

Leb ich auf - gestorben ist

Nur mein Erdenleid und - wehe.«


»Geoffroy! Wir liebten uns

Einst im Traume, und jetzunder

Lieben wir uns gar im Tode -

Gott Amour tat dieses Wunder!«


»Melisande! Was ist Traum?

Was ist Tod? Nur eitel Töne.

In der Liebe nur ist Wahrheit,

Und dich lieb ich, ewig Schöne.«       52


»Geoffroy! Wie traulich ist es

Hier im stillen Mondscheinsaale,

Möchte nicht mehr draußen wandeln

In des Tages Sonnenstrahle.«


»Melisande! teure Närrin,

Du bist selber Licht und Sonne,

Wo du wandelst, blüht der Frühling,

Sprossen Lieb' und Maienwonne!«


Also kosen, also wandeln

Jene zärtlichen Gespenster

Auf und ab, derweil das Mondlicht

Lauschet durch die Bogenfenster.


Doch den holden Spuk vertreibend,

Kommt am End' die Morgenröte -

Jene huschen scheu zurück

In die Wand, in die Tapete.             68



Geoffrey Rudel and Melisande of Tripoli

Heinrich Heine


In the Château Blay still see we

Tapestry the walls adorning,

Worked by Tripoli’s fair countess’

Own fair hands, no labour scorning.


Her whole soul was woven in it,

And with loving tears and tender

Hallow’d is the silken picture,

Which the following scene doth render:


How the Countess saw Rudèl

Dying on the strand of ocean,

And the’ ideal in his features

Traced of all her heart’s emotion.     12


For the first and last time also

Living saw Rudèl and breathing

Her who in his every vision

Intertwining was and wreathing.


Over him the Countess bends her,

Lovingly his form she raises,

And his deadly-pale mouth kisses,

That so sweetly sang her praises.


Ah! the kiss of welcome likewise

Was the kiss of separation,

And they drain’d the cup of wildest

Joy, and deepest desolation.              24


In the Château Blay at night-time

Comes a rushing, crackling, shaking

On the tapestry the figures

Suddenly to life are waking.


Troubadour and lady stretch their

Drowsy ghostlike members yonder,

And from out the wall advancing,

Up and down the hall they wander.


Whispers fond and gentle toying,

Sad-sweet secrets, heart-enthralling,

Posthumous gallánt soft speeches,

Minnesingers’ times recalling:                          36


“Geoffry! At thy voice’s music

“Warmth is in my dead heart glowing,

“And I feel once more a glimmer

“In the long-quench’d embers growing!”


“Melisanda! I awaken

“Unto happiness and gladness,

“When I see thine eyes; dead only

“Is my earthly pain and sadness.”


“Geoffry! Once we loved each other

“In our dreams; now, cut asunder

“By the hand of death, still love we,—

“Amor ’tis that wrought this wonder!”           48


“Melisanda! What are dreams?

“What is death? Mere words to scare one!

“Truth in love alone e’er find we,

“And I love thee, ever fair one!”


“Geoffry! O how sweet our meetings

“In this moonlit chamber nightly,

“Now that in the day’s bright sunbeams

“I no more shall wander lightly.”


“Melisanda! Foolish dear one!

“Thou art light and sun, thou knowest!

“Love and joys of May are budding,

“Spring is blooming, where thou goest!”—   60


Thus those tender spectres wander

Up and down, and sweet caresses

Interchange, whilst peeps the moonlight

Through the window’s arch’d recesses.


But at length the rays of morning

Scare away the fond illusion;

To the tapestry retreat they

On the wall, in shy confusion.                         68




conclusion of “The Triumph of Time”

Algernon Charles Swinburne


There lived a singer in France of old

      By the tideless dolorous midland sea.

In a land of sand and ruin and gold

      There shone one woman, and none but she.

And finding life for her love's sake fail,

Being fain to see her, he bade set sail,

Touched land, and saw her as life grew cold,

      And praised God, seeing; and so died he.     328


Died, praising God for his gift and grace:

      For she bowed down to him weeping, and said

"Live;" and her tears were shed on his face

      Or ever the life in his face was shed.

The sharp tears fell through her hair, and stung

Once, and her close lips touched him and clung

Once, and grew one with his lips for a space;

      And so drew back, and the man was dead.


O brother, the gods were good to you.

      Sleep, and be glad while the world endures.

Be well content as the years wear through;

      Give thanks for life, and the loves and lures;

Give thanks for life, O brother, and death,

For the sweet last sound of her feet, her breath,

For gifts she gave you, gracious and few,

      Tears and kisses, that lady of yours.               344


Rest, and be glad of the gods; but I,

      How shall I praise them, or how take rest?

There is not room under all the sky

      For me that know not of worst or best,

Dream or desire of the days before,

Sweet things or bitterness, any more.

Love will not come to me now though I die,

      As love came close to you, breast to breast.


I shall never be friends again with roses;

      I shall loathe sweet tunes, where a note grown strong

Relents and recoils, and climbs and closes,

      As a wave of the sea turned back by song.

There are sounds where the soul's delight takes fire,

Face to face with its own desire;

A delight that rebels, a desire that reposes;

      I shall hate sweet music my whole life long.


The pulse of war and passion of wonder,

      The heavens that murmur, the sounds that shine,

The stars that sing and the loves that thunder,

      The music burning at heart like wine,

An armed archangel whose hands raise up

All senses mixed in the spirit's cup

Till flesh and spirit are molten in sunder —

      These things are over, and no more mine.             368


These were a part of the playing I heard

      Once, ere my love and my heart were at strife;

Love that sings and hath wings as a bird,

      Balm of the wound and heft of the knife.

Fairer than earth is the sea, and sleep

Than overwatching of eyes that weep,

Now time has done with his one sweet word,

      The wine and leaven of lovely life.


I shall go my ways, tread out my measure,

      Fill the days of my daily breath

With fugitive things not good to treasure,

      Do as the world doth, say as it saith;

But if we had loved each other — O sweet,

Had you felt, lying under the palms of your feet,

The heart of my heart, beating harder with pleasure

      To feel you tread it to dust and death —


Ah, had I not taken my life up and given

      All that life gives and the years let go,

The wine and honey, the balm and leaven,

      The dreams reared high and the hopes brought low?

Come life, come death, not a word be said;

Should I lose you living, and vex you dead?

I never shall tell you on earth; and in heaven,

      If I cry to you then, will you hear or know?              392




Geoffrey Rudel

Giosue Carducci


“Dal Libano trema e rosseggia

su ‘l mare la fresca mattina:

da Cipri avanzando veleggia

la nave crociata latina.

A poppa di febbre anelante

sta il prence di Blaia, Rudello,

e cerca co ‘l guardo natante

di Tripoli in alto il castello.


In vista a la spiaggia asiana

risuona la nota canzone:

“Amore di terra lontana,

per voi tutto il cuore mi duol”.

Il volo di un grigio alcione

prosegue la dolce querela,

e sovra la candida vela

s’affligge di nuvoli il sol.          16


La nave ammaina, posando

nel placido porto. Discende

soletto e pensoso Bertrando,

la via per al colle egli prende.

Velato di funebre benda

lo scudo di Blaia ha con sè:

affretta al castel: – Melisenda

contessa di Tripoli ov’è?


Io vengo messaggio d’amore,

io vengo messaggio di morte:

messaggio vengo io del signore

di Blaia, Giaufredo Rudel.

Notizie di voi gli fur porte,

v’amò vi cantò non veduta:

ei viene e si muor. Vi saluta,

Signora, il poeta fedel. –


La dama guardò lo scudiero

a lungo, pensosa in sembianti:

poi surse, adombrò d’un vel nero

la faccia con gli occhi stellanti:

– Scudier, – disse rapida – andiamo.

Ov’è che Giaufredo si muore?

Il primo al fedele rechiamo

e l’ultimo motto d’amore. –     40


Giacea sotto un bel padiglione

Giaufredo al conspetto del mare:

in nota gentil di canzone

levava il supremo desir.

– Signor che volesti creare

per me questo amore lontano,

deh fa che a la dolce sua mano

commetta l’estremo respir! –


Intanto co ‘l fido Bertrando

veniva la donna invocata;

e l’ultima nota ascoltando

pietosa ristè su l’entrata:

Ma presto, con mano tremante

il velo gettando, scoprì

la faccia; ed al misero amante

– Giaufredo, – ella disse, – son qui. –


Voltossi, levossi co ‘l petto

su i folti tappeti il signore,

e fiso al bellissimo aspetto

con lungo sospiro guardò.

– Son questi i begli occhi che amore

pensando promisemi un giorno?

E’ questa la fronte ove intorno

il vago mio sogno volò? –


Sì come a la notte di maggio

la luna da i nuvoli fuora

diffonde il suo candido raggio

su’l mondo che vegeta e odora,

tal quella serena bellezza

apparve al rapito amatore,

un’alta divina dolcezza

stillando al morente nel cuore.    72


– Contessa, che è mai la vita?

E’ l’ombra d’un sogno fuggente.

La favola breve è finita,

il vero immortale è l’amor.

Aprite le braccia al dolente.

Vi aspetto al novissimo bando.

Ed or, Melisenda, accomando

a un bacio lo spirto che muor –


La donna su ‘l pallido amante

chinossi recandolo al seno,

tre volte la bocca tremante

co ‘l bacio d’amore baciò.

E il sole dal cielo sereno

calando ridente ne l’onda

l’effusa di lei chioma biona

su ‘l morto poeta irraggiò.”        88



Geoffrey Rudel

Giosue Carducci


“From Lebanon the cool fresh morn

Sheds rosy tremors on the sea ;

By Latin barque the cross is borne

From Cyprus sailing gallantly.

On deck stands Rudel, Prince of Blaye,

With fever faint, his yearning eyes

Seek on the heights above the bay

Where Tripoli’s fair castle lies.


When he beholds the Asian strand,

The famous song he sings anew.

“Love hath for you from far-off land

Filled all my heart with aching pain.”

The circlings of the grey sea-mew

Follow the lover’s sweet complaint;

On the white sails the sun grows faint.

Obscured by clouds in fleecy train.


The ship in the calm haven drops

Her anchor fast ; Bertrand descends

In anxious care, naught heeds, nor stops.

Toward the hill his way he wends.

With mourning trappings all bedight

The shield of Blaye is in his hand.

He hastens to the Castle height :

” Where is the Lady Mélisande?”


“The messenger of love I come,

I come the messenger of death.

I come to seek you in your home

From Blaye’s good lord, Geoffrey Rudel.

He caught your fame on Rumour’s breath.

Unseen he loved you, sang of you.

He comes, he dies ; this poet true.

Lady, to you sends his farewell.”     32


With pensive mien the lady rose,

Looked at the squire, some moments stayed,

Then a black veil around her throws,

Her face and star-like eyes to shade.

“Sir Squire,” quoth she, her words come fast,

“Let us go where Sir Geoffrey lies.

That we may bear the first and last

Word love may utter ere he dies.”


Beneath his fair tent pitched along

Beside the sea Sir Geoffrey lay.

In low tones sang one tender song

That told his heart’s supreme desire.

“Lord, who didst will that far away

My love should dwell in Eastern lands.

Grant that I may in her dear hands

Commit my soul as I expire.”


Guided by faithful Bertrand’s hand

The lady came, the last note caught.

Before the entrance Mélisande

Lingered, her heart with pity fraught.

But soon with trembling hand she threw

Her veil aside, her face left clear.

Near to her lover sad she drew.

And murmured : “Geoffrey, I am here.”    56


Stretched on a low divan he lay.

Turning, then vainly strove to rise;

With a long sigh the Lord of Blaye

Upon those lovely features gazed.

“is that the face, are these the eyes

Love promised one day should be mine?

Around that brow did I entwine

Vague dreams my waking thought had raised”


Just as the moon on some May night

Bursts through the clouds’ encircling gloom.

Flooding the earth with silvery light,

Fills it with growth and with perfume.

So to the enchanted lover seems

This tranquil beauty to impart

Sweetness divine beyond all dreams,

Filling the dying poet’s heart.


“Lady, what is this life of ours?

The fleeting shadow of a dream.

Now end the fable’s transient hours,

‘Tis only love that knows not death.

To one in agony supreme

Open thine arms. On the last day

I wait for thee; a kiss now may

Commend to thee my latest breath.” 80


The lady held him to her breast.

And bending o’er her lover pale

Upon his quivering lips she pressed

Love’s kiss of greeting and farewell.

The sun broke through his misty veil.

From sky serene shone on the sea.

The lady’s golden locks set free

Like light o’er the dead poet fell.”