Archive for the ‘Ancient Literature’ Category

Sam Riedel has written an excellent brief history of the chapbook from the Middle Ages onward. All you want to know in a pleasant ten-minute read. Recommended.


I hate and love. You wonder, perhaps, why I’d do that?
I have no idea. I just feel it. I am crucified.

— Gaius Valerius Catullus (84-54 B.C.)

(translated by Peter Green)

Poets of the English LanguagePoets of the English Language by W.H. Auden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read this collection through several times and find it entirely useful. Auden’s prefaces to each volume, providing historical, cultural and technical background, are by themselves worth the price of the anthology. Why this collection is out of print is beyond me.

View all my reviews

“Busy men find life very short… the part of life we really live is small.” — Seneca, “On the Shortness of Life

Seneca’s thinking in “Shortness”  is, of course, how to live well even given the limits of time,  that we so often forget passes quickly. His meditations are a useful pleasure on a holiday like today–take a few minutes, read some chewy Stoic-y goodness and then take his good advice as permission to live a less harassed life.

(And, if you get interested in Seneca, check out this article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

Lament of the Frontier Guard

By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,

Lonely from the beginning of time until now!

Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.

I climb the towers and towers

to watch out the barbarous land:

Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.

There is no wall left to this village.

Bones white with a thousand frosts,

High heaps, covered with trees and grass;

Who brought this to pass?

Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?

Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?

Barbarous kings.

A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,

A turmoil of wars – men, spread over the middle kingdom,

Three hundred and sixty thousand,

And sorrow, sorrow like rain.

Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,

Desolate, desolate fields,

And no children of warfare upon them,

No longer the men for offence and defence.

Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,

With Rihoku’s name forgotten,

And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

— translated by Ezra Pound


Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010 in Ancient Literature, Commonplace Book, Meaning, Poems, Poetry
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To what shall
I liken the world?
Moonlight, reflected
In dewdrops,
Shaken from a crane’s bill.