Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kind Words (and Coronets)

Many thanks to Mark, Laura, and the Anonymous Student who stepped up to reassure me after the glum post yesterday morning. Laura suggested that, like my son's lizard, I needed a bit of sunlight and a change in diet: good advice, which I've tried to take, although that first mealworm is pretty nasty & wriggly. (They get easier as you go.)

I have a pretty clear idea of what went wrong in my Jewish lit class on Tuesday, so I'll straighten that out today. Too much time on what students thought was a minor, secondary reading, and a bit too much "let's tease this out through discussion" (my usual mode) when a crisper introductory mini-lecture would have done the job and brought us to the primary text more expeditiously. That's what I'll try today--we'll see how it goes. I love the primary text (Alicia Ostriker's the volcano sequence) and know it quite well, so if I lecture through the tentative first few pages and get to the less-elusive poems farther in, we'll be in good shape.

In 220 (Reading Poetry) a lot of treats today: Anne Bradstreet, Andrew Marvell, Aphra Behn, and John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, "The Libertine." We'll never get to all of them--but then, part of the fun will be giving the poems teasing glances and peripheral approaches, so that students get to finish the job themselves in subsequent papers.

Here's Johnny Depp as the least reformed of Restoration Rakes:

And one of our texts for the day--a fitting companion to the picture, methinks:

The Disabled Debauchee

As some brave admiral, in former war
Deprived of force, but pressed with courage still,
Two rival fleets appearing from afar,
Crawls to the top of an adjacent hill;

From whence, with thoughts full of concern, he views
The wise and daring conduct of the fight,
Whilst each bold action to his mind renews
His present glory and his past delight;

From his fierce eyes flashes of fire he throws,
As from black clouds when lightning breaks away;
Transported, thinks himself amidst the foes,
And absent, yet enjoys the bloody day;

So, when my days of impotence approach,
And I’m by pox and wine’s unlucky chance
Forced from the pleasing billows of debauch
On the dull shore of lazy temperance,

My pains at least some respite shall afford
While I behold the battles you maintain
When fleets of glasses sail about the board,
From whose broadsides volleys of wit shall rain.

Nor let the sight of honorable scars,
Which my too forward valor did procure,
Frighten new-listed soldiers from the wars:
Past joys have more than paid what I endure.

Should any youth (worth being drunk) prove nice,
And from his fair inviter meanly shrink,
’Twill please the ghost of my departed vice
If, at my counsel, he repent and drink.

Or should some cold-complexioned sot forbid,
With his dull morals, our bold night-alarms,
I’ll fire his blood by telling what I did
When I was strong and able to bear arms.

I’ll tell of whores attacked, their lords at home;
Bawds’ quarters beaten up, and fortress won;
Windows demolished, watches overcome;
And handsome ills by my contrivance done.

Nor shall our love-fits, Chloris, be forgot,
When each the well-looked linkboy strove t’ enjoy,
And the best kiss was the deciding lot
Whether the boy fucked you, or I the boy.

With tales like these I will such thoughts inspire
As to important mischief shall incline:
I’ll make him long some ancient church to fire,
And fear no lewdness he’s called to by wine.

Thus, statesmanlike, I’ll saucily impose,
And safe from action, valiantly advise;
Sheltered in impotence, urge you to blows,
And being good for nothing else, be wise.
How about those initial trochaic inversions, eh? (And a few medial spondees. Rowr!)


Laura Vivanco said...

So today you're going to be like Bill the Lizard, energised by Poetry and vigorously expelled into your classroom through a rather phallic-looking chimney.

And I'm glad to learn you're doing well on the mealworm diet.

E. M. Selinger said...

Thanks, Laura. Yes, that's me, alright--and my new theme song.

Bill the Lizard,
Bill the Lizard,
Can we teach it?