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Thread: Poetry Reading Group Redux- Nominations

  1. #166
    Great, thanks for putting the Grennan translation up. Yes, I think I’d have to agree, I like his version more than the Nichols one, it just seems a little tighter and more 'poetic' though which one is closer to the original I wouldn’t claim to know.

    I think that you may have misread my connection to the Wordsworth piece though (or I didn’t express my meaning very well) because I would agree there is very little nourishment to be found in nature in this poem, there is no love of nature for nature’s sake. Instead nature seems to function primarily to block out the inner feelings of the narrator in the vastness it presents.

    I don’t get what you mean with Infinity/infinitive, do you mean that the translation of the poem’s title is a little odd from the original?
    Last edited by LitNetIsGreat; 03-13-2010 at 03:56 PM.

  2. #167
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    I'm heading off to lunch in few minutes so I don't have very much time to write, but I wanted to comment on the Romanticism connection before there's too many posts to respond to all of them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    I know some people have said how this reminds them of the Romantics, but I'm not sure i see the same thing. This is the only one I've read so far, so I can't speak from an intertextual perspective, I can only address from this short poem. The Romantics for the most part see a spirituality in nature, a mystery tending toward the numinous. Here I get the feeling that there is no mystery, no spirituality, no anything but death in nature. I can't say that this is a statement of atheism (though it could be); I'm saying that nature does not seem to contain substenance. Tintern Abbey nourished Wordsworth; there's no noursihment here.
    While I agree that there are some differences between "The Infinite" and "Tintern Abbey," I don't think that means that the poem isn't Romantic. I actually wanted to start with this poem because I thought it is Romantic, and it would be easy to peg. Discussing infinity and how it interacts with the finite is one of the most common things Romantic poets do. From Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre to Shelley's "Mount Blanc" and Coleridge's "Aeolian Harp," the Romantics were obsessed with this idea. In fact, one of the main critical works on the Romantic period is subtitled The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite. While it's true that in "Tintern Abbey" the poet find "substenance" or "noursihment" in nature, that's not the case for all Romantic poets at all time. Take "Mount Blanc." The mountain is terrible, and it crushes the imagination. It represents the weight of things on the mind. Shelley writes toward the end of the poem:

    The secret strength of things
    Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
    Of heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
    The mountain represents the strength of things here, not the infinite dome of thought. This is similar to the Aeolian Harp:

    And what if all of animated nature
    Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
    That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps
    Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
    At once the Soul of each, and God of All?
    Again, nature is filter of "harps" that strain the pure "intellectual breeze." There's no talk of "substenance" or "noursihment" in these lines. It's about how the infinite is colored, changed, resisted by finite nature.

    I'll write more about this later, but I'm running out of time now.
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

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  3. #168
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    Great, thanks for putting the Grennan translation up. Yes, I think I’d have to agree, I like his version more than the Nichols one, it just seems a little tighter and more 'poetic' though which one is closer to the original I wouldn’t claim to know.
    Actually, i would say that it's mixed on this translation. I think the Grennan seems more accurate with this: "an unfathomable hush/In which my heart is hardly a beat/From fear" as opposed to the Nichols "so much that almost/My heart fills up with fear." But I think the Nichols is more accurate in the last line with "delight" versus the Grennan's "easeful." At least according to my poor Italian. Perhaps JBI can weigh in on this.

    I think that you may have misread my connection to the Wordsworth piece though (or I didn’t express my meaning very well) because I would agree there is very little nourishment to be found in nature in this poem, there is no love of nature for nature’s sake. Instead nature seems to function primarily to block out the inner feelings of the narrator in the vastness it presents.
    I only skimmed the previous number of posts. I don't know if it was you or someone else.

    I don’t get what you mean with Infinity/infinitive, do you mean that the translation of the poem’s title is a little odd from the original?
    From M-W:
    Main Entry: 2infinitive
    Function: noun
    Date: 1530
    : a verb form normally identical in English with the first person singular that performs some functions of a noun and at the same time displays some characteristics of a verb and that is used with to (as in “I asked him to go”) except with auxiliary and various other verbs (as in “no one saw him leave”)
    The title is named after a verb form. Isn't that odd? The poem is about infinity and it's titled, "Infinitive."
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  4. #169
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quark View Post
    I'm heading off to lunch in few minutes so I don't have very much time to write, but I wanted to comment on the Romanticism connection before there's too many posts to respond to all of them.



    While I agree that there are some differences between "The Infinite" and "Tintern Abbey," I don't think that means that the poem isn't Romantic. I actually wanted to start with this poem because I thought it is Romantic, and it would be easy to peg. Discussing infinity and how it interacts with the finite is one of the most common things Romantic poets do. From Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre to Shelley's "Mount Blanc" and Coleridge's "Aeolian Harp," the Romantics were obsessed with this idea. In fact, one of the main critical works on the Romantic period is subtitled The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite. While it's true that in "Tintern Abbey" the poet find "substenance" or "noursihment" in nature, that's not the case for all Romantic poets at all time. Take "Mount Blanc." The mountain is terrible, and it crushes the imagination. It represents the weight of things on the mind. Shelley writes toward the end of the poem:



    The mountain represents the strength of things here, not the infinite dome of thought. This is similar to the Aeolian Harp:



    Again, nature is filter of "harps" that strain the pure "intellectual breeze." There's no talk of "substenance" or "noursihment" in these lines. It's about how the infinite is colored, changed, resisted by finite nature.

    I'll write more about this later, but I'm running out of time now.
    I see your point Quark. Yes the wind through the bushes is similar to the Aeolian Harp metaphor, but with Leopardi, nothing the wind is limited in comparison the the scope of what it's set against, the infinte space. In fact he creates a direct compariosn: "pit its [the wind] speech against infinite silence." I think the key to this is evaluating the silence. There is a dichotomy. The wind is earthly, and the vastness of the horizon brings in another dimension, far reaching. The vastness of the horzon and boundless space is slient, "silences,/Deeper than human silence, an unfathomable hush" and that silence is what brings fear. And then there is the mentioning of dead seasons and the immensity that "drowns." It's only one small poem, and the rest will dictate to how similar or different Leopardi is from the Romantics, but i certainly see a distinction so far.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  5. #170
    This celestial seascape! Lynne50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    I don’t get what you mean with Infinity/infinitive, do you mean that the translation of the poem’s title is a little odd from the original?
    In the Grennan edition I have, the title of the poem is Infinitive Not sure why Grennan used that instead of Infinity.

    Virgil Thank you so much for helping me with the interpretations. I do try to read poems out loud, and only pause slightly at commas and then fully stop at periods, so as to get the poet's full thought.

    I am curious about the word easeful. Is there such a word? It's kind of hard to grasp exactly what is meant by it.
    "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare." W.H. Davies

  6. #171
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynne50 View Post
    Virgil Thank you so much for helping me with the interpretations. I do try to read poems out loud, and only pause slightly at commas and then fully stop at periods, so as to get the poet's full thought.

    I am curious about the word easeful. Is there such a word? It's kind of hard to grasp exactly what is meant by it.
    Yes, easeful is a word:
    ease·ful   /ˈizfəl/ Show Spelled[eez-fuhl]
    –adjective
    comfortable; quiet; peaceful; restful.

    Origin:
    1325–75; ME eisefull. See ease, -ful

    —Related forms
    ease·ful·ly, adverb
    ease·ful·ness, noun
    That last line is apparently famous because when I searched it, I came up with a bunch of Italian blogs with that name.I can see how easeful might be the better word, but to me "dolce" which directly means sweet could be better translated as "delight" as in the Nichols translation. But "easeful" could be more accurate if there is some complex connotation to the last line that my poor Italian can't pick up.

    In the Grennan edition I have, the title of the poem is Infinitive Not sure why Grennan used that instead of Infinity.
    Oh you're rigth about the Nichols. No wonder Neely was confused with what i was saying. The Italian is "L'Infinito" which could go both ways I guess.
    Last edited by Virgil; 03-13-2010 at 06:21 PM.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  7. #172
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    I just checked: Infinitive does translate to l'infinito in Italian. So that is a major descrepency in the translations between Nichols and Grennan.

    Also I found a youtube video where this poem is spoken in Italian. Really nice, and the voice sounds like my grandfather. Here, it's a real treat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyN4PN1WXWk
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  8. #173
    Asa Nisi Masa mayneverhave's Avatar
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    In this poem we get a sense of Leopardi's misanthropy, or at least his belief in the insignificance of humanity in the face of natural forces - at least in this poem perhaps not natural forces, but cold, quiet eternity (time).

    "[His] thought is drowned" in the ocean of time - that is the weight of the seasons past and the seasons present. His minuscule little thought is nothing in the immensity of eternity. The poet takes a particular delight in this - as he will in later poems.

  9. #174
    This celestial seascape! Lynne50's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Yes, easeful is a word:

    Boy, I just recently bought a new Merriam Webster dictionary. I guess I should use it, huh? What a dummy!
    "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare." W.H. Davies

  10. #175
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynne50 View Post
    Boy, I just recently bought a new Merriam Webster dictionary. I guess I should use it, huh? What a dummy!
    Lynne, they have a web site. Here: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.htm.

    I also find this extremely helpful as a dictionary and a thesaurus: http://thesaurus.com/

    Plus if you use Yahoo, you can just type a word in and it will send you to all sorts of dictionaries.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    "Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  11. #176
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    One thing I thought about his relationship to the Romantics was the meditative element, such as you find in Wordsworth. It is clearly an inner appreciation of the infinite, as the hedgerow obscures the horizon:

    To me this lonely hill was always precious
    And this hedgerow also , where so wide a stretch
    Of the extreme horizon's out of sight.


    It's lonely and enclosed alowing his mind to perceive the infinite beyond, which seems counter intuitive, as you would think the infinite more appreciable with a good view of a distant horizon.

    I think he answers this with his:

    "more than human silences"

    which suggests a higher prescence - God? - of which there is fear:

    ...almost
    My heart fills up with fear.

    He seems to set up paradoxes in order to perceive this infinite with the solitary enclosed hill to view infinity, infinite silence and the wind rustling, the eternal and the dead seasons.

    Do the paradoxes cause his thoughts to drown, and is this why this kind of drowning is tinged with fear, but also a delight?

  12. #177
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    I just checked: Infinitive does translate to l'infinito in Italian. So that is a major descrepency in the translations between Nichols and Grennan.

    Also I found a youtube video where this poem is spoken in Italian. Really nice, and the voice sounds like my grandfather. Here, it's a real treat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyN4PN1WXWk
    That's superb. My daughter wants to learn Italian for her GCSE options 14-16 year studies. I wonder if she'll be interested - possibly, though she treats me with a practiced scorn.
    Last edited by Paulclem; 03-13-2010 at 08:07 PM. Reason: Fuzzy knuckles

  13. #178
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    hill, hedge, horizon, daydream, spaces, silence, heart, wind, bushes, speech, eternity, seasons, sound, immensity, seas

    The wind rustling through the bushes is obviously his poetry, just as the beat of the season represents the pulse of his heart. He pits sound versus silence, life versus death, a season juxtaposed against eternity. Thus, that which is living makes a temporary sound. Making poetry an expression of his life, however brief. It's interesting that art is the opposite of immortality in this poem. Leopardi's work, his expressions, are temperal like the passing seasons. He does not seek to live through them.

    The hill is definitely a source of shelter, a place he can hide from the larger ie threatening aspects of life, symbolised by the horizon. The horizon is a terminus, a point beyond which we cannot see. It stretches out in either direction forever, like the uncertain state we experience before life and after death. Nature is not a solace to Leopardi, as the seas and large spaces are what he's hiding from by the small secluded hedge. But the hill with it's containing hedge is positive. I wonder if he had read Edmund Burke's "A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful". Burke hypothesizes that the small, balanced, polished, and non-threatening is beautiful whereas much of the large and imposing odd shaped structures of nature impose a sense of sublime awe on viewers.

    I notice the words "lonesome" and "hides" in the first two lines. He goes to the hill alone, retreating from society. Could the vast seas represent people, the turmoil they cause his soul, and his desire to be alone in his deformity? But he cannot hide from himself. There are two distinct spaces in the poem. The setting starts externally on the hill and moves into his mind on the fourth line. "But sitting here in a daydream... in this immensity my thoughts all drown." All the external stimulae are peaceful. What's internal is where all of Leopardi's problems lie. He mentions that he loves the hill, but does he love it because it keeps him safe, or because it allows him to daydream?

    Could the hill and the hedge represent another state of mind? One where he is neither thinking about the future nor the past? "It's easeful to be wrecked in seas like these." Is he saying that he would rather contemplate the big vital topics, that he enjoys the "fear" and excitement that come from contemplating his own demise more than tranquility and lack of thought?
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
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  14. #179
    Just a very quick post before bed...

    Yes when Quark mentioned Shelley and “Mount Blanc” I thought of the sublime, but I think it operates differently here for it is not about being in awe of nature or questioning existence but simply using nature as a means of peace.

    What's internal is where all of Leopardi's problems lie. He mentions that he loves the hill, but does he love it because it keeps him safe, or because it allows him to daydream?
    I still read it as the latter. He loves the hill, not for the hill’s sake, but because the infinity of the scope of nature blocks out his internal woe.
    Last edited by LitNetIsGreat; 03-13-2010 at 08:51 PM.

  15. #180
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    I don't know if the season is juxtaposed against eternity mortal. The season I think corresponds with the infinite, as the wind flows through bringing about the cyclical change - it is all contrasted against his limited life, and own decay. The image of the hill could mean anything, but I like to think of it as the place of vision, rather than of comfort, in that he looks out at all that is eternal bellow him, and contrasts its cyclical infinity with his limitation.

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