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Thread: Poetry Reading Group Redux- Nominations

  1. #301
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    What about "La ginestra o il fiore del deserto/The Broom or The Flower of the Desert" poem no. XXXIV in the Nichols?
    Sure, pick the long one Neely. I don't think it will be too hard to discuss, though, since it's kind of slow moving. Compared to the other poems, it's practically glacial in its gradual progression. Leopardi introduces an idea and then builds onto it throughout an entire stanza or more. It's not quite as dense as some of the others we've done. "Saturday in the Village" and "The Infinite" were packed tighter than the little 2-door vehicle I carpool to work in. "The Broom or The Flower of the Desert," on the other hand, focuses on just a handful of ideas and takes its time developing them.

    The first idea I'd like to bring up is in these lines:
    That man has a truly noble nature
    Who, without flinching, still can face
    Our common plight, tell the truth
    With an honest tongue,
    Admit the evil lot we've been given
    It's this sense that man's dignity lies in a sort of cosmic humility. I don't think it's a particularly new thought--people have been making it since the ancients--but I'm curious about how Leopardi handles it. I also wonder whether Leopardi means to make this point in a general way or whether he's advancing this claim to a specific audience--one located in a particular people at a particular time. Earlier, the speaker addressed the overly hopeful in these lines:

    Look and see yourself here,
    You proud, vain, ignorant century,
    Clearly, this is leveled at some in a particular time. So what about these people at this time is overly hopeful? There seems to be a topical point as well as a general one that Leopardi seems to be making. The general point isn't all that new, but the topical one might be--and it might help us understand what Leopardi is doing in this poem. I don't really have a good answer to this question right now, but it's something I'm thinking about while I'm rereading the poem.
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

  2. #302
    Of course Virgil feel free to shoot from the other poem too.

    Yes, I thought I'd pick a long one and make you all work a bit, I can't let laziness creep in, chop, chop - though it is slightly longer than I remembered it. You are quite right though it seems to move much more slowly than the others in giving us its fruits.

    Yes I agree with your point about 'cosmic humility' if you mean comparing the insignificance of mankind to the universe sort of thing.

    Look and see yourself here,
    You proud, vain, ignorant century,

    Clearly, this is levelled at some in a particular time. So what about these people at this time is overly hopeful?


    I took this arrogance to be levelled at his contemporaries in particular; the way that people's attitudes have gone from an original unity (if there ever was an original unity) to a false pretension. Here is another significant part on the same type of criticism of mankind:

    A man of slender means and feeble body,
    A man who is magnanimous and noble,
    Does not deceive himself
    That he is rich and strong
    ...
    He feels no shame at all in looking poor
    In health and wealth, in stating openly
    His own clear estimation of his value,
    ...
    That other is not noble,
    In my belief, but stupid
    (Lines 87+)
    He seems to think that if mankind could put away this sense of elevated self-importance then they might be able to see that “Mother Nature” (or time) is the real enemy and not each other. He seems to look back to a golden time of unity, like I said, in such lines as “Mankind has been united, organised/Against her from the first” (128) though I would strongly wonder if there has ever been such a golden time of unity, but perhaps that is beside the point?

    I’m also interested in how he seems to elevate the Bloom in having more sense than the human race in understanding the lowly place in the grand scheme of things. There are also a few references to “the light” which I would read in a religious sense perhaps, whether in a positive sense or a negative one I’m not sure because I’ve not really looked into that angle yet. I might read into that a little later on tonight.
    Last edited by LitNetIsGreat; 04-07-2010 at 07:10 AM.

  3. #303
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    though I would strongly wonder if there has ever been such a golden time of unity, but perhaps that is beside the point?
    I guess that's what I'm asking. Are we talking about some mythical golden age or is there a real time that Leopardi is talking about? And why did we slip from that golden age?

    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    There are also a few references to “the light” which I would read in a religious sense perhaps, whether in a positive sense or a negative one I’m not sure because I’ve not really looked into that angle yet.
    Is that a reference to reason and thought? I'm not exactly sure which lines you're talking about (I think we have different translations), so you might want to post them on the thread.
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

  4. #304
    No, I’m coming away from any real religious context now that I’ve looked at it properly. Originally it was things like this:

    Lines 80+
    And that is why
    You turned your coward back upon the light
    Which showed the truth; why, while you flee, you call
    Him base who seeks the light,
    Him only noble who,
    Deceived or else deceiving, mad or wise,
    Exalts the human lot above the skies.
    As well as the many references to “light” and there is a line which says “temples disfigured” but if you put them together a religious angle doesn’t seem to tally that well overall, though it seems a strong possibility just based upon the extract above.

  5. #305
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Wow, now that I have finished my big exam, I have time to return to this; going to take a while to get through all the great posts though, so will wait to comment until later.

  6. #306
    Ah yes I thought I hadn't seen you around for a while, I thought that you was either working hard or on holiday. I expected working hard though. Me I'm trying to do both - but with little success I'm afraid, in one of them anyway...

  7. #307
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Wow, now that I have finished my big exam, I have time to return to this
    Wow, indeed. Hopefully everything went well. What were you being tested on?

    Quote Originally Posted by Neely View Post
    As well as the many references to “light” and there is a line which says “temples disfigured” but if you put them together a religious angle doesn’t seem to tally that well overall, though it seems a strong possibility just based upon the extract above.
    I think the lines above help us explicate that part, though. In the Grennan translation it looks like this:

    Freedom is the dream you dream
    While putting thought in chains again--
    Thought, which all that brought us
    Almost out of the barbarous dark, alone
    Enabled civilization, is what alone
    Steers the state toward a better life.
    Having no love for bitter truth
    Of that hard lot and lowly place
    Which nature gave us, you turned
    Your coward's back on the light
    That lets us see things as they are
    Some bold added. This passage sets up Leopardi's version of Plato's divided line. We get something like this:

    Civilization-|-Barbarism
    -----------|-----------
    Thought---|-Cowardice
    -----------|-----------
    Freedom---|-Chained Imprisonment

    The light appears to stand for everything on the left, while the dark represents everything on the right. On the left is everything that's ideal, and on the right is everything that the speaker sees in Italian society. I don't know if religion enters into this so much. I'd have to look at that "temples disfigured" part to say for sure. Mostly, though, this is a return to the Enlightenment ideas of some of the other poems. The idea that man's mind is enslaved by slavish customs is straight out of Rousseau: "Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains." Kant defined Enlightenment as intellectual maturity and bravery--as opposed to ignorance which is a state of blind following. I don't mean to say that Leopardi is exactly like these other figures (he's not), but this idea in the poem is torn right out the popular thought of the day.

    That being said, I think Leopardi is much more interested in the emotional and social implications of these ideas than the other people I mentioned. So much of the Canti seems to be about what these ideas do for love, ambition, Italy, poetry, etc.

    Oh, and, if you're going to look for a religious message in this poem, you're probably going to want to look at these lines:
    And the many times you've loved to tell
    Fable and fairy tales of how
    On your behalf even the authors
    Of the universe itself came down
    To this dark grain of sand called earth,
    And how, time after time, they talked
    with you on friendly terms, and how
    Over and over you've told these same
    Silly dreams, insulting men of any sense
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

  8. #308
    Oh, and, if you're going to look for a religious message in this poem, you're probably going to want to look at these lines:
    Yes, I had noticed those too. I think that there's probably enough to go on to suggest that Leopardi is criticising those who seek escape in religion, though it wouldn't be my primary position either.

  9. #309
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Can someone tell me which poem we are reading? I am kind of lost. And perhaps someone can give me some sizable English chunks of it, as the Italian version is probably slightly different.

  10. #310
    Of Subatomic Importance Quark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    Can someone tell me which poem we are reading?
    We were recently talking about "La Ginestra O Il Fiore Del Deserto," or "Broom or The Flower of the Desert," but the thread has been rather empty of late. I guess that's fitting--given the poem we're reading.

    Quote Originally Posted by JBI View Post
    And perhaps someone can give me some sizable English chunks of it, as the Italian version is probably slightly different.
    Here's the poem in Grennan's translations:

    Here on the naked back
    Of this amazing
    Exterminator, Mount Vesuvius,
    Cheered by
    Okay, this goes on for a while. Maybe you could just pull a book from the library. Since you're at a major research university, this shouldn't be difficult. In fact, a quick search turns up the exact translation I'm using:

    http://search8.library.utoronto.ca/U...ch_form_simple
    Last edited by Quark; 04-17-2010 at 12:44 AM.
    "Par instants je suis le Pauvre Navire
    [...] Par instants je meurs la mort du Pecheur
    [...] O mais! par instants"

    --"Birds in the Night" by Paul Verlaine (1844-1896). Join the discussion here: http://www.online-literature.com/for...5&goto=newpost

  11. #311
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Hmm, to try and bring this thread back to the top, and reawaken the discussion of The Broom,


    To the point of this Barbarism over Civilization, or the other binaries - the idea I got when reading the poem was of the dominance of the cycle - the cultivated Romans that are gestured to by the dominance of Vesuvius throughout the poem are crossed with the simple fact; Pompei was wiped out. The villages, and the panorama afforded the reader simply stands as a projection of what he considers a type of blissful ignorance.

    I think he is neither in agreement with an enlightenment view or a romantic; he seems to be abandoning the sort of "cultivated rationalism" that gives Enlightened thinkers their sense of superiority, as much as he is dismissing the Nobel Savages of Rousseau's thought as ignorant specs. The vision on top of Vesuvius, gesturing to Jesus' view from the mount, I would argue, shows but the insignificance of life - as the spewing mountain, symbolic of the dominant nature and cruelty of a world made insignificant by lack of meaning - his view is that of the transcient, that which is but a spec in the reality (his term is grain of sand) - his gesture to the stars and constellation rather than speak to the fate and presence, seems to suggest that humanity is just but one little aspect of a giant natural cycle, of which we have no control.

    The ending, rather than praise a sort of enlightenment, seems to gesture that his idea of "enlightenment" is that of self defeat; one is insignificant, so the moral, and learned are the ones who realize their insignificance - in essence, the nihilist.

    The vehicle of the Broom then, is a vehicle for nature - nature is the broom that sweeps over all - Vesuvius' lava, the moving of the planets.

    IF we return to a reading that intertexts the Bible - we can see Leopardi is comparable to Jesus, when viewing the world. His position as dying "prophet" if you will is coupled with his view of the future - instead of the awakening with the second coming, his view gestures to the Broom - the world, its pathway, is but anticipating the destruction - the explosion that will end it all, the broom that will sweep its memory clean away, as it is but an insignificant spec in a grand, meaningless scheme.

  12. #312
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Good idea JBI. Unfortunately I did not bring my book with me and it will probably be another month before I am home. I'll try to glance in here if the discussion moves along.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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

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

  13. #313
    Registered User quasimodo1's Avatar
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    JBI and Virgil: Love to revisit this discussion later today or tomorrow; unfortunately have to deal with the curse of the reading class, work.

  14. #314
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    Good idea JBI. Unfortunately I did not bring my book with me and it will probably be another month before I am home. I'll try to glance in here if the discussion moves along.
    Hi Virgil,

    We could PM the poem to you so you could take part.

    I'll have a look later tonight after work.

    I'm glad you brought it up again JBI.

  15. #315
    Quote Originally Posted by quasimodo1 View Post
    JBI and Virgil: Love to revisit this discussion later today or tomorrow; unfortunately have to deal with the curse of the reading class, work.
    Ha, ha, quality...

    I'll have a go at digging the poem up again and following JBI's pointers.

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