When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see, For all the day they view things unrespected; But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee, And, darkly bright, are bright in dark directed. Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright, How would thy shadow’s form form happy show To the clear day with thy much clearer light, When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so? How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made By looking on thee in the living day, When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay! All days are nights to see till I see thee, And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
This is an interesting sonnet for me, because it appears that Shakespeare is contemplating the nature of reality as it pertains to one’s state of consciousness. On the surface, he is praising the beauty of his beloved as it appears to him while dreaming and compares that to his beloved’s appearance in waking reality. But what strikes me about this sonnet is the repeated mention of words like “shadow” and “form.” I get the sense that Shakespeare is alluding to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, that what we perceive as real is more like a shadow of the divine form cast upon the wall of a cave. Was Shakespeare likening the fair youth to an archetypal form of supreme beauty that we cannot fully comprehend in our normal state of consciousness? I don’t know, but it is definitely something worth considering when reading this text.
That’s all I wanted to say about this poem. Comments will be open for two weeks after post date, so if you have any thoughts you would like to share about this poem, feel free to do so.
This is a short arc of four issues. I decided to wait until all four were published so I could read them all in a single sitting. I’m glad I did, because it was nice to read the entire tale from beginning to end.
As is often the case with Stranger Things, this arc incorporates themes of friendship, adventure, and nerdiness. In fact, there is a bit of dialog in the first issue that about being a nerd that I want to share.
“Have no fear, my man! We too will shine in our time!”
“Yeah, we’re nerds… the older we get, the cooler we get.”
I really agree with this. Growing up, I felt I was an outcast because my interests were just not cool, and try as I did to fit in, I was just faking and always felt like an outsider. But as I got older, I started meeting people who shared my interests and passions, and they became my lifelong friends. I can get on the phone with people and talk about art and music and books and mysticism. I can get together with friends and play board games. All the things I loved growing up that made me feel like I didn’t quite fit in are now the things that serve as bonds with my closest friends. I suppose that is why I am so much happier now than I was in my younger years.
Anyway, not a whole lot else to talk about regarding these comics. They were fun to read, and sometimes I just want to read something light and fun and happy. This falls into that category.
When I read this story, it was evening, and I was looking for something short to read in bed before sleep. I scanned the table of contents in my copy of Poe’s Complete Tales and Poems and decided on this one, since I had never read it and it seemed short enough. I have to say that I was very impressed with the story, the premise of which I found fascinating.
The basic plot of the tale centers around an experiment on mesmerism. The protagonist, who is relating the story, decides to see what would happen if an individual was mesmerized just before death.
My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago, it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; secondly, whether, if any existed, it was impaired or increased by the condition; thirdly, to what extent, or for how long a period, the encroachments of Death might be arrested by the process. There were other points to be ascertained, but these most excited my curiosity—the last in especial, from the immensely important character of its consequences.
An acquaintance, M. Valdemar, who is terminally ill, agrees to participate in the experiment. He is mesmerized just before the moment of death. After he passes, he is asked a question, and responds.
I have spoken both of “sound” and of “voice.” I mean to say that the sound was one of distinct — of even wonderfully, thrillingly distinct—syllabification. M. Valdemar spoke—obviously in reply to the question I had propounded to him a few minutes before. I had asked him, it will be remembered, if he still slept. He now said:
“Yes; —no; —I have been sleeping—and now—now—I am dead.”
The implication here is that physical death does not mean the end of consciousness, that consciousness continues after the body ceases to function. And this begs the question: What is life, the functioning of the physical body, or the cohesive awareness of an individual’s consciousness?
It was evident that, so far, death (or what is usually termed death) had been arrested by the mesmeric process. It seemed clear to us all that to awaken M. Valdemar would be merely to insure his instant, or at least his speedy dissolution.
While this tale does have a touch of eeriness for which Poe is renowned, it is the exploration of consciousness that I found most fascinating about this short story. I highly recommend giving it a read. You can find the full text online if you are interested (since it is part of the public domain).
Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading interesting stuff.
Comments Off on Thoughts on “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe
Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover. I went to an estate sale some years back that advertised having a large selection of books. Clearly, the person who had passed was a serious reader based upon the sheer volume of books for sale, most of which were nice hardcovers. Scanning through the stacks, the cover of this book caught my eye. The brief blurb on the jacket confirmed that this should be worth the couple dollars. Also of interest, the title page was inscribed. I guess a friend of the deceased had given this book as a gift. Kind of added to the overall mystique of the book.
The premise of the story is that a woman who is an antiquarian book dealer gets hired by a reclusive author, who is nearing the end of her life, to write her biography. As is to be expected, many dark secrets abound, and the tale unravels in a gothic atmosphere that works really well.
As a bibliophile who loves used and antiquarian bookstores, the early description drew me right into the story.
Rising from the stairs, I stepped into the darkness of the shop. I didn’t need the light to find my way. I know the shop the way you know the places of your childhood. Instantly the smell of leather and old paper was soothing. I ran my fingertips along the spines, like a pianist along his keyboard. Each book has its own individual note: the grainy, linen-covered spine of Daniel’s History of Map Making, the cracked leather of Lakunin’s minutes from the meetings of the St. Petersburg Cartographic Academy; a well-worn folder that contains his maps, hand-drawn, hand-colored. You could blindfold me and position me anywhere on the three floors of this shop and I could tell you from the books under my fingertips where I was.
When reading a gothic novel, even a modern one, there are some tropes that you come to expect, such as the old, decaying house. Ms. Setterfield uses this image well throughout the book as a symbol for mental illness and psychological decline.
On the first day of silence, and as if nothing had ever happened to interrupt it, the house picked up again its long, slow project of decay. Small things first: Dirt began to seep from every crevice in every object in every room. Surfaces secreted dust. Windows covered themselves with the first fine layer of grime. All of Hester’s changes had been superficial. They required daily attention to be maintained. And as the Missus’s cleaning schedules at first wavered, and then crashed, the real, permanent nature of the house began to reassert itself. The time came when you couldn’t pick anything up without feeling the old cling of grime on your fingers.
I don’t want to give away too much regarding this novel. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it. It was a quick read, the story was engaging, it was well-written, and there were some interesting metaphors and correspondences. Bottom line, no matter what type of reader you are, you’re likely to find something you’ll like in this book.
I missed this issue when it came out a couple years ago, but on a recent excursion to the comic store, I saw it on the shelf and picked it up. I always enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials because I love the more mysterious folklore associated with the holidays, as well as winter ghost stories. These are the usual inspirations for the annual release.
This issue contains three short tales:
The Miser’s Gift
The Longest Night
The Beast of Ingleheim
I enjoyed all the tales, but if I had to pick a favorite, I would choose “The Miser’s Gift.” It is a ghost story about a young man who encounters the spirit of a miser, struggling to drag along his sack of money. The young man assists the restless spirit, who in response gives the person a gold coin. The young man then seeks to return the coin to the spirit, claiming:
“You don’t have to pay me. I was doing you a favor. I want to give this back.”
The act of kindness and charity has a healing effect on the spirit, and while the fate of the spirit is left open for the reader to interpret, the implication is that the selfless act of the young man resulted in the tormented soul finally finding peace.
This is such an important message. The spiritual value of unconditional kindness cannot be measured. One seemingly small act can have a rippling effect, which is something I try to keep in mind with all my dealings with others.
I hope this fable has inspired you as much as it did me. May you and your loved ones be blessed. Thanks for stopping by.
There’s first a gloveless hand warm from my pocket, A perch and resting place ‘twixt wood and wood, Bright-black-eyed silvery creature, brushed with brown, The wings not folded in repose, but spread. (Who would you be, I wonder, by those marks If I had moths to friend as I have flowers?) And now pray tell what lured you with false hope To make the venture of eternity And seek the love of kind in winter time? But stay and hear me out. I surely think You make a labor of flight for one so airy, Spending yourself too much in self-support. Nor will you find love either nor love you. And what I pity in you is something human, The old incurable untimeliness, Only begetter of all ills that are. But go. You are right. My pity cannot help. Go till you wet your pinions and are quenched. You must be made more simply wise than I To know the hand I stretch impulsively Across the gulf of well nigh everything May reach to you, but cannot touch your fate. I cannot touch your life, much less can save, Who am tasked to save my own a little while.
This is a sad yet beautiful poem about searching for love in the waning years of one’s life.
The primary metaphor that Frost uses is the Winter Moth. This type of moth becomes active in November and December, when the males and females of the species mate. Because winter as a season symbolizes the end of a cycle and death in a human lifespan, the Winter Moth symbolizes a person who knows that death is near, but cannot help longing for the love and companionship of another.
While the general symbolism of this poem lends itself to individuals in the later years of life, I feel that the poem speaks to everyone. None of us knows how long we have on earth, and the pandemic has demonstrated just how fragile and ephemeral our existence truly is. So essentially, we are all Winter Moths, seeking that brief connection with another soul before we die, that warmth of love in the coldness of our harsh reality.
I come away from this poem knowing that I must never take love and life for granted. My relationships with the people I love are what matters most in my life. I hope you take the time to strengthen your connections with those who matter most in your life.
Thanks for stopping by, and may you find warmth and happiness in your life.
A good soldier is never aggressive; A good fighter is never angry. The best way of conquering an enemy Is to win him over by not antagonising him. The best way of employing a man Is to serve under him. This is called the virtue of non-striving! This is called using the abilities of men! This is called being wedded to Heaven as of old!
I love this passage, especially the lines: “The best way of conquering an enemy / Is to win him over by not antagonising him.” This conveys a sense of civility that really seems to be missing in our public forums. More and more, the way individuals are dealing with people who have opposing views is to shut them down, scream at them, threaten them, or worse, physically attack them. No one has ever changed another person’s mind through abuse. I feel that if people toned down the rhetoric, we would find common ground and accomplish more.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope it inspires you.
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
(Translation: Coleman Barks)
I decided to offer my thoughts on this poem because for me it embodies the feeling of gratitude that we should all embrace during this time of thanksgiving.
These last couple years have been difficult. I don’t think there is a single one of us who has not faced challenges and uncertainties the likes of which we never imagined. And as I look around me, I see this collective stress and anxiety manifesting in our society and in our behaviors toward each other.
I propose that we look to Rumi’s wisdom and try to understand that everything we are going through is just part of the human experience. And if we stop and think about it, it is an amazing experience. Although I have dealt with sadness, tragedy, pain, and an array of negative emotions, I have also known incredible joy, love, wonder, and contentment, and so much more. One of the greatest skills I’ve learned is the importance of gratitude. I have so much to be grateful for, and no matter how bad things have gotten, and they have gotten pretty bad at times, there have always been aspects of my life for which I could be grateful.
I hope as you read this, you will pause and reflect. While things could be better, they could also be infinitely worse. If we keep that in mind and remain grateful for the good things in our lives, I believe we can begin to shift our cultural trajectory.
That thou hast her, it is not all my grief, And yet it may be said I lov’d her dearly; That she hath thee, is of my wailing chief, A loss in love that touches me more nearly. Loving offenders, thus I will excuse ye: Thou dost love her, because thou know’st I love her; And for my sake even so doth she abuse me, Suffering my friend for my sake to approve her. If I lose thee, my loss is my love’s gain, And losing her, my friend hath found that loss; Both find each other, and I lose both twain. And both for my sake lay on me this cross: But here’s the joy: my friend and I are one: Sweet flattery! then she loves but me alone.
In this sonnet, Shakespeare is addressing a love triangle. Essentially, the fair youth, who is described as the speaker’s “friend,” has become romantically involved with the speaker’s mistress. What is most interesting is that the speaker seems less sad about losing his mistress than he is about losing the love of the fair youth. There are a couple ways to interpret this. On one hand, the argument can be made that the speaker has a romantic relationship with his friend, and that this relationship means more to him than his heterosexual relations. But another way to look at it is that Shakespeare is trying to convey the importance of friendship and camaraderie. While sexual relations may come and go, the deep bond of friendship is something rare.
In the final couplet, the speaker states “my friend and I are one.” Regardless of whether you interpret the friendship as a romantic or a platonic relationship, what is evident is the deep connection the speaker feels for his friend. Being as one, his friend’s happiness is essentially his own.
Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my musings. Have an inspired day.
I should start by posting the English translation of the text, originally composed in Italian in the year 1224. It is somewhat long, but worth reading.
Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those who will find Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.
While there is a lot that can be said about this beautiful text, I want to focus this post on some specific areas, which are the gender attributes. According to occult traditions, such as alchemy and Hermeticism, elements have gender aspects and are associated with directions. These are briefly outlined below.
Air is Masculine and associated with East
Water is Feminine and associated with West
Fire is Masculine and associated with South
Earth is Feminine and associated with North
Saint Francis mirrors these gendered elementals in his text:
Sister Mother Earth
It is important to note the order here. In some ceremonial rituals, the elemental forces are evoked in a specific order: East – West – South – North, which forms a cross. This is the same order in which Saint Francis offers his praises. Essentially, recitation of the Canticle surrounds an individual with the elemental forces.
It is also worth pointing out that masculine and feminine characteristics are associated with the Sun and Moon, respectively. This is fairly common among mystical traditions. But what is fascinating is that Saint Francis also refers to death as Sister Bodily Death, implying a connection between birth and death, since both are connected to the Divine Feminine. We are born of Sister Mother Earth, and we return through Sister Bodily Death, completing a cycle which will ultimately begin anew with rebirth through Sister Mother Earth.
Hopefully you found this interesting. The comments will be open for two weeks after post date, so feel free to share any thoughts during that period.