2 October 2014

Two witty Johns



In “Of The Conduct Of The Understanding”, John Locke (1632-1704) writes not only about the importance of reading but about the importance of meditating after reading. He wrote: ”Those who have read of everything are thought to understand everything too; but it is not always so. Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking makes what we read ours. We are of the ruminating kind, and it is not enough to cram ourselves with a great load of collections; unless we chew them over again, they will not give us strength and nourishment. There are indeed in some writers visible instances of deep thoughts, close and acute reasoning, and ideas well pursued. The light these would give would be of great use if their readers would observe and imitate them; all the rest at best are but particulars fit to be turned into knowledge, but that can be done only by our own meditation, and examining the reach, force, and coherence of what is said; and then, as far as we apprehend and see the connection of ideas, so far it is ours; without that, it is but so much loose matter floating in our brain. The memory may be stored, but the judgment is little better, and the stock of knowledge not increased, by being able to repeat what others have said or produce the arguments we have found in them.” (italics mine).

In a word, reading is not enough for Locke. Reading good books from which we can learn is very important. However, dedicating some time to meditate on what we’ve read is even more important. Like some animals that ruminate their food, a good reader should be able to chew the reading over in an attempt to “observe and imitate” all the positive ideas learnt from their readings. Moreover, Locke highlights the importance of “see[ing] the connection of ideas” that we keep in our brain. 

In this respect, Locke’s ideas on reading remind me of what John Milton wrote about books in his Areopagitica (1644). He mentioned that “A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”

There is nothing like a good book full of good ideas from which we can learn. 

10 September 2014

John Donne and To his mistress going to bed

Reading John Donne is always a pleasure. I like most of his poems,especially those in which he develops his rhetorical technique to describe sex and sensual pleasure. Perhaps my favourite one is To his Mistress going to Bed. In this poem, he expresses freely his own sexual desire as he observes his lover undressed for bed.
His vivid description of a woman´s naked body points at Donne as someone who is crazy about women and the sexual desire he can obtain from them. He seems to crave for every single centimeter of his lover´s body. In this respect, the naked female body becomes his "America, [his] new found land", "[a] kingdom" that has to be discovered, investigated, searched in detail.

John DonneDonne, perhaps the most popular of the so-called metaphysical poets, was an expert at making metaphysical conceits, comparisons, unusual similes or metaphores which are more ingenious that either true or appropriate. The images of a naked female body and the discovery of a new continent are strong enough to stay in the minds of Donne´s readers. 

He seems to have lived his sexuality to the full. Just read the poem and enjoy it. After the poem, you will see quite a few comments related to Donne´s poem. I hope they are enlightening.


Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy,1
Until I labour, I in labour lie.2
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,3
Is tired with standing though he never fight.4
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s zone glistering,5
But a far fairer world encompassing.6
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,7
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.8
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime9
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.10
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,11
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.12
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,13
As when from flowery meads th’hills shadow steals.14
Off with your wiry coronet and show15
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:16
Now off with those shoes: and then safely tread17
In this love’s hallowed temple, this soft bed.18
In such white robes heaven’s angels used to be19
Received by men; thou, Angel, bring’st with thee20
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though 21
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know 22
By this these Angels from an evil sprite:23
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.24
 License my roving hands, and let them go 25
Before, behind, between, above, below.26
O my America! my new-found-land,27
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,28
My mine of precious stones, my empery,29
How blest am I in this discovering thee!30
To enter in these bonds is to be free;31
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be. 32
 Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,33
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be,34
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use 35
Are as Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,36
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a gem,37
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them:38
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made 39
For lay-men, are all women thus arrayed.40
Themselves are mystic books, which only we 41
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)42
Must see revealed. Then, since that I may know,43
As liberally as to a midwife, show 44
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence, 45
There is no penance due to innocence: 46
To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,47
What need’st thou have more covering than a man? 48
 
 
(1) “my powers” points at his sexual desire or energy. He is ready to go to bed and does not think of resting.

(2) “I labour, I in labour lie”. He waits impatiently for his lover to go to bed with him, just as a woman in labour awaits the delivery of a baby.

(3) “the foe…the foe”. A beautiful image of male and female organs, together as if the were enemies in a battle.

(4) “standing”. Standing just like the male organ “stands” ready and erect.

(5) “heaven’s zone”. Once the “girdle” has been taken off, the “heavens´s zone” is the one part he can see from her.

(7). “spangled breastplate”. It is the front piece of a dress and it covers the breast and the pit of the belly.

(9) “harmonious chime”. The watch says that it is time for bed.

(11). “Off with that happy busk, which I envy”. Donne envies her corset, so close to her skin. He´d like to be the corset.

(13) “such beauteous state reveals”. Without clothes, his lover´s body is pure beauty.

(15) “wiry coronet”. He wants to observe her even without the “coronet”,  or metal band around her forehead.

(17) “off with those shoes” The shoes must be also taken off.
       
      (18-19) “this soft bed /…white robes heaven’s angels used to be”. His encounters with her require a soft  bed and clean white heavenly clothes.

      (21) “Mahomet’s Paradise”. Being with her is like being in heaven, in paradise.
  
     (23-24) “these Angels /…our flesh upright”. Donne here uses a great rhetorical device to explain that women, or “angels” make men have the “flesh upright”, or erections.
     (26) Before, behind, between, above, below”. Donne enjoys touching all over his lover´s naked body. Nothing must remained untouched.
 (27-29). “my America! my new-found-land,/My kingdom…/….My mine. Her body becomes Donne´s America. A new discovery, his own “kingdom”, his property, temporarily perhaps. For Donne, it is better when she belonges only to “one man”, (28), that is to say, to him.

(30) “How blest am I”. His happiness is indescribable.

(31-32). “bonds / seal” reminds the reader of a contract between the two of them., a contract of love.  

(34-35). 2 bodies unclothed must be/ To taste whole joys” expresses Donne´s ideas about how to enjoy sex to the full. Nakedness is vital.

(36). “Atlanta’s balls” refers to Ovid´s Atalanta. The story says that she would only marry the man who could beat her in a race. Hippomenes distracted her by throwing some balls in fron of her, and so he won the race. 

(37-41). “when a fool’s eye / may covet theirs / like books’ gay coverings made / mystic books” may refer to the impossibility of some men to see the true value of a woman, as they only pay attention to their appearance.Using a book, Donne indicates that some men look at the cover, but never inside it. 

(42) “imputed grace” may refer to Calvin´s idea by which men are unable to win salvation by personal merits. It is only because of God´s infinite love that people can be saved. Likewise, Donne aspires to have the “imputed grace” of his lover in an attempt to be with her.

(45-46) “cast …this white linen / There is no penance”.The white colour signifies virginity, cleanness and penitence, but there is no reason why she should be related to that colour because she is not a virgin.  

(47) “I am naked first”. He takes the iniciative and invites her to do the same.
                        Hippomenes distracts Atalanta with golden balls
 

20 March 2014

The King's Singers

Two days ago I went to see The King's Singers. Honestly, I had never heard about them, but a friend of mind told me that were really good. They are good indeed. So I bought a ticket and went to Sala Koncertowa, here in Warsaw. They sang a cappella for about 90 minutes, but it looked like half an hour. Their amazing voices made me travel back in time to the 16th century while they were singing music written by Orlando Di Lasso (1532-1594) and the Polish composer and organist Mikolaj Zielenski (1550-1616).




In addition, they also sang five songs written by Pawel Lukaszewski ( born 1968), who appeared on stage, to everybody's joy.



The entire concert was sung in Latin except for the last 30 minutes in which they spent some time singing popular American songs from the 1920's and 30's.



I had a great time and hope to see them again.

2 February 2014

1066-2014

I have prepared a short and practical list of the Kings and Queens of England from 1066-2014.


The House of Normandy (1066-1154)
William I
William II
Henry I
Stephen

The House of Plantagenet (1154-1319)
Henry II
Richard I
John
Henry III
Edward I
Edward II
Edward III
Richard II

The House of Lancaster (1399-1461)
Henry IV
Henry V
Henry VI

The House of York (1461-1485)
Edward IV
Edward V
Richard III

The House of Tudor (1485-1603)
Henry VII
Henry VIII
Edward VI
Jane
Mary I
Elizabeth I



The House of Stuart (1603-1714)
James I
Charles I

(__Cromwell __)

Charles II
James II
Mary II
William III
Anne

The House of Hanover (1714-1901)
George I
George II
George III
George IV
William IV
Victoria

The House of Saxe-Coburn (1901-1910)
Edward VII

The House of Windsor (1910- today)
George V
Edward VIII
George VI
Elizabeth II





 
I have also found the traditional aid used in English schools to help students remember the English kings and queens from 1066-2014. 

Willie Willie Harry Stee
Harry Dick John Harry three;
One two three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four five six....then who?
Edwards four five, Dick the bad,
Harrys (twain), Ned six (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James you ken,
Then Charlie, Charlie, James again...
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges four, Will four Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
Came George the fifth in nineteen ten;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George six was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that's all folks until her death.

31 December 2013

12 grapes

If you wish to give a very traditional end to 2013 with a Spanish touch, you have to eat twelve grapes at twelve o'clock at night.

It is said that in 1909 there was a surplus of grapes in Alicante (Spain) and someone came up with the idea of  eating a grape for each stroke of the bell at twelve at night. Certainly, that was an excellent idea to encourage people to eat grapes and, little by little, what started as a local tradition ended up in a national tradition, and a must to most Spaniards.

If you wish to try, there are three very simple steps to follow:

- Switch on any Spanish channel at 1200 pm. If you do not have a TV but you have a computer at hand, get connected here: canal via Internet.
- Prepare twelve grapes.
- You must eat a grape for each stroke of the the bell.

That's it! Some say that if you do so, 2014 will be an excellent year full of health, money and love for you :)

21 December 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2014


I wish you in tenths of different languages a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014! 

Español - Felices Pascuas y Feliz Año Nuevo
English - Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Polish - Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
Afrikaans - Geseende Kerfees en 'n gelukkige nuwe jaar
Amharic - Melkam Yelidet Beaal
Arabic - I'D Miilad Said ous Sana Saida


 Armenian - Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
Azeri - Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun
Bahasa Malaysia - Selamat Hari Natal
Basque - Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!
Bengali - Shuvo Baro Din - Shuvo Nabo Barsho
Bohemian - Vesele Vanoce
Brazilian - Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo
Breton - Nedeleg laouen na bloav ezh mat
Bulgarian - Vasel Koleda; Tchesti nova godina!
Catalan - Bon nadal i feliç any nou!
Cantonese - Seng Dan Fai Lok, Sang Nian Fai Lok
Choctaw - Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
Cornish - Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
Corsican - Pace e salute
Crazanian - Rot Yikji Dol La Roo 
Cree - Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
Creek - Afvcke Nettvcakorakko
Croatian - Sretan Bozic
Czech - Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish - Glaedelig Jul
Duri - Christmas-e- Shoma Mobarak
Dutch - Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
Egyptian - Colo sana wintom tiebeen
Eskimo - Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!  
Espańol - Feliz Navidad y Próspero Ańo Nuevo
Esperanto - Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian - Rőőmsaid Jőulupühi
Euskera - Zorionak eta Urte Berri On
Faeroese - Gledhilig jol og eydnurikt nyggjar!
Farsi - Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad
Finnish - Hyvää Joulua or Hauskaa Joulua
Flemish - Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar
French - Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!
Frisian - Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!
Gaelic - Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath
ur
Galician - Bon Nadal e Ano Novo
German - Froehliche Weihnachten und ein gluckliches Neues Jahr!
Greek - Kala Christougenna Kieftihismenos O Kenourios Chronos
Hausa - Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
Hawaiian - Mele Kalikimaka & Hauoli Makahiki Hou
Hebrew - Mo'adim Lesimkha. Shana Tova
Hindi - Shub Naya Baras
Hungarian - Kellemes Karacsonyiunnepeket & Boldog Új Évet
Icelandic - Gledileg Jol og Farsaelt Komandi ar!
Indonesian - Selamat Hari Natal
Iraqi - Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah 
Irish -Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Italian - Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo
Japanese - Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Jčrriais - Bouan Noué et Bouanne Année
Jiberish -Mithag Crithagsigathmithags
Korean - Sung Tan Chuk Ha
Krio - Appi Krismes en Appi Niu Yaa
Latin - Natale hilare et Annum Nuovo!
Latvian - Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu!
Lausitzian - Wjesole hody a strowe nowe leto
Lithuanian - Linksmu Kaledu
Low Saxon -Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar
Macedonian -Streken Bozhik
Malay - Selamat Hari Natal
Malayalam - Puthuvalsara Aashamsakal
Maltese - Nixtieklek Milied tajjeb u is-sena t-tabja!
Mandarin - Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Manx - Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
Maori - Meri Kirihimete
Marathi - Shub Naya Varsh
Mongolian - Zul saryn bolon shine ony mend devshuulye
Norwegian - God Jul og Godt Nyttĺr
Occitan - Polit nadal e bona annada
Oriya - Sukhamaya christmass ebang khusibhara naba barsa
Papiamento - Bon Pasco
Papua New Guinea - Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu
Pashto - De Christmas akhtar de bakhtawar au newai kal de mubarak sha.
Pennsylvania German - En frehlicher Grischtdaag unen hallich Nei Yaahr!
Portuguese - Boas Festas e um feliz Ano Novo
Punjabi - Nave sal di mubaraka
Pushto - Christmas Aao Ne-way Kaal Mo Mobarak Sha
Rapa-Nui - Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi.
Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
Rhetian - Bellas festas da nadal e bun onn
Romanche - Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn!
Rumanian - Hristos s-a Nascut si Anul Nou Fericit 
Russian - Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom
Sami - Buorrit Juovllat
Samoan - La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian - Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Scots Gaelic - Nollaig chridheil huibh
Serbian -Hristos se rodi
Serb-Croatian - Sretam Bozic. Vesela Nova Godina
Singhalese - Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Sorbian - Wjesole hody a strowe Nowe leto.
Somali - ciid wanaagsan iyo sanad cusub oo fiican. 
Slovakian - Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce
Slovak - Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Slovene - Vesele bozicne praznike in srecno novo leto
Spanish - Feliz Navidad y Próspero Ańo Nuevo
Swahili - şKrismas Njema Na Heri Za Mwaka Mpyaş
Swedish - God Jul och Gott Nytt Ĺr
Sudanese - Wilujeng Natal Sareng Warsa Enggal 
Tagalog - Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Tamil - Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal
Thai - Suksan Wan Christmas lae Sawadee Pee Mai
Tok Pisin - Meri Krismas & Hepi Nu Yia
Tongan - Kilisimasi Fiefia & Ta'u fo'ou monu ia
Trukeese - Neekirissimas annim oo iyer seefe feyiyeech!
Turkish - Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun 
Ukrainian - Veseloho Vam Rizdva i Shchastlyvoho Novoho Roku!
Urdu - Naya Saal Mubarak Ho
Vietnamese - Chuc Mung Giang Sinh - Chuc Mung Tan Nien
Welsh - Nadolig LLawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda
Xhosa - Siniqwenelela Ikrisimesi EmnandI Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo Namathamsanqa
Yayeya - Krisema
Yoruba - E ku odun, e hu iye' dun!
Zulu - Sinifesela Ukhisimusi Omuhle Nonyaka Omusha Onempumelelo

9 December 2013

The poetical works of John Milton

A few weeks ago I went to Aberdeen to visit a friend. Apart from having a beer in good company, we love spending time in second-hand bookstores, and although we could not find many, we saw one pretty close to the city center.

What a surprise when I saw a book in blue cover entitled: "The Poetical Works of John Milton". I opened it and on the first page I read: "From Lily, Christmas 1908". While I was thumbing through Paradise Lost,   I noticed that there were beautiful pictures signed by A.A.Dixon 1903 all over it.

Price: 2 pounds.

There are books that are priceless.
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