The Land of Counterpane
By Robert Louis Stevenson
When I was sick and lay a-bed
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.
I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.
From Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "Like Walter de la Mare and Edward Lear, and like their descendant Dr. Seuss, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) wrote poems that both adults and children can return to with pleasure," he said. "Poetry itself involves repetition: that's what form is, and that is part of why most children like poetry. An artist like Stevenson knows how to counter the repetition with variation. He also knows that good poems are inexhaustible because they confront mysteries." For an example, Pinsky cites the poem above, explaining, "I like the way 'happy' at the end of the first stanza and 'pleasant' at the end of the last stanza mean what they say but also have a slightly blank or melancholy overtone. The words are just a bit -- to borrow from the wonderful sixth line -- 'leaden.' I like the way the child's body, almost as part of the immobilizing illness, becomes an immense landscape in imagination. Throughout, simple words generate subtle, not-so-simple kinds of feeling. For example, at the end, the poem changes from the imaginary past tense ('was the giant') to the present tense ('sees' and 'sits'). That unshowy change makes the world of imagining large, real and permanent. The sick child in the poem experiences worlds through imagination. The poem itself does something similar."
Am having an evening without children so will make this brief. *g* We had a very full day: got up and played in snow, went to Best Buy to buy a television (yay! Sony Trinitron WEGA 30", the biggest we can fit in the space in our living room), called my parents to help us get it inside as I am not allowed to lift anything heavy till the stitches in my back come out, sent younger son off with them and got older son to his Hebrew school sleepover (where he seems actually to be sleeping as the phone has not rung!) Went out for Middle Eastern food because I can have hummus though nothing spicier, stopped at Barnes and Noble where I got Helen Vendler's book on The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets with a gift card (lots of information on the structure and language, plus Quarto facsimile and modern reprinting of each sonnet), stopped at Circuit City to look at cameras and digital picture frames for my mother none of which were remotely affordable, dropped into Plow & Hearth and a couple of other stores, then came home and watched Kinsey which apaulled had bought for me -- we had never managed to see it, sadly enough, and decided we might as well do that rather than going to see Syriana which I suspected was rather more agitation than I was in the mood for at that point. I loved a great many things about it -- Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, all the excellent performances, not least of which was Laura's father Romulus Linney as a US representative -- he was our playwrighting professor in college, author of Heathen Valley and Childe Byron (which he said was loosely inspired by his relationship with Laura after he and her mother became estranged), and it was so much fun to see him in a movie!
Yesterday's fannish5: What are the 5 most unexpected TV moments?
1. J.R. getting shot on Dallas. It may be a cliche now, but when it happened it was a shocker.
2. Bobby Ewing turning up in Pam's shower. Again, it's a cliche now, but when they did it, it was fantastic -- I was an unabashed Dallas fan in the days when both these things happened, back when shock cliffhangers really meant something.
3. Madeline's suicide in La Femme Nikita. What a totally shocking thing to do in what should have been the series finale, even though it sucked in most other respects.
4. Buffy killing Angel right after he got his soul back at the end of BtVS season two and then leaving Sunnydale. Maybe it wasn't a surprise exactly, but it was devastating, and so well done.
5. Sisko falling in the Fire Caves on Deep Space Nine. I did not believe that they would kill off a Starfleet captain, but despite the miraculously undead garbage in the trashy Pocket Books, which unfortunately fit right into a long Trek tradition of making death meaningless by reversing it, that was a real stunner of a series ender.
Am sad about Richard Pryor, happy for Reggie Bush, a little disappointed that Paramount is buying Dreamworks -- are there any major independent studios left? -- excited to be going to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on Sunday and then going out to dinner. In other words I shall be scarce! Hope everyone is having a great weekend!
At sunset, birds swarm onto the historic farmhouse at the edge of what is now the YMCA field in Hanover, Pennsylvania.