The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

Nature, That Washed Her Hands in Milk
By Sir Walter Raleigh

Nature, that washed her hands in milk
And had forgot to dry them,
Instead of earth took snow and silk
At Love's request, to try them
If she a mistress could compose
To please Love's fancy out of those.

Her eyes he would should be of light,
A violet breath, and lips of jelly,
Her hair not black nor over-bright,
And of the softest down her belly:
As for her inside, he'd have it
Only of wantonness and wit.

At Love's entreaty, such a one
Nature made, but with her beauty
She hath framed a heart of stone,
So as Love, by ill destiny,
Must die for her whom Nature gave him,
Because her darling would not save him.

But Time, which Nature doth despise,
And rudely gives her love the lie,
Makes hope a fool and sorrow wise,
His hands doth neither wash nor dry,
But, being made of steel and rust,
Turns snow and silk and milk to dust.

The light, the belly, lips and breath,
He dims, discolors, and destroys,
With those he feeds (but fills not) Death
Which sometimes were the food of Joys:
Yea, Time doth dull each lively wit,
And dries all wantonness with it.

O cruel Time, which takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust;
Who in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days.


"What does it mean to 'hear' a poem? Simply to pay attention? Or does hearing involve technical matters: scansion, Greek names for patterns of sound, precise meanings for 'stress,' 'accent,' 'duration,' 'pitch'? Or does hearing entail professional performance: Is it best to hear some expert -- an actor or a rapper or the author -- read a poem?" asks Robert Pinsky in Poet's Choice in the Sunday Washington Post Book World. "Hearing poetry can be plainer, more central and more immediate than any of that. Listen to 'Nature, That Washed Her Hands in Milk,' by Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618), as it comes out in your own actual or imagined voice. Don't stop for the rhymes -- they will take care of themselves. Just hear the words you say...the silk, snow, milk are sweet, as are the violet breath, the lips of jelly and that belly soft as down. Love's droll recipe for the perfect lover's 'inside' -- nothing but 'wantonness and wit' -- is delicious."

But halfway through the poem, adds Pinsky, "Time's dust and rust bring worldly knowledge. Raleigh was himself worldly, a political and military figure and also a poet. Not incongruous skills: Elizabeth I and Abraham Lincoln both wrote good verses. Seeing from more than one angle characterizes skillful politicians and poets. That skill is related to the delight in hearing changes of tone, as in this poem's dramatic reversal: from its opening dance to its relentless final march. Writing your way along an effective route from that beginning to that ending might make a good test for aspiring poets or speechwriters. Raleigh manages it well; he had a good ear."

We had a mostly chore-oriented day out of the house, because one of our vans was in for servicing and we all had to go everywhere together. So after retrieving older son from working at Hebrew school, we went: 1) to get haircuts (at the Hair Cuttery instead of Cartoon Cuts because the latter had more than a half-hour wait and the former had none, and we all like our haircuts and they were cheaper so I think we will do that again, especially since the kids are now above Cartoon Cuts' average age); 2) to Congressional Aquarium, which is right down the steps from the hair places; 3) to Ulta, which charges more than Sephora for perfumes I like and more than Target for my shampoo, so now I know; 4) to Appalachian Spring so I could show the kids the wonderful kaleidoscopes they have; 5) to Whole Foods for Indian sauces and Fig Newmans, plus all the pre-Superbowl samples they had of cheeses, chips and salsa, pretzels and mustard, fruit, etc.; 6) to Petco for cat litter, where younger son fell in love with a parakeet and we nearly had a meltdown getting him away; 7) to the mall to get a birthday present for one of my nieces; and 8) to pick up the other van.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit was on cable, and apaulled and I hadn't seen it in at least ten years and neither of the kids remembered it although I know we watched it with them way back when, so we put it on. Younger son, who wanted permission to play video games but had been barred from them for the evening after complaining too much about having to practice the violin (because I Am Mean [TM]), protested that it was boring until the penguins showed up as waiters and then he shut up and enjoyed it. Older son has at this point seen enough old movies to have many points of reference, all of which he discussed aloud. I'm not a huge cartoon fan, though I have seen enough to get the "Kill the Wabbit" references, but I am a huge film noir fan, so my favorite moment remains Bob Hoskins discovering R.K. Maroon (what an ultramaroon!)'s last will and testament in the newspaper photo, magnified through the bottom of his whiskey glass.

Is this fish actually called a Mushroom Head or is that colloquial? ETA: cara_chapel tells me that this is a calico oranda!

These are Elephant Noses, according to the sign...

...while these are Dalmatian Mollys.

There are a couple of varieties of cichlids in here.

These are fiddler crabs.

And these are African dwarf frogs.

Speaking of animals and The Washington Post Book Review, I only discovered via this review the "Was Hitler vegetarian?" debate (The Bloodless Revolution, the book in that link, claims he was, along with Himmler, Hess, Bormann and possibly Goebbels). I Googled the topic and discovered that there is a great deal of hyperbole on this subject, much of it from extremists like certain relatives of mine who insist that if everyone would stop eating animal flesh and go vegan, then all wars would stop. I have great admiration for people who choose not to eat animal flesh, and I love a recent interpretation I read of Tu B'Shvat being the one Jewish holiday that requires the death of no living creature, not even a plant, whereas even the bitter herb for Passover requires yanking a radish up by the root. And if a vegan lifestyle works for you personally, great. But I reject the notion that any person who owns a cow, feeds the cow, gives the cow plenty of attention + fresh air + exercise, and milks the cow is committing more of an act of exploitation than a person who owns cats and dogs as pets, like nearly every vegan I have ever known. (ETA: Owns, keeps, cares for...the term of possession does not deeply distress me here, obviously, since one way or another humans are going to be managing where animals go and how they live.)

And while I strongly support criticism of much of the farming and meat-packing industries when it comes to the treatment of animals, and boycotts of restaurants and supermarkets who support companies that engage in such practices, it irritates me when I listen to someone run down the choices of ordinary people who are trying to do what they think is best for themselves and their families -- if that's going vegan, great, if it's buying organic, great, and if it's stopping at McDonald's for a Happy Meal because that's all a working mother had time for, it is so not my place to accuse her of causing the world's wars. It will be a pleasure to be able to say, "Did you know that Hitler was vegetarian during most of the 1930s?" the next time my vegetarian relatives get going about how we are contributing to the downfall of humankind by feeding our kids chicken tacos.

Have now spent several minutes consoling son after belated meltdown over not owning the parakeet, of whom I shall post a picture later in the week since I took one for him for posterity and he spent an hour liquefying it in Photoshop while I was out taking a walk at sunset, when the weather was chilly and the sky was magnificent. Apparently I Am VERY VERY Mean [TM] and even his father, who is generally labeled Not As Mean but Stupid, is now Mean as well. Have had to argue to make him finish his book for the Hebrew school charity read-a-thon and we just got his Hebrew school report card which was entirely positive. Sigh.

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