The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

Elegy of Fortinbras
By Zbigniew Herbert
Translated by Czeslaw Milosz

for C.M.

Now that we're alone we can talk prince man to man
though you lie on the stairs and see no more than a dead ant
nothing but black sun with broken rays
I could never think of your hands without smiling
and now that they lie on the stone like fallen nests
they are as defenceless as before The end is exactly this
The hands lie apart The sword lies apart The head apart
and the knight's feet in soft slippers

You will have a soldier's funeral without having been a soldier
the only ritual I am acquainted with a little
there will be no candles no singing only cannon-fuses and bursts
crepe dragged on the pavement helmets boots artillery horses
drums drums I know nothing exquisite those will be my manoeuvres before I start
to rule
one has to take the city by the neck and shake it a bit

Anyhow you had to perish Hamlet you were not for life
you believed in crystal notions not in human clay
always twitching as if asleep you hunted chimeras
wolfishly you crunched the air only to vomit
you knew no human thing you did not know even how to breathe

Now you have peace Hamlet you accomplished what you had to
and you have peace The rest is not silence but belongs to me
you chose the easier part an elegant thrust
but what is heroic death compared with eternal watching
with a cold apple in one’s hand on a narrow chair
with a view of the ant-hill and the clock’s dial

Adieu prince I have tasks a sewer project
and a decree on prostitutes and beggars
I must also elaborate a better system of prisons
since as you justly said Denmark is a prison
I go to my affairs This night is born
a star named Hamlet We shall never meet
what I shall leave will not be worth a tragedy

It is not for us to greet each other or bid farewell we live on archipelagos
and that water these words what can they do what can they do prince


"Herbert's most memorable poems enchant us by the candor and clear-sightedness with which they face failings and disappointed desires," writes Anthony Cude in a review of Polish-born Herbert's The Collected Poems 1956-1998 in The Washington Post Book World. "They console by refusing to fawn or flatter. The 'Elegy of Fortinbras' ridicules Hamlet but nonetheless longs for his starry-eyed idealism." Cuda says that the new collection "promises to prove him not merely the best Polish writer in recent memory but one of the most impressive poets of the later 20th century."

Had a busy but extremenly entertaining Monday, marred only by the fact that younger son appears to be genuinely ill and not just troubled by allergies...he had a bit of a fever in the evening, though Advil seems to have brought that down. My day started bright and early taking him to the orthodontist, where it took them nearly an hour to get done with him, then one of his replaced brackets popped off and it took even longer! I rushed to get him to school, then went out to get pie for dementordelta who was already at my house by the time I got home (I agreed to provide California Tortilla and dessert, she agreed to provide Alan Rickman behaving badly in a pinstripe suit, so I definitely got the better part of the deal).

So I knew I was going to love this movie based purely on screen caps I've seen of Alan looking absolutely edible in it and reports that he pissed on a chair to get revenge on someone he worked with (a review I read somewhere said he was particularly masterful chugging down little cups of water at the company water cooler in preparation for said territorial act, which is very true). But the whole movie is screechingly funny, even the beginning which Alan is barely in...Mike Binder and Janeane Garofalo are quite entertaining together and have lovely chemistry (my favorite scene: they're in bed under the covers in a magnificent hotel suite and she's explaining that she lets him do it that way sometimes but she's not letting him do it that way tonight...this is particularly entertaining in light of a conversation later when Binder and Rickman discuss various uses of the word "bugger").

I also love any movie with lots of gratuitous shots around London, and given that I'd heard it described as an office revenge drama, it's not venal like I was afraid it would's fairly affectionate toward all but the most grotesque senior corporate stereotypes. And in addition to Alan pissing on a chair, it has two naughty nun scenes and quite a bit of slashy potential among the corporate boys' club. So really quite enjoyable even if you're not a huge Rickman fan as I am, assuming you like physical comedy and can deal with people being mean to one another so long as it all works out in the end.

By the time dementordelta and I were done making screen caps and watching old Today and The View interviews, younger son had come stumbling in, feeling too sick to go to Mad Science even though it's the last one of the year...and thus the last one of his elementary school career, which is rather sad. Watched Heroes, which has come dangerously close to jumping the shark for me a couple of times and alternate futures are almost always bad news (Voyager did several atrocious ones and "Children of Time" is one of my least-favorite Deep Space Nine episodes, though admittedly that has everything to do with Odo and Kira rather than the idea of finding one's own descendants. I'm up and down on this week's episode for that reason and others.

When President Petrelli started reciting a speech stolen straight out X-Men, I was really waiting for him to smirk and say that he got that out of a comic book (even Isaac's would have been fine, just so long as there was acknowledgment that even I, a very casual X-Men fan, could recognize the similarities. Alas, it was not to be. I suppose that, once we found out it was Sylar and not Nathan, it should have been obvious that there would be none of that sort of winking humor, but it is a reflection of my intense dislike of Nathan that I totally believed it was him until proven otherwise! I always knew Nathan would turn into George Bush one way or another -- he's very convincing in the role, even if it's not really him.

Matt as the head of homeland security is a much bigger shock...I hated seeing him like that but he was really convincing! And futurist freedom fighter Hiro rocked (I love love love Peter's theory that Hiro wants to save Ando, not the world). I also love Suresh trying to keep tabs on the president and knowing when to go his own way, and how much Niki has turned into Jessica once Jessica and Micah and D.L. are gone. And I love that Bennett is still trying to protect Claire even so many years in the future! So although I get hairy about the storytelling (way too burned from X-Files, Nikita, etc. to trust a show with this much mythology), I still really love a lot of the characters. Even some of the ones I don't like at all.

And here, as promised, are some azalea photos from Sunday:


I see from reporting Trek news that James Doohan's ashes finally made it into space, which also means that the first commercial spaceport is officially in business. In my lifetime. This pleases me in a similar way that the existence of the internet pleases me, though at a greater distance because I am far less likely ever to use it.

And a joyous Walpurgisnacht and Beltane to everyone! I am celebrating this weekend with my circle but will certainly spend some time Tuesday with my goddesses.

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