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Posted 5/20/2011 6:54am by Eugene Wyatt.

I thought that moving the lambs down from the barn where they were born in March to the lower paddocks where they will graze for the Summer would be easier than it was. 

The first failure came when they balked at the grass over their heads in the field ahead at them—forgiving the lambs as they couldn't see where we wanted them to go—I took the tractor with a 5 foot rotary cutter mounted behind on its 3 point hitch and cut them a ten foot swath, back and forth, in order that they could to see the path before them.

This didn't work either. The lambs came to the path I'd cut and stopped again, then turned away from Dominique who was leading them shaking a pail of oats (a good way to get sheep to follow) and ran head long into Poem who with me was bringing up the rear.  The 250 lambs over ran us; Poem could do nothing to stop them, so I called her to my side and perplexedly asked Dominique, "How did we move the lambs down last year?"

"I think we had some older ewes with them," she said.  But we had no older sheep up at the lambing barn; we'd moved all the ewes down to pasture a week earlier when we weaned the lambs from them. 

Dominique said, "I can bring up 402—she's a leader—and a couple of other ewes I call 'my friends' and they can lead the lambs down as they follow the pail of oats I'll shake for them."  So to bring back up the hill some of Dominique's 'friends', down the hill we went.

Where she masterfully cut some of her 'friends' out of the ewe flock: 402, 402's daughter, 123 aka Hot Cross Bun and another ewe from the 200+ ewes and marched the four of them back up the hill to mix with the lambs.  Some of the lambs thought that these bigger ewes might be their mothers and approached them intently.

We were ready to try it again: shaking her pail of oats, Dominique lead while 402 and the other ewes followed and were followed by the lambs with Poem and I about 20 yards further back.  When Dominique got to the place where the lambs had balked she raised a thumb in the air meaning they didn't stop this time and down the hill we trailed them.

Not that I'd ever paid much attention to Dominique's 'friends' but helping us as they did moving the lambs down the hill they became my friends too.

Posted 5/18/2011 6:00pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Here in the translator's preface you see Proust going beyond Ruskin; I include it because it's a lovely piece of prose and also because it's from a marvelous and unique preface where the translator disputes the author he translates; the preface and notes to the translation are more about Proust than about Ruskin.

We feel quite truly that our wisdom begins where that of the author ends, and we would like to have him give us answers, when all he can do is give us desires. And these desires he can arouse in us only by making us contemplate the supreme beauty which the last effort of his art has permitted him to reach. But by a singular and, moreover, providential law of mental optics (a law which perhaps signifies that we can receive the truth from nobody, and that we must create it ourselves), that which is the end of their wisdom appears to us as but the beginning of ours, so that it is at the moment when they have told us all they could tell us that they create in us the feeling that they have told us nothing yet.

From On Reading, the translator's preface to John Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies translated into French by Marcel Proust 1906; On Reading translated into English by Jean Autret and William Burford, 1971.

Posted 5/16/2011 7:27pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The real mystery of Proust (À la recherche du temps perdu is considered my many to be the greatest work of imaginative literature in the past 100 years) and his fiction is how did he, being unable to compose a novel until he'd reached the age of 35, come to write fiction at all in real life.  What provoked his genius?  Tadié suggests his reading of Ruskin was responsible instead of the fictional claim in the work where the narrator* specifies, in one case, the taste of a madelaine as the agent that brings forth involuntary memory enabling the him to write about his past.

Ruskin's book (Sesame and Lilies) is concerned with reading.  Proust seized on it (to translate) as an opportunity to recall his childhood reading during the holidays, improving on some of the passages from Jean Santeuil (his first 800 page attempt at a novel, abandoned and not published until 1952); the themes and the use of the first person provide a foretaste of Du cote de chez  Swann. If old books can conjure up the past, which can rise up into the present through the phenomenon of involuntary memory,  reading can lead us to the threshold of spiritual life (Ruskin), although it is not a substitute for it (Proust).

(In On Reading) he was making a clean break with the past, and with Ruskin, to whom he was bidding farewell; the choice had to be made between reading and writing, between other people’s books and his own work: 'We can only nurture the power of our sensitivity and our intelligence within ourselves, in the depths of our spiritual life,' from Contre Sainte Beuve.  Proust turned back into himself, into fictional creation. Escaping in  someone else's work had been both a failure and a success, because it had helped shape his mind, broadened his cultural knowledge [annotating Ruskin had required a considerable amount of research] and it had enriched his use of language. The pen that began Jean Santeuil was very different to that which framed the first lines of' On Reading:

'There are perhaps no other days of our childhood that we lived so fully as those which we believed we had left behind without experiencing them, those which we spent in the company of a favourite book.’

Both actively and reactively, Ruskin had thus given Proust the opportunity to clarify the aesthetic philosophy that he lacked, and to nurture the library of books which this least accumulative of men kept, not in his apartment, but in his mind…we pass from Ruskin as a reader to Proust as an adult reader, and thence to a small boy reading: that is to say, to a fictional character.

Fate would decree that just as Dante was abandoned by Virgil as they left Purgatory ['Thee o'er thyself I therefore crown and mitre'], Marcel should be deserted by Ruskin…at the very moment that he embarked upon the novel…

Marcel Proust, A Life Jean-Yves Tadié 1996, translated by Euan Cameron.

*In his letters and notes to himself about the novel, Proust usually spoke of the Narrator as "I," making no distinction between himself and his fictional persona. Proust's friends would recognize that voice as the writer's own. Whenever the Narrator speaks about art and literature, he is speaking for Proust. Still, Proust was engaged not in writing his autobiography but in creating a novel in which there are strong autobiographical elements. The symbiosis between Proust and his Narra­tor can be explained by the hybrid origin of the story. Having begun as an essay (Contre Sainte Beuve) in which the "I" was himself, as the text veered more and more toward fiction, the "I" telling the story became both its generator and its subject, like a Siamese twin, intimately linked to Proust's body and soul and yet other. This novel that passion­ately examines and contrasts the poetry and reality of proper names has none for the Narrator and his family. They are known only as "I," "Mama," and "Papa." The novel's creator was truly "another I," Proust at his best and most profound, reinventing himself for this novel that lacked obvious precursors.

From  Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2000.

Posted 5/15/2011 7:01pm by Eugene Wyatt.

"Baa, baa..." and with a clap of the hands we train the lambs to scurry away from us.  If Poem hears this, even away from them in her kennel, she'll bark; they'll hear her and that speeds them up.  With that bark they run from the look, real or imagined, that Poem has in her eyes.

She wouldn't hurt them, but she can't let them know that.

Posted 5/13/2011 2:39pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Proust's rhetoric and syntax, components of his complex style of multiple perspectives, develop for the first time into what is often described as "Proustian" in the preface he wrote for his translation of Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies; he continues using these long and intricate sentence structures in his next critical  work, Contre Sainte Beuve, before he begins his masterwork À la recherche du temps perdu about 1908.

“There are  perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we believe we let slip by without having lived them, those we spent with a favorite book." Thus Proust began in the preface (On Reading) to his translation of Sesame and Lilies

Anna de Noailles and other friends marveled at Proust's essay on reading (first published in the Renaissance Latine). She wrote immediately to express her admiration: "My dear friend, I only see people who are dazzled... touched... by the dear, divine pages you have written." She told him that people were quoting extensively from his article and that she (and critic) Andre Beaunier had passed his preface back and forth, describing to each other his sentences that were like "adorable threads of silk."

(Marcel) refused to believe it. Accustomed as he was to showering the most lavish compliments on his friends' mediocre writings, he could not believe that their words were sincere. He answered by "beseeching" Anna to "stop being so nice . . . for I cannot bear it any longer; the burden of happiness, gratitude, emotion, stupefaction is too overwhelming and I might die of it. There is also the fear that the whole thing may be a joke, for nothing can penetrate the armour of my sadness, (his asthma had been getting worse) my conviction that all those pages are execrable, a sort of indigestible nougat which sticks between one's teeth."

Beaunier had  taken particular delight in the style: "These long sentences, encumbered with all the details and circumstances, have a strange and delicious charm," which came, Beaunier said, from their "meticulous truth."

Writing to Mme Straus, Proust worried that his ... essay might be dangerous for his languid friend to read and urged her to avoid it: "Don't read it, it's a failed effort and horribly wearying to read, with sentences that take up an entire page" of the kind “that Dr. Widmer would particularly forbid you to read."

From  Marcel Proust, A Life William C. Carter 2000.

Posted 5/10/2011 7:45am by Eugene Wyatt.

Cats know exactly where they begin and end. When they walk slowly out the door that you are holding open for them and pause, leaving their tail just an inch or two inside the door, they know it. They know you have to keep holding the door open. That is why their tail is there. It is a cat's way of maintaining a relationship.

Ursula K. LeGuin quoted in Artful Sentences, Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte to exemplify the chapter on dependant clauses.

Tags: Sentences
Posted 5/9/2011 9:14pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Posted 5/6/2011 8:22am by Eugene Wyatt.

Examples of lyric In Search of Lost Time:

Although it was simply a Sunday in autumn, I had been born again, life lay intact before me, for that morning, after a succession of mild days, there had been a cold fog which had not cleared until nearly midday: and a change in the weather is sufficient to create the world and ourselves anew. Formerly, when the wind howled in my chimney, I would listen to the blows which it struck on the iron trap with as keen an emotion as if, like the famous chords with which the Fifth Symphony opens, they had been the irresistible calls of a mysterious destiny. Every change in the aspect of nature offers us a similar transformation by adapting our desires so as to harmonise with the new form of things. The mist, from the moment of my awakening, had made of me, instead of the centrifugal being which one is on fine days, a man turned in on himself, longing for the chimney corner and the shared bed, a shivering Adam in quest of a sedentary Eve, in this different world.

Between the soft grey tint of a morning landscape and the taste of a cup of chocolate I incorporated all the originality of the physical, intellectual and moral life which I had taken with me to Doncieres about a year earlier and which, blazoned with the oblong form of a bare hillside—always present even when it was invisible—formed in me a series of pleasures entirely distinct from all others, incommunicable to my friends in the sense that the impressions, richly interwoven with one another, which orchestrated them were a great deal more characteristic of them to my unconscious mind than any facts that I might have related.

Le côte de Guermantes, Marcel Proust 1920; translated as The Guermantes Way by C. K. Scott Moncrief and Terrance Kilmartin, P. 358 of the Vintage Edition.

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/4/2011 6:01pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Prince Von speaks of the German Emperor William II over dinner at the Duc de Guermantes.

“The Emperor is a man of astounding intelligence,” resumed the Prince, “he is passionately fond of the arts, he has for works of art a taste that is practically infallible, if a thing is good he spots it at once and takes a dislike to it. If he detests anything there can be no more doubt about it, the thing is excellent.“  Everyone smiled.

Le côte de Guermantes, Marcel Proust 1920; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrief 1925.

Tags: Proust
Posted 5/2/2011 8:42pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Last Saturday night about 8:30 PM as I stood on 3rd St. waiting for the light to change at Avenue A, I had doubts about going, as I was, to see a play about "lesbian pirates."  The flashing red hand of the traffic signal seemed to be telling me more than not to cross the street.  But I'd promised Ryan who appears in the play and who works for me on occasion that I'd go.  When the light turned green I crossed. "Swashbuckling Swordfights," the advertisements for the play promised; but that seemed to describe the busy day at Union Square Greenmarket I'd just had.  

I took a seat.  The program said the play would last for 90 minutes.  How could I stay awake that long if the play were sophomoric.  If I'd brought my sound cancelling ear buds, I could pull the hat over my eyes and play piano work by Reynaldo Hahn on my iPhone while I dozed the evening away in a romantic fantasy of my own invention, but the ear buds were in the truck. I would have to make do and I began to think over what I might say after the play.  I could half-lie to Ryan, "My day was long and the play was great."  But Virgo that I am, I would probably tell him the regrettable truth sooner rather than later.

The house lights went down...

Expecting the worst of art is a good way to approach it because with such sorrowful expectations there exists the possibility of pleasant surprise; and indeed, pleasantly surprised I was by My Base And Scurvy Heart, a Studio 42 production at The Wild Project.

The production was professional and worthy of the lights of New York.  There is a wealth of theatre talent in the city and much has been gathered by Studio 42 particularly for this production.  That the 90 minutes passed so quickly awards the play's writing and directing for how well they kept the audience involved in the story (writer: Adam Szymkowicz) by the timing (director: Moritz von Stuelpnagel) of its telling.

Relating the bare-bones tale of these sea worthy sexual pirates wouldn't do them justice because this is a play where the performances are integral to the storytelling and inseparable from it.  We had a theatre ensemble before us where one misstep by any of the group, either onstage or backstage, would have shied the self-conscious audience away; but we were with them, having accepted their theatrical invitation, and isn't this what good theatre is: the audience forgets itself and becomes one with the performance.

Ryan Andes (James) was at his best (although he's pretty good in the stand with knitters from Toledo) and that is because theatre is similar to playing barroom 8-ball: you're only as good as your fellow shooter; when playing a role, you're only as good as your fellow actor.  The cast was impressive.  Waif Christina Shipp and commanding Amy Landon as the shepherdess (Jessica) and the pirate captain (Lottie) beguiled us with their on and off romance and the subplot of lover Sandra Struthers-Clerc (Angie) and beloved Liz Wisan (Mildred) was marvelous.  You wanted for them.  

So Ryan, let me be straight up with you and truthful too, "My day was long and the play was great."