Thursday 21st of March 2019

soft collision of clouds and of democracy...


In his book Lessons of the Lotus, Bhante Y. Wimala, a Shri Lankan Buddhist, his first message is: "Behold the splendor of the sunrise as a new day dawns!

About 150 year earlier, Baudelaire wrote a few exalting poems on this subject, but his writings went fiercely downhill from here on: 

The sun darkens the candle flames
thus, always winner of ghosts' games
Soul of splendor, the immortal sun!

Baudelaire: Les Fleurs du Mal (the Fruit of Wickedness)...

Baudelaire (1821-1867) was described to be the “only French poet since Villon” —  born 1431 and "disappeared" by 1463, the best known French poet of the late Middle Age/early Renaissance — by a Cambridge academic/poet called A E Housman, best known for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad which was about the disappointments of a young guy in the countryside. Yawn...

Housman obviously misunderstood that eloquence, rhyme, rhythm, wit, enthusiasm, power, passion, vituperation, lyricism and pathos was not enough to be poetry. Poetry may have needed the extra diphtong and languishing deceit contained in the saxon language. 
Housman obviously had read bad translations or did not speak the Gallic lingo well enough to understand the heart of French poetry, unless he already seen this expressed by a compatriot. Academics/critics, especially from English Universities and amateur rhymers are a funny breed. They often become experts on desiccation and death of other people’s work. 

On this site we don’t hesitate to tackle French, English, American, Russian, Italian, Spanish, German poetry, in order to serve a collection of views that have been significant in the development of the Western world.

Villon was believed to be a convicted man awaiting punishment. He wrote some dark poetry such as the "Ballad of the hanged” which starts such:

Human brothers, who live after us,
Do not harden your hearts against us,

For, if you take pity on us poor sods,

God will sooner have mercy on you.

You see us tied up here, five, six —

As for the flesh, that we have fed too much,

Is a long-time consumed, and rotting,

And we, bones, becoming powder and ash.

Of our pain, no-one to make any fun,

And pray God that all of us will be absolved!

Quite dark…

Baudelaire was a tormented soul, balancing his desire to be a saint while indulging in the dark satanic arts… May be "tourment" was lacking in the other French poets that Housman dismissed. The French have made up with neurosis and introspection ever since. Baudelaire tells us:

"The taste of pleasure binds us to the present. Caring for our salvation stops us beyond this.”

"There is nothing more noble amongst men than a poet, a priest and a soldier. The man who sings, the man who sacrifices and the man who sacrifices himself. All the rest deserves the whip.”

“Theory of the true civilisation. Civilisation does not appear in gas, steam, nor in the ouija boards. Civilisation is the reduction of the original sin.”

“… other men are taxable, slaves, made for the stables, namely to practice what are called professions. I get bored in France as everyone looks like Voltaire. Emerson forgot Voltaire in its 'Humanity’s Representatives'. He could have made a lovely chapter named: Voltaire or the Anti-Poet, the King of the Window-Shoppers, The Prince of the Inconsequential, the Anti-Artist, the Preacher for Concierges, the Clown of Editors for the Siecle [a paper].”

“…There is a certain betraying cowardice, or a lack of spine in good people. Only thieves are convinced of success. Thus they succeed…”

Like Pascal, Baudelaire made a computation “in favour of god”. Yet he will state that one can establish glorious empires through crime and noble religions through lies. He also stated that kingdoms or republic based on democracy were absurd and pissweak.

Rimbaud took this concept further in his “Democracy” poem: 
In spicy and drenched lands!— 
at the service of the most monstrous 

exploitations, industrial or military.

Baudelaire's views on commerce were also acidic. 

"Commerce is by its structure, satanic. Commerce is a loan for a return, with the understanding that you give me back more than I gave you. The mind of every businessman is completely corrupt. Commerce is natural, thus infamous. For the businessman, honesty in itself is a speculation. Commerce is the lowest, vilest form of selfishness."

So there… Even in his last writings, Baudelaire … after dedicating his later life to god, "will obey the principles of the strictest sobriety, of which the first is the suppression of all stimulants, of every kind."

He soon died after that. 

Translations by Jules Letambour.

empire and commerce...

empire and commerceempire and commerce

after the sunrise, the sunset...

Romantic Sunset



How beautiful the sun is when it rises


like an exploding burst throwing a morning greet


— Happy the lucky one who can with love


salute the sunset, more glorious than a dream.



I remember!... I saw everything, flower, source, furrow


exalted under the eye like a beating heart


— let's run towards the horizon, it's late, run fast


to catch at least one last ray from the slanted sky!






(Tranlation by Jules Letambour — apparently Jules tends not to translate word for word, but retains the ideas expressed in the works)


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shaking the superflux in today’s democracies...

“The beauty of this speech, and King Lear,” says Varoufakis, “is that it encourages us to think about inequality, and the underlying causes of it. I will end my speech by asking what it would mean to ‘shake the superflux’ in today’s democracies.”

So, if he were running an economy today, what lead would he take from Lear? “Some would say it would mean a wealth tax. But, for me, the inequalities that we are facing are a symptom of the unequal distribution of property, land and information. That is what has to be addressed.”

The chancellor, Phillip Hammond, might point out that Lear endorses the redistribution of wealth during what is commonly referred to as his “mad scene”. Rightwing economists and politicians might also cite Timon of Athens – in which a Greek philanthropist gives away all his money to people who prove undeserving – as an example of a Shakespearean warning against socialism.

“They would read Timon in that way,” acknowledges Varoufakis. “But remember that the greatest critic of philanthropy – of the mindset of giving all your money away – was none other than Karl Marx. Coming from that tradition myself, I don’t see Timon of Athens as an endorsement of freewheeling, all-singing, all-dancing capitalism. I see it as a reasonable critique of the belief that inequality can be addressed without questioning the underlying structures of the society.”


Macbeth – in which a leader who finds that the reality of power does not match the dream – may, he thinks, have relevance to Brexit Britain: “Macbeth becomes captured, trapped by his own scheme. He keeps doing worse things to try to resolve the original mistake. At the end, he realises that he is at the mercy of forces beyond his control. The greatness of this play is that is shows the immense powerlessness that power can bring. I don’t know if Theresa May has realised that yet!”


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a french lesson for our non-lyrical trumble...


From David Marr

A lot of words have been shed on the western front. This is a place of blood and poetry. A national leader opening a new museum commemorating these battles has to have something to say. 

Let’s not be cruel. Turnbull’s effort would have passed muster back home. Nuts and bolts stuff. A useful explanation of General Ludendorff’s tactics in the 1918 March offensive. Family connections. Many deaths. No household untouched. We must never forget etc. Applause.

Then the Frenchman went to the microphone with, it would seem, aggression in his heart and literature in his kitbag, launching himself into the crowd with a line from Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front: “He is entirely alone now with his little life of 19 years, and cries because it leaves him.”

Then he seized the high ground: “Coming here, seeing this centre and tower, looking at the names of the 11,000 Australians who died for France and for freedom, I could not help thinking of the terrible loneliness which these thousands of young Australians must have felt as their young lives were cut short in a foreign country.

“A foreign country. A faraway country. A cold country whose earth had neither the colour nor texture of their native bush. A faraway, foreign country which they defended, inch by inch, in Fromelles in the Nord region, in Bullecourt in Pas-de-Calais and of course here, in Villers-Bretonneux. As if it were their own country. 

“And it is their own country. ‘The earth is more important to the soldier than to anybody else,’ continues Erich Maria Remarque, ‘the earth is his only friend, his brother, his mother. He groans out his terror and screams into its silence and safety’. For many young Australians, this earth was their final safe place. For many of them, this earth was the final confidante of a thought or a word intended for a loved one from the other side of the world.”

Somehow he wove in Francois I and the Chevalier Bayard with the hell of the trenches: “The mud, the rats, the lice, the gas, the shellfire, the fallen comrades.” 

Men and women near me were crying. 

We were gathered on a hill not far from Villers-Bretonneux to celebrate $100m spent on a high-tech temple to the memory of General Sir John Monash on the centenary of his victories in this stretch of France. 

“Meticulous, wise and dogged,” Philippe called him and ventured the unthinkable at this time and in this place: Monash might have had peers. “This Australian engineer, with his unerring instinct, came to be hailed as one of the best Allied tacticians, on par with France’s Estienne and Britain’s Fuller.”

The old general himself would have been furious: this event was 19 minutes late getting under way. He knew that’s no way to win battles. There was much kissing up the front of the great plastic shed they’d built beside the old war memorial as we waited for the seats to fill. The band played: Pack Up Your Troubles.


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