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A Short Analysis of Edmund Waller’s ‘On the Friendship betwixt Two Ladies’

‘On the Friendship betwixt Two Ladies’ was written by Edmund Waller (1606-87), who is probably best-known for his short lyric ‘Go, lovely rose’. Waller, whose life was as colourful as one might expect of a poet who lived through the English Civil War, is one of the wittiest minor poets of the seventeenth century, although not as great (or as famous) as his contemporaries, Robert Herrick and Andrew Marvell.

On the Friendship betwixt Two Ladies

Tell me, lovely, loving pair!
Why so kind, and so severe?
Why so careless of our care,
Only to yourselves so dear?

By this cunning change of hearts,
You the power of love control;
While the boy’s eluded darts
Can arrive at neither soul.

For in vain to either breast
Still beguiled love does come, Read the rest of this entry

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A Study in Smallness: Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses a science-fiction classic

Many of Richard Matheson’s narratives focus on lonely men. It was Matheson who wrote the screenplay for an early Steven Spielberg film, Duel (1971), which was based on one of Matheson’s own short stories. Like many of Matheson’s most famous stories, such as The Shrinking Man and I Am Legend, it is ultimately about the loneliness of modern man. The latter book, in which Robert Neville – played by Will Smith in the book’s most recent adaptation – finds himself the last human survivor of the zombie apocalypse, has tended to obscure the former. But The Shrinking Man is no minor work of throwaway genre fiction: the novel contains great themes and tackles deep-rooted human concerns, especially male concerns.

Matheson’s work has influenced a raft of great writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror: Stephen King and Ray Bradbury are among the greats who have acknowledged a debt to him, with King calling Matheson, of all writers, the most important influence on him. Matheson’s 1956 novel The Shrinking Man is a tense and engaging tale about a man, Scott Carey, who, after coming into contact with radioactive waste, finds that he is shrinking at the rate of an inch per week. Once six feet tall, he is soon just one inch in height and living in his own cellar, estranged from his own wife and family, trying to avoid being eaten by the black widow spider that will soon be bigger than he is. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Introduction to the Haiku

An overview of haiku as a poetic form

Many of the things we think we know about the Japanese poetic form of the haiku are inaccurate, if not downright incorrect. The common perception, or understanding, of haiku might be summarised as follows: ‘The haiku is a short Japanese poem containing 17 syllables, following a tradition, and a name, that remains unchanged after centuries.’ There are, however, several problems with such a definition of the haiku, which this short introduction aims to address and make clear.

Although the haiku as a verse form is centuries old, the word ‘haiku’ isn’t. Indeed, it was only surprisingly recently – as recently as the end of the nineteenth century, in fact – that people started referring to these miniature Japanese poems as haiku (never ‘haikus’: the plural is the same as the singular), when Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) began referring to them as haiku as opposed to the older term hokku. Read the rest of this entry