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A Short Analysis of Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Friendship’

Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) is not primarily remembered now as a poet, but as the author of Walden (1854), about his time living a few miles from his home in the woods of Massachusetts. But in his poem ‘Friendship’, Thoreau offers a powerful perspective on the relationship between love and friendship.

I think awhile of Love, and while I think,
Love is to me a world,
Sole meat and sweetest drink,
And close connecting link
‘Tween heaven and earth.

I only know it is, not how or why,
My greatest happiness;
However hard I try,
Not if I were to die,
Can I explain.

I fain would ask my friend how it can be,
But when the time arrives, Read the rest of this entry

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‘The Walls Do Not Fall’: H. D.’s Trilogy, Modernism, and War

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads a wide-ranging poem about the Second World War

When H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) and her then-husband Richard Aldington walked into a bomb-damaged house during the First World War, Aldington found an abandoned volume of Robert Browning’s poetry and kicked it across the room. What use was poetry in the face of such destruction? But poetry tends to endure in wartime: T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets would largely be written during the next world war, while H. D.’s own poetry would have a curious and poignant afterlife: sections of her poem ‘The Walls Do Not Fall’ (from her long poem Trilogy) were inscribed by an anonymous graffitist among the ruins of the World Trade Center after 9/11.

As Norman Holmes Pearson notes in his introduction to the Carcanet edition of Trilogy which I own, with this long poem – or trilogy of long poems – H. D. was trying to connect the communal experience of the Second World War with her own history and with history in general. Read the rest of this entry

The Best Henry James Stories Everyone Should Read

Are these Henry James’s best short stories and novellas?

Henry James (1843-1916) was a prolific writer of short stories and novellas – what he himself called ‘tales’ – and a number of them are widely read and studied. In this post, we’ve picked just five of James’s very best tales, and said a little bit about them.

The Beast in the Jungle’. In this longer tale from 1903 – it’s so long it is sometimes categorised as a ‘novella’ – Henry James uses his interest in delay (enacted so well by his meandering and clause-ridden syntax) to explore a friendship between a man and a woman which never turns into a romantic relationship because the man, John Marcher, fears that something terrible is going to befall him. His stalwart and patient female companion, May, stands by his side and tries to help him make sense of this mysterious and imprecise threat which he feels hangs over him. Will this ‘beast’ lurking in the jungle of his unconscious ever be unleashed? Perhaps James’s finest example of a subversion of the traditional love story. Read the rest of this entry