I had a nice moment in my Renaissance lit class this week.

Our professor spares his voice by asking students to read the longer passages. Sometimes it’s painful: students stumble over the unfamiliar language and the syllables accented or elided unexpectedly, or make it clear they’ve never read the assigned passage before, or simply flush at the attention.

Or maybe they don’t see that the language is the play. The words are more than information conveyed; they pack power and rich hidden meaning.

This week, the professor asked me to read a passage.

And I read it.

Silence dropped over the class, and when I finished, I looked up from the page to see eyes turned toward my corner. One girl clapped silently. Another breathed “Wow.”

I’m not pretending any dramatic gift, oh no. I think it’s simpler. I think when you hear Shakespeare read without stumbling and stammering, without embarrassed hesitation and by someone who understands the content and the context, you hear the words.

And such words:

from Antony and Cleopatra

Cleopatra: His face was as the heavens; and therein stuck
A sun and moon, which kept their course,
And lighted the little O o’ the earth.

His legs bestrid the ocean: his rear’d arm
Crested the world: his voice was propertied
As all the tunéd spheres — and that to friends;
But when he meant to quail and shake the orb,
He was as rattling thunder. For his bounty,
There was no winter in’t; an autumn ’twas
That grew the more by reaping: his delights
Were dolphin-like; they show’d his back above
The element they lived in: in his livery
Walk’d crowns and crownets; realms and islands were
As plates dropp’d from his pocket….

Think you there was, or might be, such a man
As this I dream’d of?

Dolabella: Gentle madam, no.

Cleopatra: You lie, up to the hearing of the gods.
But, if there be, or ever were one such,
It’s past the size of dreaming: Nature wants stuff
To vie strange forms with Fancy; yet, to imagine
An Antony were Nature’s piece ‘gainst Fancy,
Condemning shadows quite.

According to our class custom, my reading skipped the incidental lines interrupting the speech; in their place, I have put ellipses. I include here Dolabella’s “Gentle madam, no” only because, to my surprise, the prof uttered it, prompting me to read another section.

With feathers

I find myself unprepared to write about the family crisis that took me away from here, away from home, away from school. After several weeks, life is slouching closer to normal, or a tentative new normalcy. It’s good to be home, and good to be here.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to counterfeit my usual sense of buoyancy, of being bounced and tossed but not sunk in the choppy waters. What caused me to realize that my forgery of hope had shifted, transmogrified, metamorphosed into real hope again? Was it a visit from the doctor? No. The fact of coming home? No. The strength and support of friends? No. (Except, well, yes, and more on that later.)

It was the moment I discovered my goosedown pillow had burst in my dodgy old coin-op dryer, filling it and clouding the disreputable basement with wafting bits floats. A week ago, I would have sat down on the oil-stained cement floor, head in hands. Today, I burst out laughing as feathers drifted down around me, catching in my hair, my sweater, floating up my nose.

Again, Emily Dickinson was right.

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun

At the crowded downtown bus stop, I whipped off my hat to ruffle my hair and took off my sunglasses to get a better look at my watch. As I exposed my face and head, a toddler ten feet away swivelled around on his mother’s lap to face me. His stubby, chubby arm extended to point toward me, he threw back his head and howled, “Her! Her! Her! It’s heeeeeeerrrrrrrrr!” for an unsettling two or three minutes. His mother looked at me half-apologetically as I tried to edge away through the people clogging the sidewalk.

Clearly, my dark powers have began to manifest.

I can hardly wait to see what form of rough beast I am becoming. I just hope I don’t slouch.

literary meme-o-rama

Just what the world has been breathlessly awaiting: A poetry meme! Thanks to Household Opera for the link.

Below you will find ten first lines of poems. If you recognize the line, leave it on the list. If you do not recognize the line, then replace it with the first line of a poem that you do know. Highlight your changes in bold.

1. Had we but world enough, and time,
2. I never saw a Purple Cow
3. Turning and turning in the widening gyre
4. Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
5. Do not go gentle into that good night,
6. What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
7. And did you get what
you wanted from this life, after all?

8. That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
9. Up the morning I must rise
10. Hog Butcher for the World,

I cheated on #7, giving two lines (of a scant seven).

The wine-dark sea

At about 6:00 this morning, the local WeatherGuy was cheerfully rattling along with his usual predictions when suddenly he was taken by the Muse.

WG: [jauntily] “…so, you can expect to see some occasional light sprinkles, but nothing major, but this afternoon —” [head tilts, eyes glaze, and voice becomes low and melodic] “the sky will grow cloudy… and the sun will dim…” [shakes head almost imperceptibly; face clears and voice rises to normal] “and, eh, temps will drop, so keep an eye on those overnight temps!”

Thanks for the forecast, Homer.