Sunday’s Sermon: a riddle.

 

The following poem was published on February 2, 1833, in the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. It contains descriptions and clues of 11 famous literary figures. The poem was only attributed to “P.” However, 20th century literature professor Thomas Ollive Mabbott credits Edgar Allan Poe with writing the poem. Mabbott also managed to identify all 11 literary figures hidden in the verse.

 

Enigma

 

The noblest name in Allegory’s page,

The hand that traced inexorable rage;

A pleasing moralist whose page refined,

Displays the deepest knowledge of the mind;

A tender poet of a foreign tongue,

(Indited in the language that he sung.)

A bard of brilliant but unlicensed page

At once the shame and glory of our age,

The prince of harmony and stirling sense,

The ancient dramatist of eminence,

The bard that paints imagination’s powers,

And him whose song revives departed hours,

Once more an ancient tragic bard recall,

In boldness of design surpassing all.

These names when rightly read, a name [make] known

Which gathers all their glories in its own.

 

[Some of the literary figures in Poe’s poem “Enigma” are much more obvious than others, partially due to the relevance that these writers have maintained in the 21st century. Some are from the ancient world, and some are Poe’s contemporaries. Many of the storytellers that Poe identifies had a knack for penning speculative poems—tales of dreams and faeries and monsters and gods and the like. In a way, the poem Enigma is Poe’s list of the founders of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.]

 

What does that mean?

Meaning of Meaning (Ogden and Richards): “Meaning of Meaning”
C. K Ogden & I. A. Richards

Any discussion of meaning should begin with the classic book by Ogden and Richards. The link above takes you to a page of informative stuff: a slide show intro., links to several papers, and other references. The first task is to try to get clear just what sort of question one is asking when one asks “What does that mean?” E.g., look at these examples:

  1. What do those flashing lights mean? [asked by a driver speeding along the Island highway]
  2. What do these red spots mean? [asked by a patient in the emergency room at NRGH]
  3. What does “retromingent” mean? [asked by a smart-ass student in grade four – our son]
  4. What does it mean to say “Jesus is the Lamb of God”? [asked by a reader of John]
  5. What do those dark clouds mean? [asked by a boater in the channel]
  6. What does Yeats mean when he writes “slouching toward Bethlehem”?

A click on the header should take you to a copy of the book!

“Bei Hennef”

rtb2.jpg In the Introduction to Reading the Bible I wrote:

“My general notion of literature includes these claims: literature is about the world, interpretation is a creative act, intention is a necessary condition for writing of any kind, there are four focal points for any work of literature: poet, text, world, and reader.”

I still believe those claims, and in reading the love poem below it helps to know more about the world (context) Lawrence inhabited when he wrote the poem. As readers,  I hope you will contribute to the meaning of the poem by sharing your responses!

Aerial view of Hennef, Germany, in the foregro...
Aerial view of Hennef, Germany, in the foreground are river Sieg and Bundesautobahn 560. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bei Hennef

D. H. Lawrence

The little river twittering in the twilight,
The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,
This is almost bliss.

And everything shut up and gone to sleep,
All the troubles and anxieties and pain
Gone under the twilight.

Only the twilight now, and the soft “Sh!” of the river
That will last forever.

And at last I know my love for you is here,
I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,
It is large, so large, I could not see it before
Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,
Troubles, anxieties, and pains.

You are the call and I am the answer,
You are the wish, and I the fulfillment,
You are the night, and I the day.
What else—it is perfect enough,
It is perfectly complete,
You and I.
Strange, how we suffer in spite of this!


This poem is in the public domain.

About This Poem

“Bei Hennef” was published in Love Poems and Others (Duckworth and Co., 1913).
David Herbert Lawrence was born in England on September 11, 1885. He published several volumes of poetry, including Last Poems (1932) and The Ship of Death (1933). He died on March 2, 1930.
Poetry by Lawrence

The Collected Poetry of D. H. Lawrence
(Neeland Media, 2013)

On Meaning

haloRecently I have been listening to audio books in the gym while I work out. It helps to pass the time in an other wise boring activity (row, row, lift, lift). Currently I am listening to a fine reading of Conrad’s “The Secret Sharer”. It is a fascinating story. [BTW, the best free source for audio books]

In his “Heart of Darkness” Conrad has his narrator say:

“The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine.”

What do you think this comment says about the meaning of “yarns” in general?

[In the picture the halo around the moon is where the meaning is to be found.]