Saturday, February 7, 2009

Harvard Classics: Week Three

Well, a business trip broke my rhythm with this, and also, having to do it every single day was becoming a bit of a grind, anyway. So, I've decided I will proceed with reading them all in order, but I have no aspirations to finish it within a year.

Jan 15: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, pp. 943-953. I'd oft heard of this, but never read any of it. It certainly has it's own eerie beauty! Though I wonder whether this rhyming translation really keeps the original spirit of it...

Jan 16: Aesop's Fables, pp. 31-43. I'd read many of these before, but this one I think was new to me:
The Old Man and Death
An old labourer, bent double with age and toil, was gathering sticks in a forest.  At last he grew so tired and hopeless that he threw down the bundle of sticks, and cried out: "I cannot bear this life any longer.  Ah, I wish Death would only come and take me!"  As he spoke, Death, a grisly skeleton, appeared and said to him: "What wouldst thou, Mortal?  I heard thee call me."  "Please, sir," replied the woodcutter, "would you kindly help me to lift this faggot of sticks on to my shoulder?"
Jan. 17: Franklin's Autobiography, pp. 5-15. Personal stories from Franklin. The tone of the book is very personal, since he was writing it to his son.

Jan 18: The Frogs, pp. 439-449. I read Aristophanes' The Clouds in 9th grade, and thought it was great fun. This is fun, too -- a lot of farce involving greek gods. I'd like to find a more modern translation, so I might understand it better.

Jan 19: The Poetic Principle, pp. 371-380. This is an essay by Edgar Allen Poe about what makes for good poetry. He has surprising views on the length that poems should be -- he talks a bit about interest curve, and points out that short poems are often forgotten, and long poems become tiresome.

Jan 20: Eve of St. Agnes, pp. 883-893. This was a poem by Keats that was hard for me to grasp at times, but it has moments of imagery that are incredibly real and powerful.

Jan 21: Andersen's Tales, pp. 301-310. I had never read this story, entitled The Emperor and the Nightingale. It's incredible! It's about robots, and what it means to be alive -- it has an unearthly quality that takes it out of time -- the nightingale represents everything that I desire to be.

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