Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Deor

20 years ago yesterday, I was standing on the George Washington Bridge with my siblings and my eldest niece, holding hands with my sister and some woman I didn't know while we all sang to end homelessness in America. I was still young enough to be confused about homelessness. We had to pass so many empty buildings to get to our Hands Across America station, and it seemed to me that buildings without people and people without buildings could be brought together minus all the singing. The effort doesn't appear to have worked. At least, not according to the homeless Vietnam Vet I meet every morning on my way to the University. He's a typical homeless vet, I guess, suffering but proud and somehow simultaneously angry and hopeful. Medievalists recognize the type immediately; a warrior in exile in his own land, waiting for fortune's wheel to spin again, and this time in his favor.

Anyway, in honor of John, I give you my favorite poem in the original and a pretty decent translation.

(original Saxon. You can find a link to Professor Robert Fulk reading this in the original here.)

Welund him be wurman wræces cunnade,
anhydig eorl earfoþa dreag,
hæfde him to gesiþþe sorge ond longaþ,
wintercealde wræce; wean oft onfond,
siþþan hine Niðhad on nede legde,
swoncre seonobende on syllan monn.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

Beadohilde ne wæs hyre broþra deaþ
on sefan swa sar swa hyre sylfre þing,
þæt heo gearolice ongieten hæfde
þæt heo eacen wæs; æfre ne meahte
þriste geþencan, hu ymb þæt sceolde.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

We þæt Mæðhilde monge gefrugnon
wurdon grundlease Geates frige,
þæt hi seo sorglufu slæp ealle binom.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

ðeodric ahte þritig wintra
Mæringa burg; þæt wæs monegum cuþ.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

We geascodan Eormanrices
wylfenne geþoht; ahte wide folc
Gotena rices. þæt wæs grim cyning.
Sæt secg monig sorgum gebunden,
wean on wenan, wyscte geneahhe
þæt þæs cynerices ofercumen wære.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

Siteð sorgcearig, sælum bidæled,
on sefan sweorceð, sylfum þinceð
þæt sy endeleas earfoða dæl.
Mæg þonne geþencan, þæt geond þas woruld
witig dryhten wendeþ geneahhe,
eorle monegum are gesceawað,
wislicne blæd, sumum weana dæl.

þæt ic bi me sylfum secgan wille,
þæt ic hwile wæs Heodeninga scop,
dryhtne dyre. Me wæs Deor noma.
Ahte ic fela wintra folgað tilne,
holdne hlaford, oþþæt Heorrenda nu,
leoðcræftig monn londryht geþah,
þæt me eorla hleo ær gesealde.
þæs ofereode, þisses swa mæg!

Deor (Modern English Translation, unattributed, found here)

Weland for his skill suffered exile,
the strong-willed hero had hardships to bear,
had as his companions pain and sorrow,
winter-cold exile, and endless griefs,
from the time that Nithhad tied him in fetters,
breaking the hamstrings of a better man.
That passed over; and so may this.

Beaduhild grieved less for her brothers' deaths
than she grieved in her heart for her own hard fate,
when it became clear she was carrying a child;
she could not foresee the uncertain future
or tell if her troubles would turn out well.
That passed over; and so may this.

We have heard of the misery that Maethhild felt
who was wife to Geat, how it grew yet deeper
When her sleep was stolen by sorrowful love.
That passed over; and so may this.

Theodoric ruled for thirty years
the Maerings’ stronghold; many knew that.
That passed over; and so may this.

We have heard too of the wolvish temper
Ermanaric had, who mastered the lands
of the Gothic kingdom; he was a cruel lord.
Wrapped in sorrow and sad at heart,
Many an armed man often wanted
Ermanaric's kingdom to come to grief.
That passed over; and so may this.

A man sits restless, bereaved of joys,
feels sick at heart, secretly thinks
that his share of hardships is over-large.
He may then reflect that through this world
God in his wisdom goes on his way;
a gift of grace he gives to many,
assurance of glory, but grief to some.

I will tell you something true of myself:
the Heodenings employed me as poet [scop] for a time,
I was dear to my lord, and Deor was my name.
For many years I held a high-ranking post,
acknowledged by my master, but now Heorrenda,
a man skilled in song, is assigned the lands
the protector of fighters gave first to me.
That passed over; and so may this.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Administrative Stuff & A Plea for Help

Some of you may have noticed that this blog has gone remarkably pale recently. There was some sort of code weirdness that goofed everything up in the old template, and I had the choice to try to figure that out or change the template. So, I decided that now's as good a time as any to change the appearance of the blog. A clean slate, if you will. Turns out that I needed to make the sitemeter a clean slate in the transition, too. Grrr. It's almost enough to make one's inner Luddite emerge.

Anyway, it turns out plain white makes my soul hurt, and I've been trying to import a left-sided margin, without luck.

So, if anybody knows how I can get this lovely shades-of-gray interlace to run up and down the left margin of this blog, and wouldn't mind leaving detailed instructions in the comments, my soul and I would thank you for it. (By detailed instructions I mean of the kind you would give that one goofy cousin who gets lost going to the grocery store. "Place key in ignition, turn. Put car in reverse, turn wheel to the right, press gas pedal lightly...)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Fun with Irony

As previously noted, I had some kind of writer's block meltdown at the end of the semester that caused one of my papers to be late. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing, I know.

So, here's the ironic bit: I was berating myself with many "Who the hell do you think you're kidding?" sort of thoughts while determinedly attempting to write this paper. The greatest of which was a sense of despair that a professor for whom I have probably too much respect, and who seemed to believe in me would find out just how terminally idiotic I am. Naturally, the professor I was least willing to disappoint was the one whose paper simply would not allow itself to be written. Of course, we talked about the paper and she gave me a small extension. Standard needy student freak-out stuff, really, exacerbated by the extent to which I am invested in this professor's good opinion. (This approval addiction thing really needs to be addressed. It's one of my least favorite characteristics, and it's been getting worse this year. Ugh.) Well, the professor seems to have concluded that my tardiness indicates a lack of respect for her, the material, and the class, and is no longer speaking with me. So, maybe it's not so much ironic as it is an example of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, after handing the paper in I indulged in a few days of further sinking into despair, and compulsively checking email just in case despair was no longer warranted. No dice.

And all this leads to another ironic bit:
Also as previously noted, I will be hunting for outside teaching jobs to minimize my dependence on the department next year, because I just cannot handle the complete weirdness of the politics around here. The politics are themselves a hotbed of fun ironies: sexism from feminist scholars, classism from postcolonial and marxist scholars, the person who demands that Grad students are included in all decisions refusing to answer Grad student questions in any meaningful way. Plus, if X likes you, then Y hates you because ... when you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way? I'm not really sure what that whole opposing teams thing is about.

Back to the story. As I was gathering materials for my job search, it occurred to me that I am actively trying to get back into teaching adolescents to avoid adolescent conflicts, including my own regression into 7th grade Heo.

So, this summer, while actively doing independent scholarship on the Anglo-Saxon stuff that brought me to grad school, I will also have to carefully consider whether I have the right sort of personality to be a scholar. I know that I'm the best version of myself when teaching, but it seems that being a grad student makes me the worst version of myself. So, maybe independent scholarship is the way for me to go?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Blog 'n Run

[UPDATE] Today I handed in my last (seriously late) paper to one seriously vexed professor. I wasn't being a slacker about this, I just couldn't write, no matter how long I sat in front of the blank screen. So, considering the fact that I sat my butt in front of the computer for days on end trying to write, and the words just wouldn't needed to be late. Anyway, now the papers are all in, and my first year of graduate level intellectual hazing is complete. Thanks for the good wishes!

Hi folks! I'm currently suffering wicked writer's block, because the time for one's neurons to declare a cease-fire is just before all large projects are due. Aaagh! Cross your fingers for me.

I will return within a week, either triumphant or thoroughly drunk. For now I'd like to direct the radical-minded among you quite a beautiful piece of radical writing that came to my attention recently. It made me cry. And, it seems to me that if a straight white suburban woman (how Audre Lorde of me to list all that) cries when reading a piece of writing that has approximately zip to do with her own experiences, it's pretty darn good.

Thomas Glave "On the Difficulty of Confiding, with Complete Love and Trust, in Some Heterosexual 'Friends'" Massachusetts Review

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Insignificant Cog Edition

Sadly, I ruined this poem for about 150 young people by over-teaching it on my very first day as a student teacher. I still love it, though. (Although I don't love feeling like its subject.)

The Unknown Citizen

(To JS/07/M/378/ This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war,
he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of
his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Wystan Hugh Auden

Monday, May 01, 2006

Check my Math

Using this information:
(One Working Class Woman + One "Progressive" Department)(Gently-spoken bald-faced lies + Evasive non-answers* / Blatant classism that's OK because it's also gendered, a clear violation of all the theories said department holds so dear)

Now divide your answer by sought-for advice (how naive was that?) that's thoroughly unhelpful and even insulting, but at least simple-minded, cold, and dismissive.

At the end of this equation you should be able to calculate the time it will take for the working class woman to go from point A (being an excited student) to point B (having as much contempt for academia as it clearly has for her).

My answer keeps coming up to 26 weeks.

*That a LITERATURE STUDENT is not supposed to recognize, because God knows if there's one thing a literature student can't decipher it's rhetorical weaseling.