Sunday, 25 August 2013

There is no joy but calm

I finally managed to reset my internal clock from the 'sleep after sunrise, wake at noon' Ramadan having a migraine.  I spent yesterday listening to podcasts, not really tracking, and trying really hard not to vomit or scream at the muazzin to shut up, because that would make me feel worse, and the neighbours would finally be sure that I was off my nut. 

Somewhere in there I must have gotten some sleep, because I woke up at eight-thirty this morning, and it was great.  The building was quiet, mysteriously devoid of screaming sprogs (are they still asleep, or have they travelled?  I'm hoping for the latter), and cool - less than thirty Celcius.  Sleeping in the day always makes me feel awful, which does not improve the Ramadan experience any.

I have The Lotos-Eaters (text) stuck in my head, although I haven't listened to it in ages.
"Courage!" he said, and pointed toward the land,
"This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon."
In the afternoon they came unto a land,
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

I think I may have discovered this poem in the last Twilight book.  Bella reads it as a lullaby to her horrifying spooky monster sprog, or something.  One benefit to those books' name-dropping of great works of literature of whose themes the author was unaware: I read a few things I'd never gotten around to before.

I really like the reading of The Lotos-Eaters in this Librivox poetry collection.  Kirsten Ferreri's voice is perfect for the poem, low and sleepy and a little resigned.  It's her voice reciting in my head.

Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown:
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,
Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
"There is no joy but calm!"
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?
Theories about the poem's seating in attitudes toward work in the British Empire:

According David Reide, "Certainly Tennyson's relocation of excesses of eroticism to the edges of the imperial world provides a kind of outlet for overflow that might otherwise threaten the orderly authority at the imperial center." I believe, however, that "The Lotos-Eaters" is more of a critique of British work habits and imperial duty than an Orientalist fantasy. Tennyson repeatedly emphasizes that the lotus eaters do no work and bear no responsibility. "Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?" asks one sluggish Grecian. Figuratively at least, the land of the lotus-eaters is a romantic escape from a life of "enduring toil" that most industrial age Britons knew only too well. 

- From 'A Critique of Empire and Toil in Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Lotus-Eaters"'

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