Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - The Pearl Poet

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is apparently an alliterative romance.... I have no clue what that is (though I imagine I will after the poetry class in the fall).  It's a very long poem about an adventure of one of King Arthur's knights of the Round Table.  It was written sometime in the late 14th century, which is about the time Chaucer was writing Canterbury Tales.  The funny thing about this, and perhaps it's the dialect of Middle English it was written in, is that I can get some sense out of Canterbury Tales without looking at the translation.  For Sir Gawain, I maybe understood under 20%.  I found myself a few times reading the translation and accidentally going a few lines into the original text (there were no breaks or markers between them) and only realizing when I came across a word I didn't know.  I suppose that's ironic in a way, because I really didn't like the translation. 

I'm perhaps not the best person to critique translations in general (though I know how hard they can be), and especially translations of poetry, but it really lacked the sound of the language.  I'm going to assume it had the meaning, though from the lines I looked at to compare, some of the words I thought could have been left in their older forms, since they weren't that different, if only to preserve some of the original feel and sound.  The translation, done by W.S. Merwin, felt empty and a little vague to me.  A lot of the reviews I read (and one of the reasons I chose that version) were full of compliments and awe, but it really felt like it was missing something that, when I looked at the Middle English text, should have been there.  There are several other editions, one by Tolkien which I'd love to get my hands on if only for the collector in me, and I want at some point to go through and read the whole thing in Middle English.  The story seemed to be amazing, but the translation just didn't bring it up to the level I expected, or even close to the other medieval poems and stories I've read.

The story is about Sir Gawain, obviously, and a green knight.  During a feast at Christmas (New Year's Eve, actually), a huge knight, literally solid green from head to foot, skin, hair, and all, bursts in.  His outfit and saddle are elaborately embroidered, and even aside from being all green, he's a stunning knight.  He offers a challenge to the court, he will give his axe for a knight who will give him a blow.  He won't move or fight the blow, and in return, after a year and a day the knight must find him and he will return the blow.  Everyone thinks it's pretty ludicrous, but they also seem a little intimidated by the knight, and Arthur finally moves to accept the challenge.  In his place, Gawain (whom I gather from Le Morte D'Arthur to be Arthur's nephew, but I don't remember what they said he was in this story) takes the challenge and cuts the green knight's head off.  The green knight picks his head up, reminds Gawain to find him by New Year's day the next year to receive his blow, and rides out of the court.

The next year as winter is closing in, Sir Gawain heads off to find the Green Knight.  He travels all over Wales, and as Christmas is coming closer he prays for a place to hear mass and some word of the Green Chapel where he will apparently find the Green Knight.  Not long after, he comes to a castle, and he stays for Christmas and after the feast is about to depart when he is told by the castle's lord that the Green Chapel is less than a day's ride away and he will send a knight to show him the way on New Year's day.  In the meantime the two make a pact.  Gawain will stay in bed and rest, hear mass when he wants to, and hold the company of the ladies of the castle (one is the lord's wife, the other an old woman, and I imagine their companions).  The lord of the castle will go out and hunt and give Gawain whatever he wins.  In return Gawain will give the lord whatever gifts he receives or wins.  Every day the lord's wife comes to Gawain in the morning and tries to sleep with him.  She convinces him to give her a few kisses, which he returns to the lord when he comes back at night and they exchange their winnings.  Finally, on the last morning, she convinces him to take a green sash that will protect its wearer from death and to not tell her husband of the gift.

When New Year's day comes, Gawain leaves the castle, and the knight who is guiding him tries to convince him to leave his quest, since it can only end in death.  Gawain goes on without the knight to the Green Chapel where he finds the Green Knight.  When the Green Knight moves to strike his blow, Gawain sees the blade and unconsciously flinches.  He's chided by the knight, since the Green Knight didn't flinch or move when Gawain struck him.  The third time the Green Knight slices Gawain's neck, but not deeply.  After that, Gawain gets fed up, saying he's already received the one blow he promised and that now they could fight evenly.  It turns out that the Green Knight was the lord of the castle, put up to his antics as the Green Knight by Morgan le Fay, the old woman in his castle, to test King Arthur's knights.  Gawain was wounded because the knight recognized the green sash and explained that he put his wife up to her antics to test Gawain, and had he slept with her or lied to him any more than he did, he would have died.

I have a few reflections on the poem I want to talk about.  This is the first Arthurian text that I've read written in the middle ages.  It wasn't at all what I expected.  It was written likely more than a century after Song of Roland, which had priests and bishops and holy relics.  Their role in Song of Roland was natural to me.  That was practically what the poem was about.  So much of the Arthurian stories around in modern times, and by this I refer to anything on TV, the recent Merlin done by the BBC, the Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, portray Arthur or Uther, his father, as against the church.  If he's not directly against the church, as in Disney's The Sword in the Stone, he's certainly not it's champion.  Merlin is usually represented as a Druid and part of the Old Religion or magic from Avalon or the earth.  Somewhere along the way the story changed, possibly because there's more romance in the idea of magic struggling to survive (at least I personally think so).  At any rate, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as well as Le Morte D'Arthur, Arthur and his knights are Catholic and very devout.  Launcelot du Lac speaks in Le Morte D'Arthur about why he will not take a mistress or sleep with any of the women who want him (and there are plenty) as being because doing so is a sin and will turn God against him, and a knight against God doesn't last long in battle.  Sir Gawain in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight hears his mass every morning when he's somewhere with a priest, and when the lord of the castle's wife comes to his room to tempt him, he prays that God would give him the strength to resist her.

All things considered, it shouldn't have surprised me.  Any of the stories written at the time would have been written for those who could read, which meant the nobility, and the nobility were strongly connected to the Catholic church.  Clearly the hero they created in Arthur for the knights and nobles of the court would be as much like them or their ideals as they could make him.  I really didn't see it coming though.  I'll definitely have more to say on that once I'm finished with Le Morte D'Arthur.

The blend of magic and Christianity seems strange in a way.  Morgan le Fay can change a man and have him survive getting his head cut off, and she lives in a castle that has its own chapel and priest.  That seems to be the way these stories work though.  Magic isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is it a good thing.  It isn't always against the church or for the church.  Most of the time it's just a part of the way the world turns.  It's neutral in and of itself and works with whomever is using it.

I find the ideals of knighthood interesting.  In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain is a legendary knight, renowned for his chivalry and strength.  It's the chivalry part that I'm interested in.  Chivalry and honor to duty to the church, humbleness before God, duty to the king, gaining and protecting one's own honor, being gentle and obedient to ladies, and probably dozens of other things Sir Gawain and the Green Knight doesn't touch on and I still haven't found from other places.  It also extends to one's word.  The Green Knight allows Gawain to strike his head off based on his word that he will come to his own death a year later and do nothing to resist the return blow.  And Gawain does it!  Perhaps it is less surprising when the vow is made in front of the whole court of knights and the king, but this also seems to extend to vows and promises made between two knights when no one else is around.  Gawain receives kisses from the lord's wife in private and returns each one of him to the lord by their promise that whatever the other wins during the day be given to the other.  When he fails to hand over the green sash, he is wounded for the infraction and wears it for the rest of his life, of his own will, to show that he was false.

The idea of courtly love also amuses me.  Gawain can't flat out refuse the lord's wife.  He dodges around her temptations, barely, but he can't flat out say no and begone.  In fact, at the end of the first morning, she tells him he's not the man she'd heard of because that Sir Gawain wouldn't refuse a gentlewoman and would at least give her the kiss she asked for.  The next day she chides him for forgetting her lesson from the day before.  But it's okay for a married woman to come into the chamber of a bachelor while he's sleeping.  It's okay for a husband to send his wife to tempt his guest to sleep with her.  It's an interesting contrast with current ideals.  The way Gawain dealt with her was honorable up until the point he hid the sash from the lord of the castle.

I've made it a goal of mine to one day collect all the old Arthurian stories and fight my way through them in their original dialects.  I want to catalogue the characters and the changes over time.  An example that extends to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is the character of Sir Gawain.  He's a knight of honor and renown.  In Le Morte D'Arthur, however, his own brother prefers not to be around him because, though he's a strong knight, he doesn't live up to the ideals of honor Sir Gareth believes a knight should hold.  I'm also looking at a book of British history, because I'm looking at all these dates and reading about the wars and kings and what's going on, and I have no point of reference.  My British history is pretty vague and has a lot of gaps.  I found one that looks good... next paycheck.  I'm actually sad about my reading list now, because I want to focus on the medieval literature.  I'm in love with it!  But I have to move on to the poets and Renaissance lit soon.  Maybe I can make a thesis out of studying Arthurian legend.  I also need a dictionary of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, especially if I want to read this one's original text.

Anyway, if you're at all interested in Arthurian legend, this one's worth checking out.  It's not a difficult read translated, and the story's interesting.  Of course, if you read this whole thing, I've given most of the story away so you won't have the fun of trying to figure out what the heck the wife is doing tempting Gawain like I had... but it's still a good read.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

I love grapes!

Even when they have a billion seeds and are a pain to eat! I love them more when I find them on sale. Mmm grapes.

So, I'm back to studying Japanese.  My friends made me mad enough at failing the test to want to pass it again.  Thanks guys! ... I think.  It gives me something to work at anyway.  After July I'm going to go back to studying Latin sometimes too.  Right now it's Japanese every day.  Too many languages to learn!!  Lindsey spent hours yesterday trying to teach me how to pronounce "Le Morte D'Arthur."  Apparently (before my face got tired) I could do the "Le Morte" well, and passably up to "D'Arth," and I figured out how to say the funky "u," but not put the "u" and the "r" together.  And this is why when the French teacher at GEOS tried to teach me French, I laughed at him.  Really gotta wonder what the people around us were thinking (we were walking and shopping in a relatively crowded area during most of this ...activity).  I still am not interested in learning French seriously... I can get the gist of the things that come up in my book... but I'd at least like to be able to pronounce titles (why the title is in French, I'll never know... it was first written in English... no reason!) and the names that come up.  For the sake of reference, Launcelot du Lac has far too many vowels in it.

Still really want to relearn Spanish and learn Ojibwe... and German.... and Welsh.  See?  Too many languages!  I want to know them!  Not doing Spanish and Latin at the same time again though... Still only remember the latin verb for "to care for" that I put down on my Spanish test in 10th grade. >_>  Latin would be helpful though.  And Anglo-Saxon (see?? That's another one!).  I want to go to England and poke around everywhere too now.  Not that I know what there is to poke around in.... but I want to anyway!

One day.  England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, then Versailles and Berlin.  Lindsey wants to see Auschwitz, but I really don't think I could handle that.  We were planning our immaginary trip yesterday, and I got a knot in my stomach and nearly started crying when she was talking about it.  I do want to see the beaches at Normandy though.  Oddly... I have no desire to go to Rome.  I'd like to go to Finland and Sweden too.  And the nerdy part of me wants to go to Romania, but the part of me that's seen too many slasher movies is going "ahaha, no."  Maybe though.... if I can find convincing proof that it's not dangerous for tourists.

On a more serious planning note, this summer I'm saving to go back to Kyoto and Osaka, which I haven't been back to since I moved here.  I really want to go to Kyoto.  Then next summer I want to save to go to Beijing, Laos, Vietnam, and Korea (in something of that order).  Take a week and just visit them all with Lindsey and hopefully Jen.  I want to walk the Great Wall, and what I've seen of Laos and Vietnam, they're beautiful.  Though the Canadian embassy page warns caution and to stay in the cities and off the beaches (apparently there are still unexploded mines in some places).  We're going to watch the political scene there for the next year and make sure it's safe to go before we book anything.  From what I've heard, in the cities, the worst that'll happen is you get ripped off by a cabbie or a store owner.  Oh, but the Canadian site also said not to play cards or accept English teaching invitations... neither of which would I normally do anyway.  Apparently people loose a lot of money to stacked decks.  Why would you do that?? Seriously?  I only want to spend a day or two there and see the architecture.

And I am off to teach class.  I like my Monday schedule.  It's so much better than last year!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Paradise Lost - John Milton

Paradise Lost was first published in the 1600s, and it is actually a poem, though first glance looks a bit like gibberish. A few things on that, the language used is roughly the same as that in the King James bible, only because it's a poem Milton ignores typical grammatical structures and customs. This is the first poem I've read where I think he actually had a purpose to that. Apparently he was blind when he wrote this, and so it was transcribed for him, which meant he had to speak the whole thing out loud. I couldn't read it like I read some books, where I look at the words and understand them sometimes without hearing them. When I started the poem, I had to do it out loud (which was the only suggestion of Pullman's introduction that I appreciated). Reading it first out loud and then letting myself hear the words in my head let me skip the part where I understood the words as parts of a sentence and paragraph, rather in context, and lead straight to understanding the image of the words. That sounds weird, but the majority of the poem, if I read the words as words on a page, I didn't have the first clue what he was talking about. If I let myself hear the words, I would get images in my head that played out a story for me, complete with sounds and smells and tactile feelings. Despite the struggle sometimes, it was actually a rather amazing experience, and I've developed a bit of an obsession for figuring out what he did that caused that.

Unfortunately, partly because of the way you have to read Paradise Lost to understand it, and partly because it written in a fairly archaic form of English, I don't know that many people I know will read it, or if they do finish it. If you can read and understand the language in the King James bible, you'll be fine with vocabulary and word conjugations, but it's the necessity of letting your mind go with the sound of the words that... I don't know, it was hard. Maybe it was hard for me because I'm so used to analyzing words as words and sentences as structures. From what I hear of people who've read it though, it's just a hard book to read, and a lot of people hate it. Jen's comment to me when I told her I was reading it was an immediate "I'm sorry!"

The story is one that anybody with some roots in the Christian or Jewish religions would be familiar with. It begins with Satan's fall, along with 1/3 of the angels in heaven, and goes through creation to the temptation and eventual fall of man. For the first 2/3 at least of the poem, it didn't matter that I knew the story. I was wide-eyed and caught myself chewing on my thumbnail for parts of it (rather embarrassing in public). I think because I took at two week break in reading it, though, it lost its momentum after the temptation of Eve, and the last two books were a challenge to get through. So far I don't have anyone to chatter with about this book, which is disappointing. I've talked to people about it, but nobody's read it, or, in Jen's case, enjoyed it as much as I have.

The beginning of the poem centers on Satan and his demons. It opens with them just recently fallen, and they're in agony and dazed from, literally, falling into hell. Satan is the first to rise and break off the chains. He leads the demons away from the pit of fire they're in onto a continent where they assemble and decide what to do. In the end, Satan heads off to track down the rumored "man," God's new favorite and the new paradise He's made for them. At the edge of hell he finds a gate guarded by two beings. One is a woman with dogs eating her insides, the other is a shade. The woman is Sin, his daughter and the mother of his child, the shade, who is Death. Sin was given the key to the gate and opens it at Satan's request. The key only opens the gate. It can't close it again. He passes through and comes to a void that he must cross. The beings living there let him pass, and God and Jesus watch from heaven as he makes his way to earth. In heaven God predicts the temptation of Adam and Eve and their eventual fall. He announces what the consequences will be and asks who will take their place for punishment. Jesus steps forward for that task.

Satan makes it to earth and takes the shape of a cherub. He asks the way to Eden of one of the angels and is shown, but the hatred on his face when he sees it gives him away, and the angel descends in the evening to warn the angels guarding Eden. They catch Satan inside Adam and Eve's dwelling, whispering in Eve's ear, and throw him out. He wanders the earth for several days before returning just outside Eden. God sends the angel Raphael to warn Adam and tell Satan's story, how he fought God and the battles between the angels in heaven and how Jesus threw him out of heaven. He answers Adam's questions and leaves. Later, Satan disguises himself as a mist and takes over the body of a serpent. The next morning, Eve wants to separate for the day to divide the work, but Adam doesn't want her to go. She insists that they shouldn't be ruled by fear and goes off. Satan catches her, claiming to have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus gaining the speech of man. He leads her to the tree and convinces her to eat. When Adam finds out, he eats as well, thinking that Eve is doomed and that he couldn't have any replacement for her once she was gone that would make him happy. They're both in a sort of drunken euphoria after eating the fruit, but once it fades they argue about whose fault it is. They try to hide their nakedness, and when Jesus comes, knowing what they've done already, they hide from him. He clothes them, and when he leaves, the earth begins to change from its original climate into the more violent climates that we have.

Michael is sent to cast them out of Eden, but also to show Adam things that are to come. He shows Adam death in all its forms, the crime of his son, the perversion of man in later years, the flood, men aspiring to be gods and the tower of Babel. He also tells Adam of God's promise, that his descendant will bruise their enemy's head on his heel. They leave, and the angels guard the entrance to Eden against any more incursions by Satan or men.

Phillip Pullman did the introduction to the edition I have and commentary on each book inside (there are 12). I took one good piece of advice from him, and that was to read the book out loud. Aside from that, he immediately discredited himself by saying how much he didn't know about the work compared to others. At the end of his introduction, he turned his biography on the author and history of his own encounter with Paradise Lost into his own speculations on what the story meant, and his ideas on the meanings of the themes.

In my case, I found that my interest was most vividly caught by the meaning of the temptation-and-fall theme. Suppose that the prohibition on the knowledge of good and evil were an expression of jealous cruelty, and the gaining of such knowledge an act of virtue? Suppose the Fall should be celebrated and not deplored? (...)The true end of human life, I found myself saying, was not redemption by a nonexistent Son of God, but the gaining and transmission of wisdom. Innocence is not wise, and wisdom cannot be innocent, and if we are going to do any good in the world, we have to leave childhood behind.
Personally, I find that incredibly interesting, and it's something I've thought about often before, and it's definitely an interesting premise for a story.  However, as the second to last paragraph in an introduction to a text, I thought it was out of place. If I wanted to read arguments and analysis on Paradise Lost, I would have bought a book of essays after I'd already read the poem and formed my own ideas.  After that, I couldn't read his introductions to the books.  They irritated me.  I don't want that kind of input before I have the chance to form my own ideas.  I'll take them after.

There were a few things I noticed throughout the poem that struck me as interesting.  Not that I entirely understand them, or why they're included, though I have my own ideas as to that, I want to put them out here.  The first one is that both Adam and Eve, our perfect father and mother, are blonds.  Yes, this was written in Europe.  Can you tell?  Another thing I noticed, Adam is obsessed with sex.  Maybe obsessed is a bad choice of words, but he talks about it to Raphael and gets warned by him.  The first thing Adam and Eve do after eating the fruit is have sex.  On the other hand, beauty is repeatedly spoken of as dependent on virginity.  I'm curious what exactly Milton was thinking when he used the word "virgin," because neither Adam nor Eve were virgins in the traditional sense of the word, yet he kept calling Eve beautiful based on her virginity.

Purity is also equated with naivety.  They are innocent, not knowing good and evil, and so they don't know that to be naked is something to be ashamed of.  They are pure, virgins if I can venture to guess that's what Milton meant by the word.  Because of this they are both beautiful.  So were the angels who fell.  When they were innocent of evil they were beautiful.  Satan didn't recognize his daughter/lover Sin, didn't know himself how unrecognizable he was after he fell.  This is one of those things that I felt Milton was going somewhere with, and I would need to read it again, preferably with a notebook by me and a hard copy that I can write on to figure out where exactly that was.

There are three main perspectives in the poem, Satan's, God's, and Adam and Eve's.  Satan's is by far the most intense.  His drift into God's perspective, for example when Satan broke out of hell and was traveling the void between hell, heaven, and earth it shifted from his struggle to God watching.  The shift from something so intense to a rather rigidly paced narrative, the shift from the hero's struggle to his persecutor as it were, brought out some interesting thoughts and feelings.  I think that's somewhat what Pullman was talking about in his introduction, or something that maybe helped inspire that because in the beginning, Satan feels like the hero.  You feel sorry for his struggle; you want him to get his revenge.  In a way, you're almost mad at God for causing it.  Then again, at the same time, as a Christian, that felt irreverent, which brought up more questions and thoughts that challenged me as a believer and made me look at what and why I believe what I do.  I wonder if Milton did that on purpose.  At the time, the Catholic church still ruled most of Europe, and the rest was still Christian.  His readers would likely be coming from the same perspective as myself.

Once Satan reaches earth, we have some time in Adam and Eve's perspective, then when Satan gets captured we get another jolt of "Crap! The hero's in trouble!"  Literally up until the point where Satan stops appearing in the story, which I found random..., he's very definitely the hero.  When Jesus and the angels kick their butts in the battle in heaven, it's epic, but it's the hero who looses.  He's a sneaky sucker who keeps getting thwarted and finally gets his revenge.  He's punished, though, and after that he doesn't appear again.  Part of me was hoping he would show up again.  He did win, as far as this part of the story is concerned.  I wanted him to gloat.  I've heard an excerpt from this poem, from the very end, and I've always taken it to have been from Satan and crew, or a representation thereof.  I don't know if it's the contexts I've read it in, or just my misinterpretation, but it's a good line. 
The world was all before them, where to choose Their place of rest, and providence their guide:[...]

Mostly the section "The world was all before them."  It's not at all related to Satan and crew.  It's about Adam and Eve, but part of me expected it to be.  I thought it was weird that the hero just dropped out and didn't make a final appearance.

God's perspective at first seems careful and rigid, in a way that, I think, helps lend to Satan as a hero and the reader's sympathy for that.  Moreso with Jesus' actions and the parts involving him and the higher angels, there also feels like there's a lot of reverence.  It might be less spectacular than Satan's role, but it's no less awe inspiring.  God is definitely not a flat not-quite-there being.  He's a full character with a range of emotions and reasoning behind his actions and decisions.   He's a king and demanding of worship, strong and jealous but also loving.  He knows what's coming, and yet he's bound by the rules he set in place to not stop any of it.  It doesn't make him change, but it does make him sad.

One of the themes I found was of free will.  Can one truly love if one's not free to choose whether or not to do so?  God created angels first and then men with free will, even after the angels showed that their will wasn't necessarily his.  Here's some of what God says to Jesus, talking about giving his creation free will and what they choose to do with it.
[...]I made him just and right, Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.  Such I created all the ethereal powers And spirits, both them who stood and them who failed; Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.  Not free, what proof could they have given sincere Of true allegiance, constant faith or love, Where only what they needs must do appeared, Not what they would? what praise could they receive? What pleasure I from such obedience paid, When will and reason [...] Useless and vain, of freedom both despoiled, Made passive both, had served necessity, Not me. [...]if I foreknew, Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault, Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.  So without least impulse or shadow of fate, Or aught by me immutably foreseen, They trespass, authors to themselves in all Both what they judge and what they choose; for so I formed them free, and free they must remain, Till they enthrall themselves: I else must change Their nature, and revoke the high decree Unchangeable, eternal, which ordained Their freedom, they themselves ordained their fall.  The first sort by their own suggestion fell, Self-tempted, self-depraved: man falls deceived By the other first: man therefore shall find grace, The other none:[...]
  The question, then, arises, well what of knowledge?  Why is knowledge of good and evil forbidden?  And that's a question for philosophers, not me.  Apparently not for Milton either, because he doesn't really deal with that question in Paradise Lost.  I think there it's more a simple, easy-to-follow command given not to eat of that tree, maybe a test?

Eve's role throughout this makes the feminist in me a little unhappy, though looking at it from the perspective of the 1600s, I'm actually a little surprised she had as much influence as she did.  When Raphael and Michael come, before and after they've eaten the fruit, she stays out of sight, sometimes goes away completely.  Adam sends her to fetch fruit to give to Raphael while he stays with them and talks.  It seemed to me, though, after Raphael's warning, when Adam wanted her to stay and work by him so she would not be vulnerable to temptation, that she was a bit stronger than she appeared.  I'd say her feathers got ruffled by being seen as weak by her husband.  She insisted on going separate ways.  Granted, she had valid arguments for why they shouldn't stifle their lifestyle because of fear, but the way she reacted struck me as being a bit miffed.

Her argument was something that made me think about the fragility of happiness.  When Raphael talked to Adam, a conversation that covered quite a few topics including sex and pursuit of knowledge (and warnings against obsession with both), he said this:
Son of heaven and earth, Attend: that though art happy, owe to God; That thou continuest such, owe to thyself, That is, to they obedience; therein stand.
Basically God made Adam and Eve happy.  It's up to them and their continued obedience on God to remain happy, but it seems like since Eve's first contact with Satan in her dreams unhappiness found its way into Eden.  They're both disturbed by it.  After Raphael tells Satan's story, Adam's cautious and wants Eve to stay by his side.  This seems to make Eve unhappy.
But that thou shouldst my firmness therefore doubt To God or thee, because we have a foe May tempt it, I expected not to hear.
Adam continues to argue that it's better to avoid temptation altogether, to which Eve answers:
If this be our condition, thus to dwell In narrow circuit straitened by a foe, Subtle or violent, we not endued Single with like defence, wherever met, How are we happy, still in fear of harm? [...]Let us not then suspect our happy state Left so imperfect by the maker wise, As not secure to single or combined.  Frail is our happiness, if this be so, And Eden were no Eden thus exposed.
I think she's right, their happiness was very frail, and I think by that point it'd already begun to break.  Once Adam finds out Eve's eaten the fruit, he chooses to eat it as well, believing that his happiness will never be complete without her.  In this set-up, I don't think eating the fruit was the cause of unhappiness.

Satan is, in turn, also unhappy about the whole state of things.  It seemed to me that he regretted his rebellion but was stuck with the consequences and so made the best he could of it.  Speaking of the earth God created for man, he says:
With what delight could I have walked thee round, If I could joy in aught, sweet interchange Of hill, and valley, rivers, woods, and plains, Now land, now sea, and shores with forest crowned, Rocks, dens, and caves; but I in none of these Find place or refuge; and the more I see Pleasures about me, so much more I feel Torment within me, as from the hateful siege Of contraries; all good to me becomes Bane, and in heaven much worse would by my state, But neither here seek I, no nor in heaven To dwell, unless by mastering heaven's supreme;[...]
He has a sense of pride.  He was second only to God before Jesus came into being, which was the ignition for his rebellion.  He knows what he's lost, and he knows the only way to get it back is to rule heaven, but he can't.  He's tried, and he can't defeat Jesus.  So he's doing the next best thing, he's ruling hell and defiling God's beautiful creation.  In doing this, he's aware of the necessity of lowering his pride, stooping low enough to take the body of a snake that crawls on the ground when he once aspired to godhood.
O foul descent! that I who erst contended With gods to sit the highest, am now constrained Into a beast, and mixed with bestial slime, This essence to incarnate and imbrute, That to the height of deity aspired; But what will not ambition and revenge Descend to?  Who aspires must down as low As high he soared, obnoxious first or last To basest things.
 Once fallen and cursed to pass his guilt on to any offspring, Adam is quick to look for ways around producing any, including suicide and abstinence.  I liked his monologue near the end talking about this.
O miserable of happy! is this the end Of this new glorious world, and me so late The glory of that glory, who now become Accursed of blessed, hide me from the face Of God, whom to behold was then my height Of happiness: yet well, if here would end The misery, I deserved it, and would bear My own deservings; but this will not serve; All that I eat or drink, or shall beget, Is propagated curse.  O voice once heard Delightfully, Increase and multiply, Now death to hear! for what can I increase Or multiply, but curses on my head?
 That's the end of my random observations, in no real order.  I have two other quotes, both belonging to Satan, which I really liked and want to share.  The first one is from when he learns of pain during the battle for heaven.
But pain is perfect misery, the worst Of evils, and excessive, overturns All patience.
That was one of the lines that I thought made him seem more sympathetic.   The last quote continues at the very end of the one in which he talks about reaching high and stooping low.
Revenge, at first though sweet, Bitter ere long back on itself recoils; Let it; I reck not, so it light well aimed, Since higher I fall short, on him who next Provokes my envy, this new favourite Of heaven, this man of clay, son of despite, Whom us the more to spite his maker raised From dust: spite then with spite is best repaid.
With that he stops talking and goes about his revenge.  Aside from being thought provoking, it's a pretty epic last line for a monologue right before the climax.

I would actually like to study this book in depth at some point.  I understand what's going on, and I'm following most of what Milton says, I just can't organize it in my head very well.  It's like I'm grappling with too much at once.  I kinda hope there's a class offered including Paradise Lost.  Apparently there's also a Paradise Regained, which I'll get to at some point.  If nothing else, Paradise Lost at least deserves another read through.  I'd love to hear it read by someone who could read out loud well.  That would be an interesting experience.  And I still just really want to know how gibberish can make such amazing images.  The dialogue, like the quotes, isn't gibberish, but the narrative can really be sometimes.  I could hear the groans of the fallen angles, see the ocean of fire and bodies, hear the sound of the chains being ripped apart by Satan, see and hear the locks in the gate of hell fall open... It's probably something I'd do better to not get overly obsessed with considering how strange some of my English has become just by reading older poetry and narratives as it is... I almost said the word "wroth" in all seriousness the other day... but I still want to know.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Pausing my chores

This last week has been just insane.  I pushed myself way too hard, I think, and I definitely paid for it yesterday.  From Tuesday on through Friday I didn't get home until after 10.  Saturday was crazy getting my new phone and getting it set up.  Lindsey helped me carry cabinets that I put together and now have in my kitchen.  They were cheap!  And they're really not bad.  It's so nice to be able to walk through that tiny space and not knock everything over.  I also got a shoe rack and a tub to put my towels in.  All in all, under $40.

Well, Saturday night Soushi was in and out of the litter box around 4 times and didn't go.  I figured he was just upset cause I hadn't been home and then I was and I was changing everything.  Sunday was the same, so I called the vet and took him in.  2 shots and $60 later, he did stop going in and out of the box quite as much, but still fairly frequently.  Took him in again today like the vet said.... and had to pay for 2 more shots on top of a week's worth of anti-biotics.  She wants me to get a urine sample at some point.... That's going to be interesting to do. >_<  It's to check for traces of stones that might have caused the infection, if an infection it is.  I'm really praying it's not stones.  For one, I can't get a sample when he's in and out of the box and not actually doing anything all the time, and for two, those can be deadly in cats. :S  The vet also said he's too thin.  He weighs just a little more than Ophelia, and she's probably 1/3 smaller than him.  Anyway, boiling this chaos down, I'm going out to get the good canned food tonight.  I stopped giving it to them maybe two months ago because they weren't eating it with the dry food as an option at night.  The vet suggested mixing the dry in with the wet, just a little bit, and recommended a type of regular milk that's easy on stomachs that she gives her cat.  So we'll give it a try, because obviously the dry food isn't good for them.  I knew this before... but it's hard to fork out that much a month sometimes.  Of course $120 in vet bills in two days is also hard... so I imagine in the long run the better food will be easier.  I'm so not doing anything over Golden Week. >_>

Soushi likes the cupboards too.  The picture's uber blurry, but I let him enjoy being in there before I stuffed cans and bottles in it and shut the door :P

I finished Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I'll have to write up something on that.  I have lots of thoughts on it, but significantly less than I had for Paradise Lost, so it's a bit more manageable for a quick write-up.  That... and I'm not going to confuse Paradise Lost with anything.  I likely won't for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight either, but I'm currently reading Le Morte D'Arthur (Don't worry, it's not actually in French) and I'd like to do a comparison when I'm done... in about 480 pages. :P  They're both... special?  Actually, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is more like what I expected from a medieval Arthurian tale, but there's still a surprising amount of Catholicism in it.  There's still magic at least though.  In Le Morte D'Arthur any of what we'd currently say was magic is credited as a miracle.  Merlin is some sort of prophet rather than a wizard... so far anyway.  I'm only 30 pages in, and Arthur's still fighting to keep his title.

I hope I manage to get the medieval lit class sometime.  It's rapidly becoming my new obsession.  I dropped the Irish Drama class for the sake of not failing the History of Poetic Forms one.... stupid poetry.  I stop understanding it at around Shakespeare.  After that I'm completely lost.  Before that?  Bring on the smiting!! (Not a poem, but Le Morte D'Arthur was doing quite a bit of smiting in the last few chapters today *grin*)

*edit* The second program I ran to clean my computer last time I posted... 81 bugs....... yeah..... Managed to save my emails on it though, since I stupidly deleted all of them from the actual inbox. >_>  For now, it's a dedicated DVD player, cause that's about all it'll do anymore... and even that it only half does.   I'm pretty sure re-installing windows would help some, but alas I lack a copy of it anymore, and the computer didn't come with a boot disc.

Monday, 12 April 2010

On Paradise Lost and Trojans of the Digital Kind

I finished Paradise Lost.  I made notes.  It was quite epic.  It might take another read-through or more thinking about it before I can write much on it.  I think the 2 weeks of not reading it might have killed some of the momentum, cause the ending was significantly less epic than the beginning.  The last few books fixed the idea that the whole thing is actually pretty reverent in my mind.  I'd be interested to read what the author himself had to say about his work, rather than all the interpretations out there, of which I've read one and was incredibly annoyed by.  I don't know, it requires more thinking than my brain wants to do today.

So, my Japanese computer got massively infected with, according to Windows Defender, something like 31 trojans while I was away.  Hence, I'm on said computer now running malware and spyware scans and not doing other things I said I'd do today.  It's cold and rainy and I ate way too much pizza when I was planning on eating a half a cup of rice and veggies for dinner.... mostly cause it's cold and rainy.  I did empty the litter box though, and do a ton of dishes... pretty much everything I have that could be used for food was in my sink.  Saturday's spring cleaning.  I will find places to put things that don't drive me nuts.  My other "to do around the house" thing for today was fixing this hunk of technology, which I'm currently doing, so aside from the food thing, and the not studying thing (which I still have time to rectify if I can get the gumption), I've done everything I planned for myself to do.

Also, I have new neighbors.  There are two of them, a man and a woman, and I want to know how they manage to live in that tiny space.  I know the 1st floor lofts are smaller than mine, so they can't be utilizing that space for much.   If they're sleeping up there, I pity them in the summer.  It gets hot, though I suppose less so on the first floor.  Anyway, mostly, they're good  neighbors, but the guy has a really boomy voice, and he likes to talk apparently.  He gets up at 6-6:30 every day, including weekends, and goes to bed around midnight.  I know because despite the two fans I have going at night, I can hear him through the floor when I lay on my side, and since I can't breathe on my back, I can't sleep when he's awake. >_>  I found earplugs today though.  I used them before when I was having trouble with my suite-mates back at Eastern, but they hurt so much I couldn't sleep with them in anyway (quite possibly why I was so twitchy then and why I get so upset when my sleep is interrupted now).  Anyway, I'm hoping for good things.  I'd like to be able to sleep on my terms tonight...mostly considering the earplugs.  Beats trying to curl up on a two-seater non-plushy couch though.

First day of classes tomorrow at the school that last year was nightmare school and this year I really can't hope is too much better cause I really don't want to be disappointed.  I'd rather go into it braced for the same.  I wonder if I can use a dunce cap.... I'll have to talk to Satomi about that (sounds mean, in my opinion, but if I can't kick the obnoxious kids out, I have to do something to make them at least shut up and participate).  Really, I'd like to find a way where they want to participate, but the whole atmosphere of the school, and the utter pointlessness of my class really depresses anything that could be there for most of them.  I hope to make it less pointless this year by shifting the focus from conversation to reading for the first while, but Satomi really doesn't seem to be going for that.  Verbally saying they can't read the sheets we give them, she still wants them to learn scripted dialogues (short or long, I don't see the point when they don't know how to respond to "Hello").  I don't get it.  Half of me wants to be a good ALT and let her take charge of the class and curriculum.  The rest of me (which is decidedly louder than the other half) would actually like to teach these kids something and enjoy the school year with them.

My 2nd year girls (last years 1st years) were so excited to see me at the other school.  It made me feel really good about what I do there.  They were surprised it was still me, but their words and demeanor were both so happy.  I was really surprised.  One of the teachers for the 2nd year class... my first thing I'd normally say is "useless," but I think he might learn to do what I need him to do... which is the occasional accurate translation (I hate it when they say something I didn't say....>_> funny cause some of the kids notice too, jokes on them at least) and pulling the girls into what we're doing.  One of the teachers, Uchida, isn't very good at keeping the girls quiet, but I really like how she translates.  A few of them do this actually.  They'll translate the grammar, but use the key words in English, or say the sentence in English and translate bit by bit as they say it.  It's hard to explain that to someone who doesn't understand me too well, but I'd like all of my teachers to do that.  It's so much better than just straight translation, because it actually pulls the kids into what I'm saying and breaks it down so they can understand it rather than just feeding it to them in their own language so they don't engage at all.  My Friday teachers though, they're awesome.  I'm so glad I have good 1st year teachers now.  Last year was so hard.  The one teacher had the worst grasp of English ever.

David wants to hold off on teaching phonics till we have the book I asked him to order.  He wanted a book, so I told him a good one I use at the other school.  So... I have it at the other school and I'm capable of researching and making an outline for 5 minutes a week without a book.  *eyeroll*  Basically, I'm going ahead with it.  It'd be nice to have the CD, but for just the basic phonics alphabet, I can make them chant without multimedia.  If I have time, I want to laminate letter cards.  I found pictures for the first bit of the alphabet.  I probably should have been working on the next bit for two weeks from now today during my 30 minutes of free time (I love not having 3 hours of office time!! It's GREAT!! *dances*) instead of looking up lolcats.... but I was tired and cranky from not sleeping.  I needed the giggles.

Example of a lolcat:

funny pictures of cats with captions

I saved a bunch to my work computer so I can look at them and giggle when the office is stressing me out :P

And after an hour of scanning program the first has removed 10 bugs from my computer.  Now onto program the second, and while it runs, a nice hot shower. ^__^