Category Archives: Books

Good company

Il n’y a pas tant d’hommes de bonne fortune comme il y a des jolies femmes pour les méritons. Jane Austin

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My idea of good company is the company of well-informed people who have lots of clever conversation. That is what I call good company.

Lacking that, I find that a good chair will suffice. Alone, to sit in the shade and gaze upon God’s green earth is the most perfect refreshment. There, I can escape the unpleasant thought that there are not so many men of large fortune in the world as there are pretty women to deserve them.

Mainly Jane Austin

There are too many quotes on good company to quote them all. I’ll just leave you with this:

En général, l’espoir n’est pas un bon guide, mais il est la bonne compagnie et souvent tout ce que vous avez.

Hope is generally not a good guide but it is good company and too often all you’ve got.

Very big words

yes-no

Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite. – C. S. Lewis

yes

Choisissez des petits mots, ils sont courts et précis, mais ne dit ‘oui’ quand tu veux dire ‘non’.

Never a good war

Once again it is Veterans Day.

My thoughts turn to my father and grandfather who served in the past two world wars. War is not an easy thing to discuss. It is paid for with human lives and often achieves very little. It is always tragic for those for pay the supreme sacrifice and for their families and love ones.

Sometimes, however, war becomes a necessary thing.

War is not something to be taken lightly or to be engaged in without deep thought and consideration. The price is never paid by those who make the decision to enter war. The price is paid by the patriotic men and women who selflessly serve their country. We may put up monuments to their lives, but that should never be enough.

We should act to make their sacrifice worthwhile.

Remember what Benjamin Franklin said in a letter written in 1783:

“Never was there a good war or bad peace.”
“Jamais une bonne guerre ou une mauvaise paix.”

Franklins’s full statement from War and Peace, is as follows:

I JOIN with you most cordially in rejoicing at the return of peace. I hope it will be lasting, and that mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable creatures, have reason enough to settle their differences without cutting throats; for, in my opinion, there never was a good war or a bad peace. What vast additions to the conveniences and comforts of life might mankind have acquired, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of utility! What an extension of agriculture, even to the tops of the mountains; what rivers rendered navigable, or joined by canals; what bridges, aqueducts, new roads, and other public works, edifices and improvements, rendering England a complete paradise, might not have been obtained by spending those millions in doing good, which in the last war have been spent in doing mischief—in bringing misery into thousands of families, and destroying the lives of so many working people, who might have performed the useful labors.

***

Je m’associe avec vous la plus cordiale allégresse en réjouissant du retour de la paix. J’espère qu’elle durera, et que l’humanité finira par se raisonner, comme ils se disent des créatures raisonnables, pour régler leurs querelles sans couper la gorge; Car, à mon avis, il n’y a jamais eu une bonne guerre ni une mauvaise paix. Quels agrandissements aux convenances et aux conforts de la vie pouvaient avoir les hommes, si l’argent dépensé dans les guerres avait été employé dans des travaux d’utilité! Quelle extension de l’agriculture, même au sommet des montagnes; Quels fleuves rendus navigables, ou joints par des canaux; Les ponts, les aqueducs, les nouvelles routes, les autres ouvrages publics, les édifices et les améliorations, qui font de l’Angleterre un paradis complet, n’auraient pas été obtenus en dépensant ces millions à faire le bien, qui, dans la dernière guerre, La misère en milliers de familles et la destruction de la vie de tant de travailleurs qui auraient pu accomplir les travaux utiles.

The evening and the rose

The Evening and The Rose

Many an hour I’ve shared and spent with you
and never for one hour with you
have I been the least bit worried.
Many many is the flower for you
I’ve picked and plucked,
and, like a bee, with you, with you
honey from it drunk;…

Guido Gezelle, 1858

 

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Guido Gezelle

Who doesn’t like a challenge?

Two weeks ago, I was in Bruge, capitol of West Flanders with my two brothers-in law. No wives, just us. I mention Flanders because, one – the point of our trip was to tour the World War I battlefields of Flanders, and two, in Flanders they speak Flemish. I hope the Flemish will forgive me for saying their language is a melange of Dutch, German, French and English. Google Translate doesn’t have a Flemish translating tool, a surprise to me as it would seem quite simple to do.

But what do I know?

We stayed for two nights just off the central market square at the Hotel Cordoeanier and the attached Cafe Red Rose. Lovely stay, not long enough to take in all the sights, love the bikes everyone rides to and from work, loved the canals, Venice of the North, yada, yada.

 

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Cafe Red Rose

Loved the hotel, loved it breakfast, loved the cafe, loved the Belgian beer and the good conversation we shared with all those that showed up at the Cafe Red Rose in the evening hours. I wasn’t sure about the plastic red roses hanging from the ceiling, but then I hadn’t met Guido Gezelle.

I only mention all this as a lead up to my meeting in Bruges with Guido Gezelle.

Who is Guido and what is he doing in Bruges, you ask? I answer by saying that he is a bit of a fixture in Flemish culture and in the city of Bruge itself. Literally, he is a fixture, a life size bronze statute in a quite city square.

 

There he stands, tall and proud, a resting place for pigeons, and a puzzlement to tourists. Guido – the Italians pronounce it Gwee-do, the Flemish, like the Germans, I assume, Gee-do. It’s Guy in French, and not often used in American-English except in Mafia movies and as one of the characters in Pixar’s animated movie Cars.

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Guido Gezelle statue

 

Guido deserves a little respect for Guido is no less than the national poet of the Flemish language.

When the Flemish speak about Guido, they say this, “Guido Gezelle is zowat de bekendste dichter uit het Vlaamse taalgebied.” He is the most famous poet of the Flemish speaking region.”Bekendste dichter” could as easily translate as well-known poet, and it is a mouthful to speak, as is German, as is Dutch, both of which are similar.

He wrote many poems in the Flemish language, one of which is Dien Avond en die Rooze. The English translation is The Evening and the Rose. One can figure that out fairly easily as it is phonetically close to English. There is a bit of controversy about the poem, but controversy makes for good discussion. The fact is that the poet priest wrote the poem about or to an 18 year old student, Eugène van Oye.

So, what do we read into this? Nothing or everything, as you wish.

My challenge is to take the rest of the poem and translate it into English. If you need help, use the Dutch translator to help with the English translation. After that use your imagination.

My beginning is at the top. Here is the Flemish:

DIEN AVOND EN DIE ROOZE

 

‘k Heb menig uur bij u
gesleten en genoten,
en nooit en heeft een uur met u
me een enklen stond verdroten.

 

‘k Heb menig menig blom voor u
gelezen en geschonken,
en, lijk een bie, met u, met u,
er honing uit gedronken;

 

maar nooit een uur zo lief met u,
zoo lang zij duren koste,
maar nooit een uur zoo droef om u,
wanneer ik scheiden moste,

als de uur wanneer ik dicht bij u,
dien avond, neêrgezeten,
u spreken hoorde en sprak tot u
wat onze zielen weten.

Noch nooit een blom zo schoon, van u
gezocht, geplukt, gelezen,
als die dien avond blonk op u,
en mocht de mijne wezen!

Ofschoon, zoo wel voor mij als u,
– wie zal dit kwaad genezen? –
een uur bij mij, een uur bij u
niet lang een uur mag wezen;

ofschoon voor mij, oschoon voor u,
zoo lief en uitgelezen,
die rooze, al was ‘t een roos van u,
niet lang een roos mocht wezen,

toch lang bewaart, dit zeg ik u,
‘t en ware ik ‘t al verloze,
mijn hert drie dierbre beelden:
u – dien avond – en – die rooze!

 

Source of poem.

 

 

 

 

 

Querelle Anciens

 

Querelle des Anciens et des Modernes

La docte Antiquité dans toute sa durée
A l’égal de nos jours ne fut point éclairée.

 

castle

‘Learned antiquity for all time, was never equal to our days’ – a quarrel in the early 1690s that rattled the Académie française.

Regarde et tout est éclairée, mais c’est ne pas le point.

modern-art

Le fond du trou

pencil

4:37 am.
three hours to sunrise, you start a pot of coffee and wait.
In the winter’s darkness, past the computer screen you look,
For the day’s inspiration then, “On hurle sans bruit, regarde rien.”

Until finally you recall the words of Marguerite Duras:

Se trouver dans un trou, au fond d’un trou, dans une solitude quasi totale et découvrir que seule l’écriture vous sauvera. Hiroshima mon amour.

You find yourself in a hole, at the bottom of the whole in a quiet almost complete and discover only through writing will you be saved.

Une feuille de l’herbe

“Une feuille de l’herbe est pas moins que le voyage-travail des étoiles.”

“A leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

 

blade-grass-vert
Walt Whitman – “A leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

 

 

So said Walt Whitman, meaning that a leaf or blade of grass, like a star is woven into the galaxies of the universe, swirling on a journey to who knows where. So too, each person is a leaf of grass – divine in nature as nature is divine; significant as an individual and yet a part of the sum.

 

Ainsi disait Walt Whitman, ce qui signifie que une feuille d’herbe, comme une étoile est tissé dans les galaxies de l’univers, tourbillonnant sur un voyage qui sait où. Aussi, chaque personne est comme une feuille d’herbe – divine dans la nature que la nature est divine; significative en tant qu’individu et encore une partie de la somme.

 

blades-of-grass
Walt Whitman Blades of Grass

JE CÉLÈBRE …

Je me détends et invite mon âme,
Je me penche et se détendre à mon aise en observant un brin d’herbe d’été.

Ma langue, chaque atome de mon sang, form’d de ce sol, cet air,
Né ici de parents nés ici de parents, de même, et leurs parents le même, …

I CELEBRATE …

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same, …