Monday Morning Poem: Merry Autumn

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.

Such principles are most absurd,—
I care not who first taught ‘em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.

In solemn times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.

Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow;
And e’en the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.

The seed burs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.

A butterfly goes winging by;
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o’er with laughter.

The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
And laughs among the grasses.

The earth is just so full of fun
It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.

Don’t talk to me of solemn days
In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it’s the climax of the year,—
The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.

Thriller: Inferno, by Dan Brown

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon awakens in a hospital room in Florence, Italy, with no memory of how or why he came to be there. No sooner does he regain consciousness than a mysterious, spiky haired woman in leather bursts into his room with her gun blazing. She misses Langdon, but, sad to say, kills his doctor instantly. Once again, Langdon goes on the run, accompanied by the beautiful Sienna Brooks, who is also on his medical team. Bit by bit, she informs him of a plot by a mad geneticist, who will shortly release a virus upon the world, one that promises to curtail population growth just as the Black Plague used to do naturally. Clues left by the geneticist are excerpted from one of the most famous poems ever written, Dante’s Inferno. It’s up to Langdon to decipher them and save humanity from disaster. His quest will take them to Venice and Istanbul, where he’ll be required to search within the holiest shrines of the Christian and Muslim cultures.

OK, as usual, the exploits, close escapes, and intellectual feats of hero Langdon are over the top, incredibly so. But that’s what makes Brown’s series so much fun. With Inferno, Brown has tightened up his writing style, producing a novel with less unnecessary window dressing and more substance. The fate from which the madman is trying to save the world is a true one, which most realistic scientists agree will probably begin wreaking havoc very soon. Brown weaves in information about architecture, literature, medicine, genetics, and population growth while managing to keep the action speeding right along. And, darn it, Langdon’s such an appealing kind of guy. So pack away your common sense and literary pretensions, and enjoy another wild ride with Robert Langdon. Great literature? Nope. Great entertainment? You bet. And the movie is already in production.

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It’s a Mystery: A Fatal Likeness, by Lynn Shepherd

A Fatal Likeness

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are many unanswered questions about the short life of Percy Bysshe Shelley, who lost many loved ones to untimely deaths. Lynn Shepherd’s latest Charles Maddox novel proposes some possibilities. Maddox is hired by the widow (who is the author of Frankenstein), son, and daughter in law of the famous poet, who live in fear of the publication of some scandalous material pertaining to those deaths. The Shelleys engage Maddox to ascertain whether Claire Claremont, despised stepsister to the widow, possesses compromising papers and plans to publish them. Soon he finds himself dead center in the battle of the relatives, and the truths he unmasks are indeed shocking.

This is an intriguing premise, but the book has some problems. First, the plot takes way too long to gel. Second, the characters, with the exception of Maddox, remain too shady and remote for the reader to gain a sense of who they really are. Third, the frequent shifts in perspective, as related by the omniscient narrator, are generally confusing. Fourth, the sinister conclusions drawn about the deaths are difficult to accept. Fifth, in spite of it all, there is very little of substance to learn about Percy’s life I know the author can do better, having enjoyed The Solitairy House, the first Charles Maddox novel. Perhaps some tighter editing could have made Likeness more readable.

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Monday Morning Poem: A Something in a Summer’s Day

by Emily Dickinson

A something in a summer’s Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away

Nordic Summer Evening, Richard Bergh (public domain via Wikimedia)

Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer’s noon –
A depth — an Azure — a perfume –
Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer’s night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see –

Then veil my too inspecting face
Lets such a subtle — shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me –

The wizard fingers never rest –
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes it narrow bed –

Still rears the East her amber Flag –
Guides still the sun along the Crag
His Caravan of Red –

So looking on — the night — the morn
Conclude the wonder gay –
And I meet, coming thro’ the dews
Another summer’s Day!

Monday Morning Poem: Over the Land is April

by Robert Louis Stevenson

OVER the land is April,
Over my heart a rose;
Over the high, brown mountain
The sound of singing goes.
Say, love, do you hear me,
Hear my sonnets ring?
Over the high, brown mountain,
Love, do you hear me sing?

By highway, love, and byway
The snows succeed the rose.
Over the high, brown mountain
The wind of winter blows.
Say, love, do you hear me,
Hear my sonnets ring?
Over the high, brown mountain
I sound the song of spring,
I throw the flowers of spring.
Do you hear the song of spring?
Hear you the songs of spring?

Monday Morning Poem: A Spring Rain

By Raymond A. Foss

The world is wet today
luxurious, damp, drenched
drops hug the leaves,
anoint the still budded lilac blossoms
before their blooming
rich purple and plum
made richer by their watery skin
New leaves under the weight
droplets heavy, hanging
bowing the white pine needles
undersides exposed to drink
drink in the morning
hushed in the rain
temperature near the dewpoint
sprouts of just planted flowers
eager from the parched soil
new puddles bloom too
on the ground, the driveway
collect and gather
without the smell of summer rain yet
tears splash and spread
silent shimmers, heralds, messengers
in the spring rain

Monday Morning Poem: Hope is the thing…

by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.