Quotulatiousness

October 7, 2017

The Trojan War – A tale of Passion and Bloodshed! l HISTORY OF SEX

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

IT’S HISTORY
Published on 23 Sep 2015

The Trojan War is one of the most epic and passionate legends set in Greek Mythology. Legend has it, that Prince Paris fell in love with the beautiful Helena, wife of King Menelaos of Sparta. He took her to Troy, which sent all of the rest of Greece, including the famous warrior Achilles after the city. We’ll explain which incidents on the battles are actually proven and how sex, powerplay and love is interpreted to have led to blood shed more than once during Antiquity. Join Indy for our new episode of BATTLEFIELDS!

September 30, 2017

Area poet exposes big-name poet for plagiarism

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Bancroft is a quiet place (queue the joke about spending a week there one afternoon), and hardly the kind of place that you’d expect to be in the news for the investigative activity of a local poet:

A local Bancroft area poet has garnered international attention after inadvertently discovering and reporting alleged plagiarism by Canada’s former parliamentary poet laureate and Governor General Award-winning poet Pierre DesRuisseaux, now deceased.

“I was looking at Canada’s national poet laureate website, and I saw that some of the former poet laureate [DesRuisseaux’s] material was listed there,” Kathy Figueroa told Bancroft This Week. “I read the translation from the French for the poem J’Avance, and I was completely astounded … it was derived from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise … I recognized it immediately. I was shocked … dismayed … incredulous.”

Figueroa then contacted the Office of the Poet Laureate to report her discovery. She noticed the poem was pulled immediately from the website. She also reported the information to Plagiarism Alert where a British investigator and poet Ira Lightman subsequently determined that other poems attributed to DesRuisseaux had plagiarized well-known poets such as Dylan Thomas and Tupac Shakur, according to CBC News. He reported his findings to the British Guardian newspaper, giving Figueroa credit for her critical part in the discovery.

As a poet herself, plagiarism is not something new. In fact, Figueroa has suffered from theft of her work on several occasions in the past.

“This is not trivial,” she said. “It is very dismaying when your work has been taken by someone else … and especially if that person has a respected name. There is a feeling of helplessness, and it impacts negatively on the person’s creativity. It can leave you disenchanted … you don’t feel like writing anymore.”

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

September 19, 2017

In praise of ancient Greece

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, Sean Gabb explains why we owe so much today to ancient and classical Greek culture:

The Greeks gave us virtually all our philosophy, and the foundation of all our sciences. Their historians were the finest. Their poetry was second only to that of Homer – and it was they who put together all that we have of Homer, and Homer was himself an early Greek. They gave us ideals of beauty, the fading of which has always been a warning sign of decadence; and they gave us the technical means of recording that beauty. They had no examples to imitate. They did everything entirely by themselves. In a world that had always been at the midnight point of barbarism and superstition, they went off like a flashbulb; and everything good in our own world is part of their afterglow. Every renaissance and enlightenment we have had since then has begun with a rediscovery of the Ancient Greeks.

For the avoidance of doubt, I will not say that the Greeks were perfect. Though remarkable human beings – though the most remarkable human beings – they were still human beings, with all the vices and other failings that come with this. But, if you commit your life to staring into that flood of intense light that was Greece, you will not have lived in vain. And, though I do not despise translations, and would never discourage someone from approaching the Greeks only through translation, I will add that the light is most intense when seen directly, through the medium in which the Greeks themselves thought and spoke and wrote.

There are many reasons for learning Greek. A full discussion of them would amount to an advertisement for my services, and would take longer than I have available for this speech. But I will mention three.

The first is that Greek is inherently a beautiful language, and worth studying for itself alone. There is certainly a thrill to speaking it. Take this line from Homer:

    τὸν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς
    To him in answer spake the ever-resourceful Odysseus

For any number of reasons, my pronunciation is corrupt, and no Greek, ancient or modern, would think me other than a barbarian. But say these words, and you are making sounds that were first made when our own ancestors were tattooing their faces and smearing butter into their hair, before perhaps the building of Stonehenge, and when even Rome was no more than a collection of huts not far removed from the stone age.

The second main reason for learning Greek is that we know far less about the Greeks than we would like. So much has been carried away by the ravages of time. For the past six hundred years, a continuous line of scholars in Western Europe, and more recently in America, has laboured to gather and understand all that can be found about the Greeks. Every surviving Greek text has been pressed harder than olives for one of the supermarket chains to give up every possible meaning. Archaeology and all the natural sciences have been put to similar uses. In every century since the fourteenth, we have been able to say at its end that we knew more than at the beginning. But our knowledge remains imperfect. We look on the Greeks as we might on a landscape covered in mist. Here and there, the mist is absent or thinner, and we can be astonished by what we see; and we can hope to extrapolate from what we see to what remains covered.

If you come to the Greeks through translations, it is as if you are looking at that misty landscape though a sheet of coloured glass. Our word translate in Latin, and by extension in French, is traduco. This can mean translate. It can also mean dishonour, degrade or betray. Most translations, whether deliberately or by accident, do all these things to their original. Until very recently, English translators of the classics would labour to conceal the sexual tastes of the Ancients. Many translators labour still, though now to conceal the ancient taste for mood-altering substances. Even otherwise, a translation will not carry over the whole of the original meaning, but will impose on a reader the translator’s view of its meaning. Compare, if you like, my translation of Thucydides with other translations. The basic idea is the same: the choice of words and the balance and even the structure of the statement are different.

This brings me to my third main reason – and here I turn to Latin. If you take individual stories from Homer and put them into translation, they can sometimes work almost as well as they do in Greek. The story of Odysseus in the Cave of Polyphemus is wonderful in itself. So too the story of how Achilles tied the dead body of Hector to his chariot and dragged it about the walls of Troy, and how Priam came out to buy back the body. These stories thrilled me as a child, or moved me to tears. So they can in in any good retelling.

If we turn, however, to Vergil, any translation seems to involve a perceptible loss of impact. Last Easter, I taught some revision courses for A Level Classical Civilisation. One of the modules I covered was Vergil’s The Aeneid in several good English translations. Except for John Dryden’s version, this was my first experience of Vergil in translation. I have said that the translations used were good. They were made by men whose Latin was far better than mine. Compared with the original, however, they were disappointingly flat. Again and again, I would skim the text, looking for the equivalent of some line or phrase that had stamped itself into my memory. Again and again, I was disappointed by the mediocrity of what I made the students read aloud to me.

June 21, 2016

QotD: The nature of poetry

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

A year or two ago, in common with others, I received from America a request that I would define poetry. (America is the source of much irritation of this kind, to be sure.) I replied that I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat, but that I thought we both recognised the object by the symptoms which it provoked in us. One of those symptoms was described in connexion with another object by Eliphaz the Temanite: “A spirit passed before my face: the hair of my flesh stood up.” Experience has taught me, when I am shaving of a morning, to keep watch over my thoughts, because, if a line of poetry strays into my memory, my skin bristles so that the razor ceases to act. This particular symptom is accompanied by a shiver down the spine; there is another which consists in a constriction of the throat and a precipitation of water to the eyes; and there is a third which I can only describe by borrowing a phrase from one of Keats’s last letters, where he says, speaking of Fanny Brawne, “everything that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear.” The seat of this sensation is the pit of the stomach.

A.E. Housman, “The Name and Nature of Poetry”, 1933.

April 21, 2016

QotD: The amazing (ancient) Greeks

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations, Science — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I discovered the Greeks when I was eight, and I came across a copy of Roger Lancelyn-Green’s retelling of The Iliad. I was smitten at once. There was something so wonderfully grand, yet exotic, about the stories. I didn’t get very far with it, but I found a copy of Teach Yourself Greek in the local library and spent weeks puzzling over it. Over the next few years, I read my way through the whole of Greek and Roman mythology, and was drawn into the history of the whole ancient world.

When I was twelve, my classical leanings took me in a new, if wholly predictable, direction. The sexual revolution of the 70s hardly touched most South London schoolboys. The one sex education lesson I had was a joke. Porn was whatever I could see without my glasses in the swimming pool. So I taught myself Latin well enough to read the untranslated naughty bits in the Loeb editions of the classics. The librarians in Lewisham were very particular in those days about what they allowed on their shelves. They never questioned the prestige of the classics, or thought about what I was getting them to order in from other libraries. With help from Martial and Suetonius and Ausonius, among others, I’d soon worked out the mechanics of all penetrative sex, and flagellation and depilation and erotic dances; and I had a large enough fund of anecdotes and whole stories to keep my imagination at full burn all though puberty.

Then, as I grew older, I realised something else about the Greeks — something I’d always known without putting it into words. There’s no doubt that European civilisation, at least since the Renaissance, has outclassed every other. No one ever gathered facts like we do. No one reasoned from them more profoundly or with greater focus. No one approached us in exposing the forces of nature, and in turning them to human advantage. We are now four or five centuries into a curve of progress that keeps turning more steeply upwards. Yet our first steps were guided by others — the Greek, the Romans, the Arabs, and so forth. If we see further than they do, we stand on the backs of giants.

The Greeks had no one to guide them. Unless you want to make exaggerated claims about the Egyptians and Phoenicians, they began from nothing. Between about 600 and 300 BC, the Greeks of Athens and some of the cities of what is now the Turkish coast were easily the most remarkable people who ever lived. They gave us virtually all our philosophy, and the foundation of all our sciences. Their historians were the finest. Their poetry was second only to that of Homer — and it was they who put together all that we have of Homer. They gave us ideals of beauty, the fading of which has always been a warning sign of decadence; and they gave us the technical means of recording that beauty. Again, they had no examples to imitate. They did everything entirely by themselves. In a world that had always been at the midnight point of barbarism and superstition, they went off like a flashbulb; and everything good in our own world is part of their afterglow. Every renaissance and enlightenment we have had since then has begun with a rediscovery of the ancient Greeks. Modern chauvinists may argue whether England or France or Germany has given more to the world. In truth, none of us is fit to kiss the dust on which the ancient Greeks walked.

How can you stumble into their world, and not eventually be astonished by what the Greeks achieved? From the time I was eight, into early manhood, I felt wave after wave of adoration wash over me, each one more powerful than the last.

Richard Blake, “Interview with Richard Blake”, 2014-03-14.

September 3, 2015

QotD: The lingering malady of poetry

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

For no man, of course, ever quite gets over poetry. He may seem to have recovered from it, just as he may seem to have recovered from the measles of his school-days, but exact observation teaches us that no such recovery is ever quite perfect; there always remains a scar, a weakness and a memory.

Now, there is reason for maintaining that the taste for poetry, in the process of human development, marks a stage measurably later than the stage of religion. Savages so little cultured that they know no more of poetry than a cow have elaborate and often very ingenious theologies. If this be true, then it follows that the individual, as he rehearses the life of the species, is apt to carry his taste for poetry further along than he carries his religion — that if his development is arrested at any stage before complete intellectual maturity that arrest is far more likely to leave hallucinations.

H.L. Mencken, “The Nature of Faith”, Prejudices, Fourth Series, 1924.

August 25, 2015

QotD: Poetry

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Many years ago, when I was more reckless intellectually than I am today, I proposed the application of Haeckel’s biogenetic law — to wit, that the history of the individual rehearses the history of the species to the domain of ideas. So applied, it leads to some superficially startling but probably quite sound conclusions, for example, that an adult poet is simply an individual in a state of arrested development — in brief, a sort of moron. Just as all of us, in utero, pass through a stage in which we are tadpoles, and almost indistinguishable from the tadpoles which afterward become frogs, so all of us pass through a stage, in our nonage, when we are poets. A youth of seventeen who is not a poet is simply a donkey: his development has been arrested even anterior to that of the tadpole. But a man of fifty who still writes poetry is either an unfortunate who has never developed, intellectually, beyond his teens, or a conscious buffoon who pretends to be something that he isn’t — something far younger and juicier than he actually is […] Something else, of course, may enter into it. The buffoonery may be partly conscious and deliberate, and partly Freudian. Many an aging man keeps on writing poetry simply because it gives him the illusion that he is still young. For the same reason, perhaps, he plays tennis, wears green cravats, and tries to convince himself that he is in love.

H.L. Mencken, “The Nature of Faith”, Prejudices, Fourth Series, 1924.

May 14, 2015

QotD: The value of poetry

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Once, after plowing through sixty or seventy volumes of bad verse, I described myself as a poetry-hater. The epithet was and is absurd. The truth is that I enjoy poetry as much as the next man — when the mood is on me. But what mood? The mood, in a few words, of intellectual and spiritual fatigue, the mood of revolt against the insoluble riddle of existence, the mood of disgust and despair. Poetry, then, is a capital medicine. First its sweet music lulls, and then its artful presentation of the beautifully improbable soothes and gives surcease. It is an escape from life, like religion, like enthusiasm, like glimpsing a pretty girl. And to the mere sensuous joy in it, to the mere low delight in getting away from the world for a bit, there is added, if the poetry be good, something vastly better, something reaching out into the realm of the intelligent, to wit, appreciation of good workmanship. A sound sonnet is almost as pleasing an object as a well-written fugue. A pretty lyric, deftly done, has all the technical charm of a fine carving. I think it is craftsmanship that I admire most in the world. Brahms enchants me because he knew his trade perfectly. I like Richard Strauss because he is full of technical ingenuities, because he is a master-workman. Well, who ever heard of a finer craftsman than William Shakespeare? His music was magnificent, he played superbly upon all the common emotions — and he did it magnificently, he did it with an air. No, I am no poetry-hater. But even Shakespeare I most enjoy, not on brisk mornings when I feel fit for any deviltry, but on dreary evenings when my old wounds are troubling me, and some fickle one has just sent back the autographed set of my first editions, and bills are piled up on my desk, and I am too sad to work. Then I mix a stiff dram — and read poetry.

H.L. Mencken, “The Poet and His Art”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.

April 9, 2015

QotD: The subconscious mind of the poet

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One of the things to remember here (too often it is forgotten, and Dr. Prescott deserves favorable mention for stressing it) is that a man’s conscious desires are not always identical with his subconscious longings; in fact, the two are often directly antithetical. No doubt the real man lies in the depths of the subconscious, like a carp lurking in mud. His conscious personality is largely a product of his environment — the reaction of his subconscious to the prevailing notions of what is meet and seemly.

Here, of course, I wander into platitude, for the news that all men are frauds was already stale in the days of Hammurabi. The ingenious Freud simply translated the fact into pathological terms, added a bedroom scene, and so laid the foundations for his psychoanalysis. Incidentally, it has always seemed to me that Freud made a curious mistake when he brought sex into the foreground of his new magic. He was, of course, quite right when he set up the doctrine that, in civilized societies, sex impulses were more apt to be suppressed than any other natural impulses, and that the subconscious thus tended to be crowded with their ghosts. But in considering sex impulses, he forgot sex imaginings. Digging out, by painful cross-examination in a darkened room, some startling tale of carnality in his patient’s past, he committed the incredible folly of assuming it to be literally true. More often than not, I believe, it was a mere piece of boasting, a materialization of desire — in brief, a poem. It is astonishing that this possibility never occurred to the venerable professor; it is more astonishing that it has never occurred to any of his disciples. He should have psychoanalyzed a few poets instead of wasting all his time upon psychopathic women with sclerotic husbands. He would have dredged amazing things out of their subconsciouses, heroic as well as amorous. Imagine the billions of Boers, Germans, Irishmen and Hindus that Kipling would have confessed to killing!

H.L. Mencken, “The Poet and His Art”, Prejudices, Third Series, 1922.

March 21, 2015

Who was Sappho?

Filed under: Europe, History, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the New Yorker, Daniel Mendelsohn discusses our evolving views of the poet Sappho:

One day not long after New Year’s, 2012, an antiquities collector approached an eminent Oxford scholar for his opinion about some brownish, tattered scraps of writing. The collector’s identity has never been revealed, but the scholar was Dirk Obbink, a MacArthur-winning classicist whose specialty is the study of texts written on papyrus — the material, made of plant fibres, that was the paper of the ancient world. When pieced together, the scraps that the collector showed Obbink formed a fragment about seven inches long and four inches wide: a little larger than a woman’s hand. Densely covered with lines of black Greek characters, they had been extracted from a piece of desiccated cartonnage, a papier-mâché-like plaster that the Egyptians and Greeks used for everything from mummy cases to bookbindings. After acquiring the cartonnage at a Christie’s auction, the collector soaked it in a warm water solution to free up the precious bits of papyrus.

Judging from the style of the handwriting, Obbink estimated that it dated to around 200 A.D. But, as he looked at the curious pattern of the lines — repeated sequences of three long lines followed by a short fourth — he saw that the text, a poem whose beginning had disappeared but of which five stanzas were still intact, had to be older.

Much older: about a thousand years more ancient than the papyrus itself. The dialect, diction, and metre of these Greek verses were all typical of the work of Sappho, the seventh-century-B.C. lyric genius whose sometimes playful, sometimes anguished songs about her susceptibility to the graces of younger women bequeathed us the adjectives “sapphic” and “lesbian” (from the island of Lesbos, where she lived). The four-line stanzas were in fact part of a schema she is said to have invented, called the “sapphic stanza.” To clinch the identification, two names mentioned in the poem were ones that several ancient sources attribute to Sappho’s brothers. The text is now known as the “Brothers Poem.”

Remarkably enough, this was the second major Sappho find in a decade: another nearly complete poem, about the deprivations of old age, came to light in 2004. The new additions to the extant corpus of antiquity’s greatest female artist were reported in papers around the world, leaving scholars gratified and a bit dazzled. “Papyrological finds,” as one classicist put it, “ordinarily do not make international headlines.”

But then Sappho is no ordinary poet. For the better part of three millennia, she has been the subject of furious controversies — about her work, her family life, and, above all, her sexuality. In antiquity, literary critics praised her “sublime” style, even as comic playwrights ridiculed her allegedly loose morals. Legend has it that the early Church burned her works. (“A sex-crazed whore who sings of her own wantonness,” one theologian wrote, just as a scribe was meticulously copying out the lines that Obbink deciphered.) A millennium passed, and Byzantine grammarians were regretting that so little of her poetry had survived. Seven centuries later, Victorian scholars were doing their best to explain away her erotic predilections, while their literary contemporaries, the Decadents and the Aesthetes, seized on her verses for inspiration. Even today, experts can’t agree on whether the poems were performed in private or in public, by soloists or by choruses, or, indeed, whether they were meant to celebrate or to subvert the conventions of love and marriage. The last is a particularly loaded issue, given that, for many readers and scholars, Sappho has been a feminist heroine or a gay role model, or both. “As far as I knew, there was only me and a woman called Sappho,” the critic Judith Butler once remarked.

October 16, 2014

QotD: The art of writing

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

I’d like to say it’s great to be back from vacation, but frankly it’s not. A lot of people think the biggest problem with being a pundit is all the blood sacrifice and unlicensed steel-cage shovel fighting. That’s true. But there’s obviously nothing to be done about that. Another problem is that when you usually write several thousand words a week — at least — you build up muscle memory. It’s like exercise — I’m told. When you train yourself to run every day, taking a week off doesn’t make running easier, but harder. Since I’ve been back, I haven’t been able to find my groove (this isn’t it). I had to delete the first 700 words of this “news”letter because it turned into a lengthy poem in Esperanto about chinchillas. Frankly, I nailed the iambic pentameter. Maybe someday I will publish “Kiam la Chinchilla vekas el sia dormado en la pantalono de mia koro” (Loosely: “When the chinchilla awakes from his slumber in the trousers of my heart”), but today is not that day.

Jonah Goldberg, “The Goldberg File”, 2014-04-04

September 7, 2014

QotD: Love in later life

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

It is my conviction that no normal man ever fell in love, within the ordinary meaning of the word, after the age of thirty. He may, at forty, pursue the female of his species with great assiduity, and he may, at fifty, sixty or even seventy, “woo” and marry a more or less fair one in due form of law, but the impulse that moves him in these follies at such ages is never the complex of outlandish illusions and hallucinations that poets describe as love. This complex is quite natural to all males between adolescence and the age of, say, twenty-five, when the kidneys begin to disintegrate. For a youth to reach twenty-one without having fallen in love in an abject and preposterous manner would be for doubts to be raised as to his normalcy. But if he does it after his wisdom teeth are cut, it is no more than a sign that they have been cut in vain — that he is still in his teens, whatever his biological and legal age. Love, so-called, is based upon a view of women that is impossible to any man who has any experience of them. Such a man may, to the end of his life, enjoy the charm of their society, and even respect them and admire them, but, however much he respects and admires them, he nevertheless sees them more or less clearly, and seeing them clearly is fatal to true romance. Find a man of forty-five who heaves and moans over a woman, however amiable and lovely, in the manner of a poet and you will behold either a man who ceased to develop intellectually at twenty-four or thereabout, or a fraud who has his eye on the lands, tenements and hereditaments of the lady’s deceased first husband. Or upon her talents as nurse, or cook, amanuesis and audience. This, no doubt, is what George Bernard Shaw meant when he said that every man over forty is a scoundrel.

H.L. Mencken, “The Nature of Faith”, Prejudices, Fourth Series, 1924.

June 23, 2014

Censoring WW1 art

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:29

In BBC News Magazine, Alan Little looks at some early WW1 art that fell afoul of the censors for being too accurate:

Paths of Glory by Christopher Nevinson

What you notice first about the two figures in Christopher Nevinson’s painting Paths of Glory is the banality of their deaths. Their commonplace, mundane fate. They lie face down in the blasted earth, two men in British military fatigues, their helmets and rifles lying in the mud beside them.

They are indistinguishable from each other, stripped of individual identity. Nothing marks them out as the unique human beings they must once have been with names, and families, and remembered childhoods, and desire and love and hope and ambition.

From the bottom left of the composition, where the corpse in the foreground lies with the soles of his boots facing you, your eye moves diagonally upwards and to the right, to the second dead man, who has fallen forwards towards you, and you see the top of his dark head but Nevinson denies you a glimpse of his face. He has no face, no personality, no story of his own. In colour, texture and even contour, the lifeless bodies are almost indistinguishable from the land on which they lie, and which will now swallow them.

In my time as a war reporter for the BBC I have come across scenes like this. You cannot mistake the recently dead for the sleeping, for there is something bloodless, something shockingly, arrestingly lifeless about them. I have found myself transfixed by odd detail — a bootlace tied just a few hours ago, by fingers that will now never move again. What talents lie locked into the muscle memory of those fingers? Could they, as recently as this morning, have picked out a melody on a piano? With the death of each individual, an entire universe vanishes.

[…]

I think of those two young men whose names I never learned when I look at Nevinson’s Paths of Glory. Its title is taken from Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard. “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r, / And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave / Awaits alike th’inevitable hour. / The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

Government censors did not like Paths of Glory. They judged it bad for morale and refused to pay Nevinson for it. But he included it anyway in the first exhibition of his war paintings in London early in 1918, with a brown paper strip across the canvas carrying the word “censored”. He was reprimanded both for exhibiting a censored painting and, bizarrely, for unauthorised use of the word “censored” in a public place. But the painting was bought, during that exhibition, by the Imperial War Museum, where it remains.

February 26, 2013

Kipling rediscovered

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 17:27

In the Guardian, Alison Flood talks about the newly discovered Rudyard Kipling poems:

Kipling scholars are celebrating the publication of lost poems by the author whose exhortations in “If” to “keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you” are regularly voted the nation’s favourite poem. Discovered by the American scholar Thomas Pinney in an array of hiding places including family papers, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and during renovations at a Manhattan house, more than 50 previously unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling will be released for the first time next month.

The collection includes several poems dating from the first world war, which Kipling initially supported, helping his son John to gain a commission in the Irish Guards.

A short poem, “The Gambler”, finishes with the couplet: “Three times wounded; three times gassed / Three times wrecked – I lost at last”, while another fragment runs: “This was a Godlike soul before it was crazed / No matter. The grave makes whole.”

After his son’s death at the Battle of Loos in 1915, Kipling regretted his earlier enthusiasm for the conflict, writing in his “Epitaphs of the War”: “If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied”.

November 30, 2012

Stopping by the Copyright Office on a Snowy Evening

Filed under: Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:28

Virginia Postrel charts the ever-expanding copyright protections under US law:

Even as digital technology has made reproducing, remixing and repurposing creative works easier — with potentially enormous benefits for consumers and producers of new works — the monopoly privileges of copyright have expanded. The result is a bizarre combination of rampant copyright violations, frequent encroachment on legitimate fair use, suppression of new technologies and business models, and the ever-present threat of draconian penalties.

Consider how the law applies to Robert Frost’s classic poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” first published in 1923. Back then you only got copyright privileges for works officially registered with the copyright office, and only for a term of 28 years, which could be renewed if you filed again, as Frost did in 1951.

Requiring such simple procedures reserved copyright privileges for creators with strong commercial or sentimental interests in limiting the publication of their works. Today, by contrast, copyright automatically applies to every eligible work, including your vacation snapshots and your 4-year-old’s handmade Mother’s Day card.

Under the law when Frost wrote his poem and renewed the copyright on the volume including it, it would have presumably entered the public domain in 1979, more than a decade after its author’s death in 1963. That’s not what happened. Beginning in 1962, Congress gradually extended copyright terms, and in 1976 it passed a new copyright act that gives works already under copyright a new term of 75 years from their first publication. That meant “Stopping by Woods” wouldn’t go into the public domain until 1998.

That’s not what happened either. Just as the poem’s copyright was about to expire, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which gave existing works a new copyright term of 95 years. (The 1923 Frost volume including the poem was one of the works cited in a lawsuit unsuccessfully challenging the act’s constitutionality.) So Frost’s poem won’t enter the public domain until 2018 — assuming that Congress doesn’t pass yet another extension.

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