My Truth through Blake and Shelley

 

The United States, 2019

Inspired by William Blake

I walk through the loud-quiet streets,

Where no one is a friend or a foe.

And I try to smile at every face I meet

But I am forsaken of the hate, I am filled with woe.

 

In every cry of every Woman,

In every immigrant taken away,

In every march, in every game plan

I feel left out from the alleyway

 

How the unheard cry,

Every religion in remorse,

I cannot just sit around waiting to die

For in the end, I would be just a lying corpse

 

But I ask what can I participate in?

What can I do than just give my time?

There is a power growing within

And it will lead to wartime

 

The U.S. in 2019

Inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley

An old, racist, orange, loathed, and lying President;

Privileged, the ignorant of the majority, who trickle

Through with their public persona, —blood from a fountain of tears;

Lawmakers who neither see nor comprehend, scared to lose a nickel,

But as if they are moths to a flame when their people give false cheers

Till they realize the insincere, acting what is wanted, but are with minds of fickle.

People of color mocked and imprisoned in the unrecognizable towns;

An unforeseen alliance, who will bring about change

Will attempt to start a battle where many will be brought down;

Obscure and buoyant laws which persuade for an understanding exchange;

Scientific Religion, God-filled—a fate sealed;

A senate, the people’s worst statute, a constant battlefield—-

Filled with the graves of those who would have brought great reign

But are forgotten and ignored until another chance comes again

 

Merced, 2019

Inspired by William Blake

I walk through the green filled land,

Where there is a serene mood at every corner

Given my status from the city, I want to understand firsthand,

Why such a quiet calm place makes me feel like a foreigner

 

In every local business that spews their time,

In every Mercedian trying to get by,

I feel as though I am always on the climb,

To try and reach a point where all I can do is try

 

How the locals try to smile at the youth,

How the school tries to make their problems anew

Living here is like I’m living in my untruth

Constantly and always feeling blue

 

But I do try my best to try and appreciate

For Merced is quite its own unique place

I often wonder if my presence here is fate

But for now, that’s an unresolved case

 

Review:

What I’ve always appreciated about English and writing is that it’s a way and approach for people to display their own personal truth. For my creative project, I decided to write different versions of Percy Shelley and William Blake’s poems about London, but for the writings to speak my own truth about how I see the United States and Merced right now. Two very conflicting topics for me as I have a lot of love and distrust over both places at the current moment.

I knew I wanted to continue writing under the influence of Blake as I found his poem, London, 1802, incredibly moving and easy to understand. I followed his format of alternate rhyme, or most often known as ABAB rhyme scheme, and I kept his constant question asking tactics to evoke a sense of worry and plea for the reader. Percy Shelley’s poem was, to be frank, a poem that I struggled with in both reading and writing it. I understood what Shelley was trying to say and evoke in his poem but translating it for a more modern audience was a challenge. It almost followed the rhyme scheme of a Ballade but not exactly. It was, however, close enough where I knew where to rhyme and how to form lines that didn’t read as fillers for a rhyme scheme. Shelley also goes through stages of criticism and analysis when writing his poem, which I tried to replicate by overtly writing my disapproval of what’s happening in today’s politics while also writing lines as a bystander witnessing everything.

I wouldn’t say I parodied Blake or Shelley, I believe I took influences in the manner that they wrote and the topics they posed and transformed them into a more modern setting with current topics that my classmates would empathize with. I wrote two based on the United States because the one thing everybody can agree on today is that we are drastically divided in opinions and ideas. It’s important to have conversations addressing these issues so that was my reasoning for writing those poems. The one poem of Merced was my take and ode to what my time in Merced has shown/taught me. I see it as a continuation of my poem about San Francisco I wrote for the class a few weeks ago and I liked the idea of writing about Merced. The poems aren’t exactly imitations of Shelley and Wordsworth because I didn’t copy line by line or even formatted the lines the same way. I followed their rhyme scheme and writing tactics more than anything. Overall, Shelley and Blake are two great writers who taught me a lot about writing poetry and it was therapeutic writing these poems.

-Abe Alvarez

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Dear Harp of my Country!

“Dear Harp of my Country! In darkness I found thee.” This is how the Irish poet and songwriter, Thomas Moore, begins his poem titled Dear Harp of my Country. According to harpspectrum.org, the topic of the harp and its history is “a story of a fight to survive through regeneration and adaptation in a changing society.”

Thomas Moore than anything describes the harp as a staple of Ireland and writes about its iconic stature and symbolism. “Go, sleep with the sunshine of Fame on thy slumbers.” This is a reference to the harp’s famous representation of Irish culture. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Irish harp began to show up in a lot of different paintings and arts. Moore makes a nod to not just the iconic status of the harp, but how the harp is very representative of Ireland itself. “When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee.” Here, Moore is describing how when the harp is being played, hence the “unbound thee” line, you can tell it’s being played in a proud and pleased manner considering the harp means so much to Ireland.

Moore uses an interesting way of the cultural history of the harp to convey his message of loving his homeland. He mentions keywords such as freedom, soldier, patriot, and worthy. By doing this, Moore is extending history in a subtle way. He gives hints about honor and patriotism in the establishment and history of the harp. What’s interesting to note is how in the early decades of the nineteenth century, writers used the Irish harp as metaphors to address social injustices, specifically poverty of the many native Irish. Moore does this subtly by writing the line “Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine.” This line could represent how Moore acknowledges that someone, possibly of lower status, will play the instrument due to how much importance the harp has on the Irish people. It’s subtle, like most of the poem, but an argument can be made.

-Abe Alvarez

San Francisco, 2019

San Francisco

Inspired by London by William Blake

 

I wander through the eclectic streets,

Where one can find a battle of wealth and poor.

Past the building that drives people to Tweet,

While dreams are abandoned on the floor.

 

In every cry of every local,

In every student’s plea for change,

All people need to come together and be vocal,

For the city’s becoming too strange.

 

How the faithful teachers cry,

Every bus driver’s wail,

While millionaire techies look up to the sky,

And the homeless are thrown into jail.

 

But the land maintains aesthetic appeal,

As shown by the rise in prices.

The neighbors are never given a good deal,

And no one will look up from their devices.

 

-Abe Alvarez

A Stunning Image Brings about a Romantic Feeling

“How rich the wave, in front, imprest, with evening-twilight’s summer hues, while, facing thus the crimson west.” One can already imagine different images with these few lines. In “Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, at evening,” we get a decent description of the setting. Somewhere near an ocean, lake, or pond on an early summer morning. The sun is beaming but barely enough to peek through whatever crack or corner it can find. A “crimson west” indicates there is not only colour in the sky but passion as well. What other colour is more passionate than a specific red hue that inclines to purple.

In Théodore Gericault’s “Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct” (1818), we can clearly see an almost miraculous breathtaking image. Different structures built upon mountains and hills near an area of water. It has a balance of lively energetic nature views that contrast with a specific gloomy undertone in certain areas of the painting.  On the left, there are trees with bountiful amounts of leaves and green that are flaunted by the bright exposure of the sunrise while on the bottom right, there is a significantly smaller tree with few branches almost hidden in the murky shadows. This painting helps viewers and readers see the intentions of Romantic poetry such as the one mentioned above.

“Such views the youthful bard allure, but, heedless of the following gloom, he deems their colours shall endure ‘till peace go with him to the tomb.” This alludes to a sight so beautiful and remarkable, how shame it is that some will be distracted by outside forces to take in such a sight. The painting itself is quite stunning, no question about it, but how does it accomplish such triumph? The realistic features in the painting such as trees and hills help viewers comprehend a sight that can be true. The colours and hues are bright and dense which leaves a warm sensation across admirers because of the genuine choice of paint and tint.

Overall, the image is honest and pure. It’s a portrait of a calm area and the artist’s choices of colours and objects to be included in the painting help reveal Romantic themes such as loving nature and having a profound feeling or awareness of life.

-Abe Alvarez

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A Journey of the Mariner’s Inner World

Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is, to my own opinion, very much like Romantic poetry. Romantic poetry is often characterized as a focus on the writer or narrator’s emotions and inner world and a celebration of nature, beauty, and imagination. Iron Maiden doesn’t derive away from these specific characteristics in their song. More than anything, they emphasize on these sections of the poem for their song to create a more expressive response from their listeners and to retain the central message of the poem: to love all of God’s creatures and creations.

Of course, Iron Maiden had to take some creative decision making to fit the poem into the rhythmic beat of a rock song. In the opening lines of Iron Maiden’s song, “Hear the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. See his eye as he stops one of three”, is incredibly different from how Coleridge opens his own poem, “It is an ancient Mariner, And he stoppeth one of three.” Of course, Iron Maiden isn’t going to go word-by-word of Coleridge’s poem in a song, they had to change the lyrics, but Iron Maiden’s song keeps the crucial aspects of the poem to express to listeners the severity of the Mariner’s action and the rough and treacherous journey the Mariner and the crewman took. After meeting with death, the song changes tune and only a guitar is heard with a low voice from the singer describing the deaths of the crewman that were affected by the curse. “With a heavy thump, a lifeless lump, they dropped one by one.” This section of the song in its tune is expressing sorrow and grief which reflect back to the lyrics. The song overall is focusing on the narrator’s emotions and how not only what it feels like, but what it sounds like.

The closing remarks of the songs prove that it’s like a Romantic poem as it expressed a celebration of nature, in a darker and gloomier way compared traditional Romantic poetry. “To teach God’s word by his own example, that we must love all things that God made.” The song does almost everything like Romantic poetry but with a darker twist. Therefore, it can be considered Romantic poetry. It expresses a lesson to love nature and see its beauty and the 13-minute song is a journey of both feelings and listening to the Mariner’s inner world.

-Abe Alvarez

Knowledge and Truth in Writings

“That he who cannot stem his anger’s tide, Doth a wild horse without a bridle ride” (Act 2, Scene 7, Cibber). This is a quote Olaudah Equiano uses in his autobiography (pg. 186) and he is quoting Colley Cibber from his play Love’s Last Shift. Equiano decides to incorporate this quote into the last few pages of chapter six which was a chapter that had a lot of misfortunes for Equiano as he was going from ship to ship being mistreated by captains before he sets off once again for England.

This scene is set right after a violent attack by his captain in which Equiano realized that when pushed to a certain limit, he would not resist in killing a man. Equiano then proceeds to ask God for forgiveness and quotes Isaiah I from the bible as well. The quote from Cibber is used in a way to remind Equiano to control his anger. The quote, in my opinion, represents how someone who drives their actions based on anger and rage is reckless and will lose themselves. While Equiano is using this quote to show the readers how he keeps his anger in control, he is as well as criticizing the captain for not being able to control his anger and subside it sooner. Had the captain controlled his anger, Equiano would not have been nearly killed and Equiano would not have had thoughts of killing.

Love’s Last Shift, the play from which the quote comes from, is an English Restoration comedy which deals with a woman named Amanda who finds her husband. who has been away for 10 years, going from brothel to bottle constantly. She tricks him into thinking she is a prostitute and when he realizes her faithfulness, decides to change his ways.

Now, one may question Equiano’s reference to a play that was both comedic but promiscuous. I myself even questioned it. But when you look back at how Equiano’s life was filled with mistreatment and abuse, you would assume that Equiano tried to “escape” his reality by reading these different works of literature, poetry, drama, and theological works. It’s not a surprise that Equiano would do this, but what is questionable is using a quote about controlling anger from a comedy in his narrative. It would imply how Equiano would try to find knowledge in almost everything he read. That would answer the question about why he obsessed over different works of writing and thought. He wanted and almost needed to find answers in whatever he read.

Equiano’s use of different literary works in his narrative shows both the intellectualness and awareness that Equiano possessed. He was determined to find light and answers in what he could get his hands on or learn about. He used these works to remind him about important lessons and to be resourceful. This is why he writes the quotes in his narrative, to pass on what he has learned to the readers in hopes that they too find answers and to control their emotions as well as actions.

-Abe Alvarez

The “Honest” Truth

Jonathan Swift is clearly an incredible writer as well as a being really funny with his writings and satire. He pokes fun at a lot of the traveler’s telling stories that were released during his time. I believe, if we look specifically at Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels alongside Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of her captivity, we can see how Swift would be using satire to almost make fun of this specific type of writing.

Specifically looking at the second paragraph on page 33 of Gulliver’s Travels, which begins with “In the meantime, the Emperor held frequent Councils to debate what Course should be taken with me.” The page in general deals with the narrator describing the different questions and concerns the island of Lilliput might have should Gulliver stay such as “my diet would be very expensive and might cause a famine.” It brought me back to when Mary was asked by the Native Americans to come with her or they would hurt her compared to Gulliver who had councils to determine whether or not to let him stay. It’s quite interesting to note but the main difference is how Mary was forced to come and Gulliver simply arrived at the island.

But another thing that caught my eye was when Gulliver pondered how they would kill him, “…or at least to shoot me in the face and hands with poisoned arrows, which would soon dispatch me.” It’s interesting to note how Gulliver mentions this almost as a joke. How these tiny 6-inch people would have to shoot hundreds of arrows tipped with poison to dispatch of him but then would have to worry about the plague that could occur of his decaying body. While Mary’s account featured a lot of arrows being thrown at people and actually being killed. I don’t believe this is a direct link to Mary Rowland’s account but there definitely is some context of Swift using satire to poke fun and have a little humor with such accounts. Especially considering how he would say to his cousin that the accounts were true.

-Abraham Alvarez

An Endless Cycle

Mary Rowlandson’s narration was just one of the different perspectives of what happened. Not arguing that the traumatic and terrible things she witnessed and faced are false or invalid, but her views were biased in terms of what she felt towards the Native Americans. Overall, one can’t argue what happened to her wasn’t upsetting or awful. As a human being, she went through a substantial amount, but this is not to say that one side was righter or more wrong.

It’s an endless cycle of violence against violence for violence against violence. In the end, a lot of people died tragically. Does this confirm, contradict, or complicate the history of intolerance against indigenous people during the English colonization of eastern North America? It has always been complicated, but it is not an argument that indigenous people were treated unfairly.

Even to this day, that is a topic of conversation which time and time again reminds people of what history has shown us which is indigenous people have suffered due to settlers and colonist. What is different is we are viewing it through the eyes of a discriminatory woman who suffered a traumatic terrible event.

But what do we learn from reading this point of view? Just because it is ethically wrong does not mean it does not give insight or perspective. I believe it shows the horror of war and massacre. The horror of the mentality where killing is justified. Children, men, and women were murdered on both sides. There shouldn’t have been an eye for an eye nor a reason to have one in the first place. It doesn’t show the truth of human nature. It shows the truth of human emotion and anger. Same can be said about Dryden’s play The Indian Emperour, a lot of characters reacted out of emotion, anger and frustration. Maybe that’s why Dryden didn’t have Cydaria and Cortez end up together. The complexity of the matter and of the situation. I think while Mary’s narration was hard to read due to a lot of the racism and prejudices, it’s still a piece of literature and a telling of a woman’s horrific journey. I believe, overall, it’s a telling of being afraid and of the unknown which a lot of the indigenous people face when the settlers came. It’s the fear that drives people to do crazy things sometimes.

Abe Alvarez

The Fake Reality of Restoration Theatre

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The theatre has been home to many great stories of love, tragedy, and comedy. It has been around for years and will remain telling diverse stories to future generations. Dryden makes a conscious point to not marry and bring together Cydaria and Cortez in the end. While there is mention of love being shared, it was never brought to full unison as one expects it to be done in the theatre, especially for the time it was shown.

Restoration theatre was an interesting time for theatre as most of the plays, or at least the ones audience enjoyed more were comedies. Audiences did watch tragedies but not as much as they loved a happy ending. Romeo and Juliet, the play that was written by William Shakespeare, was given a different ending during the time of the restoration theatre, a happier ending.

Now knowing the background of how audiences enjoyed watching plays during the restoration theatre time, we can imagine why some audience might have somewhat of an issue with Cydaria and Cortez not marrying each other. However, Dryden might be making a point at why they don’t end together in unison. It shows the reality of people and their actions. While yes, they were in love, they could not be together as there are conflicting actions and thoughts from both characters. Was it meant to show that a foreign imperialist and an Aztec native could never be together? Not necessarily. I think it was more meant to show that these two specific characters could not, as to prove a point that their actions and background in the play led to the outcome. Their origins could have some effect on their unison but that is all up to reader-response criticism of readers and what they feel.

Overall, I felt like Dryden was trying to show people the reality of life and love in the fake reality of Restoration theatre. We can’t blame the restoration theatre because it was an interesting time where people wanted to feel happy and wanted to see luxury, lavishness, royals and overall have a grand time at the theatre. This play is almost everything opposite of what was just described and the romance that was rooted for didn’t end up together.

-Abe Alvarez