The Ride of the Ancient Veteran

It is an ancient Veteran,

And he stopped one of three:

“By thy long sunken face and thy squinting eye

Now why stop me?

The Church doors are opened wide

And I am next for usher;

The ladies are met, the wine is poured, –

May hear the merry song.”

But still he holds the church guest –

There was a tank, retold he –

‘No, if you’ve got a festive tale,

Veteran! Come with me.”

He holds him with his scarred hand,

Repeated he, there was a tank –

“Now get out, you disfigured kook!

Or my hand will make you whimper.”

He controls him with his squinting eye –

The churchgoer stood still

And listened like an obedient child;

The Veteran had his power.

The churchgoer sat on a bench,

He could not leave:

And then spoke of the ancient veteran,

The glazed eyed Veteran.

The tank was revered, its’ audience departed –

Happily did they drive

Below the sun, below the dunes,

Below the high topped church.

The Sun came up on the north,

Out of the sand followed he:

And he shone dull, and on the south

Went down into the hills.

Farther and farther every day,

Till over the hole at noon –

The churchgoer clutched his chest,

For he felt the loud boom.

The priest walked through the hall,

White as snow;

Nodding their heads before he goes

The lively choir.

The churchgoer grasped his chest,

He could do nothing but sit still:

And then spoke of the ancient veteran,

The glazed eyed Veteran.

Listen, Visitor! Sand and Wind,

A Wind and Storm forceful!

For weeks and months it showed us weak –

Like prisoners we drove on.

Listen, Visitor! Rain and Water,

And it became striking yet:

And Sand tornado came flying by

As dark as night.

And through the mass the sandy mass

Did show a ghastly luster:

No shape of men could each us see –

The Sand was all amidst.

The Sand was here, the Sand was there,

The Sand was all to be found:

It swooshed and whirled and boiled and churned –

Like noises of a voice.

At length did cross a Dog,

Through the Wind it came;

And as if it were a fellow soldier.

We called to it by a name.

The soldiers gave it leftover rations,

And it circled the group:

The Sand disappeared;

The driver pressed us through.

And a clear opening developed ahead,

The dog did follow;

And every hour for rations or toys

Came to the soldier’s company!

In sand or wind on ground

It walked for war stories,

While through the night with mist

Shined the yellow moonlight.

“Jesus save you, ancient Veteran!

From the devils that curse you –

Why do you look like that?” – with my gun

I shot the Dog.

The original text imitated is “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I chose this text because many male members of my family have gone into the military, and when they have gotten back from their service they were never the same. For some it has been years out of the service, for some it is still current. That is why I chose this medium, to me a soldier can always experience PTSD, and unfortunately in today’s society it is not uncommon to see homeless veterans on the streets that are still struggling emotionally and financially. I could picture the Mariner like an old veteran who talks to anyone that comes close to express his conflict of a difficult time that no one wants to willingly listen to because of the gruesomeness. The veterans do not get to tell their story because civilians feel uncomfortable; let alone process and deal with their time in the service that could help them heal.

I chose to keep the punctuation in the same place as the original to keep the sentence elements the same. I also kept the beginning of each line the same beginning word so it would reflect the original work in that way as well as shown in this example,

“It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?”

I also chose a veteran and a church setting because my family is from the Midwest and going to church is a very big part of their lives. It is also common to see veterans going to church, as they do not find solstice in much else. I aimed to follow the same madness the Mariner was experiencing from the guilt of his actions into the soldier’s insanity.

— Alison Vining

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What the Harp Represented

The poem I chose to analyze is “The Irish Harp” written by Sydney Owneson. This poem really extends the history of the harp and of the Irish regarding their oppression and anguish. Owenson begins the poem by sadly questioning why the harp doesn’t play music anymore, “Why has that song of sweetness died” (Line 3). Owenson continues to lament about the beauty the harp emits and then the harp seems to take on a different tone “’Twas doubtful still if bliss or sorrow From its melting lapses fell” (Lines 11-12). The poem takes a turn to the oppression of a “him” and the doubtful journey that is beginning “Oh no! for he, opprest, pursued, Wild, wand’ring, doubtful of his course With tears his silent Harp bedew’d, That drew from Erin’s woes their source” (Lines 25-8). The “he” in this poem is crying on his “silent Harp” because the Harp is in distress. This can go deeper and show that the man in this poem is sadden by the Harp, which can represent the Irish population, due to the massive mistreatment and cruelty done on a society. The poem continues and turns to the people of Erin and of their hurt “How many bleeding hearts around, In suff’ring sympathy enwreath’d, Hung desponding o’er the sound!” (Lines 50-53). The poem comes to an end explaining that although a lot of hurt and mistreatment has happened and there has been great lose, “The deeo-ton’d music of his lyre, And Erin go brach he boldly sung” (Lines 59-60). Tragedies may happen but there will still be people, who fight and carry on; although people may be changed drastically after such a colonizing atrocity, there are still survivors that support old traditions that the new colonizing power can never halt.

It is also important to note the rhyme scheme ABAB throughout the poem mirrors certain words like: pride and died, flow and woe, borrow and sorrow, languish and anguish, gloom and tomb, dismay and array, among the many. Specific words coupled together in this rhyme scheme emphasize either synonym words or antonym words that come together to portray the despair and misery that the harp stands for but also for the happiness in which it once represented.

— Alison Vining

Los Angeles/Playa Vista, 2017

In this poem I picked Los Angeles and Playa Vista as my location. In my poem I reference the Los Angeles river who took a victim by Playa Vista in this recent year’s rain as a young boy tried to cross on his way home and got swept up by the current and was taken miles away from his home. I also reference carved names and I am talking about a wall by a marina that has the names of lost soldiers carved in. I also reference trolls as a plethora of our homeless population seeks refuge underneath bridges and overpasses. Los Angeles as a huge homeless problem as most of our homeless are not aware of various organizations that are there to help and their lives go unheard. My mother helped various organizations that intended their focus on adolescent homelessness. Most of the decisions to help the homeless are fruitless and people in power do not always direct their attention to the growing homeless population so these homeless civilizations have few on their side. My poem was meant to replicate William Blake’s “London” as I try and capture the same feeling of walking down the street and seeing what I describe in my poem. I used a few similar words as a starting off point and I tried to replicate the same rhyme scheme that Blake uses, abab. My punctuation sort of follows the same placement as Blake’s but it is not meant to be a central focus or decision in my poem.

I wander through each paved street,

Near where the empty Los Angeles River rolls,

And connect in each homeless face I meet

Signs of ugliness, signs of trolls.

 

In every sigh a desperate tear,

In every cry a worsening fate,

In every voice a certain fear

The change often comes too late.

 

How the workers try

And the children starve,

Every mother’s cry

All the names are carved.

 

But most days the streets are bare

Underneath the bridge the trolls must hide

There is nothing much left to share

Everyone must eventually pick a side.

 

–Alison Vining

Snow White’s Trees

Throughout the poem “We Are Seven” an adult speaker is arguing with a child speaker about the number of people in her family. We learn that two of her siblings have passed therefore making her family five members but she still argues there are seven. Throughout the poem the child seems giddy and eager to explain her relationship with her passed siblings and shows openness towards talking about them. She goes to explain the various activities she performs at the gravesite,

“My stockings there I often knit

My ‘kerchief there I hem

And there upon the ground I sit

I sit and sing to them.”

She performs simple everyday tasks at the gravesite in order to spend time with her parted siblings. She is not afraid to go visit this gravesite in the slightest and also reveals that she also eats her dinner at the spot. She has been so exposed to this location that is just as easy to play and perform choirs there. She paints a very relaxed picture of her visits. In reality gravesites are not that happy, people do not usually stay for very long because of the hurt and sadness acquainted with that location. When I first saw the painting “The Abby in the Oakwood” that is how I thought the adult speaker of the poem would view the gravesite and why they think the child is so naïve in her descriptions.

romantic-image-2.jpg

The picture is cut in half by two different colors creating a line in the middle of the painting that emphasizes the empty space at the top of the painting and the busy space at the bottom. On the bottom there are gnarly trees that look like the scary trees in Disney’s cartoon “Snow White” and create a frightening mood of a creepy cemetery. It even isn’t until Snow White collapses and the innocent woodland creatures come out to inspect her when the trees don’t look as scary as Snow White thought they were.

besttree.jpg

It also looks like there is a dilapidated piece of a building that doesn’t look like it’s standing anymore and around it looks like unkempt gravestones. There is also a procession of black shadows going into the creepy looking building. Gravesites can be daunting and this painting looks like an accurate representation of how an adult would view a gravesite, as it is not a happy place. However, to an unexposed child this is not how a gravesite would look and she creates juxtaposition against her adult counterpart. She acts light and nonchalant about visiting her departed siblings but the adult thinks she is silly in her frequent visits. There are two different views of the same place and although the point of the poem is the adult and child arguing about the number of family members, there is obviously a disconnect between what the adult views and what the child views. The adult can not unlearn how to view a gravesite which has to remain a place where you only go to visit departed ones and after that there is that distance between the living and the dead and that the living shouldn’t visit the dead so often. The adult speaker never believes the child speaker even at the end of the poem,

“’Twas throwing words away; for still

The little maid would have her will,

And said, ‘Nay we are seven!”

— Alison Vining

The Weird, The Romantic, The Mariner

Romanticism is a difficult term to define and pin out, even in Lecture Notes #8 there are only eight “characteristic attitudes” that can help define this fickle term. I myself have a hard time defining Romanticism because I think it is so many things and it greatly depends on the reader in their interpretation.

Although I do not like Iron Maiden’s version of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, with the help of those eight characteristics it can be argued that this version can indeed be interpreted like Romantic poetry. One instance that this can be argued, with the help of characteristic number 8, this version has a lot of weird, monstrous, and satanic impacts. Both the Iron Maiden version and major poem version share this in common. These characteristics fit with Iron Maiden because simply, it’s a weird song. The guitar riffs are also loud and fast and with the fluctuating voice of the main singer there is change throughout the song that makes it go fast and slow. Not to say that the poem is devoid of these characteristics, in section III towards the end a somewhat satanic act takes place, “Four times fifty living men, With never a sigh or groan, With heavy thump, a lifeless lump They dropp’d down one by one.” How do all these men just instantly die and without warning? It’s a very weird and supernatural thing to happen that Iron Maiden echoes with their instrumental background and tone of the lyrics, “Then, crew one by one they drop down dead, two hundred men She, she, Life in Death. She lets him live, her chosen one.”

Another helpful characteristic that can help explain the similarities as to why Iron Maiden’s version is like Romantic poetry is the overpowering emotion over reason. Iron Maiden’s lyric, “He prays for their beauty not doom With heart he blesses them God’s creatures all of them too” reflects the IV part of the poem when the Mariner can see all the men dead on the ship and decides to pray out of fear “I look’d to Heaven, and try’d to pray; But or ever a prayer had gusht, A wicked whisper came and made My heart as dry as dust.” Now at this point, what really is there to do when all your crewmen have just mysteriously dropped dead and you’re the only survivor? The Mariner tries to comfort himself by praying in this situation because he does not know what else to do. After this line in the Iron Maiden song the tone changes drastically and there is a long wait until the next verse. The absence of lyrics portrays this part as going on and on for a long period of time and it creates a big buildup of feelings as the music changes and as one has to wait for what comes next.

— Alison Vining

What’s in an English Word

The English language has changed over the centuries but one thing that hasn’t changed is its forceful domination over counties even today. My Norwegian cousin is strictly taught English in school but in my school it was optional to take a class to learn about a second language. Why is English mandatory for her but Norwegian not for me? As the world virtually becomes smaller it is crucial for younger generations to become fluent in several languages, The United States is very behind on this as demonstration on not being strict about learning even a second language. English should not be a one superior language and as other countries educate their students to learn English, English speakers as well should put in some work to learn theirs. The United States is also home to an assortment of immigrants from places some American students can’t point out on a map, let alone learn about their language.

Although Johnson defines origins of the alphabet, “A, the first letter of the European alphabet, has, in the English language, three different sounds, which may be termed the broad, open, and slender” that seems informative but can easily block out subordinate origins of languages and show where true language comes from. This is a separation tactic so there is no comparison or mix up of an obviously dominant language and other languages that do not compare. English had and has help from many other languages in its development, although it seems to still be a confusing language with rules like i before e except after c. It has borrowed and manipulated other words from other languages and sometimes not even changed them but pretended like they were their own; I thought piñata was English until my first grade Hispanic friend explained the word to me. People that do not speak English as a dominant language can see through the rose tinted glasses while people that do speak only English still just don’t get it even today.

 

— Alison Vining

A Turbulent Life

The satirical political cartoon by Robert Cruikshank “John Bull Taking a Clear View of the Negro Slavery Question!!” pokes fun at the various methods abolitionists chose to spread their cause. Now Equiano no doubt had a difficult life, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time for most of his life and suffered very few liberties until later on in his life when he was able to afford his freedom. His job was not to be a statement piece but he now stands for many things. However, as turbulent as his life was he sometimes did not demonstrate the best judgment in certain situations.

The passage that we close read in lecture is one example of this. After a debacle between an Indian governor and “one of our most friendly chiefs” Equiano shows a bit of his dark side in his writing when he “could have wishes to have seen him tied fast to a tree and flogged for his behavior” (179). Now having to deal with physical abuse in his slave years one would think that he would have disdain towards violence and the manipulation of power but clearly he views it as a reasonable teaching lesson, even after he’s turned to God. Although he merely wished it, thinking this way shows the impact of the years of abuse and his outlook about the treatment of human beings, not a very abolitionist view at all.

A different passage, however, Equiano shows himself honestly in his anger towards his oppressors instead “I now, in the agony of distress and indignation, wishes that the ire of God in his forked lightning might transfix these cruel oppressors among the dead” (107). He has a pattern of being silently aggressive, but who can really blame him, and although he is wishing the worst on his oppressors he can understand the wrong they are doing. His character in his narrative comes out as aggressive, angry, and frustrated. Although in Cruikshank’s cartoon there is a Quaker looking man obscuring the view of a patron with an image of a slave being beaten, this was a daily struggle for Equiano. Although the image is false in the direction the patron is looking, the telescope is pointed towards an island where a people are living in peace and without the obstruction from the outside world, in other places this was constantly going on. The telescope is just pointed in one view while there are many other views to behold during this time.

 

— Alison Vining

Sophia the First

Sophia Goldborne finally had a chance at an exciting life when she was able to travel to Calcutta. Girls didn’t have many opportunities in the 18th century to have anything but an ordinary life even though they were given minimal education advances. It is quite evident that in her letters she has a condescending tone towards her supposed friend Arabella and is snarky when relaying her experience. Throughout all her letters there is a myriad of literature allusions and they get a bit tiresome, as she will through them in frequently. But if we look at the formal education young women were allowed to receive in the 18th century, English literature was high on the list as opposed to other subjects like politics. In many of her letters she doesn’t utter anything political or if she does it is just a surface remark, although she is in the midst of political tension in Calcutta at the time, which is odd. Perhaps that is why she fills her letters with literature references because that is all she knows. It can account for a plethora of things, like how many 16-year-old girls probably just aren’t interested in political agendas.

Did these English literary references even add anything to the letters? In discussion class on March 8th we close read an excerpt from Letter II in which Sophia belittles herself to Arabella’s level in order to describe the house. She remarks, “I will begin with the circumstances of my first arrival, and so contrive to temper, though I cannot, like Mr. Apollo, lay aside my rays, that your optics shall be enabled to contemplate, however brilliant, the dazzling objects I gradually open on your view” (7). She mentions Apollo, and formally adds a Mr. in front of his name as if she is on a first name basis with him, just to compare herself that she isn’t as humble as Apollo, even though most Greek gods were chaotic and solved problems emotionally rather than logically. We can’t assume the kind of education Arabella has received but if she is Sophia’s friend we can hope they have the same education, which means Sophia knows Arabella understands her references but must find other ways in order to show that she is superior to Arabella for specific reasons. It shows that although Sophia may be well educated in literature but she might just have nothing else going for her and no other education for her to flounce about. This is why Sophia uses so many references; perhaps she has a limited repertoire of skills to show how high class she is.

— Alison Vining

From The Horses’s Mouth

The Houyhnhnms are a horse species that Gulliver stumbles upon in yet another ship voyage of his. While this talking species is like he’s never encountered before they have their own ways for specific reasons. This species seems very evolved in not only can they communicate in a way that Gulliver can learn and understand but also they have societal roles.

In chapter eight Gulliver describes their reproduction customs when one family is unable to conceive another steps in to help, “…or when the like Accident befalls a Person, whose Wife is past bearing, some other Couple bestows on him one of their own Colts, and then go together again until the Mother is pregnant” (247). It is also odd here that he uses the word “person” when it is wrong in this context since they are not in fact human. And this custom is in no way confusing a custom that humans exhibit so there can really be no mix up. One can think of this has being a fair way to continues one’s species but it definitely would not work in the human world in such an easily described fashion. Humans are more possessive and parental over their children whether it is to the misfortune another couple cannot conceive. This does not seem like an act human kind should take on to be happier. Humans also exhibit more complex emotions than the Houyhnhnms show, like a deeper sense of love. Not to mention that Gulliver himself is barely ever present for his wife or children and even leaves to this voyage while is wife is still pregnant, he would not be a sufficient mate in the land of the Houyhnhnms.

The chapter also continues to talk about the education of the colts and Gulliver even admires their food restrictions and poses that it should be imitated, “These are not suffered to taste a Grain of Oats, except upon certain Days, till Eighteen Years old…” (247). Human society arguably already does this as there are religious restrictions when one can eat certain foods and age restriction on certain substances. Gulliver is admiring a trait that humans already do.

Gulliver also explains their emphasis on strength being the most admirable trait, “But the Houyhnhnms train up their Youth to Strength, Speed, and Hardiness, by exercising them…” (248). In this society they value physical strength due to their interest in reproducing only the best of the best, as also shown with their desire to “disagreeable Mixture in the Breed” (247), while human society has backed away from physical skills and become more focused on intellectual skills. The Houyhnhnms focus only on this to better prolong their species while humans have used their intelligence to prolong their species by developing medicines. So both are helping the future of their species, just in different ways.

It’s ironic that Gulliver finds the most peace and comforts in all his expeditions with a species that it not remotely close in DNA but contains similar and different values than human society. Their difference is mostly in their demeanor and the way they look at things in order to ensure their survival. They look at situation logically and seems with little emotion. They don’t necessarily have laws but a General Assembly instead that defines their customs, such as trading colts if a pair has two boys and another has two girls. Everything must be even and fair in this society which is incredibly different from most human societies, illuminating a few. Humans govern with more emotion and feeling than the horse species. Although the other lands he got swept too were not exactly like Gullivers’ human society, they were too similar in that he never admired them and fawned over them like he does the Houyhnhnms.

In class we discussed how the Houyhnhnms may have had more human traits than we gave credit for when discussing their use and treatment of the Yahoos. They were contained in such ways that we can connect throughout history, like little camps, and they also train them and use them for work. This is sadly something familiar that we have seen humans do throughout history, so maybe the Houyhnhnms aren’t such a radical species than the humans when talking about poor treatment of a life. Although to give credit to the Houyhnhnms they aren’t conducting these acts on their own species like humans have. Human kind would not be happier if they were more like the Houyhnhnms because it is very impossible to change one from emotional thinking to logical thinking because that is just such a basic human trait and with the right arguments the two species have similarities that don’t show the pleasant side.

 

— Alison Vining

Mary’s Conflict

Mary Rowlandson’s life was probably predictably normal for a settler of her time until the day she was captured by a Native American tribe. If we think about her time period, the 17th century, we can assume her purpose in life was to get married and have children, which is what she did. Her life could be considered dull since she was a woman and a mother. But, her life story can be argued as confirming and complicating the United States history of intolerance and genocide.

Rowlandson’s life was not significant, she was meant to be obedient to her husband and raise her children. Although she did not have much power over the family’s decisions, her just being a settler in this region confirms the history of intolerance and genocide because she was an invader in someone else’s home. Without even trying on her own she was amplifying imperialism. She also exhibits many instances of intolerance when describing her narrative and her experiences being captured. The light in which she describes her captors are also not always pleasant, and she’ll even go too far in demonizing them which makes it more difficult to take her reading seriously. There is a fine line between sympathizing and justifying Rowlandson’s story. It’s easy to sympathize a mother in her condition and consequences but it’s hard to justify the way in which she portrays her story because we have come so far in history as to understand the underdogs side and empathize more with them.

Rowlandson’s life also complicates things as well because in the development of her narrative she begins to change the way in which she describes some of the Native Americans. After awhile she begins to slowly understand a small part of the Native Americans people and although she does not empathize with them as much as we would like her to knowing the consequences of the history that follows, it’s a step in the right direction to humanizing a people. Her story is difficult to read not only because we don’t want to relate or empathize to her because she was on the bad side of history, but if we remove ethnicity from the story it is easier, but it also takes away all the importance of the story.

In discussion we talked about the history and context of this story and of Rowlandson. At this point in time genocide hadn’t happened yet, so to Rowlandson she was just in a midst of a war and could have never predicted what was to come. I believe that most people are unsympathizing with her because she is white and we know what happens next in history so it is hard to sympathize with the bad guy because we can step back and look at everything and realize what happened was wrong. And it’s not bad to sympathize like that either because it builds empathy and opens us up to making better decisions in the future. It is however conflicting to sympathize with Rowlandson because getting captured and ordered around for 11 weeks does not sound like a good time but in the grand scheme of things that isn’t so bad as to what happened to Native Americans in the future. While it is hard to take this story out of the big picture and just take it for what it is, it’s important to do both to see this story on the broad scale and on the more minute scale.

— Alison Vining