Sunday, December 31, 2017

Love that Liberates



“Risky, thought Paul D, very risky. For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, he knew, was to love just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you'd have a little love left over for the next one.”   ― Toni Morrison, Beloved

An ominous beginning: "124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims." The story of Sethe and that of Beloved provide some of the background necessary to begin to understand this beginning. It is a story of the pain of slavery and death in the family, but it is also a story of rebirth and love. It is a story dedicated to the "Sixty Million and more" who paid with their lives.

The narrative moves backward and forward in time, telling the story of Sethe and her extended family while also telling of their ancestors and how they survived, and how they did not survive. Place assumes an importance like a character: “Some things you forget. Other things you never do. But it's not. Places, places are still there. If a house burns down, it's gone, but the place--the picture of it--stays, and not just in my memory, but out there, in the world. What I remember is a picture floating around out there outside my head. I mean, even if I don't think if, even if I die, the picture of what I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right in the place where it happened.”
But one place, 124 Bluestone Road, haunts the novel and in turn is haunted by memories of dark deeds.

The story changed for this reader when, at the beginning of a chapter at about page fifty, Beloved appeared: "A fully dressed woman walked out of the water." Where did she come from? Was she a mere apparition? Probably not the latter, but from that moment on she becomes central to the story. She may be the ghost of a child who has suffered a violent death, and she haunts the house where her grandmother, mother, brothers, and sister live. The grandmother dies; the brothers disappear; the mother takes a lover; the sister grows up. The ghost grows up too, assumes a human form, and seduces and drives away the lover. Then she takes possession of the mother.

What was important for me was not these plot points, but the way the story was told. The poetry of Morrison's prose, the striking metaphors and shifting point of view; these and the way the story of the many who were lost in the past were brought forth in those who were living out the present time of the narrative. There were also the stories that were embedded in the narrative that became part of the world of Beloved and Sethe. 

The sum of all of the narrative astonished me -- at the stunning cruelty of slavery, at the death-defying endurance of love, at the sharp beauty of the natural world. Morrison’s style in this book, as in her other novels, combines the magic of Afro-American idiom, the density of poetry, and the specificity of the plainest prose. I will put this novel beside my copy of Song of Solomon and return again and again to savor the sheer beauty of their being.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Lover or the Beloved?

Call Me by Your Name 

Call Me by Your Name
“Most of us can't help but live as though we've got two lives to live, one is the mockup, the other the finished version, and then there are all those versions in between. But there's only one, and before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now there's sorrow. I don't envy the pain. But I envy you the pain. (p. 225)”   ― André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name

What is the difference between the lover and beloved, the watcher and the one watched? In his story of Eros and education the author, Andre Aciman, considers these questions and with his narrative demonstrates the answers. With emphasis on the erotic, he has created an almost Proustian meditation on time and desire, a love letter, an invocation in words that one must call simply "beautiful". His novel, Call Me by Your Name, is a wonderful tale whose dream-like qualities continually evoke the narrator's obscure object of desire which is, by definition, inexpiable, and indeterminate. The story is one of a young man, Elio, and a slightly older man, Oliver, for whom Elio obsesses with a passion that is filled with Mediterranean fire, yet mediated by a classical patina not unlike that suggested in the less accurate translations of Plato's dialogues. For further details of the story I recommend you read the book, not because it is banal but rather because it is too beautiful to risk spoiling.

This book constantly reminded me that it was fiction - the product of an imagination able to create an unreal dream world - yet I did not mind because it was simply, joyously readable. I was both entranced and intrigued by the narrator, whose name is withheld for much of the novel, but this is because, as the title implies, he is entranced and intrigued himself by his family's summer guest, Oliver, who seems to be nothing less than a Greek god. The subtle allusions to poetry and philosophy, the music of the senses, add to the magnificence of this short novel. Perhaps it will not effect everyone the same as it did me, but for those who appreciate the classical source of beauty this is a novel that ranks with Mann and Gide in its glistening presence. 

The book has recently been translated to film by Luca Guadagnino. Starring Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg.  It is a transcendent recreation of the novel that truly captures the heart of Andre Aciman's narrative voice.

A Lear for Our Time



“Why was he in this state? Or perhaps the question was why had he not always been in this state? Why had he not always found life so disturbing and so poignant?”   ― Edward St. Aubyn, Dunbar

Having read Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels I was not surprised that he would be able to present a thoroughly readable and enjoyable Lear for the twenty-first century. Henry Dunbar, the titular character, is a media mogul in decline. Like Lear he has divided his empire among his daughters and in doing so finds himself at the mercy of the two eldest of the trio . Not unlike many corporate men, his identity was his empire and his soul was at sea without it. As chapter three begins we find him questioning, "Who am I?" Imprisoned in Meadowmeade, a sanatorium in rural England, he finds himself almost beyond the possibility of life itself. But his intelligence takes over and he begins to makes plans to return to the world and just perhaps find his identity.

The plot provides suspense as the two eldest daughters, Abbey and Megan, plan to complete the divestiture of his estate and ensure that he never returns. Dunbar has only an alcoholic comedian by his side as he drifts through the wilds of the rural British countryside. Will he survive the ordeal? Will he escape the clutches of his elder daughters? And will the youngest daughter, Florence, who has never given up on him, be able to assist in his return and reconnect with her father?

The book's best passages come when St. Aubyn is alone with his central character. When he engages the brutal reality of nature with only his own purposefulness to guide him the story takes on a mesmerizing character. "He was locking into his walking stride, preserving his energy, refusing to disperse himself in speculative chatter, absorbed by a single objective: to get to London and somehow take back control of the Trust." He sounds like the man who had built an empire, not given it away. He engages with nature; "The leafless trees, with their black branches stretching out hysterically in every direction, looked to him like illustrations of a central nervous system racked by disease: studies of human suffering anatomised against the winter sky." I found my reading rapt with the tension of Dunbar's mind and his engagement with the world. The secondary characters were not as well drawn, although even when bordering on caricature they provided enough believable evil to suggest that they might prevail.

"Dunbar" is part of a series of contemporary novels based on Shakespeare's plays and published by Hogarth Press. His five Melrose novels, which dissect with savage and beautiful precision the agonies of family life, made him a perfect candidate to update King Lear, Shakespeare’s most devastating family story. In doing so he has translated much of the power of Shakespeare's great play into an agonizingly tense and metaphorically astute novel for and of our times – an examination of power, money and the value of forgiveness. Edward St. Aubyn has been able to create a work that is worthy of his reputation and also respectful to the source of this Shakespearean tragedy for our times.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Commonplace Book

'Book by Book'

“'Tis the good reader that makes the good book; a good head cannot read amiss: in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakeably meant for his ear.” 
 - Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is a fascination, interest, perhaps passion in which I indulge my eclectic interests. The commonplace book seems to suit my peripatetic mind.  It is a writer's personal collection of quotations, observations, and topic ideas. Called florilegia ("flowers of reading") in the Middle Ages, commonplace books were especially popular during the Renaissance and into the 18th century. For some writers, blogs serve as contemporary versions of commonplace books. The classic is Auden's A Certain World, but I was lured into exploring this genre by Michael Dirda's own contribution, Book By Book. It is a book-lover's delight and has led me down many trails that I will share another time. 

While Dirda recommends Auden, of course and Cyril Connolly's An Unquiet Grave; I have taken up the challenge of one of my favorite authors, D. J. Enright. So it is with delight that I am exploring, slowly savoring, his own " kind of a commonplace book", Interplay. It is here that I will be able to meditate on the pleasures of reading, mulling both thoughts and words - perhaps cogitating some new ones of my own.

Book by Book by Michael Dirda.  Henry Holt & Company, 2006.
Interplay: A Kind of Commonplace Book by D. J. Enright. OxfordUniversity Press, 1995.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Man of the Party

CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping 

CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping

"Looking into the eyes of Xi Jinping, you look into the eyes of the Party itself -- the personification of its ambition and spirit, its most faithful and truest servant, and someone like Pope Francis, who, for all his outward exemplification of influence, persuasion and force, would almost certainly object to the claim that he is pursuing his own interests and indulging the narcissism of power."

CEO, China is a unique book with its combination of biography, history, and contemporary political analysis of The People's Republic of China. The main thrust, as indicated by the title, is the story of Xi Jinping and his rise to power and a position in which he was just reaffirmed for another five years.

I found the background about the source of power in modern China and the structure of the Chinese Communist Party provided useful insights into a mysterious country. The book also  provides information about Xi's path to power while discussing his ideological justifications for his rule. The politics of the party and Xi's position could be compared with the politics of the Roman Catholic Church in its monolithic state and hold on power in China.

The author comments on page 120 that "Yu Zhengsheng is the ultimate modern Chinese man without qualities..." suggesting that Chinese governance might share a nebulousness with Robert Musil's literary description of the Austrian Empire at the twilight of the nineteenth century. I found that while I learned much about modern China and Xi Jinping I also was left with many questions unanswered - challenged by the differences between their culture and ours. What is clear is that the Chinese economy has grown immensely over recent decades and is on a trajectory to overtake the United States.

There are interesting aspects of Xi, like his celebrity wife, who is unusual for someone in his position. It is noted that "..she unleashes the political capital that can be gained from having a glamorous celebrity wife..." (pp 109-110). It is not clear how or whether this broadens his appeal as a leader. More important to his position are his leadership of campaigns to root out corruption (particularly useful in eliminating political opponents) and his overseeing an authoritarian control over the Internet and social media that is described as "Web lynching", a phenomenon not unheard of in the United States.

While China, with a population of 1.3 billion people, appears to be a juggernaut there are issues that may be insuperable. On page 176 it is noted that "The party, Xi has said many times, must keep close to the people." This may be possible only with the advent of technological change that requires control and may just as likely be turned against the party. Xi's political program seems to mimic that of left-wing politicians in Western countries (eg. USA) with an emphasis on reforming state-owned enterprises and taxing the rich, some of whom have been milking said enterprises.

This is a book with a wealth of information, but in spite of that it leaves the reader with more questions than answers. There is power in the Chinese Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping that seems to be in control; however there is the shadow of both Mao's brutal reign and the failed example of Soviet Communism that is ever present in the background. There are also continuing international tensions with India and other border states. Kerry Brown has provided a good primer on the state of Xi Jinping, China, and issues that will determine their future.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books of 2017

These are my favorite reads since January 1, 2017.  They are primarily fiction with three great non-fiction books.  If I had to pick my favorite of the year I would choose Suttree by Cormac McCarthy.  But the list is in no particular order.  Several very good books just missed my top ten including A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare,  Civil Disobedience by Thoreau, Phaedrus and other dialogues by Plato, and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

The Idiot  by Fyodor Dostoevsky

All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Two Years Before the Mast 
by Richard Henry Dana

The Varieties of Religious Experience 
by William James

Responsibility and Judgement: Essays 
by Hannah Arendt

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit 

I’ve been to two of these locations (but only through reading about them since one is fictional and the other historical).  However, the rest are real and remain in my mind's eye as places to travel to – but wherever I go, I try and stop in a bookstore or library while I’m visiting! What bookish places do you like to visit?

The Library of Babel, Jorge Luis Borges

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, California

Strahov Monastery, Prague, Czech Republic

State Law Library of  Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa

Library of Alexandria

Library at Seikei University, Musashino, Japan

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

Zhongsuhge-Hangzhou bookstore, Hangzhou China

 Copenhagen Library, Denmark

State Library Victoria, Melbourne

Monday, December 04, 2017

No Happy Memories

The End of Eddy 

The End of Eddy

"I remember less the milk still warm from the cow's udders, brought by my mother from the farm across the way, than I do the evenings when we didn't have enough to eat, and when my Mother would say Tonight we're having milk, one of poverty's neologisms." (p 141)

The End of Eddy is a first novel by Edouard Louis, a young French author. The book presents a semi-autobiographical story about a young boy growing up in a small town in northern France. The tone is set in the first sentence of the novel. "From my childhood I have no happy memories."

This is a dark book filled with violence and the worst side of humanity, but in spite of that the eponymous hero of the story, a ten-year-old Eddy Bellegueule, manages to survive and eventually escape the home and small town that provide so few happy memories. Louis organizes the book into brief chapters with such titles as “A Man’s Role” and “A Good Education.” The violence the novel examines — though also structural and symbolic — is above all bodily. Eddy's father is a violent man as demonstrated by bar fights, killing new born kittens, and domestic violence. Yet Eddy could not escape this violence at school for "The schoolyard obeyed the same rules as the rest of the world: the big guys kept away from the little ones." This was true except for a couple of the "big guys" who regularly picked on Eddy, not the least because of his effeminate traits in addition to his small size.  At home there was poverty as well as violence, although one chapter begins with the observation that Eddy's family is not the poorest in the village -- small consolation.

Eddy's effeminate mannerisms were evident as soon as he learns to speak, his voice takes on feminine inflections. His girlish bearing is involuntary: “I had not chosen my way of walking, the pronounced, much too pronounced, way my hips swayed from side to side, or the shrill cries that escaped my body.” As a teenager, he yearns to be straight. He orders himself to have orgasms to photographs of naked women, rubbing himself until he is raw and blistered. Each morning in the bathroom he chants: “Today I’m gonna be a tough guy.”

The novel is structured in three parts. The first makes up two thirds of the book and presents the village, school, and family in relentless and dispassionate detail. The second part continues Eddy's travails till the point where he makes an unsuccessful attempt to run away from home; an attempt that is made all the more poignant because he enlists his younger brother to tell his parents ensuring that he will be found. The novel concludes with a short epilogue in which Eddy is able to attend a boarding school for the arts. This is a moment that leaves the reader wondering if his life will turn out for the better. In one of the concluding scenes he destroys a jacket that his parents had given him, symbolically breaking the connections with his old life.

The End of Eddy is brutal yet brilliant in portraying the life and inner feelings of a young gay boy who experiences psychic and physical violence on a daily basis. It is a cautionary tale that critically portrays the class system in France as well as the rampant rage, racism, and homophobia. Yet, through it all the author is able to evoke a sensitive portrait of boyhood and sexual awakening. This is one of the best first novels I have read.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Winter TBR

Some Books on My Winter TBR

I'll be reading these in December and on through February over the river and through the woods with snow if we are lucky.  They include classics:old and new, literary fiction, non-fiction, and a bit of science fiction as well. 

CEO, CHINA by Kerry Brown

Destined for War: 
Can America and China Escape Thucydides'sTrap? 
by Graham Allison

The End of Eddy: A Novel by Edouard Louis

Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science 

by Werner Heisenberg

Faust in Copenhagen by Gino Segre

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 
by Thomas S. Kuhn

Relativity: The Special and The General Theory 
by Albert Einstein

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

A Trusting Nature

The Idiot 
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Parts III & IV, "A Beautiful Man"

“What matters," said the prince at last, "is that you have a child's trusting nature and extraordinary truthfulness. Do you know that a great deal can be forgiven you for that alone?”   ― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

On January 12, 1868 Dostoevsky wrote in a letter to his good friend, the poet A. N. Maikov, that he was "inventing a new novel."  This novel would focus on an idea that excited Dostoevsky: "to portray a perfectly good man".(Selected Letters, p 262)  It would be a novel in four parts that was published later that year.  It is in the final two parts of the novel that the four "heroes" lives stand out and their interaction, along with a few key supporting characters, leads to the denouement of the story.  

I would like to focus briefly on these four heroes and, without giving away the exciting conclusion of the novel, discuss their relationships.  Of course Prince Myshkin, the young blue-eyed epileptic, remains at the center of the story.  His is the life of an outsider in both the obvious physical sense, but also in a spiritual sense.  He is friendly with both leading ladies;  the younger Aglaya and the older Nastasya Fillipovna.  His friendship is born of innocence and as such he is frequently, perhaps always, misunderstood by both the ladies and others.  Aglaya recognizes his "beautiful heart" but is conflicted by her feelings for Ganya and the presence of Nastasya.  It is Nastasya's presence that unnerves the sensitive Myshkin.  "For him there was something tormenting in the very face of this woman;" (p 349) 

Other characters intrude on the relations of the heroes bringing with them discussions of ideas that seem to be important to the narrator and thus to the story.  In particular, the consumptive Ippolit who is dying throughout the story presents a confessional pronouncement  titled "My Necessary Explanation: Apres moi le deluge" (p 387).  This is a blackly comic demonstration of nihilism of the sort that Dostoevsky had first introduced in his short novel, Notes from Underground.  Here it is presented as an adjunct to the activities of the fourth Hero, Rogozhin, whose actions mirror the thoughts of Ippolit in many respects.  

The result of both the fantastic characters and the plot, such as it is in its meandering ways, gives this novel an originality among Dostoevsky's final period of great novels.  The theme of nihilism will be central to his next novel, The Demons, and the exploration of the nature of spiritual goodness will reach its height in the character of Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov.  However it is The Idiot that bridges the gap between the Victorian novels of Balzac and Dickens and the uniquely Russian themes that emanate from the Slavophilic pen of Dostoevsky.  Thus this is a novel worthy of the Russian master who more than any of his peers looked forward toward the next century.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky, trans. Everymans Library, New York. 2002 (1868)

Selected Letters of Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Joseph Frank & David I. Goldstein, eds. Andrew MacAndrew, trans. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick. 1987

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Alien Believers

Calculating God: A Novel 

Calculating God: A Novel

“There is no indisputable proof for the big bang," said Hollus. "And there is none for evolution. And yet you accept those. Why hold the question of whether there is a creator to a higher standard?”   ― Robert J. Sawyer, Calculating God

The science fiction literature includes an immense variety of styles and approaches for the presentation of ideas. Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer is a philosophical science fiction novel that considers the nature of belief in the existence of god.

The novel uses the trope of contact with aliens to explore cosmological ideas that intrigue thoughtful persons whether or not they are interested in science fiction. It takes a contemporary setting (in Canada) and describes the arrival on Earth of sentient aliens. The bulk of the novel covers the many discussions and arguments on the reasons for their presence, as well as about the nature of belief, religion, and science. Calculating God received nominations for both the Hugo and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards in 2001.

The main plot is told from the point of view of Tom Jericho, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada. As it begins Forhilnor, a spider-like alien from the third planet of the Beta Hydri system arrives on Earth to investigate Earth's evolutionary history. The alien, Hollus, has come to Earth to gain access to the museum's large collection of fossils, and to study accumulated human knowledge in order to gather evidence of the existence of God. It seems that Earth and Hollus' home planet, and the home planet of another alien species traveling with Hollus, all experienced the same five cataclysmic events at roughly the same time.

Hollus believes that the universe was created by a god, to provide a place where life could develop and evolve. Thomas Jericho is an atheist who provides a balance to the philosophical discussion regarding the existence of gods. There is also a subplot dealing with the illness of Jericho and his imminent death due to lung cancer. The author neatly connects that with the visit of the aliens with surprising revelations as well.

I enjoyed the philosophical and scientific discussions primarily due to the inventive approaches to questions that arose from the unusual views of the aliens. On the issue of the existence of gods the book presents some strange conundrums that make it rise above the average Science Fiction novel. Sawyer succeeds in describing the meeting with aliens in a way that held my attention through both its believable detail and its novelty. I found myself wondering about the thoughtful calculation of alien scientists and if they really could include god in that calculation.

Poem for Today

The Retired Cat

A poet's cat, sedate and grave 
As poet well could wish to have,
Was much addicted to inquire
For nooks to which she might retire,
And where, secure as mouse in chink,
She might repose, or sit and think.
I know not where she caught the trick--
Nature perhaps herself had cast her
In such a mould philosophique,
Or else she learn'd it of her master.
Sometimes ascending, debonair,
An apple-tree or lofty pear,
Lodg'd with convenience in the fork,
She watch'd the gardener at his work;
Sometimes her ease and solace sought
In an old empty wat'ring-pot;
There, wanting nothing save a fan
To seem some nymph in her sedan,
Apparell'd in exactest sort,
And ready to be borne to court.

But love of change, it seems, has place
Not only in our wiser race;
Cats also feel, as well as we,
That passion's force, and so did she.
Her climbing, she began to find,
Expos'd her too much to the wind,
And the old utensil of tin
Was cold and comfortless within:
She therefore wish'd instead of those
Some place of more serene repose,
Where neither cold might come, nor air
Too rudely wanton with her hair,
And sought it in the likeliest mode
Within her master's snug abode.

A drawer, it chanc'd, at bottom lin'd
With linen of the softest kind,
With such as merchants introduce
From India, for the ladies' use--
A drawer impending o'er the rest,
Half-open in the topmost chest,
Of depth enough, and none to spare,
Invited her to slumber there;
Puss with delight beyond expression
Survey'd the scene, and took possession.
Recumbent at her ease ere long,
And lull'd by her own humdrum song,
She left the cares of life behind,
And slept as she would sleep her last,
When in came, housewifely inclin'd
The chambermaid, and shut it fast;
By no malignity impell'd,
But all unconscious whom it held.

Awaken'd by the shock, cried Puss,
"Was ever cat attended thus!
The open drawer was left, I see,
Merely to prove a nest for me.
For soon as I was well compos'd,
Then came the maid, and it was clos'd.
How smooth these kerchiefs, and how sweet!
Oh, what a delicate retreat!
I will resign myself to rest
Till Sol, declining in the west,
Shall call to supper, when, no doubt,
Susan will come and let me out."

The evening came, the sun descended,
And puss remain'd still unattended.
The night roll'd tardily away
(With her indeed 'twas never day),
The sprightly morn her course renew'd,
The evening gray again ensued,
And puss came into mind no more
Than if entomb'd the day before.
With hunger pinch'd, and pinch'd for room,
She now presag'd approaching doom,
Nor slept a single wink, or purr'd,
Conscious of jeopardy incurr'd.

That night, by chance, the poet watching
Heard an inexplicable scratching;
His noble heart went pit-a-pat
And to himself he said, "What's that?"
He drew the curtain at his side,
And forth he peep'd, but nothing spied;
Yet, by his ear directed, guess'd
Something imprison'd in the chest,
And, doubtful what, with prudent care
Resolv'd it should continue there.
At length a voice which well he knew,
A long and melancholy mew,
Saluting his poetic ears,
Consol'd him, and dispell'd his fears:
He left his bed, he trod the floor,
He 'gan in haste the drawers explore,
The lowest first, and without stop
The rest in order to the top;
For 'tis a truth well known to most,
That whatsoever thing is lost,
We seek it, ere it come to light,
In ev'ry cranny but the right.
Forth skipp'd the cat, not now replete
As erst with airy self-conceit,
Nor in her own fond apprehension
A theme for all the world's attention,
But modest, sober, cured of all
Her notions hyperbolical,
And wishing for a place of rest
Anything rather than a chest.
Then stepp'd the poet into bed,
With this reflection in his head:


Beware of too sublime a sense 
Of your own worth and consequence.
The man who dreams himself so great,
And his importance of such weight,
That all around in all that's done
Must move and act for him alone,
Will learn in school of tribulation
The folly of his expectation. 

William Cowper

William Cowper ( 26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800) was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him "the best modern poet".