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2014-06-20 01:56:18 (UTC)



Section 1:

The world has had, and now has, some fine essayists. I am not in the same league as the finest, but they set the bar for me. An essay is an experiment, not a credo. It is something made up in response to an excited imagination; it is a short story told in the form of an argument or a history or even, once in a very great while, an illumination. These are not my words, but the words of Cynthia Ozick, one of the many fine essayists whom I have come to read in these years of my retirement without 60 to 70(and often more) hours a week of job, and family and community responsibilities breathing down my neck. I don't mean to imply that job, family and community were not good for me. I would not want to have missed that half century of wall-to-wall people, say, 1949 to 1999, for the world. But now that those 5 decades are gone another me has emerged and is emerging(1999 to 2015) and, finally, a me that has pancreatic cancer(9/'15 to 2/'16).

There are many writers capable of creating essays which are glittering and bewitching contraptions, pieces of prose that both entertain and inform. It has taken me many years to come up with a short list of the best, at least the best from my point of view, of the myriad people who now write, and who once wrote essays. This is only one literary form; the world is now the home of a pantheon of literary forms which will keep me happily occupied until the roll is called-up to the proverbial "yonder." Clive James has a list of some very fine essayists and some of their essays at:

Section 2:

I have found Clive's website a useful one to bring some of these essayists and newspaper journalists into my reading life. Today I read an article in The Guardian, 16/10/'10 by Don Paterson entitled Shakespeare's Sonnets. Shakespeare's sonnets are synonymous with courtly romance; many are about something quite different. Some are intense expressions of gay desire, others testaments to misogyny. Wary of academic criticism, Don Paterson tries to get back to what the poet was actually saying.


Part 1:

Two of the many significant influences on my poetry, influences which have given great pleasure over the years to my mind and spirit, admired immensely now, only began to be appreciated in the years of my middle age and in the early evening of my life. Those influences were Wordsworth and Shakespeare. They helped me to see nature in all its forms. But it was not only nature in its external forms: flowers, trees, but the entire geology and geography of place, that provided for me the deepest satisfactions and fascinations.

I found that nature’s external forms permitted my rational mind to attain a renovated and renovating vision of the organic world--and particularly my own personal world. This was achieved by means of the metaphorical nature of physical reality. My second wife, Chris, and nature programs also stimulated my interest in and appreciation of the external aspects of nature.

This appreciation, this vision, was difficult to achieve; it developed very slowly over the decades; the pitfalls surrounding the acquisition and development of this vision, were many, obscure and subtle. But as one of Canada's poets, perhaps Canada’s greatest 19th century poet, Archibald Lampman, expressed the challenge: “the poet must not cease from the mental effort required both to obtain this renovated vision of external nature and to return, restored, to the world of men.”

Part 2:

This renovated vision found and now finds its chief conceptual home, its guiding hand, one of its chief tools and aids, one of its fertile sources and bases, in a view of physical reality in all its forms as a metaphorical construct whose value, use and importance is an inner, symbolic, dramaturgical, one. To put this another way: words and metaphors are not mediums which copy life. Their true work is to restore life itself to order, pattern and meaning.

Metaphor persuades and illuminates because it integrates pragmatic, cognitive and linguistic knowledge with awareness of culture, ideology and history. This idea is a difficult one to put into words and, I know from my own experience and from years of trying to get students to understand the concept, that this brilliant source of insight is simply never grasped by millions of people. For the most part it never even comes onto their agenda.

The value or function of the metaphorical, or what can also be called the analogical, process is immense. On the obvious level, it is a useful way to explain the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar and the abstract in terms of the concrete. In addition, it has the capacity to compress a great deal of meaning into a few words and, because it offers a variety of meanings, it can be an expansive description rather than a limiting or restrictive one; it can counteract narrowness of thought, literalism, imitation and dogmatism’s many fundamentalist forms. But probably the most important feature of the analogical process is its ability to educate.

When a person is forced to examine X in order to understand Y, he is exercising one of his most important capacities as a human being. “The ability to see the relationship between one thing and another is almost a definition of intelligence. Thinking in metaphors,” says Louis Simpson in his An Introduction to Poetry, “is a tool of intelligence. Perhaps it is the most important tool.” Indeed, a view of the existential world as metaphor is, for me, a key methodology for unlocking the world’s meaning, for moving from abstract concepts to concrete things and back again, a key device for providing a narrative framework for and a conceptualization of life--one that is not imposed, one that is not based on something we are told to think.3

Part 3:

In the years 1995 to 2005, as I approached my retirement from so many forms of engagement with the world: full-time, part-time and volunteer work as well as an engagement with what was often a seemingly endless set of social and community obligations, I came quite clearly to understand the benefits and insights to be gained from excursions into this world of metaphorical reality, of inner reality and its renovating vision. But, as I have indicated repeatedly in many pieces of my writing and again in this prose-poem, there are appropriate and inappropriate attitudes to and perspectives on nature and vision, metaphor and analogical thought.

The liberty and the moderate freedom which our Age is seeking is embodied in and defined, at least by me and several million of my co-religionists, by an Administrative Order whose operating principles derive from the teachings of Baha’u’llah and provide the very structure of freedom for our Age. Neither nature nor vision, analysis nor creativity, should take the writer and poet away from a concern for man and society, nor should they take him or her away from their support of those institutional safeguards of this new Faith.

This is not a simple idea and, for those who are not members of the Baha'i Faith, I have little doubt that this idea will not land on their agenda in my lifetime. If I live to be 100 the year will be 2044! After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 at the age of 71, this understanding by the mass of humankind does not appear likely.

Part 3.1:

I have taken a keen interest in the social sciences and humanities, the latter only in the last 25 years since teaching English literature to matriculation students in one of the most isolated cities on Earth, Perth Western Australia. These subjects or disciplines in the social sciences and humanities have, along with decades of observation and experience, some of it based in outrageous fortune, some in despondency, some in joy and much in immense quantities of the quotidian, have assisted me in: (a) strengthening my spirit and mind and in exhausting them; (b) giving me an increased veneration and respect for certain portions of the world’s immense corpus of poetry and prose; and (c) acquiring a resolute contemplation of life developed over what seemed, and were, epochs of time, at least half a century or more.

My stance vis-à-vis the great poetry and literature of history as well as much of the social sciences and humanities has been more active especially since those social and occupational demands of life have diminished in recent years. This active stance, though, is necessarily a highly selective one rather than a passive and accepting method and mode. The resources available now for students and writers like myself are simply staggering in their magnitude. Life is short and time is fleeting; the hour is urgent and, let there be no mistake, ours in the duty to labour serenely and to lend our share of assistance in whatever way circumstances may enable us to assuage the fury of the tempest of our times.4

Part 4:

I must admit and acknowledge that my precursor models and their styles, those I have drawn on for my various and several literary purposes, have increased with the years. I qualify as a result, it seems to me, as a practitioner, as a legitimate Canadian/Australian hybrid participant, in the tradition that leads from the great Romantics to the great Moderns and Postmoderns. My perspective rests on: (a) a resolute contemplation of my time and place, (b) a broad synthesis of much from the social sciences and humanities and (c) a noetic integrator that interprets large fields of reality, that is the ontological and theological, epistemological and teleological framework and construction of my religion. And because of this my perspective is—I can safely say--distinctly my own.

It is a perspective that includes man, nature, society, every atom in existence and the essence of all created things. It is the perspective of a man with a wide and, insofar as I am able to envisage and articulate, a coherent range of concerns. It is the perspective: (i) of an imaginative observer of both the external world and the world of the unseen; (ii) of one who is and has been for half a century committed to the gradual, evolutionary building of a new world, the foundations of a global society, the City of God, through the charismatic and prophetic figure of Baha’u’llah; (iii) of an adherent of a new and independent religious system with a detailed and verifiable record of its history and development; (iv) of a participant in a system whose growing influence is arguably the most remarkable development in contemporary religious history; (v) of a man who has not, as many might think, attached himself to a utopian, an unrealistic, dream; (vi) of a person who endeavours to see life simply as it is and to estimate everything at its true value in relation to: (a) a view of universal truth which is perennial but not archaic, (b) a view which accepts that no fortuitous conjunction of circumstances will make it possible for the human community to bend the conditions of life into conformity with some set of human desires—that such a hope, is illusory; and (c) a view that the world is one country, has one common homeland and humankind are its citizens.

A. In April 1937 Vivien Leigh, one of the most popular actresses of the 20th century, had been in a rapturous sexual relationship with Laurence Olivier for nearly two years. At the time both of them were married to someone else. Olivier was a major actor-interpreter of Shakespeare for his time. Leigh had just begun her acting career. In that same month, April 1937, the Baha’i teaching Plan opened. Leigh moved in with Olivier 8 weeks later. And so began one of the famous romances of the twentieth century. Leigh had the intuition, sometime in May of 1937, after reading Gone With the Wind which had won the Pulitzer Prize that year, that she would play the part of Scarlett O’Hara in the movie Gone With the Wind. And so she did: on Christmas Day 1938 she was offered a contract for the part. And so began her life of Hollywood fame.
B. Henrik Johan Ibsen(1828-1906) was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of realism." He is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre. His major works include: Peer Gynt, An Enemy of the People, A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, and The Master Builder, among others. He is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare. A Doll's House became the world's most performed play by the early 20th century.
C. Some saw Jane Austen's novels as the writing of “a prose Shakespeare,”1 a writer who exposed with her acid solution of words the empty foundations of social and personal morality in a violent and repressive age in English society.-Ron Price with thanks to 1William MacAuley in Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, Vol. 2, B.C. Southam, editor, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., London, 1987.
D. When I retired from a 50 year student-and-working life, 1949-1999, I slowly went about reinventing myself, as they say these days. It was a somewhat unconscious process at first, but gradually several roles emerged, and increasingly consciously, roles that enabled me to pleasantly occupy myself in the evening of my life. Only time would tell how many years remained before I shuffled off this mortal coil and suffered or enjoyed the sleep of death, as Shakespeare puts it in Hamlet. Whether these years, thus far, were early evening or late, I did not, although I might in time, know. As I write these words I am 71.5 and 72 in five months, and I have a terminal illness--pancreatic cancer.

In the first dozen years(2002-2014) of my retirement from FT, PT, most volunteer work and any formal educational study, I became, by sensible and insensible degrees: a writer and author, an editor and researcher, a poet and publisher, a scholar and student, an online journalist and blogger. In the years from 2002 to 2014 I organized, as systematically as I was able, a reading and writing program around my many interests. One of the categories of my interests was the literary world of: writers and poets, novelists and essayists, playwrights and letter-writers, biographers & autobiographers, diarists & journalists. Some call this field, which includes all literary works, and especially: fiction, poetry, drama, or essays, belles-lettres. It is a vast field of general literature and it is valued for its aesthetic qualities, its originality of style and tone, and often for the lighter branches of literature.
E. In 1953 Isaiah Berlin(1909-1997) published a book called The Hedgehog and the Fox. Foxes, he wrote, are people who know many things; hedgehogs know one big thing. It was in part a study of Berlin's literary hero, Leo Tolstoy(1828-1910), whom he described as a fox who wished at times that he was a hedgehog. Foxes draw on a wide variety of experiences and they do not boil down the intellectual world to a single idea. Such foxes include: Herodotus, Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce, Anderson)-Ron Price with thanks to several internet sites especially Wikipedia on the topic of Isaiah Berlin.
F. I first came across Thomas Hardy in grades 11 and 12 in Burlington Ontario. His novels The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the D’Urbervilles were the novels we studied in those last two years at Burlington Central High School. I was a good student, near the top of my class, but I remember finding Hardy: heavy, cumbersome, difficult reading, although nowhere near as difficult as the Shakespeare play we also studied each year. I did not come across Hardy, or Shakespeare, again until some thirty years later in the early 1990s when I taught matriculation English at a technical and further education college in Perth Western Australia. Again, it was Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Hamlet.

G. As a now retired teacher of ancient Roman and Greek history, among other subjects I taught from 1967 to 2005, I enjoyed today's ABC Radio National program on Seneca the Younger(5 BC to 65 AD). I have always found the aspect of Seneca of most personal interest was his influence on Shakespeare.

The closest to Greek tragedy that Shakespeare got was to Seneca's tragedies which Shakespeare rehabilitated. Classical tragedy means the ten Latin plays of Seneca not those of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. As one analyst put it: Hamlet is inconceivable without Seneca. These are just some thoughts from someone who is no expert on Seneca, Shakespeare or either classical or Renaissance cultures/civilizations. But the subject is of interest to muse about in these years of crisis in a world, a crisis not unlike that faced in the times of Seneca, in the first century of the Roman empire(31 BC-69 AD).-Ron Price, George Town, Tasmania
H. "To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub." What dreams, Shakespeare asks, may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil?” “That sleep of death,” may give us hellish dreams for all eternity.” That is the rub. This thought gives us pause and puzzles the will and ultimately makes cowards of us all. And so we bear the ills we have rather than fly to others we know not of.

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet a speech is delivered by Hamlet praising man's nobility, his reason, his beauty and his angelic quality. But Hamlet goes on in the same speech to say that man is the "quintessence of dust." Man brings Hamlet no delight any more. Having tasted of this experience myself from time to time in my life or variations on a similar theme, I felt like writing a prose-poem to express the particular nature of my "fighting/That would not let me sleep," of my desire "To die, to sleep/No more," of my "native hue of resolution" which "Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought."1 In the end, for Hamlet, "the rest is silence."1 For me, for this poet of the Antipodes, the rest seemed to be endless words. -Ron Price with thanks to 1Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, The Soliloquy: "To Be or Not To Be.”

I decided more recently
to take up arms against
the world's sea of troubles
and not suffer the same slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune,
to take up arms differently than I
had done for the last forty years.

And so I reduced the many natural
shocks that flesh is heir to, the whips
and scorns of many a year, the fatigue,
the weariness in which I did toil, sweat
to an unavoidable, a narrow, band of woe.

So....when the sleep of death does come,
when I have shifted off this mortal coil
and entered that undiscovered country
from which no man returns; when I do
not have to deal with things contrary to
my wishes, but only with those days of
blissful joy that are assuredly in store for
me, I can look back and say that to this
enterprise of great pitch and moment the
native hue of resolution was coloured over
with the rich cast of thought and a quickening
wind amplified my perspectives yielding some
consequences of surprising poetic potency: yes,
perchance a rendezvous with my Maker, yes


There are poets who rise slowly and write badly and yet they come to have a true calling. Even after a hundred failures they arrive at a pure poetic power. Such a poet was William Wordsworth who was encumbered for years with poetry containing childish whims. Then, at last, by his religious insight he was lifted to genius.1 I should add here the words of one, Oliver Oldschool, who said that Wordsworth did for the ballad what Shakespeare did for the sonnet.2 -Ron Price with thanks to 1R.W. Emerson in Parnassus, editor: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Boston and New York, 1874, p. iv; and 2Oliver Oldschool in Port Folio, Vol.3, No. 27, Saturday, 2 July 1803, p. 210.

Well, I certainly rose slowly.
If I’d risen any more slowly
I would not have risen at all.

I certainly have written badly,
although conventions for bad
writing, especially in poetry,
are not that clear, not at all....

As far as a calling and a
hundred failures as the
precursors to arriving
at pure poetic power, well,
that is just too complex
for me to try to define
in relation to my own life—
and besides the whole idea
of arriving, at least publicly
has only just begun for me.

A poetry of childish whims,
being lifted to genius by
religious insight and doing
for autobiographical poetry
what they did for the ballad
and the sonnet…well, well..
I seriously doubt it, seriously.

I go on being surprised
by the breakthroughs,
by the remarkable strength,
the immeasurable joy and
the strenuous, deliberate
exertion1 that is my poetic.

1 The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message, 2005.

Ron Price
28/6/'05 to 15/6/'14.

Middle-aged and unsuccessful, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra started writing Don Quixote in the late 1500s — some say during one of his several spells in prison. At the time Shakespeare was finishing his Sonnets. The first of Don Quixote’s two volumes went on sale on January 16th 1605. Four hundred years later in January 2005 my own 1000 page Don Quixote was getting its final touches. It could be said that Cervantes’ novel is really about how people approach life and reality. My own autobiographical work deals with this same subject with a particular focus on Baha’i perspectives. With pancreatic cancer invading my life in 2015 my autobiographical work virtually ceased.

People like me are still sitting around trying to write new articles on Don Quixote 400 years after its initial publication. Part of the beauty of this book is that it lends itself to so much examination and reexamination. It's so rich, so full of ideas. I would like to think this is true of my own 1000 page work. Quixotic means impractical and idealistic, extravagantly visionary even romantic. These adjectives have often been applied to me and my ideals. The first volume of Cervantes’ Don Quixote was published when he was 57. This was also the case with my work. Both Cervantes’ book and mine could be said to be about the getting of wisdom. -Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, September 19th 2005.

Citizen of the world you were
so far back, part of a universal
literature wherein I can live
intimately with two elements
of human nature: soul and sense,
poetry and prose,1 that impossible,
that epic, dream, that invincible foe.

For my work and my life are both:
part of an impossible dream,
a journey in prose and poetry,
seemingly impractical, idealistic,
extravagantly visionary—romantic,
containing a certain element of absurdity,
of the bizarre, of madness, of humour,
a quintessential sanity and an awareness
of my concupiscible, irascible inclinations
and stages of my soul: inspiration, benevolence,
contentment and Divine good-pleasure.

1 Samuel Taylor Coleridge said Don Quixote personifies these two elements.

Ron Price
19/9/'05 to 15/6/'14.

Part 1:

In 1844 Elizabeth Barrett(1806-1861) acquired a special new admirer of her poetry. In the next two years she married this admirer. His name was Robert Browning. Four years after their marriage, the year of the martyrdom of the Bab in 1850, Elizabeth’s most famous book of poems was published: Sonnets from the Portuguese. Elizabeth Browning was regarded by the 1870s, at least by some, as both "England's greatest female poet" and the "most inspired woman poet of history."1 She attained sainthood not just as a poet but also as a wife, based on the love story told in poems like How Do I Love Thee?.

The value of her poetry came to lie, as some came to argue, in their autobiographical quality. “The seal of genuine experience,” wrote George Smith in 1874, “is upon each poem…we grasp the character of the poet.”2 –Ron Price with thanks to 1Tricia Lootens, Lost Saints: Silence, Gender, and Victorian Literary Canonization., University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 1996, p.136; and 2George Smith, "Elizabeth Barrett Browning." The Cornhill Magazine, 29 (1874), pp.469-90.

Part 2:

I have left many of Browning’s phrases from her poem How Do I Love Thee? in tact, but altered a good deal of her poem to suit my own particular tastes, desires and needs. This is a poem which needs much more work that I am currently prepared to give.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

I love Thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, but always out of sight;
To the ends of its Being and its ideal Grace.
And, I should add, to the limits of my pace.

I love Thee, especially when a most quiet need
Comes to fill my heart with its pressing feed
And by sun and, on rare occasions, candlelight.
I love Thee freely while striving for what is right;
I love thee purely, at least some of that god-given light.

I love with a passion put to use and set in old griefs,
And with that childhood faith however brief
It seems; I often lose it or it gets tarnished
With the years or, perhaps, I could say more varnished
And now wisely seen. I love thee with the breath, smiles,
tears of all my life! If God choose I shall but love thee miles
And miles after this long road, and better after death
When we are both gone and there is no more breath.

Ron Price With thanks to:
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
27/8/'05 to15/6/'14.
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