The Eclogues by Virgil.

Eclogues (also known as The Pastoral Poems and the Bucolics) is Virgil's first major work written around 44 B.C. - 38 B.C. (Georgics and then the Aeneidwould follow). It is a beautiful collection of poems in the Greek tradition with a Roman setting, telling the stories of shepherds and other countrymen, and their lives and loves. It was, it's said, originally written in imitation of Theocritus' Idylls(3rd Century B.C.). 
There are ten poems: The Dispossessed (Meliboeus and Tityrus)The Passionate Shepherd to his Love (Alexis)Are these Meliboeus' Sheep? (Menalcas, Damoetas, and Palaemon)The Golden Age Returns (Pollio)Daphnis at Heaven's Gate (Menalcas and Mopsus)The Song of Silenus (To Varus)The Singing-Match (Meliboeus, Corydon, and Thyrsis)Damon and AlphesiboeusThe Road to Town (Lycidas and Moeris)Gallus The poems are not simply pastoral in theme but also political, with references to Augustus and Julius Caesar, and shows how the characters, from the shepherds to a …

A Meditation upon a Broomstick by Jonathan Swift.

A Meditation upon a Broomstick is a short essay by Jonathan Swift, first published in 1710. It's a satire on an earlier work by Robert Boyle - Occasional Reflections upon Several Subjects (1665) - in which Boyle would meditate upon everyday objects and pin religious meanings on them. It's said that when Swift was a secretary to William Temple, the Temple family would frequently read from Occasional Reflections and Swift, quite frankly, got bored of them and so in his Meditations he mocked the predictability and often absurdity of Boyle. He then read his own in place of Boyle's, and apparently the ladies didn't catch on that it was a parody until the end.
The essay's short enough to quote in full: This single stick, which you now behold ingloriously lying in that neglected corner, I once knew in a flourishing state in a forest. It was full of sap, full of leaves, and full of boughs; but now in vain does the busy art of man pretend to vie with nature, by tying that wi…

Four English Comedies.

While things are a bit mad here owing to the fallout of 'The Beast from the East' (which I'm sorry to say is predicted to return over the weekend) I'm going to stick to the format of mini-reviews (time has not been on my side for some time now and it's an excellent way of keeping things ticking along for the foreseeable future). This week my theme, which occurred quite naturally, was comedy and three of the four books were published in the 1930s - a fine time indeed for some gentle and witty reads.
The first book, though, was from 1900, the end of another good decade for British comedy. Three Men on the Bummel was Jerome K. Jerome's sequel to his excellent and much celebrated novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), published eleven years earlier in 1889. It is not as good nor as funny as its predecessor but it's still a fun read. In it we follow the three men, George, Harris, and J as they tour Germany (the Black Forest) on bike. It is, as t…

Don Juan by Molière.

Don Juan, or Dom Juan or the Feast of Stone (Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre) as it is properly called, is a play by Molière and was first published in 1665, a year before The Misanthrope. As the title suggests, it's based on the legend of Don Juan, also known as Don Giovanni, the famous libertine and womaniser who I became more familiar with having read Byron's Don Juan(1824). The first piece of writing on this legend was in El burlador de Sevilla by Tirso de Molina (1616) in which Don Juan leads a feckless life believing there's plenty of time for his repentance, which, as it turns out, there was not. Molière's play takes a similar path.
In the beginning we meet Don Juan through the eyes of others: his wife Donna Elvira, who he abandons in search of a younger wife, and those around her who believe he is immoral and untrustworthy, especially around women. This is a fair summation of his character, as we learn there is not one but two women he has proposed to: Charlott…

Four Mini Reviews: In Search of Nostalgia.

When it comes to searching for the perfect nostalgic read, there are three places I look: the ancient bucolics, the late 18th Century rural settings, or the early part of the 20th Century. These are my comfort reads and I was (still am really) very much in need of them these past ten days being snowed in, cold, and exhausted from the vast amount of snow I had to shovel. I was drawn, this time, to the early part of the 20th Century, pre-war or inter-war, a time that just seemed better even when it probably wasn't. So, I went through four books in search of a nostalgic read, beginning first with George Orwell's Such, Such Were the Joys.
Such, Such Were the Joys was first published in 1952 after Orwell's death and it is a long autobiographical essay on Orwell's schooldays from September 1911 to December 1916 at St. Cyprian's School in Eastbourne, Sussex. The title comes from a poem by William Blake, The Echoing Green from his Songs of Innocence (1789) "Such, such…

Wordless Wednesday: The Thaw.


The Art of Love by Ovid.

The Art of Love (Ars Amatoria) is a collection of 57 poems divided into three books on the subject of love and sex. It was written in around 2 A.D. and would be followed by Cures for Love (Remedia Amoris).
It begins with a poem introducing Ovid's intentions: Should anyone here in Rome lack finesse at love-making, let him
Try me - read my book, and results are guaranteed!
Technique is the secret. Charioteer, sailor, oarsman,
All need it. Technique can control
Love himself. As Automedon was charioteer to Achilles,
And Tiphys Jason's sterrman, so I,
By Venus' appointment, am made Love's artificer, shall be known as
The Tiphys, the very Automedon of Love.
He's a wild handful, will often rebel against me,
But still just a child -
Malleable, easily disciplined. Chiron made young Achilles
A fine musician, hammered that fierce heart
On the anvil of peaceful artistry. So this future terror
To friend and foe alike went in awe, it's said,
Of his elderly teacher, at whose b…