Archives - February 2011

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Feb. 28

Do You Suffer from an Irony Deficiency?


Maugham's Classic Tale



       Over the course of the last few years, listening to war news from Iraq, I often heard the city of Samarra mentioned.  And every time I heard its name, I was reminded of this re-telling of an Arabian folk story by W. Somerset Maugham.


       Death speaks:  There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there death will not ...

Feb. 25

Hamlet's Best Speech


Words, words, words.



       Hands down, Hamlet's speech to his fairweather friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is the best in Shakespeare's tragegy.  It really needs no other intro.  Just enjoy.


"I have of late -- but wherefore I know not -- lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire -- why, it appeareth no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.  What a piece of work is a man!  how noble in reason!  how infinite in faculties!  in form and moving how express and admirable!  in action how like an angel!  in apprehension how like a god ...

Feb. 23

Henry David Thoreau


Love is Blind



       Henry David Thoreau, bless his heart, was as ugly as the day is long.  (In the South it is just plain good manners to add "bless his or her heart" when saying something derogatory about someone else.  It takes a bit of the sting out of the insult.)  His neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne described him as being "as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous, manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior." However, he did add:  "His ugliness is of an honest and agreeable fashion and becomes him much better than beauty."

       In addition to his questionable looks, he rarely bathed or combed his hair or replaced his shabby clothes.  ("Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!) I can only imagine his smell.  He also had notoriously bad table manners.  Oliver Wendell Holmes complained often and loudly about ...

Feb. 16

Shakespeare's Ophelia


Flower Symbols



       Poor demented Ophelia.  Shakespeare's flower child.  Her presence on the stage is inundated with flower imagery.  Her brother Laertes warns against dallying with Prince Hamlet, who will not wed her as she desires. 

      "For Hamlet," he tells his sister, "and the trifling of his favor, / Hold it a fashion, and a toy in blood; A violet in the youth of primy nature, / Forward, not permanent -- sweet, not lasting; / The perfume and suppliance of a minute; / No more."

       He doesn't love you, Ophelia.  He is only playing with you, teasing you, to get what he wants.  "Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain / If with too credent ear you list his songs, / Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open / To his unmast'red importunity." 

      But sweet little Ophelia has a mind of her ...

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Listening to the whispering pines

Hello. My name is Donna Cozart Pauley. Welcome to The Whispering Pines, a literary blog dedicated to my love of the written word. It is an eclectic collage of my life -- from my poems to my stories to my family to my pets to my causes to my photographs to my recipes to my love of teaching to my favorite literature. Please feel free to comment. Words are only important if they are heard or read. Just like those soundless trees falling in the forest.

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