Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"The End of the Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe's Cat (from "Poetry for Cats" by Henry Beard)

This particular cat-related spoof of Poe's "The Raven" is my favorite, I think. Might have been Henry Beard's too, as he placed the illustration on the cover of his hilarious book!

On a night quite unenchanting, when the rain was downward slanting,
I awakened to the ranting of the man I catch mice for.
Tipsy and a bit unshaven, in a tone I found quite craven,
Poe was talking to a Raven perched above the chamber door.
"Raven's very tasty," thought I, as I tiptoed o'er the floor,
"There is nothing I like more."

Soft upon the rug I treaded, calm and careful as I headed
Towards his roost atop that dreaded bust of Pallas I deplore.
While the bard and birdie chattered, I made sure that nothing clattered,
Creaked, or snapped, or fell, or shattered, as I crossed the corridor;
For his house is crammed with trinkets, curios and weird decor -
Bric-a-brac and junk galore.

Still the Raven never fluttered, standing stock-still as he uttered,
In a voice that shrieked and sputtered, his two cents worth -
While this dirge the birdbrain kept up, oh, so silently I crept up,
Then I crouched and quickly leapt up, pouncing on the feather bore.
Soon he was a heap of plumage, and a little blood and gore -
Only this and not much more.

"Oooo!" my pickled poet cried out, "Pussycat, it's time I dried out!"
Never sat I in my hideout talking to a bird before;
How I've wallowed in self-pity, while my gallant, valiant kitty.
Put an end to that damned ditty - then I heard him start to snore.
Back atop the door I clambered, eyed that statue I abhor,
Jumped - and smashed it on the floor.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Humorous Narration from "Emma"

We all love the cinematic adaptations, certainly, but one particular joy of reading Jane Austen's original material is the sharp wit often found in her narration, something that is often lost in the transformation of novel to screen. Here are some gems I rediscovered during a recent re-read of "Emma."

In chapter three, Austen describes Mrs. Goddard's school (where Harriet Smith received her education) as "a real, honest, old-fashioned boarding-school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies."

In chapter 10, Emma and Harriet meet Mr. Elton on the road and Emma contrives to allow them some time alone, hoping that Mr. Elton will say something that will reveal his romantic intentions towards Harriet. But alas, "Emma experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair companion an account of the yesterday's party at his friend Cole's, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton cheese, the North Wiltshire, the butter, and celery, the beetroot, and all the desert."

The opening sentence of chapter 22: "Human nature is so well disposed towards those who are in interesting situations, that a young person, who either marries or dies, is sure of being kindly spoken of."

Opening sentence of chapter 29: "It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind . . ."

Last sentence of chapter 36: "Mr. Knightley seemed to be trying not to smile; and succeeded without difficulty, upon Mrs. Elton's beginning to talk to him."

In chapter 39, after the incident with Harriet and the gypsies, when Harriet is safetly at Hartfield, Austen records Mr. Woodhouse's reaction thus: "Poor Mr. Woodhouse trembled as he sat, and, as Emma had forseen, would scarecely be satisfied without their promising never to go beyond the shrubbery again. It was some comfort to him that many inquiries after himself and Miss Woodhouse (for his neighbours knew that he loved to be inquired after), as well as Miss Smith, were coming in during the rest of the day; and he had the pleasure of returning for answer, that they were all very indifferent; which, though not exactly true, for she was perfectly well, and Harriet not much otherwise, Emma wouild not interfere with. She had an unhappy state of health in general for the child of such a man, for she hardly knew what indisposition was; and if he did not invent illnesses for her, she would make no figure in a message."

In chapter 42, during the strawberry outing at Donwell Abbey, Mrs. Elton leads the way and dominates the conversation thus:

" . . . Mrs. Elton, in all her apparatus of happiness, her large bonnet and her basket, was very ready to lead the way in gathering, accepting, or talking. Strawberries, and only strawberries, could now be thought or spoken of. 'The best fruit in England--everybody's favorite--always wholesome. These the finest beds and finest sorts. Delightful to gather for oneself--the only way of really enjoying them. Morning decidedly the best time--never tired--every sort good--hautboy infinitely superior--no comparision--the others hardly eatable--hautboys very scarce--Chili preferred--white wood finest flavour of all--price of strawberries in London--abundance about Briston--Maple Grove--cultivation--beds when to be renewed--gardeners thinking exactly different--no general rule--gardeners never to be put out of their way--delicious fruit--only too rich to be eaten much of--inferior to cherries--currants more refreshing--only objection to gathering strawberries the stooping--glaring sun--tired to death--could bear it no longer--must go and sit in the shade.'

Such, for half an hour, was the conversation . . ."


After Emma receives a welcome proposal in chapter 49 . . .

"What did she say? Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does."

And Mr. Knightley's opinion of Frank Churchill, though never actually positive, undergoes the following transformation after Knightley's proposal to Emma is accepted:

"He had found her agitated and low. Frank Churchill was a villain. He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's character was not desperate. She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow."


As Emma and Mr. Knightley, now an engaged couple, enter Hartfield to greet Mr. Woodhouse . . .

"Poor Mr. Woodhouse little suspected what was plotting against him in the breast of the man whom he was so cordially welcoming, and so anxiously hoping might not have taken cold from his ride. Could he have seen the heart, he would have cared very little for the lungs . . ."