Essays en Español

In English, I’m a fairly good writer.

Or, colloquially, “I write good.”

But if you assign me an essay in Spanish,

My skills do not shine brighter.

 

What can I say, that can be written

In the words of a five year old?

“Mi madre es bonita. Mi madre es loca.”

But, “My mother adopted a kitten?”

 

Maybe I can fudge the facts:

“Mi madre tiene gatos pequeños.”

It’s technically true, thought not quite the same,

But I know the word for “cats.”

 

Also, the transitions! It’s a stylistic sin.

Of this, I am well aware.

Mother, forgive me, I know you would weep,

But I only know “también.”

 

From my logic professor, I ask forgiveness.

I know my argument isn’t sound.

“Me gusta” this, “no me gusta” that;

I’ll have proof when I actually mean business.

 

To my English professor: I am deeply sorry

That I don’t elaborate on my thoughts.

“La película es buena,” is all I say.

Explaining why is just too much worry.

 

To my history professor, I have apologized

For my unclear use of tenses.

In my essays, the past and present are one.

My timeline is worth being criticized.

 

My essays in Spanish are a clichéd love scene:

“If only I had the words to say…”

But I have two more courses in Spanish to take,

Maybe one day I can say all I mean.

 

The Little Foxes: A Strategy for Self-Control

“When Satan cannot get a great sin in he will let a little one in, like the thief who goes and finds shutters all coated with iron and bolted inside. At last he sees a little window in a chamber. He cannot get in, so he puts a little boy in, that he may go round and open the back door. So the devil has always his little sins to carry about with him to go and open back doors for him, and we let one in and say, ‘O, it is only a little one.’ Yes, but how that little one becomes the ruin of the entire man!” – Charles Spurgeon

Self-control is an area in which many Christians struggle. We find our own levels of self-discipline half-hearted and anemic at best. Even though we have areas where we over-indulge, we shrug our shoulders, deciding that our lack of self-control is acceptable. After all, drinking several cups of coffee a day or eating two slices of pie every night before bed aren’t categorically sinful things to do. In fact, having plenty to eat and drink is a positively good thing.

ice cream

 

But while eating a second slice of pie or buying a new pair of shoes is emphatically not sinful, Jerry Bridges makes a great point in the book Respectable Sins: self-discipline in small areas of our lives can give us greater self-control in more critical areas. Bridges’s own indulgence is ice cream, and for him, controlling how much he eats gives him greater self-control in other areas, places where true sin lies: sins such as lust, gossip, anger, and any other vices that stem from a lack of self-discipline.

“The little foxes spoil the vines,” a saying drawn from Song of Solomon 2.15, is advice helpful for Christians seeking effective strategies for growing in holiness.

“Ulysses” and “The Lotos Eaters”: Contrasting Perspectives on Life from Lord Alfred Tennyson

What does it mean to live? Mankind has been asking this very question since the dawn of time, and it is a recurring theme through many of the poems of Lord Alfred Tennyson. Whether the poem is “The Lady of Shalott,” ”Marianne,” or one of his other works, the theme of “living” flows throughout much of his poetry. However, a pair of poems that discuss contrasting views on life are “Ulysses” and “The Lotos Eaters”. “Ulysses” looks at living as a grand adventure and considers inactivity and lethargy as the opposite of true living. In contrast “The Lotos Eaters” depicts men who find solace in a mind numbing drug and sitting on a beach doing nothing. Both of the poems contain some similar components, but Tennyson uses structural elements, poetical imagery, and historical references to create images that describe two very different ways of “living” life, and studying the poems in reference to one another helps the reader better understand each.

Structure is important in poetry, and Tennyson uses it with full effect to communicate his ideas and views in the two poems. “Ulysses” is written in blank verse, and this gives the poem a solemn, speech-like, and less soothing sound. Blank verse consists of no rhyme scheme, but each line contains ten syllables. Blank verse is characterized by iambic pentameter which determines the pattern of stresses on the words. The combination of blank verse with iambic pentameter can be clearly seen in the following lines from the poem:

 

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. (66-70)

 

The poetic structure of blank verse gives the poem a certain rhythm, but the absence of rhyming, married with the very common speech sound of the lines, combines to create a realistic image and somewhat melancholy feeling in the reader. The feeling of realism and somberness that the blank verse creates helps convey the sense of entrapment in old age, and longing for the sea and good old days, that Ulysses expresses throughout the poem. In contrast, “The Lotos Eaters” creates a calm and bewitching atmosphere to accentuate the mind-numbing effects of the lotos plants that the sailors eat. To accomplish this through the structure of the poem, Tennyson uses what is called a Spenserian stanza. This style of stanza uses a rhyme scheme of ababbcbcc, and each stanza contains nine iambic lines (New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics). According to one writer, “The rhythm and rhyme scheme accentuate the “languid” (5) quality of the landscape and the people that Odysseus and his men meet there […] Its [Spenserian stanza’s] repetitions enhance the slow advance of the ideas of the poem” (Dooley). Unlike “Ulysses” which does not have any kind of rhyme scheme, the rhyming in “The Lotos Eaters” also makes the poem sound more fanciful than its counterpart, which furthers the ideas and feelings that Tennyson is trying to convey to the reader. Tennyson enlists distinct structural elements to convey the different moods and ideas in his two poems “Ulysses” and “The Lotos Eaters”.

While Tennyson does utilize structure to establish moods and support ideas, he also makes use of other poetical devices to further reinforce the themes of “Ulysses” and “The Lotos Eaters”. The poem “Ulysses” consists mainly of straight monologue from Ulysses’ mouth, but also holds imagery that provides key insights into Tennyson’s intended meaning for the poem. For example, at one point in the poem Ulysses says, “Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough / Gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades / Forever and forever when I move” (19-21). Concerning these lines Paul Dean says, “”Gleams” is a favorite Tennyson word; the lines mock the human quest for finality, truth, or certainty. All we can do is voyage on” (21-22). Tennyson employs this word to describe how Ulysses is longing for the next adventure –either a literal one, or the adventure of death –and every new experience has left him hungering after new glimpses of discovery. Also, Tennyson uses descriptions of the sea and land to create moods in the poem. Findlay says, “References to earth, air, fire, and water convey mood and express judgment. The expansive ocean is firmly established as Ulysses’ element, in contrast to the confining crags of Ithaca. Ulysses sees his life in terms of drinking “delight of battle,” and the ocean as a possible final resting place” (140). In direct contrast with this longing for action and work to give meaning to life, “The Lotos Eaters” contains poetic imagery that creates the exact opposite feeling in the reader’s mind. Tennyson uses words that convey a passive and dreamy feeling to the reader to communicate the apathy for life in the sailors after they have partaken of the lotos. Tennyson takes advantage of words like “downward smoke,” “veils,”“wavering,” and “slumbrous” to communicate a lethargy in the energy of the poem. This is clearly visible in the following lines:

 

A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,

Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;

And some through wavering lights and shadows broke,

Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below (10-13)

 

The poem contains such imagery throughout, communicating how the sailors who arrived on the island’s shores decide to think no more of home, but instead to dwell on the island, being dulled to all other cares or desires. Through the previous examples, Tennyson’s uses of imagery can be seen to clearly support the themes of each of the two poems –reinforcing and accentuating their messages.

Finally, while the two poems differ greatly in their message, structural style, and imagery, they both contain a large number of similarities when considering their mythological and historical context and roots. Both “Ulysses” and “The Lotos Eaters” are set within the context of Homer’s work The Odyssey. However, the poems also share a strong influence from Virgil’s The Aeneid. According to Adam Roberts, some of the references to The Aeneid in “Ulysses” can lend insight into what Tennyson meant in the poem. Roberts says in reference to the passage which discusses the “gleams” of an untraveled world mentioned earlier, “Ulysses describes his endless onward questing […] This ever-receding goal seems to owe something to the […] Trojan’s sea quest: ‘dum per mare magnum/Italiam sequimur fugietem’(Aeneid V.628-9) [‘whilst over the great sea we chase after an ever-fleeing Italy’]” (60). In light of this passage, the poem seems to be discussing the adventure and life that Ulysses, probably old and seeing the end of his days approaching, is longing after. However, “Ulysses” is not the only poem that has strong ties to The Aeneid. Concerning the hypnotizing drug of the lotos plant on the ship’s crew, Roberts says, “…the deadly appeal of the sleepy Lotos lifestyle involves some sense of the fate of Palinurus, the watchman on Aeneas’ ship, who is beguiled by the god Sleep to shut his weary eyes” (61). In The Aeneid, after Palinurus drifts into sleep, he falls overboard and drowns. Reading the poem in context of this reference shows that Tennyson is not extolling living in a mind-numbing state, but is actually subtly cueing the reader to realize the danger of living in such a manner.

Tennyson, like mankind before and since, seeks to understand what “to live” really means, and his poems “Ulysses” and “The Lotos Eaters” each discuss a very different approach to this conundrum. “Ulysses” uses blank verse and monologue, combined with bleak descriptions of sea and land, to create a sense of melancholy and longing for the activity, adventure, and comradeship that gives meaning to life. In stark contrast, “The Lotos Eaters” contains Spenserian stanzas that read rhythmically and have a regular rhyme scheme, combined with dreamy imagery and references to beguilements in The Aeneid, to warn the reader that living lethargically and passively is no life at all. Through these two very different poems Tennyson encourages the reader to live actively, and studying them together enables the meaning of each poem to be better understood.

Works Cited

A.P., and T.V.F.B. “Spenserian Stanza.” New Princeton Encyclopedia Of Poetry & Poetics (1993): 1205-1206. Literary Reference Center. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Dean, Paul. “Many Voices.” New Criterion 28.8 (2010): 20-23. Literary Reference Center. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Dooley, Deborah A. “Literary Contexts In Poetry: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Lotos Eaters.” Literary Contexts In Poetry: Alfred Lord Tennyson’s ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ (2006): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Findlay, L. M. “Sensation And Memory In Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’.” Victorian Poetry 19.2 (1981): 139-149. JSTOR. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Roberts, A. “Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’ And ‘Lotos Eaters’: Sources In Virgil’s Aeneid V.” Notes And Queries 46.1 (1999): 60-62. Scopus®. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.

Tennyson, Alfred. “The Lotos Eaters.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. 2031-032. Print.

Tennyson, Alfred. “Ulysses.” The Norton Anthology English Literature. 9th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. 2032-033. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Norman Conquest

Horses neighed, armor clashed, and the earth shook as two armies drew battle lines against each other near the town of Hastings on October 15, 1066.  On one side stood the seven thousand soldier army of Duke William I of Normandy, come to make good his claim to the English throne (Corbishley 31).
Opposite to the Normans was a smaller, newly-arrived army, led by King Harold of England, who had just reached Hastings to repress William’s invasion.  A Norman minstrel struck up “The Song of Roland” and began the charge, seven thousand voices joining his, seven thousand swords ringing with his.  As the two sides met, little did they realize that they were altering history forever, and that the results of this one battle would change England and the world.  On the day that William crushed the English army and won the English crown, he created the modern English language, transformed English architecture, and helped bring about the Hundred Years’ War.

William the ConquerorOne of the most obvious changes the Norman invasion brought was the alteration of England’s language from Old English, a mixture of Germanic and Scandinavian languages, to Middle English, a mixture of Old English and Norman French (“English Language”).  This change in language came about slowly, though, because the Norman upper class refused to speak English, instead using their native Norman French.  Similarly, most of the indigenous English stuck steadfastly to their native tongue, except for those who sought to gain power and influence in the royal court.  However, after some time the Anglo-Saxon English began to bridge the language gap, and “the use of French words eventually became fashionable in England [and] the English borrowed thousands of these words and made them part of their own language” (“English Language”).  In addition, the Normans gradually accepted the English language, as they lost their close connections with France and formed new ones with the local English through marriage. Thus, the language differences separating the Normans and Anglo-Saxons disappeared, and by the late 1300s Norman French and Old English had melded to form Middle English, which in turn became the English language of modern times.

Tower of London
The Tower of London; in center, The White Tower

More visible changes than those made to language are evident in the churches and castles that arose in England after the Norman invasion.  Well-prepared for invading England, William I brought plenty of supplies and war horses with him, but most importantly for the future of English architecture, he took prefabricated castels, the Norman French word for what the English would later call castles (Hanawalt 67).  These fortresses were a relatively new invention, and under William’s reign the English landscape quickly became dotted with them.  According to one historian, “William set off to the west [of England] with his army, building castles in every county and castles in every location where he met resistance” (Hanawalt 67).  Thus, the medieval age of castles was born in England.  However, the introduction of castles was not the only impression the Norman Conquest left on English architecture in following years.  Another notable Norman modification of English architecture was the use of stone, instead of wood, as a building material.  Gradually, stone churches and castles replaced the wooden edifices of the Saxons.  One famous example of Norman-English architecture looms in the center of London and has served its people as a stronghold, prison, and palace.  It is the Tower of London.  William built the first part of the Tower, called the White Tower, in the late eleventh century, and succeeding generations, adding onto this, eventually created the Tower of London as it stands today (“Tower of London”).  Constructed of thick stone walls and surrounded by a shallow moat and two exterior walls, the Tower of London exemplifies many of the reigning features of Norman-English architecture (“Tower of London”).  Other distinctive aspects of Norman-English architecture include huge columns, round arches, and a motte and bailey fortress design (“Norman Architecture”).  A motte was the hill on which a castle was situated, and a bailey was the fortification that surrounded the base of the motte (“Castle”).  All of these became characteristic features of English castles following the Norman invasion (“United Kingdom”).

Normandy
The Duchy of Normandy

Although its effects on English language and architecture were significant, probably the Norman Invasion’s greatest impact on history was that it helped to cause the Hundred Years’ War between France and England.  Normandy was a large and powerful duchy in France and provided English monarchs after William I with a powerful French foothold.  Later marriage alliances between France and England added to this original tie, and all of these connections culminated in an English claim to the French throne in 1337, sparking the Hundred Years’ War (“Hundred Years’ War”).  In this way, Normandy ended up being more than a foothold in France, for during the Hundred Years’ War it became a bone of contention between France and England.  Both countries grappled for control of Normandy, until the English finally lost it in 1449 to Charles VII of France (“Normandy”).  Thus, William set the stage for strife between France and England as he brought together his holdings in Normandy and his acquired lands in England.

When Harold lost to William of Normandy on October 15, 1066, who would have thought that the results of the battle would change England and history forever?  To most who saw the event, it was merely another melee, another mastery of one nation over another.  Yet, the Battle of Hastings and the ensuing fall of England were far more important, for if the Norman Conquest had not succeeded, the English language would be utterly unrecognizable, English architecture would look entirely different, and history would most likely have not included a Hundred Years’ War.

Works Cited

“Castle.” World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. Corbishley, Mike. The Middle Ages. New York: Facts on File Inc., 1990.

“English Language.” World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 10 Sept. 2013.

Hanawalt, Barbara A. The Middle Ages: an Illustrated History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998

“Hundred Years’ War.” World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.

“Norman Architecture.” World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.

“Normandy.” World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 17 Sept. 2013.

“Tower of London.” World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2013.

“United Kingdom, History of the.” World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.