Henry King – 1 (“Like to the falling of a star”)

AG:  So there’s another poem that I handed out – Sic Vita by Henry King  (which I think is the most poem.. most perfect of that (transience poetry), but it also has a very great rhythm, very great cadence, that comes out of the logic of the presentation of the idea.

“Like to the falling of a star,/ Or as the flights of eagles are,/ Or like the fresh spring’s gaudy hue,/ Or silver drops of morning dew,/ Or like a wind that chafes the flood,.” –  ( you know, “chafes the flood”? – ruffles the surface of the water) – ” Or bubbles which on water stood” – (that’s, I think, the great line – “Or bubbles which on water stood” – bubbles standing on water, bubbles which stood on the water, bubbles.. I never heard that before – bubbles stood on water – to have bubbles stood up on the water?  – “”Or bubbles which on water stood” – that’s a great rhyme – “flood”/”stood”) – “Even such is man, whose borrowed light/
Is straight called in, and paid to night..” –  (The light of man is “borrowed “and like a loan that is “called in and paid to night”) – “The wind blows out, the bubble dies;/ The spring entombed in autumn lies;/ The dew dries up, the star is shot;/ The flight is past, and man forgot.”

Perfect!  It ‘s one of those few one hundred percent, perfect, exquisite lyrics in the language.

Student: The title means what?

AG;  Thus.. Sic Transit Gloria Vita?… Sic Transit…

Student:  Life

AG: Thus life? – That’s Life.. the title – “That’s Life!”  –  “That’s Life,  Folks!”, –  that’s the line.

Student: (observing. the poem in the anthology) That break isn’t in there, by the way, it’s all one

AG: It’s just one little poem..  – “Like to the falling of a star,’ – I would like to do this one aloud (because it’s a great rhythm). I’ll read first…now..one thing about this poem I couldn’t get a hold of yet, but I will before we die, before our bubble bursts, is that there…because this is such a perfect form and the thought is so perfect, a lot of people after him wrote parodies of it, or imitations of it, or did extensions of it, or did personal applications of it. So I would like us to do one, as an exercise a list. on the theme, but applied either personal, or to modern times, or class1c nature, or something. I’m not so much interested in getting the archaic diction, I am more interested in getting the archaic thought, that old thought, getting that old thought in, and getting the right images, simple  images  of one…  monosyllabic things, like dew, rainbow (like he’s got.. he doesn’t have a “rainbow,” he doesn’t have “mist”,  he doesn’t have…

Student:  “Carnival”?

AG: I started one. I  didn’t finish it. I started one this morning, actually. The first line was funny, I think. (I don’t know),

“Like to a television show…” – (that was my idea.. to apply, like, “a bubble which on water stood”)  – “Like to a television show/Or white in air the April snow/ or Spring’s green grass on Buddha’s lawn”…   So I was just starting off, “Like to a television show…” –  So see if you can imitate the cadences –  “Like to the falling of a star,/ Or as the flights of eagles are,/ Or like the fresh spring’s gaudy hue,/ Or silver drops of morning dew,/ Or like a wind that chafes the flood/Or bubbles which on water stood/Even such is man, whose borrowed light/ Is straight called in, and paid to night/The wind blows out, the bubble dies;/ The spring entombed in autumn lies;/ The dew dries up, the star is shot;/ The flight is past, and man forgot” –  There’s just something really seriously together there.

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-seven minutes in. and concluding at approximately seventy-one-and-a-half  minutes in

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