Monday, October 14, 2013

The House on the Hill

They are all gone away,
The House is shut and still,
There is nothing more to say.
Through broken walls and gray
The winds blow bleak and shrill.
They are all gone away.
Nor is there one to-day
To speak them good or ill:
There is nothing more to say.
Why is it then we stray
Around the sunken sill?
They are all gone away,
And our poor fancy-play
For them is wasted skill:
There is nothing more to say.
There is ruin and decay
In the House on the Hill:
They are all gone away,
There is nothing more to say.
~ Edward Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

A symbol of our nation's future?


  1. "God is at home, it's we who have gone out for a walk."

    Meister Eckhart

  2. Speaking of abandoned houses!

    Click on the images to expand the sets.

    HERE is a sample set -- one of many.

    This photographer uses old maps from used bookstores so as to locate various abandoned places in the state of Virginia.

  3. Now, THAT is a beautiful and encouraging thought, Andie. Thank you for sharing it.

    Robinson's own life was bleak, and filled with anguish and disappointment, which is reflected in the tone of much of his poetry, but he was such a superb craftsman, and had such a wonderful imagination that he was able to translate sorrow into hauntingly memorable verbal images that stay with us forever once we've encountered them.

    BTW, please do not change a THING about your latest "composition" in home decor. You asked for opinions. You got them, but please remember this little saying: "Too many cooks spoil the broth." ;-)

    If it pleases YOU -- and Handsome Husband, it is absolutely wonderful.I certainly pleases ME, but in YOUR home what I think -- one way or the other -- doesn't matter.

  4. Yes.

    More specifically, and closer to home, Detroit is our future.

    The progressive termites have eaten through the timbers and sapped the foundation. Leftwing rats and cockroaches scramble through the cracks, eating everything in sight and chasing away anyone who has the means to leave.

    -- Bruce Fliedermaus

  5. AOW, did I not just send you a similar set of photos which I thought were stunning in the bleakness and evocation of elegiac emotion?

    Robinson captured the spirit of all of them in his memorable villanelle.

    Did you know it was a villanelle, by the way? So is Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night published here just a few days ago.

    If you teach either of these poems, it might be a good idea to tell your students about the form. Though I've written hundreds of poems, in strict forms, myself, and have known both of those works since high school days, I never knew they were examples of the villanelle until 2008.

    It's a VERY strict, VERY confining form, if you examine the structure closely, which makes the expressive power of both Dylan Thomas and E.A. Robinson all the more astonishing.

    Here is a summary:

    VILLANELLE - The villanelle has 19 lines, 5 stanzas of three lines and 1 stanza of four lines with two rhymes and two refrains. The 1st, then the 3rd lines alternate as the last lines of stanzas 2,3,and 4, and then stanza 5 (the end) as a couplet. It is usually written in tetrameter (4 feet) or pentameter. The structure is:

    line 1 - a - 1st refrain
line 2 - b - 
line 3 - a - 2nd refrain

    line 4 - a
- line 5 - b- 
line 6 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)

    line 7 - a- 
line 8 - b- 
line 9 - a - 2nd refrain (same as line 2)

    line 10 - a- 
line 11 - b- 
line 12 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)

    line 13 - a 
- line 14 - b - 
line 15 - a - 2nd refrain (same as line 2)

    line 16 - a- 
line 17 - b
- line 18 - a - 1st refrain (same as line 1)
 - line 19 - a - 2nd refrain

    If it looks confusing, don't be daunted. Analysis of The House n the Hill will clearly show Robinson's strict adherence to the form.

    I've written only two of these things, myself, and must admit it's been a real challenge to make it all come out right and still make sense -- the 99% perspiration required of genius, I guess. ;-).

  6. Ah, Mr. BAT aka Bruce Fledermaus! ;-}

    Yes, of course, that is right, EXCEPT, I would posit that the decline and decay has come about, because too many have been guilty of Dereliction of Duty regarding our obligation to ourselves.


    A) "Charity begins at home, "

    B) Our first duty is to take care of OURSELVES, so we may not be a burden to others

    C) Minding one's OWN business and not that of others is a cardinal virtue.

    D) It's much better to be poor and strongly independent, than weak and, therefore, under the arbitrary control of forces who see the supervision of YOUR "welfare" as "just another job."

  7. A friend of mine spent some time photographing abandoned "big box" stores.
    He would set up in the same spot, same time of day over a period of time to catch the decay.

    He abandoned it after a few years which I think was a mistake.

  8. I remember reading that Edward Steichen spent I-don't-know-how-many years faithfully photographing a tree outside his window in all lights and all weathers from its days as a tiny sapling till it reached maturity -- or was it the end of Steichen's life?

    You probably know a good deal more about that than I, Ducky. I've always wished I could see the results of his work, but have never had the opportunity. Have you seen it?

    Put altogether it would make a marvellous movie, I should think.

    I know the idea has been used many times in morion pictures, but I think Steichen may have been the first to think of it -- or am I wrong?

  9. Beautiful poem and a prophetic analogy of the fact that that our home, the United States is desolate, but I thank God that this is not my home. My home will be with my Lord and Savior!

  10. The prairies of the Great Plains are dotted with old abandoned farm sites: Mom nature won the battle, I guess. But rural folks still give old fashioned directions-
    "Go up the road a piece, turn right at the broken windmill, continue on and turn left where the
    old Miller house used to be"
    ...probably why they invented the
    GPS maps for new cars?

  11. I'm familiar with that project, FT but I have never seen the results exhibited.

    Spanish director Victor Erice filmed a similar project in The Quince Tree Sun (it may have been inspired by Steich) which is unfortunately out of print.

    Myself, I think abandoned big box stores may be the current decades motif, unfortunately.

  12. I know, Ducky. If there's anything more depressing than abandned dwellings that once lived useful, prosperous, even decorous lives, it must the sight of derelict structures that probably ought never to have been built in the first place.

    The ruins of the ancient world, however -- and of old castles in Europe -- are very different. They have historic appeal and give rise to agreeable flights of fancy.

    I suppose that's why the landscape architects who aided in the development of "Stately Homes" discreetly placed "follies" resembling old temples and ruins here and there amidst the greenery? Still, of course, in practical terms, but no sillier than planting flowers where vegetables might have grown to help feed the starving masses, blah blah.

    OR don't you agree?

    I DO think that the "kitchen gardens" of the great estates had a kind of beauty all their own, and there's nothing prettier in the realm of horticulture than a well-tended herb garden.

  13. I love a kitchen garden. I must be getting old.

  14. Thank you, FJ, for that most extraordinary link --some of the best playing I've ever heard from Vladimiir Horowitz, who -- despite his great reputation -- was like The Girl with the Curl of nursery rhyme fame.

    Being a professionally trained pianist, myself, who started muscal life at the Juilliard Preperatory School at the age of 8, I am thoroughly familiar with the repertoire. I have never heard the Humorseke referred to as Schumann's greatest piano works before. It's wonderful, indeed, but I would never make that claim.

    The phenomenon of voices written-but-not-played, sounds very curious, doesn't it, but it is NOT "Augenmusik" (for the EYES only) it is meant to be HEARD with one's inner ear while performing the composition.

    Most people would ask, "Well, what difference could THAT possibly make to the AUDIENCE?

    The short answer is "PLENTY!"

    The observations you quoted from your friend, Zizek make a good deal of sense to me as a musician, but he's touched upon a much broader and more significant aspect of musical interpretation than that.

    ALL the interpretations people in the know tend to regard as "great" are the result of the mysteries and glories solo instrumentalists and conductors find in "The Frame of Silence" surrounding the notes, themselves. The intense fascination and emotional affect we devotees of "classical music" feel depend on thousands and thousands of unmarked, unseen, indescribable little pauses between phrases, subtle variations in tempo, layers and myriad gradations of dynamic levels (i.e. loudness and softness), and the intuitive-but-very-definite voicing that bring out subordinate lines into positions of unexpected prominence.

    Music is primarily an ART not a Science, but the nuts and bolts of its construction, and methods of developing sufficient technique to meet its (great) demands have a scientific basis.

    The best way I can think of to sum it up succinctly is this: A printed score is to a performance what an architectural drawing is to finished, decorated, furnished, fully occupied building.

    How Zizek arrived at Freud and homosexuality on the basis of Schumann I can't imagine, but that doesn't mean a connection does not exist.

    A bottom ALL things stem from ONE root. I choose to call that root God. You may call it anything you like, BUT meaning lies not in notes or words or forms or inanimate objects, but in the intent perceive in phenomena.

  15. Free Thinke would you like to be me and my co-host, Bernie of Planck's Constant ( - more your type of interest as a blogger than perhaps my site) - we would like to invite you if you would like to be a guest on our Blog Talk Radio Show named "No Looking Back" on 10/25/2013 at 4:30pm EDT? I can send you the particulars and you would be free to choose a topic, let us know what it is of course, if you choose to come on. I apologize I could not e-mail you as you have no contact link so I had to leave the invite here.

    You may contact me to let me know at gonzalezlaw[at]


  16. Thank you, Izzie, but I must decline your kind invitation. I do my best talking through my fingertips I'm afraid, and I have learned -- after several painful experiences over the years -- to guard my privacy zealously.

    But thank you for your good opinion..

  17. It's okay, I understand FT. I hope you do know that my/our invitation was never to invade your privacy or exploit you. It is just you are extremely intelligent and I thought it would be good to have someone on the show that can contribute to the education of people.

    See you around the blog!!! :)



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