The Presence of Myth in American Literature
3rd International Connotations Symposium
You can find the articles that followed up this symposium in its special issue behind the link.
by Mary Shelley
Read by Sarah Schnitzler
“As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump.”
From The Blazing World
by Margaret Cavendish
Read by Leonie Kirchhoff
“Concerning the heat of the Sun, they were not of one opinion; some would have the Sun hot in it self, alledging an old Tradition, that it should at some time break asunder, and burn the Heavens, and consume this world into hot Embers, which, said they, could not be done, if the Sun were not fiery of it self.”
“The Petition of the Gray Horse, Auld Dunbar”
by William Dunbar
Read by Laurie Atkinson
Schir, lat it never in toune be tald
Suppois I war ane ald jaid aver,
I am ane auld hors, as ye knaw,
I heff run lang furth in the feild
My maine is turned in to quhyt,
I was neuer dautit in to stabell.
And yett, suppois my thrift be thyne,
The court hes done my curage cuill
Now lufferis cummis with larges lowd.
Quhen I was young and into ply
With gentill hors quhen I wald knyp,
Thocht in the stall I be not clappit,
Efter our wrettingis, thesaurer,
Sir, let in never in town be said
Suppose I was an old cart-horse,
I am an old horse, as you know,
I have run long forth in the field
My mane is turned into white,
I was never placed into a stable.
And yet, suppose my goods be thine
The court has made my courage cool
Now lovers come with largess loud.
When I was young and in good attire
With gentle horses when I would quip,
Though in the stall I am not petted,
Response of the King
By our direction, treasurer,
From “The Monkey’s Paw”
by W. W. Jacobs
Read by Curtis Runstedler
“It moved,” he cried, with a look of horror at the object as it lay on the floor. “As I wished, it twisted in my hand like a snake.”
by Mary Shelley
Read by Sophie Franklin
“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open…”
“Frost at Midnight”
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Read by Dan Poston
The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
‘Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.
But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!
Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.
Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.
From The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Read by David Korn
“I came home afterwards and wrapped myself in my blanket and rocked back and forth, ice in my very bones, and thought of all the sunny Christmases of my childhood—oranges, bikes and hula-hoops, green tinsel sparkling in the heat.”
“The Black Belt”
by Jean Guthrie-Smith
Read by Jonathan Sharp
Gruff trams and trains criss-cross and intersect
With glittering steel this leprous countryside;
Pyramid slagheaps threaten, seamed and specked
With smouldering pink: a lively trade is plied
In coarse flamboyant clothes and gaudy sweets
And all the brave romantic merchandise
Folk make the most of, being poor and wise.
In unimagineably squalid streets,
Ranked rabbit-hutches, citizens do dwell, –
Weird, gnome-like men, shrill women and their young,
Most piteous young! Where Heaven is seared to Hell
With steam and smoke from demon valve, or stung
To crude geranium from the furnace flares,
There’s life and love, much talking and much drinking
In this black bunch of towns, and bitter thinking
On why and wherefore of the world’s affairs.
That ship be sped and tool or weapon forged
And laughter quickened round a million fires,
The miser pit-heads will be daily gorged
With stunted peoples of these pock-marked shires.
Like goblin print upon a yellow page
Forested chimneys spell their rigmarole;
The fungoid mine spreads canker in the soul
To feed the sinews of an iron age!
by Emily Brontë
Read by Vera Yakupova
“Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. “Wuthering“ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind, blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones[…]“
image source: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/true-story-house-hill-inspired-wuthering-heights-1799935