Thank you to those who are reading the column and submitting articles, reviews, thoughts and poetry.
This lovely Fall week we welcome the voices of Ron S. Stewart and Franca Hernandez.

First published in 1915, Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham has had a shaky history among readers and scholars, those who view it as a well-told story and those who believe that it transcends its story into high art.

Of Human Bondage traces the life of Philip Carey, orphaned at age nine and forced to live with his strictly religious aunt and uncle who send him away to school where he is bullied for having a clubfoot by both fellow schoolmates and schoolmasters. After praying futilely for over a dozen years to be healed of his clubfoot, Philip loses his belief in God.  His search for a means of financial and human achievement leads him to art school and then to medical school and a career as a doctor. His loss into a world of passionate love leads him to confront the true nature of human bondage. It is at this middle passage of the novel that Maugham’s keen eye for character and a natural penchant for human pathos take center stage. His writing career began as a playwright, serving him well in his novels to provide exposition and settings for his characters to play out their destinies  He is a detailed portrait painter with lavish descriptions of physical appearances of characters, even minor ones, exploring in great depth the turmoil and struggle of inner lives—most emphatically those of Philip, a modern hero, bound to his passion for life in spite of physical difficulties. The novel’s enormous strength lies in its portrayal of reason blinded by obsession juxtaposed with a profound hunger for spiritual and physical liberty and its eventual release.  Philip’s love affairs with women are filled with bliss and anguish, including the suicide by hanging of one who cannot endure the pain of separation.

Of Human Bondage is an autobiographical work of fiction; instead of having a clubfoot, Maugham’s disability was stuttering. He was also homosexual and tried all of his life to conceal it, knowing the repressive laws and attitudes of England, still in effect in 1965 when he died. These same laws put Oscar Wilde in prison for two years.

Philip’s achievement—becoming “unbound”— is not wound around tragedy, but around fulfillment, a life well fought for and well won. There is a great difference between happy endings that are the stuff of sentimental and melodramatic weavings and those made of hard labor, true understanding of what it means to be human, freed from bondage.

R. S. Stewart is a volunteer consultant in the Writing Center at Chemeketa Community College.

 

 

O FALCE DI LUNA CALANTE

O falce di luna calante

che brilli su l’acque deserte,

o falce d’argento, qual mèsse di sogni

ondeggia al tuo mite chiarore qua giù!

 

Aneliti brevi di foglie,

sospiri di fiori dal bosco

esalano al mare: non canto non grido

non suono pe ’l vasto silenzio va.

 

Oppresso d’amor, di piacere,

il popol de’ vivi s’addorme…

O falce calante, qual mèsse di sogni

ondeggia al tuo mite chiarore qua giù!

 

Oh Setting Lunar Scythe

by Gabriele D’Annunzio

Oh setting lunar scythe

Gleaming upon this solitary sea

Oh argental lunar scythe, the harvester of dreams

Undulates upon the docile waves down here!

Like leaves that tremble with yearnings

Wild flowers whisper in the woods

Exhale their redolence upon the sea: mute of song, mute of cries

No sound to disrupt the immense silence

By love, by desire sated

All beings surrender to slumber

Oh argental lunar scythe, the harvester of dreams

Undulates upon the docile waves down here!

 

Franca Hernandez is a photographer, non-fiction, fiction writer, and poet who translated the poetry of Gabriele D’Annunzio, an Italian poet of early 20th Century Italy. His works are unapologetic declarations of the right to cultivate the senses of pleasure and beauty giving in, if so inclined, to decadence.

 If you have thoughts about a book, poetry, words of any kind you’d like to share with the world, please email me:  wordsjade@gmail.com