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winter 2013-14 075

Dropping Keys

The small man
Builds cages
For everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the


There are many examples of literal cages in stories.

In, Wolf Captured, the fourth book of a fantasy series by Jane Lindskold, Firekeeper is put in a cage and her wolf companion is put in another cage.  Her friend, Derian is only chained near by.  They are on board a boat which is another form of cage as it is so far from land there is no hope of swimming even if they escaped the cage.

In Sanderson’s Way of Kings, the hero is also caged while he is transported.  This is demeaning and dangerous.

In the second book of the Regeneration trilogy by Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door, Billy Prior visits a woman in prison and is shocked when he comes into a main room where the prison cells are stacked three stories high.  He is in worse trouble when the prisoner points out the peephole in the door where guards can watch her.  It is painted on her side like an eye.  

Then there are the cages that are also a metaphor.  They make us think about our life.

Rilke's Panther poem has resonated with me for years.

Here is the translation I like best of The Panther:

'The Panther'

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars, and behind the bars, no world.
As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.
Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.

 Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by Steven Mitchell

a second translation:
The Panther

His tired gaze - from passing endless bars -
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.
His supple gait, the smoothness of strong strides
that gently turn in ever smaller circles
perform a dance of strength, centered deep within
a will, stunned, but untamed, indomitable.
But sometimes the curtains of his eyelids part,
the pupils of his eyes dilate as images
of past encounters enter while through his limbs
a tension strains in silence
only to cease to be, to die within his heart.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by Albert Ernest Flemming

A site with several translations of The Panther:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou

There are so many cages.  When we read and reflect on those cages we may also be able to free ourselves and open the door to change and growth.  

Byron’s Prisoner of Chillon has a hard time leaving his prison cell:

The last part of the poem

(the whole poem is here  )

And yet my glance, too much opprest,
Had almost need of such a rest.
It might be months, or years, or days—
I kept no count, I took no note—
I had no hope my eyes to raise,
And clear them of their dreary mote;
At last men came to set me free;
I ask’d not why, and reck’d not where;
It was at length the same to me,
Fetter’d or fetterless to be,
I learn’d to love despair.

And thus when they appear’d at last,
And all my bonds aside were cast,
These heavy walls to me had grown
A hermitage—and all my own!
And half I felt as they were come
To tear me from a second home:
With spiders I had friendship made
And watch’d them in their sullen trade,
Had seen the mice by moonlight play,
And why should I feel less than they?

We were all inmates of one place,
And I, the monarch of each race,
Had power to kill—yet, strange to tell!
In quiet we had learn’d to dwell;
My very chains and I grew friends,
So much a long communion tends
To make us what we are:—even I
Regain’d my freedom with a sigh.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas is another story of a man imprisoned wrongly and his escape.  Dumas’ father, General Dumas was imprisoned while on his way home from Egypt.  You can read about him in The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.

Wiki says:

Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, also known as Alexandre Dumas, (25 March 1762 – 26 February 1806) was a general in Revolutionary France; he is the highest-ranking person of color of all time in a continental European army.[1] He was the first person of color in the French military to become brigadier general, the first to become divisional general, and the first to become general-in-chief of a French army.[2] Dumas shared the status of the highest-ranking black officer in the Western world only with Toussaint Louverture (who in May 1797 became the second black general-in-chief in the French military[3]) until 1975, when the American Daniel "Chappie" James Jr became a US Airforce four star General, the closest United States equivalent of Général d'Armée, Dumas' highest rank…

On March 7, 1799, Dumas boarded a small ship called the Belle Maltaise in the company of his fellow General Jean-Baptiste Manscourt du Rozoy, the geologist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, forty wounded French soldiers, and a number of Maltese and Genoan civilians. Dumas had sold the furnishings of his quarters in Cairo, and purchased 4,000 pounds of moka coffee; eleven Arabian horses (two stallions and nine mares) to establish breeding stock in France; and hired the ship.

While returning to France, the ship began to sink, and Dumas had to jettison much of his cargo. The ship was forced by storms to land at Taranto, in the Kingdom of Naples. Dumas and his companions expected to get a friendly reception, having heard that the Kingdom had been overthrown by the Parthenopean Republic. But that short-lived republic had succumbed to an internal uprising by a local force known as the Holy Faith Army, led by Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo, in alliance with King Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples. He was at war with France…

Dumas was malnourished and kept incommunicado for two years. By the time of his release, he was partially paralyzed, almost blind in one eye, had been deaf in one ear but recovered; his physique was broken. He believed his illnesses were caused by poisoning. During his imprisonment, he was aided by a secret local pro-French group, which brought him medicine and a book of remedies. In November 1799, Napoleon had returned to Paris and seized power. Dumas' wife lobbied his government for assistance in finding and rescuing her husband, to little result. Napoleon's forces, under the command of Dumas' fellow general Joachim Murat, eventually defeated Ferdinand IV's army and secured Dumas's release in March 1801.

What stories are you thinking about that contained cages?  Real ones or metaphorical ones?  Does Kafka’s Metamorphosis count?

The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed (metamorphosed) into a large, monstrous insect-like creature. The cause of Samsa's transformation is never revealed, and Kafka never did give an explanation. The rest of Kafka's novella deals with Gregor's attempts to adjust to his new condition…
That story leads me on to think of the tale of The Beauty and the Beast because the beast is caged in a form that is fearful to all who view him.

by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont

Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera exists in a cage in his mind.  The story and the musical version are powerful and even while we shudder we have sympathy for a beautiful mind gone wrong.  

Part of the final scene.  All the words of the scene are here:

Down once more to the dungeon of my black despair...
Down we plunge to the prison of my mind...
Down that path into darkness deep as hell!
Why, you ask,
Was I bound and chained
In this cold and dismal place?
Not for any mortal sin,
But the wickedness of my abhorrent face!...

Hounded out by everyone,
Met with hatred everywhere,
No kind words from anyone,
No compassion anywhere...
Why, why...?...

That fate which condemns me
To wallow in blood
Has also denied me
The joys of the flesh.
This face, the infection
Which poisons our love...
This face which earned
A mother's fear and loathing.
A mask, my first
Unfeeling scrap of clothing.
Pity comes too late!
Turn around and face your fate!
An eternity of this
Before your eyes...

This haunted face
Holds no horror for me now.
It's in your soul
That the true distortion lies...

Pitiful creature of darkness,
What kind of life have you known?
God give me courage to show you,
You are not alone...
(She kisses him)…

Take her, Forget me,
Forget all of this.
Leave me alone,
Forget all you've seen.
Go now don't let them find you,
Take the boat.
Swear to me, Never to tell.
The secret you know of the angel in Hell.

In bookgirl’s diaries we have been talking about Theo in Donna Tartt’s  story, The Goldfinch.  Theo is in a cage like the chained bird in the picture he so admires.  He is chained to his memory of his mother and the bomb that destroys her life and his future.  He cannot go free.  Neither can the girl he loves who was badly injured.  That hurts the heart of the reader.  We want them to be free and to be happy.  

Slavery is another cage.  

melpomene1, a Daily Kos writer, was kind enough to send me a copy of her new book, Templum.  In a comment at Bookflurries earlier, she shared the blurb on the back of the book:

After losing her job, her boyfriend and her best friend, Brit Colladay thinks she’s hit rock bottom. Then while touring Roman ruins, she’s accidentally transported to the first century. Living as a slave near Pompeii, she fakes a gift of prophecy, but when she predicts Vesuvius will erupt, her owner doesn’t believe her.

Nicomachus, a Roman priest renowned for the “miracles” he engineers, knows a fraud when he sees one, but Brit’s brains and beauty intrigue him, and he’d rather join forces than expose her. In exchange for sharing her tricks, she wants help escaping the upcoming eruption, but helping a slave run away could get him executed…

Nico was once a slave himself and so he understands what it means to be one.  Though the book is a romance with lots of attraction and response, the meaning of what it is like to be a slave underlies it.  A slave must obey the whims of her owner such as participating in a ritual ceremony where a white bull is sacrificed.  Attempts to warn her master of the need to leave the area are shouted down and it is dangerous for her to continue mentioning it.

The caged, enslaved Britannica, refuses to give up.  Her friendship with her fellow slaves means that she wants them to be rescued, too.  This makes it harder to leave the area without them.  Can she open the door of her cage and go free in time?  Can she find a way to change her master’s mind?  Every day means more dangers if she is declared a witch for knowing too much.  Can she trust Nico to believe her and help her at the risk of his life?  

As the reader learns to care more and more for the characters that surround Nico and Britannica, the suspense grows.  Brit is more than just a Roman’s slave, she is enslaved in a dangerous place and time, trapped and caged against her own will and trapped by her concern for others.  Each time that she and Nico meet they risk being betrayed.  She is too valuable for her master to ever give her up.  

This story was hard to lay down.

Diaries of the Week:

Write On! Sneaking up on your muse
by SensibleShoes

Contemporary Fiction Views: An outsider looking in at humans
by bookgirl

The Social Contract in a Dignitarian Society
by Robert Fuller

Robert Fuller says:

Here's the Rowan Tree chapter for this week:

If interested readers absolutely must know what happens next, the whole novel is still free on Kindle:

My memoir Belonging still free via Smashwords:

Belonging: A Memoir
Paperback – October 24, 2013
by Robert W. Fuller


"How did you make the leap from Physics to Dignity?" This question arises at every Robert Fuller talk. Belonging traces Fuller’s personal evolution and suggests that taking one’s questions seriously will lead to a life of meaning and purpose. Accompany Fuller as he meets with “somebodies” like Robert Oppenheimer, Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, David Bowie, John Denver, and President Jimmy Carter, and share in the wisdom he finds in people whom the world writes off as “nobodies.” Belonging shows how transformative quests await anyone willing to learn from somebodies and nobodies."

I encourage readers to request a Kindle price match on Amazon so the memoir will become free there as well.

Chaoslillith says:
…I just self-published a book that deals with the transitions to characters as reality and their idealism towards a goal collide. It's Urban Fantasy and is called Honor Bound - Awakenings.

Some people have compared it a bit to Heroes in the fact that the characters all have special abilities. They are not superheroes though. Their abilities all come with a cost or a restriction that they have to deal with.

It's third person POV and so far everyone who has read it has said it's pretty hard to put down.

The first two chapters are free at this link if anyone is interested.

Would love any feedback, if someone wants to trade a review for a free copy let me know. I will send you a PDF of the the book.

Oh if you want to do a review:

email me at kat.loveland   @  gmail. I don't check messages all that often here.

by Chaoslillith on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 08:23:24 PM EST

NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


What do you like about March?

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