My Stuff

Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."

Total Pageviews

Saturday, October 9, 2021


When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
   For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
   That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


Another Anonymous said...

Not bad for an amateur.

R McD said...

Or to continue juxtaposing negative and positive, this by Milton (the last line unfortunately often comes to mind when I’m in a restaurant):

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide

Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent

To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"

I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent

That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state

Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

John Rapko said...

My go-to poetry template is Wallace Stevens's 'The river is moving./The blackbird must be flying.' E. g. 'The professor has posted. The commentators must be typing.'

DDA said...

"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.

"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."

The crew was complete: it included a Boots—
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—
And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
Might perhaps have won more than his share—
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.

Jerry Brown said...

Well I guess that answers my question pretty clearly.

LFC said...

I knew "bootless cries" was Shakespeare, pretty sure I knew it was from one of the Sonnets, but wdnt have been able to name the number.

There's been lots of good writing on the Sonnets; I'm sure H. Vendler is worth reading on them, to mention one. But the only thing I've read on the Sonnets, besides snippets of commentary here and there, is Greenblatt's chapter on them in 'Will in the World' -- a v. good discussion.

John Rapko said...

Now everyone will be reading the Sonnets and the commentaries while awaiting the professor's next post. There are countless commentaries, the standard ones being by Vendler and Booth (along with Booth's earlier monograph An Essay on Shakespeare's Sonnets). In my experience the really life-changing account consists of the various analyses in William Empson's 7 Types of Ambiguity; Empson opens the book with a virtuous and constitutively incomplete explication of the ambiguity of 'Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang'; among the long list of reasons for the comparison is "because the cold and Narcissistic charm suggested by choir-boys suits well with Shakespeare's feeling for the object of the Sonnets" (!) For me the most stimulating recent discussion is in the marvelous though overlooked short book The Craft of Poetry, by Derek Attridge and Henry Staten. The chapters are in the form of mailed analysis, response, and counter-response, of individual poems. They devote a chapter to 116, 'Let not the marriage of true minds', as well as giving really eye-opening accounts of two stupefying great works, Blake's 'The Sick Rose' and Dickinson's 'I started Early'.

DDA said...

The Craft of Poetry (mentioned by Rapko above) is available for $0 in the e-book version. (free on Kindle, free on Apple Books)

Anonymous said...

John Rapko: what is "mailed analysis"?

John Rapko said...

By 'mailed analysis' I meant that each chapter consists of a dialogue between Attridge and Staten, and that the dialogues did not take place in person: they 'mailed'/e-mailed their responses, which range from a few sentences to 2-3 pages, to each other.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation, John

s. wallerstein said...

The ending of the sonnet is disappointing. The first eight or nine lines are a very powerful description of the psychological state he's in, one that I'm sure all of us can identify with, and I would have expected him to use his ending lines to dig into the causes or reasons he's in the state he's in, to do a bit of self-analysis, but instead he pulls a rabbit out of the hat, the rabbit of his "sweet love", which isn't very convincing and sounds like tin pan alley.

Jerry Brown said...

I don't know Wallerstein. I found most of it to be extremely depressing while the last couple of lines helped moderate that. I'd rather get rid of the first eight lines and just keep the last ones. Or really, just to have not read the thing in the first place.

LFC said...

I don't have time for much of a comment, but the Sonnet is *addressed* to someone, that's why it ends that way. Read something on the Sonnets, maybe even Wiki wd do for starters.

s. wallerstein said...


Please. It's obvious that the sonnet is addressed to someone. I'm dense, but not so dense.

Besides, I have an MA in English literature from Columbia University where I majored as an undergraduate in the same subject and did have a year course in Shakespeare where we read the complete works of Shakespeare cover to cover. I've mentioned that previously here.

No, I don't expect you to memorize the curriculum of everyone, but you might after all this time have a general idea of where people who comment almost everyday are coming from.

You may disagree of course with my reading of the sonnet, but your arrogance and superiority are a bit out of place. So if you don't have much time for commenting, think before you do so, thanks.

LFC said...


You're right, I had momentarily forgotten your c.v. in some respects. But your having studied English at Columbia and read the complete works of S. doesn't make your comment less puzzling. I'm sorry if I came across as arrogant, was not the intent.

s. wallerstein said...


Apology accepted. Thanks.

The sonnet seems to be divided in two parts. There's a change of tone that jarred on me.
No transition between the two parts and of course in 14 lines a transition is impossible.

LFC said...


I don't agree that there's no transition.

In the opening lines he sketches his misery, and then in the four lines beginning "Yet in these thoughts..." he says that his misery vanishes when he happens to think about the person he's addressing ("Haply I think on thee, and then my state...")

And then there's the final couplet.

So I don't think there's a sharp division between two parts. I read it as being more seamless than that. You're prob right about the limits of what can be done in 14 lines, but one of the things that makes these poems works of genius is precisely how much he often manages to do in 14 lines.

s. wallerstein said...


There's a linguistic transition. Shakespeare is a genius, no one does tricks with the English language like he does. If literature is a craft, he's the greatest craftsperson in the history of English literature.

However, in psychological terms the transition does not convince me. It's pop, like an early Beatles song: saved from total existential despair by love.

However, the guy who wrote King Lear, Julius Caesar and Hamlet can do better, is not only a genius at crafting the English language, but also a seer, a wise man, a philosopher, one of the great psychologists, as a dramatist on a level with Sophocles.