Cupid and Psyche, Roman, c. 2nd Century CE
Altes Museum, Berlin
Hello, Mesocosm readers! I’m going to be trying out two new regular features – a periodic links roundup, and poetry Fridays.
Some exciting news in paleobotany this week! First, a report that Russian scientists successfully grew flowers from 30,000-year-old fruit. A few days later, I read of a joint expedition in northern China excavating a Pompeii-like buried forest that is a staggering 300 million years old.
An international archaeological expedition is working in the Sumerian city of Ur, I am excited to report, and they have discovered a new temple dating back to around 2500 BCE.
The great songster Leonard Cohen has a new album out, and Cohen-biographer Liel Leibovitz has a story for the ages in this Tablet article.
From Bruce Schneier, I learned of this interesting post about a letter the famed game theorist John Nash wrote to the NSA in 1955. His musings appear to anticipate much of mainstream cryptography by decades.
National Geographic has an excellent article in their February issue about a beautiful charcoal and ink drawing that may well be a previously-unknown Leonardo da Vinci. The article is online here.
Finally, I was deeply saddened to learn that Arikamedu, an important historical site in India, has been recently devastated by a cyclone. First excavated by the great British archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler in the 1940s, Arikamedu was a Roman trading post in Tamil Nadu in southern India, established in the first century CE. The site had recently been ravaged by the 2004 tsunami.
On Poetry Friday I’m going to refer readers to poems that I enjoy on my Twitter Account – you can click the Follow button on the right of this page if you like.
We started two weeks ago with an snippet from the great Indian poet Kalidasa, and last week I referred readers to a lesser-known poem by E. E. Cummings, enter no (silence is the blood whose flesh.
(Yes, I said “E. E. Cummings,” which is how he more frequently signed his own name).
This week I would like call attention to the magnificent poem The Book of Thell, a (relatively) short work by William Blake. In this excerpt, the young maid Thell contemplates transience:
“O life of this our spring! why fades the lotus of the water?
Why fade these children of the spring, born but to smile & fall?
Ah! Thel is like a watry bow, and like a parting cloud,
Like a reflection in a glass, like shadows in the water,
Like dreams of infants, like a smile upon an infant’s face,
Like the dove’s voice, like transient day, like music in the air.
Ah! gentle may I lay me down, and gentle rest my head,
And gentle sleep the sleep of death, and gentle hear the voice
Of him that walketh in the garden in the evening time.”
The Lily of the valley, breathing in the humble grass
Answer’d the lovely maid and said: “I am a watry weed,
And I am very small, and love to dwell in lowly vales;
So weak, the gilded butterfly scarce perches on my head;
Yet I am visited from heaven, and he that smiles on all
Walks in the valley and each morn over me spreads his hand,
Saying: ‘Rejoice, thou humble grass, thou new-born lily flower,
Thou gentle maid of silent valleys and of modest brooks;
For thou shalt be clothed in light, and fed with morning manna,
Till summer’s heat melts thee beside the fountains and the springs
To flourish in eternal vales.’ Then why should Thel complain?”