Poem of the day

To Electra
by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

I dare not ask a kiss,
  I dare not beg a smile
Lest having that, or this,
  I might grow proud the while.

No, no the utmost share
  Of my desire shall be
Only to kiss the air
  That lately kissèd thee.

Poem of the day

Invictus
by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

Out of the night that covers me,
  Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
  For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
  Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
  Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
  How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
  I am the captain of my soul.

Poem of the day

Aimez ou n’aimez pas
by Georges de Scudéry (1601-1667)

Aimez ou n’aimez pas, changez, soyez fidèle,
Tout cela pour Philis est fort indifférent;
Comme votre conquête a peu touché la belle,
Elle perd votre cœur ainsi qu’elle le prend.

L’on ne peut la nommer ni douce ni cruelle,
Son insensible esprit ne combat ni se rend;
Elle entend les soupirs que l’on pousse pour elle,
Mais ce cœur de rocher ne sait ce qu’il entend.

L’Amour, tout dieu qu’il est, avec toute sa flamme,
Ne dissoudra jamais les glaçons de son âme,
Et cette souche enfin n’aimera jamais rien.

Ô malheureux amant! Ô penser qui me tue!
Quel bizarre destin se rencontre le mien!
Comme Pygmalion j’adore ma statue.

Poem of the day

The Death of Ben Hall
  by William Henry Ogilvie (1869-1963)

Ben Hall was out on Lachlans side
With a thousand pounds on his head;
A score of troopers were scattered wide
And a hundred more were ready to ride
Wherever a rumour led.

They had followed his track from the Weddin Heights
And north by the Weelong yards;
Through dazzling days and moonlit nights
They had sought him over their rifle-sights,
With their hands on their trigger guards.

The outlaw stole like a hunted fox
Through the scrub and stunted heath,
And peered like a hawk from his eyrie rocks
Through the waving boughs of the sapling box
On the troopers riding beneath.

His clothes were rent by the clutching thorn
And his blistered feet were bare;
Ragged and torn, with his beard unshorn,
He hid like a beast forlorn,
With a padded path to his lair.

But every night when the white stars rose
He crossed by the Gunning Plain
To a stockman’s hut where the Gunning flows,
And struck on the door three swift light blows,
And a hand unhooked the chain –

And the outlaw followed the lone path back
With food for another day;
And the kindly darkness covered his track
And the shadows swallowed him deep and black
Where the starlight melted away.

But his friend had read of the big reward,
And his soul was stirred with greed;
He fastened his door and window board,
He saddled his horse and crossed the ford,
And spurred to the town at speed.

You may ride at a man’s or maid’s behest
When honour or true love call
And steel your heart to the worst or the best,
But the ride that is ta’en on a traitor’s quest
Is the bitterest ride of all.

A hot wind blew from the Lachlan bank
And a curse on its shoulder came;
The pine-trees frowned at him, rank on rank,
The sun on a gathering storm-cloud sank
And flushed his cheek with shame.

He reigned at the Court; and the tale began
That the rifles alone should end;
Sergeant and trooper laid their plan
To draw the net on a hunted man
At the treacherous word of a friend.

False was the hand that raised the chain
And false was the whispered word:
‘The troopers have turned to the south again,
You may dare to camp on the Gunning Plain.’
And the weary outlaw heard.

He walked from the hut but a quarter mile
Where a clump of saplings stood
In a sea of grass like a lonely isle;
And the moon came up in a little while
Like silver steeped in blood.

Ben Hall lay down on the dew-wet ground
By the side of his tiny fire;
And a night breeze woke, and he heard no sound
As the troopers drew their cordon round –
And the traitor earned his hire.

And nothing they saw in the dim grey light,
But the little glow in the trees;
And they crouched in the tall cold grass all night,
Each one ready to shoot at sight,
With his rifle cocked on his knees.

When the shadows broke and the dawn’s white sword
Swung over the mountain wall,
And a little wind blew over the ford,
A sargeant sprang to his feet and roared:
‘In the name of the Queen, Ben Hall!’

Haggard, the outlaw leapt from his bed
With his lean arms held on high,
‘Fire!’ And the word was scarcely said
When the mountains rang to rain of lead –
And the dawn went drifting by.

They kept their word and they paid his pay
Where a clean man’s hand would shrink;
And that was the traitor’s master day
As he stood by the bar on his homeward way
And called on the crowd to drink.

He banned no creed and he barred no class,
And he called to his friends by name;
But the worst would shake his head and pass
And none would drink from the bloodstained glass
And the goblet red with shame.

And I know when I hear the last grim call
And my mortal hour is spent,
When the light is hid and the curtains fall
I would rather sleep with the dead Ben Hall
Than go where that traitor went.

Poem of the day

La chimera
   by Dino Campara (1885-1932)

Non so se tra roccie il tuo pallido
Viso m’apparve, o sorriso
Di lontananze ignote
Fosti, la china eburnea
Fronte fulgente o giovine
Suora de la Gioconda:
O delle primavere
Spente, per i tuoi mitici pallori
O Regina o Regina adolescente:
Ma per il tuo ignoto poema
Di voluttà e di dolore
Musica fanciulla esangue,
Segnato di linea di sangue
Nel cerchio delle labbra sinuose,
Regina de la melodia:
Ma per il vergine capo
Reclino, io poeta notturno
Vegliai le stelle vivide nei pelaghi del cielo,
Io per il tuo dolce mistero
Io per il tuo divenir taciturno.
Non so se la fiamma pallida
Fu dei capelli il vivente
Segno del suo pallore,
Non so se fu un dolce vapore,
Dolce sul mio dolore,
Sorriso di un volto notturno:
Guardo le bianche rocce le mute fonti dei venti
E l’immobilità dei firmamenti
E i gonfii rivi che vanno piangenti
E l’ombre del lavoro umano curve là sui poggi algenti
E ancora per teneri cieli lontane chiare ombre correnti
E ancora ti chiamo ti chiamo Chimera.

The Trump administration’s Vogonish approach to asylum law

Traditionally, how an asylum applicant entered the country didn’t matter much. After all, when you’re fleeing for your life (and possibly paranoid about government officials based on your experience at home), much can be forgiven. Applicants would have to relate how they came to US but that was mainly to help gauge their credibility and to make sure that they weren’t “firmly resettled” in a third country. See, e.g., Matter of Pula, 19 I&N Dec. 467, 474-475 (BIA 1987).

Of course, it’s preferable for the alien to show up at a port of entry and ask for asylum. They are then given a “credible fear” interview to assess their claim. If it passes muster, they are paroled into the US (with possible detention) to pursue their claim; if it doesn’t, they get the “expedited removal” treatment, i.e., they don’t get in. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has been illegally turning back would-be asylum seekers without the credible fear interview. Naturally, this leaves them little choice but to enter illegally in order to apply for asylum.

Now, the administration has come up with a truly Vogonish plan to stop these people from claiming asylum. Entering the US illegally is a crime, it’s a misdemeanor. It’s has, however, been rarely prosecuted mainly because US attorneys have better things to do than prosecute misdemeanors, e.g., prosecute felonies, and it’s a lot simpler to put them in removal (deportation) proceedings and let the immigration courts deal with it. Cheaper too since removal is a civil proceeding and there’s no right to a government-paid lawyer or trial by jury, etc. (Illegal re-entry after having been deported once has always been prosecuted vigorously.) The administration’s plan is simple: prosecute everyone for illegal entry and then make anyone convicted of illegal entry ineligible for asylum, regardless of the merits of their case. From the Vox article:

“If adopted, the regulation, combined with the zero tolerance initiative, would allow the administration to set up assembly-line justice for asylum seekers, including families, entering the US. People who entered between official ports would be held by the Department of Homeland Security, prosecuted for illegal entry, convicted, then have their asylum applications denied and get deported.”

And, of course, there are the recent decisions by AG Sessions that change the law with regard to victims of domestic violence and gang violence. More on that at some future date (if I get around to it).

I’m back!!

Once upon a time (2006-2009), I had a blog and I had a lot of fun with it. In addition to posting a poem a day, I offered thoughts on various topics including chess, immigration, books, politics, law, religion, etc. In short, on all things human. I was in Turin for the 2006 Chess Olympiad and FIDE election and posted up-to-the-minute coverage and interviews with the participants. Then the site caught a virus, my webmaster was unavailable and it died. I’ve decided to revive it. Not sure where it will go or how much time I will be able to devote to it. I plan to add a (chess) game of the week feature since I’ve amassed a database of 80,000+ games that aren’t in ChessBase’s Megabase. Beyond that, I don’t know but I am open to suggestions.

Poem of the Day

Song (Sylvia The Fair In The Bloom Of Fifteen)
  by John Dryden (1631-1700)

Sylvia the fair, in the bloom of fifteen,
Felt an innocent warmth as she lay on the green:
She had heard of a pleasure, and something she guessed
By the towsing and tumbling and touching her breast:
She saw the men eager, but was at a loss
What they meant by their sighing and kissing so close;
  By their praying and whining,
  And clasping and twining,
  And panting and wishing,
  And sighing and kissing,
  And sighing and kissing so close.

“Ah!” she cried, “ah, for a languishing maid
In a country of Christians to die without aid!
Not a Whig, or a Tory, or Trimmer at least,
Or a Protestant parson, or Catholic priest,
To instruct a young virgin that is at a loss
What they meant by their sighing and kissing so close;
  By their praying and whining,
  And clasping and twining,
  And panting and wishing,
  And sighing and kissing,
  And sighing and kissing so close.

Cupid in shape of a swain did appear;
He saw the sad wound, and in pity drew near;
Then showed her his arrow, and bid her not fear,
For the pain was no more than a maiden may bear;
When the balm was infused, she was not at a loss
  By their praying and whining,
  And clasping and twining,
  And panting and wishing,
  And sighing and kissing,
  And sighing and kissing so close.

Ed McCurdy produced a fine recording of this song many years ago.

Poem of the day

Porphyria’s Lover
   by Robert Browning (1812-1889)

The sun set early in tonight
   The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
   And did its worst to vex the lake:
   I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
   She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the che   erless grate
   Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
   Which done, she rose, and from her form
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
   And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
   And, last, she sat down by my side
   And called me. When no voice replied,
She put my arm about her waist,
   And made her smooth white shoulder bare,
And all her yellow hair displaced,
   And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,
   And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,
Murmuring how she loved me — she
   Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,
To set its struggling passion free
   From pride, and vainer ties dissever,
   And give herself to me for ever.
But passion sometimes would prevail,
   Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain
A sudden thought of one so pale
   For love of her, and all in vain:
   So, she was come through wind and rain.
Be sure I looked up at her eyes
   Happy and proud; at last I knew
Porphyria worshipped me; surprise
   Made my heart swell, and still it grew
   While I debated what to do.
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
   Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
   In one long yellow string I wound
   Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
   I am quite sure she felt no pain.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
   I warily oped her lids: again
   Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.
And I untightened next the tress
   About her neck; her cheek once more
Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:
   I propped her head up as before,
   Only, this time my shoulder bore
Her head, which droops upon it still:
   The smiling rosy little head,
So glad it has its utmost will,
   That all it scorned at once is fled,
   And I, its love, am gained instead!
Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how
   Her darling one wish would be heard.
And thus we sit together now,
   And all night long we have not stirred,
   And yet God has not said a word!