Tag Archives: tennyson

Writing prompt: Modified pollen

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Modified pollen” (quote at bottom by Alfred Tennyson, in ‘The Lotos Eaters’)

The hazard flower came to our county five years ago. Another invasive species, blown in on winds from the south and trucks. No one knows how exactly it came to exist, going on twenty years ago now. Terrorism? Science gone bad? A chance cross-pollination?

Pollen season started yesterday, so often course we are all indoors, with the windows closed and the filtration systems on. The count is still well below two inside, so all is well. It looks so beautiful out, and I am trapped inside with canned air. The season only lasts about a week.

In the last year or two, I’ve wondered… what would it be like? The ‘Lotos Eaters,’ as they call those exposed, seem serene and at peace. Damage to the emotional center of the brain, the doctors say, not so different from a lobotomy. But they seem at peace, and right now, I do not feel at peace. I watch the yellow dust drift, and know that until the hazard crews come and hose it all off, I will remain inside. Once an injured cat lay in my yard during pollen season, and I simply watched, unable to help, but unable not to care.

It’s 75 out, a beautiful day. A lovely day to take a walk.

“Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.”

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Interesting facts: 50-75

Today I post interesting facts 51-75. These last weeks have been incredibly intense, and it’s been tough meeting my 100 fact challenge celebrating reaching 100 posts. I will follow with the last 25 later this week or next Monday. The blog has had to take a backseat to work and to my book writing efforts; I will hit 70,000 words tomorrow and I am closing in on the finish. And without further ado, more facts!

 

51. Earth’s magnetic poles switch every few hundred thousand years, as a result of natural movements in iron in the crust. I wondered how this might affect migratory species using magnetic senses, but there isn’t enough evidence from the last switch 41,000 years ago to tell.

52. The creator of Kellogg’s cornflakes was at war with sexuality. The cornflakes were a part of this, as an unstimulating food. He was a strong advocate against masturbation– advocating circumcision and application of acid to the genitals.

53. Left-handed people are at a higher risk for numerous ailments, including schizophrenia, ADHD, and depression. I am what they call mixed-handed– I do some tasks with my right hand (writing), and some with the other (sports).

54. Eta Carinae is sometimes one of the brightest stars in the sky, and sometimes not. It is a system including a luminous blue variable, which grows a coat of obscuring gas, and then periodically blasts it off. In 1843, it was the second brightest object in the sky. It currently cannot be seen with the naked eye.

55. George Washington did not have wooden teeth. His dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth).

56. Goldfish actually have memories of about three months. As anyone who ever owned a goldfish should know.

57. Alfred Tennyson was troubled and interested by the science of his time. Themes about evolution and references to the contemporary phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” (a since debunked scientific concept which claims an organism develops in vitro according to its phylum order) can be found in his poetry, specially In Memoriam.

58. Water-induced wrinkles are not caused by the skin absorbing water and swelling. They are caused by the autonomic nervous system, which triggers localized vasoconstriction in response to wet skin, yielding a wrinkled appearance. This may have evolved because it gives ancestral primates a better grip in slippery, wet environments.

59. Eating nuts, popcorn, or seeds does not increase the risk of diverticulitis.These foods may actually have a protective effect.

60. The Coriolis effect does not determine the direction that water rotates in a bathtub drain or a flushing toilet. The Coriolis effect induced by the Earth’s daily rotation is too small to affect the direction of water in a typical bathtub drain. The effect becomes significant and noticeable only at large scales, such as in weather systems or oceanic currents. Other forces dominate the dynamics of water in drains.

61. Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.

62. Nikola Tesla was a badass scientist. Thomas Edison isn’t as great as you thought. Tesla pioneered AC current distribution and the lightbulb. Edison stole ideas from Tesla and attempted to undermine him to increase his own profits.

63. Paul Erdös wrote over 1500 math papers. If you’ve heard of six degrees of Kevin Bacon, this was originally known as the Erdös number, the number of degrees of separation from publishing a paper with Erdös. He was very eccentric. For years, he lived out of his suitcase, traveling across the world and collaborating on papers. He didn’t know how to open juice containers and used amphetamines to give him energy. His epitaph was “I’ve finally stopped getting dumber.”

64. Catherine the Great was the longest-ruling female monarch in Russian history. She was actually prussian, and married Peter the Great’s grandson. She probably conspired in his assassination, and took the throne. Her son changed Peter the Great’s succession laws to exclude women from rule.

65. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a nobel prize, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She discovered polonium and radium and x-rays. She used x-rays to help diagnose injuries in WW1. She eventually died due to radiation-related illness.

66. Ramanujan was an indian-born mathematical genius. With little formal instruction, he devised many theorems that are still being incorporated into mathematical theory. He died at 32.

67. Michael Faraday was a pioneering scientist in electromagnetism, although he also received little formal education. He discovered benzene, and discovered the relationship between light and magnetism. He knew little math beyond trigonometry. The unit of capacitance, Farad, is named after him, as well as numerous constants and devices.

68. the symbol pi, π, originally referred to the perimeter of a circle. only in 1706 was it used to mean the ratio of perimeter to diameter.

69. James Tiptree Jr., a prominent science fiction writer, was actually a woman. She wrote under the pseudonym for two decades until she killed her husband and then herself.

70. In the early years of the Soviet Union, a type of genetics besides Mendelian genetics became accepted as correct, known as Lysenkoism. In Lysenkoism, the way you raised a crop determined its outcome, not the type of seed. Widespread starvation occurred in the Soviet five-year plans, partially due to Lysenkoism.

71. There are over 20,000 species of orchids, or four times the number of mammalian species. Many of them are epiphytes, meaning they grow above the ground in tree-borne habitats.

72. East germans could only buy Trabant cars. Used Trabants were more expensive than new ones, because the waiting line was shorter.

73. A girl in Sweden survived her body temperature dropping to 55 F (13 C) in 2010.

74. Hypothermia is highly correlated to age. Older people suffer hypothermia at a much higher rate.

75. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is the tallest base to tip lighthouse in the United States. Due to shore encroachment, it was moved in 1999. Its light can be seen 20 miles out to sea.

Tennyson’s “The Lotos-Eaters”: a public domain work

[A side note: US copyright law changed in 1976. Consequently, we miss out every year on works that would have entered the public domain. In another article, you can see that stronger copyright laws don’t correlate to more creativity. I believe in artists profiting from their works, just as companies profit from patents. But US copyright law is something different from that now. Support the public domain!]

Below is one of my favorite poems by Alfred Tennyson, a 19th century poet. All of his works are public domain, so if you enjoy, check him out! The text, below, and an audio copy of “The Lotos-Eaters” can be found here.

The Lotos-Eaters

Alfred Tennyson

“Courage!” he said, and pointed toward the land,
“This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.”
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
And some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
Stood sunset-flush’d: and, dew’d with showery drops,
Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.

The charmed sunset linger’d low adown
In the red West: thro’ mountain clefts the dale
Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
Border’d with palm, and many a winding vale
And meadow, set with slender galingale;
A land where all things always seem’d the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each, but whoso did receive of them,
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem’d the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, “We will return no more”;
And all at once they sang, “Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.”

Choric Song

I

There is sweet music here that softer falls
Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
Or night-dews on still waters between walls
Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
Than tir’d eyelids upon tir’d eyes;
Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
Here are cool mosses deep,
And thro’ the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

II

Why are we weigh’d upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown:
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,
Nor steep our brows in slumber’s holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
“There is no joy but calm!”
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?

III

Lo! in the middle of the wood,
The folded leaf is woo’d from out the bud
With winds upon the branch, and there
Grows green and broad, and takes no care,
Sun-steep’d at noon, and in the moon
Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow
Falls, and floats adown the air.
Lo! sweeten’d with the summer light,
The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,
Drops in a silent autumn night.
All its allotted length of days
The flower ripens in its place,
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.

IV

Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
Vaulted o’er the dark-blue sea.
Death is the end of life; ah, why
Should life all labour be?
Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence; ripen, fall and cease:
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.

V

How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
With half-shut eyes ever to seem
Falling asleep in a half-dream
To dream and dream, like yonder amber light,
Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
To hear each other’s whisper’d speech;
Eating the Lotos day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
To muse and brood and live again in memory,
With those old faces of our infancy
Heap’d over with a mound of grass,
Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!

VI

Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
And dear the last embraces of our wives
And their warm tears: but all hath suffer’d change:
For surely now our household hearths are cold,
Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:
And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
Or else the island princes over-bold
Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings
Before them of the ten years’ war in Troy,
And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things.
Is there confusion in the little isle?
Let what is broken so remain.
The Gods are hard to reconcile:
‘Tis hard to settle order once again.
There is confusion worse than death,
Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
Long labour unto aged breath,
Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars
And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.

VII

But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)
With half-dropt eyelid still,
Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
His waters from the purple hill–
To hear the dewy echoes calling
From cave to cave thro’ the thick-twined vine–
To watch the emerald-colour’d water falling
Thro’ many a wov’n acanthus-wreath divine!
Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
Only to hear were sweet, stretch’d out beneath the pine.

VIII

The Lotos blooms below the barren peak:
The Lotos blows by every winding creek:
All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone:
Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
Roll’d to starboard, roll’d to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl’d
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl’d
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
Like a tale of little meaning tho’ the words are strong;
Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer–some, ’tis whisper’d–down in hell
Suffer endless anguish, others in Elysian valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodel.
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.