Beowulf: Grendel's Attack

I recite the passage from Beowulf in Old English where Grendel launches his attack from the moors.


Das Lied: The Farewell

In German or English, the last movement of Das Lied von der Erde is memorable stuff - a rare piece that captures the Romantic Era in a timeless way. The words in "Der Abschied" come from medieval Chinese poetry. Hans Bethge translated them into German, then Gustav Mahler added the last five lines (below marked in English) and composed his long lament scored for mezzo-soprano voice.

Check out the original translation if you like, then look ahead to the English. This story is about someone having a hard time understanding why a good friend has to travel to the mountains for the last time (this being a nice metaphor, as you might imagine.) I used a Decca Records translation and changed some small things for better flow.

Der Abschied

(Hans Bethge, 1876-1946,
nach Mong-Kao-Yen, 689/691–740,
und Wang-Wei, 698–761;
letzte Strophe vom Komponisten hinzugefügt)

Die Sonne scheidet hinter dem Gebirge.
In alle Täler steigt der Abend nieder
Mit seinen Schatten, die voll Kühlung sind.
O sieh! Wie eine Silberbarke schwebt
Der Mond am blauen Himmelssee herauf.
Ich spüre eines feinen Windes Wehn
Hinter den dunklen Fichten!

Der Bach singt voller Wohllaut durch das Dunkel.
Die Blumen blassen im Dämmerschein.
Die Erde atmet voll von Ruh und Schlaf,
Alle Sehnsucht will nun träumen.
Die müden Menschen gehn heimwärts,
Um im Schlaf vergessnes Glück
Und Jugend neu zu lernen!
Die Vögel hocken still in ihren Zweigen.
Die Welt schläft ein!

Es wehet kühl im Schatten meiner Fichten.
Ich stehe hier und harre meines Freundes;
Ich harre sein zum letzten Lebewohl.
Ich sehne mich, o Freund, an deiner Seite
Die Schönheit dieses Abends zu genießen.
Wo bleibst du? Du lässt mich lang allein!
Ich wandle auf und nieder mit meiner Laute
Auf Wegen, die vom weichen Grase schwellen.
O Schönheit! O ewigen Liebens, Lebens trunkne Welt!

Er stieg vom Pferd und reichte ihm den Trunk
Des Abschieds dar. Er fragte ihn, wohin
Er führe und auch warum es müsste sein.
Er sprach, seine Stimme war umflort:

"Du, mein Freund,
Mir war auf dieser Welt das Glück nicht hold!
Wohin ich geh? Ich geh, ich wandre in die Berge.
Ich suche Ruhe für mein einsam Herz.
Ich wandle nach der Heimat, meiner Stätte.
Ich werde niemals in die Ferne schweifen.
Still ist mein Herz und harret seiner Stunde!

Die liebe Erde allüberall
Blüht auf im Lenz und grünt
Aufs neu! Allüberall und ewig
Blauen licht die Fernen!
Ewig... ewig..."

The Farewell

The sun goes down behind the mountain,
Into all the valleys the evening descends
And brings cooling shades.
O see! Like a silver bark
The moon floats up the blue lake of heaven.
I feel a gentle breeze stirring
Behind the dark spruce.
The brook sings melodiously through the darkness.
The flowers grow pale in the gloaming.
The earth is breathing, full of peace and sleep.
All longing now turns into dreams.
Tired men make for home,
In sleep to recapture forgotten happiness
And youth!
The birds hold still in the branches.
The world is falling asleep.

A cool wind blows in the shadow of the spruce.
I stand here waiting for my friend;
I wait to bid him a last farewell.
I long, my friend, at your side
To enjoy the beauty of this evening.
Where do you linger? You have left me alone for so long!
I wander up and down with my lute
On paths soft with swelling grass.
O beauty! O deep love, so drunk with life!

He dismounted his horse and proffered
the parting glass. I asked him where
He was going and why it had to be.
He said, voice trembling:

"O my friend,
In this world fortune was hard on me.
Where I am going? I am going to wander into the mountains.
I seek peace for my lonely heart.
I am making for home, for my resting place.
I will never roam again to distant lands.
My heart is still and awaits its hour.

-      -      -      -      -      -

The dear earth everywhere
Blossoms in spring and grows green
Anew! Everywhere, forever,
Blue lights on the horizon!
Forever... forever... "

-      -      -      -      -      -


The Imaginarian

In the mind
of the imaginarian
there are bubbles
that become
urgent as milk,
the placid movement
of time a drudgery.

But then wings
of angelic forms come to light
and a vast horizon of being
stretches outward
to new adventures.

Go for those adventures,
o winged Pegasus,
and with equine strength
weigh improbably upward
like a vast eagle.


Not So Simple

Here are some topics we discuss as examples of science and technology reporting in my classes. I have a series of articles and a video to share, bringing home the point that oversimplification of information often leads to lack of clarity.


This 2013 article was posted to reddit about two weeks ago and got plenty of upvotes as if it were a new and easy magical thing -

Graphene is one of the great discoveries - an excellent building material, with awesome potential as both electrical conductor and molecular sieve, but there's more work to be done to make its use in those last two categories practical on a larger scale. This MIT article from last year looks a more reasonable update on graphene’s use as a filter - 


Also check out the different focuses of this video and article, both from 2014 -

The feel-good style of the video has touched far more hearts than Arthur Middleton’s more balanced analysis, but the question is do we want to believe things at face value without digging any deeper? 


This article focuses on meat and cheese -

This article focuses on fiber -

Which of the two gives a more accurate depiction of the research?

Rocket Science

Finally, consider this op-ed from last year, which encourages us to
understand discovery as hard effort rather than a moment of epiphany -

These kinds of distinctions are important when evaluating information.