Fortunate to Know

October 8, 2015


Been hived and herded
   Doused and dirted
    And deserted

Life is an ocean
   Of misery and woe
Love is a notion
   I’m fortunate to know

Been punched and prodded
   Nailed and knotted
Fiends who plotted
   Stomped and swatted

Life is an ocean
   Of misery and woe
Love is a notion
   I’m fortunate to know

Been kicked and slandered
   Dumped and dandered
Pitched and pandered
   Without candor

Life is an ocean
   Of misery and woe
Love is a notion
   I’m fortunate to know

all connected

October 2, 2015


they say that
matter’s all
you and me
have been
every system
is affected

we share ourselves
in all we do
i wanna get
real close to you
i wanna
feel like new
and mix
some molecules
with you

by Richard W. Bray

To hear you say goodbye

September 18, 2015

What do I gotta say
To make you go away?
I’ll beguile and masquerade
Till you go on your way

I’ll make up any lie
To hear you say goodbye

I’ll say I understand
I’ll tell you I’m your man
I’ll say you are so right
I’m with you in this fight

I’ll promise earth and sky
To hear you say goodbye

by Richard W. Bray

all directions

September 10, 2015

two donuts and a red bull
now I gotta go
sugar sugar sugar caffeine
gotta go & go & go

words come in all directions
words build up inside my brain
try to get em out but
my thumbs cannot explain

by Richard W. Bray

Put Your Foot on his Head and Drown Him Quickly: Is This Baldassare Castiglione’s Ultimate Advice in The Book of the Courtier?

September 3, 2015

Baldassare Castiglione

Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier is a work which articulates some very sensitive issues. It is a deliberately ambiguous book at least in part because Castiglione wrote in tumultuous times when one could literally lose his head for offending the wrong people. Castiglione therefore wisely obscured his own final perspective by utilizing the clamor of contrasting opinions. Because there is no particular protagonist with whom the reader is expected to identify, no single dominant voice emerges on the book’s most sensitive question: Is the courtier ultimately loyal to himself or to the prince he serves?

Castiglione sought to convey a set of beliefs when he wrote The Book of the Courtier. However, well-founded prudence caused him to be circumspect in his presentation. Thus modern readers cannot ascertain Castiglione’s ultimate point of view with certainty. And it is also possible that his own opinions are as ambiguous as his dialogue. However, one thing can be stated unequivocally about The Book of the Courtier—despite the pretense that its interlocutors are playing a game, they are discussing critical issues which were often a matter of life and death.

The characters in The Book of the Courtier attempt to describe the qualities which define the ideal courtier; this is a very serious question. Yet the tone of the dialogue often seems Pollyannaish in contrast to its historical backdrop. A preponderance of the voices in the dialogue proffer a touchingly idealistic view of the courtier’s role. The disparity between the amount of ink devoted to the idealists versus that given to advocates of realpolitik is curious. The dialogue is dominated by unctuous proclamations that the courtier should be a paladin of honor and virtue. But such claims seem ridiculous when one considers the political realities of the time. The Medici family did not come to dominate Italian politics by being nice guys.

Occasionally, however, cynical dissenting views creep into the discussion. These counterarguments are often so compelling that the reader is left to wonder who exactly is foiling whom. At times one is tempted to ask if Castiglione were really a closet Machiavellian. The fact that the reader is unable to prove which side the author is on is a striking indication of his artistry. Castiglione’s final objective in writing The Book of the Courtier remains obscure because the views of both the idealists and the realists are eloquently expressed.

When Federico asserts in a pious tone that a good courtier “should never seek to gain grace of favor through wicked methods or dishonest means,” Calmeta cynically retorts that “our rulers love only those who follow such paths.” This interaction summarizes the conflict which permeates the entire dialogue: Should courtiers be loyal to their princes in the name of aristocratic honor or should they simply do what is best for their careers? Although the mood of The Book of the Courtier fluctuates from light to serious, the anxiety around this conflict simmers near the surface throughout, and sometimes it bubbles to the surface.

Castiglione asserts that the objective of the dialogue is to determine how to “create a courtier so perfect that the prince who is worthy of his service, even though his dominion is small, can count himself a truly great ruler.” Ottaviano argues that the ideal courtier should function as a sort of “whetstone” who “should introduce the prince to many virtues, such as justice, generosity, and magnanimity.” Federico echoes this sentiment by describing the perfect courtier as a tireless servant: “[V]ery rarely, or hardly ever will he ask his master anything for himself.”

However, the mawkish tone of such declarations makes it difficult for us to take them seriously as representations of courtly discourse during the Italian Renaissance, which was a cauldron of guile and intrigue. Ottaviano’s and Federico’s naive proclamations give little indication that Castiglione was a contemporary of Machiavelli unless we are willing to entertain the notion that Castiglione was some a closet Machiavellian.

Perhaps Castiglione furtively conceals his real message
in The Book the Courtier: Deceit and subterfuge constitute a courtier’s most effective self-defense in dangerous times. By utilizing some of the dialogue’s least appealing interlocutors to voice this reality, Castiglione shrewdly shelters himself from charges of cynicism. Cesare Gonzago, for example, has a limited role in the dialogue. Yet he adroitly articulates what could be seen as Castiglione’s hidden agenda when he demonstrates the temerity to counter the prevailing view that virtue is the courtier’s most important asset. When Magnifico asserts that it is unwise for a courtier speak ill of another courtier in order to gain a woman’s favor, Cesare wryly observes that “I confess that I haven’t the sense to be able to refrain from speaking ill of a rival of mine, unless you can teach me a better way of causing his downfall.” Cesare is not merely refuting Magnifico; he is also rebutting Federico’s unsophisticated assertion that an ideal courtier, “will speak no evil, and least of all of his lords.”

Magnifico is amused by Cesare’s perceptive observation, and although he expresses the sentiment that “I should never like our courtier to practice deceit,” he nonetheless happily relates the following proverb: “When your enemy is in water up to his waist, you should extend him your hand and pull him out of danger; but when he is in up to his chin, then put your foot on his head and drown him quickly.” Like Castiglione, Magnifico enjoys playing the game of defining how an ideal courtier would behave in a perfect world. But he is unable to resist pointing out that the sixteenth century Italian court was hardly an exemplary society.

A work of literature conceived to elicit an identical response from each potential reader is merely propaganda, and The Book of the Courtier is no such thing. Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier does not contain a simple, unified interpretation discernible only to the particularly astute reader. The Book of the Courtier is praiseworthy for the complexity of its ambiguities, which is hallmark of great literature.

by Richard W. Bray

My Soggy-Headed Woe

August 29, 2015

I partied with the devil
It didn’t go well
Rode the escalator
To the pit of hell

Million kinds of poison
Alter the brain
Buckets of cocktails
Intensify the pain

Been out of my head
In a seaside bungalow
Been down and out in places
The grass don’t grow
Been torn asunder
Nasty and slow
Deliver me, Lord
From my soggy-headed woe

by Richard W. Bray

my dreams cannot resist

August 14, 2015

when my head
was in my bootie
i found the
perfect cutie
in my drunken
dream of beauty

her devotion
never tires
she lives for
my desire
i’m all that
she admires

my dreams
cannot resist
a lover
such as this
too bad she
don’t exist

by Richard W. Bray

Tell Me Where It Hurts

August 7, 2015


tell me where it hurts
you don’t have to tell me why
maybe you don’t know
don’t be afraid to cry

tell me where it hurts
you don’t need me to reply
i’m just gonna listen
just gonna be nearby

tell me where it hurts
bleed it till it’s dry
i’m not gonna judge you
remember i’m your guy

tell me where it hurts
where it went awry
together we can heal
together we’ll get by

by Richard W. Bray

This Fellow Who Follows

August 3, 2015


This fellow who follows
This odd little gent
Just gets on my tail
And never relents

This fellow who follows
The path of my shoes
With a single ambition
To do what I do

This fellow who follows
He just wants to play
It’s always his fate
To get in the way

This fellow who follows
Is my little brother
An object more precious
Than any other

This fellow who follows
My feet to and fro
Has taught me to scruple
And watch where I go

by Richard W. Bray

Ugly Talk

July 27, 2015


The motivation
For your allegations
Is a stupid inclination
For classification
Your speculation
Is an irritation
Put away your provocation
Find a new fixation

Gonna do what do
Gonna live my life
Ain’t got no time
I ain’t inclined
To justify…

I ain’t no public relations
Got no obligation
To give documentation
Of my situation
No contamination
Don’t need validation
Or your confirmation
Got my contemplation
And my liberation

by Richard W. Bray


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