Friday, January 23, 2015

magical moments in literature

This essay is in build. It'll go on Intercapillary Space when it's finished.



 *



 OK, it's my mission to dash something off for Intercapillary Space, but what about? Let's check out what's in my backpack.

Edward Thomas, Werner Aspenström, William Shakespeare... hmm, it's not quite what I'm looking for.

Try another pocket. Tim Allen's Default Soul. Well that's more like it, but people are going to be fed up with me writing about Tim Allen. Anyhow, that's where we'll begin.

*

Default Soul (Red Ceilings Press, 2014) contains 44 poems that are all in the same format (three four-line stanzas). "Stanzas" is quite a misleading term here, but at least you'll understand what the poems look like.

The end-paper says that it's the first of a trilogy of such books, and I hope that turns out to be true, because of all the various Tim Allen books I've read I think this is the most imaginatively intense.

It's a small pamphlet and a very good thing to carry around in a pocket because you don't need to read much to get a hit off it. Each poem consists of 12 sort-of-jokes. They interact in a mainly subliminal way.  If I claimed that I'd laughed out loud a few times, you'd think that I'm lying, but anyway I've definitely chuckled. I think one of the lines was

chilly on the terrace even in the cubby hole


When something's a limited edition of 35 copies it seems ridiculous to call it popular poetry, but it kind of is. If you can imagine one of those comic compilations of amusing or wacky newspaper headlines, then that's not too far away from what you've got here,

physicist's life is in ruins he insists

Or, "Tutankhamun's beard glued back on, say Egyptian museum conservators". Oh no, that one's real. But back to Tim's physicist. It starts as a joke, but it doesn't end there, because this is poetry. After the chuckle, the analysis: Why is this funny? Something about the unfettered emotionalism of "my life is in ruins" in absurd contrast to the way we expect a physicist to talk. And what does that expectation say about science, and about us?

Another thing that often comes to mind is the clues in a cryptic crossword. It's to do with the lack of articles and the replacement of names by categories.

young man blinks as old writer decomposes
or

bird in highest tree is singing the lowest note
or

church porch quite possible without a church

Next time round he should supply the grid.

Then there are fragments.

the handrail is a Letraset bird of prey

That makes perfect sense if you assume that it's a fragment, and is missing the opening word "On". So why miss it out, then? I don't really know, but it isn't just to create a gratuitous difficulty. Compare this by Andrea Brady:

the sheep's skull must have cracked
when it plunged onto the strand from the pasture.  (from "Table Talk")

That's a neat way of telling us that a sheep fell off a cliff but without mentioning the cliff. Again, not gratuitous difficulty. Somehow the process of working this out produces a kind of delight that isn't separable from the enhanced vividness that comes from perceiving something that you haven't simply been told.

This sort of delight is not what Brady's poems usually do. Highlighting it might be a false beginning.

Anyway, back to Allen. Put together these one-liners into quatrains and you end up with something a good deal more complicated:

audience of monsters and proud star gazers
judge retires to a convent to shave
cannibals in the attire of anyone called Rousseau
devastating poverty blights your first day
seabirds potter in their pyjamas
beach debris desert boy makes premier soaps
glyptic holy girl calculating grotto's dimensions
summer hols summary has a cold conviction

I can't resist laying this side to side with another teasing quatrain poem, J.H. Prynne's STREAK~~~WILLING~~~ENTOURAGE  ARTESIAN (Barque, 2009):

Cursive slow dropper forbear manipulated order to
save them allusive eat till suited, offering help
them single them fairly wit tackle. Into wicket
fainting team alloy white iron bait, aril did them
Claimant at first. Getting them out to margin few
to allow by pair iridescence gain the hold step,
strim loose panic back go slant copy as broken out
for them this counter waveform, less same fusion

I don't want to pre-empt what conclusions you might want to draw from this juxtaposition. But, in a general way, the difference strikes me this way. Allen's poetical challenge is the world-as-experienced; how to get it in to poetry, which is always resisting it.  That's the challenge in itself, and it's challenge enough. But I conceive Prynne's poetry as more sceptical about the coherence of  the world-as-experienced; he aspires to get beneath that illusion and to tinker with the workings. In that respect I see Prynne's enterprise as grandly romantic in a way that Allen's is not.



*


Robert Potts: "One yearns for a reading – academic or otherwise – that would start to explain Her Weasels Wild Returning(1994) or the impenetrable STREAK~~~WILLING~~~ENTOURAGE~~~ARTESIAN (2009)".


Streak Willing is an easy text in some ways. Most people will agree that the six stanzas on each page represent a discrete poem, a supposition confirmed by each sixth stanza ending in a full stop, which none of the others do. And it's quite easy to identify themes within each poem, so we can give the twelve poems working titles, like this.

1. closed box
2. broken / fragment
3. water / margin
4. hunger
5. enamel / bitten
6. would / eye / wood cut
7. them
8. front
9. rapid / soon
10. rest.
11. At for was.
12. some / same /ours

Other minutiae to ponder: 1. Each stanza begins with a capital letter which, except for the first in each poem, is purely metrical.  2. The poems contain few articles, but each has at least one (in Poem 10, "the" arrives only in the last line; Poem 11 has only "a"s).  3. The lines get gradually longer, so poem 1 averages about 12 syllables a line, but poem 12 averages about 16.  4. The poems are lyrical. The most basic lyrical word of all - "oh" - appears in poems 1,2,3,6,8 and 11. The word "how" is also prominent and I think usually ejaculatory. Besides a surprising amount of emotive, even anguished, language.  5. "At" is a basic word in Prynne's poems and is prominent here. 6. But the key word here is "same", which appears multiple times in every poem, and with special emphasis in the last.  It seems to be linked to both "some" and "shame",  also to the first syllables of "summary", "summons", "summer" "salmon", "simulate", "simper" etc.) 7. Following on from that observation, it's clear that the sound of words, or the sound of bits of words, may be a decisive factor in the patterning. Consider the "-ic" suffix that shows up in Poem 1 as "civic.. Tantric.. Galvanic.." Poem 9 plays a game with "-ic" and "x": "relics", "pernix", "proximal", "exit", "phalanx", "ethic", "ferric", "synthetic", "Suffix", "metric", "traffic". The closer you read, the more of such games you'll see. 8. The word "graven" appears in Poems 3 and 4, "limit" in 7 and 9, "livid" in 1 and 5, "defect" in 4 and 11, "metric" in 5 and 9.

John Armstrong has written numerous posts on the sequence. His key contention is that it refers to The Troubles and more specifically the blanket protest and hunger strike at the Maze Prison in 1980-81. This contention mainly took shape in these two early posts.

https://bebrowed.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/reading-prynne-very-very-closely/

https://bebrowed.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/reading-prynne-closely-a-vindication/

As an idea I think it has quite a lot to be said for it. (I also think I've discerned other references to the hunger strike than those mentioned by John, though now I can't find them again.)

But ultimately my view is that associating Prynne's poem with a single historical locus isn't right. To put it crudely, the striking differentness of Prynne's approach (so demanding to write, and so demanding to read) couldn't really be excused if all that lies behind it is merely an engagement with a single piece of history. My belief is that Streak Willing is a polysemous poem; it isn't about Long Kesh and Bobby Sands in the same sort of way that Richard Hamilton's The citizen and Steve McQueen's Hunger are. Prynne's text can interconnect many things. For example, Poem 4, the "hunger" poem, uses the word "trucial", which in a single word directs us to the astonishing transformation of life in the southern Arabian peninsula that came with the discovery of oil; the auto-destruction of the Bedu way of life; the uncorrupt hungers and thirsts of the desert, as poignantly hymned by Wilfred Thesiger in Arabian Sands, inevitably replaced by the desalinated water and green villas of Abu Dhabi. But I wouldn't want to argue that this, either, is the true hidden theme of Prynne's poem. I believe the text is a honeycomb of larger ideas that permits a searching meditation on the basic roots of our capitalist civilization, and it partly does what it does by glancing at multiple loci. But it's only a working hypothesis, and there's a greater element of faith in it than I'd wish.

A years after Streak Willing was published, Andrea Brady said: " I have profound misgivings about the political methods of Prynne’s late poetry". I'm taking that out of its context, which certainly wasn't the right moment to expand on that remark. Still, it was an interesting one. "Political methods" - not political views, not poetical methods. Where is that going?

 *

OK. Andrea Brady, Cut From The Rushes (Reality Street Editions,2013).

I need help with reading Brady. Fortunately there's some genuinely helpful stuff around on the internet.

The most searching piece is by Marianne Morris and was printed in Jacket in 2006. This deals with Embrace, which is the first half of the current volume but came out separately in 2005.


http://jacketmagazine.com/29/morris-brady.html










Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

stack o' tracks

I'm listening to a stack of CDs on one of those black plastic spindles. None have their own sleeves and most have only a few hand-scrawled details.


1. aardvarch.

Electronic music, probably European, and pretty good.


2. masters at work.

This must be the NY mixing duo who were pals of Todd Terry. Not sure when this CD dates from, but the general joyousness of it reminds me of what made Todd's music so great.  Lots of great extended dance tracks, mostly jazzy instrumentals, plus one or two with singers. Great piece of salsa to finish.

3. jimi hendrix.

One of the bad things that happened back in the day if a big artist died young was that it triggered a mountainous shitpile of terrible recordings flooding the budget market.   A budget Marvin Gaye album is almost certainly going to be live concert tracks, badly played, badly sung, hammily performed and badly recorded. Hearing soul masterpieces like Inner City Blues and Let's Get It On in this context is weirdly fascinating. It makes you realize how much the icon of greatness has to be sculpted out of the murk of reality. In Hendrix's case, the hundreds of indistinguishable budget records consisted mainly of sludgy blues jams, occasionally lit up by some brilliant flash of guitar lightning; then, half a second later, it's back to the sludge. These were, I suppose, the scrapings of that period in every pop musician's career that is usually covered in one forgettable sentence of the bio ("after playing in local bands such as Butterfudge, Luke Bumble's Strangers, and the Featherlites, he came to the attention of ..."). This pre-dawm in a musician's career should be nearly forgotten, cloaked in mystery, the lure of a few diehard collectors. But Jimi's pre-dawn wasn't forgotten. In most of these recordings the musicians are just messing about; they have no discernible audience in view so aren't really trying to communicate anything.

4. Putumayo Presents Africa 1999. This is fun. Zimbabwean Jit, Congolese soukous, S. African township plus Togo and a few other places - no Nigerian or N. African. In the 1980s I eagerly collected African LPs from Sterns. 30 years later, my astonishment at the rhythms and guitar-playing has only grown stronger.

5. Coral. This turns out to be The Coral's splendid first album (2002), except that some of the tracks skip rather badly. The question of which one was better, this or its companion "Magic and Medicine", continues to resonate around the campfires of this land. Whatever, it was an amazing double-opening-gambit. What WAS it about The Coral that made them compulsive when so many of their musical ingredients suggested just another lightweight derivative good-time band? In the end I think it might come down to James Skelly's voice. Not only that, but especially that. Whatever ridiculous thing he's singing, he connects with us. It was the misfortune of the Coral that they were basically retro and late-arrivals to a music form (rock) that was already dead. hence they never received the kind of critical attention that a band like Echo and the Bunnymen would; it's just Merseyside Mayhem Ahoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Victor Alexander Sederbach (fl. 1755-56)

Lacock Abbey, outside the Great Hall


Yesterday I spent a few sunny January hours with pals walking around Lacock. Sunny, but chilly, so the promise of a log fire in the Great Hall of the Abbey was quite inviting.


Lacock Abbey, Great Hall interior


This quasi-Gothic Great Hall was remodelled for John Talbot in 1753, so it's four years later than Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill. 



Lacock Abbey, Great Hall interior


I was very taken with the remarkable terracotta statues that were made in 1755-56 by Victor Alexander Sederbach. Here's what John Talbot said about him in a letter to his architect Sanderson Miller (January 1756): 
The Foreigner who has been here ever since May has executed his Performance in a very Workmanlike manner and your Niches are filled by a set of Inhabitants worthy such Repositories. I presume you are acquainted with the method of making Models for Statues. He proceeds on the same principles, only Bakes them afterwards, by which means they become of a Red Colour and ring like a Garden Pot … I fancy Lord Shelburn will employ him on his arrival at London, where he goes next week; however, as so many of your friends are Connoisseurs, I would advise them seeing his Performances, which are both Easy and not Expensive. His name is sonorous, no less than Victor Alexander Sederbach and yet lodges at one King’s a grocer in Green Street, near Castle Street, Leicester Fields. I am sorry he did not show all his Performances to the Gentleman you sent a note by, but on asking the Reason, was told that someone the day before had Broke a Figure, which made him extremely Captious... (Sourced from here)

Instantly identified as "Gandalf" by all visitors

These are Sederbach's only known works. 

Niklaus Pevsner wrote:
On these brackets and in these niches stands the extraordinary statuary of Victor Alexander Sederbach, a pleasant, modest man and a cheap sculptor. Beyond that we know absolutely nothing about him. His Christian names sound North-East German, his surname South German or Austrian, and the statues in Austrian abbeys are indeed perhaps the nearest comparison to these wild, violent, and unrefined mid-C18 pieces. They are made of terracotta, and it has been suggested that Sederbach was perhaps a Hafner, i.e. stove-maker, and not a sculptor.  (The Buildings of England: Wiltshire)
I like that idea about the Hafner. There is definitely a folk-art quality to figures such as the "Gandalf" above. Sederbach's figures are half-height, but they do remind me vaguely of small domestic figurines, e.g.  those used in Swedish Christmas scenes. Though they are wood or plaster,  not terracotta. Something to do with how the figures, though not connected by narrative, seem clearly to belong to the same world as each other; a world of the past perhaps, or a world of folk-tale, at any rate a parallel world to our own.








Bishop expounding


The swirling Baroque movement of the figures (e.g. the preacher pounding his text) are in dramatic contrast to the upright neo-medieval niches, and create a strange impression of the statues bursting into life.



These statues appear to have been consciously "historical". (One of them definitely represents Ela, Countess of Salisbury, the 13th-century foundress of Lacock Abbey; unfortunately, there's no surviving record of the other subjects.) Sederbach put them into highly romantic period costumes. It makes me speculate that Sederbach's vision of the past stirring in all its colourfulness might have been quite influential on the movement in taste that eventually led from The Castle of Otranto and The Old English Baron to Ivanhoe and Kenilworth, The Black Arrow, Puck of Pook's Hill, Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, The Sword in the Stone, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.





Death finally woke up and had a stretch

Sederbach's statues are also in happy harmony with the National Trust fantasia that is present-day Lacock: the lock-up, the tithe-barn, the living installation of plaited willow-withies, the flash of light-catchers in the trees, the resident sculptor with giant mosaic water-lilies. Lacock is the "birthplace of photography", and has been the setting for numerous movie scenes: Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, and yes, Harry Potter...




Man attempts to explain the ecliptic to a goat

(The sugar-lump thing goes back to an American student visitor in 1919. The guides will tell you about it. )


Juglans nigra

Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) in winter. There's another view of this tree in the photo at the head of this post. J. nigra is native to the SE USA.




Eranthis hyemalis

The leafless winter trees are underlit by Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis).




Eranthis hyemalis and Galanthus nivalis



Berries of Myrtus communis

Common Myrtle (Myrtus communis), outside the cloisters. A Mediterranean shrub grown for its fragrant blossom. The berries are said to taste a bit like Juniper; I wish I'd tried one.  They are used to flavour liqueur (mirto in Sardinia and Corsica) and, dried, as a substitute for pepper or in meat dishes (Turkey, Middle East).


Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

manchester airport



someone I knew
drew in her nest breath

by fiber repose

beyond the full hotel
like a covered annexe
the empty airport

inter lube steel

gull

viaduct travellators,
under its engineered roof
slung bottle-bin

night-lit, nearly empty,  clear my head

of its hall of trolleys



I took a snowy breath; I paused

and glanced out to the terminals;

taxi-ing craft, becalmed so late;

upward, as if to a belfry:

the southern night sky
and its distance; a pucker of the folds:
vegetation, fire, or birds?

something happened to dismay us




you looked via cool
                mile-long ringway return

came ads for greenspace
               back-lit caffeine hit

New Scientist rail and a rhythm of taxi phones
               Swissair: continuous, background resonance

   of something.
Mile of ring-pull warmth

gull of the hood jogging breeze
a shoe-in scarf

cabin-crew heels, claret lipstick
      if you switched to E-lites

panes flashed as I passed:
             the constant chuckle in the vents

          faster by the glass, postcard
serving Broughton Cliff Kersal Moor




I lay and smoked... around me, the night thickened.

in the lake mist, in a clearing

the spiral of a buzzard

spread fan, wisp of a dawn fire,

as if the momentum of the ringway

drew up into the dark

a pilgrim's spiral

I rested in the hugeness of triliphons

celestial board-meetings

flecked wingbeats


Is it summer, mamma?


Labels:

Monday, December 29, 2014

specimens of the literature of Sweden - tea and glögg



Swedes are notoriously heavy coffee drinkers (according to stereotype anyway) but tea does play quite a big part in Swedish culture too; and not only in the form of Lipton's Yellow Label, the brand that owns all of mainland Europe.

Particularly noticeable are the various tea mixtures that appear on sale in markets, with more or less persuasive claims to local provenance. These teas, often spicy, come into their own in winter.

1. On the left, glögg-style tea from the heaving Christmas market at Sigtuna near Stockholm. For glögg, see below!

(Sigtuna, on a branch of Mälaren, is Sweden's oldest town (from 980), and is much visited for its picturesque medieval streets. Overtaken by the rise of Stockholm and Uppsala (around the year 1300), its population had dwindled to 600 by the end of the 19th c. but has subsequently risen to >8,000, due mainly to the proximity of Arlanda airport.)

Manufacturer: Johan & Nyström (coffee- and tea- merchants), based in Tullinge, an outer suburb of south-west Stockholm (on the way to Södertälje).

Ingredienser / Ingredients: Svart te (black tea), kanel (cinnamon), apelsinskal (orange-peel), ingefära (ginger), kryddnejlika (cloves), peppar (pepper), kardemumma (cardamom), arom (flavour).

The pepper is a bit of a surprise. I wonder if the Swedish biscuits called "pepparkakor", though marketed elsewhere as "ginger thins" etc, originally contained some pepper? Our family recipe certainly doesn't.


2. The Christmas tea mixture in the centre of the photo was is by Kaffehuset i Karlstad AB, a subsidiary of the Löfbergs Lila group. (Sunny Karlstad, on the shores of Vänern, is the capital of Värmland.)

I don't need to go into Swedish here because this is an export pack. The ingredients are: Black leaf tea 79%, Fruit pieces 12% (Orange peel, Apple, Rosehip), Spices 7% (Coriander, Clove, Cinnamon), Flavour.


3. If you are looking for something a bit less big-business-ish, then that can be found too. My sister lives in Kallhäll, a suburb of Stockholm at the eastern end of Mälaren, and the third tea-packet is a product of, or rather for, that very specific place: it's "Mari and Laila's Red Kallhäll-est". In fact what Mari and Laila have done is employ the services of a company called Aftek (based in Arbrå in Hälsingland), who will mix tea to the buyer's specification and assist with its preparation for a local market (bagging, labels, etc).

This is the mixture that Mari and Laila chose to represent the essence of Kallhäll:

Rooibos te smaksatt med smultron, svartvinbär, grädde och limearom samt rosor, jordgubbsbitar och svartvinbärsblad

Rooibos tea flavoured with wild strawberries, blackcurrants, cream and lime-flavour, together with rose (-petals? -hips?), strawberry pieces  and blackcurrant leaves. 

I'm touched by something personal in this local concoction (and even more so by the fact that Miranda thought of me when she came across it). Though it's the produce of more than one country. Locality that can be preserved is a feat of commerce and imagination; a "souvenir" is an idea that belongs to the age of oil.

In June, you could easily go out behind the houses and pick a bowlful of wild strawberries that come from Kallhäll itself. But those strawberries wouldn't taste of represented essence; they'd have a different meaning.  



*






Anyway, let's get on to glögg, which is basically mulled wine. Of course it is fun to mix this up yourself at a party, getting half-cut from the fumes sloshing in vodka fishing out the bag of spices sloshing in more vodka and giving yourself metal poisoning from the aluminium pan.

But you can also get it ready-mixed, like the bottle on the left; this is fortified with brandy and, at an impressive 21%, is a sipping drink best enjoyed out of a dinky little glögg-glass (sort of like a shot-glass, but with a bell-rim to cradle the heat and spicy scent).

You can also get non-alcoholic glögg, like the spicy hjortron (cloudberry) mix on the right.You can either enjoy this on its own, as we Good Templars will, or beef it up with a bit of brandy, as suggested on the label.






Labels:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Byron: The Corsair (1814)

Episode from The Corsair, watercolour by Eugène Delacroix (c. 1831)

[Image Source: The J. Paul Getty Museum]


The exotic location of The Corsair is clearly important, just as the location of Scott’s narrative poems is important. Byron, we are persuaded, knew the Mediterranean

            Flash’d the dipt oars, and sparkling with the stroke,
            Around the waves’ phosphoric brightness broke;
            They gain the vessel – on the deck he stands. (I, XVII)

The author annotates: “By night, particularly in a warm latitude, every stroke of the oar, every motion of the boat or ship, is followed by a slight flash like sheet lightning from the water.”

[We don’t know much more about it now. The effect is due to the bioluminescence of certain protozoa, mainly flagellates. It is produced only when the water is disturbed. Its function, if there is one, has not been conclusively explained.]

When Scott wrote of Scotland, he immersed us in details of myth and tradition; in his prose he would also give us a distinct local speech. Being a kind of English, it was more or less comprehensible to those south of the border, but it was also revelatory; for here was a different culture in full operation. Byron had no such interests as Scott’s, and besides, his chosen locale would have meant foreign tongues. Byron’s Mediterranean was more like a psychological state; a heady feeling (at least in the Northern European mind) that comprised freedom and energy, open space, and escape - from prudence, from strait-laced moral codes, from families, even from self-interest and self-preservation.  Probably the lack of linguistic community, the sense of uninvolvement, is one of the constituent factors in why this familiar dream persists. (Corsair, like Capri, Ibiza, Sirocco, etc, would eventually become the name of a car.) The waves of the Mediterranean still whisper: miss the plane home

Byron’s poem intends to be a Mediterranean structure (that’s why Canto III begins with a Mediterranean scene pilfered from an earlier poem, whose irrelevance Byron takes care to highlight). Perhaps he succeeds, though there are elements of chivalry and lachrymosity that we recognize as Northern European. The story has something of the stiff gestures of Scott’s poor attempt at exoticism, The Talisman – think of the scene where Conrad appears before the Pacha, disguised as a pious Dervise. Yet a “scene” is just what this isn’t. Byron’s poem is best approached as a kind of process without beginning or end; a humming machine, details of whose operation can be glimpsed only by looking quickly aside; in short, as a modern poem. Because of the swirls and eddies of the undisciplined verse, The Corsair is a formidable and exciting plunge into uncharted territory.

Read more »

Labels:

Sunday, December 07, 2014

John Keats: Endymion (1817)





[ John Keats (1795-1821) ]

Endymion (1817), written at speed and completed when the author was just 22, is a difficult poem to read. Keats himself observed (in his introduction) that there was something wrong with it; the Blackwoods reviewer agreed; and nothing is easier. But if, instead, we want to read it, we have to read hard.

                        No, I will once more raise
   My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more
   Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar;
   Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll
   Around the breathèd boar... (I, 477-481)

Thus Endymion promises his sister, and one part of our attention is quickened, because what’s promised is the kind of stirring material from which narrative poems are usually made. That tolling of the word “Again”, however, is enough to warn us that these promises are vain. We have learnt that, in art if not always in life, “you can’t go back”.

                           the maid was very loth
   To answer; feeling well that breathèd words
   Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords
   Against the enchasèd crocodile, or leaps
   Of grasshoppers against the sun.     (I, 711-715)

I remember once writing a critique of this passage. I complained that “swords” leapt out of the page with excessive force, unsuitable as a comparison to the softness of “breathèd words”, and basically in conflict with what Keats is saying about how useless they are. However, there is a certain point to the contradiction. In Endymion the intention is to tell a story that passes rapidly beyond the tackle of swords and trooping hounds. We have to learn to give up their concreteness, and this is not made easier by Keats’ power of brief evocation; what he wants us to relinquish is (as not in Shelley) something that is well represented in the text itself, though always as images never as the material of the story. Indeed, there must be few poems so heavily loaded. 

The reader’s difficulties, I’m suggesting, arise from Keats’ commitment to a story that intrinsically turns its back on the solidest things; on ploughshares, trade, cottages and fishing-nets. (Crabbe’s Tales, and Scott’s The Antiquary, are nearly contemporary.)



Read more »

Labels:

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Elizabeth Hervey: The Mourtray Family (1800)


I only have the third colume (of four); its original owner was a certain Lord Torrington (*see NOTE), but I found it in a charity shop. This volume begins with the family discovering the horrendous mess that young Henry has got himself into; he has fought a duel (without seconds) over a gaming debt, and fled leaving his opponent at death's door. Mr Mourtray and his daughter Emma are gravely distressed; the comic Mrs Mourtray is also distressed but insensible to the moral gravity of the situation, she is only concerned for her son's welfare. If you can read the blurry scan above, you'll enjoy the irrepressible Chowles adding fuel to everyone's distress. In Hervey's book this is just funny: compare it with the scene in Mansfield Park when Sir Thomas Bertram discovers the theatricals, and when Yates keeps on talking to him about the theatre while everyone else is desperate to change the subject; the painful topic is a much less serious matter in itself, but Austen makes us feel the scene as excruciating, because we are so much more deeply aware of the betrayal and shame.

Read more »

Labels: ,

Friday, December 05, 2014

two hectic spots burned on his pallid cheeks

Acer platanifolium - red on autumn leaves


I can't expect many people to be interested in this, but it interested me. These are fallen leaves from Norway Maple (Acer platanifolium). Usually the autumn colours are golden yellow, but occasionally you find a leaf or three with dramatic bright-red splodges, usually towards the edge of the leaf.

If you know what causes this, please get in touch!


Acer platanifolium - autumn leaf with red colour


Labels:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)


This post is mostly about The Excursion, the massive poem that Wordsworth wrote in middle age, but I've given it a little prelude (ha, ha) about a much better-known poem from fifteen years earlier.


Strange Fits of Passion (1799)

Upon the moon I fixed my eye,
All over the wide lea;
With quickening pace my horse drew nigh
Those paths so dear to me.

And now we reached the orchard plot;
And, as we climbed the hill,
The sinking moon to Lucy’s cot
Came near, and nearer still.

Wordsworth wrote the Lucy poems while in Germany. This one, more than the others, is anecdotal. (Since then we've become so browbeaten by first-person anecdote in poetry that we take the form for granted.)

Portrait of Wordsworth by William Shuter, 1798

[Image source: Cornell University Library, where the portrait now resides. The likeness was taken on 26 April 1798, at Nether Stowey (according to Dorothy's Alfoxden Journal). William Shuter, a Bristol artist, was staying there; Coleridge must have organized the sitting. Five months later Wordsworth set off for Germany.]


The moon sets every day, but we don’t often see it do so. Canonical literature, though it's always going on about sunsets, virtually ignores the existence of moonsets, except in this poem.

We usually notice the moon when it’s full, and the big (or apparently big) moonrise that occurs soon after sunset is often remarked on. But a moonset near the full would occur near dawn, the coldest part of the night when (at least in temperate climes) we tend to sleep on, and even if we’re out and about the spectacle is usually lost in the mist. The little white ghost of a waning moon is hardly ever noticed when it sets during the hours of daylight. The most impressive moonset I've seen was a lazy moon on a cold winter night which became yellower and bigger, and finally just after midnight a smoky red as it dropped into the west. So rarely have I noticed a moonset in my fifty years that it hadn't really occurred to me that the setting moon must often go through the same colour changes as the setting sun.

If the moon is going to set earlier in the evening, not too many hours after sunset, it must be a brand-new sliver of a moon, which is probably not what most readers envisage while they're reading this poem.

However, the hill makes a difference. After crossing the “wide lea” westwards, with the moon spreading its light, Wordsworth’s lover starts to ascend rather sharply, and “Lucy’s cot” is on a ridge. Thus the moon could seem to “set” when still comparatively high in the sky. Wordsworth had often noticed the sharpness of Lakeland’s high night-horizons, and e.g. famously written of how “the stars moved along the edges of the hills”.

My horse moved on; hoof after hoof
He raised, and never stopped:
When down behind the cottage roof,
At once, the bright moon dropped.

To realize the emotional charge of this, it’s worth going out on a suitable clear evening and making it happen. The roof should be quite close, perhaps less than a hundred meters away; it happens just as the lover arrives. The moon falls “at once” because it is the lover’s relatively rapid approach, not the moon’s own descent, that causes it to drop out of sight. In those nights without any streetlights, the instantaneous change in the light would have been dramatic. If you are suitably sensitized, it still can cause a shiver.   

Read more »

Labels:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

happy christmas

Abies nordmanniana

Christmas trees for sale in Asda. Someone had torn off a branchlet, which I eagerly salvaged.

When I was a child the Christmas tree both in Sweden and England was invariably Norway Spruce (Picea abies) and what people of my generation will fondly remember is pricking their fingers on the sharp needles, the difficulty of preventing the heavier baubles from slipping off the rather thin glossy foliage, and later sweeping up all those needles, which tend to fall off in the dessicated air of modern houses. Of course the Norway Spruce is also a much-loved component of the Nordic forest.

Anyway, the luxury Xmas tree of today, as seen here, is Caucasian Fir (Abies nordmanniana, sometimes called Nordmann Fir); the needles are stouter, pleasant to handle, and usually don't fall off. The labels say that you can plant the tree out when Christmas is over. I'm a bit sceptical about that, since most silver firs dislike town air, but apparently on basic soils it does better than Norway Spruce.


Read more »

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Henry Fielding: Tom Jones (1749)


Tom (Albert Finney) and Mrs Waters (Joyce Redman) in the 1963 film of Tom Jones

Tom Jones (1749) was the most admired of eighteenth-century novels, at least by the English novelists of the nineteenth-century "great tradition", and it is still admired today (for example, by Michael Schmidt in The Novel: A Biography). Yet it has not always proved easy to write about. This piece picks up from one of the classic essays, by William Empson in 1958 (it's on JStor).

In what I'm going to say there are spoilers from the outset, and I seriously urge you not to look at this if you're just embarking on a reading of Tom Jones. To prevent accidental contamination, there now follows a short advertising break!

*

RENEWABLE IS SERIOUS.

On that afternoon [in May 2014] Germany generated 74 percent of its electric needs from renewable sources. (Bill McKibben in the New York Review of Books)

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jul/10/climate-will-we-lose-endgame/


Read more »

Labels:

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Coxwold-Gilling Gap



The view towards Kilburn White Horse. The Hambleton Hills in the distance, and the Howardians at our back.

This was on a walk from Kilburn to Byland Abbey on 9th August.

The Coxwold-Gilling Gap is a rift valley formed at the end of the Cretaceous period. The land fell 500-1000ft between the two parallel faults where the Hambleton and Howardian escarpments now face each other, about a mile and a quarter apart.
Read more »

Labels:

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Hester Lynch Piozzi: Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson (1786)

Hester Lynch Piozzi in 1785-86, by an unknown Italian artist


[Image source: National Portrait Gallery]

Chronology

1709  Samuel Johnson born
1735  Marries Elizabeth (Tetty) Jervis
1740/41 Hester Lynch Salusbury born
1746-55 Johnson’s Dictionary
1749   The Vanity of Human Wishes
1750-60 The Rambler, The Adventurer, The Idler
1752  Tetty Johnson dies
1759  Johnson’s mother dies. Rasselas
1763  Johnson meets James Boswell
1763  Hester marries Henry Thrale.
1765  Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare.
         Johnson meets the Thrales. A year later, he moves in with them.
1775  Journey to the Western Islands
1777-81 Lives of the Poets
1781  Henry Thrale dies
1783  Hester moves to Bath. Last meeting with Johnson (April).
1784  Hester marries Gabriel Piozzi (July). Death of Johnson (December).
1785  Hester writes Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson in Italy (Summer).
          Boswell’s Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides.
1786  Anecdotes published.
1791  Boswell’s Life of Johnson
1809  Gabriel Piozzi dies
1821  Hester Piozzi dies

The main points arising from this chronology are as follows. Johnson was in his mid-fifties when he met the two young friends who did so much for him and who would become his chief biographers (Boswell and Hester Thrale disliked each other, by the way). His wife had died more than a decade earlier. The literary achievements that had established him were in the past; he was semi-retired. In another sense, his life may be said to have begun again. During the remaining twenty years of his life he lodged most of the time with the Thrales, in fact for most of each week throughout their marriage. Hester was usually pregnant; the Thrales had twelve children. Henry Thrale’s death, the burden of supporting an increasingly difficult Johnson, and his disapproval of the liaison with Piozzi, brought all this to an end. Hester’s life, in turn, began again. She was about 24 when she first met Johnson, and about 42 when they last saw each other.

She revered Johnson; he was always her friend; and she had nursed him through serious depressions. Still, her book is quite candid; there was something monstrous about him. At first his presence in the house (she calls it her confinement) was “terrifying”, towards the end “irksome”. Boswell tries to canonize him, portraying his prejudiced, bullying and often unintelligent conversation as if it was a dialogue in heaven.

Read more »

Labels: ,

Alexander Pope (1688-1744):An Essay on Man

Alexander Pope in 1716, portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller

[Image source: Philip Mould Historical Portraits, which describes how portraits of Pope concealed his bowed and crippled appearance.]

An Essay on Man in Four Epistles

[The epistles were published separately in 1733-34. Apparently written in 1730-31, but perhaps Pope deliberately gave them a Horatian three years to mature.]

The madness of superfluous health, says Pope in one of the chiding moments in the Essay on Man. There are rather too many chiding moments. The balance feels wrong. One did chide in such expository poems, Hesiod had done it, so had Lucretius, but Pope's lessons have not a sufficiently copious enthusiasm to excuse his lofty reproofs.  Go, wiser thou... Go wondrous creature... Fools! (he proceeds) thou fools ... Blind to truth... Cease then... - and much more in the same vein. This is not so much about enlightening the insanely healthy questioners as about telling them to shut their noise: Whatever is, is RIGHT. His paean to Order involves too much ordering people about.

Read more »

Labels:

Sunday, November 02, 2014

John Gay: The Birth of the Squire (1720)





"Gay has all the gifts of a great poet except the highest intensity of passion and imagination", I read in one of those multi-volume paperback surveys of EngLit that were so popular thirty years ago. The writer (Charles Peake) seems to be inadvertently recalling Matthew Arnold on Chaucer, and indeed it's Chaucer who is bound to come to mind - not so much Chaucer's manner as, what is yet more unusual, some kinship in the vistas opened up by the poetry - when we read such lines as the following:

Beagles and spaniels round his cradle stand,
Kiss his moist lip and gently lick his hand;
He joys to hear the shrill horn's ecchoing sounds,
And learns to lisp the names of all the hounds.
With frothy ale to make his cup o-'er-flow,
Barley shall in paternal acres grow:
The bee shall sip the fragrant dew from the flow'rs,
To give metheglin for his morning hours;
For him the clustring hop shall climb the poles,
And his own orchard sparkle in his bowles.

This is early in the poem, when Gay is still, just about, doing what his subtitle claims: imitating the Pollio of Virgil (i.e. the fourth Eclogue). Hence the sentence beginning "With frothy ale" runs parallel with Virgil's prophecy of a golden age. Nor can the beauty of such a harvest be denied. [*see Note 2] Surely Pope learnt from here the prophetic music beginning "Another age shall see the golden Ear", that would end the Epistle to Burlington? Yet Pope's  "His father's acres who enjoys in peace" is as it were ironized in advance by Gay's vision, written ten years earlier, of a golden age requiring heroic capacities for all-day drinking on the part of its chief consumer. 

Read more »

Labels:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Albert Camus: L'Étranger (1942)

Le Livre De Poche edition, jacket design by Lucien Fontanarosa 


[Image source: Alexis Orloff, https://www.flickr.com/photos/aorloff/6072937176/]


A book that (as The Outsider, in Stuart Gilbert's translation) was on all our male youthful minds and bookshelves in the 1970s. In other words a classic Peng-gie Modern Classic, along with Gormenghast, The Glass Bead Game, etc.

(I think I studied it for French A-Level, along with Racine's Britannicus , Voltaire's Candide and Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac.)

 L'Étranger being so short and easy to read, is a good study-text for schools; you can still find out all about it in Shmoop and places like that. And it still gets plenty of discussion, though I've a feeling its moment has passed, that the urgency of the issues Camus intended to raise is less clear-cut than it was, and that on the other hand time has only tended to underline the glaring issue of the book's quite primitive attitudes to women and to colonized "natives". In particular our awareness of and contacts with the Arab world have been completely overhauled since 9/11; westerners can no longer regard the Arab world as something separate. But as recently as 1980, when The Cure released an admired single called "Killing an Arab" (based on  L'Étranger), I was probably typical of British 21-year-olds in having only the smallest sense that this could possibly offend someone. I don't necessarily claim that modern sensitivities in the west are all 100% positive or well-directed, but I do think they mostly are and they've certainly changed how we think and feel. In the study, especially. (Meanwhile in the real world, it remains unclear when the number of Arabs being killed by Westerners is going to stop accelerating.)

Read more »

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Alain-René Le Sage (1668-1747): Gil Blas de Santillane



.... I therefore went in search of Doctor Sangrado, and brought him to the house. He was a tall, meagre, pale man, who had kept the shears of Clotho employed during forty years at least. This learned physician had a very solemn appearance, weighed his discourse, and gave an emphasis to his expressions: his reasoning was geometrical, and his opinions extremely singular.

After having observed the symptoms of my master’s disease, he said to him with a very physical air: “The business here is to supply the defect of perspiration, which is obstructed: others, in my place, would doubtless prescribe saline draughts, diuretics, diaphoretics, and such medicines as abound with mercury and sulphur; but cathartics and sudorifics are pernicious drugs, and all the preparations of chymistry are only calculated to do mischief: for my own part I practice a method more simple, and more sure. Pray, what is your ordinary diet?” – “My usual food,” replied the canon, “is broth and juicy meat.” –“Broth and juicy meat!” cried the doctor, surprised, “truly, I do not wonder to find you sick: such delicious victuals are poisoned pleasures and snares, which luxury spreads for mankind in order to ruin them the more effectually. You must renounce all palateable food: the most salutary is that which is most insipid: for as the blood is insipid, it requires such victuals as partake the most of its own nature. And do you drink wine?” added he. “Yes,” said the licentiate, “wine diluted.” –“O! diluted as much as you please,” replied the physician, “what an irregularity is here! what a frightful regimen! you ought to have been dead long ago. How old are you, pray?” –“I am going in my sixty-ninth year,” replied the canon. “Right,” said the physician, “an early old age is always the fruit of intemperance. If you had drunk nothing else than pure water all your life, and had been satisfied with simple nourishment, such as boiled apples, for example, you would not now be tormented with the gout, and all your limbs would perform their functions with ease. I do not despair, however, of setting you to rights again, provided you be wholly resigned to my directions.”


Read more »

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

William Congreve: The Way of the World (1700)

William Congreve, portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller



William Congreve (1670-1729) threw over his career as a dramatist at the age of thirty. The Epilogue to The Way of the World ends:

So poets oft, do in one piece expose
Whole belles assemblées of cocquets and beaux.

It was not so true of other poets as it was of him. The Way of the World soars above the details of its ingenious plot-line and even the real passion of its lovers - it creates an edifice of wit that none could match, and you feel this came easily to him, easily enough to cast aside after a disappointment.  

What single model, indeed, could deserve the honour of inspiring such a flight as Lady Wishfort's ever-more-salacious propriety?

But as I am a person, Sir Rowland, you must not attribute my yielding to any sinister appetite, or indigestion of widow-hood; nor impute my complacency to any lethargy of continence– I hope you do not think me prone to any iteration of nuptials––
Wait. Far be it from me––
Lady. If you do, I protest I must recede– or think that I have made a prostitution of decorums, but in the vehemence of compassion, and to save the life of a person of so much importance––
Wait. I esteem it so––
Lady. Or else you wrong my condescension––
Wait. I do not, I do not––
Lady. Indeed you do.
Wait. I do not, fair shrine of virtue.
Lady. If you think the least scruple of carnality was an ingredient––

The scene can only end by being interrupted. What coarse stuff "Malapropisms" must seem to be, after this.


(2008)


Labels:

John Dryden (1631 - 1700)


John Dryden (portrait by John Michael Wright, c. 1668)
[This recently identified painting was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 2009 (Image from ArtFund)]

Scattered notes written in 2001 and 2004...

Dryden’s Poems

January 2001. For the last four months or so I’ve been reading Dryden. It began with an accidental dip into the Auden/Pearson anthology of English poetry - a book my father acquired from a brief dalliance with Heron Books, a sort of classic book club. He passed it on to me when I began university twenty-five years ago. I’ve always used it, and it survived the purge of my library in 1996 - by choice not accident; I wanted to keep the canon by me.

So, I dipped in Volume III, my least-loved period in English verse. Then I wanted to read Absalom and Achitophel in full, so I went to Waterstone’s. There was no Dryden at all - I was astonished, and then of course hooked on the quest. A second-hand bookshop in Bath supplied further inadequate selections, eagerly devoured. Then came the Arthos selection, found in St Leonards on Sea; like all in the Signet series, generous and attractive. Finally the Oxford Poems, borrowed from Frome library, and - ordered from bookshop - the cheap Wordsworth volume - £2.99, and as complete as any.

[This curious hiatus of Drydens didn’t last; there are now, it seems, a mass of Selected Drydens in the shops (2002).]

Dryden is a poet who can’t quite be made to fit into a single volume. But after many years I can more or less claim that I have read another “complete” English poet, to add to Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson, Milton and Keats; but that was all a long time ago. It means more now; there’s less time. And I have really immersed: I feel like saying (as biographers do) “Dryden has been a good companion”. Indeed, I don’t want it to end. I have an eighteenth-century volume of Plutarch with an introductory Life by Dryden; his prose too is a fine thing – though somehow a bewilderingly different thing.

None of the books mentioned is really complete because there’s no Aeneid - though I have since discovered that this has an unexpectedly vigorous life on the Internet, since it’s invariably the translation used by those benefactors who have made Virgil available on their websites. I was at first misled into thinking that the bulky Oxford volume was complete but it’s a selection, pointedly excluding The Hind and the Panther. I appreciate the polemical gesture, but don’t really condone it; a poet’s original work, however unsatisfactory, must always supply a fuller idea of the writer than translations. And whether Hazlitt is right to say this, it is certainly a higly defensible claim, that  “it has more genius, vehemence, and strength of description that any other of Dryden’s works, not excepting the Absolom and Achitophel. It also contains the finest examples of varied and sounding versification...” You need The Hind and the Panther to sign off Dryden.  

Read more »

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

another note on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights - Naturalism


Penguin English Library jacket (1970s style) - turning a detail of Branwell's bad picture into an iconic image


[Branwell's painting of 1833-34, commonly referred to as the Gun portrait, showed himself and his three sisters. Emily was 15 or 16 at the time. Arthur Bell Nichols thought the portrait so poor (or so unworthy of his late wife Charlotte) that he destroyed it, retaining only the bit showing Emily, who had definitely come out the best. Nevertheless, her portrait is markedly improved by the cracks (which, for instance, make her nose look interestingly snub instead of characterlessly straight), but what above all transforms the effect is  the Penguin jacket-designer's crop.  This, by eliminating the back of Emily's head, conceals the Victorian sloping shoulder-line and the languid hair, and creates a much more forceful image. This woman, we're convinced, already has Wuthering Heights in her sights.]

This note is about David Daiches' 1965 Introduction to the Penguin English Library edition of Wuthering Heights.

And first some trivia.


DAVID DAICHES

1.  Professor Daiches was an interesting man - read his 2005 obituary in The Scotsman:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/professor-david-daiches-1-720657

His surname (Jewish/Yiddish rather than Scottish) is pronounced  "day chiz"  or "die chiz". That's probably how you pronounced it already, but it's good to know..!


NOVELETTISH

2.  Daiches (referring to an article by Thomas Moser, in which Heathcliff is identified with the Id) says:

This view involves an admission that the latter part of the book - Heathcliff's revenge and its final abandonment, the growth of love between the younger Catherine and a now-civilized Hareton - is inferior and indeed novelettish, the grafting on to the real novel of a conventional moral pattern ... etc etc. 

OED novelette, n. :

1. A story of moderate length having the characteristics of a novel. Now: a short, light, romantic, or sentimental novel (freq. depreciative).

These days the unusual word "novelette" is apparently still used in the world of writing competitions to refer to a fiction longer than a short story but shorter than a novella, i.e. 7,500 - 18,000 words, approximately.

But generally the meaning of "novelette" over the past two centuries has been derogatory. Classically it evoked books that were typified by sentimentality, triviality, and trite morality. They might be chauvinistically dismissed as reading material for young ladies or uneducated persons.  The novelette might be regarded as namby-pamby.  A typical example is A.A. Milne's send-up "The Seaside Novelette".

http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/37693/

"Penny-novelettes" were, I suspect, the direct forebears of what my own generation called "Mills and Boon romances". Economics plays a big part in this. The novelette was cheap. Hence it tended to be short and written without much care. Appealing to connoisseurs was out of the question. Originality was out of the question. The skill was to hit off broad effects for a popular audience.

(The word novelette could also be used to mean trashy genre fiction, e.g. a "pornographic novelette").

Read more »

Labels:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

in the business park



I once wrote a post in which I extolled the botanical virtues of my local scruffy industrial estate. And maybe the message of today's post should be, Don't neglect the business park!

The business park environment can be characterized by ample, but highly manicured, green space; many trees and shrubs, often exotic, for reasons of privacy and low maintenance; often some freshwater features (artificial ponds); extensive tarmacked and paved areas. Sometimes the business park may include a "nature reserve" (there's one in mine) but that's a separate topic. In this post I am talking about the business park proper.

Read more »

Labels:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Metambesen - Robert Kelly etc


[This note, about a new US poetry PDF site, has now been moved to Intercapillary Space:

http://intercapillaryspace.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/greetings-to-metambesen-robert-kelly-etc.html

]


Random bonus Metambesen quote:

Refusing to define it. What comes against these other magics. That I do is
enough. From this center I react, train crawling north still above ground,
fog and rain trails, umbrella hat and rain-jacket soaked through. Rain from
the ground up.   (Tamas Panitz)

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer - Leyendas


The striking portrait of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer painted by his brother, Valeriano Domínguez Bécquer. An iconic image formerly used on 100-peseta notes.

This was my holiday reading, bought at a beachside bookstall on the Playa del Cura in Torrevieja (Alicante). My book contained only seven of the twenty-eight legends; I imagine from the attractively minimal apparatus that it was a booklet supplied free with some newspaper or other.

Leyendas (1860-65) is a well-known book in Spain, and a regular on the school curriculum; Becquer's stories have also been adapted for children.  It is a collection of romantic tales in the tradition of Hoffmann and Heine. Most of the stories feature the supernatural. Another implication of the title is that the author doesn't consider any of the stories to be true. This creates a fertile arena for literary artistry; in effect, these are early exercise in the use of an unreliable narrator, because the author's commitment to the material is always uncertain. The artistry co-exists happily with a healthy simplicity for the most part, but sometimes the ironies become more restive. Bécquer is also, of course, an important poet, his poems speaking with a kind of direct freshness that was then new in Spanish literature.

Read more »

Labels: ,

scraps of a journey

Glebionis segetum in farmland

Corn Marigold (Glebionis segetum), a native of the E. Mediterranean, long since spread to arable land in the rest of Europe and historically once a serious weed;  apparently there are medieval Scottish laws about the farmer's duty to eradicate it.

I found this group a few days ago in farmland near Abbeville (Normandy) and, since they were reasonably far away from any dwelling, I supposed they might be - not native, of course, but - at least a "natural" occurrence of a genuine weed going about its weedy business. It's often difficult to be sure, because these pretty flowers are now often included in wild-flower-meadow seed-mixes and deliberately introduced into urban planting schemes; doubtless the origin of the stray plants I see in Swindon. Meanwhile, Corn Marigold had become quite local in its former arable haunts; some people link this to the modern practice of liming soil to lower its acidity.


Read more »

Labels: ,

Nature Blog Network