Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Waiting for new tyres...

Waiting for new van tyres... which always means a protracted dalliance with the free coffee machine at Kwik-Fit... so having progressed some work emails, I'm now blogging on the smartphone, which means I don't have the full range of facilities and I don't know what I'm doing, in short.

Two of the photos below show a splendid swathe of Meadow Fescue that I discovered in Lydiard Fields, a retail park just off the M4 Jct 16. The day after I took the photo it was all close-mown.

I'm still worrying about a statement I made a couple of posts ago when I claimed that there are only about 25 really common grasses in the UK. I now think the figure must be more like 50. Let's pass the time making a little list of standard grasses of lowland neutral Britain...

Annual, Smooth and Rough Meadow-grass.
Barren brome, Lop Grass.
Hairy brome, False brome.
Fern grass.
Red, Sheeps, Tall , Meadow and Giant Fescue.
Rat's-tail Fescue.
Sweet vernal grass.
Meadow Foxtail. Timothy.
Cocksfoot.
Crested Dogstail.
Yorkshire Fog.
Tufted Hair-grass.
Creeping Bent.
Wild Oat.
Black grass.
Perennial rye grass.
Wall barley.

On chalk: Upright Brome, Tor grass, Quaking grass.

Well, thats 29 just off the top of my head, and it doesn't include aquatic or acid or coastal habitats, nor alien species some of which are now very common, so clearly I've seriously understated the numbers.

*

Still waiting for the tyres  Regular readers know how I've been hunting for years for the more obscure volumes of Sir Walter Scott. A month or so back, I took a shortcut and, at the cost of 99p and in less than 30 seconds, downloaded Scott's complete works on to my phone.

In one way this still seems almost miraculous. All 25 novels, all the poems, all the plays, the journal, the life of Dryden, all those miscellaneous things. ...

And above all the massive Life of Buonaparte, which I'm reading now.

Of course it isn't quite the same thing as having the books on your shelf. These hasty Kindle texts are produced by OCR scanning. Text errors are frequent; around four on every screen. The Kindle-izer has no conception of footnotes (which are numerous in the Life of Buonaparte), so these are merely absorbed into the main text, hence the reader  is constantly being interrupted in mid sentence and diverted into a new .. or often a continuation of a ...  secondary issue that is being discussed in parallel in the notes.


The version I'm reading begins with suspicious directness: there is no sign of the "Preliminary View of the French Revolution". Nevertheless, I've pursued the young  Buonaparte from Corsica to Toulon to the Alps to Revolutionary Paris, all with the utmost delight..

I certainly wouldn't  recommend reading through one of Scott's great novels in this format... great literature deserves to be savoured on paper. But when, as in the case of the Life of Buonaparte, I never really expected to read it or even see it in my whole life, I can feel nothing but good things about that 99p impulse buy.

Book paper has become a political issue. In Canada , the latest industry (in the wake of Trump and Brexit) to try and break the environmentalists is the loggers. .. in this case industry giant Resolute Forest Products. (They are suing Greenpeace.) Naturally RFP indirectly supply paper to the big book publishers, such as Penguin, who use it to publish books for environmentally concerned progressives like myself.

Forestry and environmentalism should always go together. In Sweden that is often achieved.  So which face is Canada going to show the world on this one? Joni and Neil, or tar sands? Nordic style social responsibility, or pioneer redneck hack and slash? These are media cliches, but Trudeau, we will be watching you....

Anglo-Saxon interlace pattern, in tyres.
Meadow Fescue at Lydiard Fields, Swindon
Swathe of Meadow Fescue at Lydiard Fields, Swindon 
momentary collage of dried leaves that fell out of my notebook

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Friday, May 26, 2017

John Donne at Lincoln's Inn again.
















[Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln%27s_Inn]






Donne's three Epithalamions are some of the most entertaining of his lesser-known poems. The one titled only "Epithalamion made at Lincolnes Inne" is a slightly uncomfortable joyride from its very first stanza:


The Sun-beames in the East are spred,
Leave, leave, faire Bride, your solitary bed,
No more shall you returne to it alone,
It nourseth sadnesse, and your bodies print,
Like to a grave, the yielding downe doth dint;
You and your other you meet there anon;
Put forth, put forth that warme balme-breathing thigh,
Which when next time you in these sheets wil smother
There it must meet another,
Which never was, but must be, oft, more nigh;
Come glad from thence, goe gladder then you came,
To day put on perfection, and a womans name.


 We are guessing here, but I like the idea that this is one of Donne's very early poems, written when he was a student at Lincoln's Inn, probably not long after its obvious model, Spenser's Epithalamion, was published in 1595 (when Donne was 23). That guess is confirmed by the poem's presence in the Westmoreland manuscript.


(Donne may have already moved out of the Inn by this time. The unequivocal evidence for Donne's residence only takes us to late 1593, perhaps 1594. His close connection with Lincoln's Inn, however, persisted all through his life. He was appointed the Preacher of Lincoln's Inn in 1616, soon after his ordination.)


[Information from http://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/images/word/Library/johndonne.pdf ]




It's further been speculated that the poem was not commissioned for any real-life wedding, but either referred to some obscure student high-jinks,  a burlesque marriage with students in drag, or was just a playful literary exercise. 


"Lincoln's Inn" in the title  isn't just a passing note about where the poem was written. In Stanza two the balm-thighed Bride is described as a wealthy City bride who brings a nice big bag of Angels along with her. In Stanza 3 the Bridegroom is said to be a strange hermaphrodite of study and play... i.e a student at Lincoln's Inn. Stanza 4 specifies the Temple church, though the "two-leav'd gates" may be a sexual reference (as per Nashe's Unfortunate Traveller) as much as to the gates of Babylon in Isaiah 45:1.


In further outrage, Donne manages to turn the unexceptionable wish that the bride and bridegroom will live long, into May the hungry maw of this church fatten on your parents before it devours you.. topping off the whole performance with a comparison in Stanza 8 of the bride


Like an appointed lamb, when tenderly
   The priest comes on his knees t'embowell her; ...


*


The thing is, for all of these infelicities and the uncertain occasion of the poem, there's still a freshness and joyousness about the poem. Donne's poetry somehow remains a sexy celebration of marriage at the same time as it contains these burlesque and satirical elements. Perhaps for Donne's age this was not a contradiction.


(Others have pointed out that Donne's Epithalamia have tended to be negatively judged by commentators who want to keep the image of heteronormal marriage free from any complications... thus Victorian disgust at the 26th December Epithalamion not just because the bride was a future assassinator but also homophobically because the groom had been one of James' "minions". Donne's celebration of love has seemed distasteful in this "tainted" context.)


Possibly there's a parallel here with Shakespeare's celebration... you might almost say his creation .... of Victorian ideals of heteronormal courtship, love and marriage -- within a theatrical medium where the actors were all male and the women were played by boys, and alongside his own sonnets which celebrate an idealized same-sex love.
























*


I can't make up my mind if the final line is a straightforward Alexandrine or if "-tion" is mean to be disyllabic, breaking the line into a chiasmic fourteener.  What do others think?


*




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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

At a glance: Smooth and Rough Meadow-grass

















Of the 100 or so grasses in the UK, only about a quarter are at all common, but that doesn't mean that identifying them is a breeze.

Even among the commoner grasses, there are quite a few serious hurdles to get over, and this post is about one of them: distinguishing Rough Meadow-grass (Poa trivialis) from Smooth Meadow-grass (Poa pratensis).

Now in one sense this is a no-brainer: Rough Meadow-grass has rough stems and Smooth Meadow-grass has smooth stems. A more reliable feature (because P. trivialis isn't always noticeably rough) is the totally different ligules: That of P. trivialis is  quite long (4-8mm) while that of P. pratensis is a short neat collar (1-2mm).

That's not the challenge. The challenge is to distinguish the two species without manual inspection, from a distance. To know which of the two species you're walking past.

If you look at the distribution maps in Fitter et al, you'll see that both species are absolutely ubiquitous in N. Europe. What you mustn't infer from this (as I did for years) is that both species are equally abundant.

P. pratensis prefers dry grassland, whereas P. trivialis likes normal-to-damp grassland and is prepared to grow in the hollows between taller species. Worldwide, P. pratensis is the more widespread species (native to the USA, for example). Even in Sweden  P. pratensis (Ängsgröe) is regarded as more common than P. trivialis (Kärrgröe).

But in the Atlantic climate of the UK it's P. trivialis that dominates. In most typical UK grassland of the semi-urban variety, P. trivialis is the more abundant species. This is the bog-standard Meadow-grass species that you find on verges and fields, inter-growing with Perennial Rye-grass, Wall Barley, Lop-grass, Barren Brome, Cock's-foot, Yorkshire fog, False Oat-grass, etc.

Yes, P. pratensis is usually around too, but in smaller quantities. For instance, in my own unmown patch of lawn there's one little group of P. pratensis by a paving slab, the rest of the Meadow-grass is P. trivialis and Annual Meadow-grass (P. annua).


Anyway, here's some suggestions for picking out P. pratensis from a distance.

1. Drier places.
2. P. pratensis is very upright, the stem often seeming to grow straight up from the rhizome. (P. trivialis has stolons and the stems are initially procumbent.)
3. Blade of uppermost stem leaf is very short (shorter than sheath), stopping a long way short of the inflorescence. Stem leaves usually very erect, close to stem. Blades parallel-edged before suddenly narrowing to hooded tip. (P. trivialis leaves are not hooded.)
4. Spikelets are broader and stubbier than P. trivialis, with pointed glumes.
5. P. pratensis comes into flower a week or so earlier than P. trivialis. Those precious few days in late May are the best time to get acquainted with the two species (if you are not otherwise distracted by buttercups, cotoneaster, beaked hawksbeard, or young oak leaves...).
6. In general, P. pratensis tends to be a smaller plant than P. trivialis (though individual exceptions are quite common).


*



Smooth Meadow-grass (Poa pratensis) (25th May 2017, Swindon)

Smooth Meadow-grass (Poa pratensis) (25th May 2017, Swindon)

Rough Meadow-grass (Poa trivialis) (25th May 2017, Swindon)

Rough Meadow-grass (Poa trivialis) (25th May 2017, Swindon)
















*


Rough Meadow-grass on the left, Smooth Meadow-grass on the right


(The plant in the middle is a kind of sedge.)








*




Poa pratensis - inflorescence









*

When it comes to a genus like Poa, images that you pick up from Google searches should be treated with grave suspicion. Many are palpably misidentified: either by the contributors themselves, or by Google being led astray by the surrounding text.


Poa links.


Matt Lavin's Albums on Flickr are a treasure-house. Here's his Poa album:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/plant_diversity/albums/72157627934466822

Matt's numerous other grass albums can be reached from here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/plant_diversity/albums/with/72157627934466822

Unfortunately Matt is based in Montana, USA and his Poa album has no images of P. trivialis , which is not native to America.


[Long-term readers may recall that this post appeared in a more primitive form last year.]


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Monday, May 22, 2017

Florbela Espanca















Just before leaving for the airport, I spotted a poetry book on the shelves of our AirBnB apartment in Lisbon. It was called Sonetos and was a sort of selected poems of Florbela Espanca (1894-1930).


I hadn't heard of her before, yet her biography had many features that seemed rather familiar: an early 20th-century woman poet, feminist, sexually liberated, illness (physical and mental), suicide at a relatively young age. ... As if it blended together biographies of Karin Boye, Charlotte Salomon (the painter), Katherine Mansfield, Edith Södergran, more distantly Rosalia de Castro.... 


I just had time to make the discovery that I could read a surprising amount of the Portuguese text, based on my rudimentary Spanish, on common word-transformations, and on assumptions about the sort of things that early-twentieth century Portuguese poems might be saying.


The combined result was to leave a mental picture of Espanca .. but stereotyped, without the individual features of the other writers in that list, like a worn limestone statue. So I'm writing this post in the hope of learning a bit more. There's plenty of material in Portuguese but not much in English.


*


Florbela Espanca (1894-1930) foi uma poetisa portuguesa, autora de sonetos e contos importantes na literatura de Portugal. Foi uma das primeiras feministas de Portugal. Sua poesia é conhecida por um estilo peculiar, com forte teor emocional, onde o sofrimento, a solidão, e o desencanto estão aliados ao desejo de ser feliz.


Florbela Espanca (1894-1930) was a Portuguese poet, author of sonnets and important tales in the literature of Portugal. She was one of the first feminists in Portugal. Her poetry is known for a peculiar style with strong emotional content, where suffering, loneliness, and disenchantment are allied with the desire to be happy.


(https://www.ebiografia.com/florbela_espanca/)


*


2012 Article in the Portuguese-American Journal, with translation of five poems, by Billie Maciunas:


http://portuguese-american-journal.com/florbela-her-cry-for-love-and-freedom-never-to-be-silenced-poetry/


http://portuguese-american-journal.com/essay-justice-to-florbela-espanca-1894-1930-by-george-monteiro/  , introducing Billie Maciunas' (still-not-published?) book of translations.


The death of Florbela's brother was a crucial event in her life. Billie Maciunas discusses it here, with some more translations: http://portuguese-american-journal.com/resurrecting-the-brother-the-death-of-florbela-espanca-essay/


Florbelian Symbology, discussion by Billie Maciunas: http://portuguese-american-journal.com/poetry-florbelian-symbology-and-the-speaking-woman-essay/












*


Saudades
Saudades! Sim.. talvez.. e por que não?...
Se o sonho foi tão alto e forte
Que pensara vê-lo até à morte
Deslumbrar-me de luz o coração!

Esquecer! Para quê?... Ah, como é vão!
Que tudo isso, Amor, nos não importe.
Se ele deixou beleza que conforte
Deve-nos ser sagrado como o pão.

Quantas vezes, Amor, já te esqueci,
Para mais doidamente me lembrar
Mais decididamente me lembrar de ti!

E quem dera que fosse sempre assim:
Quanto menos quisesse recordar
Mais saudade andasse presa a mim!

Florbela Espanca, in "Livro de Sóror Saudade"






Missing You
Missing you! Yes... maybe... and why not?...
If the dream was so high and strong
That I thought to see it till death
Dazzling my heart with light!

Forget! What for?... Ah, how vain it is!
That all this, my love, do not matter to us.
If it left beauty that comfort
It should be sacred as bread.

How many times, my love, I already forgot you,
In order to more madly remember
More definitely remember you!

And I wish it was always like this:
The less I wanted to remember
The more I would be missing you!

Florbela Espanca, in 'The Book of Sóror Saudade'




*


Amar!
Eu quero amar, amar perdidamente!
Amar só por amar: Aqui... além...
Mais Este e Aquele, o Outro e toda a gente...
Amar! Amar! E não amar ninguém!

Recordar? Esquecer? Indiferente!...
Prender ou desprender? É mal? É bem?
Quem disser que se pode amar alguém
Durante a vida inteira é porque mente!

Há uma Primavera em cada vida:
É preciso cantá-la assim florida,
Pois se Deus nos deu voz, foi pra cantar!

E se um dia hei de ser pó, cinza e nada
Que seja a minha noite uma alvorada,
Que me saiba perder... pra me encontrar...

Florbela Espanca, in "Charneca em Flor"










To Love!
I want to love, to love madly!
Loving just for loving: Here... beyond...
More This and That one, the Other and everyone ...
To Love! To Love! And not loving anyone!

To Remember? To Forget? Indifferent!...
Attach or detach? Is it bad? Is it good?
Who says that you can love someone
During the entire life, is lying!

There is a Spring in every life:
You have to sing it as it is blossoming,
For if God has given us a voice, it was for singing!

And if one day I am dust, ash and nothing
Let my night be a dawn,
So I can lose myself... and find myself...

Florbela Espanca, in 'Heath in Bloom'


*


Se Tu Viesses Ver-me...
Se tu viesses ver-me hoje à tardinha,
A essa hora dos mágicos cansaços,
Quando a noite de manso se avizinha,
E me prendesses toda nos teus braços...

Quando me lembra: esse sabor que tinha
A tua boca... o eco dos teus passos...
O teu riso de fonte... os teus abraços...
Os teus beijos... a tua mão na minha...

Se tu viesses quando, linda e louca,
Traça as linhas dulcíssimas dum beijo
E é de seda vermelha e canta e ri

E é como um cravo ao sol a minha boca...
Quando os olhos se me cerram de desejo...
E os meus braços se estendem para ti...

Florbela Espanca, in "Charneca em Flor"


If You Came To See Me
If you came to see me today in the early evening,
At this hour of magic weariness,
When the gentle night is approaching,
And be all arrested in your arms...

When it reminds me: this flavor that had
Your mouth... the echo of your footsteps...
Your laughter of fountain... your hugs...
Your mouth... your hand in mine...

If you came when, beautiful and crazy,
Trace the sweetest lines of a kiss
And it's red silk and sings and laughs

And it's like a gillyflower in the sun my mouth...
When my eyes get closed by desire...
And my arms extend to you...

Florbela Espanca, in 'Heath in Bloom'    









(Translator(s) unknown ---  machine-translated maybe..  Found on the internet. I'm not giving the link here because it seems to trash my browser every time.)


*


"Cravo" ("Gillyflower") = "clavo" in Spanish, a carnation or clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus) or perhaps one of its common wayside relatives.


The "cravo" has subsequently acquired further significance to the Portuguese, because of the Revolução dos Cravos on 25th April 1974.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnation_Revolution








[Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dianthus_caryophyllus]




*
Most of the poems I've seen are 4-4-3-3 sonnets, but not all. I read somewhere that she also wrote stories.









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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guias Viagem


Apartment in Alcântara.

 



Rua 1 de Mayo in Alcântara, right underneath the gigantic road and rail bridge across the Duero, now named the Ponte 25 de Abril in commemoration of the 1974 Carnation Revolution (originally the Ponte Salazar).

The name "Alcântara" means "the bridge" in Arabic... referring to a former Roman bridge on this site.








At the Tropical Botanic Gardens in Belém.

 
 


Narrow streets in Lisbon...


Introduction to Lisbon's great novelist Eça de Queirós:


http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/05/31/the-proust-of-portugal-eca-de-queiros/






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Friday, May 12, 2017

blog silence. ...

The previous couple of weeks have been distinctly over rich with experience, and now I'm off to the backwoods of Portugal for a week..   so blogging has pretty much stopped for now.


No cause for alarm... I've written nearly a thousand posts in 12 years, and I'm not about to jack it in :)








Prunus 'Shogetsu'. This year's blossom coming to an end, 1st May, 2017, Swindon.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Bliss and other stories





Quince (Cydonia oblonga) April 9th 2017, Bath



I haven't begun yet. I don't yet know if I can write about Katherine Mansfield.


I can read her, mostly. There are some greasy spots on the pane no doubt, but most of Bliss is pellucid now. "I know why, I know what you're saying....!" -- I say to this long-dead writer -- I read a bit more ---  it's almost a conversation.


*


I'm forever grateful for the long years at uni when I had time to read the massive novels of our classical tradition. These days I can't read many novels. I begin to take more interest in short stories... that curious, democratic form. Everyone who can write at all can write a reasonable short story. We don't make lists of the best short stories, like we  do with larger forms such as novels or films or operas. Consequently, the titles of short stories are comparatively unimportant (hence whimsical Mansfield titles like "Feuille d'Album"). The short story is a kind of folk art. In saying what it needs to say in the limited space available, it resorts to certain necessary crudenesses. The short story fails to attain authority. (That can be a good thing).  It has a very close relationship with stereotype and cliche and the instinctive judgments we make that are based on externals. The short story can hardly begin without having that dubious company in tow.


In Bliss we see it, for example, in the numbing quantities of period affected speech -  "dear little" "queer little" "dreadful" "fiendish", and so on. James and Proust use that kind of speech as part of an intensive inquiry into civilization and its meaning. Mansfield hasn't got time for that. Mostly, she uses such language as a shorthand way of implying critique of the person speaking or thinking: emptiness, brittleness, superficiality. Yes, it can be crude...  briskly and necessarily.


But that's not always how Mansfield uses fashionable slang... "The Man Without a Temperament" ends with its virtually silent hero, sharing his wife's final days in a semi-shut-down state, pronouncing the word "Rot". The effect isn't crude here. It's a Tolstoyan art:  to bring people's existences and emotions to life, floating and communicating with each other almost separately from the words that are actually said.  Almost but not quite.






*


Katherine Mansfield was under sentence of death herself. Bliss is a catalogue of neurotic, highly strung men and women.


It ends with "The Escape", in which a woman, jarred by the mundanities of travel, pours out a frantic torrent of abuse at her husband, who's blamed for everything.


Poor little mice! He had his hand in his trouser pocket before her. " For Heaven's sake don't give them anything. Oh, how typical of you! Horrid little monkeys! Now they'll follow us all the way. Don't encourage them ; you would encourage beggars " ; and she hurled the bunch out of the carriage with, " Well, do it when I'm not there, please. "
It's the nakedest instance in the book of  what we now call self-sabotage. The circular experience of misery and disappointment that results from the sufferer's own way of living.





The husband and wife relationship in "The Man Without a Temperament" has similarities, though here the wife is dying and truly needs her husband/carer/servant and is endlessly appreciative...


" Where's your shawl ?" he asked.
" Oh ! " She gave a little groan of dismay. " How silly I am, I've left it upstairs on the bed. Never mind. Please don't go for it. I shan't want it, I know I shan't."


Or Monica Tyrell in "Revelations", of course.


"Tell Monsieur I cannot come," she said gently. But as the door shut, anger -- anger suddenly gripped her close, close, violent, half strangling her. How dared he? How dared Ralph do such a thing [call to invite her to lunch] when he knew how agonizing her nerves were in the morning! Hadn't she explained and described and even -- though lightly, of course ; she couldn't say such a thing directly -- given him to understand that this was the one unforgiveable thing.



Reginald Peacock is another who finds mornings difficult and keeps experiencing "the one unforgiveable thing". 


If there was one thing that he hated more than another it was the way she had of waking him in the morning. ... but really, really, to wake a sensitive person like that was positively dangerous! It took him hours to get over it -- simply hours. ...


The( approximately) thirteen-year-old girl in "The Wind Blows" thinks:  "How hideous life is -- revolting, simply revolting..."

Then there's the just slightly hysterically over-ecstatic Bertha in "Bliss". ...

Or the explosion of the approximately five-year-old Sun at the end of "Sun and Moon": "I think it's horrid --- horrid --- horrid !"

Neurosis, you get the impression, was fashionable. But unbridled expressions of emotion are also natural, at a young age. And for the writer these "over-reactions", as we call them, can also produce a kind of expressionist vision of how we live.

*

What about the pair in "Psychology"?  This is a story about that all-too-familiar experience, a crunch. For a few seconds the two new special friends/definitely not lovers/hmm, potential lovers?... Well, we'll call them friends... For a few seconds the meeting of the two friends is perfect.

Just for a moment both of them stood silent in that leaping light. Still, as it were, they tasted on their smiling lips the sweet shock of their greeting. Their secret selves whispered:
   "Why should we speak? Isn't this enough?"
   "More than enough. I never realized until this moment..."
   "How good it is to be with you ...."
   "Like this ...."
   "It's more than enough."
   But suddenly he turned and looked at her and she moved quickly away.
   "Have a cigarette? I'll put the kettle on. ..."

They don't quite know what to do (caresses being not in their way). The gears crunch. A timing problem ensues. She associates meeting with tea. He doesn't really want tea. She needs it. There's a lot of fiddling with tea things, time is felt to pass. Silences become awkward. Or they speak at the same time. Or they say what they don't really feel, to break the silence. Or they are distracted by self-consciousness; by the feeling that it isn't working, or even by the feeling that thank God it is working now. Once again, looking at each other turns out to be fatal:

"Not at all," said he. "Look here ..." On the talk went. And now it seemed they really had succeeded. She turned in her chair to look at him while she answered. Her smile said: "We have won." And he smiled back, confident: "Absolutely."
   But the smile undid them. It lasted too long, it became a grin. They saw themselves as two little grinning puppets jigging away in nothingness. ...

In the end nothing is said and the wrong thing is said and it all comes to an end. But this pair aren't really neurotic, they are pretty normal. Nervous, suffering, disappointed, enchanted... the things we feel even when we habitually don't express them.

So much for the confidence of "And the best of it was they were both of them old enough to enjoy their adventure to the full without any stupid emotional complication..." --- Obviously, that glibness gets found out. But the story isn't really like a Dickensian narrator waxing archly avuncular about a pair of young people who are obviously in love but coy of knowing it. These two aren't in love, really. But then friendship isn't simple either. Emotional complication is always a part of life...


*


"Bliss", perhaps because it's the title story, or perhaps because it is more conventionally built than the others, with a dramatic twist, has been the perhaps unfortunate recipient of a mass of interpretations. 


This anxiety to make objects in the story mean something different to what the story shows they mean  --  Which comes first, I wonder, the failure to hear or the itch to interpret?


I think that Bertha's feeling of giddy bliss is a feeling of giddy bliss, not a feeling of sexual desire for either Pearl (a popular idea), nor - what certainly does develop later in the evening - sexual desire for her own husband. (Bertha is perfectly aware of the nature of that desire, as soon as she experiences it.) Now it's true that Bertha is - she says it herself - "in love with" Pearl. The meaning of that emerges, so far as the author is interested in it emerging, from the story.

I consider such questions as "What does Pearl Fulton's name really mean?" and "Why is it a pear tree rather than an apple tree?" to be based on radically false premises. I don't feel that I appreciate the story much better for being pointed at the book of Genesis, or Twelfth Night, or traditional symbolism of the moon.


Some commentators, it seems, aren't familiar with the spectacular appearance of pear blossom. They can't see why an apple-tree by moonlight wouldn't be just as good as a provoker of Bertha's bliss. They would prefer the tree to have been an apple, because it sounds more like the Tree of Knowledge.

Someone, straightfacedly, proposes that Mansfield chose a pear-tree because pear-trees are hermaphrodite, and hence a symbol of Bertha's latent bisexuality. Neither this someone nor their admirers seem to be aware that the vast majority of flowering plants are hermaphrodite.

But Mansfield was herself particularly fond of pear trees. And elsewhere in Bliss, too, we see that trees can be spellbinding objects that seem to the viewer rich in meaning (e.g. "The Escape" -- or the rather tree-like Aloe in "Prelude"...)













*


"The Little Governess" is a Law of Attraction story in which the governess's fear of foreigners precipitates her into exactly the kind of mess she most dreads. 


As the story proceeds, we find ourselves looking at the clock, rather as in Chapter II of Almqvist's Det går an, but the little governess should have learnt from Sara Videbeck's smart punctuality; you do not hand over timekeeping responsibilities to men who seem willing to "look after" you.


*




[post still being written...]




















Bay (Laurus nobilis), April 9th, 2017, Bath

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Thursday, May 04, 2017

"Dansen på Sunnanö" / "The Dance in Sunnanö"





A song by Evert Taube, published in 1953. Rönnerdahl is an elderly spelman (fiddler) who appears in several Taube songs.


Dansen på Sunnanö

Där går en dans på Sunnanö
där dansar Rönnerdahl
med lilla Eva Liljebäck
på pensionatets bal
och genom fönstren strömmar in
från skärgårdsnatten sval
doft av syrener och jasmin
i pensionatets sal
doft av syrener och jasmin
i pensionatets sal


             There is a dance in Sunnanö
             there dances Rönnerdahl
             with little Eva Liljebäck
             at the pension* ball
             and through the window streams in
             from the skerry night's coolness
             the scent of lilac and jasmine
             into the pension hall
             the scent of lilac and jasmine
             into the pension hall



Och lilla Evas arm är rund           
och fräknig hennes hy
och röd som smultron hennes mun
och klänningen är ny
herr Rönnerdahl det är ju ni
som tar vem ni vill ha
bland alla kvinnor jorden runt
det har jag hört ha ha
bland alla kvinnor jorden runt
det har jag hört, ha ha


                And little Eva's arm is round
                and freckled is her hue
                and red as a strawberry her mouth
                and her clothes brand new
               "Herr Rönnerdahl, I know your sort
               You take just just what you want
               of all the women in the world
               that's what I've been told, ha-ha!
               of all the women in the world
               that's what I've been told, ha-ha!"





Att ta är inte min musik          
nej fröken men att ge
jag slösar men är ändå rik
så länge jag kan se
vad ser ni då herr Rönnerdal
kanske min nya kjol
ja den och kanske något mer
ta hit en bra fiol
ja den och kanske något mer
ta hit en bra fiol


                   "To take is not my music's way
                  dear young lady, but to give.
                  I squander all, yet still I'm rich,
                  so long as I can see."
                  "And what do you see, Herr Rönnerdahl --
                  maybe my brand new dress?"
                  "Yes, that, and maybe something more...
                  Pass me the fiddle, please!
                  Yes, that, and maybe something more...
                  Pass me the fiddle please!"             



Där går en dans på Sunnanö
till Rönnerdahls fiol
där dansar vågor dansar vind
och snön som föll i fjol
den virvlar där, där går ett brus
igenom park och sal
och sommarmorgonen står ljus
och södergöken gal
och sommarmorgonen står ljus
och södergöken gal


             There is a dance in Sunnanö
             to Rönnerdahl's violin
             the waves dance and the winds dance
             and the snows that fell last year
             they swirl around, a rush of noise
             flows through the park and hall
             and the summer morning lightens
             and the south-cuckoo calls    **           
             and the summer morning lightens
             and the south-cuckoo calls





Och lilla Eva dansar nu             
med Fänrik Rosenberg
och inga fräknar syns på hyn
så röd är hennes färg
men Rönnerdahl är blek och skön
och spelar som en gud
och svävar i en högre rymd
där Eva är hans brud
och svävar i en högre rymd
där Eva är hans brud


                    And little Eva dances now
                    with Ensign Rosenberg
                    and now no freckles can be seen,
                    so rosy is her hue!
                    But Rönnerdahl is pale and fine
                    and plays just like a god...
                    floating upon a higher plane
                    where Eva is his bride
                    floating upon a higher plane
                    where Eva is his bride!












* "Pensionat" -- a modest hotel, almost a guest-house. The golden age of the "pensionat" was coming to an end in 1953. In fact there no pensionat on Sunnanö (an island in the Stockholm skerries)... Taube is supposed to have based this song on the pensionat in Södermöja.
** The call of the first cuckoo, if it comes from the south, betokens death according to a Swedish folk superstition: södergöken, dödergöken... Explained in this entertaining note to the OE poem The Seafarer by Charles Harrison-Wallace:  http://www.cichw1.net/seacuckoo.html


Evert Taube singing the song (unfortunately truncated in the last verse). Note the cuckoo-calls in the guitar part!





The song lends itself to developments such as this lovely version by Göran Fristorp:





A version by Håkan Nilsson:





A version by Anna-Lotta Larsson:











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