John Keats, Reflecting on A Star #OnThisDay #poetry #JohnKeats

John Keats born 31st October 1795, (220 years ago today).

Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen…’

From, ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer’ (sonnet) composed by Keats in October 1816 after a night spent reading aloud translations from Homer. These translations were completed by George Chapman in 1616, precisely 200 years prior to Keats, then add another 220 years and you reach our 21st century.

That evening Keats parted from his school friend, Cowden-Clarke, walked over London Bridge back to Dean Street (present day fashionable Soho) and at once wrote this sonnet.

Keats died of tuberculosis aged only 25 years in Rome, 23rd February 1821.

‘When I have fears that I may cease to be,
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain…’ 

He never got his girl (Fanny Brawne) and, in true romantic fashion, he strove to write and achieve the very best poetry; believing he had failed in his lifetime as a poet.

‘ – then on the shore 

Of the wide world I stand alone and think

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.’

Keats wrote some of the most beautiful lines in the English language.

Today he is considered ‘a bright star.’

Stars, whose fires corresponded with his own ardour (Latin ardere = to burn), were an endless preoccupation for Keats; he had a kinship with the transcendent world – a place where he might continuously exist outside the created world; free from life’s limitations and restrictions and ultimately death… ‘A Bright Star.’

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London’s Autumnal Reflections: ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever…’

  

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London Poppy Day  #RoyalBritishLegion #remembrance #poppy

Today is LONDON POPPY DAY, 29th October 2015.

‘By wearing a Royal British Legion poppy, you are helping provide support to thousands of veterans, Service men and women.’

The photo below was one of the very many striking images from last year’s (2014) 100 year anniversary of the commemoration of the outbreak of The Great War 1914-1918.

The bronze statue depicts a valiant, yet humble, ordinary War soldier, with hat and rifle. He is coated in red paper poppies, floating all around him, in his arms and at his feet. The monument itself was placed in Trafalgar Square, where during the war rallying speeches were delivered and after the war, joyful celebrations took place.  

He faces the direction of Westminster Abbey, where the tomb of the unknown warrior lies, and towards St Stephens Tower: Big Ben, whose powerful chimes of 11 bells at 11 o’clock on the 11th November, 1918 marked the end of The Great War.

In the background is the glorious St Martin-in-the-Fields church, and behind him lies the National Gallery, home to an incredible collection of paintings.  

He is immortalised and He is home.

I am so in awe of this incredible city.

Do I feel proud of my capital? Absolutely!

The generosity of the British for charitable work is unsurpassable. The ability of people to raise money for so many worthwhile causes is commendable and the kindness shown and the astonishing amounts saved and donated is amazing.
With one Poppy pinned with pride to your coat, you say so much…

You remember all those who have fought for freedom and kept our country safe.

In your honour, London salutes you.

‘When you part from me, and depart our earth,

Your scarlet poppy will grow to bow in a breeze,

Their trembling wave of ‘cheerio, goodbye!’

Makes desert red; while silence bleeds into a distant cry.’

K.B. – 2015


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Squirrelling away #park #squirrels #poetry #photography

Anyone whose ever read the experience of a professional wildlife photographer on their journey to picture the world’s rarest and most exciting creatures will know it is a wearisome task of dedication.

For example, “we climbed snowy peaks for days in temperatures of minus 50, there was a wind storm, ice glaciers, the frostbite was crippling; we suffered extreme exhaustion and intense headaches. We settled a camp, burned our old clothes for heat, sucked ice for water, ate powdered food supplies; then we lay in wait for 2 weeks, hoping to get a glimpse of an Arctic fox, who only appears for a few minutes at this time of year…etc.”

Well this photo of a squirrel (it’s not a masterpiece, but a well-formed pose; a classic profile perhaps) took 2 minutes in a London park. He accepted the bait of a ‘monkey nut’ kindly unwrapping the shell in front of me while I gathered my iPad to snap him. What held his ears and his position a little longer was the opportunity to recite a few lines of poetry to him, which he did indeed listen to, before scampering off bright-eyed and bushy-tailed into the wildness of green grass and brown leaves, just outside Clarence House. Easy really.

It was agreed he was snacking and squirrelling away for winter on flat, verdant land in a temperature of 12 degrees. The grey squirrel is also a rather common specie of mammal in these parts, but it was a Royal Park so he certainly knows where to dine.

I headed home for lunch and tea; it was a pain-free encounter.

‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.’

From Stopping By A Wood One Snowy Afternoon, By Robert Frost (1874-1963)

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Brothers in Arms and Battles #OnThisDay #anniversary #history #brothers


This month we have remembered two particular battles:
The Battle Of Hastings, 14th October 1066.
The Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805.

and now ‘once more into the breach, dear friends, once more…’
we must remember another, precisely 600 years ago today – 

25th October, 1415 The Battle of Agincourt, Northern France.
It is Shakespeare’s great, patriotic play, ‘Henry V’ written in 1598 and consistently performed in England since the 1730s that dramatises the Battle of Agincourt.

The French outnumbered the English, by 5:1, yet victory prevailed in English favour.

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.”

England itself is personified in the famous St Crispian’s Day speech on the eve of battle as a small island nation that valiantly overcomes powerful enemies. 

To brush up on this story, one might brush up one’s Shakespeare and watch the very many interpretations of this history play.

Henry V is believed to be the first play presented to the new Globe Theatre (referenced as the ‘wooden O’ in the play) in Southwark in 1599.  

We now have a new Globe in Southwark opened in 1997, a hundred yards from the original site.
Gentlemen please take a bow, Ladies please curtesy…

 ‘O Kate, nice customs curtesy to great kings…’

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 “Times they are a’changing”#clocks #time #poetry

This weekend we, UK citizens, put our clocks back, which means an extra hour’s sleep, but sadly a gradual decline in light, early sunsets, long winter nights and steadily darker mornings too.

I found this special ‘Time‘ poem by American poet, Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) and then continued it with a verse of my own; it’s a helpful exercise in testing your ability to follow through a theme as well as immersing yourself in an idea

Time is

Too Slow for those who Wait

Too Swift for those who Fear

Too Long for those who Grieve

Too Short for those who Rejoice;

But for those who Love

Time is not.

But for those who Love

Time is not a measure.

Love is not kept within these boundaries

But sealed inside the heart

And shared in great abundance.

Love, turns like time, through the centuries 

Seeking kindred spirits for the time of its Life.

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Words, words, words #words #poetry #BritishLibrary

It is greatly upsetting when you pass by someone who swears loudly and profusely, using every unpleasant word you can think of in all its many variations (verb, adjective etc.).  It is, furthermore, intensely upsetting if these words are directed at you for no other reason than the liberation of one man’s angst and frustrations. Yes, this happened to me at the start of the day…so how to proceed if you are a sensitive type? 

Actually it struck me as sad and pitying to think that so many people know so many ugly words when there are so many beautiful ones. 
Poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge maintained that “the true end of poetry is to give pleasure through the medium of beauty.”

Wonderful words to strengthen and enrich us; to be shared, enjoyed and passed on… like those in verse, prose and poetry.

“Quieten down, hear the sound

The sound of the world spinning round

Around the corners of your lip

He will plant a daring kiss

A kiss disappears like a whispering prayer

But the sound of his voice lies everywhere

Wherever I pass or travel through

His soft words shall journey too.”



It doesn’t hurt to have the last word on the matter.

This photo shows the British library in London whose vast collection holds the original, hand-written documents of Jane Austen, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, President Roosevelt…to name a few great writers; those who used words to change the world, to make our lives and enrich ourselves.

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Nelson triumphs at sea, then falls on Victory #victory #OnThisDay #Nelson #history

“Now gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter.”
Lord Collingwood, British admiral, before the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October, 1805…210 years ago today.

After four hours of fierce exchanges and superlative manoeuvring by British commanders off the south west coast of Spain, the French Admiral Villeneuve (Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste Silvestre de Villeneuve – a man not short of names, but short of ideas) was humiliatingly beaten by the British. Of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet, 18 ships were destroyed, more than half its strength; they were no match in this game of battleships. The superb strategic moves and unconventional tactics of the British Naval Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson, were masterfully winning.
  

“First gain the victory and then make the best use of it you can.”

However our Inspirational leader (now aged 47 years) had already greatly suffered in Napoleonic battles-of-the-seas, with the loss of an eye at Corsica and an arm at Tenerife. On this ‘Trafalgar‘ day, he was mortally wounded by a French sniper as he stood on the deck of his flagship Victory.  
V for Victory and sadly, V for Victim.
His body was first preserved in a barrel of brandy and then transported back to London from Gibraltar in a lead-lined coffin filled with spirits of wine.  

He was buried in St Pauls Cathedral on 9th January, 1806.

Toast our British hero with a swig of brandy, maybe in one of the many Lord Nelson pubs?!
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Neutral Ground #poetry #sea #EastSussex

The British coast line of East Sussex

 
What is it about the land known as a beach or the coastline?  It seems to possess some kind of unexplained magic within the human psyche and soul.

A vast, free space of solitude and magnitude and belonging to no one but he who seeks its solace.

Observe the Cretaceous cliffs, 120 million years old (twice the more famous Jurassic period) crumbling with a countless battering of strain and strife.

To live as free as a bird and as wild as the wind, winding itself up into a swirling whirl of dizziness, is momentarily wonderful!

In one week I came across two British poets, Laurie Lee and Sir John Betjeman who have both described the sea as ‘neutral.’

Laurie Lee (from ‘As I Stepped Out One Mid-Summer Morning‘) stated his position at sea as “a salt stung neutral nowhere.”

Below in the engraving of Betjeman’s verse he is jubilant, joyful and comforted by the freedom of the sea.

Perhaps in the sea lies Neutrality and in Neutrality lies Peace.
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The Importance of Being Wilde #OnThisDay #OscarWilde #quotes

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Ok Mr Oscar Wilde let’s talk about you… 

‘the virtuoso of the well-turned phrase, the master of studied insult; the timing and precision of those verbal thrusts; aphorisms (short, pithy truths), paradoxes, ironical remarks, sarcasm and needle-sharp rejoinders …delivered with delight, and repeated with vigour.’

Oscar Wilde (born 16th October 1854) lived by his wit, and on his wits, often leaving his companions at their wits end, so they had to have their wits about them

Wilde in name and wild by nature.

A gifted, outspoken and eccentric poet, critic, playwright, and children’s writer. He was the very embodiment of style, and a fashionable, de rigueur, leader of the Aesthetic Movement.

He had a dazzling, enthralling repartee and his wicked brilliance made him an exceptionally exciting man to invite to tea; to be a victim of Oscar’s sharp, spirited, witty conversation would be ultimate flattery. 

Leaning over the table for a slice of cake, he might say –

“I can resist everything but temptation.”

“What a pity that in life we only get our lessons when they are no use to us!”

“Well I’m not young enough to know everything!”

 The witticisms, criticisms, wonderisms (this one’s made up!) of genuine genius

Oscar Wilde.



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A piece of potted history of all important proportion – William conquers as Harold falls 14th October 1066 #history #OnThisDay #Hastings #kings

In the year 1066, English soil saw 3 kings of England. Firstly, there was old Edward the Confessor, who on his deathbed is thought to have named Harold Godwin as his successor. However he had already made William, Duke of Normandy his heir in the 1050s when Godwin was in exile.

With three claimants to one throne – there was also the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada, this year was not going to end well for some-bodies.

Well, it did start favourably for Harold. He threw back the challenge from the north at Stamford Bridge, killing his Norwegian namesake. Then, weary and exhausted, his army travelled south, but slings and spears were no match for Norman cavalry.  

A spear in the eye for Harold was the final blow; he was mortally wounded, William headed to the capital to secure his position.  

This is the famous Battle of Hastings (14th October 1066) but the Battle never actually took place in Hastings, it was fought in the now aptly named town of Battle, where there is a re-enactment every year on the exact battlefield. Too many battles

Should you wish to come visiting on re-enactment weekend, you will find the trains from London Charing Cross to Hastings via Battle, packed with Normans and Anglo-Saxons (“please ensure you are travelling in the correct part of the train!”). 

This time they mean it.

The sight of costume-dressed burly men with wooden sticks freaks and terrifies many tourists who are innocently en route to Hastings for a cultural break. You just have to explain it all to them quite simply, and calmly even when they think you are half mad…

“This is the Hastings train; this part of East Sussex is unlike any other place you’ll ever visit; for us this is just another ordinary weekend!  Take a cup of tea and settle in…”

Hastings has the original Norman castle, situated on the West Cliff; it was established by William before the battle and made with Norman materials brought over on the invading boats.
So this is where it all began, 1066 and all that!

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It just dawned on me… Aleister Crowley #poetry #birthday #Hastings #poet

Aleister Crowley (12th October 1875 – 1st December 1947).
Poet; chess-player: ‘nobody ever beat him;’ traveller; artist and occultist, labelled The Beast was born on this day 140 years ago and died in Netherwood boarding house (sitting 500 feet above sea level) on The Ridge, in my town of Old Hastings, East Sussex.

He chose room 13, at the front of the house, with extensive views of the Norman castle, Beachy Head and the sea.

He was described by his landlady as “popular, pleasing, charming; very erudite; a good companion, a stimulating talker and quite unlike anyone else; from the day of his dramatic arrival, he was clearly no ordinary mortal.”  

He had a large collection of friends, received many visitors, and parcels of chocolate from America – when rationing was rife in Britain. In fact from his room permeated the smell of a strong molasses-tobacco; it was stacked from floor to ceiling with his books and packages of chocolates.

He often took long walks along The Ridge, leaning on lampposts, palms to the sun.

But during his lifetime, he promoted himself as “the wickest man in the world” and “the devil incarnate.”

On the evening of his burial, the coffin travelled from Hastings to Brighton for cremation, there was a tremendous thunderstorm with lightening that continued all through the night; his good friend remarked, “Crowley would have loved that.”

He had an extraordinary presence, and an unusual persona, was distinctively different, possessing secret magical powers, beyond all ordinary comprehension, and keen to make friendships with the inquisitive and intelligent.

Netherwood house was demolished in 1968.

“But this is dawn; my soul shall make its nest

Where your sighs swing from rapture into rest

Love’s thurible, your tiger-lily breast.”

‘A Birthday’ by Aleister Crowley, 1911
It just dawned on me…
 

Enchanted Castles #castles #poetry #travel

Fairytales may well be exaggerated and magical distortions of the sensible and practical truth but…

Knights of the realm, fair maidens, damsels in distress, valiant heroes, brave warriors, honourable citizens, villainous invaders, victorious intruders, are all part of the rich history of life, in all its many forms; figures from the past merge into the people of today.

Here, on a forested valley, sits a perfectly peaceful castle, steeped in mystery, and inquisitive questioning, and full of many possible and impossible imaginations…

Far, far away, then reachable; pungently powerful in the daylight, then disappearing at night; soft and mellow like a child’s sandcastle then fortified, strong and sharp like a gentleman’s brandy; sometimes imperious, foreboding and stern then vulnerable, touchable and tame; teetering on the edge, ready to crumble to dust, or basking in the might of centuries of vigorous invincibility.

How encouraging to be conquering the adventurous journey of the world’s road with a little fairy magic

“Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger, across a crowded room.”

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Grappling for grapes#poetry #life #autumn #travel

“On this day, one like no other normal day, there appeared out of the sea-blue sky, as if hung by puppet-strings from a god’s great height, swathes of sweet, bulbous grapes; soured green, swollen and plentiful. If I were but 2 feet taller, I might reach up and pluck the wholesome pipped and bulging berries, and squeeze their juices into a rich, fruity, intoxicating wine to warm the senses, the soul and all its sensibilities.

At first, a jovial disposition of happiness, gaiety and bacchanalian revels and then a stupor of quiet drowsiness.  

Alas, it is only their flayed leaves and tight plump bunches, dotting and dappling the stone in shady softness, that soothe and comfort my rest; whilst the heady heat of sun catches the quench of thirst upon my tongue, to leave me only contemplating such ripe gifts of fancy.

So near yet so far, for a mortal such as I!”



Unreachable Earthly Things for which we require wings,

Grappling for grapes, while the gods gaze and sing.

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Cafe au lait, au lait! #art #travel #quotes

The most famous French cafe on the tip of the Mediterranean, Les Templiers (Knights of the Realm) in the Catalan fishing village of Collioure. Home to sun-seeking artists extraordinaire of the early 1900s including Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Dufy – inspired by the light, the warmth, the sweet wines, the traditional music, the scents of jasmine, caught by the nose and a sea-salt aroma, touched by the tongue.

The bar is adorned in artwork, donated by generations of artists who could not pay for drinks.

Scottish artist and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret escaped the smoggy atmosphere of London, to visit Collioure in the spring of 1924…

“We think it is one of the most wonderful places we have ever seen.”


Prennez le petit dejeuner, chocolat chaud, assiette de fromage
…soak up the ambiance, the distinctive style and the air-borne inspiration, drink in the magic of many artistic worlds.

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Foreign Bodies #poetry #poets #quotes #travel

Poets who are buried outside of their homeland, to name a few…

John Keats born in London, 31st October 1795, died, 23rd February 1821 of tuberculosis in Rome and buried in the Non-Catholic cemetery, Rome.

“Nothing becomes real till it is experienced.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley, born in Sussex, 4th August 1792 died in La Spezia, Italy in a boating accident, 8th July 1822, buried in the Non-Catholic cemetery in Rome.

“A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer his own solitude with sweet sounds.”

Oscar Wilde born in Dublin 16th October 1854, exiled and died in Paris, 30th November 1900, buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery, Paris.

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning born 6th March 1806 in Durham, died 29th June 1861 in Florence and buried in the Protestant English cemetery of Florence, Italy.
“Who so loves believes the impossible.”

“I shall but love thee better after death.”

Her husband, Robert Browning died at their son’s house in Venice in 1889 and is buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.
W.B.Yeats born in Dublin 13th June 1865, died in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France, 28th January 1939, repatriated in September 1948 to Drumcliff, County Sligo, Ireland.
“Cast a cold Eye 

On Life, on Death

Horseman pass by.”

Lord George Byron born 22nd January 1788, London, died of fever, 19th April 1824 in Missolonghi, Greece.
“Love will find a way through where wolves fear to prey.”

Rupert Brooke born in Rugby, 3rd August 1887, died of sepsis 23rd April 1915 in a French hospital ship, buried in Skyros, Greece.
“If I should die, think only this is of me

That there’s some corner of a foreign field. 

That is forever England.”

Spanish poet Antonio Machado born in Seville, 26th July 1875, died, 22nd February 1939 and buried in Collioure, France, after journeying over the Pyrenees to escape Franco’s Spain.

“There is no road, lonely wanderer 

Just wakes at sea, only that.”

  

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At the end of the road – turn to WRITE-ING!#poetry #travel

How marvellous to find one street, with one name, written in two languages…

The cul-de-sac of the ‘Poet– first in French, then in Catalan.

  
Catalan – known as a Romance language, derives from Vulgar Latin. It was the troubadours of the 12th century who founded lyrical poetry and love songs(cancons).

Els Amants by Vincent Andres Estelles (1924-1993)
‘Es desperta, de sobte, com un vell huraca
I ens tomba en terra els dos, ens ajunta, ens empeny.’

(Catalan)

The Lovers
‘Love, it awakens suddenly, like an old hurricane
It throws us to the ground, it joins us together,
Squeezing us tightly.’

A little walk, a little looking around, leads to bigger things in surprising places!
They do say, “What goes around, comes around,” – well it was a cul-de-sac!

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