Saturday, April 25, 2015

Anzac Prayer

One of the few things which seemed wrong about the various Anzac ceremonies was the use of the deardful modernised, ruined version of the Lord's Prayer. None of the myriad dead would have recognised or understood it, and many might well have been extremely offended by what had been done to the original, noble language. But, hey, this is nothing to do with me; the whole thing being twaddle anyway. The familiarity of the thing seems strange, thought - just odd that the trend seems to be to address God as some sort of slightly eccentric neighbour; I'm surprised they're not calling him Jerry or Sam - or, indeed, I suppose, Maureen.

Mark Rylance (Wolf Hall)

He is totally self-absorbed, to the point of eccenrtricity . . . he has a lovely, appealing face and marvellous directness. He has played Peter Pan and many roles at the RSC and has had his own company presenting potted Shakespeare. Born in Kent, he wass brought up in Milwaukee but talks like a northerner who has lost his accent.'

- Alan Bennet, Diaries, MNay 27 1986


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Remembrance of war - XIII


With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sesa.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into imortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going dowj of thesun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.

- Laurence Binyon

Remembrance of war - XII


Why do you lie with your legs ungainly huddles,
And one arm bent across your sullen cold
Exhausted face? It hurts my heart to watch you,
Deep-shadowed from the candle's glittering gold;
And you wonder why I shake you by the shoulder;
Drowsy, you mumble and sigh and turn your head . . .
You are too young to fall asleep for ever;
And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.

- Siegfried Sassoon

Remembrance of war - XI


Last night rain fell over the scarred plateau,
And now from the dark horizon, dazzling, flies
Arrow on fire-plumed arrow to the skies,
Shot from the bright arc of Apollo's bow;
And from the wild and writhen waste below,
From flashing pools and mounds lit one by one,
Oh, is it mist, or are these companies
Of morning heroes who arise, arise
With thrusting arms, with limbs and hair agloe,
Toiward the risen god, upon whose brow
Burns the gold laurel of all victories,
Hero and heroes' god, the invincible Sun?

- Robert Nichols

Remembrance of War - X


He had the ploughman's strength
in the grasp of his hand:
He could see a crow
three miles away,
and the trout beneath the stone.
He could hear the green oats growing,
and the south-west wind making rain.
He could hear the wheel upon the hill
when it left the level road.
He could make a gate, and dig a pit,
And plough as straight as stone can fall.
And he is dead.

- Ernest Rhys

Remembrance of war - IX


(6/8) for Sixth Platoon, 308th I.T.C.

One morning in Spring
We marched from Devizes
All shapes and all sizes
Like beads oin a strng,
But yet with a swing
We trod the bluemetal
And full of high fettle
We started to sing.

She ran down the stair
A twelve-year-old darling
And laughing and calling
She tossed her bright hair;
Then silent to stare
At the men flowing past her -
There were all she could master
Adoring her there.

It's seldom I'll see
A sweeter or prettier;
I doubt we'll forget her
In two years or three,
And lucky he'll be
She takes for a lover
While we are far over
The treacherous sea.

- John Manifold


Remembrance of war - VIII


If I should die, think only this of me;
   That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
   In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
   Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
   Washed by the rivers, blest nbu suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
   A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
      Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
   And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentlemenn,
      In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

- Rupert Brooke


Remembrance of war - VII


Move him into the sun -
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse im now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds, -
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerves - still warm - too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?

 - Wilfred Owen

Remembrance of war - VI


The guns spell money's ultimate reason
In letters of lead on the spring hillside.
But the boy lying dead under the olive trees
Was too young and too silly
To have been notable to their important eye.
He was a better target for a kiss.

When he lived, tall factory hooters never summoned him.
Nor did restaurant plate-glass doors revolve to wave him in.
His name never appeared in the papers.
The world maintained its traditional wall
Round the dead with their gold sunk deep as a well,
Whilst his life, intangible as a Stock Exchange rumour, drifted outside.

O too lightly he threw down his cap
One day when the breeze threw petals from the trees.
The unflowering wall sprouted with guns,
Machine-gun anger quickly scythed the grasses;
Flags and leaves fell from hands and branches;
The tweed cap rotted in the nettles.

Consider his life which was valueless
In terms of employment, hotel ledgers, news files.
Consider. One bullet in ten thousand kills a man.
Ask. Was so much expoenditure justified
On the death of one so young and so silly
Lying under the olive trees, O world, O death?

- Stephen Spender.

Remembranceo of war - VI

Remembrance of war - V


I have a rendezvous wiyh Death
At some dispited barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossom fills the air -
I have a rendezvous wiuth Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath -
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town;
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.,

 - Alan Seeger


Remembrance of War - IV


   'Had he and I but met
   By some old ancient inn
We should have sat us down to wet
   Right many a nipperkin!

   'But ranged as infantry
   And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
   And killed him in his place.

   'I shot him dead because -
   Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
   That's clear enough; although

   He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
   Off-hand like - just as I;
Was out of work, had sold his traps -
   No other reason why.

   'Yes; quaint and curious war is!
   You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat uif met where any bar is,
   Or help to half-a-crown.'

- Thomas Hardy

Remembrance of War - III


i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his well-beloved colonel (trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but - though an host of overjoyed
noncoms (first knocking on the head
him) do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindres intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments -
Olaf (being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds, without getting annoyed
'I will not kiss your fucking flag'
straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but - though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and biots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets riasted hot with heat -
Olaf (upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaslessly repeat
'there is some shit i will not eat'

our president, being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon, where he died

Christ (of His percy infinite)
i pray to see; and Olaf, too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me: more blond than you.

- e. e. cummings

Rermembrance of War - II


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! - an ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime. -
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
 His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, -
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

- Wilfred Owen

Remembrance of war - I


I walked where in their talking graves
And shirts of earth five thousand lay,
When history with ten feasts of fire
Had eaten the red air away.

'I am Christ's boy,' I cried, 'I bear
In iron hands and bread, the fishes.
I hang with honey and with rose
This tidy wreck of all your wishes.

'On your geometry of sleep
The chestnut and the fir-tree fly,
And lavender and margeurite
Forge with their flowers an English sky.

'Turn now towards the belling town
Your jigsaws of impossible bone,
And rising read your rank of snow
Accurate as death upon the stone.'

About your easy heads my prayers
I said with syllables of clay.
'What gift,' I asked, 'shall I bring now
Before I weep and walk away?'

Take, they replied, the oak and laurel,
Take our fortune of tears and live
Like a spendthrift lover. All we ask
Is the one gift you cannot give.'

- Charles Causley.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

GALLIPOLI - Reconciliation

When you are standing at your hero's grave,
Or near some homeless village where he died.
Remember, through your heart's rekindling pride,
The [Turkish] soldiers who were loyal and brave.

Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done;
And you have nourished hatred harsh and blind.
But in that golgotha perhaps you'll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son.

- Siegfried Sassoon, November 1918.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What Mr Lilly thinks of Taurus

Qualities of the Sign Taurus   Is an Earthly, Cold, Dry, Melancholy, Feminine, Nocturnal, Fixed, Domestical or Bestial Signe, of the Earthly Triplicity, and South, the Night-house of Venus.
Diseases   The King’s Evil, sore Throat, Wens, fluxes of Rheumes falling into the Throat, Quinzies, Imposthumes in those arts.
Places Taurus Signifieth   Places where Horses are, low Houses, Houses where the implements of Cattle are laid up, Pasture or Feeding grounds where no Houses aree neer, plaine grounds, or where Bushes have bin lately grub’d up, and wherein Wheat and Corn is sowed, some little Trees not far off, in Houses, Sellars, low Rooms.
Shape and Description   It presents one of a short, but of a full, strong and well-set stature, a broad Forehead, great Eyes, big Face; large, strong Shoulders; great mouth and thick Lips; grosse Hands; black rugged Haire.
Kingdoms, Countries and Cities subject to Taurus   Polonia the great, North part of Sweathland, Russia, Ireland, Switzerland,Lorraine, Campania, {Persia, Cyprus, Parthia.  Novograd, Parma, Boronia, Panormus, Mantua, Sena, Bruxia, Carolstad, Liepzig,Herbipolis.
-          William Lilly, Christian Astrology (1647)

Colourful flowers?

Hi Julia Here!Yes colourful flowers!  I have seen them from time to time in florists - thinking mostly of these lovely long-lasting Singapore orchids that turn up in different colours???    But today in our supermarket there was a large display of truly wonderful WHITE chrysanthemums  that had been sprayed with really ghastly colours - .magenta, dark turquoise, awful shocking pink and even nearly  navy blue with a very unreal dark orange.   The florist hates them (thankfully)  but why does the company stock them?    They are obviously not selling well, as the poor creatures were beginning to shed a few of their petals.   Looking inside  them there were traces of white here and there which made me feel even more cross, upset and more than annoyed.   This goes against nature and is one huge cheat. . .  If those colours are really desirable then let the growers develop them.   I suppose we can forgive Oscar Wilde wearing the odd green carnation!    

Uncle Tom played with my thing . . .

In all the discussion about paedophilia and its effects on children, one area seems to have been more or less ignored, and that is the mitigating effect on children of a sensible and reasoned attitude to any untoward advance or interference by an adult. Really serious and violent attacks such as rape or near-rape, are something to be taken very seriously indeed - and it is surely usually perfectly clear whether the child has suffered physical or serious psychlogical damage, and whether the attack should immediately be reported to authority. But with less serious incidents, if mother cries and father immediately summons the police, the effect on a young child can be more serious than the event itself. On the other hand if the parents' attitude is that Uncle Tom, or whoever, has just been playing a silly game, the effect is far less traumatic and possibly not a serious problem at all. This is clearly a matter for serious consideratioin by every parent: if a young child reports that some one has been 'playing with him', or something of the sort, it is far wiser to tryto deal sensibly with the matter than to become hysterical and convey the hysteria to the chiold. Think about it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Memories of 1914-18 - Two

You can imagine that, with trenches so close, we potted at each other day and nght. One chap a German, was dsigging his particular part of the trench deeper, and every time he raised his head to shovel the soil out we greeted him with a volley, and he then put his spade up and signalled "miss". It takes something to be humorous when you've been 72 hours up to your waist in clay and water, 51 hours of which it has rained.
- The Times, quoting a letter from a private with the Liverpool Scottish, 5 February 1915.

During the East African campain hostilities were not carried out so ruthlessly as they were in other parts of the world. A sergeant was taking three German prisoners back to the base when they came upon some eland The sergeant halted his party and took several shots but he missed badly. One of the prisoners, forgetting his position for a moment, asked if he could have a shot. The sergeant promptly gave him the rifle, and the prisoner succeeded in bringing down an eland at a distance of about five hundred yards - a featwhich called forth much appause form the entire party. He then gave the sergeant his rifle back, and the party marched on.
- Gordon Makepeace, Safaru Sam, 1933. 

Memories of 1914-18 - One

During the second battle of Arras we were seldom more than a day or two in the same place. Orders would come through and away we wallowed to take up more advanced positions. One night I found a dogout in which five  men were sleeping. There was an empty bunk and I climbed into it gratefully. But preently I fell to wondering why my fellows were so silent and, lighting a match, held it to the face of the nearest. He was dead. They were all dead . . .

We have a parson attached to us now - a Cambridge don - who wanted to hold a service today in our battalion mess room; but the walls have been thickly papered with French pictures of naked women. He had to confess the site inappropriate for a holy purpose.

- Raymond Asquith, letter to his wife, 28 May 1916.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sixpenny all-off

I rememeber very well indeed the day my long curling locks were shorn from my protesting head. I was taken to Mr Green, the only barber in the town: sixpence (a coin which no longer exists, and a sum now too small to be computed) secured an 'all-off' - a closely cut haircut for boys up to the age of puberty, and often well beyond. My father took me down to the shop - which I remember as small, full of tobacco smoke, and none too clean - and I was then attacked with blunt scissors and clippers which were happier taking small pieces of skin off my neck than actually cutting hair. I screamed the place down - and from that day to this (some eighty years later) I have hated having my hair cut. It seems to take much longer these days than it used to, and I sit there just wanting the whole procedure to stop. It doesn't actually hurt (well, not much, though those scissors with every other tooth missing tend to pull at the hair rather than actually cut it) but the boredom is ineffable - to say nothing of the conversation (I'm always reminded of the old joke - Barber: 'How would you like your hair cut, Sir?' Customer: 'In silence.') My happiest days were during the late fifties and sixties when I was able to join fashion by wearing my hair as long as I liked - to the great distress of my parents. There's no answer to the quandary. I have to get a haircut from time to time; despite every effort, I just haven't been able to go bald. Pity me, pity me.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Waiting too long for death

If there is anything more obscene than the death penalty itself, it is the system which keeps men and women waiting on death row for five, ten, fifteen years while appeal after appeal rumbles on. This is if anything a puishment worse than death. Sometimes they are released after ten years or so with a mumbled 'Sorry, some sort of mistake', often without any kind of restitution, monetary or otherwise (which of course underlines the fact that a very considerable number of innocent people must have been executed in the past). America is a prime participant in this obscenity; we can't know about China, for which country the number of executed people is a state secret! - but we must suspect the worst. At least the behaviour of Indonesia with respect to two convicted Australian drug smugglers has given the problem considerable publicity recently. Can any sensible person actually doubt that the death penalty is something to which no respectable country should subscribe?

Friday, April 10, 2015

The late Mr X

I was astonished - though maybe I shouldn't have been - by the overwhelming publicity given to the death of the Australian cricketer and cricket commentator Richie Benaud. No doubt he was a great dricketer, and clearly a nice man and a talented commentator, but to watch TV and read the newspapers you would have thought he was important on a scale in which clearly he weighed little when compared to other notable men whose death has attracted less attention. How, in real terms, does the death of a sportsman compare to that of a man or woman who has made a really lasting and important contribution to humanity? - a scientist, a composer, a writer? If Benaud's name is remembered in a century's time it will be simply as a name in a book about cricketing history, read only by rather strange people who take an interest in the sportsmen of a hunded years ago. The amazing work of some scientists on the other hand should mean that their names are remembered and celebrated a century hence,while that of at least some composers and writers may mean that their  names are bracketed with those which we celebrate two or three centuries after their deaths.Yet the death of a writer, a composer, even a scientist often rates only half a column or so in the more serious papers. A sense of balance has gone awry somewhere, hasn't it?, when the fact that someone is enormously popular for relatively insignificant though popular reasons prompts an almost hysterical outpouring of grief? Completely understandable, when one thinks about it, and to be astonished' is no doubt a silly reaction. But an interesting comment on popular sentiment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The very latest cocktail

A drunk shambled into a bar and bet the barman that he could tell the ingredients in any drink the barman cared to mix. The barman stooped behind the bar and emptied into one glass the remains of several drinks - a Martini, a Scotch and soda. brandy, a rum punch and so on. The drunk sipped the drink and one after another correctly named the contents. He offered to do it again, and this time the barman filled the glass with water. The drunk tasted it, thought reflectively, tasted it again and then said, 'I don't know what it is, but it won't sell.'

Ice or ice-cream?

I guess I'm fortunate, but I've never been tempted by hard drugs - or soft drugs for that matter. I smoked one cigar when I was twenty, and couldn't see the point of it; cigarette smoke was quite enough to put me off smoking cigarettes. I drank beer for a while in mildly immoderate quantties - but never enough to make me more than slghtly tipsy; the single incident of getting really drunk finished me for that: not an experience I wanted to repeat. The idea of people actually going out for an evening to get drunk astonishes me. I now have one drink - a single measure of spirits - a day, and I enjoy it very much - but, really, for the taste rather than the effect, which is pretty minimal. The idea of even trying seriously addictive drugs has always horrrified me, mainly because I find the idea of being in any way out of control of myself, my behaviour, my emotions, impossible to contemplate. Am I missing a great deal? When I read of men and women committing suicide as the result of taking drugs, I suspect not. On the other hand, of course it is possible to understand how people reduced for one reason and another to ther depths of depression would be likely to seek out some means of feeling even slightly more able to live a reasonably bearable life. But ice? Give me ice-cream, any time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Shakespeare Manuscript Discovered in Poughkeepsie

The mansucript of Shakespeare's King Lear has been discovered in the back of a cupboard in an agricultural supply shop in Poughkeepsie NY. Typed on an early Olivetti typewriter, it . . .

Well, perhaps not. But isn’t it astonishing that when so much manuscript music has survived from Elizabethan times, we haven’t got the manuscript of Hamlet? Well, no.Those who go about the streets insisting that Shakespeare’s plays were written by someone else (Queen Elizabeth, anyone?) may argue that the real author destroyed the manuscripts in order to keep his or her secret – but on the other hand, no manuscripts of any play has survived in the autograph of Kyd, Greene, Jonson, Chapman, Dekker, Heywood, Marston, Webster, Beaumont, Fletcher, Ford or of course Shakespeare. Only about half of our hero’s works (not including Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar, or As You Like It) were printed in his lifetime - because the plays were regularly performed, the actors had their parts written out, and once they were learned these were destroyed – or used to wrap up the weekly joint or the daily loaf. Paper was valuable stuff to use for other purposes than writing: there were no newspapers, and wrapping paper did not exist (or only very expensively, and imported from France) – so where did you go for paper napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, kitchen paper, and so on? The manuscript of Hamlet, that’s where. So, not all that surprising after all – and the chances of finding a Shakespeare manuscript in the back of a cupboard in Tulsa or a suburb of Melbourne are to say the least small. Hard luck on treasure hunters.