#SundayBlogShare – Elegy for Earth 🐝🏔🌎

“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” ~ David Attenborough

In many respects the success of the human race has caused as many problems as it has solved for us collectively. Population explosion, the demands for food, pollution, the endless pursuit of profits at the expense of people, plants and animals, (especially the mega corporations such as Monsanto), who produce and use some of the most harmful ingredients known to man and nature.

monsanto-pollution

Governments only seem to care about the environment when there’s something in it for them, such as tourist trade. Don’t even get me started on the destruction of rainforest for palm oil and other ingredients that fuel our ‘convenience’ lifestyle.

So many endangered species in Asia and the Amazon are seeing their habitats destroyed for the sake of a few companies and individuals making more than a few bucks. This is the dark side of capitalism. Making money no matter the cost.

But the end does not justify the means, because billions of people live on this planet. Harvesting huge swathes of the ‘lungs of the earth’ for timber and other land use may give a short term economic gain, but how can we measure the huge cost to humanity in terms of loss of diversity and disasters bought about as a result of such ecological destruction?

gibbon

We can all do our bit, reducing waste, recycling, walking instead of taking a car, being aware of our buying habits, and asking ourselves, do we support environmentally conscious businesses? Do we buy cosmetics and food that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way?

Planet Earth II

I admire Sir David Attenborough in many ways, he is a brilliant broadcaster and passionate naturalist, but it’s mostly because of the man he is; the way he has dedicated his life to bringing the beauty of nature to the masses. Definitely a national treasure! He has done more in his life than probably any other person (except maybe Darwin), to help us understand and love the natural world, open our eyes to how complex and amazing planet Earth really is, showing us that humans and the natural world are interdependent. Their survival aids our survival.

Planet Earth II has been compelling viewing! Some highlights:

The last episode of Planet Earth II is airing tonight on BBC One, and it focuses on animals in urban environments. Here’s the trailer for Cities:

I hope you enjoy my poem, Elegy for Earth. It’s a bittersweet musing on what we’ve done to the animal kingdom and the planet we call home – Earth.

Elegy for Earth

Gravity pulls us to your perfect, rounded bosom,

Our feet, able to walk in soft earth, grass and sand,

Your endless bounty is a gift, pure and fulsome,

Evolved have we, to wield a greedy, grasping hand,

Eager to harvest, destroy and plunder your riches,

We continue to rape and pillage; burn nature’s bridges.

 brazil-amazon-caracol

Many of our people appreciate and value such utopia,

Those who do not, give no thought to rainforests or

Wildlife; they are deaf to earth’s cry of melancholia,

No longer can she sustain this global ravage before

We reach the point of no return – alas, this is it.

Improve stewardship, or spin on a barren crypt.

apollo-butterfly

Industrialisation supported our growing population,

Without thought of the consequences for our home,

We paused not, to notice the result of human invasion,

We lost the wisdom of our forebears, who used to roam

Mother Earth. Her resources are finite and dwindling fast,

If we heed not nature’s warnings; humanity will not last.

forest-stag-and-boars

Poisonous fumes, silent smoke lace the air; breathe death

Plastic and detritus fill oceans deep and clog sunny shores,

Living rainforest cut-down, decimated, with startling breadth,

Pyres of man-made rubbish, polluting Earth’s pristine pores,

How far we have strayed, in the name of material progress,

We reap what we sow, our ultimate destruction to manifest.

smoke

How much wiser, to preserve this green and vibrant land,

As indigenous tribes have done, no need for fossil fuels

Instead we mine, we frack, we drill, we kill; be damned,

Pause, notice our impact; let’s protect our precious jewel.

Climate change accelerates, while man still procrastinates,

To continue unabated means the end of the master-race.

pollution

Ancient, tall trees and rolling seas offer healing escape,

Mountain air revives, soul solace, fresh foods replenish,

Let’s not take more than we need – replant and replace,

Waste is unforgivable when so many, from hunger, perish.

What polluted wasteland will we create for our descendants?

In all haste, will we act, to save Earth’s divine resplendence?

water-lily

If thriving pastures and woodlands are turned to dust,

As we wage chemical warfare on all that is pure and good,

Complain we cannot, about modern plagues’ relentless thrust,

Wars, droughts and floods; apocalypse no longer misunderstood,

Through hardship of experience, source of harmful disease,

Species wiped out; no fish, no tigers, no monkeys or bees.

tiger

The ghost of Christmas past says, stop! Look! See!

How hunting made animals extinct, and smog is choking,

The spirit of the present says, you will not get off scot-free,

Serious consequences to stand and face; no point hoping…

For the ghost of Christmas future, to bring good tidings,

Redemption lies only in ceasing madness; our silver linings.

man-in-the-wilderness

Imagine hell on Earth; no pristine wilderness left to explore,

No clean seas to sail on or swim in, surf polluted waves,

Dante’s Inferno would be a nightmare reality to deplore,

We have the power to do our bit, our planet to save,

Halt the mindless massacre, before it’s too late,

If we do nothing together, then we seal our fate…

glowing-sunrise-canim-lake

By Virginia Burges

#SundayBlogShare – Honouring The Fallen on Remembrance Sunday

The Fallen

The fallen have no voice, our freedom is their sign,

Oh, brave heroes, selfless deeds claimed your prime,

Your words were left unspoken, on hellish frontiers,

But we still hear you, even after all these years…

History has veiled your suffering, sacrifice never to forget,

So many wars, too many battles; faced by general and cadet,

Greedy death, your serpent like tongue, too fast ran,

Devouring life after life; from cruel carnage of man.

The Somme’s sodden, bloody fields saw many a charge,

Cut down by a hail of bullets, bombs small and large,

Pounding hooves, feet and tanks, cover pestilent ground,

Ear splitting screams, explosions, to stealthy silence sound.

washington-memorial

When the smoke has cleared, gritty eyes cannot bear indignity,

Of mangled and missing bodies; but in courage lies nobility,

A debt we can never repay, you faced evil, settled the score,

Faces we cannot see, but your deeds are the stuff of lore,

Our hearts fill with gratitude, for your unwaivering duty,

Concrete shells of empty buildings, stripped of beauty,

Serve as reminders of lost limbs and shattered homes,

Your graves tended, sought are your lost, scattered bones.

The dice has been shaken; the dice has been rolled,

Your number is up; time to cross the eternal threshold,

You went into danger, knowing you may never return,

A mission impossible, no easy final sojourn…

war-graves

Last post played, last drink downed, from life’s bitter-sweet cup,

If lucky, you could savour the taste, before going up,

Was it sweet? Was it sour? Did you know we wear your flower?

Red petals bloom in a sea of crimson; your poppies empower.

You drew a line in the sand, to defend our cherished homeland,

But the tragic loss of life, is hard to fully understand,

Our freedom is won, and the many thank the few,

Conflict resolved, because of what you went through.

Stories of the fallen continue to be told; as is just,

Their tales must not pass unknown, into shadows and dust,

The fallen show us the true meaning of extraordinary bravery,

So that we may never again, be shackled by tyranny and slavery.

poppy-in-wheat-field

You answered the call; sentinels of the skies, preserving lands,

Plummeting the depths of oceans, with protective hands,

Platoons, divisions, armies of ordinary men and women,

You saw and did, more of your share, of spying and killing.

Infiltrating enemy lines, up against cold, hunger and snipers,

Risking it all, to intercept and thwart, cleverly coded ciphers,

Through ninety percent of human history a war has waged…

Worthy causes hailed by leaders, for followers to engage.

The fallen will cry no more: anguish and pain disappear,

The fallen paid the highest price for valour through fear,

The fallen fought for peace: to preserve a free society,

Honour and respect the fallen, by living with humanity.

canon-in-landscape

By Virginia Burges

‘Metamorphosis’ 🍂🍁🐛

“What’s happened to me,’ he thought. It was no dream.”  ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

This stunning performance on the harp by Lavinia Meijer, of Metamorphosis II by Philip Glass, plus a lovely violin and guitar duo make a perfect accompaniment for my poetry on the subject. I hope you enjoy the music, the prose and the paintings!

‘Metamorphosis’

What is this force that draws me, inexorably towards you?

The Earth’s four seasons, unfaltering, come and go,

Red, orange and yellow foliage now proliferates,

Love, like burnt leaves, clings precariously,

To rustic boughs; fearing annihilation from the gusts of life.

Pompeo Mariani - Autunno

Pompeo Mariani – Autunno

Thoughts and feelings transmute like the elements,

Hot for a time, cold the next, perhaps even icy…

But passions warm like a glorious autumn day,

Lighting up your life while they burn and glow; evolution

Is inevitable, yet the heart yearns for what has passed.

The Stone Bench in the Garden at Saint-Paul Hospital by Vincent van Gogh

The Stone Bench in the Garden at Saint-Paul Hospital by Vincent van Gogh

Learning to embrace the wisdom of changing seasons;

Both life and death. All effort against nature is futile,

Souls are forged within molecular metamorphosis,

Dipping in and out of an infinite, primordial panoply,

Merging with other souls, individual but connected.

Apple Picking at Eragny sur Epte c. 1888 by Camille Pissarro

Apple Picking at Eragny sur Epte c. 1888 by Camille Pissarro

The concertina caterpillar chews quietly on his leaf,

Unremarkable on the surface, evolving inside his chrysalis,

Hidden from the world, he is overtaken by energy,

Emerging from his self-imposed cocoon transfigured,

All of life is metamorphosis, an explosion of alteration.

Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue by Dosso Dossi circa late 16th Century

Jupiter, Mercury and Virtue by Dosso Dossi circa late 16th Century

The new butterfly tests his dynamic, vibrant wings,

Fluttering to and from the sweet scent of flowers,

Thus an old heart may beat to a new tune,

But it remembers the shared music of before,

Where unforgotten melodies are woven into DNA.

Autumn Leaves by Sir John Everett Millais

Autumn Leaves by Sir John Everett Millais

A new phase, a new masterpiece will be written,

As the trees release their golden halos, ready

For preordained progression, so it is with spirit.

The journey of metamorphosis and rebirth carries us

To infinity, where we are ever the same – yet different.

~ By Virginia Burges

Autumn c. 1904 by Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933).

Autumn c. 1904 by Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933).

Philip Glass on the piano playing his Metamorphosis IV and V:

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

#SundayBlogShare – The Paradox of Polarities 🌞🌛☺️😭

Lately I have been trying to make sense of how I act unconsciously. Watching to see what happens when I allow certain situations or people to push my buttons!

It has been a busy and somewhat stressful time for me over the past few weeks, and to get through this intense phase I know I need to be more aware of the emotions that I have disowned in myself, and therefore rub me up the wrong way when other people display that very ‘thing’.

To shine the light of awareness on my my own internal state is not easy, but it is helpful. For when we become conscious of a hidden belief or shadow that is driving us, we can integrate and ‘own’ it, and the dysfunctional behaviour that surrounds it will drop away. We rarely act in a way that is detrimental to our well-being once we are conscious of it.

Writing about this subject in the form of poetry has helped me to understand the concept better and apply it in my own life. I hope you enjoy the poem in its own right, along with the sublime art (which always reflects beautifully the human condition).

Long may the light shine on you (and your shadows!) Happy Sunday!

The Paradox of Polarities

Juliet lamented to Romeo: ‘parting is such sweet sorrow’,

Yet we love…yearning to insatiably consume,

Maybe fearing, perhaps craving the morrow.

What will fate serve us: fortune or doom?

Whatever may manifest in these given hours,

That which we truly see, is endowed with powers…

The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet by Francesco Hayez

The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet by Francesco Hayez

Where our vision dares to go, energy will flow,

Born are we, into the realm of black and white,

Intrepid into the shadow side, we must not go.

To survive this masquerade we stay in the light,

Reprisals in childhood make us afraid to venture,

As adults, what is perceived as dark, we censure…

Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld by Peter Paul Rubens

Orpheus and Eurydice in the Underworld by Peter Paul Rubens

Lurking somewhere beneath, dark soils unconscious mind,

It cannot be disowned, denied and repressed forever,

Expressing covertly as dysfunctional, not kind.

To exhibit that which we thought of never,

The voice we accept not in ourselves, or in others,

Speaks the loudest, drowns out, and smothers.

Othello and Desdemona by Christian Köhler

Othello and Desdemona by Christian Köhler

Despite our best efforts, eventually in vain,

We never will destroy shadows; our other side,

As night follows day, with pleasure comes pain.

The vast spectrum of life is not easy to divide,

Opposites attract, nay, depend on each other to exist,

Demarcation is purely conceptual, shrouded in mist…

Hamlet - Act IV Scene V - Ophelia Before the King and Queen by Benjamin West

Hamlet – Act IV Scene V – Ophelia Before the King and Queen by Benjamin West

How humans define polarity is arbitrary,

Endless primordial cauldron of emotion,

Good against evil can be so contrary.

Life and death, clarity and confusion,

Appear they, to be separate ideas of reality,

Isolated by social convention, for the sake of sanity…

Macbeth and the Ghost of Duncan by Theodore Chasseriau

Macbeth and the Ghost of Duncan by Theodore Chasseriau

Thus, one ‘thing’ is split into a patchwork field,

We can only appreciate health because of illness,

Energy delineated, to create our journey we wield.

We can harm or heal; by practice, learn to witness,

The inner states with which we play the game,

Be we happy or sad, empty or full, of pride or shame…

The Illness of Antiochus from Antiochus and Stratonice by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The Illness of Antiochus from Antiochus and Stratonice by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

To avoid any experience is to fall on our sword,

Better to watch and feel, then move forward,

Enjoy passion, shun apathy, either inspired or bored.

Awareness frees us from stagnation and being cornered,

To surf the panoply and panorama of tides,

Waves of dichotomy ebb and flow from all sides…

Tristan and Isolde by Herbert James Draper

Tristan and Isolde by Herbert James Draper

The paths we take are followed in physics,

Nature’s eternal, divine laws unfold regardless,

To deny a part of the whole is to set limits.

What is buried, resisted and guarded will surface,

Dip into darkness again; find a flicker of light,

A single, bright, dancing flame expands in sight…

The taking of Christ by Caravaggio

The taking of Christ by Caravaggio

We make up right and wrong as we go along,

Physical forms of the infinite, quantum reality,

Both here and not here; is a part of our song.

For singing softens the immutable tree of polarity,

Rotting roots, scarred bark, broken branches, lofty leaves;

Wild forest, shaped into desired topiary: thus life weaves…

By Virginia Burges

Socrates tears Alcibiades from the embrace of sensual pleasure by Jean-Baptiste Regnault c. 1791

Socrates tears Alcibiades from the embrace of sensual pleasure by Jean-Baptiste Regnault circa 1791

#SundayBlogShare – A British Summer 🌳🌺💨☔🌞

After waking up with a bit of a hangover I felt the urge to write about the weather… How very British! I was also pondering on how the collective unconscious affects our perception of nature. I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps even relate to it on some level.

As I love the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner, Britain’s most prolific and famous landscape painter, I have used his art to help illustrate my prose.

Happy Sunday!

A British Summer

Heavy grey clouds claim the sky, suffocating hope,

Reflecting the changing moods of the nation,

Temperatures fluctuate; oppressive then cool,

Winnie-the-Pooh’s blustery day is upon us…

Raby Castle, the seat of the Earl of Darlington, by JMW Turner

Raby Castle, the seat of the Earl of Darlington, by JMW Turner

Towering trees adorned with lush, verdant leaves,

Shimmer, bend and wave in nature’s breathy puff,

Wild flowers populate meadows and hedgerows,

Colourful petals spread succour for broken hearts

Thomson's Aeolian Harp by JMW Turner c. 1809

Thomson’s Aeolian Harp by JMW Turner c. 1809

Rays of sun breakthrough, beaming sporadic warmth,

Threat of violent showers always present, looming,

A green and pleasant land supports uncertain steps,

Whether bold or timid; blades of grass in their billions.

Abergavenny Bridge Monmouthshire by JMW Turner

Abergavenny Bridge Monmouthshire by JMW Turner

Pimms and tennis distract weary, outraged citizens,

Quintessential Hundred Acre Wood of our nation,

Still holds surprises. The worker bees hide not;

Streams babble and burst lowly banks.

Arundel Castle on the River Arun, with a Rainbow c. 1824-5 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Arundel Castle on the River Arun, with a Rainbow c. 1824-5 Joseph Mallord William Turner

Life abounds in forests, fields and flowers,

Towns and cities go about their daily grind,

Forgotten worms thrive in velvety brown sludge,

Birds soar above gardens, manicured or wild.

Oxford High Street by JMW Turner

Oxford High Street by JMW Turner

In times of trouble the land is earthy and stable,

The cycle of death and rebirth ceaseless, reliable.

Gain strength from longer, lighter days, be

Fortified by the season of playfulness and revelry.

Pope's Villa at Twickenham by JMW Turner

Pope’s Villa at Twickenham by JMW Turner

History lives on in ancient stone walls,

Land of democracy and freedom decays,

Only to grow back around human drama,

Scenery of ups and downs: metamorphosis.

Stonehenge by JMW Turner c. 1827

Stonehenge by JMW Turner c. 1827

Lakes and mountains, coasts and cliffs,

Magnificent island refuge to everyday strife,

Spires look upwards over quaint village greens,

Season of vitality to revive cynical souls.

Scottish landscape by JMW Turner

Scottish landscape by JMW Turner

English rose, soft symbol of beauty and summer,

She attracts us with her sweet, heady scent,

Draws blood with her protective, thorny fingers,

But we love her essence and fullness of life.

The Old Library: A Vase of Lilies, Dahlias and Other Flowers 1827 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

The Old Library: A Vase of Lilies, Dahlias and Other Flowers 1827 Joseph Mallord William Turner

Is this the summer of our discontent?

Rough winds do shake wounded spirits,

Sprites commit their mischief then sneakily retreat,

But Bacchus’s bounty exists for all who seek it…

By Virginia Burges

jmw-turner-petworth-house

Petworth House and Park by JMW Turner

#SundayBlogShare 🎼🎻🎹🎸🎷🎧 Music: An Unsurpassed Social Gift

“All art aspires towards the condition of music.” ~ Walter Pater

Playing a musical instrument is the best workout I know for my brain, as well as for invigorating my whole body. Meditation follows a close second alongside some other pleasurable activities…

The Music Lesson by Manet c. 1868

The Music Lesson by Manet c. 1868

During a practice session I feel totally alive; my mind seems to be at its most creative, and yet clear of life’s ‘junk’. I can be myself when I’m playing my violin; happily ensconced in a ‘flow state’ with no judgment or expectation other than to enjoy my activity.

I may not be on stage in a world-class concert hall, (only in my imagination), in reality I’m in my lounge and completely engaged in a joyful fusion of physical and mental exercise.

The thought of not being able to play inspired the premise for my novel, The Virtuoso.

Music score to accompany The Virtuoso by Tim Johnson

Music score to accompany The Virtuoso by Tim Johnson

While I’m playing Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi my brain is doing the ultimate multi-tasking, coordinating on an epic scale:

It’s enabling me to read the notes, to perform challenging passages of semi-quaver notes, to react quickly with tricky  incidental notes, trills and possible key changes during the piece, let alone changing position on the fingerboard, deciding what digit goes where, what bowing technique is required, the dynamics of the music and, of course intonation and my unique interpretation based on how the music makes me feel as I play it.

Jeanne Saint Cheron - violinist

Violinist by Jeanne Saint Cheron

Imagine coordinating that many processes in a split second. Brain plasticity is an incredible process. It must be an orchestra of simultaneous sparks, a symphony of synapses in there, lighting up all over the place!

Science has backed me up on that one. How playing an instrument benefits your brain – Anita Collins:

Afterwards I find myself in a special space, my mind is empty yet energised and I just write. Ideas flow. It doesn’t last forever, but I try to make the most of it! Those alpha brain waves are the good guys, they usher in our most creative moments when we’re in a state of relaxed concentration.

The Music Lesson by Caspar Netscher

The Music Lesson by Caspar Netscher

Music really is instrumental in improving brain function and cognitive ability.

You may relate to my joy if you play an instrument. I don’t mean to be unnecessarily sombre, but if music disappeared overnight, for whatever reason, what would become of our species? I don’t think I could live in a world devoid of such a rich, cultural heritage…

A fascinating talk from the late neurologist Oliver Sacks – Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain:

This short video shows Dr. Sacks’s brain activity as he listens to music by Bach, his favourite composer compared with that of Beethoven:

A great excerpt from a talk about the history of music by Dr. Daniel Levitin, who argues against Steven Pinker, asserting that music preceded language:

I wanted to share with you my own verses; poetry which most certainly does not compare to the likes of Keats or Shelley, but which is nonetheless genuinely reflective of my love for music; both playing and listening.

Music Makes Me Feel…

First came the hypnotic rhythm of Beethoven,

Moonlight tones passing through my mother’s womb;

Loving piano gently infiltrates fleshy oven,

Beautiful harmony surrounds the warm, watery tomb

My whole being is receptive, active, listening,

Later in life, it will make my spirit sing.

Woman at the Piano by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Woman at the Piano by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Orchestras fill our home, my education starts,

Lessons begin on the violin; fun but hard,

Before long I am hooked, for joy it imparts,

Bowing, scraping, hand stretching on fingerboard,

The right note eludes me, again and again,

Eventually, fingers know their place more than pain.

Berthe Morisot - The artist's daughterplaying the violin

Berthe Morisot – The artist’s daughter playing the violin

Pulsing air waves elicit ecstasy, and poignant lingering,

Oscillations match to memories from the deep,

Such moving melody, well-spring of suffering,

Black notes on treble or bass clef; ready to leap

From musicians instruments, creating composer’s passions

Hypnotism says Ludwig van, to force same emotions.

The Kreutzer Sonata by Xavier Prinet

The Kreutzer Sonata by Xavier Prinet

Major or minor key, varying dynamics and tempo

Music mirrors every sacred moment of life,

Soft, soothing adagio or a galloping allegro,

Good vibrations comfort me when in strife;

Open your heart to its flowing, healing tune,

And fill your soul with rapture, thrilling croon.

Music - Ancient Greek vase - music lesson

Ancient, divine sounds, evolving over millennia,

Effect is more visceral than art, sculpture, literature.

No mode of communication stirs like an aria;

Universal language communes with our nature,

Eclectic music of mankind, such profound apotheosis,

Ultimate expression of humanity: Quo Vadis?

The Music Lesson by Jan Vermeer

The Music Lesson by Jan Vermeer

Apart from the sound of my mother’s voice, this timeless and peaceful composition by Beethoven that my mum used to play was probably one of the first things I ever heard:

Sound when stretched is music.

Movement when stretched is dance.

Mind when stretched is meditation.

Life when stretched is celebration. ~ Sri Sri Ravishankar

The Special and Noble Tradition of Being a Bard (Part 2)

“All the world’s a stage,

and all the men and women merely players:

they have their exits and their entrances;

and one man in his time plays many parts …”

~ William Shakespeare from As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7, 139–42

I’m going to commence part 2 unapologetic for my continued worship binge of William Shakespeare! Especially after his recent #Shakespeare400 anniversary.

For me, text comes alive when you can see and hear actors performing it. So there’s going to be lots of media in this post.

Here’s a comic Hamlet taster from the celebrations held at the RSC in Stratford in conjunction with the BBC:

The first published mention of Shakespeare’s plays was made  in Palladis Tamia: Wit’s Treasury, by Francis Meres in 1598:

Palladis_Tamia,_Wits_Treasury_Francis_Meres_Love_labours_won_excerpt_1598

His sonnets weren’t published as a collective work for a further eleven years.

Love’s Labour’s Won

Because so little is known about William Shakespeare the man, the mention of an unknown play, Love’s Labour’s Won adds to the mystery surrounding his life and work. It was originally thought that Love’s Labour Won was the same play as The Taming of the Shrew, it wasn’t uncommon for his plays to be known under different names: Twelfth Night was sometimes called Malvolio and Much Ado About Nothing was sometimes referred to as Benedict and Beatrice, so the possibility of an alternative title was entirely plausible.

But in 1953 the mystery deepened when a book dealer in London came across a fragment of a bookseller’s inventory from 1603, listing both Love Labour’s Won and The Taming of the Shrew together, indicating that they were indeed separate plays. If it ever existed in printed form there is hope that one of the potential 1500 lost copies may surface one day…

It leads on to the question, if Love’s Labour’s Won really is a separate play, why wasn’t it included by Heminges and Condell in the First Folio?

Shakespeare vs Milton – Fascinating debate about the kings of English literature:

Shakespeare in film

Films continue to be made of his plays, and even about Shakespeare himself. For your viewing pleasure!

Macbeth:

The Merchant of Venice (2004):

Much Ado About Nothing (1993):

Coriolanus:

Romeo and Juliet (2013):

Richard III (1955):

Henry V:

Hamlet: (1996):

Othello (1995):

Twelfth Night (1996):

Shakespeare In Love:

I’d like to dedicate the remainder of the post with excerpts from some of the greatest bards the world has ever known.

Christopher Marlowe – Excerpt from Doctor Faustus

You stars that reign’d at my nativity,

Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,

Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist

Into entrails of yon labouring clouds,

That when they vomit forth into the air,

My limbs may issue from their smoky mouths,

So that my soul may but ascend to Heaven.

Mephisto before Faust by Eugene Delacroix

Mephisto before Faust by Eugene Delacroix

William Blake ~ (Notebook 40)

Abstinence sows sand all over

The ruddy limbs and flaming hair

But Desire Gratified

Plants fruits and beauty there.

Cremation of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier

Cremation of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier

Love’s Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley, read beautifully by Tom O’Bedlam:

Ulysses ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy’d

Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when

Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;

And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades

For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—

Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil

This labour, by slow prudence to make mild

A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees

Subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere

Of common duties, decent not to fail

In offices of tenderness, and pay

Meet adoration to my household gods,

When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—

That ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses by JW Waterhouse

Ulysses by JW Waterhouse

BBC Documentary about Byron, Keats, and Shelley – The Romantics – Eternity:

Edgar Allan Poe-The Raven- Read by James Earl Jones:

Audio book playlist by Random House – The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

Rabindranath Tagore on boundaries and understanding:

Audiobook of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (Part 1 of 4):

Great website covering classic literature, explaining here about the epic poem The Iliad by Homer.

Achilles Slays Hector by Peter Paul Rubens

Achilles Slays Hector by Peter Paul Rubens

I’m going to finish with Shakespeare, probably the greatest Bard of all time and the greatest soliloquy of all time: To be, or not to be from Hamlet.

Kenneth Brannagh is electrifying:

Going back through the ages, oral tradition was everything, however, when the written word came into being all the ‘Bards’ that have come since could be immortalised.

True Bardic tradition may be a thing of the past, but modern authors, poets and musicians can leave a legacy of their work. Perhaps not on the scale of the likes of Chaucer, Milton, Shakespeare and Tagore, but we all have an imagination, which Einstein reminded us is more important than intelligence.

Excerpt from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Excerpt from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Art and culture as we know it owes everything to the bards of the ages, and in this digital age we can all be a ‘Bard’ or even ‘Bardess’, to a larger or lesser extent…

#SundayBlogShare – Benediction for Bluebells

In honour of time spent in nature’s bright and gentle company yesterday, I wanted to share some reflective verse and photographs:

Benediction for Bluebells

Woodland floor, engulfed in precious purple petals,

Hues of magical violet softly illuminate my sight,

Shine forth, ye gathering crowds of bluebells,

Your springtime violet copse spreads pure delight!

Fragrant faces of flowers, grace the sodden ground,

No greater English beauty; there can be found.

By Virginia Burges

22 April - Bluebell carpet6

**

The Bluebell ~ by Emily Bronte

The Bluebell is the sweetest flower

That waves in summer air:

Its blossoms have the mightiest power

To soothe my spirit’s care.

 

There is a spell in purple heath

Too wildly, sadly dear;

The violet has a fragrant breath,

But fragrance will not cheer,

22 April - Bluebell carpet5

The trees are bare, the sun is cold,

And seldom, seldom seen;

The heavens have lost their zone of gold,

And earth her robe of green.

 

 

And ice upon the glancing stream

Has cast its sombre shade;

And distant hills and valleys seem

In frozen mist arrayed.

22 April - Bluebell carpet distance

The Bluebell cannot charm me now,

The heath has lost its bloom;

The violets in the glen below,

They yield no sweet perfume.

 

But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,

‘Tis better far away;

I know how fast my tears would swell

To see it smile to-day.

22 April - Bluebell path

For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall

Adown that dreary sky,

And gild yon dank and darkened wall

With transient brilliancy;

 

How do I weep, how do I pine

For the time of flowers to come,

And turn me from that fading shine,

To mourn the fields of home!

22 April - Bluebell carpet4

The Special and Noble Tradition of Being a Bard (Part 1)

“The appropriate business of Poetry, (which, nevertheless, if genuine, is as permanent as pure science), her privilege and duty, is to treat of things not as they are, but as they appear; not as they exist in themselves, but as they seem to exist to the senses, and to the passions.” ~ William Wordsworth

There will be plenty of bardolatry in these two posts, to quote the rather satirical term coined by George Bernard Shaw in his fervent appreciation of Shakespeare. When I think of ‘The Bard’, of course it is always Shakespeare that immediately springs to mind. With the 400th anniversary of his death approaching and his incredible legacy of literature, he is rightly referred to as ‘The Bard of Avon’.

William Shakespeare - The 'Chandos' portrait, artist unknown

William Shakespeare – The ‘Chandos’ portrait, artist unknown

Another more recent ‘Bard’ is Rabindranath Tagore, who was known by the sobriquet ‘The Bard of Bengal’.

But, strictly speaking, what is a ‘Bard’?

A ‘Bard’ has its roots in ancient Celtic, Welsh, Scottish and Irish culture, referring to one who had the innate skill of storytelling, composition of verse and poetry and or being a musician and singer, usually employed by a monarch or noble patron. Bards shaped our culture and ensured that our stories (and the wisdom contained within them), was passed on to future generations.

The Bard before the Royal Family by Anton Huxoll

The Bard before the Royal Family by Anton Huxoll

The meaning and influence of bardic tradition has evolved over the centuries to the more romantic understanding that is defined so perfectly in our modern world by the writings of William Shakespeare.

Interestingly, works of art work portraying bards tend to depict elderly men with windswept white hair playing a harp or grasping a tome, set against the backdrop of epic scenery.

The Bard by Benjamin West

The Bard by Benjamin West

It awakens quite a primordial longing to be at one with nature, be of service to the community and also kinship with fellow man. For me, there seems to be a very close connection with the wilderness, which, in ancient times would have been the case.

The Bard by John Martin c. 1817

The Bard by John Martin c. 1817

I’d like to start way back before Shakespeare though, with a poet I’d not heard of before, who hailed from Dark Ages Wales – Taliesin.

The Bard by Thomas Jones

The Bard by Thomas Jones

The Tale of Taliesin

Thanks to my good friend, fellow musician, writer and sound therapist, Laurelle Rond, I recently learned of the mythic Celtic folklore that surrounds the birth of Taliesin, a 6th century Welsh Bard.

He was a revered poet of the post-Roman period whose work seems to have survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, known as the Book of Taliesin. Taliesin is believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Celtic British kings.

His name, spelt Taliessin in Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and in some subsequent works, means ‘shining brow’ in Middle Welsh. In legend and medieval Welsh poetry, he is often referred to as Taliesin Ben Beirdd (‘Taliesin, Chief of Bards’ or chief of poets). According to legend Taliesin was adopted as a child by Elffin, the son of Gwyddno Garanhir, and prophesied the death of Maelgwn Gwynedd from the Yellow Plague. In later stories he became a mythic hero, companion of Bran the Blessed and King Arthur.

Here is the mythological Tale of Taliesin, as told by Peter Freeman:

At its heart the Tale of Taliesin is a story of rebirth. It is layered with symbolism and meaning on many levels, but for me, the ultimate message of the myth is that spiritual struggle, suffering and cleansing can transform us, at which point we are reborn with inner vision, as Taliesin, the Bard.

Ceridwen, the queen and a Goddess herself, cannot bear to look upon her ugly son Morfran, who represents the shadow side of human nature; the dark side of ourselves that we don’t want to see and find hard to look at.

Gwion, Morda and Ceridwen attending to the cauldron - Taliesin

Gwion, Morda and Ceridwen attending to the cauldron – Taliesin

Gwion Bach, the young boy who is tasked with guarding the magic elixir, but who consumes the three drops of inspiration to avoid a burn when the potion is accidentally spilt on his hand, ignites her wrath and the shape-shifting chase begins. The chase is akin to the vicissitudes of everyday life, the ebb and flow of our fortunes, whereby we have to take different forms (personality traits and strengths), in order to run with our challenges.

Eventually we are empowered and born with the gift of intuition, poetry, music, wisdom and a willingness to be of service to others.

This tale has inspired composers, musicians, singers and songwriters alike, and I was delighted to find this evocative concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra by Martin Romberg, with Anja Bachmann as the soloist:

Song by Damh The Bard – Ceridwen and Taliesin:

#Shakespeare400

It will soon be 400 years since William Shakespeare shuffled off his mortal coil on 23rd April 1616, and with iconic titles such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello and Macbeth to his quill it’s no wonder that his name will never be erased from the great canon of English literature. His works are  as relevant and loved today they were in Elizabethan times. Talk about staying power!

Trends and ‘celebrity’ status are transient, but true genius is enduring. No-one created characters like Shakespeare…

Procession of Characters from Shakespeare

Procession of Characters from Shakespeare

Historically, poets had glorified God, but our William had other ideas.  His muse was free and he did not censor her. Imagination was the foundation for his art. He wrote plays about love, hate, jealousy, ambition, power, greed, potions, witches, kings, queens, noblemen and women, fairies and everyday people. He needed to entertain the people so that he could make a living and support his young family back in Stratford.

However, in 1593, in the wake of the dreaded plague the theatres were closed and so ‘The Bard’ turned to poetry. His first poem was Venus and Adonis.

In the midst of the religious turmoil of the Tudor period, Shakespeare’s own distant cousin, Robert Southwell, was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He had sent his cousin W.S. a letter on the duty of poets, which was given to Queen Elizabeth I on the evening after his execution.

In 1594 under the patronage of Lord Hunston William formed a company of actors, mainly with his long-time friends, John Heminges, Henry Condell, William Sly, Augustine Phillips and Richard Burbage, who played many of his most memorable roles.

Shakespeare and his Contemporaries at The Mermaid Tavern by John Faed.

Shakespeare and his Contemporaries at The Mermaid Tavern by John Faed.

Sadly, William and Anne’s only son, Hamnet, died at the tender age of 11, so he was no stranger to heartache. It is thought that Sonnet 33 with its poignant verses could be describing Shakespeare’s grief, or potentially his despair at the rift in his relationship with the Earl of Southampton:

Sonnet 33

Full many a glorious morning have I seen

Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,

Kissing with golden face the meadows green,

Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;

Anon permit the basest clouds to ride

With ugly rack on his celestial face,

And from the forlorn world his visage hide,

Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:

Even so my sun one early morn did shine

With all triumphant splendour on my brow;

But out! alack! he was but one hour mine,

The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.

Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;

Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

In part 2 we’ll hear more from the ‘Bard of Bengal’ and the ‘Bard of Avon’, as well as some other much loved poets that have graced our lives since then.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore

#SundayBlogShare – Impressions of Cornwall on my Cornea… 🐚🌊⚓

Well, strictly speaking I guess it should be retina, but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it! After a week exploring yet more of south Cornwall I felt compelled to pen some prose about all things Cornish.

Porthcurno - wave

Cornwall reminds you in sometimes very bleak, stark terms, that away from urban spaces humans are vulnerable. Exposed to the elements we are at the mercy of nature, but for the most part, we are furnished beyond measure with every conceivable bucolic blessing.

Ancient, Celtic landscape demands attention and respect,

Ethereal, translucent light, any roaming spirit lifts,

Illuminating land of lighthouses, coast of craggy cliffs,

Treacherous, rocky graveyards to long wrecked ships,

Barrels of rum and sailors drowned, washed ashore…

LE - looking out towards longships lighthouse

Looking out to the Longships Lighthouse at Land’s End

Cold Celtic sea pounds sandy, surf-battered beaches,

Rolling waves – inevitable – powerful, break again and again…

Spewing white, foamy fingers as they meet rock and grain,

No land can defy its constant relentless erosion,

Every crash roars ‘brave me if you dare’!

Porthcurno - girls in water

Stunning sights around every curve, inlet and bay,

Quaint fishing harbours safely enclose painted boats,

Peeling, wooden hulls bobbing, heeling, always afloat

Gulls swoop and cry over glassy, glinting ripples

Delight in pasties, Cornish-cream teas and ice-cream.

Pretty Porthleven Harbour

Pretty Porthleven Harbour

For respite from epic, elemental coastal landscapes,

Seek out misty moors, carpeted with prickly heather,

Inviting inns provide shelter from inclement weather,

Discover the literary heritage of a proud pirate past,

It’s every hiker’s trail and a smuggler’s paradise.

Gunwalloe Church Cove

Gunwalloe Church Cove

Half ruined, silent chimneys protrude from green meadows

Home to birds, since their halcyon days of mining,

Rich seams of copper and tin, now empty lining

Deep shafts delve down from deserted engine houses

The wheals closed, bereft of investment and profit.

Wheal Coates, St. Agnes

Wheal Coates, St. Agnes

Windy lanes and high hedgerows separate patchwork fields,

Undulating hills adorned by herds of carefree cows,

Gnarled old trees hold secrets in their boughs,

Lost gardens, manicured lawns, flower filled biospheres,

Yet more views beckon to greedy irises…

Emily and Ruby on tree

Hidden horseshoe coves bask in sun and breeze,

Secret caves found, as gushing, tidal oceans bare,

Invigorate senses, inhale pure, salt infused air,

Tingling droplets moisten parched, urban skin

Sweet scent of the sea fills burgeoning lungs.

LE - view of coast

Lofty, stone towers and Church spires are dwarfed,

By tall wind turbines, with sharp white blades,

Solar panels reflect and fill farmers’ glades,

Ancient, rooted, mossy riverbanks trickle by unhindered,

Revel in her diversity and ever present views.

Clowance - Emily and Ruby on bridge

Irreverent skies change like chameleons, clear one moment,

Foreboding the next; clouds morphing into gangsters,

Cotton white puffs swell into angry grey monsters

Filling your vision as they darken and loom,

Ready to suddenly release their vast, watery weight.

Porthleven - dramatic skies and sea

Land before time; shaped by eons of cosmic forces.

Iconic, coastal scenery captures hearts and imagination,

Last bastion of English Riviera, gritty, island nation,

Before I depart, Cornwall bestows her treasure:

A lasting impression on my cornea…

View towards the Minack Theatre from Porthcurno Beach

View towards the Minack Theatre from Porthcurno Beach