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…

Variations on a Theme of Love

“The more we give love, the greater our capacity to do so.” ~ Dr. David R Hawkins

Gustav_Klimt_The KissAs Valentine’s Day is approaching, I thought I might as well jump on the love bandwagon!

I probably should have written this post in French; étant le vrai langage de l’amour.

In terms of the arts, nothing captures the many facets of love like music. Just as a single ray of light dances through the prisms of a diamond, casting a beautiful, ethereal spectrum; so can the notes of a captivating romance, passionate rhapsodie, reflective nocturne or a soulful sonata evoke certain emotional states in the listener. States that can place you into a poignant memory or an ardent fantasy, or the many moods in between.

And now for the scientific part:

A musical tone makes physical objects vibrate at its frequency, the phenomenon of sympathetic reverberation. A soprano breaks a wineglass with the right note as she makes unbending glass quiver along with her voice. Emotional tones in the brain establish a living harmony with the past in a similar way. The brain is not composed of string, and there are no oscillating fibers within the cranium. But in the nervous system, information echoes down the filaments that join harmonious neural networks. When an emotional chord is struck, it stirs to life past memories of the same feeling.

(A general Theory of Love)

Over to you Ludwig!

Now, us ladies love to be romanced (generally speaking), and I’m sure it’s true for most women that being desired by your sweetheart is somewhat of a potent aphrodisiac, and makes us every bit as enthusiastic about amatory pursuits as lovers, partners or husbands.

Frank Dicksee - Romeo-and-Juliet-ArtworkBut there’s more than one type of love, although it’s usually the romantic and erotic type of love that society pays the most attention to.  Even more so, at this time of year, thoughts turn to the intimate relationship between a man and a woman. Hall & Oates captured the sentiment in the lyrics of their song, Kiss On My List. 

Come the 14th not everyone will be fortunate enough to be with a loving partner, and Valentine’s Day can be quite depressing if you believe your happiness solely rests on a romantic connection. It’s an endless commercial love-fest of adverts, romcoms, red roses and card sales. I would never berate a man for giving me roses, (quite the opposite), but the expectation it puts on people means the true meaning of love can get distorted and exploited on Valentine’s Day.

It’s as much about friendship, companionship, kindness, sharing, trusting and understanding as it is about pleasures of the flesh; although who wouldn’t enjoy a night of unbridled lovemaking with their sweetheart? Moving on swiftly…

Even without love, the pleasure part can be addictive. I’m sure the sexual exploits of Giacoma Casanova left a trail of devastated hearts in women across 18th century Europe. Perhaps he was the first celebrity womaniser?

Love, or the lack of, affects everyone. In 450 B.C., Hippocrates stated that emotions emanate from the brain.  You and I are mammals, and as such we’re subject to limbic resonance and limbic regulation.

Love is, without doubt, the most powerful force on the planet. It can heal, sooth, excite, placate, reassure, create new life and put one into a state of ecstacy. However, those moments can be relatively short lived. For constant happiness to abide in your heart, you have to be able to extend love and forgiveness to yourself first.

The basis of all love is self-love. If you love and respect yourself, you will be able to pass on that energy to others. There’s nothing selfish or unhealthy about that. Self-loathing, guilt and repressed emotions are all blocks to giving and receiving such love.

“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.” ~ Erich Fromm (The Art of Loving).

The Jewish Bride, 1665 by Rembrandt van RijnThe immature love is a dependency. You love that person because of the way they make you feel, and when that feeling has gone you will feel bereft and perhaps then look for someone else who can provide those emotions. But the mature love means you love someone for who they are.

You are tender, kind and passionate, but do not depend on them for your own happiness. Instead, you treasure each moment with them, appreciating and respecting them for who they are, for their unique personality, talents, endearing qualities and flaws, wanting their happiness as much as your own.

That’s where the ‘variations’ come in. The basic ‘theme’ is the person you become by your lovingness towards your kin and the wider world, and with that comes the capacity to truly appreciate love in all its glorious forms: the sensual, the passionate, the platonic, the maternal, the highs, the lows and the middle ground.

vigee_lebrun_self_portrait_c1789Maternal love is so strong that nothing can break it, (perhaps with the exception of mental illness). Whilst your offspring may drive you crazy and push you to the limit on occasion, you know that no matter what, you will always love and protect them. Part of that love is knowing when to nurture, and when to promote independence and foster self-reliance. The love of parents plays a huge role in a child’s self-esteem and development. Never criticize the person, only cite the action.

And just as the unwavering love children are shown promotes harmony in families, so can the loving behaviour we all show to each other, to friends, aquaintances and even to total strangers, promote a healthy global community.

To be able to suspend our judgements of others and love unconditionally is no easy task, but it comes from the standpoint of compassion and understanding. We are all at different points in our spiritual evolution.

nelson-mandela-quote

I’ve long been a student of the late Dr. David R Hawkins, founder of the Institute for Advanced Spiritual Research, and author of many illuminating books. He also gave many brilliant lectures and interviews during his life. His book Power vs. Force totally changed my perspective on life (see Veritas Publishing).

He often cited instances where the caring and loving attitude of a doctor towards both the patient and their recovery would have a beneficial impact on their healing. An advocate of animals, he believed that the unconditional love shown by dogs to their human companions could add as much as 10 years to their life. Especially if that person was elderly, isolated and lonely.

“Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; actually, it is a state of awareness, a way of being in the world, a way of seeing oneself and others.” ~ David R. Hawkins

Here is a wonderful talk he gave on unconditional love:

There is so much mesmerising art and beautiful prose written about love, and that is what I will leave you with.

“I loved you first: but afterwards your love”

Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda. – Dante

Ogni altra cosa, ogni pensier va fore,

E sol ivi con voi rimansi amore. – Petrarca

I loved you first: but afterwards your love

Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song

As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.

Which owes the other most? my love was long,

And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;

I loved and guessed at you, you construed me

And loved me for what might or might not be –

Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.

For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’

With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,

For one is both and both are one in love:

Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’

Both have the strength and both the length thereof,

Both of us, of the love which makes us one.

Christina Rossetti

JW Waterhouse - the-awakening-of-adonis-1899

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

Kahlil Gibran, (The Prophet)

Cupid_in_a_Landscape_by Sodoma

As for me, Cupid has pierced my heart, his arrow is well and truly lodged!

Cupid, draw back your bow… The dulcet tones of the ‘king of soul’ Sam Cooke:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare (Sonnet 116)

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Love’s Philosophy:

C’est tous mes chéris, Je t’aime!

Thomas Tallis – If Ye Love Me:

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” ~ Jimi Hendrix