Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

The Minstrel Boy

The Minstrel Boy to the war is gone;
In the ranks of death you will find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
Land of Song! said the warrior bard,
Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!

The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's chain
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said, No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!

I've been listening to Benjamin Britten's setting of this for days now: they sing a slightly throatier version in one of my favourite movies. More on Moore here.

This is how it all ends...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Zasu Pitts (1898-1963)

Veronica Lake (1919-1973)

née Constance Ockelman, which is a fine name for a patissier.

Thales of Miletus (c.624-c.546 BC)

It all starts here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eartha Kitt (1927-2008)

More information here and here. I've known 'Just an Old-Fashioned Girl' since I was very young, but it's only recently that I thought to find out where it came from.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Current Favourite Sentence

It is also known as Bamble disease, the devil's grip, devil's grippe, epidemic myalgia, epidemic pleurodynia, epidemic transient diaphragmatic spasm or The Grasp of the Phantom.

Boris Savinkov, El caballo amarillo

Our translation, now on sale in all good bookshops.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Baptiste, ou l'optimisme

Je me débarrassai avec beaucoup de peine de la foule de tant de cadavres sanglants entassés, et je me traînai sous un grand oranger au bord d'un ruisseau voisin ; j'y tombai d'effroi, de lassitude, d'horreur, de désespoir et de faim. Bientôt après, mes sens accablés se livrèrent à un sommeil qui tenait plus de l'évanouissement que du repos. J'étais dans cet état de faiblesse et d'insensibilité, entre la mort et la vie, quand je me sentis pressée de quelque chose qui s'agitait sur mon corps. J'ouvris les yeux, je vis un homme blanc et de bonne mine qui soupirait, et qui disait entre ses dents : O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!

It was with a great deal of effort that I escaped from that heap of so many bloody corpses, and I dragged myself into the shelter of a large orange tree by a neighbouring stream; there I fell down in horror, exhausted, terrified, desperate and hungry. Soon after, my overwhelmed senses gave themselves over to a sleep which was more like a fainting-fit than any sort of rest. In such a state of weakness and numbness, somewhere between life and death, I felt something press against my body. I opened my eyes and saw a young man, white and with a good countenance, who was sighing, and speaking through his teeth: O che sciagura d'essere senza coglioni!

This photo is in honour of Madrid Fashion Week: in the future, all cats will wear one of these.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

Poeta fit, non nascitur

"How shall I be a poet?
How shall I write in rhyme?
You told me once 'the very wish
Partook of the sublime.'
Then tell me how! Don't put me off
With your 'another time'!"

The old man smiled to see him,
To hear his sudden sally;
He liked the lad to speak his mind
And thought
"There's no hum-drum in him,
Nor any shilly-shally.

"And would you be a poet
Before you've been to school?
Ah, well! I hardly thought you
So absolute a fool.
First learn to be spasmodic --
A very simple rule.

"For first you write a sentence,
And then you chop it small;
Then mix the bits, and sort them out
Just as they chance to fall:
The order of the phrases makes
No difference at all.

"Then, if you'd be impressive,
Remember what I say,
That abstract qualities begin
With capitals alway:
The True, the Good, the Beautiful -
Those are the things that pay!

"Next, when we are describing
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things
With a sort of mental squint."

"For instance, if I wished, Sir,
Of mutton-pies to tell,
Should I say 'dreams of fleecy flocks
Pent in a wheaten cell'?"
"Why, yes," the old man said: "that phrase
Would answer very well.

"Then fourthly, there are epithets
That suit with any word -
As well as Harvey's Reading Sauce
With fish, or flesh, or bird -
Of these, 'wild,' 'lonely,' 'weary,' 'strange,'
Are much to be preferred."

"And will it do, O will it do
To take them in a lump --
As 'the wild man went his weary way
To a strange and lonely pump'?"
"Nay, nay! You must not hastily
To such conclusions jump.

"Such epithets, like pepper,
Give zest to what you write;
And, if you strew them sparely,
They whet the appetite:
But if you lay them on too thick,
You spoil the matter quite!

"Last, as to the arrangement:
Your reader, you should show him,
Must take what information he
Can get, and look for no im-
mature disclosure of the drift
And purpose of your poem.

"Therefore to test his patience -
How much he can endure -
Mention no places, names, or dates,
And evermore be sure
Throughout the poem to be found
Consistently obscure.

"First fix upon the limit
To which it shall extend:
Then fill it up with 'Padding'
(Beg some of any friend)
You place towards the end."

"And what is a Sensation,
Grandfather, tell me, pray?
I think I never heard the word
So used before to-day:
Be kind enough to mention one
'Exempli gratiâ'"

And the old man, looking sadly
Across the garden-lawn,
Where here and there a dew-drop
Yet glittered in the dawn,
"Go to the Adelphi,
And see the 'Colleen Bawn.'

"The word is due to Boucicault -
The theory is his,
Where Life becomes a Spasm,
And History a Whiz:
If that is not Sensation,
I don't know what it is,

"Now try your hand, ere Fancy
Have lost its present glow -"
"And then," his grandson added,
"We'll publish it, you know:
Green cloth - gold-lettered at the back -
In duodecimo!"

Then proudly smiled that old man
To see the eager lad
Rush madly for his pen and ink
And for his blotting-pad -
But, when he thought of publishing,
His face grew stern and sad.

Monday, October 12, 2009


We went to Toledo with my parents-in-law. Toledo is famous for being old and tasty, and indeed it has a very good cathedral:

lots of pleasant winding streets;

a synagogue full of ghosts;

lots of swords and ham.

It also has some right-thinking people (and some left-thinking people),

and a street which is full of poor arguments.

I preferred Segovia, but it was pretty.