Posts Tagged ‘Cultural history’

johan-huizinga

I’d been email-chatting with an historian, one of a new group, with their own angle, agenda, their own name. I signed off saying I was just going to re-read some Huizinga.
And that was it. I did not hear from him again.
I had gone beyond the Pale.

That is the problem with Academies, they become so culty, hemmed-in with codes and etiquettes. I had obviously mentioned an historian who was not ‘in’ with their group.
I was going to re-read him because I found so much of value there. But it wasn’t what they valued.
He did it differently.
Heaven forbid.

Johan Huizinga is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his magisterial The Waning of the Middle Ages – the more correct title, apparently, is The Autumn of the Middle Ages – published in 1924. It is this book made the man’s name. He became a leading Dutch, indeed European, historian.

His dates are 1872 to 1945.
That last date in particular I want you to note: died February, 1945. He had been interned in 1942 after criticism of the invasion forces. Eventually, after much clamour and agitation by the international history community, he was released. He was released in that terrible winter of 1944/5.
It is now estimated that 10,000 Dutch people died that winter, after the Nazi’s cut off food and energy supply lines, in retaliation. As the Allied forces moved through France, the Belgian and Dutch citizens could see liberation so near, so inevitable. They cheered them on. When the advance was stalled in the Ardennes, the Nazi’s took their revenge.

He began his academic career as a student of Indo-Germanic languages; he then studied comparative linguistics. He taught Oriental Studies for many years. It was not until his 30s he turned to medieval studies. Here he excelled.

His book on the later middle ages gives us the clamour and spectacle of the period, the life-lived-in-public aspect.
He also fills in with some of the gaps in current information on, for instance, such figures as Georges Chastellain, and others grouped as the grands rhetoriqueurs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grands_Retoriqueurs.
This gives us, in turn, the real nature of the much acclaimed period. In this book he sets the increasing brutality and violence of the time against its constructed images of courtois and chivalry.
The book investigates the Burgundian Court in its positioning as potential alternate power-base to the royal court.
Professor Ralph Strom-Olsen of Madrid University, put up a very interesting paper on this: Georges Chastellain and the Language of Burgundian Historiography, that is available on Academia.edu from http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/

He has other books, influential in modern fields. Take Gaming – for this the ‘go to’ book is his Homo Ludens, published 1938.
Homo Ludens puts forward, and illustrates, the theory that our main and enduring activities as civilized people, is a form of play, serious play; that is, play with rules.
He traces word games as the origins of rhetoric, to Cicero’s monumental legal disputes; he sees here also the dress-up aspect in legal and royal court costume.

Playing and Knowing is an intriguing chapter, challenging us to consider acquisition of knowledge, experimentation, indeed logic, as forms of play-activity.
How can we know anything until we put aside certainty, the known, and step out into maybe-land? But this play is deadly serious: riddle-solving, the penalty of death, are part and parcel of the game.

The point is, he stimulates thought, he makes us look at our institutions differently.
The range of this subject can be seen to refer us back to to the subject of Professor Huizinga’s first PhD: The Role of the Jester in Indian Drama.
https://gamingconceptz.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/huizingas-magic-circle.html

You can go to the crazy end and cite the late 1960’s Playpower ideals here. Oz Magazine founder, Richard Neville’s book, Playpower, was the bible for attempts at neutralizing governments and their powers through play, through the skewing of seriousness and power politics, by returning to origins, and seeing what all its accumulated kudos really was.

Another book of his well worth searching out is Men and Ideas, first published in translation in 1959.
This collection of essays is concerned with ‘the task of cultural history.’
The books have dated, that is, their range of subject matter and methods of treatment, have been left behind by modern tastes.
But the general reader will not find a more stimulating essay on Peter Abelard, than this.

His essay on John of Salisbury is also outstanding.
Who was he? He was a 12th Century English cleric, who became apologist for Thomas a Beckett. From modest beginnings he worked his way up, studying under Peter Abelard, was secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Theobald; he even met who was to become known as St Bernard of Clairvaux.
John’s main legacy to us, however, is his Policraticus; the study is a slice of his time.
http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/salisbury-poli4.html
Chaucer valued it highly for its political relevance, its clear thinking, its civil conscience.

His essay on Erasmus, which was the heart of the collection… is it the translation? No; I think Johan Huizinga became exasperated with his subject. The reader comes away with the impression he blamed him for wasting his opportunities, for not being as good as he should have been.

I would dearly love to give as much information on his wife, Mary Schorer.

maryshuiz
Her story must be as fascinating, and as eventful.

Their son, Leonard Huizinga, became a prolific and popular Dutch novelist, with his comedic Adriaan and Olivier series.
There is also another son, of whom I can find nothing.

See also:
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/history/historian/johan_huizinga.html

 

One of the pleasures of library-exploring is turning up the odd document like this.

In a history of the local region (I am not from the area, and so it still had its strangeness) I came across a first-hand account of the entry of the Jacobite Rebels of 1745, into a small town in East Cheshire (Macclesfield).
I have excerpted as follows, keeping to the printed orthography the best that I can with a modern keyboard:

… the next morning [Sunday], the 1st instant [December, 1745], about 10 o’clock, we had notice from the country people that the Rebells were within a quarter of a mile of the town.

………………………………………………………………………

   When the first emotion of my own fright was a little abated, I ventured to peep out of a Garret window, but seeing my wife and her two sisters below at the Gates shame roused my courage, and I ventured to stand by ‘em, and saw the whole army pass by my own door, except a regiment of Horse commanded by Lord Elcho,
(https://www.electricscotland.com/books/david_lord_elcho.htm)

and some forces which came in late. But those I saw the next day. The quarter-masters first came into town, who, with their guard, were about 20 in number. They rode to the Cross and enquired for the constables.
…………………………………………………….. They enquir’d for Sir P Davenport’s house…
( he was away) …. and soon afterwards rode to his house, and after viewing it inside and out, marked the door with the word ‘Prince.’ I had now so much valour that I ventured to speak to one of ‘em, and enquir’d wt number of forces wo’d be in Town that day. He answ’d 10,000, upon wch I returned home much dismayed.
Immediately afterwds came in a regiment of Horse by way of advance guard, said to be commanded by the Duke of Perth ……………………………………
This regiment seem’d to be very poorly mounted. I believe for the most part were on such horses as they pickt up… but many of the men were lusty clever fellows. Not long after this, came foot in very regular order, with Bagpipes playing instead of drums, the colonels marching at the head of each respective regiment. And all the forces, as well as Horse and Foot, were in Highland dress, except the Bodyguards, which wore blue trimmed with red.
After about 4 or 5 Regiments had passed us by it was said the Prince was coming up…. and it happen’d that a halt was made just opposite my door for a minute or two, which gave us full opportunity of having a full view of him. He was in Highland Dress with a blue waistcote trim’d with silver, and had a blue Highland cap on, and was surrounded by almost 40 who appeared as his Guard.  He is a very handsome person of a man, rather tall, exactly proportioned, and walks very well …
He walked on foot from Manchester, as he had done, ‘tis said, all the way from Carlisle; and I believe they made their very best appearance into the Town, expecting to be received as at Manchester; but there was a profound silence, and nothing to be seen on the countenances on the Inhabitants but horror and amazement…..

… an order came to the Mayor to proclaim the Pretender… Poor Mr Mayor was obliged to be at it…They made the Town Clerk repeat the Proclamation after ‘em….

   Soon after the advanced guard came into town there was a young Lowlander (but in Highland Dress) quartered himself and horse upon us… His dress was very unpromising, but his manner shewed he had had a genteel education and was a person of some account. As he was exceeding civil, the women took courage and soon fell into discourse with him. He stood at the gate during the greater part of the procession, by which means we had an opportunity of learning the names of the Chiefs as they passed by … Many of the officers appeared very well – some few indeed were very old – in particular Glenbuckett who seemed to be 80 at the least, and bended almost double on horseback… he had been bedridden three years before the Prince’s son arrived in Scotland…
Glenbuchat:
http://glenbuchatheritage.com/picture/number2205.asp
58 John Gordon 'Old Genbucket'


Many of the common men, tho’ dirty and shabby, were lusty fellows. There were many old men amongst the common soldiers… It was dark before the artillery came in, and as it grew duskish orders were given that the inhabitants should illuminate their houses upon pain of military execution…
The young Lowlander… whilst at dinner talked pretty freely, and said Manchester was a glorious town… he said it was strange the English could not see their own interest (by not joining the Scots): We had not been joined by 5 English men since we came from Scotland, but thought if they co’d get into Wales they should be joined by many there.

……………………………………………………………………….

… My sister Molly observed that he had said nothing of his… Religion. … ‘I can assure you (his response) ‘he’s no more a Bigot in matters of religion than myself, who am a Protestant.’ My wife amongst other discourse mentioned Religion and the confusion the people were in at Church that morning when they came in. Upon which he asked her – ‘ Well Madam, and who did you pray for?’ – Says she, ‘for his Majesty King George.’ Upon which he said, ‘You did very right’; but, says she,, ‘supposing you had come here last night, should we have been interrupted in our prayers by any particular directions?’ ‘No, the Minister would have been ordered to pray for the King without naming any names, as had been done at Kendal Church the last Sunday.’

……………………………………………………………………

As to their number, there was no judging of it from their March into the town, and they seemed to be very artful in concealing their numbers. They bespoke billets for 10,000; and said 5,000 would come in next day, but for my own part I don’t think they exceed 6,000 in the whole.

 

My document breaks off here.
The distances they covered, and times given for travelling, are very interesting.

From Kendal to Macclesfield in one week.
The route is at times relatively level, but it is by no means straight, and interrupted by hilly ground: the Trough of Bowland for one, and south of Manchester rambles around the foothills of the Peak District.
The modern road system gives the distance as 92 miles.

They entered the Manchester environs on November 23rd. Here they were joined by 300 volunteers. If we compare this with the statement, We had not been joined by 5 English men since we came from Scotland, then we can only assume the volunteers were fellow Scots, or Irish workers based in Manchester.

From Macclesfield to Derby is a relatively shorter distance: 44 miles.
They arrived there on December 4 to 6th.
It was in Derby, with the absence of reinforcements, and the fabled Welsh meet-up having fallen through, that the march on London was abandoned.
Cities were hubs of a wide range of nationalities seeking work. Even so, it must have been estimated that to reach Birmingham, the next major centre on their route, would not have proved worthwhile.
By this time the English government had revived from their shock, and coordinated a counter-response.

The Prince returned to Scotland, arriving in Glasgow on 26th December.

If you follow this link it gives the route of the march from Ashbourne in Derbyshire, to Derby.

www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/openmap?openform&route=bonnie-prince-charlie-walk-walking-route

As you can see it was by no means an easy or straightforward route.
I can only marvel at the stamina of those ‘lusty men.’

For the outcome, follow this link:

http://www.northumbrianjacobites.org.uk/pages/detail_page.php?id=57&section=25

It is revealing what the young Lowlander says about religion: the fear of another series of bloody Catholic-Protestant reprisals was one of the major concerns that kept English people from joining the rebellion. It was only four generations after the Civil War, and the horror of that period must have been still working its way through their collective psyches.
How reliable were his comments? Would the situation have remained so?

Scotland’s Merlin, A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins, by Tim Clarkson. Published by John Donald, of the Birlinn Limited imprint, 2016.
ISBN 97819065669991

This is a meticulously researched and even-handed investigation of the Merlin phenomenon.

Our story comes from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book, Historia Regius Brittania, AD 1139. The Merlin and also Arthurian topics were based on early Welsh sources.Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Arthurian characters were then transformed through the French chanson de geste. Their Vulgate Cycle became a magnificent and expanding series of tales around King Arthur, his court, and chivalry, and all in a British (southern) setting.
Geoffrey of Monmouth first published a collection, Phophetiae Merlini, in AD 1130.

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s main book mentioned Merlin only marginally. He later dedicated a whole tale to his story, Vita Merlini. This tale was not as popular as the earlier book; the tale was set in southern Scotland.
Sources used the name Myrddin Wyllt, for this figure. It was this Welsh form, Myrddin, that supposedly gave the name to Carmarthen, in south Wales: Caer Myrrddin ie the castle of Myrddin.
The Merlin story also occured in earlier Irish sources.

The Scottish Merlin story dates from the 6th century AD, where the Merlin character, known as Lailoken,  runs maddened from the carnage of the battle of Arfderdd (AD 573). He lived in the forests and woods of Celibon in southern Scotland as a madman, spouting prophecies. His sister persuaded the king to help her find him and bring him back. His prophecies became famous. He later returned to the woods.

The source this Scottish tale drew upon was the St Kentigern tale of Lailoken, the madman in the woods. Connected with this tale is the 9/10 century Irish King Sweeney/Suibhne tale. Once again there is the warrior running maddened from the battle, but this time through being cursed by St Ronan. He was a prince/chieftain. There are two very moving episodes where his wife contacted him, to bring him back into the world of people. The first one Sweeney turned away from her; the second time he turned to her, but she had turned from him thinking him beyond help.
Sweeney met Lailoken, who was called Alladhan in the tale, on his sojourn in Britain. The region is identified as the south Strathclyde region.

The prophecies, Tim Clarkson, notes, were back-referenced: writers gave historical accounts of the figure, then fitted prophecies to past events (mostly AD 12th century local events).
The supernatural element to the story is an essential part, however.
The later Thomas the Rhymer legend took over a lot of the Lailoken characteristics.

The major researcher of the Merlin story was the Victorian scholar, William Forbes Skene. He went so far as to identify the site of Lailoken’s immediate locale, and supposed grave. He visited the most likely place for the tumultuous battle of Arfderydd, and identified from scattered sources the major figures of the battle.

The name can be traced back:
Merlin
Myrddin Wyllt (Myrddin the mad)
(Alladhan – Irish through the Dal Riata cultural and settlement connection)
Lailoken
Llallogan (Cumbric language)

2
What we now know of the Merlin story seems to be the remnants of a much older and more complex one.
Merlin, the wizard and prophet, was confidante of King Arthur. In old age he was lured away into the woods by Morgana La Fay/Vivian and imprisoned within a tree/cave.

It is always these three, though: the man who runs mad in the woods, the king/chief who he was close to, and the woman who is wife, sister, or lover.

There was something niggling me about framework of this tale. What did it remind me of?
It was the Gilgamesh story, all the way from 1800BCE, and what is now Iraq. Gilgamesh and his companion the wild man, Enkidu.

Tim Clarkson notes the similarity of basic theme, but not the three-person structure.

Enkidu was lured from his wild life and into Uruk with Gilgamesh, by the temple ‘prostitute’ Shamesh. On Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh himself went wandering in Enkidu’s wilderness. He did not begin to prophesy, but he did go to seek out immortality. Already part god, he sought out the only survivor of the Flood to learn the secret of not-dying. He had to seek admittance from Siduri, the keeper of the tavern at the end of the world, to the domicile of the one survivor.
She allowed him through, but it was refused him.
One version has Gilgamesh later become a king of the Underworld, lord of the dead.

The Gilgamesh tale hinges on the roles of women: Enkidu accented to Shamhat; Gilgamesh refused the advances of love goddess Ishtar. That refusal cost him Enkidu, his state of mind, and his city of Uruk.
Gilgamesh spurned Ishtar’s advances; he sought out Siduri.

Contemporary with this tale is a tale from the Middle Egyptian period, The Tale of Sinuhe.
In this tale Sinuhe was returning from fighting in North Africa with the king’s son and their army. He overheard a messenger to the king’s son telling of the death of the king. The news caused him to lose his mind, and he wandered off. He wandered ‘like a rudderless barge’ and eventually ended up as warrior to a chieftain in what became Syria/Lebanon. Eventually he recontacted the new king, and was welcomed back to Egypt having won new territories for the king.
There is no prophesying, or seeking wisdom or secrets.

There are aspects of the tale, however, that suggest his wanderings as a vision of the realm of the dead, a traverse through the Underworld. He ‘comes forth by day’ back in Egypt of the semi-divine ruler, the new king.

 

How far can we take this?

Think of the Buddha in 5thBCE India: a prince who wanders off with other ascetics into the wilds. An extreme ascetic, he eventually accepted a bowl of food from a woman: In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice from a village girl named Sujata. Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish.
He realised from this that extreme fasting was not the way, that there had to be a Middle Way – he went on to develop his Middle Way, and with followers.
Think of Jesus of Nazareth, once again in the wilderness, and preaching, praying. Think of his relationship with both Herod, and indeed, God. And think of the relationship with Mary Magdalen. Think of him spurning Satan in the wilderness.

Did both of these life stories purposely use the older tale of the madman/holy fool/seeker of mysteries in the wildness?

Ok, maybe the Jesus one is stretching it. But Wiki does give us this:

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_man):
The description of Nebuchadnezzar II in the Book of Daniel (2nd century BC) greatly influenced the medieval European concepts. Daniel 4 depicts God humbling the Babylonian king for his boastfulness; stricken mad and ejected from human society, he grows hair on his body and lives like a beast. This image was popular in medieval depictions of Nebuchadnezzar. Similarly, late medieval legends of Saint John Chrysostom (died 407) describe the saint’s asceticism as making him so isolated and feral that hunters who capture him cannot tell if he is man or beast.

And, of course, Esau was an hairy man.

In the Greek world the figure of Heracles seems closest to the wild man in the woods. He does seem to have similarities in some respects to the earlier Enkidu figure.
The Roman world gives us Silvanus – although, as protector of woods, there is an echo here of the role of Humbaba, the cedar wood ogre of the Gilgamesh tale.

There are copious examples of ‘wild man’ tales – some become blended with other tales: Robin Hood, maybe even Hereward the Wake fits here. Think of William Tell. The madman element is essential, though, and these tales seem to omit that.

Where, if at all, does the Green Man figure fit into the story? He is more like the Roman Silvanus. Maybe that was the source of the Green Man legend: left-overs once again of Roman occupation, or even of Romans who stayed on after the dissolution.

What was it about the Lailoken tale that made it so memorable, though? There must have been many driven mad by battle over the centuries.
Was it the St Kentigern connection, hagiographic reverence, and the huge trade in Saint’s stories?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/8 the tribal chief, and the wife/sister/lover?

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father-in-law died last year. He was 96.
So we had his house to sell – not done this before. The rather nebulous local couple, the buyers, wouldn’t say if they wanted furniture (new family). All the kitchen stuff, yes. No contact. Oh well.
First week this year we had our house roof retiled – been dreading it. An exhausting experience.
‘Now we can relax,’ we said.
An email: the buyers want to move in asap: 23rd Jan. Yikes! 6 days. My f-i-law had kept Everything, neatly ordered, but… everything. In a panic to clear the place we had to let important stuff go. We knocked ourselves up getting it ready. Took the keys to the estate agents (their rapacious natures came to fore – we’d still had to leave things because we don’t have, nor can afford, transport).
‘It’s 25th, they said. We have their email for 23rd. Went to notify the conveyancers that we’d handed the keys in.
‘Ah,’ they said, ‘we’d sent an email this morning…’ (we’d left by then). ‘It’s been changed to the 12th Feb.’
All those papers, items, we’d had to let go….
It has now moved to the 6th Feb. Ok, that’s doable.
Only we both came down with exhaustion, and a Winter bug – as time ticks away.

I was thinking, are there loose parallels here with the Brexit fiasco? The rather nebulous buyers image, for one: the unknown before us; those calling the shots.
We’d met a number of Leavers recently – and, boy, are they mad! They are furious. They are adamant, dug-in, come what may. No negotiation.
For whatever reason, 52% of people who voted want Out. It shocked us all. What infuriates them most is that there was No Plan. There’d be to hell to pay if the govt reneges on this deal. A new Ref would probably be the same result.
Because people don’t like to be pushed about, basically. And hurt pride? Yes; they know they have been made fools of. This arrogant stubbornness is the flip-side of the so-called ‘bulldog spirit.’
As for us: we will have to try and snatch-back as many worthwhile things out the jaws of suicidal, ruinous, Brexit.
But I wouldn’t trust my judgement, or that of anyone I have met, to decide on this vitally important topic. There are so many hidden levels of investment – from greedy-eyed Brexit MPs, making a killing off other’s misery, to rumoured ‘special relationships.’
So, who would I trust? Ah, yes, that question.
‘If Corbyn gets in,’ one Leaver said, ‘he’d bring the communists in.’
‘I didn’t think there were any of those left,’ I quipped. He chose not to hear. And Theresa May – surprised everyone with her tenacity, but there’s No Plan B. She was never a decision-maker.
I get the impression she has tried to appease both sides, and fallen down the gap in between.

I rather like that image: between two stools. An image doesn’t claim to special insight, truth, veracity; it just to be striking.
This is why the best cartoons are so important. They catch a fleeting moment, expression, in an image, and open it up. We love the entertainment an image gives. They can please, but also mislead. They don’t change anything, but they do ease the tension, allow in nuances.

And I feel for Northern Ireland and Eire in Brexit: what an impossible situation!
Scotland… I am a little wary. The hard-line Independence people are as furious and one-dimensional as the Leavers.
Think of them as the ‘Scots Wha-Haers’ that the great Scottish writer Hugh MacDiamid inveighed against, in his 1926, A Drunk Man Looks At A Thistle.

‘Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled’ (The Brus, by John Barbour, 1375: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/44292/44292-h/44292-h.htm
And get that date: 1375, ye Chaucerians) as the only criteria for Scottish identity?
And yet, I always preferred William Wallace to Robert the Bruce: Wallace, a man of the people, crushed by the English. And is there an echo of that ultimate religious sacrifice in that?
It is said the Independence Referendum in Scotland failed because the Media, Arts, Medicine, Health, Research, etc, were afraid of being shut off from sources of research grants, and knowledge.
Ahem? Nudge, nudge? But then the Tory Party of UK has  gone out of it way to ignore anything to do with Scotland, so…

The people: what are we, and where are we now?

On William Wallace: if anyone has a tour of the Houses of Parliament, stop in Westminster Hall for moment, because that is where Wallace was tried, hung, drawn, and quartered. Some authorities have it as Smithfield: See Wiki for English vindictiveness and vengeance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wallace

I’ve stood out by Stirling Castle, and gazed over the Firth of Forth to the Wallace memorial. It is a tower, set against high, dark, hills.
I felt a shiver of awe.

In Woollaton hall, Nottingham, UK, was a crate labelled ‘Unimportant Documents.’
It was only rediscovered in 1911. Among these documents was a letter by King Henry VIII. Also there, was the only surviving copy of an old French roman, dating from the latter half of the Thirteenth Century. That was La Romance de Silence, written in octosyllabic verse, and coming in at around 365 pages.
A translation was published for the first time in 1927, and another edition in 1972.

See, also, Sarah Roche-Mahdi’s book on the work from 1992, with facing-page translation:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silence-Thirteenth-century-Romance-Medieval-Studies/dp/0870135430

1

Le Roman de Silence is unique, so far, in romance literature.

Silence is a girl who is brought up as a boy, and sworn to silence lest she betray her real gender, and lose all inheritance rights.
It is a tale of cross-dressing and gender-transformation, as modern parlance would cast it. These descriptions do not do justice to the tale, though.

Silence was the daughter of Cador, Earl of Cornwall, and his wife, King Evan’s daughter, Eufemie.
The English king of the time, Evan, did not recognise female inheritance of titles or estates.
In order for the line of Cador to continue, their daughter, who had no name up to that point, had to therefore assume male roles, and take on a male heir’s character and duties. These included a knight’s training.
Nature had stepped in early on and made Silence of most beautiful appearance. One characteristic he/she was also known for was the ability to sing and play the harp with great sweetness. This was the accomplishment of the aristocratic knight, of course, but in this as in courage and fighting ability, Silence proved  more than capable.

It would become necessary, in time, to marry; the complications of the role built up as time went on and social and familial duties and demands become more urgent.
And always, in the sidelines, Nature personified, was reaching out an imperious hand in order to right the order of things.

What was the right order of things? Was it right for King Evan to disinherit women? The ‘order’ of the time of composition was already being questioned in such works as this. Earlier, Marie de France had set her own period against the reflection of an older more noble, chivalrous time: the Arthurian template. No doubt Arthurian times, had they existed, would have been found wanting against another, older period.

The narrative goes on: Silence absconded with a group of Jongleurs her mother and father had invited to their court. In grief all Jongleurs were banished from the land. For four years under the name of Malduit, Silence learned their trade, but outshone them. Jealousy crept in, and to avoid being killed by them once again he/she had to run. She re-entered her father’s court unrecognised. Her mother took a fancy, however, and tried to seduce him/her. Silence once again had to leave – this time to the French court. His/her mother had sent a letter requesting the French king behead Malduit/Silence.
War had broken out in England, and Silence the knight was summoned home. The story was then discovered.

Somewhere undisclosed along the line of the narrative Cador and Eufemie, Count and Countess of Cornwall, had become the English King and Queen.
Why this new king did not revoke the inheritance ruling is not questioned. The order of things must be kept, perhaps, and such as a revocation was seen as a contrary measure. War, fighting, and beheading of suitors who reject advances was normal.
Normality, it is indicated, was violated early-on when Cador was struck low by dragon venom before he and Eufemie were married, and Silence conceived. Here is the source of the tragedy, the supernatural agency of a dragon.

To get back to Silence: the Queen once again, even knowing his/her identity, made a pass at Silence in his/her role as a hugely successful knight. It had to be rejected. Thereby began the undoing: she cajoled the King to send Silence on a mission to capture Merlin. Which she also accomplished – however, it was part of Merlin’s magic that he could only be captured by a woman.
In turn, though, Merlin revealed that the Queen was having an affair, and that her lover was a man who was able to meet her because he dressed as a nun.

Silentius, the man, was revealed publicly to be Silentia, a woman.

2

There are a number of literary instances of women taking on men’s guises – often in pirating, to enter that most hyper-male of male roles: Anne Bonny; the ballad Sweet Polly Oliver…. Shakespeare makes heavy use of instances of ambivalence. But men taking on women’s guise? That is portrayed as a great deal more unsettling.

To assume a male role is to step up; to assume a female’s role, to step down. Status. Female impersonatators are a source of fun, ridicule, mockery, and beyond ‘normal’. They are funny because they mock further the ‘weak’ who cannot protect themselves. Women’s only armour is their tongue: a woman’s tongue. Here we hear echoes of the split tongue of the snake, of That snake. But the woman of the Roman is silenced; this is a further subversion of roles. Without the power of position, as Queen, Silence must take on the strength and skill of a man. And that can be learned, by either gender.
This is what G R R Martin fudged, with Arya Stark in Song of Ice and Fire: she never quite achieved the bodily strength to be a knight. An assassin’s role was very different.

Male impersonators carry a different charge, also unsettling but to a different degree, and more dangerous because more hidden. It is as though the sacrosanct has been sacked, secrets raided. Tiresias is a classic example; here we have all the indications of the deepest secrets that hold order in place being revealed. Tiresias is the Prometheus of the social rather than cosmic order.

The classic Scottish ballad, The Wife of Auctermuchty, is a case of role reversal. As usual with ballads of this type the wife in the male role outdoes him in strength, skill and endurance.
It could be said that these ballads help stabilise order by preventing male engrandisement from tipping the keen and even balance between the sexes. The male has to learn to laugh at his pretensions, that way the tension is eased, and relations find a more sure, I would like to say equal, footing.

A work like La Roman de Silence uses the basic structure of these ballads, but develops it, complicates the issues, introduces wider references and ramifications.

So what of our own call for greater acceptance of diversity? Trans and gender ambivalence have always been part of humanity: degrees of gender identity are all that exist. And even those degrees fluctuate constantly; all is in motion. Do we conceive of the universe in our image, or our image in what we discover of the universe?
Ambivalence, surely, is the real natural order.

3

Arthurian names and scenes permeate the romance. It is probably a later off-shoot of the French Arthurian vulgate of material.
The author of the Romance is credited to be Heldris of Cornwall, and the Cornish setting and connections tie-in with the Arthurian settings, as well as the great work, Tristan and Iseault.
I think we need not trouble ourselves over the character of G R R Martin’s Brienne of Tark, from his Songs of Ice and Fire marathon. Brienne’s gender identity was never in question, whereas Silence has none of the recognised woman-identifiers such as sewing, which was so essential a craft-necessity of the period.

Henrietta Leyser, in Medieval Women, A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 (Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1995), writes:
… the triumph of Nurture over Nature, in the form of Silence’s successes as a hero, serves to demonstrate that, however different the parameters, medieval interest in debates about the roles which women and men were brought up to play could be every bit as keen as our own.‘ (P 141)

For further resources, see:
http://medievalsourcesbibliography.org/sources.php?id=2146115303

For stylistic analyses promising to resolve some of the inherent ambivalences of the character role of Silence, see:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/27870893?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Here are many stimulating essays on the work:
https://muse.jhu.edu/issue/22811

Wiki, as always, has much valuable material, as well as links, on the work:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Roman_de_Silence

The year was 1951, and Britain’s slump after the war was hitting hard. It was made worse by major problems in the British-Persian oil agreement: BP was in a fix, one of many to come.

Image result for dylan thomas

Dylan Thomas, impecunious as ever, had a track record by then of documentary film and filmscript work. He has always ready for more work, more money.
And so, for five weeks from January 1951, he and a film crew et al, decamped to Persia as then was, to create a piece promoting BP.

What follows are extracts from a meeting with Dylan Thomas in Persia. It is quite a read in its entirety. See:

https://iran.britishcounchttps://iran.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/underline2_journeys_issue_download_version_2018_english_0.pdfil.org/sites/default/files/underline2_journeys_issue_download_version_2018_english_0.pdf

Apologies in advance for any infringements, but this is a story well worth the telling.

Extracts

I was now among these casual friends when Mr Abu-Saeedi introduced me, in English, to the English man and him to me, in Persian and said “this is Mr Thomas who writes poetry in English and now he is here to write the script of an educational film.” It was obvious why he introduced him to me in Persian.
I said in English “pleased to meet you”, and shook his hand. I didn’t have anything else to say, so I  sat quietly like the others – waiting to see what would happen. I thought, how wasteful it was to drag me here from my home to sit here, not knowing what to say or do! I thought this was not right – such an awkward silence, so I said “I was told that you write poetry?” He nodded his head and said “that’s right”, but said it in a way that implied “what else should I do?” I said, “is your name Thomas?” He simply nodded his head and said “that’s right.”
I said, “Are you a relation of Daylon Thomas?”
He said, “Dylan”, correcting my pronunciation, and added “I am Dylan Thomas!”
I was, at first, taken aback but soon realised that although his face was puffed up and had lost some of his youthfulness, it was the same face I had seen as a younger man, then minus the effects of beer drinking. I had first come across his poetry about three years previously in Horizon. I loved the sound and the music of his precise words, especially when recited aloud. I enjoyed his easy flowing speech, his sensitivity, his searching vision and well-chosen meanings. I liked his quick arrow-like images which were soothing and connected to the nerves. His sparkling words, like meteors or shooting stars at night, were quick and hurried, while at the same time they were both sharp and comforting. I had read and admired him and his poetry with so much passion that I had learned some of the poems by heart and now that, surprised and puzzled, I saw him sitting in front of me, I was taken aback and was looking at him, suddenly I started reciting a few lines of one of his poems in English:
The hand that signed the paper felled a city; Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath, Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country; These five kings did a king to death.
It was his turn now to be taken aback and stare at me with bright penetrating eyes, full of mute questions. You could interpret his looks however you wanted! I didn’t know what he wanted or what he thought of me reciting his own poetry? His looks made me regret my action, so I said “I am sorry”, but I didn’t know what I was sorry for? Had I shocked him, in this strange place? I knew he had written better poems, and I remembered some of them but (I didn’t know why) unconsciously, I chose to recite that one. Perhaps I thought this one was better fitted to my political leanings. His look was surprised and puzzled as well as showing signs of both gratification and irritation, which quickly and quietly gave way to acceptance of what had just happened – something which was harmless but perhaps opportune.  Meanwhile I heard Hallat’s voice saying something which I didn’t catch or understand. At this my colleagues started laughing. “Why are you laughing?”, I asked. The  answer I got again took the form of collective laughter. I said “ Please don’t laugh, it is not right, our Guest might think you are mocking him?”

……….

The barman came to take our orders. He (Thomas) wanted beer so I ordered McEwans for him which is made from roasted barley in Scotland and is brown (coffee-coloured). He was in deep thought but no longer had that puzzled and depressed look which he had in the office. He asked “In which country is Shiraz?”
I said “this country.”
He said “This one – Persia?”
I said “In fact today’s Shiraz was the capital of the original Persia in Herodotus’ History and for the Greeks. Geographically is not far from here but its history goes back a very along time.”
The bar attendant brought the beer quickly. Only a few of his customers were left and his shift had finished and it was time for him to go home. Thomas lifted his glass, tasted the beer then drank a gulp.
He asked “When was the Norman invasion?”
It was obvious from the tone of his voice, he wasn’t testing me. He was asking. I thought a little  – I couldn’t remember the exact date so I said “I think in 1066 or perhaps 1044, around that time anyway.”
He had stretched out his legs side by side and had laid his hands on his stomach, and this time he asked “When was Chaucer?”
I couldn’t remember that at all. I was ignorant of the dates of both his birth and death. I hadn’t even read anything by Chaucer, I only knew he existed and whatever I had seen by him did not correspond to present day English. Again I thought his question was not to examine me but he was simply asking. I said “Two or three hundred years after Hafiz.”
He asked “When did he die?”
I said “Hafiz?”
He said “Hafiz?”
I added “The best of all the poets. We call him the poet of the unseen world,”
He said “I haven’t heard of him.”
I thought to myself, hearing about a poet is not relevant to knowing one.
He asked “where did he come from?”
I said “Shiraz, the same Shiraz.”
“Did he drink the same wine?” There was a kind slyness in his voice.
I said “all the time, without a break.”
“That much!” he said, “Wasn’t he a Moslem?”
“He knew the Koran by heart. In fact his name means somebody who knows the Koran by heart. A big feat, ha!”
He said “and he also drank constantly?”
I said “Perhaps not constantly, but without a doubt he drank, and sometimes when he couldn’t find any wine– this I don’t believe, he drunk the dregs from the bottom of an earthen barrel.”
“An earthen barrel?”, he said.
“Earthen barrels or vats are used here to produce wine in.”
I understood why he was puzzled, so I said, “We don’t have wooden barrels here. We make wine in earthen ones.”
“Interesting!”
“It does not have the taste or the smell of the Oak but it is protected from the heat. It is not customary to make barrels from Oak. There are very few Oak trees here, if any at all , but we have an abundance of earthen clay. We are from the earth, isn’t that so?”
He said “Interesting!”
I said “Everything is made of clay, wherever you travel here you see the houses are made of clay and mud bricks. We have a narrow strip of jungle by the side of the Caspian Sea – the rest is deserts, mountains and stones. Building with mud is a lot easier than building with stones despite having a lot of stony mountains. From the time of Alexander onwards there are no houses, palaces or temples made of stones here. They are all made of clay – baked or not. We come from the earth and go back to the earth and there is nothing left of us when we go. That’s how it is, isn’t it?”
“Interesting!” His bright eyes showed that it wasn’t from politeness that he said this.
I said “the same Hafiz says “This natural layout and the field are my royal hall,” and “The sky is my hat.” I translated these quickly and haphazardly and not in very good English. I said “I am sorry – with my broken English and not put into a good form it doesn’t sound like poetry!”
He nodded his head and said “It doesn’t matter.” He was consoling me.

……….

He said “In any case, words are our tools! Anyway, it was extraordinary.”
I wanted to say how nice it was that he had replaced ‘interesting’ with ‘extraordinary’ but instead I  said “but ‘good’ is more relevant to the poet’s time, his feelings and imagination and pairing the words with their specific beats and sounds that sometimes it rises to an unparalleled and powerful level – becomes unique.”
He said “Abstraction?”
I answered “Up to a certain point.”
He asked “Music?”
I didn’t understand, so I asked ”What do you mean?”
He said “The human voice instead of a musical instrument.”
“Song?”
He said “I mean pronunciation of the words instead of melody (tune) and song.”
I said “Not to that extent, but sometimes close to it. To the extent that words and their pairing, notwithstanding their rapture (mood, ecstasy), still have meaning, although very often they struggle. With primitive feelings it is natural that they should struggle more in meaning.”
He said “My intention is a more serious form of abstraction – to take the word to a place, for example like Bach does in music.”
I said “I haven’t heard anything by Bach.”
He was taken aback and with surprise said “No?”
I said “No, except for a short piece.”
He said “He (Bach) wrote one thousand and thirty pieces of work.”
It was as if he was chiding me emphatically for not knowing Bach.
I said “That many? Why so much?”
He said “Some of them are 3-4 hours long.” The colour of reproach was in his voice. Again with surprise he said “No?”
I said “I said no, except for one. I have a record. It only takes 3-4 minutes. It is the sound track of the film Fantasia.” Then I added “There is a lot of music that many people haven’t heard at all, isn’t that so?”
He said “Yes.” It was as if because he’d forgiven me, that he was agreeing with me. Perhaps he understood I was referring to a lot of things that he himself hadn’t heard.
I said “Anyway music is essentially an abstraction.”
He nodded his head meaning ‘perhaps’ or ‘it is’, but it seemed that his mind was elsewhere.
I said “In singing, in between the verses and words we say del ay del (heart-o-heart), and jaanam, janaam (my love, my love) to give substance to the sound.” Then I translated these two phrases and asked him “Is this abstraction? Did you mean this?”
He nodded his head meaning ‘perhaps’ or it is ‘possible’ or perhaps ‘you exaggerate’ or ‘it is meaningless.’
I said “It’s closer to abstraction but not in the way you meant it. Perhaps it cannot be achieved with words at all.”
He said “They tried to do it, or like in paintings.”
I said “Poems close to abstraction are a kind of painting in Persian, even when the description is real. In our paintings from classical times, there has never been an attempt to paint the real. With the word ‘painting’ the whole panorama (perspective) has become an abstraction.  But the arrangement of the words is essential in poetry. The arrangement of the original work has, in itself, become an abstraction which we call verse. They can even be called poetry.” I wasn’t asking that they can be called poetry.
He said “It depends, why not? They say it’s possible, not always, but it is possible – not completely – up to a certain extent.”
I said “In any case, abstraction existed in some of our paintings. There has never been an attempt to paint realistically. Religious prohibition also prevented it.”
He said “Religious prohibition against painting also exists in the Torah.”
I said “Some of our religious laws are very like those in the Torah.”
He said “They say it all comes from God.”
I said “They say it all comes from God.”
Again he stared at me sharply. We laughed.
I said “From where and with what reason, the Gods in different religions are not the same. One has seven or eight arms, one has a son, one is born and not born -alone”.
He said “Being alone is more correct. His hands are free no matter how many he has”.
It was later, much later that I understood what he meant. I said “But it is more difficult”. He looked at me and smiled, nodded his head and said “It is more beautiful. It needs more beauty, It creates.”
I said “Being alone or having many hands?”
He laughed and said “Not creating similar but creating correctly needs more beauty.”
I said “It needs explanation. In our paintings, the trees, flowers, grass, mountains, houses, birds, clouds, dragons and images of not only humans are all distinguished by their colours. Colours are not realistic either. Language is used in this way. Everything in our paintings is unlike the reality of objects. They are not similar either.”
He said “Hell!”
It was sudden. It made me laugh. I liked it. I didn’t say anything.
He said “It is a new creation. Why should it be similar? Anything which exists, exists anyway. Why imitate it? A new creation. A second creation – new. Made unique by sweeping away the unnecessary extras. Reaching the truth. With two, three dimensions creating more. It’s a personal vision of imagination and substance . A vision of understanding and pure feeling. Personal, intimate, unique”.

And Persia – what an incredibly long and cultured history!

 

 

 

Harald Harada – they don’t make them like that any more.
Born 1015, died 1066.
His real name was Harald Sigurdsson, son of a king of Norway. He ascended the throne himself in 1047.

1
In 1030 he fought on the battle of Stiklestad, aged 15. It didn’t go well for him, and the contending forces of Danish king Cnut the Great drove him and his retinue into exile. He didn’t take this easily, and later in life made darned sure he got back at them, claiming kingship of Denmark, as well as Norway.
It must have been that period he earned that epithet Harada, that is, hard ruler.

Before this though, is when he really had the time of his life.

Exile meant travelling through Russia – in those days consisting of principalities ruled over by separate princes, kings. The heart of old Russia in those days was Kiev. And that’s where he headed.

He was a king’s son, he was used to privilege and the companionship of princes and the relatively affluent.

Travelling as an exile was not exactly comfortable, or was his company always what he was used to. So, he headed for the princes and kings. And they welcomed him!

If he followed the Viking paths down the rivers, most importantly the Volga, the Don, then there was the place. Why do I say this? Well, Yaroslav’s wife Ingegerd was a distant relative of Harald. She was a Swedish princess married to a Kiev King.

In Kiev he spend some time as captain of the warriors of Yaroslav the Wise. He rode many campaigns with them. Most probably against the Polovetsians, a nomadic people from Siberia, who had settled in what we now know as the Ukraine. For more on the Polovetsians, see The Song of the Campaign of Igor.

By 1034 he was in Byzantium, once again pestering the kings and princes. He became a Commander of the famous Varangian Guard, until 1042.

The story was, he had developed a habit of dipping his hand into the treasury; at one point he was imprisoned because of this. He had to leave Byzantium under cover of night: he had requested permission to leave, but was refused. So he ended up back in Kiev. It was here he married Elisabeth, Yaroslav’s daughter. His poem to Elisabeth has been suggested as the origin of The Lament of Yaroslavna, in the Song of Igor’s Campaign.
His campaigns were reputedly wide ranging, taking him into the Middle-East, even as far as Iraq in some chronicles.

They returned to Norway, where he promptly set about claiming for himself the throne. There followed a period of fierce settlements amongst old enemies and detractors.

By 1066 we find him leading a force against Harold of England. They engaged forces at Stamford Bridge. From what we know of this battle, he was killed – an arrow in the throat? And then English Harold had to tramp down with his forces to Hastings, way down in Kent, for himself, an arrow in the eye. And the rest, they say, is history.

2
It is interesting to note the dates here; I know, dates are the bane of history.

It’s just somewhere to hang the structure to see it better. When you’re talking about a life it’s just not chronological – we have lapses, go back a step or two, sometimes (if we’re lucky) race ahead, or more often than not have long periods of fallow: all over the place; any idea of chronology is crazy.

It’s just a device for ordering stuff in retrospect.

In this case they reveal to us a bit more of the man, and of the expectations, and mindset of the time he lived in.

Born 1015, in Norway – we don’t know where as such – but he was a part of the Norwegian ruling elite. His father Sigurd Syr was second husband to Asta Gundbrandsdattar. Why is this important – the form of his mother’s name became synonymous with Icelandic formations after the Settlement. Her first marriage resulted in the birth of Olaf, later St Olaf, king from 1025 to 1028.

It was after this the Norwegian throne was claimed by the Danish king, Cnut the Great. Yes, that’s right, That King Cnut, the one who also claimed the English throne.

The next date is 1030, the battle of Stiklestad, one of the most famous battles in Norway. It happened around Trondheim. Harald sided with his half brother Olaf against local claimants for the throne.

Oh, by the way – he was 15 at the time. Accounts say he acquitted himself well. He came from the battle honoured, but injured. It was thought best, safest, ‘to live in exile’.
His exile also entailed his retinue as a regal claimant.

1031 he had made it to Kiev: aged 16.
His reputation as a fighter travelled with him; so much so that he was taken by Yaroslav the Wise. His wife, as mentioned, was a relation of Harald’s from Sweden.
He was involved in many campaigns here – against Poland, Estonians… there were many factional squabbles. He learned his trade, improved his craft.

1034 and he appeared in Byzantium, where was eventually appointed commander of the Varangian Guard. They were an elite force, and bodyguards to the Emperor. They were and remained a predominantly Scandinavian group amongst the Byzantines. The Guard began as a group of mercenaries paid to protect Byzantine interests.
the Byzantine Empress Theodora valued their valour, if not their table manners.

It is possible his campaigns took him as far as the Euphrates (Iraq), and even Jerusalem.
A Greek book of 1070s, Kekaumenos’ Strategikon recorded him winning favours from the Emperor.
It was some time after this he was imprisoned by the new Emperor, and his powerful wife Zoe. There is some suggestion he dipped into the treasury coffers.

William of Malmesbury, as well as Saxo Grammaticus, all have their pennyworth to add – but it was all hearsay.

The new Emperor was not popular, and insurrections broke out – whether Harald was released to lead the fight back, is not clear.
What is clear is that, when in 1042 he requested permission to leave Byzantium he was refused.
And so he had to sneak away at night, with his loyal companions And back to Kiev.

By 1047 he was married, back in Norway, and ascended the throne.
Payback time for Denmark. Only, it didn’t quite end up like that. It did end up in a lifelong truce.

So, if he could not claim Cnut’s Denmark, he looked to England, Cnut’s other realm.

 

Let’s take the instance of the great town of Hedeby near Schleswig. Quite a lot has been unearthed about the town, but one significant period stands out. The period of the 1050s. Why? One source has it: ‘A thick layer of ash and charcoal in the central area represents the final destruction of the town just before 1050. Whether this fire was accidental or… by… Harald Hard-ruler… is unclear. This was the end of Hedeby…’

Submit, or be smashed.

Tostig Godwinson, who was the brother of Harold Godwinson, king of England, persuaded our Harald that he had a decent claim to the English throne. Brothers, eh! Can’t live with them, can’t trust them out of your sight!

September 1066, and the Harolds (well, HarAld, and HarOld) met outside York. The first battle at Fulford went well for HarAld, but it seems it made him complaisant. The later one at Stamford Bridge finished him.

And HarAld was killed. He was 51.
According to Snorri Sturlson he was buried at Mary Church, Trondheim. A huge stone now commemorates his burial place.

Even that age is a little old and grizzled, for some. Still, that was one life lived to the full.

A little like the old curse: May you live in interesting times. It’s usually a disaster for the people trying to get by; always someone trying to make them part of his big scheme for power. And he was one of those.

3

Within all this busy life, the to-ing and fro-ing, the slicing, riding, chopping and disemboweling, our Harald could also turn a well-crafted verse when he had to.

This was, of course, one of the expected skills of the courtier; and it seems Harald had it in bucketfuls.

One source has it that the verse of this region and period was considered inferior to the Eddic, skaldic, verse, because it is thought ‘artificial’, even, ‘convoluted’.

See:
https://wordpress.com/post/michael9murray.wordpress.com/8201

 

 

 

T S Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land,’ section IV ‘Death By Water’, consisting of just ten lines, seems to consist of three short sections.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land

 Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward.
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome as and tall as you.

Ten lines, in this case, can also give two sections of five lines. This arrangement is important.
It is possible to be read as to have been composed in corresponding parts. It begins and ends:
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,……………………..
and
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome as and tall as you.

So, we have opening, and ending, and then also a central section, or hinge:
……………………………………….. A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell/

He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

So, we have what could almost be a chiasmus, each line and a half paralleling the other line and a half.

Surrounding this central section we have, firstly,

Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.

and lastly:
                                                      Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,

That gives opening and closing  correspondences, first section central-surround, central hinge, second section central-surround, and closing part.

The form gives suggestion of overall chiasmic structuring. Line length mirrors the arguments being presented.

If this is so, and it is strongly suggestive that this is the intended structure, then this  makes us read an unfortunate correspondence between ‘(…) the profit and loss.’(line 3) and ‘Gentile or Jew’(line 8).
The former is inclusive, the latter exclusive.
As a deliberate paralleling of lines 3 and 8 – indeed, the page layout emphasises the phrases – are we to read an anti-Semitic slur intended there?

In the former section of ‘Death by Water’, the first section of the poem (lines 1-3) is epitomized in this descriptive phrase; the latter third (lines 8-10) is an appeal to the reader, who may be Protestant Western Europe and New World, or Semitic and Old World – whoever it is that takes civilisation forward.
In this I would like to think are included Einstein, and Neils Bohr: the General Theory of Relativity, and the Quantum Theory.

Implicit here also in ‘once was’ is a progressive concept of civilisation and growth of  humankind away from middle-eastern religious roots, Judaism, and towards Western reason (- and non-autocratic Anglicanism?). The end-rhyme claims a relationship between Jew and you, that addressee being both contemporary reader, and Old World culture. The two terms are again in exclusive and inclusive arrangements emphasising the survival of one, but not both.
The earlier rhyme pair swell and fell state a sense of, if not cyclic (Vico-esque?), then organic growth and fall of civilizations that this last rhyme pair predicate.

The centre of the piece is the balancing of phrases ‘As he rose and fell/ He passed the stages of age and youth’ (lines 9 and 10) which gives a janus-like sense of descent of age to youth, and the life-review that is the accepted experience of death. The section ends as it begins with vocative appeal to the hearer/ reader as in the ‘Greek Anthology’.

We notice also the ‘current under the sea’ of half-line 4 is balanced with ‘(…) the whirlpool’ of half-line 7 each framing the central section of the piece. The ‘cry of gulls’ and ‘who look to windward’ are paralleled here, as are ‘the deep sea swell’ with ‘you who turn the wheel’. We sense a metaphysical mariner at work, a conflation of the wheel of fate, and a will that steers, that rises above and beyond the world.

If the form of this short example from ‘The Waste Land’ is certainly chiasmic, it not a ring – there is no tri-partite construction, the central section is a straight change from first half to second ABCCBA. Ring structure has ABCDCBA.

– The English sentence structure, of subject-predicate, has possibilities as another base-chiasmic scheme. It is not by any means a universal language structure, however. There are examples of chiasmic use in languages not structured in this way.

 

Excerpted arguments are from my study: Gifts of Rings and Gold, An Introduction to Chiasmic Text Structures.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gifts-Rings-Gold-Introduction-Ring-composition-ebook/dp/B01IRPODPW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1533399879&sr=1-1&keywords=Gifts+of+Rings+and+Gold

In a letter from 1994 Ted Hughes was explaining his and Tony Buzan’s efforts to popularise memory techniques. They had approached three of the main Preparatory Schools in England about their ideas. This had been an enduring  area of Ted Hughes’ many interests; he was offering inducements to Freida and Nicholas, his children, back in 1971, in a letter from his Persian adventure with Peter Brook.
Tony Buzan was also an associate/friend of the Kate Bush family circle about the same time.
http://www.tonybuzan.com/about/mind-mapping/

The 1994 Ted Hughes letter states:

Over the years, wherever I’ve suggested it to teachers, or given a little demonstration in class… the teacher’s reaction has always been the same: ‘but if they learned everything so fast, what would we do with the empty time?’

This is an obviously supercilious response; one of exasperation by the teachers, of course. Here were two non-education professionals intruding upon their own roles as educators and trying to teach them their job. The simplistic comment is very much in line with the ‘English way’ of inverted targeting. I am rather surprised Ted Hughes and Tony Buzan were not aware of the toes they stood upon, or the reasons for the responses they received.

In his introduction to the By Heart anthology, of 1997, Ted Hughes discusses mnemonic systems, based on the classic memory systems that Frances Yates outlined in her Art of Memory. Tony Buzan’s work explored the cognitive aspects of memory systems, mind-mapping techniques in particular.

The memory and mind-mapping techniques they were intent on promoting, became educational business shortly after this. I remember putting our son forward to take a course in the techniques as an adjunct of higher school learning. He found them very usable and useful.

 

There is something that unnerves, I find, about the mind-map. To me it appears chaotic, disordered, and un-navigable. A mind-map, is, though, the individual’s own system: the linkages and general layout are from the person’s requirements. How easy it is to read  someone else’s system, is a question that becomes further confounded by unlicensed use and promotion.

And does this go some way to answering the question of whether one person’s map could have meaning to another person? A matter of degree, of course: there are always universal elements in everything.
– The question I am circling here, somewhat, is whether one person needs a background in the specifics and structured arguments of the techniques in order to gain from someone else’s map.
If that is so, then does any argument that such techniques are structured on the way the mind works not hold up?   That it is an imposed system, like any other.
Or is this further proof that we are all unique and individual?
Is it a more successful system, than any previous ones? Or is it valued purely for its newness?

There was an exhibition of a wall-size banner by Grayson Perry, in Sheffield Art Gallery last year, that we made a point of visiting. I did find the layout of the comments, messages that it contained, dismayingly chaotic, and could not detect any order to them. The mind-map structure of the exhibit did not occur to me until recently. Could this be the system layout he used?

The local Well Dressing displays opened on June 30th, this year. The displays were available to view until Sunday July 7th.
What would they commemorating, I wondered? What is so special about this date?

The opening ceremony – which I missed, and I have no excuses – unveiled the first display:

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Of course, 1918 to 2018, 100 years from the end of the Great War – the War To End All Wars, remember that?
And it so happens that this day, June 30th, 2018, is UK Armed Forces Day:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44667692

Anything else special about this time 100 years ago? I was so pleased when I saw this side panel (Mount Hall is a local Nursing Home):

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I had a closer look at how the glorious lower panel of the main display was made: all overlapping flower petals, flower heads, and leaves, on a bed of damp clay.

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This next display down the road, besides a by now hidden stream, commemorates the Royal Air Force, from WW1 biplanes, to the Spitfires of WW2:

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There is quite a walk to this next display. The village/town is a linear settlement. The displays are arranged so that there are two at the end nearest the main town of the area, two in the central part, and two in the older end of the town.

Every year one the local schools takes on the task of providing of the displays. This is by Bollington Cross Church of England Primary School – my son’s old school – well, well ( excuse the pun).
And once again I was so pleased to see the Suffragettes honoured.

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The Memorial Gardens always have a display to fit in with the purpose of the place: to remember those who died in the fighting of both wars:

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Among other aspects of this display I was particularly struck with how the 100 figure had been toned from blood/poppy red through to orange-yellow.

This out-of-the-way well always has a special display, a little out of the expected.
100 years since the death of Wilfred Owen in that last week of the whole horrible conflict. He was arranging a Sambre-Oise canal crossing for his men, when he fell.

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I apologise for the lighting of this photograph. I cannot account for it.

The last display is a triptych of Women at War:

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That is tree bark in the background of the women in armaments panel. Many women suffered from exposure to substances they had to handle daily in the armaments factories. The woman’s hair is sheep wool, gathered off wire fences.

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Always a particularly fine display.

 

In a shop window a board commemorating those born in 1918. And they have provided a varied selection:

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Nelson Mandela
Billy Graham
Ingmar Bergman
Rita Hayworth
Alexander Solzenhitsyn
Betty Ford
Spiro Agnew
Spike Milligan
Leonard Bernstein

This displays went up on Saturday. I was informed that the actually making began on the previous Monday, and took all week.
All the displays, except for the School display, have been designed by a local artist and set designer. She has volunteered her services for the past 6 years, or so.
Nearly a ton of clay is used over all the boards.