Yearning for Wonderland
Sir Thomas Wyatt, poet and courtier, is believed to have a romantic connection to Anne Boleyn; it is unknown as to whether she returned his feelings. It is believed Wyatt wrote this poem after witnessing Anne Boleyn’s execution (May 19, 1536) from the window of his cell while imprisoned in the Tower of London. The third stanza, in my opinion, is as deeply felt and dire a feeling as can be found in English poetry.
|Sir Thomas Wyatt|
Innocentia Veritas Viat Fides Circumdederunt me inimici mei
(Innocence, Truth & Fidelity – My Enemies Surround My Soul)
by Sir Thomas Wyatt
Who list his wealth and ease retain,
Himself let him unknown contain.
Press not too fast in at that gate
Where the return stands by disdain,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.
|Anne Boleyn (detail)|
The high mountains are blasted oft
When the low valley is mild and soft.
Fortune with Health stands at debate.
The fall is grievous from aloft.
And sure, circa Regna tonat.
These bloody days have broken my heart.
My lust, my youth did them depart,
And blind desire of estate.
Who hastes to climb seeks to revert.
Of truth, circa Regna tonat.
The bell tower showed me such sight
That in my head sticks day and night.
There did I learn out of a grate,
For all favour, glory, or might,
That yet circa Regna tonat.
By proof, I say, there did I learn:
Wit helpeth not defence too yerne,
Of innocency to plead or prate.
Bear low, therefore, give God the stern,
For sure, circa Regna tonat.
* Circa Regna Tonat – “About the Throne the Thunder Rolls”
|John William Waterhouse, The Soul of the Rose|
Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!
Honestly, I didn’t think I was doing so little on my blog until I looked at the post listings and realized I had -one- post for August so far, on the 6th. At my best, I was averaging a post every day and a half. To go a week with only one…
There’s a multitude of reasons, but they may all point to the same thing. My darn Muse has departed for climes less balmy. (It has been agitatingly, soul-sucking hot for the last few weeks: the kind of heat that leaves you languidly lolling about on the veranda, fanning yourself limpidly as the linen sticks to your back.) So my Muse has left for a quick jaunt around the countryside and I am left here staring at my computer screen with the following options: 1) watch an episode of The Tudors, 2) read any of the stack of lovely new books on my bedside table, 3) play Plants vs. Zombies, that blessed time-suck.
It isn’t from lack of time off (just finished 3 days off, which may be one culprit). I have lots of projects vying for my attention: Super Secret Spy Girl, rehearsals for The Laramie Project, Blogcritic reviews, etc, etc.
My brain is a bit parched and it has nothing to do with the heat. It’s rather too many wonderful ideas crowding in, trying to fight their way to the fore; it’s not so much time management as it is time muddlement.
|Thalia, Muse of Comedy|
So today I present the Muses, since mine is not present: Clio (History), Calliope (Epic Poetry), Urania (Astronomy), Euterpe (Song & Elegiac Poetry), Erato (Love Poetry), Melpomene (Tragedy), Thalia (Comedy), Terpsichore (Dance), Polyhymnia (Hymns). Not to be confused with the Graces, the Muses were a little more workaday and useful. Nine muses, nine arts, all the root of the word “museum” and “amuse” and “musing” and other muse-like words.
|Oliver Rhys, A Seated Muse|
Ever noticed that Muses tend to be young, beautiful ladies? Fickle as well, apparently. That comes with Muse-hood. I’m fairly certain that my Muse tends to the plainer side, with milkish skin, but can look otherworldly at the right angle. She definitely has freckles and likely a penchant for ribbons.
|Jan Vermeer, The Allegory of Painting (Detail – Clio)|
Muses are generally invoked at the beginning of epic poetry, a convention followed by writers for centuries:
- O lady myn, that called art Cleo,
- Thow be my speed fro this forth, and my Muse,
- To ryme wel this book til I haue do;
- Me nedeth here noon othere art to vse.
- ffor-whi to euery louere I me excuse
- That of no sentement I this endite,
- But out of Latyn in my tonge it write. – Chaucer
Muses are also a convenient scapegoat, as I illustrated at the beginning of the post. No writing? No muse. No performing? No muse. No singing? No muse. It’s even more dangerous when flesh and blood women are elevated to Muse status, as in Jane Morris for Dante Gabriel Rossetti of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Jane’s marriage to William Morris was jeopardized by her affairs with Rossetti, who married his other muse, Elizabeth Siddal (who later overdosed on laudanum). Read more in Francine Prose’s excellent study of real-life muses: Lives of the Muses.
|Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Blue Silk Dress (Model: Jane Morris)|
|Jane Morris (photo) and Jane (painting) – Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood|
So, Muse, any time you would like to return…you know where my door can be found. What do you do to invoke your muse? And what do you do when she does not appear?
I will be the gladdest thing Under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers And not pick one. I will look at cliffs and clouds With quiet eyes, Watch the wind bow down the grass, And the grass rise. And when lights begin to show Up from the town, I will mark which must be mine, And then start down!
|Maxfield Parrish, Ecstasy|
This post is the third of a new series, highlighting talented artists whose work I admire.
I call it ‘3 Question View’ because it’s limited to three questions (Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three) and it’s a rather truncated inter-view, designed to elicit three compelling answers from each artistic mind.
3 Question View – Shaista Tayabali
Writer and Poet, Lupus in Flight www.lupusinflight.com
I’m quite envious of your delicate touch with words. You conjure evocative imagery with just a stanza. What brought you to poetry as a way of expressing yourself? In your writing, how do you feel about the economy of poetry versus the expansiveness of prose?
The art of economy is a discipline I learned at university. Up until then, I had been a fairly indulgent prose and poetry writer. My composition of language was often deeply emotive, highly subjective and heavy with the influence of romance and Keatsian turns of phrase. Often, but not always. There has also been a trend in my writing, since childhood, towards describing a snapshot visual, and towards epiphany. I began university with the shadow of a complex illness already threatening to obscure me, so I was determined to excel.
This proved difficult for two reasons – I liked to answer questions in my own merry, meandering way, and I did not know how to edit myself. My Professor, Simon Featherstone, taught me this: “The line that you are most attached to, is the line that has to go!” In learning precision, I learned economy. And I think, perhaps, my poetry has begun to adapt to my rather fragile body. These quick brushstrokes of poems serve me well in and out of hospital.
Delicacy aside, though, sometimes I yearn to write a tome in the style of Tolstoy; an epic blockbuster of a novel packed with 108 Dickensian characters. Yearning is what we artists and writers do best!
The Names of Things
gazes out at me
behind the window frame;
Half content to be
in Billy Collins’ world,
half wishing to be me –
Cross legged in the evening sun
drinking rose petal tea.
I can name the Yellow Rose,
the frilly Poppy, the Bee
longing for that same tea;
the half-eaten bruised cherries,
the guzzling, drunken, blackbird feast.
Deep in the shadows,
lazy snakes of ivy curl
and the wind is a Tempest again –
I walk among the unnamed things
the secret, hidden lives,
I pronounce the names of Latinate things
and trip on the words
and smile –
snow in summer,
stars in spring,
where the herb garden sings.
When you begin writing a poem, do you focus on an image? A phrase? A song? What inspires the act of picking up the pen?
And roses will grow
And perhaps we shall walk
And reminisce about the snow
And kick up some leaves
And weave up some dreams
While the world passes by
My father and I.
I love ‘The Year of Yes’; it’s deeply inspirational. It speaks of great positivity, despite the challenges you face with lupus. How has keeping your positive energy and happiness been instrumental to your life and your writing?