Wednesday, March 26, 2014

cherry laurel begins



Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) just coming into flower, on March 21st 2014. (On the same day I also saw the first flowers of Wild Cherry (P. avium) and Sargent Cherry (P. sargentii).)


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Monday, March 24, 2014

hand off


The grass lies on the land,

(1)        that set of keys.

Dumb as a bunch of keys, the grass is.

            It's you who know!

Do you know what you know?

           Take this clutch of grass

& potter back and forth,

           letting out your prisoners.


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Friday, March 21, 2014

visit to the local sewage farm

...attracted in by morning sun and a large golden patch of Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara).

Photos from 17th March 2014.



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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Jenny Allan's "Kit"

Now transferred to here:


  http://intercapillaryspace.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/jenny-allans-kit.html




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Thursday, March 13, 2014

William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure (1604)


Kenneth Colley as the Duke* in the 1979 BBC film

[* In the First Folio, the Duke is named as Vincentio (not Vicentio!) at the end of the text, in the "The names of all the Actors". No-one calls him by that name in the text itself, (well, you wouldn't) and so far as I can see he is always just Duke in the speech prefixes and SDs.]


In short order and skyingly, Measure for Measure can now be enjoyed for what it is, a wonderful and serious romantic comedy that is more usefully seen in apposition to Twelfth Night than to the plays it’s more commonly linked with. It works by fleet-footed scenes (all, bar the final one, rather brief) and is not afraid to leave gaps and to make momentary, casual use of characters and situations in pursuit of its object. The play has in fact a formal brilliance that perhaps was a springboard for Shakespeare to leap beyond such perfection into the wild elongations of Lear and Antony and Cleopatra.

Measure for Measure was after Shakespeare’s death rather neglected for three centuries. The reasons, e.g. its bawdiness and the central place it gives to dubiously legal sex, no longer survive as “problems” and nor do the more recent concerns that have been expressed as moral doubts about the behaviour of (chiefly) the Duke and Isabella. Problematizing is not after all a once-for-all process; problems vanish sometimes, and to notice this is a necessary clarification that does not, as some people fear, make things less complex than they are; on the contrary, it just clears the deck for what now appear as the real complexities.


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Thursday, March 06, 2014

pulmonaria begins

Pulmonaria officinalis
Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), just coming into flower. I saw this one, just coming into flower on 5th march 2013, in a young woodland shelter belt between road and housing in West Swindon.

Pulmonaria is good for chest ailments, thus proving the doctrine of signatures to be not so silly after all. But probably the resemblance of the spotted leaves to diseased lungs was only noticed when the medicinal properties were already known. If Pulmonaria had been good for heartburn or urinary infections then we'd see that, instead.  NB I'd like to have a definite literary source for this resemblance. I'm quite suspicious about it, and it isn't in William Coles Art of Simpling.

P. officinalis is native to central Europe, and is a frequent non-native plant almost throughout the UK. In Sweden it's much rarer and  only seen in the extreme south. On the other hand P. obscura (unspotted leaves) is native and fairly common in central Sweden. (This latter is the plant known in Sweden as Lungört; P. officinalis is known as Fläcklungört.) P. obscura is also known (though incredibly rare) in Suffolk,  - first recorded 1842, but very likely native: all records are on ancient woodland and nobody bothers to grow P. obscura in gardens.


Pulmonaria officinalis, early flowers

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

William Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice



29/10/00 - Alone in the flat - I revert to atavistic behaviour - reading Shakespeare, whose plays I’ve neglected for ages. The last time it was The Merry Wives of Windsor - this time The Merchant of Venice - a better play, indeed intermittently gripping (I.3, IV.1). Questions unanswered: Why is Antonio sad (I.1)? Is Shylock’s speech supposed to sound “foreign”? What does “The quality of mercy is not strained” mean, exactly? Why does Portia deny Shylock his principal? (She has saved Antonio - what else matters?)

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Yes, there’s no doubt Shakespeare keeps us waiting in the Merchant - in fact, it’s our main posture. Hate and financial embarrassment are significantly more interesting than love in this play. So Act I builds with a dramatic force and logic like the swiftest tragedies. Portia appears as a lively prattler - her good sense is a benefit of economic independence - you can hardly foresee how instrumental she will become in the major plot.

In I.3 it must be said that Antonio behaves with dignity; his outburst of anger surely appeals to us as a principled rejection of usury. In fact we have only Shylock’s word for Antonio’s anti-Semitism, and if Antonio acts imprudently here it is from the practical and productive motives of love (Antonio not denying his previous bald rudeness, but not displaying it either). If his later explanation of Shylock’s hatred is countenanced, it seems that the play intends us to think that Shylock is morbidly over-sensitive. Which is how inconvenient oppressed minorities are usually described by their oppressors.

Whatever may be justly said in extenuation, I think the Merchant is seen most accurately as fundamentally anti-Semitic and also (in David Nirenberg’s terms) anti-Judaic - an author working within the general climate of opinion. If Shakespeare for the most part restricts coarse racial insult to the lips of Graziano, that is more from manners than principle - Graziano is a great joker (so no harm done, then?) and is within the fold of the righteous - fit to marry Nerissa.

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Note for "Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights" - the lost writings



[Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1992 movie).]

 I probably will write a post about Wuthering Heights one day. But for the moment:

It's always nice to recommend on-line material,  and I think the following is a terrific collection of biographical and critical ideas by Clare B. Dunkle (arising from her researches for a prequel to Wuthering Heights)

http://www.claredunkle.com/Design/maidsbrmaster.htm

She writes about the question of Emily's hypothetical second novel here:


Emily could have had more than two years for writing a second novel - i.e. from the time that Wuthering Heights was first packed off to publishers (July 1846?)  up to when she became ill on October 1st, 1848 (at Branwell's funeral).

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