Archive for February, 2012


“So perhaps I should leave here, go far away…”

“You say I’m a dreamer; we’re two of a kind,” the Saxon theologian Gottschalk wrote to Frankish abbot Walahfrid Strabo in A.D. 848, “both of us searching for some perfect world we know we’ll never find.” Walahfrid never did convince his friend to spurn his heretical ways, but you’re doubly predestined to enjoy these Tuesday links.

Nora Munro, medievalist, responds to Jonathan Franzen’s e-book quips.

Vitoð ér enn, eða hvat? A.S. Byatt revisits Ragnarok.

Anecdotal Evidence: in praise of swink.

Michael Drout ponders why Tolkien’s writing lends itself to recitation.

Wuthering Expectations discovers Portuguese poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen.

A Poem a Day answers, twice, “How do I become a poet?”

Dylan looks askance at W.S. Merwin.

Rose Kelleher blurbs a poetry book about office work.

The Rumpus charts T.S. Eliot’s career in banking.

A decade ago, Cynthia Haven visited Cavafy’s flat in Alexandria.

Now she finds Ivanhoe, edited.

Flavia gets her students scanning Shakespeare.

Don’t miss the Richard III play Shakespeare should have written.

Lingwë explores the roots of “Gandalf.”

Dr. Beachcoming digs up Irish giants.

Bill Peschel remembers Dickens on stage.

Jeff Alessandrelli listens as Erik Satie Watusies His Way Into Sound.

Ephemeral New York hears the call of the South Bronx Lorelei.

Australian fantasist Anna Tambour spins a new tale: “Cardoons.”

The great New Jersey band Gaslight Anthem evokes “The ’59 Sound.”

“Singing, not necessarily sorted…”

The Bishop’s Garden at the National Cathedral is home to a medlar (Mespilius germanica, or die Mispel in German), a tree that was far more common in medieval gardens than it is now in North America. Its homely fruit are inedible until they “blett,” when they become little mush-balls that taste a bit like spiced apples and wine—but only after time and frost render them wrinkled and weird. This bellyacher knows that with medlars, timing is everything, even with noises that disregard sense but feel right on the tongue.

MEDLAR SONG

Til we be rotten, kan we nat be rype.
—Chaucer, “The Reeve’s Prologue”

In sawdust ruts, the roots encroach
On walls where wintered widows poach.
Hear sepals peep what reeves forgot:
     Fast we ripen; first we rot.

A ritter rests. His jonquil dream
Shall reck in every rustling beam
What shrivling scops by lines allot:
     Fast we ripen; first we rot.

A shovel drudge, his leafs mislaid,
Fears bishops, like their mispels, fade,
But sets aside the lightest plot:
     Fast we ripen; first we rot.

A goblin sunders thist and thorn
By mispel moonlit shade, to mourn
One perfect pearl she misbegot:
     Fast we ripen; first we rot.

Now pray we bless the bletted mess,
That fine and blither minds profess
To round the rinds that rime did not.
     Let them ripen; let me rot.

The medlar in the Bishop’s Garden, autumn 2010:

Medlar fruit (harvested with permission of the cathedral), unbletted and bletted, December 2010:

(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab, or read the gargoyle FAQ.)

“And there’s talk in the houses, and people dancing in rings…”

This week, we had three beautiful days of unseasonable sunshine and warmth, prompting overeager bulbs to break the soil at the edges of my garden. Meanwhile, at the cathedral, a nightmare of feathers, wings, and horns perched above the Bishop’s Garden watches, waits, and warns.

FEBRUARY
(PSEUDOTHALAMION)

The golden groom dismounts; the war is done.
     The persephonic matrons, long withdrawn,
Betray the bride, let fly their veils as one,
     and race like reckless robins round the lawn.
The bulbs trod under boot cry out: oh run
     oh praise him raise him high hymenaeon
So spring steals in, the beaming, spendthrift son
     who flatters us, and slinks away by dawn.

 

Heinz Warneke, “The Prodigal Son,” dedicated in the Bishop’s Garden in 1961.

(For all the entries in this series, hit the “looking up” tab, or read the gargoyle FAQ.)