Arthur Symons- Cornish Connections

Arthur Symons biography > My poetic side

Cornish Wind

There is a wind in Cornwall that I know
From any other wind, because it smells
Of the warm honey breath of heather-bells
And of the sea’s salt; and these meet and flow
With such sweet savour in such sharpness met
That the astonished sense in ecstasy
Tastes the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea.
Wind out of Cornwall, wind, if I forget :
Not in the tunnelled Streets where scarce men breathe
The air they live by, but wherever seas
Blossom in foam, wherever merchant bees
Volubly traffic upon any heath:
If I forget, shame me! or if I find
A wind in England like my Cornish wind.
This poem by Symons is perhaps a reminder that his parents were Cornish Methodists, his father, a preacher who once was a Minister at St Ives as well as at other parishes in the Duchy. I particularly like the line about “the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea” which by contrast brings evokes Homer’s Wine Dark Sea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine-dark_sea_(Homer). Then there is the a reference to merchant bees, perhaps because they transport pollen but then there are robust Cornish nlack bees (https://www.merchantsmanor.com/cornish-black-bees/).

There is an interesting review in the TLS of his Selected Early Poems and also his Spiritual Adventures by Kate Hext (January 12 2018) which begins with a poem which describes  the poet in sad old age at dinner. It was published by John Betjeman in 1940.


ON SEEING AN OLD POET IN THE CAFE ROYAL, by JOHN BETJEMAN

 

I saw him in the Café Royal,
Very old and very grand.
Modernistic shone the lamplight
There in London’s fairyland.
‘Devilled chicken. Devilled whitebait.
Devil if I understand.

‘Where is Oscar? Where is Bosie?
Have I seen that man before?
And the old one in the corner,
Is it really Wratislaw?’
Scent of Tutti-Frutti-Sen-Sen
And cheroots upon the floor.

There is a delightful exposition of Tutti Frutti Sen Sen and other commercial items in poetry by the late Clive James at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/69678/product-placement-in-modern-poetry

Waking with Rosa

Wenn du erwachst

Wenn du erwachsts
Baum der in dir Wächst
traumgrün
Hinter deinen Liden
schlummern Zinnsoldaten
singt der Friedenvogel
Wenn du erwachst
breent die Stadt
die Toten sind wach
und erwarten dich

When you awake

When you awake
Trees grown within you
green as dreams
Under your eyelids
tin soldiers slumber
the bird of peace sings
when you awake
the city is burning
the dead are awake
and waiting for you

Zinnsoldaten by Michael Gogol on Amazon Music - Amazon.com

More poems by Rosa Ausländer may be found at https://allpoetry.com/Rose-Auslander

 

Discovering a new poet- Ciaran Carson

The town where I live has many barber shops, betting shops (gambling dens) and fortunately many charity shops. Since the end of lock-down, as part of the recovery process I have been raiding the latter and especially one which has a rich supply of poetry books. Taking advantage of my reduced price filter coffee at 50p per cup, I thumbed through, “Poems of the Decade”  in which I happened upon two remarkable poems about historic battles by Ciaran Carson.

Here is the start of a poem about Gallipoli from a collection called The War Correspondant.

Take sheds and stalls from Billingsgate,
glittering with scaling-knives and fish,
the tumbledown outhouses of English farmers’ yards
that reek of dung and straw, and horses
cantering the mewsy lanes of Dublin;

take an Irish landlord’s ruinous estate,
elaborate pagodas from a Chinese Delftware dish
where fishes fly through shrouds and sails and yards
of leaking ballast-laden junks bound for Benares
in search of bucket-loads of tea as black as tin;

The full poem may be found at https://genius.com/Ciaran-carson-the-war-correspondent-annotated

My knowledge of Gallipoli comes from a visit during a minitrek in the early seventies and in addition the outstanding film with Mel Gibson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallipoli_(1981_film) 

However, this poem is remarkable with the tumbledown and dilapidated nautical images. There is a clear underlying structure but the surreal images build throughout this poem. I particularly liked the word “mewsy” and there are clear political references in the poem. The situation along with the following poem “Balaklava” show the desperation of war and both battles show the limits of British Imperialism. There is a strange surrealism to the lines-

elaborate pagodas from a Chinese Delftware dish
where fishes fly through shrouds and sails and yards

These somehow reflect the weirdness and disorientation of the context. The Delft reference reminds me too of another favourite poet, Derek Mahon. Yet there is also an association as the poem progresses of Kipling. Then there is a reference to horses which were present in the cramped situation. They were there to move the heavy guns of the Anzac forces. 6100 horses were ready to disembark but only a few were actually put ashore. A search reveals-

After Gallipoli many moderate nationalists began to lose faith in the idea that supporting Britain in the war would assure Home Rule. … But it was in August that Irishmen arrived at Gallipoli in large numbers as part of Allied commander Sir Ian Hamilton’s plan to break the stalemate and go on the offensive.

Sadly in discovering this new poet, I also found how recent was his passing in October of last year https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciaran_Carson

 

Now you’ve got your getaway baggage

Love Nelly Sachs, Rosa Aüsslander et al. Very relevant today!

Poems of Nelly Sachs in English

Now you’ve got your getaway baggage
across –
the border is open
but first
they throw all your “home”
like stars through the window
don’t ever come back
live in the empty desert
and die –

Schon hast du dein Fluchtgepäck
hinüber –
die Grenze ist offen
aber vorher
werfen sie alle deine “zu Hause”
wie Sterne durchs Fenster
komm nicht mehr zurück
im Unbewohnten wohne
und stirb –

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A politician finds in difficult to retire

Sometimes it is the state of the world that preoccupies him,

campaigning for peace and pensioners.

Although public opinion has moved his way,

Meetings, groups and such occasions eat up his time.

 

He is powered with a zeal for international security.

 

The state of his roof preoccupies him and in a rash rush of

domestic disasters, he almost gassed himself.

He put his pipe alight into his pocket and burned his coat.

The car breaks down and is broken into.

 

Now the roof caves in when the builder walks across it,

and accidentally puts his foot right through the ceiling.

 

His old adversaries would need hard hearts not to sympathise

with his bouts of depression. He becomes deaf and has trouble

with his heart and legs.

Only his friends sustain him and the pride he feels

at his children’s success is uncontainable.

 

His jokes are demonstrably unribtickling.

He marches out into the world with a thermos flask

and a Mars bar.

He remains unashamedly sentimental.

 

The case for working people is coming back and

though there are times for despair, there are still days of hope

as he enjoys life’s afternoon sunshine

with his grandchildren.

(Found Poem -With thanks to the Guardian Review  20.10,07 by  David McKie

reviewing More Time for Politics; Diaries 2001-07 by Tony Benn)

“Bronte Territories” by Melissa Hardie-an Appreciation

The Brontë sisters with their brother, Branwell, in a painting by him called the Gun Group Portrait.

Wandering down Chapel Street in Penzance, you cannot fail to recognise that you have entered that part of town where history feels close-by. The sea in the distance, the church and the chapel architecture is impressive, the Turk’s Head Tavern and the baroque wonder of the Egyptian House, the Portuguese consulate and almost opposite the house where George Eliot stayed waiting for calm weather for her voyage to the Scillies. Reading Melissa’s book is like taking a similar peregrination through lost corridors of time to recover a sense of the rich liveliness of Penwith’s past. Welcome to the psychogeography of Bronte’s Territories.

The Brontes are still much in the news. The Irish Times, just two weeks ago, were reporting on the O.U.P. computer analysis of Wuthering Heights apparently confirming it to be the work of Emily and not, as had been suggested, that of her brother Branwell. Iconoclasm may be in vogue. However, a square in Brussels – the city where two of the Bronte sisters studied French – is to be named in honour of the literary siblings. Other authors make claim to curious events in Shropshire in the early years of the 19th century drew the parents of genius together. It is to the intellectual and feminine furore of Penzance and its inspiring hinterland that Hardie’s work appropriately returns us.

In a key chapter on the literature and legend of Cornwall from 1760 much mention is made of the intriguing and taciturn figure of Joseph Carne, a geologist of great renown and an energetic banker. His personality was such that he combined a skill with numbers with a strong Methodist belief and mixed in a variety of literary circles. Nearby Falmouth was a key port for the Packet boats recorded in the poetry and memoirs of Byron and Southey. It too was the home of the Quaker family of Foxes who founded the Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1832. Carne was a friend and shared their Non-Conformist beliefs. Hardie shows how Carne encouraged his daughter in her geological studies and mentions the doctors, engineers, vicars and scientists whose cultural sources were enriched by contacts which included Bretons, Huguenots, Hessians as well as a significant Jewish community. She reminds us that in reading Davy, for example, we encounter not just a socially beneficent scientist, a traveller and a poet. This is the endowment the Branwell sisters took to Haworth.

It is interesting to consider that within this Cornish background at this period there were a number of competing beliefs and attitudes. There were the mythical beliefs fostered from folklore- piskies and stories in the expiring Cornish language. There was the old religion of Rome not far beneath the surface. Yet there were also new discoveries especially in medicine and geology that fostered a scientific empiricism. This can be seen in figures such as Davies Gilbert to whom this book gives due prominence- a polymath, mathematician, engineer and President of the Royal Society and a wonderful diarist to boot. William Temple much later stated, “The Church exists primarily for the sake of those who are still outside it. It is a mistake to suppose that God is only, or even chiefly, concerned with religion.” It was the evangelical zeal of the Wesley brothers and their belief in education, temperance combined with stunningly beautiful hymns. It was also a challenge to superstition. It is often said it averted revolution which France and later Peterloo portended.

Melissa Hardie shows us the other supportive factors that came into this heady mixture and sustained the Branwells and flowered in the Bronte’s work. These are twofold; the societies and the family or kinship links. The Penzance Ladies Reading group who carefully studied together a stunning variety of literature from the classics of the Ancients to the contemporary travel writings. Not forgetting the subversive eloquence of Lord Byron, a gentleman with Cornish links through the Trevanions. The founding of libraries and collection of artefacts had practical even economic benefits. The Royal Cornwall Geological Society studies into metallic intrusions assisted the efficiency of mining. Local banks provided the capital for further developments in the industry as well as the magnificent Wesleyan Chapels that the Carnes, Branwells and Battens founded and fostered.

The author has researched both land and legacy extensively. Her approach is frequently imaginative and sometimes speculative. This is a strength because she is also at pains to inform the reader of the limitations of the evidence. Footnotes and suggested reading in themselves are useful but the illustrations are worthy of pondering- several works of art in themselves. They add significant detail. This patient work by Melissa supported by other members of the resplendent Hypatia Trust must be counted as filling a deep fissure, or as we might say in Cornwall, a zawn in Bronte Studies.

See also from the Guardian –

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/29/bronte-grandfather-smuggling-past-financed-books-charlotte-emily-anne

 

“Cymbeline” by William Shakespeare: Fear No More

Stuff Jeff Reads

My first ever exposure to Shakespeare was an excerpt from this play. As a kid, I somehow acquired a copy of a cheap paperback book called Immortal Poems of the English Language. I can still picture the cover. Anyway, the book included a Shakespeare “poem” entitled “Fear No More,” which I would discover many years later was actually just a passage from Cymbeline. But I loved this poem and read it over and over as a kid. So, having just re-read this play, it is that passage that I want to focus on.

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Fear no more the frown o’ the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke;
Care no more to…

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Helen DeWitt, translating Proust, and what is it that you want to do with you one wild and precious life

I only read two pages of Paris Match yesterday. It was about Elia Kazan and a film he failed to make about Greek-Turkish relations. It isn’t always easy to read French but the little makes for an alternative and memorable perspective.

It's only chemo

If you have read The Last Samurai and are in a state of nostalgia for the days when discovering Helen DeWitt was still ahead of you, go and indulge in her entire blog.

I can’t comment on these translations; happy to believe that both have much to offer. The one thing I’d say is, if you’re thinking of reading Proust and you’ve studied any French at all, do order Du côté de chez Swann from amazon.fr so you can read at least a few of Proust’s sentences in French.

People often say: “Well, I had a couple of years of French in high school but I’ve forgotten it all.” What they mean is not normally, “I had a couple of years of French in high school, but when I looked at the first paragraph of Du côté de chez Swann I couldn’t understand a word,” what they mean is, “If I…

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The Art of Anders Zorn 3: Switching to oils

His paintings give us an insight into how life was lived in a variety of styles to.

The Eclectic Light Company

In the 1880s, the great Swedish watercolourist Anders Zorn (1860–1920) doesn’t seem to have spent a full year in any one place. In 1887, he spent the summer back in Sweden while simultaneously exhibiting at both the Salon in Paris and the Royal Academy in London. That autumn/fall, he and his wife travelled to Britain with the artist Alice Miller. It was there that he started to paint in oils.

Anders Zorn, Fish Market in Saint Ives (1888), watercolour, 100 x 76.5 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons. Anders Zorn (1860–1920), Fish Market in Saint Ives (1888), watercolour, 100 x 76.5 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Although Zorn’s early oils from his stay through the winter in the art colony and fishing village of Saint Ives, in Cornwall, were impressive, this watercolour is perhaps the most brilliant of his paintings from that visit. He had apparently become fascinated by this “plump fisherman’s wife” shown dragging some of the catch of fish around as it was being sold off…

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The curious case of Cornwall: why did the Cornish vote for Brexit?

Sometimes E.U. money has not be wisely spent- not their fault, of course.

thinkingcountry

porthcurno-beach

Cornwall, with a population of 530,000 people, received more than €654m from Brussels during the EU’s 2007 to 2013 budget cycle. This is more than the West Midlands and the East of England combined. Up until Brexit it was set to receive at least another €600m between now and 2020, that’s €1,209 per person. This is a county in which 56.5% of voters chose to back Brexit and leave their biggest benefactor. I was interested to look briefly into why this might have been the case and reflect on some of the consequences this might have for one of the poorest areas of the United Kingdom.

Firstly, it might be worth reflecting on some of the positive and tangible things that Cornwall has received from being a member of the EU. The construction of Exeter University’s Penryn Campus  was partly funded with around £100million of EU money. £50million of EU money has been spent on

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