Literature Poetry

Rimbaud on “Ophelia”

Jean-Nicolas-Arthur Rimbaud was born in Charleville in northeastern France on October 20, 1854, the second son of an army captain, Frédéric Rimbaud, and Marie-Cathérine-Vitalie Rimbaud, née Cuif. He had an older brother, Frédéric, born in 1853, and two younger sisters: Vitalie, born in 1858, and Isabelle, born in 1860.

Here is a translation of the first and second section of his poem, Ophelia. It rather reminds me of some parts of Alice Oswald’s poetry:-


On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping
White Ophelia floats like a great lily ;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils…
– In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.

For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze.

The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils rising and falling with the waters ;
The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
The rushes lean over her wide, dreaming brow.

The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her ;
At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings ;
– A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.


O pale Ophelia ! beautiful as snow !
Yes child, you died, carried off by a river !
– It was the winds descending from the great mountains of Norway
That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom.

It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind ;
It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights ;

It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child’s heart, too human and too soft ;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sate mute at your knees !

Heaven ! Love ! Freedom ! What a dream, oh poor crazed Girl !
You melted to him as snow does to a fire ;
Your great visions strangled your words
– And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eye !


Literature Uncategorized

Political GDB

I think the stupidity of Brexit and it’s aftermath has left me with a sort of “gueule de bois”. Yesterday’s bêtise was nasty Dulwich boyo, Farage on television and radio- vindictive and seemingly energised.

La gueule de bois ou GDB est une sensation inconfortable qui se manifeste à la suite d’une consommation excessive de boisson alcoolisée. Elle apparaît 6 à 8 heures après la consommation d’alcool, lorsque l’alcoolémie diminue, et elle atteint un maximum lorsque l’alcoolémie redevient nulle.

Now this phrase came out of the currently available Paris Match. There in relation to the worker’s cafe, la Rotande, which seems to be closing in historic Montraparnasse . The magazine now seems more expensive as the pound sinks.It is now three quid!

There is in Paris Match some interesting material on the rise of the extreme right in Italy. So, rather ironically, it would seem that despite first appearances, this creeping authoritarian populism is a widespread European phenomenon. The international element of traditional and democratic socialism somewhat muted.



The Résistante and the Collaborationist: an odd connection in the Liberation Collection

An interesting collection indeed.

Riffaud and Liquois, two destinies with seemingly nothing in common, apart from the War and a little booklet from Jeunesse Héroïque (Portrait of Riffaud by Picasso from “Le poing fermé”, Liquois image from under Creative Commons)

As discussed in an earlier blogpost, showcasing the beautiful and entertaining Belgian children’s collection Les Alliés, a surprisingly large proportion of the Liberation Collection is made up of thin pamphlets aimed at young people. They were published in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War in France and Belgium.

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Painting in the Rain 2: 1890-2006

Some great images here.

The Eclectic Light Company

In the first article of this series, I showed how reluctant European and American painters were to depict rainfall as oblique streaks down an image. There was no such reluctance among Japanese print makers like Utagawa Hiroshige, though.

Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) (1797–1858), Evening Shower at Nihonbashi Bridge (Edo, 1830-4), woodblock print, 26.2 × 38.7 cm, Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons. Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) (1797–1858), Evening Shower at Nihonbashi Bridge (Edo, 1830-4), woodblock print, 26.2 × 38.7 cm, Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

These two woodblock prints by Hiroshige show how effective liberal use of rain streaks can be.

Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) (1797–1858), Evening Rain at Azumi-no Mori (吾嬬杜夜雨) (Edo, 1837-8), woodblock print. Wikimedia Commons. Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重) (1797–1858), Evening Rain at Azumi-no Mori (吾嬬杜夜雨) (Edo, 1837-8), woodblock print. Wikimedia Commons.

Among the European painters who saw and were inspired by Hiroshige’s Evening Rain at Azumi-no Mori was Vincent van Gogh.

vangoghrainauvers Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), Rain – Auvers (1890), oil on canvas, 50.3 x 100.2 cm, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, Wales. Wikimedia Commons.

Painted just a few days before his death, van Gogh’s Rain – Auvers

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Florem effleure un genre, une époque

Jolie Mome est absolument merveilleuse. Merci!

Un article particulier, pour une chanson particulière.

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Poetry Uncategorized

J’suis snob (Boris Vian) – Tatiana Eva-Marie

Baudelaire was interested in the concept of “The Dandy” as a correction to and standing above the faults of democracy. Leaving aside, for a moment, the differences between dandies and snobs, this song sounds rather cuckoo and is definitely not meant to be taken seriously. It is also curiously sweet and mignon.

The lyrics in French and with English translation are at


Line(s) of the Day #YesMinister (RIP Derek Fawlds)

Such a great programme and sad news of Fawld’s passing.

Alex Raphael

Derek FawldsBernard Woolley: “I’ll just say, ‘The Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter’ and something like ‘The matter is under consideration’, or even ‘under active consideration’.”
Jim Hacker: “What’s the difference?”
Bernard Woolley: “Well, ‘under consideration’ means we’ve lost the file, ‘under active consideration’ means we’re trying to find it.”

Jim Hacker: I’d like a new chair. I hate swivel chairs.
Bernard Woolley: It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of Minister: one sort folds up instantly; the other sort goes round and round in circles.

Bernard Woolley: Well, take the Foreign Office. First you get the CMG, then the KCMG, then the GCMG; the Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, Knight Commander of St Michael and St George, Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George. Of course, in the Service…

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Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Elizabeth Jennings’s Poem – Answers

I kept my answers small and kept them near;
Big questions bruised my mind but still I let
Small answers be a bulwark to my fear.

The huge abstractions I kept from the light;
Small things I handled and caressed and loved.
I let the stars assume the whole of night.

But the big answers clamoured to be moved
Into my life. Their great audacity
Shouted to be acknowledged and believed.

Even when all small answers build up to
Protection of my spirit, still I hear:
Big answers striving for their overthrow

And all the great conclusions coming near.

Jennings was a devout Catholic and it seems that religious themes are present in her work and in this poem in particular.


German Expressionism: taking inspiration from Leicester

Fascinating stuff! There always seems more to discover on this topic including Polish and Scandinavian artists drawn into the ambit of German art in this fertile period.

Expressionism in Germany is particularly associated with two major groups which emerged before World War One: Der Blaue Reiter in Munich and Die Brücke in Dresden, artistic communities which reacted against the bourgeois culture and wanted to change art and society. For those interested in seeing German Expressionist works now, obvious destinations are the Lenbachhaus in Munich or the Brücke Museum in Berlin. But closer to home, Leicester has a large collection of German Expressionist works which grew out of an exhibition of “Mid-European art” held there in February 1944. The exhibition was instigated by the then director of Leicester museums, Trevor Thomas (his is a fascinating life story – dismissed from his role in Leicester after the war following a court appearance for public indecency at a time when homosexuality was illegal, the last person to see Sylvia Plath alive…) and featured works belonging to a German emigré collector…

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#Non-Fiction The Churchill Factor

Thanks for this Nancy.It saves me from having to read it. Have you read Michael Todd’s great novels about Churchill? Andrew Roberts writes well too- his book on Salisbury was very enjoyable.


Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A+++++


  1. I started this book before the UK’s general election.
  2. It is fascinating to see how Boris Johnson
  3. emulates his hero, Churchill!
  4. Winston Churchill tipped the scales of destiny in 1940.
  5. We should all be thankful for his courage, pluck and
  6. famous message June 1940 to the British people:

“We shall go on to the end.
We shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender…”

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