Friday, November 30, 2007

Poetry Friday 73

This week saw the 250th birthday of William Blake, who was born in London in 1757. When he was four he saw God's head appear in a window, later on he saw the prophet Ezekiel sitting in a field, and once came upon a tree full of angels. However, when he tried to tell his parents about these visions, his father threatened to beat him for lying, so he stopped mentioning such things and began drawing pictures instead. His work seemed so promising that his parents sent him to art school to become an engraver. Blake learnt how to engrave copper plates for printing illustrations in books, then went on to produce illustrations for books about botany, architecture and medicine. Since his work was so good he was commissioned to create his own illustrations for the work of Dante, Chaucer and selections from the Bible, which now are considered amongst the greatest works of engraving ever produced. Blake even invented a method of printing illustrations in colour, and art historians are still unsure how he did it.

Unfortunately, Blake's work as an illustrator grew more and more bizarre, until in the end he could only make a living by selling watercolours to a small group of private collectors.

However, Blake had also been writing poetry for most of his life, and since he had his own printing press, he decided to print it himself. He developed a process of writing his poems directly onto copper plates, then engraving illustrations around them. He would print a few dozen copies and stitch them into pamphlets, which he sold himself. His books got no attention in his lifetime and most critics dismissed him as a madman. He died in 1827, and it wasn't until 1863 that a biography about him persuaded people to read his poetry for the first time. Today, he's best known for the poems he wrote for children, Songs of Innocence (1789) and Songs of Experience (1794).

William Blake once wrote, "To see a world in a grain of sand, / And a heaven in a wild flower, / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, / And eternity in an hour."

He also said, "Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow."

This is one of his poems from Songs of Experience:


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Two Writing Teachers.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Poetry Friday 72

The weather's been a lot colder here in the UK this week so these lines by Shakespeare from "As You Like It" (Act II, Scene vii) seem somewhat apt !

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly.
Then heigh-ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Susan Taylor Brown's Blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Blog's Reading Level

I snagged this from Liz over at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy. Allegedly

cash advance

I have NO idea how they work this out but it seems a little - unlikely, shall we say?!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Poetry Friday 71

For this week's Poetry Friday offering, I have a poem of Matthew Arnold's:

Dover Beach

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I find this poem incredibly evocative of the sea at night and can easily see in my mind's eye the scene that Arnold describes.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is over at Big A, little a with Kelly H.

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In personal news, my mum's surgery went off OK yesterday and she's now back home with my dad and brother.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Poetry Friday 70

This week, in honour of receiving lots of Doctor Who related goodies for my birthday yesterday, I have three of Shakespeare's Sonnets, as addressed to "The Dark Lady" (according to the second episode of Season 3 (The Shakespeare Code), the Doctor's Companion, Martha Jones, was Shakespeare's inspiration for what are known as the "Dark Lady Sonnets"):

Sonnet 127

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:
For since each hand hath put on Nature's power,
Fairing the foul with Art's false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem
At such who, not born fair, no beauty lack,
Sland'ring creation with a false esteem:
Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
That every tongue says beauty should look so.

Sonnet 128

How oft when thou, my music, music play'st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless'd than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

Sonnet 132

Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,
Have put on black and loving mourners be,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even,
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
O! let it then as well beseem thy heart
To mourn for me since mourning doth thee grace,
And suit thy pity like in every part.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
And all they foul that thy complexion lack.

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This week's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by A Wrung Sponge

Friday, November 02, 2007

Poetry Friday 69

Shakespeare's Sonnets seem to be on my mind a lot again lately so I've got another one for you this week:


Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O! how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O! none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Since I am continuing to write Doctor Who stories, this Sonnet about Time's power over everything has really been filling my thoughts this week.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is over at Mentor Texts and More.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Awards News

Two lots of awards news to cheer me this morning:

From The Times online: A gothic tale about vampire hunters has become the perfect Hallowe'en winner of the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2007, it was announced yesterday. Marcus Sedgwick won the prize with his sinister story, My Swordhand is Singing, about a woodcutter and his son who fight the legendary undead in the forests of seventeenth-century Romania. (My review is here)

For more details about the prize visit Bookheads or Booked Up

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And in the non-Book Awards category David Tennant and Doctor Who both won awards in their categories in last night's National Television Awards ! Alas that Freema Agyeman couldn't make it a hat-trick.