William and Kate


Although I have a shameful tendency to be a bit cynical about such august events, that have to include the ridiculous hats of some members of the female establishment, designed more to attract attention than to adorn. (One could surmise that their significance is purely to compensate for their wearers' lack of it). Yet I must admit that although I half-heartedly started to watch the marriage proceedings of Kate Middleton and Prince William, I was soon fully taken by it, and eventually was even quite moved by it all. In addition I felt a surge of pride, especially when the old Spitfires, Hurricanes and a Lancaster Bomber flew over, as the royal carriages were drawn by the specially trained horses along the traditional route towards Buckingham Palace, after the faultless ceremony.
Apparently this was the 16th royal wedding in Westminster Abbey since Henry I married Princess Matilda (born Edith) of Scotland on the 11th November, 1100 by the Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury.

Going by observation alone, as not a great deal is yet know about Kate Middleton, she appears to be a beautiful, intelligent and worthy bride for Prince William.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, performed the marriage proceedings. He who made the generous suggestion that Britain should adopt Sharia laws for its Muslim communities... Despite the controversial personalities invited, such as the last absolute monarch of Swaziland- King Mswati III, who crushed Swaziland's last pro-democracy demonstrations, neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown were invited. This, although former Prime minister Sir John Major certainly was, but he is fortunate enough to have a special relationship with the royal family.
Was the decision not to include Tony Blair made to avoid any polemic connected to Britain's past engagement in Iraq? If so it would seem a most unworthy motive considering the country's real commitment there, and the sacrifice of so many young Brits. Perhaps there was another, more valid reason, otherwise it would appear to be a disappointing lack of solidarity on the part of the royal family.

Prince William is now the Duke of Cambridge. Kate is thus the Duchess of Cambridge. In addition Prince William has been bestowed with the title of Earl of Strathearn, and Baron of Carrickfergus. Kate will thus also have the title of Countess of Stathearn, and Baroness of Carrickfergus.

Amongst the invited were David and Victoria Beckham, Elton John and Rowan Atkinson. The list of celebrities would be long.

Of course such royal events in England are followed by the whole world. The French are particularly  enthusiastic. They seem to have adopted British Monarchy to compensate, to some extent, for having done away with their own so radically. The USA are also taken by such events, understandable in view of the history they share with the UK.

For those who are against the continuation of British Monarchy, they are destined to be disappointed. The marriage between Kate and William appears to indicate that the Crown is still likely to survive for many more years. And being convinced that the British Monarchy has a far more positive than negative effect on the nation's prosperity and prestige, long may it, and certainly this marriage, reign.
(As far as marriages go these days, including royal ones, this wish is as sincere as it is pertinent).
Text by Mirino. Some sources from the BBC, with thanks. Image- old Union Jack, also with thanks. April, 2011 

The Autumn of Ambrosius

Ambrosius trembled as he held the small vial close to the candle.
His eyesight wasn't very good, but he thought the liquid had the right colour and consistency.

In the corner behind him the old, copper alembic continued to make gurgling noises. Ambrosius placed the vial on a little stand, smoothed his tattered, velvet coat, and sighed.
'Who knows?' he shrugged.

For many years the old mole had been trying to obtain the right potion, the magic elixir that could change base metals into gold. Gold! That fabulous treasure of the Earth, that divine secret of Nature!

Ambrosius was an alchemist mole. The last of an ancient lineage.
His grandfather, Bartholomew Talpa, had dabbled in the 'Hermetic Art' and had left Ambrosius his secret notes, rules and recipes, as well as all his strange equipment and his famous library.

But Ambrosius dug much deeper into the art and science than his grandfather ever did. For hours he would bury himself in the old books, straining his eyes in the dim, candle-lit basement, under the old beech tree.

It seemed that the old mole rarely left his home, but he often needed more materials for his experiments, twigs for the fire, and naturally more food from the earth, and water from the nearby stream.

Some evenings, when Ambosius was feeling a bit low, he would sit on his doorstep and dreamily gaze at nothing.
'Worms can move the Earth, but they can only go where they can pass', he would sadly muse to himself.
His friend Horace, who lived much higher in the same tree, would fly down to try to cheer him up.

'Ambrosius, if you could see as far as I can, you would discover an infinity of stars glittering like diamonds in the sky, moons of silver, golden myriads of galaxies all of which far outshine our earthly ambitions...'
And Ambrosius would smile wearily and nod his head again. Horace was a wise old bird, but too much of a poet to understand everything. It was the Secret, and the Secret was the essence, an earthly Truth as vast as the infinite universe itself!

Their discussions would often last long into the night, and the owl would only leave Ambrosius when he was sure that the mole was his old self again.

Ambrosius' universe was his library, his chemicals, secret ingredients, melting pots and stills, under the old tree.
He shuffled over to the fire, poked it and added more twigs and segments of pine cone. Then he placed a pot of what looked like lead, on an iron stand above the fire.

His old head was full of muddled figures and theories, but he always remembered his chemistry spells-

'Brimstone bees' wax
Gummi arabicum
Moonshine candle-grease
Pinch of arsenicum'

He ambled back to table, took the little vial and again held it to the candle-light.

'Molecules vermicules
Limatura ferri
Saltpetre turpentine
Juice of whortle-berry'

He nodded then grunted a little tune as he return to the fire carefully carrying the vial of orange liquid. He sat before the fire and slowly leaned over to gaze into the pot.

'Rule of three
Argentum vivum
Fireflies aeriform
Aqua mineraltum'

The grey metal was beginning to soften.
He pulled off his spectacles and rubbed his eyes. It was most important not to allow the molten metal to bubble more than three times before adding the potion.

Ambrosius replaced his spectacles then suddenly groped for something in his pocket. 'Almost forgot again,' he thought to himself as he opened a little jar and rolled three drops of mercury into the melting pot.

All was ready. Ambosius stirred the molten metal then took a deep breath. He carefully lifted the little vial from his lap, uncorked it, sniffed, then just after the mixture had bubbled the third time, he added the precious contents to the pot.

Almost immediately the mixture crackled and spattered in such a way that had never occured before. His heart surged with a great boost of joy. "Eureka!" he cried uncontrollably.

His red nose twitched as he stirred the golden mixture and he softly repeated "Oh my goodness," while his heart thumped with excitement.

It appeared to be true. After endless attempts Ambrosius believed he had at last succeeded.
From base metal and his own brand of magic, science and blind-faith, it really looked as though he had made pure gold! At last he, Ambrosius Elymas Talpa, had achieved his greatest ambition. He had
arrived at the highest summit, the ultimate goal of his science!

He poured the yellow, molten metal into a mould and sat down breathing hard, watching it set. Suddenly he jumped up, did a curious little dance, then sat down again. He sighed deeply and contentedly.

'Old Horace will never believe it', he thought as he chuckled. Then he leant back and suddenly nodded off into a deep, snoring sleep.

Very early the next morning he awoke with a start. 'Was his old friend hooting again?' Then he remembered, and fear suddenly shook him. 'Was it all just another dream?'
He fumbled for his spectacles then grumbled and groped about for a candle to light.

There, still in its mould was the wonderful yellow metal. The mole 
sighed with enormous relief,  mopped his brow, then sat back in his chair smiling wistfully.
He suddenly felt old, tired and strangely sad. He shook his head slowly then snorted with self derision.

Outside the day was breaking.
The sun's first rays shone dustily through one of the tiny windows above.

Ambrosius struggled to his feet, put his hat on and made his way wearily up the steps to the window.

The windowpane, thicker that that of his spectacles, was covered with dust and grimy soot.
He tried to open the window but it was stuck fast.
Ambrosius decided he would go outside and take some morning air.

It was autumn. The rays of the rising sun cut across the fields and lit the trees.

The old mole sat on his doorstep. He felt very small, but he also felt a little wiser. 'Perhaps Horace was right after all', he thought smiling to himself, his eyes twinkling behind his spectacles like two tiny stars.
And all about him, richly gilt in the glorious morning light, lay a deep, golden splendour of the most beautiful beech leaves.

Ambrosius the alchemist
Lived beneath the wold
Where, many years he vainly spent
Trying to make gold.

He had an old alembic
And earthen crucibles,
Secret books and strange jars
Of herbs and chemicals.

Burying himself in old books
He passed his endless nights
Muttering incantations,
Shuffling through ancient rites.

Brimstone, bees' wax
Gummi arabicum
Moonshine, sunbeam
Pinch of arsenicum

Molecules, vermicules
Limatura ferri
Saltpetre turpentine
Juice of whortle-berry

Rule of three
Argentum vivum
Fireflies, aeriform
Aqua sublimatum

The years pass
As candles burn,
Time takes its toll;
And so came the autumn
Of Ambrosius the mole

One night in October
When the mole was quite old,
With blind faith and magic
At last he made his gold!

Slowly he climbed the steps
Leading to his door,
Which, with weary shoves he opened
To peer out on the moor.

The autumn sun was rising.
All was bathed in golden light.
The old mole couldn't see much
But his eyes were shining bright.

The Autumn of Ambrosius was written for children, which really means for all ages, because as a rule, one should never write or illustrate down to children.
It's a simple, philosophical tale written more than twenty years ago, but it was never completed. Even though there is only one finished illustration, two colour sketches and a few rough drawings, perhaps some readers of Viewfinder might find it interesting.
Maybe in one of the next posts there will be more information about this, with a personal view of children's book publishing in general.
Text and images © Mirino (PW) April, 2011


 Those who cling to dated power 
Would their only child devour.
Power becomes a senseless void,
When the future is thus destroyed
Then like the finest grains of sand,
Power sifts through the despot's hand
Leaving scars of a shameful past,
The only relics that might last.
 Power devoid of probity
  Is tyrannic iniquity. 

 Immortal power that is true
 Is pure celestial virtue.

After a long show of undeserved applause, Bashar al-Assad, during his last televised speech, made more an open accusation against foreign influence (Israel) for inciting the Syrian uprisings, than any concrete allusion to the reforms the Syrians have been protesting for. He referred two or three times to the Syrian people as- 'the children'.

Rhyme © Mirino. Image- 'Chronos devouring his child' by Goya 1820-1823 
(modified by Mirino with apologies to Goya). April, 2011


After a long show of undeserved applause, Bashar al-Assad, during his last televised speech, made more an open accusation against foreign elements (Israel) for provoking the Syrian uprisings than any concrete allusion to the reforms the Syrians want. He referred two or three times to the Syrian people as 'the children'.

Rhyme © Mirino. Image- 'Chronos devouring his child' by Goya 1820-1823 (modified by Mirino with apologies to Goya). April, 2011


 'Vice is like a fury to the vicious mind, and turns delight itself into punishment'

'Volpone' is one of Ben Jonson's major plays, yet it took him only a little more than a month to write, and it was performed in the spring of 1606 by the 'Kings Men'. It was an immediate success.

The names of the main characters were Italian, their choice in keeping with the personalities they portrayed.
The play was staged to be Venice, then known for its cosmopolitan charm, as well as its cosmopolitan vice. In fact Venice also seems to be targeted by Jonson in 'Volpone'.

Volpone, (large Fox) a rich Venetian miser determined to accumulate more wealth by unscrupulous cunning, feigned illness and the wish to make out his will to several inheritors- each one being led to believe that he or she was the unique heir.
Mosca (the Fly) is his henchman and parasite. His aid in beguiling the would-be inheritors is most ingenious and thus precious to Volpone.
Voltore, (the Vulture) is the dishonourable advocate prepared to entirely betray his profession to become Volpone's only heir.
Corbaccio (the Raven) is willing to disinherit his only son for Volpone's favour.
Corvino (the Crow) is even ready to go as far as to offer Volpone the pleasure of his beautiful wife for the privilege of becoming his only heir.
And Lady Would-be Politic, voluble wife of Sir Would-be Politic, (a naive and stupid Knight) also seems ready to prostitute herself for Volpone's favour.

Corvino and Corbaccio bestow valuable gifts on Volpone, both convinced that they will soon retrieve them.

It is a scathing and very amusing satire based on the timeless theme that 'the love of money is the root of all evil'. *
Jonson not only portrayed greedy people, he shed his theatre lights on the corrupt, 'civilised' world that creates laws to protect the gains of the greedy. Indeed over four centuries later, the world is still suffering from a major economical crises that seems to have been concocted from basically the same ingredients.

That Venice should be Jonson's choice lieu de scène implies much regarding the worldly reputation of Venice at that epoch. Venice was also famous, amongst its other attractions, for its courtesans who were then considered to be the most beautiful of Europe. But the ageless 'root of all evil' theme is also generally evident in the historic facts that led to the diabolical sack of Constantinople (the Fourth Crusade) that took place five centuries earlier. It was also used by Shakespeare in his 'Merchant of Venice'.

Ben Jonson (1572-1637) was an actor, poet, playwright, scholar, critic, translator and man of letters. He was the first writer to establish a literary school ('Sons of Ben'). He was a giant in every way.
Educated at Westminster School by the great classical scholar William Camden, Jonson left his studies to join the army and fought the Spanish in Flanders, at times at perilous close quarters. On his return to England, working as an actor and playwright, he killed a fellow actor in a duel. He managed to escape capital punishment by pleading 'benefit of clergy' (proving he could read and write which allowed him the privilege of being tried by a more lenient, ecclesiastical court).
He was often a fierce opponent of other playwrights and as he had converted to Catholicism, he was even suspected, if not accused, of being involved in the famous Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

He mellowed with the years however, and reconverted to Anglicanism. He also became the king's pensioned poet, a good friend of Shakespeare, Donne, Beaumont, Seldon and Bacon, and one of the favourites of the Court and the aristocratic society.
His school, in fact, was to become a reference and a source of inspiration (Cavalier School) and such poets as Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew and Sir John Suckling were honoured to consider themselves  'Ben's sons'.

This is the opening summary- 'The Argument' of Volpone.

V olpone, childless, rich, feigns sick, despairs,
O ffers his state to hopes of several heirs,
L ies  languishing; his parasite receives
P resents of all, assures, deludes; then weaves
O ther cross plots, which ope themselves, are told.
N ew tricks for safety are sought; they thrive: when bold,
E ach tempts the other again, and all are sold.°              °deceived                     
The next excerpt is the last part of Volpone's brilliant verbose performance disguised as 'Scoto of Mantua', a 'mountebank' charlatan in Act 2, Scene 2. This is the scene where he sets up his mock stage outside Corvino's house and sees Celia, the wife of Corvino, for the first time. He desires her, and has Mosca succeed in persuading Corvino to 'loan her' for his master's enjoyment. 

Lady, I kiss your bounty; and for this timely grace you have done your poor Scoto of Mantua. I will return you, over and above my oil, a secret of that high and inestimable nature shall make you forever enamoured on that minute wherein your eye first descended on so mean, yet not altogether to be despised, an object. Here is powder concealed in this paper, of which, if I should speak to the worth, nine thousand volumes were but as one page, that page as a line, that line as a word; so short is this pilgrimage of man (which some call life) to the expressing of it. Would I reflect on the price? Why, the whole world were but as an empire, that empire as a province, that province as a bank, that bank as a private purse to the purchase of it. I will only tell you: it is the powder that made Venus a goddess (given by Apollo), that kept her perpetually young, cleared her wrinkles, firmed her gums, filled her skin, coloured her hair; from her derived to Helen, and at the sack of Troy unfortunately lost; till now, in this our age, it was as happily recovered, by a studious antiquary, out of some ruins of Asia, who sent a moiety of it to the court of France (but much sophisticated¹), wherewith the ladies there now colour their hair. The rest, at this present, remains with me; extracted to a quintessence, so that wherever it but touches, in youth it perpetually preserves, in age restores the complexion; seats your teeth, did they dance like virginal jacks,² firm as a wall; makes them white as ivory, that were black as---'

(Entre Corvino)
Spite o' the devil, and my shame! (To Volpone) Come down here; Come down! No house but mine to make your scene?
Signor Flaminio, will you down, sir? down?
What, is my wife your Franciscina,³ sir?
No windows on the whole Piazza here
To make your properties, but mine? but mine? (beats away Volpone, Nano, and co.)
'Heart! ere tomorrow I shall be new christened,
And called the Pantalone di Bisognosi¹
About the town.          (Exit Corvino, and the crowd disperses.)

¹ diluted
² The woods in which quills were set that plucked the strings of harpsichords. Their bouncing motion provides 'Scoto's'   metaphor.
³ Flaminio- one of the characters (a lover) in la commedia dell'arte. Franciscina- another of the characters- the ever
available and attainable servant girl.
¹ Pantalone of Paupers. An senile, old fool in constant terror of being cuckolded, also in la commedia dell'arte.

*Chrisopher Marlowe reminds us that there are other sources of evil, one of which is still apparent today in different parts of the world- the love of power and the murderous means those so seemingly obsessed stoop to using in order to retain it.

Text © Mirino. Source- The Norton Anthology English Literature. Excerpts from Volpone, with grateful thanks. Portrait of Ben Jonson by Abraham Blyenberche c. 1617. Drawing title page for Volpone (1898 edition) by Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898). With thanks also to Wikimedia Commons. April, 2011

Scottish myths

The name of Glasgow, in Scotland, is derived from the Celtic 'Glas ghu' which means 'dear green place'. It's not so green today, but for many it still remains dear. It's patron Saint is St. Mungo who dedicated his life to Christianity in the mid 6th century.
It's said that he visited a holy man named Fergus. Fergus had been told he would survive until he met the person who would convert the whole region to Christianity. Thus soon after he received Mungo he passed away.
Mungo gently placed his body onto a cart drawn by two bulls. The bulls would stop at the place ordained by God. Where he cart stopped, Furgus was buried and the Church that was to become Glasgow Cathedral was also founded there.

There is also the legend of King Rydderach who gave his wife, Queen Langeoreth a gold ring. She, in turn, gave the ring to a handsome Knight. The king was informed of this and found the knight sleeping on the bank of the river Clyde. He took what he thought to be the same ring from the soldier's finger, and threw it into the river.

To punish the queen he then asked her why she wasn't wearing the ring he had given her. He challenged her to bring it to him. The queen sought out the knight to retrieve the ring. He told her that it had mysteriously disappeared whilst he was sleeping. The knight then confessed to St. Mungo asking him for forgiveness and help. St. Mungo told him to fish for a salmon in the river which he did. In the mouth of the first salmon he caught, he found the ring.
When the ring was shown to the king, he was persuaded that the queen had been falsely accused, and reprimanded the informers.

The salmon with the ring in its mouth is figured as part of the coat of arms of the City of Glasgow.

Not too far from Glasgow, towards the North West, lies eerie and nostalgic Glencoe in Argyllshire. This was where the unforgivable massacre took place in 1692. The murder of 40 Macdonalds by their guests, the treacherous Cambell militia. A further forty women and children who managed to escape, died of exposure in the snow covered hills.

The nine of diamonds is the playing card still known as the 'Curse of Scotland' because it resembles the Coat of arms of the Master of Stairs who was largely responsible for the abominable murders.

After this shameful crime it's said that fairy pipers led the Cambells astray in the mountains on their return to Fort William.

It is also said that the legendary magician Merlin is buried at the root of a hawthorn not far below the Drumelzier Churchyard in Peebleshire.
Having fled from a terrible vision during a battle he was alleged to be responsible for, Merlin begged St. Mungo to give him the last sacrament. He knew he was going to die a 'triple death'. His wish was granted, and during the same day he was beaten by shepherds armed with cudgels and stones. He was then thrown into the river Tweed where his body was also impaled by a stake. This then was the triple death: the beating, drowning and impaling.
From his burial originated a prophesy that has been handed down in the form of a simple rhyme.

                        'When Tweed and Pansayle°          °Powsail
Meet at Merlin's grave
Scotland and England
 Shall one Monarch have'.

When James VI of Scotland became England's James I, it is recorded that the Tweed overflowed its banks to meet the Powsail at the place where the grave of Merlin was said to be.

Ye banks and braes and steams around
The castle o' Montgomery,
Green be your woods, and fair your flowers,
Your waters never drumlie!
There Summer first unfald her robes,
And there the langest tarry!
For there I took the last fareweel
O' my sweet Highland Mary!

How sweetly bloom'd the gay, green birk,
How rich the hawthorn's blossom,
As underneath their fragrant shade
I clasp'd her to my bosom!
The golden hours on angel wings
Flew o'er me and my dearie:
For dear to me as light and life
Was my sweet Highland Mary.

Wi' monie a vow and lock'd embrace
Our parting was fu' tender;
And, pledging aft to meet again,
We tore oursels asunder.
But O' fell Death's untimely frost,
That nipt my flower sae early!
Now green's the sod, and cauld's the clay,
That wraps my Highland Mary!

O, pale, pale now, those rosy lips
I aft hae kiss'd sae fondly;
And clos'd for ay, the sparkling glance
That dwalt on me sae kindly;
And mouldering now in silent dust
That heart that lo'ed me dearly!
But still within my bosom's core
Shall live my Highland Mary.

Robert Burns

Scottish myths 2

Sources- Scotland, Myths and Legends, (B. Beare). Robert Burns poems and songs. Photos © Mirino. April, 2011


It's always easier to moralise than set a moral example- to point out what one thinks is wrong without making a more active commitment in trying to make things right.
But in today's divided world where intolerance still seems to have more free rein than tolerance, perhaps it's also important to try to contribute towards obtaining a more sane, realistic balance, based on the truth.

An important percentage of the world's population seems convinced of its religious superiority over everyone else. Many are persuaded that it's their duty to convert to their own religion all those who have their own faith or think differently. The former could therefore be regarded as moralists.

But if those who are convinced they are right, are to succeed in influencing all the others whom they believe to be wrong, they must also set the moral example that they advocate, without ambiguity and hypocrisy.

For example, if Islam forbids speculation and the easy acquisition of wealth by chance- 'Maysir', and gains thereby obtained to the detriment of others- 'Qimar', couldn't one make a parallel between this and the exploitation of fossil fuel resources?
Or how do Islamic banks get round the Koranic law that forbids the charging of interest on loans?
Even if there are doubts about the validity of making such parallels, there seems to be considerable incompatibility between capitalism, the accumulation of wealth from fortunate circumstances, and the practice of Islam and imposition of Sharia law.

The Iranian regime also persists in implementing barbaric, obsolete laws that according to some scholars are invalid because there is no reference to them in the Koran. It would therefore seem that they are practised mainly for political motives, to continue to instil fear in an oppressed, Iranian society. Yet like other oil-rich Muslim States, the Iranian regime would have no scruples about whatever religion its international clients practise or don't practise. Profit seems to preach louder than the Prophet where petrol dollars, or euros, are concerned.

In Syria we have witnessed the cynicism and irresponsibility of a President who greeted by an absurd show of undeserved applause, makes vague allusions to the requested reforms in his speech. The real objective of his address however, seemed more to discharge himself and his government of all responsibility by blaming 'foreign elements' (the USA and Israel, naturally) for having conspired to provoke the uprisings (of 'the children') in Syria. Naturally the Syrians aren't so easily duped. The demonstrations, and the elimination of demonstrators ('the children') continue.
Journalists are also being arrested and imprisoned, and there have been several reports that protesters wounded by the regime's forces, were even being deprived of medical attention. A brutal way to treat one's 'children'.

We could also refer, yet again, to the primitive treatment of women, which has no religious grounds, or to the use of indiscriminate violence in God's name, or to the callous lack of respect for sacred places, and for history in general, or to the ever present racism and hatred.
This of course pertains to radical Islamists and not to moderate Muslims. Yet there is too much contrast between the relative silence and non-engagement of so called moderates, and the rude, declarations and barbaric actions of the radicals. Consequently this could suggest complicity, lack of conviction or weakness.

These are the flagrant examples that spring to mind regarding today's moralists. Those who pretend to follow the unique path of truth and righteousness, and who seem to claim the monopoly of God.
They are the false moralists who pretend to wield the sword of divine justice over the rest of the world. They sermonise to the 'infidels' whom they despise, and at the same time profit from- in the cases that apply- to continue to enjoy their wealth and to maintain their economies.

But the social uprisings are strongly underlining the serious flaws of Muslim societies. The brutal reactions of the regimes also clearly reveal their own limitations, Tartuffian falseness and hypocrisy more than ever before.

The Armadinejads, al-Assads and Gaddafis of this world now appear to belong to a totally obsolete era, as do amongst other radical regimes and organisations, al-Qaida, and the Taliban. Their brutality, cynicism, racist hate and hypocrisy are totally devoid of religion, of subtlety and intelligence. They are the faceless, faithless, frustrated remnants of dated tyranny. True Muslims are quite aware of this. They also know that the days of such radicalism should now be considered as over.

The free world not only has the right to throw light on the obvious flaws, the falseness, the hypocrisy, the inconsistency, the brutal crimes against humanity, and the evil of such regimes and organisations, it also has the responsibility to do so.
Text by Mirino. Image- frame from a video 
(treatment inflicted on Syrian demonstrators by Syrian security forces). April, 2011

The deaf Rat

As simply as that
The elderly Rat
  Stealthily scampered away.

He wasn't spellbound
Being deaf to all sound
 That any Piper could play.
He chose to abide
In calm countryside
Where he raised a family

                        With ardent élan                          
                                 The numerous clan                                  
   Was born of the rule of three.
As such a large horde
Must have food and board,
 The old Rat announced his aim:

To take the whole breed
Where they could all feed,
    In the town from whence he came.


Text and images © Mirino (PW) April, 2011

Dr. Faustus

Marlowe's main tragedies- 'Tamburlaine', 'The Jew of Malta' and 'Dr. Faustus' are of characters  obsessed with power- of rule, of money, and in Dr. Faustus' case- of knowledge.
For the latter, Dr. Faustus is determined to sell his soul to the devil. Thus for eternal damnation he is granted the knowledge and power of occult art, black magic and necromancy.
It's possible that in Elizabethan times such a pact with the devil would have been taken quite literally.

Dr. Faustus originates from a German legend with historic roots.
A certain Doctor Georgius Sabellicus Faustus Junior (c. 1480-1540) who makes a pact with the devil by selling his soul for 'universal knowledge'. It has been reinterpreted several times, notably also by Goethe (c. 1790).

In Marlowe's play there are also veiled stabs against Roman Catholicism, which would be in keeping with the sensitive period when England still regarded its influence as a threat towards the English Monarchy.

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was born only two months before Shakespeare.
In 1580 he attended Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, a scholarship usually awarded to students who aspire to ministerial positions. Instead of this, Marlowe began to write plays.
When he made known his intention of going to Reims in France, the university sought to deny him his Master of Arts degree because Reims was then the centre of Catholic intrigue and propaganda against Queen Elizabeth. The Privy Council however, intervened in Marlowe's favour, as apparently he had performed certain duties for the queen as some sort of diplomat or secret agent, and finally this led to his being awarded his degree.

In 'Tamburlaine' which was a very successful play written before he left Cambridge, Marlowe makes an interesting reference to the laws of nature (perhaps also to human nature) when one of Tamburlaine's victims accuses him of sanguineous cruelty.
Never before that epoch had the English theatre heard such rhetorical and effective blank verse :

Nature, that framed us of four elements
Warring within our breast for regiment,
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds;
Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend
The wondrous architecture of the world
And measure every planet's wondering course,
Still climbing after knowledge infinite,
And always moving as the restless spheres,
Wills us to wear ourselves and never rest
Until we reach the ripest fruit of all,
That perfect bliss and sole felicity,
The sweet fruition of an earthly crown.

Christopher Marlowe was later to be accused of atheism and treason by the playwright Thomas Kyd. Tragically his life ended prematurely when in May, 1593, at only 29 years of age he was stabbed to death over an argument about a bill, at the Widow Bull Inn, Depford.

Here's a short, selected excerpt from Dr. Faustus, from Scene 3 :

I charge thee wait upon me whilst I live,
To do what ever Faustus shall command,
Be it to make the moon drop from her sphere,
Or the ocean to overwhelm the world.
I am a servant to great Lucifer,
And may not follow thee without his leave;
No more than he commands must we perform.
Did not he charge thee to appear to me?
No, I came now hither of mine own accord.
Did not my conjuring speeches raise thee? Speak!
That was the cause, but yet per accidens°             °immediate, not final cause
For when we hear one rack° the name of God,     °torture
Abjure the scriptures, and his saviour Christ,
We fly in hope to get his glorious soul,
Nor will we come, unless he uses such means
Whereby he is in danger to be damned:
Therefore the shortest cut for conjuring
Is stoutly to abjure the Trinity,
And pray devoutly to the prince of hell.
So Faustus hath already done, and hold this principle:
There is no chief but only Belzebub,
To whom Faustus doth dedicate himself,
This word damnation terrifies not him,
For he confounds hell in Elysium:
His ghost be with the old philosophers.°                  °hell- Elysium of philosophers
But leaving these vain trifles of men's souls,
Tell me, what is that Lucifer thy lord?
Arch-regent and commander of all spirits.
Was not Lucifer an angel once?
Yes Faustus, and most dearly loved of God.
How comes it then that he is prince of devils?
O, by aspiring pride and insolence,
For which God threw him from the face of heaven.
And what are you that live with Lucifer?
Unhappy spirits that fell with Lucifer,
Conspired against our God with Lucifer,
And are for ever damned with Lucifer.
Where are you damned?
In hell.
How comes it then that thou art out of hell?
Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Think'st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss!°             °great torment of hell- loss of God
O Faustus, leave these frivolous demands,
Which strike a terror to my fainting soul.
What, is great Mephastophilis so passionate
For being deprived of the joys of heaven?
Learn thou of Faustus manly fortitude,
And scorn those joys thou never shall possess.
Go bear these tidings to great Lucifer,
Seeing Faustus hath incurred eternal death
By desperate thoughts against Jove's deity:
Say, he surrenders up to him his soul
So he will spare him four and twenty years,
Letting him live in all voluptuousness,
Having thee ever to attend on me,
To give me whatsoever I shall ask,
To tell me whatsoever I demand,
To slay mine enemies, and aid my friends,
And always be obedient to my will.
Go, and return to mighty Lucifer,
And meet me in my study at midnight
And then resolved me of thy master's mind.°            °his decision
I will Faustus.
Had I as many souls as there be stars
I'd give them all for Mephastophilis.
By him I'll be great emperor of the world,
And make a bridge through the moving air
To pass the ocean with a band of men;
I'll join the hills that bind the Afric shore,
And make that land continent to Spain,
And both contributory to my crown,
The emperor° shall not live but by my leave,        °the Holy Roman Empire
Nor any potentate of Germany.
Now that I have obtained what I desire
I'll live in speculation° of this art                              °contemplation
Till Mephastophilis return again.

Source- The Norton Anthology English Literature, with grateful thanks. 
Text and composite image © Mirino. April, 2011

There is a garden..

There is a garden in her face
Where diverse vegetables grow;
 Yet a ploughed plot could have more grace
Than whatever hell had to show.
There carrots and mauve turnips thrive
Till "turnip-ripe" they stay alive.

Those turnips grow in random rows
Next to the peas that pods enclose,
 Which, when she grins, she might expose.
 They look like beads with peevish glows.
Yet for mere peas no fool would strive,
Till "pea-pod ripe" they stay alive.

Her nose is like a Brussels sprout
Her forehead a furrowèd patch,
With ears of cauliflower no doubt
 And beetroot cheeks that fail to match.
Of them all peers themselves deprive
                  Till "beetroot-ripe" they stay alive.                 

With apologies to Thomas Campion (1567 - 1620)
Cock & Bull fever
Ups and downs

Parody and image © Mirino. April 2011

Adieu Kadhafi

Comment est-ce possible que Kadhafi et ses fils, n'ont rien pu anticiper de cette manifestation de ras le bol? La seule explication est qu'ils étaient arrivés au point d'être totalement coupés de leur peuple. Non seulement le père façade de chef d'Etat, mais aussi ses fils ont vécu dans une autre époque. Le changement, comme un marais gigantesque, les a engloutis totalement par surprise, et depuis, tout moyen leur est bon pour essayer de regagner la surface, de se rattraper. Mais inutilement car ils sont allés trop loin. Ils sont descendu aux plus bas-fonds, et de là, personne ne peut en revenir sans souillure, et comme si de rien n'était.

Kadhafi a eu l'occasion d'étudier la question, de réaliser qu'il est quand même temps d'arrêter la comédie, et de moderniser le système libyen. Il aurait pu préparer des réformes nécessaires qui mèneraient petit à petit à une vraie démocratie. Il aurait pu se comporter comme un homme digne de son pays. Il avait l'opportunité de montrer au monde que le terrorisme des années 80 et la piètre tyrannie faisaient partie d'un chapitre bien clos et complètement périmé. Il n'a fait que montrer le contraire. Parmi tous les choix qu'il a eu, il a choisi les pires, l'oppression, la violence, la division et le chaos.

Un homme plus intelligent aurait su qu'une fois engagé dans cette voie, il n'y a plus moyen de revenir en arrière. Peut-être, trop tard il le savait d'ailleurs. Ainsi s'il doit tomber, il veut faire le grand spectacle, la dernière scène grandiose en faisant tomber autant de monde possible avec lui. Le dernier acte d'un homme vide. Car seulement un homme vide sème la mort et le chaos autour de lui pour essayer de se donner quelque substance. Un homme intègre part tout simplement, et même sans claquer la porte. Kadhafi semble vouloir souligner qu'il est sans valeur.

Pour accuser la coalition des 'crimes contre l'humanité' il sautera sur toutes les occasions, et en même temps il n'hésitera pas de se cacher derrière les civils.
Cynisme minable car évidemment il est le premier responsable de cette situation inhumaine qui ne peut qu'empirer pour lui, sa famille, ses acolytes et son peuple tout entier.

Et maintenant, digne d'un complot Shakespearien le plus machiavélique, ses fils proposent de trahir leur père. Leur manière honteuse et lamentable de tenter à sauver les meubles. Ils doivent croire que les libyens sont dépourvus de cervelles. Si les fils sont ainsi capables de vendre leur propre père, ils sont capables de tout faire, comme cela a été déjà sans doute le cas. 

Non seulement la coalition doit aider les forces de l'opposition, mais elle doit aussi veiller avec discrétion que le peuple libyen puisse se réconcilier après la fin de cette confrontation. Seulement à partir de ce moment là, peut-il envisager et contrôler avec soin et précaution leur transition vers une véritable démocratie.

Pendant que les douteux expriment leurs réservations, comme toujours. Comme si de tels problèmes ne nous concernent aucunement. Mais le monde est bien plus petit qu'il n'était il y a 67 ans. Nos destins deviennent donc de plus en plus interconnectés avec le passage du temps.

Nous avons vu l'effet domino de la crise économique. D'abord on l'avait constaté presque avec un détachement désinvolte et même quasi dédaigneux. L'Europe considérait qu'il s'agissait d'un problème limité uniquement aux Etats Unis, mais il n'a pas fallu beaucoup de temps avant que l'Europe, puis le monde entier aient été frappé sans ménagement par le même tsunami financier.

Serait-il déraisonnable d'appliquer le même principe au système nerveux géopolitique et social international aujourd'hui?
En Septembre 2001, nous avons appris de la manière la plus atroce, que nous ne pouvions pas toujours fermer les yeux sur ce qui se passe d'injuste ailleurs, sans subir des conséquences néfastes, surtout lorsqu'on nous avait demandé notre aide auparavant, en expliquant clairement la situation y compris pourquoi on devrait s'y engager.

C'est justement pour ceci que le problème libyen est aussi un problème international. La Libye n'est pas loin de l'Europe. Celui qui gouverne un tel pays, surtout lorsqu'il est riche de ressources pétrolières, doit être digne de sa position et de sa responsabilité. Manifestement Kadhafi ne l'est pas. Il ne l'a jamais été. C'est toujours un vieux souteneur de terrorisme des années 80. Il n'a pas changé. Aujourd'hui il a l'air d'un bouffon sans emploi de théâtre populaire. C'est aussi pour cela qu'il est dangereux, et que le monde ne peut plus le tolérer.
Les libyens demandent et méritent bien mieux. Kadhafi devrait partir au plus vite, afin de donner une vraie chance à son pays et à son peuple.

(Ce matin, le 5 avril, 2011, Kadhafi a fait savoir qu'il veut négocier. N'était ce pas le souhait initial des démonstrateurs libyens, d'être accordés le droit de pouvoir négocier, d'oser demander que les autorités condescendent à considérer quelques reformes que le peuple estime justes, propices et nécessaires? Certains diraient que ce n'est jamais trop tard pour négocier, mais il y a sûrement des exceptions à la règle).

Aujourd'hui, 20 octobre, 2011, Moammar Kadhafi a été tue. Lui aussi s'est trouvé finalement dans un trou. Comme Saddam Hussein avant lui, et peut-être comme Bashar al-Assad et Mahmoud Ahmadinejad s'y trouveront à leur tour un beau jour. Car il n'y a plus de place sur terre pour la tyrannie. Il n'y a plus de futur pour ceux qui vivent dans le passé maintenant leur règne vide de sens par la répression et la violence.

Maintenant pour les libyens la voie est enfin claire. Il peuvent reconstruire leur pays et établirent une vraie démocratie aussi pour montrer ce que un peuple peut faire. Ils le doivent à ceux qui leur ont fait confiance, mais surtout ils le doivent à eux-mêmes. 
Text and image © Mirino (PW). April, 2011

Vanity's folly

The fools of vanity immortalised in Shakespeare's 'The Tragedy of King Lear'. To be symbolised later in the play by blind Gloucester led by his own son Edgar, disguised as Tom o' Bedlam, and King Lear himself, mad with grief, led by his own fool through the storm.

Vanity is all around us. Maybe it's a nugatory part of human nature. The vanity of despots who seem to think it normal to encourage division in their own people, and sacrifice them in order to continue to clutch to the last remnants of their obsolete power. This, rather than try to find a more sane, responsible solution which would also reunite their people. Or the vanity of others inflated by excessive shows of applause, who shift the blame for their nations' sociopolitical problems on 'subversive foreign elements'. They make vacuous speeches devoid of the promises that many of their people (their 'children') have fought and died for.

King Lear's vanity is amongst the most classic. He blindly rewards his two daughters for their false, bombastic shows of affection, being then more absorbed by his own self-esteem and generosity. He punishes his youngest daughter, she whom he had always previously preferred, because she refuses to curry his favour with similar, inane words.
All to develop into a mad mayhem of homicidal conspiracy ending tragically and unsatisfactory, as if to underline the folly, the totally negative and absurd consequences of vanity.

In 'The Tragedy of King Lear', the youngest daughter, Cordelia, is disinherited and virtually banished, although she becomes the wife and queen to the king of France who is far more aware of her integrity than her own father then appears to be (Act 1 Scene 1). Her eldest sisters, Regan and Goneril share the divided kingdom that king Lear gives them, and even then they are not satisfied.

There are many such tragedies performed in real life. If they are less deadly, they often stretch out a great deal longer than only five Acts. There is one I know of that's particularly haunting, even to this day. In this endless story there are also three daughters, but in this case the most favoured is the youngest. The eldest daughters legally contest the extent of their father's generosity towards their sister.
The vanity here was in the father's incapacity or unwillingness to find a satisfactory, reconciliatory solution that would have reassured his eldest daughters of his love for them, (assuming this love existed) and would have reunited his family whilst he was still alive.
It is also shown in the eldest sisters, who put their vanity and hurt pride first, before their late father's wishes- no matter how unfair his proposals then seemed to them to be. A vanity that incites them to systematically continue to refuse anything and everything that might facilitate things for their younger sister.
It's also apparent in the youngest daughter who would seem to prefer to fly the same old paternal banner, with its faded colours of pride, dissent and division, rather than do what only she has the power to do, which would simply be to unfetter herself and all concerned from what amounts to a useless ball and chain, by proposing to share the total inheritance equally three ways with her sisters.

The tragedy is that when pathological vanity is never properly cured, it invariably continues to fester for the following generations. An inheritance that should represent one's love and life can thus become, if not toxic, a loveless, lifeless gift that the grand children must also eventually contend with, joylessly.

Vanity, like old, tattered banners of history for unworthy causes, continue to flap in bad weather, unless they are checked, tied down or buried along with the original flag-bearer. Vanity, like history, continues to repeat itself if it's never analysed and diagnosed. As such, nothing is ever learnt or gained from it.  

Text and images © Mirino, 1st April, 2011