Before Millicent ran out of wool, which was most seldom, her life was simple, sedate and solitary.

Millicent was a house-mouse who preferred the privacy and comfort of her cosy home. She avoided going out as much as possible. She was short sighted, and always had plenty of knitting to do.

She knitted for all her neighbours and for anyone who asked. She would knit for you as well.
Whenever she finished knitting something, she would write a neat, little letter in sepia ink on pink, mouse-made paper to inform whoever she had knitted for, that it was ready.

The mice living nearby often made fun of her at their monthly mouse-meetings, parties, and rotary rodent-reunions, whilst Millicent was still at home, calmly knitting by candlelight. But when they received their letters, and knew that their scarves, socks, tail-warmers or gloves were ready, they were content.
At times they would bump into each other at Millicent's front door. Then they would try to make excuses for being there. It was silly really because they all knew. She was, after all, a very kind mouse. They were a little embarrassed because of the jokes they made about her, although they never admitted it.

One day however, as already mentioned, Millicent ran out of wool.
As there was no one she felt she could ask, and as the idea of having nothing to do made her feel rather useless and sad, she decided to put on her navy knitted coat and go to buy the wool herself.
And this is how she met Maguire.

Maguire O'Neal was a field-mouse who, like Millicent, liked to keep to himself. He was a strong, healthy mouse who had an Irish accent and sung harvest songs at the top of his voice.
The mice of the neighbourhood would never have associated Millicent with Maguire. To such a correct little community he seemed too boisterous and rural, whilst she seemed too prim and timid.

Maguire was a little younger than Millicent. He had heard some of the village jokes about her, and knew how she kept many of the local mice supplied with woollens. He had been curious to meet her for quite some time.

His chance came that very day as Millicent walked quickly by his field with her head shyly lowered as she nervously clasped her little shopping bag.
"It's a foin mornin'  Miss Millicent," he said quite loudly through the hedgerow.
Millicent was so startled that she lost her balance.
"Yes, yes, it certainly is Mr. eh..."
"You can call me Miguira, Miss, and oim very pleased to meet you tuu," he added.

He carefully made his way through the hedgerow so as not to scare her. His tail was quite bald but he had smiling eyes, a bright red nose, fine teeth and glossy ears. He took a large breath, tipped his cap, then modestly clasped his hands together.
"Topo' d' mornin' to ye Miss Millicent. Now tell me den, can I  be o' service to ye 't all?"

Well Maguire helped Millicent buy all the wool she needed.
Millicent knitted Maguire a nice scarf with a shamrock motive, then a pair of mouse mittens, two pairs of  striped socks, an initialed cardigan, a waist-coat with two pockets, a made to measure, cream coloured night-cap topped with a discreet tassel, and even a fine pair of emerald-green pyjamas. In fact Millicent knitted for Maguire all the time.

The neighbours no longer made jokes about Millicent. They made mean, mousy remarks instead. They were vexed that she no longer had time to knit for them. And they were probably jealous.

Maguire showed Millicent all the splendour and wonders of the local countryside. This sometimes overwhelmed her so much that she had tears of happiness in her eyes. And Millicent gave Maguire the cosy home he had always dreamed of.
They had plenty of wool, plenty of wheat grains, and they were always very very happy together.

The animal series of water-colour illustrations were completed quite a long while ago for personal amusement. The 'doggerel' poems were written aferwards. Sixteen of the illustrations were published as cards. Others were also published on a personal gallery basis. A selection of them was also published in the form of two small books, ('The March Hare'. 'The Christmas Fox'). Dutch versions of these books were also published.
For the books, John Bush wrote new verses. 
It may have been thought that the original poems were not 'orientated' enough towards children, (which really means not 'written down' enough to them).
At one time the artist intended to write simple little stories for some of the main animal caricatures, but finally, for what it's worth, this is the only one he ever got round to doing.


Text and illustration © Mirino (PW). June, 2012


As nature will have it, there is a vague possibility that the above stone (photographed with a Kodak Brownie, 'you push the button, we do the rest') originally came from the Grotta di Byron, Portovenere, Ligura, Italy.
So named in Lord Byron's honour, 'Byron's cave' was one of the poet's favourite haunts and sources of inspiration for his world renowned literary works. He would often meditate there, most likely about women, if not men as well, and how they, certainly the women, tiresomely intruded on his life and complicated things in general. In fact 'Byron's cave' may well have been a secluded refuge for him 'to get away from it all,' at least until his Italian admirers divulged the whereabouts of the secret Byronic haven.

This stone should interest the many steadfast followers of Lord Byron. They would doubtlessly include grateful Greek millionaires (who are aware of Byron's heroic stand on behalf of the Greeks against the Ottomans, to help secure the formers' independence). 
I shall keep it in a safe place until I receive the most appropriate offer from the luckiest of the many ardent collectors of Byron rubbish.

  So We'll Go No More A-Wooing 
So we'll go no more a-wooing
At all hours of the night,
  Though the pleasure in so doing  
On shady lovelessness casts light

For the glaive is often heavy
With firm designs of its own,
Its duty is more its levy
Than to rustily bow down.

 Though the night is made for snoring,
To rest the weary warrior's brow,
One can always go a-warring
At any time, and even now.

  Stanzas Written on the Road between Romford and Bow
Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit (unless he's a poet*).
Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur...

Oh, talk not to me of a name great in story,
The days of our youth are vague and desultory;
  Scotch eggs and best bitter were worth what they cost then
For he who for a quid was never quite lost then.

 But what were hats and half-crowns to a man who has plenty,
          Who drives down Park Lane in his brand new black Bentley?         
Then off for the weekend with his new floozy treasure!
What care I for such ease that can only give pleasure?

Oh Fame! - had I ever believed in thy power,
 I would have felt as a Lord high aloft in his tower.
               False modesty scores best with beauteous women               
Seduced by the charm of a portentous omen.

There I succeeded, and there still chiefly do,
If time has less bearing on all that is true.
Should there then be a spark of truth in this poem,
Tempus edax rerum would be nihil ad rem.

With apologies to George, Gordon Lord Byron
Stanzas written on the Road between Florence and Pisa 

*The fake-antique Latin citation about the imprudence of pissing against the wind, could be suitable as a metaphor regarding poets who through recklessness, urgent needs, desires or forces of circumstances, find themselves inundated with unanticipated problems they could well have done without. Byron seems to have qualified as a good example, despite his becoming the national poet and hero of Greece.
It's said that his heart- literally- remains in Missolonghi. His remains (less the heart) were destined to be buried in Westminster Abbey, but this was refused on the grounds of his 'immoral conduct.'
After lying in state for two days in London, and attracting enormous crowds, he was finally buried at St. Mary's Church in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.  
Text, parodies and image © Mirino, Sources include Wikipedia, with thanks. June, 2012

Thomas Love Peacock

'Marriage may often be a stormy lake, but celibacy is almost always a muddy horse pond.' 

As Thomas Love Peacock's prose and poems attest, satire became the mode and tradition of the 18th century.

Peacock's schooling finished when he was only thirteen, but through his avid interest in reading he educated himself to become an accomplished scholar, even to the degree of becoming a master of French and Italian classical literature.

He enjoyed an executive position at East India House, which gave him enough time to write essays, fiction, poems and translations, as one of his little poems indicates:

From ten to eleven, have breakfast for seven;
 From eleven to noon, think you've come too soon;
From twelve to one, think what's to be done;
From one to two, find nothing to do; 
From two to three, think it will be
A very great bore to stay till four.

He knew many writers, especially Shelley for whose will he was appointed executor.
Mary Ellen, Peacock's eldest daughter, married the poet and novelist George Meredith, but the marriage was not a happy one, and was the subject of Meredith's Modern Love sequence.

Peacock, (1785-1866) died at the age of eighty-one. It's probable that he would have lived to an even more venerable age had he not suffered the sad consequences of a house fire. Even though he had always had a phobia about fires, he refused to abandon his precious library- "By the immortal gods, I will not move!" Although he was finally persuaded to (move), it was all too much for him, and he collapsed.

His greatest satirical achievements are Headlong Hall (1816), Melincourt (1817), Nightmare Abbey (1818), and Crotchet Castle (1831). Nightmare Abbey satirises the major poets of the time, (Byron, Coleridge and even Shelley). Apparently none of them ever took offence.

The same applies to Peacock's The Four Ages of Poetry published in Charles Ollier's Literary Miscellany (1820). It's known as a satirical response to Shelley's Defence of Poetry. It's a brilliant comment on what he regarded as overly pretentious doctrines of Romantic poets such as Wordsworth.
His idea was based on a constant decline of poetry from the original 'golden age' to 'silver' then 'bronze' then 'iron.' He, however, starts with 'iron' as the original solid foundation of original poetry. According to Peacock, the poet continues to be 'a semi-barbarian in a civilized community.'

Peacock's style is surprisingly modern. To some extent it's reminiscent of Oscar Wilde's prose, obviously regarding the irony, if not the wit. Wilde however, cannot easily be equalled in the use of paradoxes.

Below is a selected extract from The Four Ages of Poetry, followed by his poem- The War Song of Dinas Vawr, a parody of brutal, gung-ho balads that used to glorify the horrors of war.

From The Four Ages of Poetry
Qui inter haec nutriuntur nonmagis sapere possunt, quam bene olere qui in culina habitant. ('Those who are nourished among these things are no more able to taste than those who live in a kitchen are able to smell.' (Petronius Satyricon 2)

The descriptive poetry of the present day has been called by its cultivators a return to nature. Nothing is more impertinent than this pretension. Poetry cannot travel out of the regions of its birth, the uncultivated lands of semi-civilized men. Mr. Wordsworth, the great leader of the returners to nature, cannot describe a scene under his own eyes without putting into it the shadow of a Danish boy or the living ghost of Lucy Gray, or some similar phantastical parturition of the moods of his mind.°
In the origin and perfection of poetry, all the associations of life were composed of poetical materials. With us it is decidedly the reverse. We know too that there are no Dryads in Hyde-Park nor Naiads in the Regent's canal. But barbaric manners and supernatural interventions are essential to poetry. Either in the scene, or in the time, or in both, it must be remote from our ordinary perceptions. While the historian and the philosopher are advancing in, and accelerating, the progress of knowledge, the poet is wallowing in the rubbish of departed ignorance, and raking up the ashes of dead savages to find gewgaws and rattles for the grown babies of the age. Mr. Scott digs up the poachers and cattle-stealers of the ancient border. Lord Byron cruises for thieves and pirates on the shores of the Morea and amomg the Greek islands. Mr. Southey wades through ponderous volumes of travels and old chronicles, from which he carefully selects all that is false, useless, and absurd, as being essentially poetical; and when he has a commonplace book full of monstrosities, strings them into an epic. Mr. Wordsworth picks up village legends from old women and sextons, and Mr. Coleridge, to the valuable information acquired from similar sources, superadds the dreams of crazy theologians and the mysticisms of German metaphysics, and favours the world with visions in verse, in which the quadruple elements of sexton, old women, Jeremy Taylor, and Emanual Kant, are harmonized into a delicious poetical compound. Mr. Moore presents us with a Persian, and Mr. Campbell with a Pennsylvanian tale, both formed on the same principle as Mr. Southey's epics, by extracting from perfunctory and desultory perusal of a collection of voyages and travels, all that useful investigation would not seek for and that common sense would reject.¹
These disjointed relics of tradition and fragments of second-hand observation, being woven into a tissue of verse, constructed on what Mr. Coleridge calls a new principle² (that is, no principle at all), compose a modern-antique compound of frippery and barbarism, in which the puling sentimentality of the present time is grafted on the misrepresented ruggedness of the past into a heterogeneous congeries of unamalgamating manners, sufficient to impose on the common readers of poetry, over whose understandings the poet of this class possesses that commanding advantage, which, in all circumstances and conditions of life, a man who knows something, however little, always possesses over one who knows nothing. (...)'

° The Danish Boy and Lucy Gray are poems by Wordsworth. The allusion is to Moods of My Own Mind, the heading to a section of Wordsworth's Poems in Two Volumes (1807).
¹ Allusions to Sir Walter Scott's verse romances eg. The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Byron's narrative verses such as The Giaour or The Bride of Abydos. Southey's epics, eg.Thalaba and Roderick: The Last of the Goths. Wordsworth's The Excursion, etc. Coleridge's super natural poems- The ancient Mariner and Christabel.
Thomas Moore's Lalla Rookh. Thomas Cambell's Gertrude of Wyoming.
² Coleridge refers to a meter in the Preface of Christabel 'founded on a new principle... of counting in each line the accents, not the syllables.'

The War Song of Dinas Vawr

The mountain sheep are sweeter,
But the valley sheep are fatter;
We therefore deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter.
We made an expedition;
We met a host, and quelled it;
We forced a strong position,
 And killed the men who held it.

On Dyfed's richest valley,
Where herds of kine were browsing,
We made a mighty sally,
To furnish our carousing.
Fierce warriors rushed to meet us;
We met them, and o'erthrew them:
They struggled hard to beat us;
 But we conquered them, and slew them.

As we drove our prize at leisure,
The king marched forth to greet us:
He rage surpassed all measure,
But his people could not match us.
He fled to his hall pillars;
And, ere our force we led off,
Some sacked his house and cellars,
While others cut his head off.

We there, in strife bewild'ring,
Spilt blood enough to swim in:
We orphaned many children,
And widowed many women.
The eagles and the ravens
We glutted with our foemen;
The heroes and the cravens,
The spearmen and the bowmen.

We brought away from battle,
And much their land bemoaned them,
Two thousand head of cattle,
And the head of him who owned them:
Ednyfed, king of Dyfed,
His head was borne before us;
 His wine and beasts supplied our feasts,
And his overthrow, our chorus.
'If ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers.'

Intro text and caricature of Peacock © Mirino (PW). Sources include The Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume 2. With thanks. June, 2012

The Hare's dream

What a day it has been.
How well deserved the rest!
The Hare will dream so sweetly now
By summer moonlight blest.

Images of beauty,
Inebriating bliss.
One can travel far-a-meadow
But there's nought as fine
As this.

Quelle journée on a eu
Quel repos bien mérité!
 Le Lièvre fera de beaux rêves
Au clair de la lune d'été.

Images de beauté,
Enchantement grisant.
On peut voyager des prés
Mais rien ne le vaut autant.

The Hare's dream. The relief after having accomplished a demanding project. Or that of having come through reasonably well an experience that one had qualms about. The merited, much needed repose, at least until another ordeal looms up on the horizon.

An alternative dream could be the mirage of retirement. That at last it will bring the freedom and opportunities required to realise all the things hitherto postponed that one had always planned to do.

But others (fortunate enough?) never even imagine that Edenic oasis. They never even retire at all. They work all the more frantically, fully aware that precious time is running out..!

Recently I was sent a chart regarding retirement. It was from the Economist, entitled 'Fun with Pensions'. 'The burden of increased longevity in the rich world'.

It first refers to the plans of the new French President, François Hollande, to revert to the retirement age of 60, instead of respecting the modest age increase planned by his predecessor to an official retirement age of 62.
It states that in 1970 the average Frenchmen entering retirement could expect to live for just over ten years. Now he could expect to live for another 23 years.

Assuming, without any conviction whatsoever, that it's economically feasible, and that the average Frenchman would be content to stop work at 60 and to do virtually nothing for an average of 23 years, how would one intelligently contend with this?

It's a tragic illusion to believe that retirement will bring the rewards that one is deprived of by actually working. In fact it follows that if one feels deprived by working, one would feel deprived by living. Retirement won't bring any relief or contentment to those who have never bothered to try to accomplish anything worthwhile, or have never been satisfied in life.

The following allusions may already have been made elsewhere in Viewfinder, but I once asked a woman of a certain age (certainly well over Holland's irresponsible choice of retirement age) what the secret was of her enduring blossom and youth. She immediately replied, "Work." In her case she was also referring to menial work.
For everything is relative. Whatever one does, one should do it well, therefore with pride, personal engagement, and whenever possible, also with love. Without such commitment, there's no life, so retirement won't change anything other than prolong the dull, self-inflicted misery.

I also referred to a mason who started work at the age of 14. He is now almost ninety and still has the hands of an artist. He's still capable of squaring stone perfectly, and building beautiful walls with the same confidence, love and dedication. To watch him work is a joy and a privilege.

To pander to the frustrated, adding to their delusions, treating them as an unfortunate, exploited mass of miserable moutons, instead of encouraging them to lift up their heads and give the best of themselves as individuals for as long as they can, is pushing them further down into the abysmal mire of deception.

But for those who still call themselves socialists, (which today is totally meaningless) perpetuating the caricature of imagined misery of those who 'profess' to painfully work whilst being oppressed, exploited and even 'bled dry' by the 'cruel, tyrannical directorate', also perpetuates their political reason of being. As such their political survival seems to depend directly on the imagined misery of others. A myth that they consciously perpetuate. It's a mild form of totalitarianism. They thrive on feigning to care for those foolish enough to believe in them. As long as they can pretend to be altruistic, (the essential part of the disease they constantly nurture) the noble heart of their noble cause will continue to nobly throb.

We digress, but such are the times, whilst the Hare is miles away enjoying the most perfect, peaceful and well deserved repose in sublime surroundings.
A moonlit scene of satisfaction. Having accomplished his duty, his engagements or his works of merit, and having celebrated the achievement fittingly.

The knowledge that one has nothing to prove to anyone but oneself, and that if one were 'Hare' today and gone tomorrow, it wouldn't essentially matter.
The knowledge that what one continues to try to accomplish with the same love and dedication for the rest of one's life, are extra gifts from the Gods, fabulous bonuses and surprises, certainly for the creator.

Perhaps like the contented Hare, one would never have previously thought it possible. Blest with the secret of eternal youth, to be able to carry on with the same confidence and ability, even to the extent of actually continuing to progress and evolve, and this for as long as one is accorded the precious gift of life.!

Doggerel, text and illustration © Mirino. June, 2012

Scottish myths 16

  Loch Monsters

It's said that the Loch Ness monster was brought to the world's attention in 1933 when there were as many as five eye-witness accounts during that year, but sightings have been recorded at various times throughout history, allegedly even from as early as the 6th century.
One of the 1933 sightings was made by a Mr. George Spicer. During a drive round the loch the Londoner and his wife saw "the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life" ambling across the road to return to the loch with an animal in its mouth. The report was published in the Inverness Courier.

Similar creatures, mostly thought to be surviving generations of the Plesiosaur, have also been seen in other, very deep Scottish lochs.
The Loch Ness is the largest of three lochs in the Great Glen. It's 23 miles (37 km) long and 1 mile (1,6 km) wide. It's average depth is 182 m (600 ft).

The 6th century report is found in the Life of St. Columba, written in the 7th century by Adamnán. He relates that during the previous century the Irish monk, St. Columba, whilst sojourning with some of his followers in the land of the Picts, noticed some villagers burying someone by the River Ness. As Columba wished to know more, the villagers explained that the victim had been swimming in the river when he was suddenly attacked, mauled then dragged below the surface by a "water beast". Some men in a boat had tried to save the poor man but only succeeded in retrieving his corpse.
On hearing this St. Columba went out on the river in a small boat with one of his devotees, Luigne moccu Min. He then bid his faithful, foolish friend to swim in the river. When the creature was drawn to the bait, Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded the beast : "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once." The ferocious beast reacted as if it were "pulled back with ropes" and "swam away in terror." Columba's men and the Picts praised God for this miracle.

The creature's reaction appears to indicate that the 6th century generation of Loch Ness Monsters were God fearing man eaters, and that St. Columba's stern command set a precedent for the future generations of Loch Ness Monsters. From then on it would seem that they had to mostly make do with a diet of fish, for to my knowledge there are no records of them ever attacking human beings again.

I came across the following account in the Collins Book of Scotland (1950). It was written by Seton Gordon (b. 1886) in Highways and Byways in the Central Highlands.

'From the neighbourhood of Urquhart Castle of recent years the strange but now well-attested creature, the Loch Ness monster, has on a number of occasions been seen. There is in my mind no doubt that such a creature- there may be more than one- does exist in Loch Ness. Among a number of reliable witnesses who told me that they saw the monster was the late Captain Grant, of the MacBrayne paddle steamer Pioneer, which regularly plies on Loch Ness during the summer months. From Captain Grant's observations- and from the observations of other reputable witnesses- it would seem that the strange creature is timid, and that the sound, or vibration, of a steamer's screw or paddles causes it to submerge while the ship is yet a considerable distance off.
Mr. Goodbody of Invergarry House and his daughter watched the creature for forty minutes through a stalking-glass. The Loch Ness Monster is indeed no recent "find", although at the present day it is known to a much larger number of people than ever before. The chief reason, I believe, why many more people now see it is that the new high-road along the north shore of Loch Ness gives a much better view of the loch. But there is another reason. Before the monster became, so to speak, public property, those who saw the "unchancy" creature decided that the less said about it the better. They realised that they would be laughed at, or pitied, or would be set down as addicted to a "dram." So long as half a century ago, to my knowledge, children were told by their nurses that if they persisted in naughtiness the loch monster would take them. I heard of a well-known resident on Loch Ness-side who one day, after rowing down the loch in his small boat, appeared at a friend's house white and shaken, and asked for brandy. His friend for some time vainly endeavoured to ascertain the cause of his distress, to receive as answer, "It is no use my telling you, for even if I did you would not believe me." But in the end, when prevailed upon to unburden himself of his secret, he said to his friend, "As I was rowing down the loch some creature came to the surface beside me- and all I can say is that I hope I may never see the like again."
Most of the large and deep Highland lochs harbour, in the legends of the country, creatures which, as described in old books and writings, in their appearance resemble the Loch Ness monster. A peculiarity common to them all would appear to be their humps. The monster of Loch Morar, deepest loch in Scotland with a depth of 1,080 feet, and a floor no less than 1,050 below sea level, had a special name; it was known to the Gaelic-speaking Highlanders of the district as Mhorag
(pronounced Vorag), and appeared only before a death in the family of Macdonell of Morar. May it not be that in the monster of Loch Ness we have a survival of an ancient race which, living for the most part under water and being of a timid disposition, has existed in comparative obscurity successive centuries?'

Scottish myths 17 
Scottish myths 15

Intro text and images © Mirino. The Loch Ness Monster from Collins Book of Scotland
With thanks. June, 2012

Le lancement officiel

Le Président est lancé pour de bon, immortalisé médiocrement par sa photo officielle prise par Raymond Depardon, (qui devrait peut-être le demander, au moins à ceux qui ont davantage de discernement qu'apparemment le Président lui-même).

Elle ornera tous les bureaux gouvernementaux, les mairies françaises, ainsi que ceux des territoires d'outre mer pour au moins cinq ans, à condition que le nouveau Président tienne le coup pour la durée de son premier quinquennat.
Naturellement la photo de Monsieur Hollande ornera aussi les bureaux de la rue Solférino pour le plaisir de ceux qui exaltent la normalité, qui veut dire aussi dans ce cas, la banalité.

Mais avant même que les tirages soient encadrés, on n'entend rien de bon à propos de cette photo.
L'un des journaux qui a investi tant d'effort à lancer le candidat Hollande, et à défaire Nicolas Sarkozy (et continue à l'attaquer même aujourd'hui d'ailleurs) a aussi publié un article par Mrlung pour témoigner un manque d'approbation pour le travail de Monsieur Depardon, 'Lapsus photographique d'un ratage annoncé'.
On se demande si le ratage annoncé est aussi une allusion au futur bilan de Monsieur Hollande, car personne ne peut être ravi par sa performance jusqu'à présent, y compris ceux qui ont voté pour lui.

Laurence Parisot, présidente du Medef commence à s'inquiéter sérieusement à propos de l'emploi, et à propos des projets du nouveau gouvernement, comme celui du retour à la retraite à 60 ans.
C'est vrai que Monsieur Hollande a fait certaines promesses sans jamais vérifier avec l'aide des experts, si économiquement ces projets sont faisables. Rien n'a été étudié ni expliqué clairement. Il n'y avait aucune proposition des alternatives. Un package des faits accomplis uniquement pour contrer son prédécesseur et gagner les élections.
Et avec engouement, la moitié des votants français l'a suivi comme s'il s'agissait du joueur de flûte.

Mais soyons justes. Il est en bonne santé. Donnons lui encore le bénéfice du doute, sans jamais toutefois baisser la garde.

Puis pour la photo, il y a des fautes frappantes que même Mrlung n'a pas fait allusion. Mauvaises jonctions entre l'épaule droite et le coin de l'Elysée. Celle ridicule du toit et son oreille droite. Celle de l'index de sa main droite et la ligne de ses pantalons. D'ailleurs on pourrait estimer que son bras droit plus long et plus grand que son bras gauche soit donc 'politiquement incorrect'. Il y a un manque d'accent et de netteté à l'égard des drapeaux (plutôt 'Hollandais à gauche') et européen. En plus le drapeau européen devrait être placé à l'autre côté d'un drapeau obligatoirement français.  Et en principe ils devraient être mis en valeur davantage pour une photo officielle d'un Président de la République.

Mais on se borne surtout à afficher cette soi-disant 'normalité'. C'est l'objectif, le critère et on dirait aussi la priorité. On veut même étaler cette normalité de manière totalement anormale, tel qu'elle devienne une affectation grotesque, transparente et donc ridicule.
Si Raymond Depardon voulait capter cet aspect flou et tartuffien du sujet, alors sa photo est une réussite.
Ainsi Monsieur Hollande est bel et bien lancé. Il a pris son essor serein, 'normalement', au dessus de tout le monde.

Text and image modification (with apologies to Mr. Depardon and Mr. Hollande) © Mirino. June, 2012

Old Worthy


'Good day', said Dr. Spot
Doffing his top-hat, 
'It's a fine day for walking,
There is no doubt of that'.

Old Worthy simply nodded
Whistling his refrain
With bees about him humming,
Clomping down the lane.


'Bonjour', dit Dr. Spot 
Otant son chapeau, 
'C'est bien de vagabonder 
Lorsqu'il fait aussi beau'.
Vieux Worthy acquiesça 
Sifflotant son refr'in 
Au bourdonnement des abeilles 
Il suivit son chemin.


Old Worthy is naturally a model success. He is one of those who, even if he may sometimes be in the gutter,  he's looking at the stars.
Wilde, in his The Soul of Man Under Socialism, added- Sometimes the poor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.
Yet most people would agree with Ogden Nash-
'I would live my life in nonchalance and insouciance
Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance.'

But are there many wealthy people who are as happy and free as old Worthy? Accumulating wealth can be an obsession for those who seem to need to fill a void. They are often the ones who want to know the price of everything without ever knowing the value of anything. Their appreciation of art, or of whatever, is determined by how much it costs. Could this mean that a 'priceless' object for them would therefore be of no value?
Is not such blindness the worst poverty of all? The inveterate poverty of the mind. Life imprisonment shackled to one's treasure, the illusion of one's identity and reason of being. But how can one enjoy too many extravagant possessions without becoming their slave and prisoner? Again one thinks of Wilde's wit and wisdom : Le temps est une perte d'argent.

It's a socialist fallacy to believe that we are all born equal, but there's no doubt that in the natural sense we all die equal, and it's not the cost of one's coffin that can alter that.  

Once I went to the casino of Monte Carlo. It was with friends. A visit more for curiosity's sake than for any illusions of actually winning. We had decided that we would spend only a certain, modest amount, and that whoever would at least break even, would settle the restaurant bill elsewhere afterwards. Yet that same evening we saw an eccentric, over dressed, over face-lifted, old lady looking bored and dismal as she played roulette. She nonchalantly cast 500 franc chips on single numbers... A great deal of money in those days. It's probable that she regularly got through a day's dividends of several thousand each tiresome evening. It was as if she were mournfully, half-wittingly huddled in front of a fire, keeping herself warm by feeding it with bank notes. Astonishing.

When I was born, ration books still existed. Those who lived through the war years learnt how to make something out of nothing. There was no other choice. We were brought up to believe that wastefulness was a serious crime. A standard size tin of Heinz beans with toast was then considered sufficient for an evening meal for the six of us, and it was.
It's not a bad experience. Out of necessity you become generally resourceful. You appreciate the good times and natural things all the more. Priceless rainbows, sunrises and sunsets. The priceless gift of life itself, which might make you fortunate enough to become even as rich as old Worthy.

Text and illustration © Mirino. Citations of O.Wilde and Ogden Nash, with thanks. 
June, 2012

William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) was the son of a Londonian haberdasher. Although he attended school for a while, his mother continued his general education at home.
Even at an early age Blake was dedicated to art. He was only ten years old when he entered a school for drawing. This led to his studying for a period at the Royal Academy of Arts.

By the time he was fourteen he served as apprentice under James Basire, a well known engraver of his time. Blake also read a great deal whenever he had the opportunity.
Ten years later he married Catherine Boucher, the daughter of a market gardener. Blake taught her to read and to be able to assist him with his engravings.

He was probably not the easiest of husbands to live with. He was a very sensitive, budding genius, and some of his views, although philosophically commendable, were sometimes mistakenly construed as being those of a lunatic.

The Blakes got by reasonably well at first by his illustrating, engraving the work of other artists, and giving drawing lessons. But in 1800, when work became more scarce, Blake and his wife moved to Felpham on the Sussex coast, thanks to the patronage of William Hayley, a wealthy amateur of the arts who wrote poetry, some of which he had commissioned Blake to illustrate. 
Hayley tried to persuade Blake to be a more 'conventional artist', and this became the bone of contention between them. Blake affirmed that, 'Hayley is the Enemy of my Spiritual Life while he pretends to be the Friend of my Corporeal.'

In 1803, still in Felpham, something happened that was to deeply mark Blake. He had an argument with a private of the Royal Dragoons, a certain John Schofield. When Blake ordered the soldier to leave his garden, Schofield threatened both Blake and his wife, even resorting to a degree of violence. Following this he accused Blake of making seditious remarks about King and country. As England was then at war with France, sedition was a capital offence, punishable by hanging.

The court aquitted Blake, to the delight of its audience, but the whole dramatic event was to have a profound effect on him. He began to think in terms of the effects of contemporary forces of evil, and his religious opinions, poems and visual art were also to be influenced by this.

On his return to London he exhibited his work in 1809, but the exhibition was a flop, and from then on he was virtually forgotten.

Interest in Blake returned when he was in his sixties. By then he had become less tense, more confident and serene.

He died at the age of seventy.
Whilst his wife sat in tears at his bedside, Blake was still feverishly working on his Dante series. At one point he stopped working, turned to look at her and decided he should draw her portrait:  '... for you have been an angel to me...' 
He completed Kate's portrait, then began to sing hymns. After promising his wife that he would always be with her, he died at 6 pm.
A woman who was present at the time said, 'I have been at the death, not of a man, but of a blessed angel.'
George Richmond wrote the following in a letter to Samuel Palmer:
'He died... in a most glorious manner. He said He was going to that Country he had all His life wished to see & expressed Himself Happy, hoping for Salvation through Jesus Christ - Just before he died His countenance became fair. His eyes Brighten'd and he burst our Singing of the things he saw in Heaven.'

William Blake's way of illustrating using 'relief etching' was most pains-taking. He called it 'illuminated printing'. Contrary to etching where one 'draws' on a copper plate by scoring through the black acid-resistant ink thus finely exposing the metal, Blake worked directly on the plates with such ink drawing with pen or brush, and writing his text in reverse so that it would print to be lisable. The plate was then immersed in acid thus leaving the design (in ink) in relief. The pressed pages were then coloured by hand with water-colour before they were bound together.

Many of Blakes poems, such as The Tyger, have become so well known and timeless that one might refer to them sometimes forgetting who the author was. But isn't this essential to art, to speak for itself across time? This first poem, also known as Jerusalem, has since become a sort of anthem of England. It's a fine, inspiring example.

And Did Those Feet°

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among those dark Satanic Mills?¹

Bring me my Bow of burning gold
Bring me my Arrows of desire,
Bring me my spear; O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green & pleasant land.


°Written in the preface of Blake's poem of prophesy Milton. The poem is Blake's spiritual conception of the ancient legend still believed in parts of the British Isles, that at one time Jesus, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea, came to England.
¹ Perhaps an allusion to 'industrial status-quo'.

The Fly

Little Fly
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brush'd away

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink & sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength & breath,
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life & bid thee feed,
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb I'll tell thee!
He is callèd by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb;
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child;
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are callèd by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.  

Mad Song°

The wild winds weep,
And the night is a-cold;
Come hither, Sleep,
And my griefs infold:
But lo! the morning peeps
Over the eastern steeps,
And the rustling birds of dawn
The earth do scorn.

Lo! to the vault
Of paved heaven,
With sorrow fraught
My notes are driven;
They strike the ear of night,
Make weep the eyes of day;
They make mad the roaring winds,
And the tempests play.

Like a fiend in a cloud
With howling woe,
After night I do croud,
And with night will go;
I turn my back to the east,
From whence comforts have increas'd;
For light doth seize my brain
     With frantic pain.

°For the Fool in Shakespeare's scene of madness in King Lear act 3.
As a margin note on Spurzheim's Observations on Insanity Blake wrote the following : "Cowper came to me & said, 'O that I were insane always; I will never rest.... You retain health & yet are as mad as any of us all-- over us all-- mad as a refuge from unbelief--- from Bacon, Newton & Locke.' " Ironically Cowper was to go insane, as did several other 18th century poets.

The following from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell was written purposefully as an outrageous devils advocat's provocation to counter, amongst other issues, religious hypocrisy. (some of this is reminiscent of the ironic observations in Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth).

A Memorable Fancy

Once I saw a Devil in a flame of fire, who arose before an Angel that sat on a cloud, and the Devil utterd these words:
"The worship of God is, Honouring his gifts in other men, each according to his genius, and loving the greatest men best. Those who envy or calumniate great men hate God, for there is no other God."

The Angel hearing this became almost blue; but mastering himself, he grew yellow, & at last white, pink and smiling, and then he replied:
"Thou Idolater, is not God One? & is not he visible in Jesus Christ? and has not Jesus Christ given his sanction to the law of ten commandments, and are not all other men fools, sinners, & nothings?"
The Devil answer'd; "Bray a fool in a mortar with wheat, yet shall not his folly be beaten out of him.° If Jesus Christ is the greatest man, you ought to love him in the greatest degree. Now hear how he has given his sanction to the law of ten commandments: did he not mock at the sabbath, and so mock the sabbath's God? murder those who were murdered because of him? turn away the law from the woman taken in adultery? steal the labor of others to support him? bear false witness when he omitted making a defence before Pilate? covet when he pray'd for his disciples, and when he bid them shake off the dust of their feet against such as refused to lodge them?¹ I tell you, no virtue can exist without breaking these ten commandments. Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from rules."

When he had so spoken, I beheld the Angel, who stretched out his arms embracing the flame of fire, & he was consumed and arose as Elijah.²
Note. This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular friend; we often read the Bible together in its infernal and diabolical sense, which the world shall have if they behave well.
I also have The Bible of Hell,³ which the world shall have whether they will or no.
One Law for the lion & Ox is Oppression.                  1790-93

º Bray, crush into fine particles. Though thou shouldst bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him. (Proverbs 27-22)
¹ Mark 2.27. The sabbath was made for man, John 7.2 (the woman taken in adultery), Matthew 35. 13-14 (Christ's silence before Pilate), Matthew 10.4. Whoever shall not receive you... shake off the dust of your feet.
² II Kings 2.11. The prophet Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven, in a chariot of fire.

Despite its irony, A memorable Fancy reminds one of Milton's view that those who have always been sheltered from temptation and sin, can ever pretend to be virtuous. The parable of The prodigal son could be regarded as another example.

Intro © Mirino. Poems and text of William Blake. Sources include The Norton Anthology of English Literature volume 2. With thanks. Top portrait of W. Blake (1807) by Thomas Phillips (1770-1845) National Portrait Gallery, London. Engravings: Illustration depicting Newton. Pages (relief etchings) from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.  
Cerberus (pen, ink and watercolour over pencil and black chalk, National Gallery of Victoria. With thanks to Wikimedia Commons. June, 2012