Celui qui regarde

L'Art est créé par celui qui regarde,
Même si le sujet est gras comme un lard
Ou trop incliné de mettre trop de fard
 Certaine de sa beauté sans en être bavarde.

Ce qui importe c'est comment l'on voit
Et non nécessairement ce que l'on croit
Pour que l'Art et la Beauté soient égaux en poids,
On a parfois recours à la très mauvaise foi.

Doggerel © Mirino. Illustration © Annabelle Noir-Mezeray, d'après La Suite de Cendrillon, de G. Appollinaire). With grateful thanks. (J'ai d'ailleurs l'honneur et le plaisir d'exposer actuellement une sélection des œuvres avec celles d'Annabelle).    January, 2013

Dorothy Wordsworth

Sometimes history reveals the truth of the saying that 'behind every great man there is often an even greater woman.' In the case of William Wordsworth perhaps this could be applied to his sister Dorothy, although it's doubtful that the truth of such a saying would have been generally acknowledged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855) was totally devoted to her brother, and as their mother died when Dorothy was only seven years old, (she was born on Christmas day, twenty-one months after the birth of William) she seemed to have also assumed a maternal role in William's life, at least for as long as her health permitted her to do so.

What is less known however, is her considerable writing talent. Although she was voluntarily and lovingly acquiescent to her brother's needs and his development as a poet, one might be willing to discern a more penetrating sense of observation, a more refined sensitivity, and an even deeper poetical feeling in her journals than that found in her brother's poetry.

It's possible that the many admirers of the work of William Wordsworth would scoff at such an insinuation, but often when poets wish to convey a poetical thought, and are intent on the technical aspects of the challenge, such as metre and rhyme, there is always the danger of losing the honest spontaneity of the original emotion, the essential source that inspired the idea and desire to write the poem in the first place.

One could liken this to the work of an artist, satisfied with a drawing which conveys precisely what the artist wished to convey according to his or her initial emotions and intention. But now the artist must try to reproduce, transfer, and ideally improve upon this drawing on water-colour paper or on whatever other surface. This represents a similar challenge.
For when one has to concentrate on a technical problem and process, there is always the real danger of losing the original spontaneous truth, that primordial essence of visual or written art.

Dorothy Wordsworth thus freely wrote her journals between 1798 and 1828. No doubt she wrote also for personal pleasure, but her priority was always her brother. 'I shall give William pleasure by it,'  was always her main objective.

One is reminded of Pepys' spontaneous sense of observation, but in spite of the eminent historic events, down to the 'private pastimes' that Pepys records so vividly, endearingly and amusingly in his diaries, naturally he lacks that feminine touch, the refined sensitivity expressed by Dorothy Wordsworth regarding details that Pepys most likely would have dismissed as being unimportant.

William Wordsworth and even Coleridge were considerably influenced by Dorothy.
She lived with her brother in Dorset, and then in the Lake District they were so fond of. It was perfectly naturally for her to subordinate her considerable talent to her brother's needs and aspirations. Such also were the times.

But Dorothy often suffered from ill health. Finally in 1835, following a serious illness, she had a physical and mental breakdown, and had to spend the rest of her life either confined to bed or to a wheelchair. From then on, even during the summer months she always needed the warmth of a well stoked fire.
Apart from short intervals of relative lucidity, she became exigent, difficult and even violently aggressive. Could this indicate that she was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease? Even so, it's to William's credit that he looked after her devotedly until his own death in 1850, five years before she finally followed him.

In her journals there are examples of her sensitive, luminous observations which undoubtedly  influenced Wordsworth, as well as perhaps Coleridge. One might be reluctant to accuse these famous poets of plagiarism, but certainly during his life time, Coleridge (whose poetry, in my modest opinion, is far more imaginative than Wordsworth's) was denounced for this.

Times were then hard however, and it would have been considered perfectly normal that William's sister, as well as his wife, Mary Hutchinson, be totally supportive in all respects.
Although there is often Freudian speculation regarding the relationships of brother and sister orphans, the devotion of Dorothy towards her brother, was unquestionably pure. There was never the slightest discord between Dorothy and Mary. Whilst Dorothy remained reasonably healthy, harmony reigned in the Wordsworth household, and William's children also benefited greatly from his sister's presence.

The following pieces were written by Dorothy on the 15th and 16th April, 1802 (The Grasmere Journals). If her description of the sight of the daffodils in the first passage is discerned as being even more vivid and intense than what Wordsworth managed to convey in his most famous poem, 'The Daffodils,' wouldn't this emphasise even more the enormous value of his sister's contribution and her considerable influence?
(Incidental mistakes and mannerisms have been left according to the text as published by The Norton Anthology).

Apr. 15
It was a threatening misty morning- but mild. We set off after dinner from Eusemere. Mrs. Clarkson went a short way with us but turned back. The wind was furious and we thought we must have returned. We first rested in the large Boat-house, then under a furze Bush opposite Mr. Clarkson's. Saw the plough going in the field. The wind seized our breath the Lake was rough. There was a Boat by itself floating in the middle of the Bay below Water Millock. We rested again in the Water Millock Lane. The hawthorns are black and green, the birches here and there greenish but there is yet more of purple to be seen on the Twigs. We got over into a field to avoid some cows- people working, a few primroses by the roadside, wood-sorrel flower, the anemone, scentless violets, strawberries, and that starry yellow flower which Mrs. C. calls pile wort. When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here and there a little knot and a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity and unity and life of that one busy highway. We rested again and again. The Bays were stormy, and we heard the waves at different distances and in the middle of the water like the sea. Rain came on- we were wet when we reached Luffs but we called in. Luckily all was chearless and gloomy so we faced the storm- we must  have been wet if we had waited- put on dry clothes at Dobson's. I was very kindly treated by a young woman, the Landlady looked sour but it is her way. She gave us a goodish supper. Excellent ham and potatoes. We paid 7/- when we came away. William was sitting by a bright fire when I came downstairs. He soon made his way to the library piled up in a corner of the window. He brought a volume of Congreve's plays. We had a glass of warm rum and water. We enjoyed ourselves and wished for Mary. It rained and blew when we went to bed. N.B. Deer in Gowbarrow park like skeletons.

(Wordsworth did not rush to compose his famous Daffodils poem following this enchanting sight promptly recorded by his sister. In fact 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' was composed two years later, in 1804).

Apr. 16 (Good Friday). 
When I undrew my curtains in the morning, I was much affected by the beauty of the prospect and the change. The sun shone, the wind has passed away, the hills looked chearful, the river was very bright as it flowed into the lake. The Church rises up behind a little knot of Rocks, the steeple not so high as an ordinary 3 story house. Trees, in a row in the garden under the wall. After Wm had shaved we set forward. The valley is at first broken by little rocky woody knolls that make retiring places, fairy valleys in the vale, the river winds along under these hills travelling not in a bustle but not slowly to the lake. We saw a fisherman in the flat meadow on the other side of the water. He came towards us and threw his line over the two arched Bridge. It is a Bridge of a heavy construction, almost bending inwards in the middle, but it is grey and there is a look of ancientry in the architecture of it that pleased me. As we go on the vale opens out more into one vale with somewhat of a cradle Bed. Cottages with groups of trees on the side of the hills. We passed a pair of twin Children 2 years old- Sate on the next bridge which we crossed a single arch. We rested again upon the Turf and looked at the same Bridge. We observed arches in the water occasioned by the large stones sending it down in two streams. A Sheep came plunging through the river, stumbled up the Bank and passed close to us, it had been frightened by an insignificant little Dog on the other side, its fleece dropped a glittering shower under its belly. Primroses by the road-side, pile wort that shone like stars of gold in the Sun, violets, strawberries, retired and half buried among the grass. When we came to the foot of Brothers water I left William sitting on the Bridge and went along the path on the right side of the Lake through the wood. I was delighted with what I saw. The water under the boughs of the bare old trees, the simplicity of the mountains and the exquisite beauty of the path. There was one grey cottage. I repeated the Glowworm° as I walked along. I hung over the gate, and thought I could have stayed for ever. When I returned I found William writing a poem descriptive of the sights and sounds we saw and heard. There was the gentle flowing of the stream, the glittering lively lake, green fields without a living creature to be seen on them, behind us, a flat pasture with 42 cattle feeding to our left the road leading to the hamlet, no smoke there, the sun shone on the bare roofs. The people were at work ploughing, harrowing and sowing- lasses spreading dung, a dog's barking now and then, cocks crowing, birds twittering, the snow in patches at the top of the highest hills, yellow palms, purple and green twigs on the Birches, ashes with their glittering spikes quite bare. The hawthorn a bright green with black stems under the oak. The moss of the oak glossy. We then went on, passed two sisters at work, they first passed us, one with two pitch forks in her hand. The other had a spade. We had some talk with them. They laughed aloud after we had gone perhaps half in wantonness, half boldness. William finished his poem before we got to the foot of Kirkstone.¹

° Wordsworth's 'Among all lovely things my Love had been,' composed four days previously. 'my Love' in this poem refers to Dorothy.
¹Wordsworth's 'Written in March' (when it was in fact written, or completed in April).

(Naturally there is quite a large choice of portraits of William Wordsworth, but there seems to be only one mediocre effort of his sister, which is to no one's honour, including Dorothy, her dog and the artist who painted them. For this reason I prefer to use the most appropriate image of daffodils that I could find. It does her more credit, and I hope that whoever took the picture, also deserving to be credited, will agree).

The Windmills
Written in October 
Worthless words 
Text © Mirino. Source and passages from The Grasmere journals- The Norton Anthology of English Literature. With thanks. Top image (unknown photographer) with many thanks. 
January, 2013

The Malian box

The Italian 'exercise' below, was written beforehand. Naturally the situation in Mali and Algeria has since evolved, hopefully for the better. At least this is the consensus expressed by French TV news, although there still seems to be conflicting reports, tragic consequences and general confusion.

If all then is 'reasonably under control,' it could be that the reservations expressed here are ill-founded. I could be accused of rocking the bateau, or of trying to find fault, at a time when stoic solidarity and stiff upper lips should prevail.

There are however paradoxes and incoherences that in my view deserve to be alluded to. For example, why was F. Hollande so intent on withdrawing the French troops from Afghanistan (where, alongside of other Nato forces, they were fighting Islamic extremists) to finally commit French troops (without the participation of Nato forces) to fight Islamic extremists in Mali?
What made the French President suddenly change his mind after adamantly refusing to commit French troops in Africa, according to his declaration last month?

On the other hand, despite the delay in making this engagement, one might argue that this is the first correct action that F. Hollande has performed since his being elected.

Admitting then that in principle F. Hollande had no other choice than to respond positively to an ex-colony's call for help, why make such references here to Pandora's box (or, for the Greeks and Italians, the more correct term 'vase')?

We are informed that the attack against the Algerian gas plant and the holding of foreign hostages were made by Libyan, Algerian and one or two European extremists. The motive was to punish the Algerian authorities for opening their airspace to French military aircraft bound for Mali. This clearly underlines the joint international objectives of Islamic estremists, as well as the tight co-ordination and co-operation between them.

Remarking on the Algerian drama, the French President feels that in view of this, the French intervention in Mali was all the more justified. However it's likely that the families of the hostage victims of the extremists' attack and the Algerian authorities' unequivocal reaction, might not see things quite the same way.

Biologists inform us that parasite insects invariably attack trees that are in ill health. It's a natural phenomenon. International jihadists will also try to take advantage of political and economical instability whenever and wherever it occurs. There is still a considerable amount of instability in various parts of the world, certainly in various regions of Africa, especially North Africa. 

One might then ask the question, could Monsieur Hollande have inadvertently opened, wider than ever, Pandora's box in Africa, thereby contributing to create another epicentre of international terrorism? Are we about to witness an infernal enlargement of the vortex drawing the world's jihadists to the most critical regions of central and northen Africa? Let's hope not.

Come candidato delle elezioni presidenziali uno degli impegni qualificanti di F. Hollande era che non ci sarebbero più state truppe francesi in Afganistan alla fine dell'anno 2012.
 A proposto dell'Africa Hollande diceva nel dicembre 2012 che non ci sarà alcun intervento militare francese nella regione. "Ce temps là est fini." (Francia/Africa).
Benché ci siano tuttora alcuni soldati francesi in Afganistan, ci si può chiedere che cosa differenzia gli estremisti islamici in Afganistan da quelli in Mali. E che cosa è accaduto per far sì che F. Hollande abbia cambiato parere a proposto del Mali?

In linea di principio, malgrado ciò che sembra un comportamento incoerente e paradossale, il Presidente francese ha ragione nel rispondere alla richiesta di un intervento armato in Mali. Ma forse Monsieur Hollande è caduto dalla padella alla brace. Almeno in Afghanistan la Francia combatteva accanto alla NATO. In Mali la Francia è relativamente sola.
Si potrebbe dire comunque che l'impegno di guerra di Monsieur Hollande in Mali contro i ribelli islamisti è la prima cosa buona che il Presidente francese ha fatto da quando è stato eletto. Anche se i comunisti e gli 'ecologisti' sono contro questa decisione, ma un tale atteggiamento da parte loro era naturalmente da preventivare.

Come la guerra in Afganistan, sappiamo che questa non è una guerra nazionale. C'è anche un pericolo che la Francia, nel suo slancio legittimo a rispondere alla richiesta di aiuto da parte di un'antica colonia, (e malgrado gli ostaggi francesi catturati, e il loro destino) abbia aperto sempre più un vaso di Pandora africano.

Ecco anche la ragione per cui l'Europa dovrebbe dimostrare senza ambiguità una vera solidarietà. Per far sapere che coloro che contano di colpire la Francia, colpiranno l'Europa intera.

La dichiarazione ufficiale del governo francese è che la Francia ha un solo obiettivo : assicurarsi che quando lasceranno il paese dopo l'incursione, il Mali sarà sicuro, avrà le sue autorità legittime, un processo elettorale, e non ci saranno più terroristi che minacciano il suo territorio.

Ma ci sono altre opinioni a proposto di questo bello slancio francese. Quella più evidente è che Monsieur Hollande aveva un bisogno urgente di fermare la caduta libera nei sondaggi francesi. Tanto è vero che dopo l'intervento i sondaggi dicono che la popolarità del Presidente è cresciuta.
Per la maggioranza della gente non c'è nulla che sia più efficace, per ritrovare la popolarità perduta di un capo di Stato, di una bella guerra.

Ma secondo Global Research il vero motivo è forse meno glorioso, ma comunque abbastanza sensato. Il Mali non è per nulla un paese povero, e sappiamo bene che Monsieur Hollande è un famoso calcolatore. Nel mondo di oggi nulla è gratuito, e la situazione economica attuale della Francia non le permette in nessun modo di fare regali a chicchessia.
Se l'opinione di Global Research riflette la verità, quindi senza troppi pregiudizi, a maggior ragione gli altri paesi europei offriranno i loro servizi.

Certo, sarebbe bello credere che Monsieur Hollande comincia a fare le cose per bene, senza alcun secondo fine. In ogni caso, in linea di principio, non credo che la Francia avesse altra scelta.

Tuttavia il tempo rivelerà se l'impegno della Francia è stato davvero opportuno, perché quel vaso di Pandora è decisamente da temere. Potrebbe traboccare dovunque nella regione ed anche altrove.
Già mentre sto scrivendo (16/1/2013) un sito di gas in Algeria è stato attaccato e ci sono molti ostaggi internazionali. [Da quest'attentato centinaia di ostaggi sono stati liberati dall'esercito algerino. Altri sono morti durante gli attacchi degli aerei algerini].

L'eventuale gratitudine del Mali è una cosa, ma occorre prima vincere la guerra. L'epicentro del jihad era l'Afganistan. Dovremmo credere che l'Africa del Nord sia il successivo? Stiamo vedendo lo sviluppo di un nuovo vortice esplosivo di terrorismo islamico? Speriamo di no.

Text and caricature © Mirino, with many thanks to Rob for editing my Italian effort. 
January, 2013

The Woodman

He had hardly noticed it before, or could it be that there was something about the tree that had always deterred him from approaching it?
But now he lifted his axe to finally cut down the old oak tree. As he swung his axe the earth beneath his feet trembled, and for a moment he lost his balance. Frowning, he wiped his neck and forehead with the red scarf that he had taken off, before winding it tightly round his right wrist. Then he prepared once more to hack at the tree.

As his axe was poised ready, the earth trembled again, more violently this time, and  the woodman heard a deep, grumbling murmur that seemed to rise up from the roots of the old tree.

"Woodman, I am older than fifty generations of your miserable family," came the deep murmur from the roots, "but I am by no means powerless."
"Allow me to live out my life in peace, and I shall grant you three wishes that will change your life. Try to hew me down and I promise you as I hold the earth in my roots, that you will soon regret it."

The woodman was so alarmed that he dropped his axe bruising his foot. The earth still grumbled like distant thunder, then there was silence.
He was so sure of what he had heard that he timidly approached the old tree, and then with what he thought was a suitably humble tone of voice, he asked the tree what he should do.

Once more the earth stirred, and the murmur, although more distant, returned.
"Go to your home woodman, and think well," rumbled the voice. "Tomorrow when the sun appears above this hill, the wishes that you must by then have chosen, will be granted."

When the tremors ceased, the late summer leaves of the old tree seemed to rustle as if with laughter. The woodman bowed servilely, picked up his axe and limped off down the hill.

Never had the woodman spent so much time thinking as he did that night. He wasn't used to thinking. Each time the dog barked to remind him that it hadn't eaten, he swore and kicked it to be quiet so that he could continue to concentrate on what to wish for.

He finally decided that he could do no better than wish for a fine palace to replace his miserable shack, a beautiful wife to replace his ungrateful cur, and great wealth to replace the meagre pittance he earned from selling pelts and firewood to the townsfolk.
Fully satisfied with his wishes and proud of them, the woodman was too excited to sleep. At the break of dawn he decided to go up the hill to find the old tree again, just to make sure that it wasn't all a dream.
The oak tree was still there sure enough. The woodman didn't approach it fearing that it might have a change of heart about the wishes. He waited for the sun to begin peeping above the hill, then he ambled back down the woodland slope.

As the sun shone more brightly over the hilltop, the woodman stopped, wiped his nose and sniffed. He began to think he had been tricked and that he would see his old shack again.
But there, in the clearing where his little home had been, appeared a fabulous, golden domed palace. It had ornate, arabesque windows and its walls were inlaid with rare marble. The palace seemed to outshine the rising sun with a thousand glorious colours.

He entered the richly carved portal, ran up the majestic steps, pushed through the arched, ebony doors and glanced through each room ignoring the beauty of the architecture and all the exquisite interior decorations, the rich oriental carpets and fine tapestries. The woodman was intent on finding the wife he had also wished for.
Finally, in a spacious, second floor bedroom, brushing her long, amber hair, he discovered the most beautiful woman. She was dressed in a long silk gown of pearl-rose damask. They looked at each other's reflection in the enormous, gilt mirror before her. Her green eyes flashed with anger as the woodman simply stared gaping like a stunned cod. Gradually her regard became more poised and calm, but there was no warmth in her voice.
She asked him to leave her suite and to kindly knock in future. She added that he should improve his appearance if he wished to share her company.

The woodman was so taken aback by this unexpected reprimand that he immediately obeyed her command. But as he paced about outside her room, he was soon overcome by an immense desire to possess her.
He knocked on her bedroom door loudly, but his new wife didn't respond. Naturally this made his anger worse. Blindly he burst into her room determined to ravish her. Terrified she tried to ward him off, but he was far too strong and oblivious to everything but his own frustration and lustful intent.

When he was finally satisfied he looked at her face, but it was expressionless. She was still. Her eyes were open but she saw nothing. He realised that in his wanton fury he had killed her.

The woodman was neither shocked nor sad. He dismissed her with a shrug. After all, she had been his possession, his wish, and he had used her as he had thought fit. She hadn't been a good wife to have struggled so disobediently.
In any case he felt quite out of place in this grand palace, as if he were a thief. And like a thief he filled his pockets with as much money as he could. The rest that he found he tied in bundles ripped from the fine curtains and bed linen. When he thought that he had taken all that there was in the fine palace, he left for the town in the valley carrying his heavy load.

Of course the townsfolk soon learnt of the woodman's great fortune. Almost just as soon he discovered how popular he had become. Even the lord mayor intended to invite the woodman to dinner. His rotund wife had persuaded him how opportune it would be.

The woodman bought new, expensive clothes that were nonetheless loud and ill-fitting. He purchased a fine, white horse that cost him much and hated him in return. He spent his money recklessly, and had little to show for this apart from his new friends.
When they learnt of his plans to continue his voyage, they were disappointed. Some offered to join him, but he firmly refused although he was truly flattered. He was a 'lone wolf', he explained. Besides, he felt insecure and wished to put as many leagues as possible between himself and his woodland hill, before he thought he could really begin to enjoy his new life, wealth and popularity.

And this he did excessively. His poor horse suffered from his cruelty. Yet despite the great distances they travelled, the woodman never really felt that they had gone far enough. He was tired however, and his rump and legs were sorely blistered from too much riding.

At each inn the woodman stayed longer and drank more than he should. His money ran through his fingers as if it were fine sand. When he was drunk he was often covertly robbed, but of this he never seemed to know or greatly care. Sometimes he would be coaxed into gambling and would play foolishly, but this he seldom remembered.

The woodman's fine horse had become thin, almost lame and exhausted. On the open road he eventually had to abandon it. He would have killed it too had it not managed to get away. The woodman still had his flask of aqua vitae, and enough of his remaining gold tied to his waste and in his pockets. But there was more to reward whoever should find and care for the neglected horse, still tied to its back in two saddle bags.
Fortunately for the woodman, he found that he was not far from a large town enclosed within a fortified wall.

By the time he arrived at the town gates it was almost evening. A sentinel refused him admittance unless he had business there. As the woodman was unable to invent anything, he bribed the sentinel to allow him to pass.
The woodman persuaded himself that he had finally arrived in a town large enough for him to enjoy himself in the way he wished.

First he would find an inn and wash the dust from his throat with drink. Later he would see what amusement the town could offer. He found a tavern where he ordered their best ale. There were many people there, talking and making merry. He began to feel ignored and despondent.
The more he drunk the more neglected he felt, and this grew into anger. He began to shout for attention. Many people stopped talking to turn with raised eye-brows before continuing their conversations.
The woodman then jumped to his feet, opened his shirt and slammed down his two remaining sacks of gold coins on the wooden table. This caused more interest, but it was a respectable house. The innkeeper approached him and discreetly advised him that if he wished to gamble he must go elsewhere.

The woodman spat, then disdainfully tossed some coins on the table. Heaving himself to his feet, he clumsily upset his chair before he lurched out into the night.
Many eyes followed him with expressions of distaste, others with pity. There were some however, who appeared to be more cool and thoughtful.

In a dark lane soon afterwards, the woodman was waylaid. Three men armed with clubs succeeded in robbing him of one of the bags of gold before they ran off. The woodman had fought well despite the odds and his drunkenness, but he had suffered for it.
What was left of his wealth lay all about him. The last bag had burst open during the attack. He wearily and painfully picked up each piece and repaired the bag as best he could. Then he managed to raise himself and limp away.

The night was long for the woodman, but he eventually found lodgings, even though he wasn't a welcome sight. Alone in his rented room he tried to nurse his wounds, then exhausted, he slept.
He dreamt of his little shack amongst the pines and stunted oaks. In his dream he dragged himself towards it but despite all his painful efforts he was never able to reach it. His home had been simple. He had made it himself and was proud of this.

Most of the next day the woodman spent resting his aching body in his room. In the late afternoon he asked the landlord to bring him some bread, salted-pork and wine. After he had bolted down his meal, he tried to think what he should do next.
He was no longer a rich man, but this never occurred to him. What sense of judgement he had was overcome by feelings of loneliness and dejection.

When darkness fell, he sought and found a woman whose tolerance was subjugate to her needs. The woodman's illusion to be able to buy love and compassion was completely destroyed when he finally awoke alone, to find that the last half-full, knotted bag of gold that he had previously hidden had gone.

He was too weary for anger, but hate rose in him like seething bile. He lay on the grimy bed in the seedy room, his soul as empty as the eyes of the woman he had killed. He stared blindly at nothing until the first light of dawn. His mind groped for something on which to vent his hatred.

The oak-tree.
He would return to find that old tree. The hoary, husk of life that had made such a mockery of his. He would destroy it. He would relish severing each branch from its trunk. He would slowly and methodically hack the trunk into small pieces, dig out every root and chop them all up. He would burn the cruel heart of the oak and grind the cinders into fine powder for the rain to make mud of.

With the last of the coins he found deep in one of his pockets, he had enough to buy an old grey mule. A sorry sight compared to his fine white horse, but humble enough to support him. He was also able to buy a minimum of provisions, then he left the town vowing never to return there again.
As he passed the gates the sentinel hardly noticed him.

From then on the woodman had only one thought in his mind, and let nothing else distract him from it. Throughout his return voyage he never wavered from his objective. He no longer had the means to do so in any case. He made his way steadily, nursing his hate, and in this way continued until he finally arrived in the small town in the valley, below the woodland hills not far from where he was born.

The returned woodman was insensitive to the cynicism, the cold distrust and vague curiosity shown by the townsfolk. He passed on towards the woodland slopes that still glowed with their late autumn colours. He left the exhausted mule loosely tethered at the foot of the hills, and climbed deliberately, his eyes glazed as he stared ahead.

The palace had gone. He already knew that this would be so, and was glad of it.
He was comforted to see his little shack once more in the clearing. Fungus grew on the pinewood and there was an acrid smell of decay.
His axe lay nearby, its head rusted. Inside the shack was a curious disorder and a musty smell of death. He saw the dried carcass of an animal under the table and remembered his dog.
The old sandstone wheel was behind the shack. He wet the stone and took time, almost lovingly, to sharpen his axe. Then he left to find the tree he was determined to destroy.

As the sun set that same day the townsfolk in the valley heard a strange thunder. Then they felt an earth tremor or what was also thought to have been an important landslide in the hills above them. There was some concern and various, knowing theories about it, but the interest it caused didn't last very long.

The old mule was found by a grateful wanderer.
The woodman was never heard of again, nor was he ever missed, but the old mule lived out the rest of its life very happily indeed.

Tale and illustrations © Mirino. January, 2013


                 Pearls of dew                         
                             On the lawn                             
                          Discreet robin                         
                            In the shade                            
Scented air
Of the dawn
                           Amber roses                           
                  Perfumes pervade                
                          Lucent grass                           
Nursed with care
                          In full bloom                           
                          Pink display                           
                       So rich and fair                        
Blue Aubretia
               Lights dusk gloom              
                   Rose bed walls                   
                       Built with love                       
Peaches fall
                                          From mystic tree                                         
                          On the roof                           
                        A turtle dove                        
                             Cooing soft                              
Mourn melody

                                 Like old friends                                
                                     Apple trees                                      
 They grow up 
 With the children
A universe
The child sees
Is no more
 Than a garden
All things pass
Old friends go
 Yet one recalls
                              And offers this                             
Of Paradise
And bliss
Text and image © Mirino. January, 2013

Scottish myths 23

The Ghosts of the Glen 

Unsurprisingly Glencoe, (Gleann Comhan), the alleged meaning of which is 'The Valley of the Dogs' or 'The Glen of Weeping',  perhaps more the former than the latter, (named after the river Coe, Ossian's 'Dark Cona') is shrouded in legends like the swirling mists that veil the majestic peaks. It's magnificent scenery that seems to express so much history, is always awe-inspiring.

According to the local poet John Cameron (1822-1898) Glencoe was the birthplace of Ossian. The River Coe (Cona) runs through the glen overlooked by mount Malmor on the southern side whilst Dun-Fionn, 'the hill of Fingal' rises on the northern side. Ossian's Cave, a high narrow cavern, can be seen on the face of Aonach Dubh, one of mountains known as 'The Three Sisters'.

Since the shameful massacre, the glen's reputation of being haunted should come as no surprise. Even in our day and age people continue to claim to have seen the ghosts of the Maclain MacDonalds, restless spectres unable find peace since their unforgettably cruel, and treacherous massacre. A crime for which the vindictive perpetrator, John Dalrymple, was never punished. On the contrary, he was later even given the title of the Earl of Stair.

Just before dawn, on a 13th of February, the anniversary date of the massacre, it's said that one can feel the presence of the victims' spirits. People have caught sight of shrouded clansmen gradually vanishing into the hillsides or sheer rock faces.
Some even claim to have heard the eery screams and distant cries of the poor victims, including those who died of exposure in the snow covered hills as they tried to escape.

Another legend recounts how, after the treacherous deed was done, many government soldiers intent on returning to Fort William were led astray by a host of pipers. And naturally the mournful skirl of the pipes can still be heard echoing in the glen today. One only needs to gaze across the glen and up into the misty hills to hear those wailing bag pipes. The imagined distant echo seems just as real, and one shudders as though momentarily yet profoundly immersed in this tragic history.
Glencoe should never be a welcoming valley for a Campbell.

Much earlier myths claim that Fingal, (Fionn McCumhail) the legendary giant and defeater of the Vikings, lived in Glencoe. Gaelic history was said to be recorded by Fingal's alleged son Ossian. But sadly, after being translated by the poet historian James MacPherson in the 18th century, the originals were written off as being unauthentic. The giant Fingal is of course associated with spectacular 'Fingal's cave,' so named after MacPherson's epic poem. The cave or sea tunnel can be seen on the southern edge of the island of Staffa. Its Gaelic name, as well as Stafa, is 'An Uaimh Bhinn' which means 'the melodious cave,' due to its arched ceiling formed by nature. Like a cathedral, it produces eerie, resounding echoes.

But to return to Glencoe, with giant strides, perhaps finally descending the Devils Staircase. There are witches and fairies there too, of course. There is Bean Nighe, a sort of washer woman who is for ever washing clothes- perhaps garments stained with blood- in the River Coe. It's said that anyone who sees her is doomed to die.
But in spite of the risk of catching sight of Bean Nighe, (yet another Bean°) Glencoe is very special. An unforgettable valley well worth visiting.

°Apparently 'Bean' is a  Pictish-Scottish name derived from the Gaelic Beathen or Betha, meaning 'life' (obviously unappropriately so regarding Bean Nighe and Sawney Bean). Bean was also a Saint in the Breviary of Aberdeen. 

 Scottish myths 24
Scottish myths 22

Text (various sources) and photos (Glencoe) © Mirino. 
Fingal's Cave, thanks to Wikimedia Commons. January, 2013

White winter

Another white winter
For old Blaireau
 Digging out the sett again
Buried in the snow.

No use grumbling
Or waiting for a thaw,
If you can't get through
Your own front door.

Deep, crisp and even,
A dream to recall,
Seasonal splendour
 And more about to fall.


Un autre hiver blanc
Pour le vieux blaireau
Degageant encore son terrier
De la neige à nouveau.

Futile de grommeler
   Ou d'attendre un dégel,   
Si on est coincé dehors,
Il faut manier la pelle.

  Profonde, lisse et craquante,
Un rêve à se rappeler,
La splendeur de la saison
 Sur le point de tomber. 
Doggerel and illustration © Mirino. January, 2013

Getting nowhere

 A retro-regard français, hoping that more reason will prevail during 2013.

Obviously David's clin d'œil envelop image this year is self-explanatory. After all, he too is 'exposed' to the French political elements, and with a government prone to gayly gallop backwards whilst what remains of the opposition weakly and torpidly tries to press forward, France seems to be getting nowhere.

It could hardly have passed unnoticed how often Viewfinder has had a go at F. Hollande ever since his inglorious election in May, 2012. But in spite of my origins, perhaps I've lived in France too long to accept to be represented in any way by those who first and foremost only represent themselves. I also believe that whenever possible and wherever one is, it's a democratic duty to do what one can, however modest, to try to bring to notice what seems to be a negative representation and tendency, rather than become an accomplice to it all by blind and resigned acceptance.

I am still persuaded that the main priority of F. Hollande was simply to become President of France. How he would subsequently interpret the role seemed to be more a question of ducking behind the convenient cover of socialist ideology, and shrewdly improvising as would any histrionic impostor. This, assuming he ever accorded his presidential duties and responsibilities with the primordial importance that they obviously have.

Would this not make him (also due to various circumstances and behaviour previously referred to) an opportunist fourbe, as well as a tartuffe?

But to try to be as fair as reality permits, it's not the easiest of times to assume the role of presidency. Hollande is also hobbled by his allies who were responsible in helping him squeeze through to 'win' by a mere pittance of 1.63%. We are referring to the 'ecologists' in the fake green corner, who with casual disdain shun nuclear energy, OGM research and shale gas exploitation, etc. They seem bent on regressing to a sort of 18th century 'Marxist' pre Revolutionary period, and are perhaps persuaded that there's still a bright, fertile and prosperous future for the three field system, Spanish windmills, candles and horse manure. Whilst in the red corner we have Mélenchon and his merry men. They are slightly less retrogressive, being fired up to regurgitate a remake of the horror, gore and thunder of the French Revolution itself. 

But Hollande is also hobbled by his own dated convictions, the ideology of socialism itself. And apparently he has no qualms about totally dividing the French as much as politically, socially, financially and humanly possible.

We know that the socialist party unenthusiastically settled for Hollande as their choice candidate. This after Strauss Kahn as first choice had shamefully derailed himself. And no one, least of all Hollande, tried to save him when it might still have been possible. We also know that once the choice was made, the pro-socialist media (even including those who had previously exposed Hollande's dodgy patrimony under-evaluation) did everything in their power to refurbish, fabricate and launch him. This, while they continued to denigrate N. Sarkozy, a systematic operation that virtually lasted the full period of the former President's five year mandate.

What remains a mystery however, is the reason why the media concerned felt that France should regress once more to archaic, perfidious socialism at such a critical period. It was apparent that whatever choice of candidate the socialist party came up with, was of no great importance in any case. Socialism was the be all end all objective, and the aghast, confounded and concerned realists, are still trying to figure out why.

Naturally there are always the perks, the advantages that would attract the arrivistes, the less scrupulous and 'undiscerning' of Hollande's partisans, but amazingly an important percentage of the intelligentsia were also persuaded that either he was the right choice, or that socialism should reign once more. Classic French socialism symbolised so appropriately by its ridiculously dated logo of the rigid rose, the stem of which appears to be brutally crushed in a churl's fist.

Static socialism, especially the French brand, seems totally incompatible with contemporary economic and social realities. Socialism can only 'work' for a limited duration at the best of financial periods, providing the nation that adopts it, is economically sovereign, sound, totally independant and isolated. This would mean that in order to try to continue to religiously (or rather, laically) apply the utopic ideals of French socialism, France would have to leave the euro zone, thus revert to the French franc, and control the entirety of its borders. As such it would either die from economic asphyxiation, or it would temporary become totalitarian only to eventually strangle itself more or less the same way.

Alternatively it might survive for a little longer thanks to the temporary success of a sort of up-dated Napoleonic persuasion campaign to spread French socialism throughout the euro zone itself.
Of course, trying to apply any one of these harebrained schemes would be totally absurd. This would be why the only alternative left is the actual one of faking it, compromising and avoiding any costly, foreign engagement as much as the over-inflated presidential image permits, which is leading France- and will continue to lead the nation- nowhere.

But the problem isn't only limited to France. Although Italy, Germany and Great Britain seem to be far more aware of the realities and challenge they have to face, they are also hobbled by their own systems, political conflicts, economical constraints and the negative domino effect caused by euro nations who have blindly given, or are still blindly giving priority to illusory socialism.  

In this regard there is some comfort in the thought that no euro zone nation can claim monetary sovereignty. And no European nation can apply politics that would consequently be detrimental to its neighbours.
What seems likely is that European competition will eventually determine the best that Europe can offer, produce and market. Assuming these products would ideally be conceived or improved upon and jointly created, they would eventually be manufactured by merged European industries established wherever they can best operate and flourish. This is already being realised in the automobile sector, and such mergers might continue to develop and flourish in the transport sector (TGV's, passenger and cargo airliners, etc.). Would the European objective of jointly producing the very best in all major sectors, not be the logical, evolutive outcome regarding Europe's joint economic interests and unity?

But compared with the advance of Eastern technology and production, especially in China, the above consideration seems naive and already fatally overdue. If Europe is to survive, it can no longer sit back and rely on its history, including pathetically dated, false ideology. It has to get up and realistically face the challenge of the future.

Surely French socialists must finally realise that equality, for example, is a utopian pipe-dream. It always has been because essentially it's unnatural in all respects. Or does the august ministre du Redressement Productif think he can persuade China, for instance, to hold back in order to allow France and Europe to 'catch up' for the sake of the noble cause?
In this regard one could also add that Fraternity and Liberty are also pipe-dreams, unless they are internationally attainable and applicable. But the French President would be far less concerned about trying to influence other nations to apply the noble motto of the French Revolution. Perhaps under his 'flamby façade,' gauche tie-knots, rebel shirt-cuffs and tinted remaining hair, there might be a grain of realism. For even he knows that the three French Republican ideals have never been successfully applied anywhere, including France.

This might seem a grim, dreary and ruthless way of introducing 2013, but as always, I'm bound to express myself according to my actual thoughts, feelings and fears.
We should also acknowledge that Hollande is even beginning to half-heartedly admit (in his New Year wishes) that certain actions may have met with a few 'soubresauts'...

As there is always a reason for everything, history will eventually show how much this will also apply to the year 2013.
For many reasons it's likely to be a very determining year indeed, world wide. If this be so, time might eventually reveal that it was inevitable. And to be more optimistic, that maybe it was also just as well.

Let's hope it will be positive, not only in determined, historic and philosophic reasoning, but in as many ways as possible, for us all.
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year 2013!

Text © Mirino. Image © David Mckee, with many thanks. 
January 1st, 2013