Monday, May 30, 2011

ramble: research books bought & read, May 2011

This month's list of the non-fiction and classics I've read and bought is somewhat abbreviated, partly because I went mad at last month's book sale and spent all my money, and partly because I was sick for a few weeks and thus capable of doing little more than staring, half-conscious, at the internet.

So, anyway:

Monday, May 23, 2011

inspiration: "Stars" by Emily Brontë


Ah! why, because the dazzling sun
   Restored our Earth to joy,
Have you departed, every one,
   And left a desert sky?

All through the night, your glorious eyes
   Were gazing down in mine,
And, with a full heart's thankful sighs,
   I blessed that watch divine.

I was at peace, and drank your beams
   As they were life to me;
And revelled in my changeful dreams,
   Like petrel on the sea.

Thought followed thought, star followed star
   Through boundless regions, on;
While one sweet influence, near and far,
   Thrilled through, and proved us one!

Why did the morning dawn to break
   So great, so pure, a spell;
And scorch with fire the tranquil cheek,
   Where your cool radiance fell?

Blood-red, he rose, and, arrow-straight,
   His fierce beams struck my brow;
The soul of nature sprang, elate,
   But mine sank sad and low!

My lids closed down, yet through their veil
   I saw him, blazing, still,
And steep in gold the misty dale,
   And flash upon the hill.

I turned me to the pillow, then,
   To call back night, and see
Your worlds of solemn light, again,
   Throb with my heart, and me!

It would not do—the pillow glowed,
   And glowed both roof and floor;
And birds sang loudly in the wood,
   And fresh winds shook the door;

The curtains waved, the wakened flies
   Were murmuring round my room,
Imprisoned there, till I should rise,
   And give them leave to roam.

Oh, stars, and dreams, and gentle night;
   Oh, night and stars, return!
And hide me from the hostile light
   That does not warm, but burn;

That drains the blood of suffering men;
   Drinks tears, instead of dew;
Let me sleep through his blinding reign,
   And only wake with you!

-- Emily Brontë, in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846)
[via Wikisource here; read the whole book here]

Friday, May 20, 2011

ramble: a gathering of books on the Pre-Raphaelites

Mariana by J. E. Millais, 1851
I've always been in love with the Pre-Raphaelites. To me, their paintings represent "good" art: art that turns all of life into beauty, even the sorrowful bits, and makes that beauty into an emotion. Whether that's actually an appropriate definition of "good" art (or if there is any such thing as definably "good" art) is another debate entirely, but for me artistic beauty is most definitely exemplified in the work of the Pre-Raphaelites.

To contemporaries, however, the Pre-Raphaelites' works were ugly, blasphemous, and retrograde. The controversy the Pre-Raphaelites caused, and the drama of their private lives, are subjects as interesting as their creations.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood formed in 1848 as a group of seven artists, poets, and artistic/literary critics. The founding trio consisted of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais, and William Holman Hunt.

There were several other artists and writers of the period loosely associated with them, or influenced by their style and ideals, including Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, and John William Waterhouse. Women also belonged to the Pre-Raphaelite circle: they participated as painters and poets, as well as models and supporters. They included Elizabeth Siddal, Jane Morris, Christina Rossetti, Fanny Cornforth, Effie Gray, Marie Stillman, and Louise, the Marchioness of Waterford. (There is a detailed list of associates here.)

The art the Pre-Raphaelites created was as varied as they were. Though they promoted medievalism, realism, and romanticism, personal creativity was paramount and obviously their ideals sometimes clashed. Nevertheless, their work was a strong and vibrant response to the formal artistic traditions that had developed in Europe since the early 16th century, and they remain popular today; just check out any poster shop. (Or every last one of my walls.)

Thanks to my longstanding interest, I've amassed a collection of books about the Pre-Raphaelites' lives and art, and so I thought I'd relate them for the delectation (I love that word) of others who share my interest, or are looking for sources to start with. There's an overwhelming amount of Pre-Raphaelite titles both in and out of print!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

inspiration: "When I set out for Lyonnesse" by Thomas Hardy

When I set out for Lyonnesse,
   A hundred miles away,
   The rime was on the spray,
And starlight lit my lonesomeness
When I set out for Lyonnesse
   A hundred miles away.

What would bechance at Lyonnesse
   While I should sojourn there
   No prophet durst declare,
Nor did the wisest wizard guess
What would bechance at Lyonnesse
   While I should sojourn there.

When I came back from Lyonnesse
   With magic in my eyes,
   None managed to surmise
What meant my godlike gloriousness,
When I came back from Lyonnesse
   With magic in my eyes.

-- Thomas Hardy, from Satires of Circumstance (1914)
[read the collection here]

Friday, May 6, 2011

inspiration: the Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I


-- Isaac Oliver (or possibly Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger) (c. 1600-1602)
[via Wikimedia here]

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

inspiration: "One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted -" by Emily Dickinson

One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting —
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a'chase —
Than Unarmed, one's a'self encounter —
In lonesome Place —

Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
Should startle most —
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror's least.

The Body — borrows a Revolver —
He bolts the Door —
O'erlooking a superior spectre —
Or More —

-- Emily Dickinson (no. 670, c. 1863)
[via Wikisource here]