Monday, 29 July 2013

A Rambling Miscellany Of Summery Verses and Pictures

 As we are in the midst of summer, it seems a miscellany of summery verses gathered from various books and songs would be a lovely seasonal touch.  Imagine being under a shady tree with a particularly fine picnic laid out, and of course, the temperature not too hot with a gentle breeze.  Lose yourself in all this romantic imagery of nature in Summer.
"The word 'summer' comes from the Sanskrit asma, meaning 'half-year'.  Like the year itself, summer is divided into seasons, low summer, midsummer, high summer.  Low summer is scarcely more advanced than high spring because several species of migrant birds have only lately arrived, and the woods shine as they did in May.  Midsummer is more spacious.  From dawn till dusk the sun spans our waking hours and overlaps them with a long arc which George Meredith drew with a short line: 'This was a day that knew not age.'   High summer bestows almost a surfeit of colour and scent, for the corn is yellowing, the chrysanthemums are flowering and the honeysuckle yields a second crop..."  J.H.B. Peel, from Calvacade of Summer Riches

"A Brimstone butterfly drifted with the wind over the waving grasses, and settled on the shallow cup of a tall flower, John-go-to-bed-at-noon.  The bright flowers were closing, for the sun was high.  It paused for an instant only, and then fluttered over the hedge and was gone.  Came a common white butterfly-a weed of the air, hated by the countrymen; yet part of summer's heart as it flickered like a strayed snowflake in the sunshine, passing the whorled spires of red-green sorrel and glazed petals of buttercup, living its brief hour among the scents and colours of summer. 
Vibrating their sun-crisped wings with shrill hum, the hover-flies shot past:  the wild bumble-bees sang to themselves as in a frenzy of labour for their ideal they took the pollen from the roses in the hedge; the cuckoos sent call after call of melody from the distant hazel coppice.  The sound of summer was everywhere, the earth filled with swelling ecstasy-everything so green and alive, the waving grasses and the hawthorns; the green kingdom charged and surcharged with energy, from the wild strawberry to the mighty, sap-surfeited bole of the oak.  Although so still, the vast earth was humming and vibrating, the crescendo of passion reached gradually while the sun  swept nearer, day by day, the zenith of its curve."  Henry Williamson, Meadow Grasses

Gather Meadowsweet For Its Invigorating Scent:
"Meadowsweet originally 'mead-sweet', takes its name from its use in flavouring honey-mead drinks.  It is reported that the flowers boiled in wine and drunk to make the heart merry.  The leaves and flowers far excel all other strewing herbs, for to deck up houses, to strew in chambers, halls and banquetting houses in the Summer time:  for the smell thereof makes the heart merry, delightest the senses." Gerald, Herball 1597
"Also used against fevers and malaria, meadowsweet contains a substance similar to aspirin.  In the Highlands it is called Crios Chuchulainn, 'Cuchullain's belt' because the great Ulster hero revived himself by binding it around his waist."  from, A Celtic Book of Days

"The high grasslands on a summer day have an idyllic quality.  They are remote and quiet.  They are green and kind to the eye.  They are ease to the feet, the flowers have great variety and a new beauty, and the very pebbles among which they grow have a sparkle and show of colour...Take a little tent and remain in the quietness for a few days.  It is magnificent to rise in the morning in such a place."   Sir Frank Fraser Darling, The Highlands and Islands

Summer has spread a cool, green tent
Upon the bare poles of this tree;
Where 'tis joy to sit all day,
And hear the small birds' melody;
To see the sheep stand bolt upright,
Nibbling at grass almost their height.
How much I marvel now how men
Can waste their fleeting days in greed;
That one man should desire more gold
Than twenty men should truly need;
For is not this green tone more sweet
Than any chamber of the great? 
W. H. Davies

"Is there any light quite like the June sun of the North and West?  It takes trouble out of the world." 
 Sir Frank Fraser Darling (1903-1979) Island Days

SUMMERY VERSES in Scots from traditional Scottish folk songs

Oh the Gallowa' hills are covered with broom, Wi' heather bells, in bonnie bloom;
Wi' heather bells an rivers a', An I'll gang oot ower the hills to Gallowa'...

High up amang yon Hieland hills
There lives a bonnie maiden,
And she's gone oot ane fine summer's night
To watch all the soldiers paradin'....

Oh the summer time is come and the trees are sweetly bloomin'
And the wild mountain thyme grows amang the bloomin' heather...

Let us go lassie, go, tae the braes o' Balquhidder,
Whar the blueberries grow 'mang the bonnie Hielan' heather;
Whar the deer and the rae, lichtly bounding thegither,
Sport the lang summer day on the braes o' Balquhidder.

Noo the summer's in prime, wi' the flooers richly bloomin',
Wi' the wild mountain thyme a' the moorlan's perfumin';
Tae oor dear native scenes let us journey thegither,
Whar glad innocence reigns, 'mang the braes o' Balquhidder. 
Robert Tannahill

Too quick despairer, wherefore wilt though go?   
Soon will the high Midsummer pomps come on,
Soon will the musk carnations break and swell
Soon shall we have gold-dusted snapdragon,
Sweet William with its homely cottage-smell,
And stocks in fragrant blow;
Roses that down the alleys shine afar,
And open, jasmine-muffled lattices,
And groups under the dreaming garden-trees,
And the full moon, and the white evening star.     (Matthew Arnold)

               SUMMER, by John Clare

The oak's slow-opening leaf, of deepening hue, 
Bespeaks the power of Summer once again;
While many a flower unfolds its charms to view,
To glad the entrance of his sultry reign.
Where peep the gaping speckled cuckoo-flowers,
Sweet is each rural scene she brings to pass;
Prizes to rambling school-boys' vacant hours,
Tracking wild searches through the meadow grass:
The meadow-sweet taunts high its showy wreath,
And sweet the quaking-grasses hide beneath.
Ah, 'barr'd from all that sweetens life below,
Another Summer still my eyes can see
Freed from the scorn and pilgrimage of woe,
To share the Seasons of Eternity.

"It was a bright morning in the early part of summer; the river had resumed its wonted banks, and a hot sun seemed to be pulling everything green and bushy up out of the earth, as if by strings.  The Mole and Water Rat had been up since dawn, busy on matters connected with boats and the boating season; painting and varnishing, mending paddles, repairing cushions, hunting for missing boat-hooks, and so on..." Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious wood-bine, With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine;
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night, Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight....
                           William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Paintings by: Samuel Palmer, Eric Ravilious,  Tirzah Garwood, Charles Robinson, Inga Moore, Vanessa Bell, unknown, Inga Moore,  Arthur Rackham, Helen Allingham, Stanley Spencer

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Discovering Old Bicycles

I came across a photo of this Shire Album book cover and think it looks an interesting, attractive little book.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Isle of Skye: Armchair Travelling

A wise man once said: 'Skye is not a place but an intoxication.'

With others writing about their summer journeys and some doing that via armchair travelling, I thought a special destination (reluctantly only) via books would be in order now.
Let us now journey to The Isle of Skye. I've felt drawn to the Isle of Skye for many years, but haven't actually been there...yet; for I feel it in my bones that I will get there.  I also was interested in it as Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull owned part of it and the Strathaird estate from the late 1970s to the mid-late 90s.

It takes very little to transport me to that Scottish island feeling, that sense of timelessness and the carefree state of mind that one has in that kind of wild surroundings.  It could be the sound of the sea, a fiddle tune, the natural, delicate and varied colours of a woollen scarf, and the intense lure from distant ancestry.  It has inspired my own music and painting, I've painted several landscapes, for sometimes one just needs to paint a mountain!  Here is one of mine from years ago, using it as an idea for a logo for my Thistle Cottage Recordings musical cottage industry:

I've gathered a few books together from my shelves specifically about, or set in, the Isle of Skye. Shall we browse through the selection?   There is 'Portrait of Skye And The Outer Hebrides' by W. Douglas Simpson,  'Skye & the Western Isles' by James & Deborah Penrith, 'Skye:  The Island And It's Legends' by Otta Swire, and 'Old Skye Tales' by William Mackenzie.  Then two mysteries with a Skye setting:  "Wildfire At Midnight' by Mary Stewart (which I read last year), and 'Master of Morgana' by Allan Campbell McLean, which I began reading last night.

From the lone shieling on the misty island, 
Mountains divide us, and a waste of seas;
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we, in dreams, behold the Hebrides.
" The Island of Skye-the 'Misty Isle' as it has long been the largest but one of the Hebrides.  Its main mass lies north-west and south-east, running out at its broad upper end into three long promontories of Trotternish, Vaternish, and Duirinish, divided from each other by Loch Snizort and Loch Dunvegan.  Midway from the long western coast projects the squat mass of Minginish, flanked by Loch Bracadale and Loch Scavaig.   Beyond the latter the bold headland of Strathaird is isolated by Loch Slapin and Loch Eishort from the long transverse butt of the island, known as Sleat and Strath, which in shape is uncommonly like a gigantic fish's tale.  The island is 49 miles in length.  It's breadth varies from 7 to 25 miles.  But owing to the irregularity of the coastline, and the great number of fjord-like lochs, no part of the interior is as much as 5 miles from the sea.  The total length of coastline is over 900 miles.  Skye contains 690 square miles, most of which is moorland and mountain.  Of the mountains, three main systems may be distinguished. The principal one is the grand group of the Cuillins, in the south-west, forming the base of Minginish.  Without question these are the most magnificent of British mountains."  (Portrait of Skye and the Outer Hebrides, W. Douglas Simpson, 1967)

There is much folklore, history, many books on Skye, and fiddle tunes, folksongs, folk bands from there or about there. 
  "Thanks to its stunning scenery, romantic associations and accessibility, Skye is the most visited of all the western islands and has been for more than a century, since the railroads and steamships of the Victorians brought the islands of the Inner Hebrides that much closer to the bursting cities of the mainland.  There are some purists who insist that Skye is no longer an island, and that somehow it's not the same singing the Skye Boat Song while speeding over the bridge that has kinked it firmly to the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh since 1995.   (Skye & the Western Isles, Penrith, 2007).
From traditional Scottish Folk band Ossian, the tune 'The Sound of Sleat:
  The 'Dun Ringill' video by Jethro Tull:
and Fish n' Sheep n' Rock n' Roll from 1987, about Ian Anderson's music and the salmon farm in Skye as well, which you can find easily.
The Corries with 'Skye Boat Song':
So we must gather our bags, not forgetting the Ordnance Survey map, sturdy walking boots, rain-proof jackets, some non-effective midge repellent, etc...and wend our way to the train station. 

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Folklore Of The Cotswolds

From my Interesting Book Covers series.  I bought this many years ago on holiday, I think from the 15th Century Bookshop in Lewes, Sussex.  It's an excellent volume in the Folklore Of The British Isles series by the great and legendary folklorist Katharine Briggs.  The artwork is striking and very good, but no matter how many times I see the cover, that face is rather alarming!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Agatha Christie: A Reader's Companion

'Agatha Christie- A Reader's Companion,' is a MUST if you are an Agatha Christie admirer.  It is a beautiful book and an absolute delight to browse through, being a compendium of all of her books and the date and synopsis of each story.  The most exciting feature of this book is the photographs of the artwork of the original dustjackets.

Another guide that goes into more depth than this one (but without the striking pictures) is 'The New Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie,' another Must Have for mystery readers.
   I've been an Agatha Christie fan since the age of eleven, but unfortunately I don't have a record of all her books I read in the early days, as I only started making a reading record several years later.  So, because there are so many titles, I sometimes wonder if I may have read a book in the past or not.  I have read some favourites multiple times, but I'm sure I have many more to read, and I'm glad that I haven't read them all....yet!