Sunday, 13 March 2016

Contextual Notes to 'Conversazione'


[1] The Romans quaffed celebratory wine prepared from rose and violet petals and honey.a  Thirteenth century apothecaries sold crystalised violets, roses and lilies to be steeped in sweetened hot water as a laxative. Violet flavoured candies were sold in decorated tins in Paris since the nineteenth century and also dusted on pastries as sugar crystals.b 

[2] I love no meat but Ortolans, and no women but you. Tho indeed that's no proper comparison but for fatt Dutchesses; For to love you is as if one should wish to Eat Angels, or drink Cherubim-Broath.

Alexander Pope. To Teresa & Martha Blount, 13th September 1717. The Correspondence of Alexander Pope: i. Edited by George Sherburn. 5 Vols, (Oxford University Press, 1956).

[3] Proclus (412 – 485), one of the last of the Neoplatonist philosophers and commentator on Plato writes ‘…the heliotrope follows in its movement the movement of the sun and the selenotrope the movement of the moon, forming a procession within the limits of their power, behind the torches of the universe? For, in truth, each thing prays according to the rank it occupies in nature, and sings the praise of the leader of the divine series to which it belongs, a spiritual or rational or physical or sensuous praise; for the heliotrope moves to the extent that it is free to move, and in its rotation, if we could hear the sound of the air buffeted by its movement, we should be aware that it is a hymn to its king, such as it is within the power of a plant to sing.’ 
                 ‘On earth suns and moons can be seen in an earthly state and in the heavens all the plants, stones, animals in a heavenly state, living spiritually.’
            ‘…the lotus manifests its affinity and sympathy with the sun. Before the appearance of the sun’s rays, its blossom is closed; it opens slowly at sunrise, unfolds as the sun rises to the zenith, and folds again and closes as the sun descends. What difference is there between the human manner of praising the sun by moving the mouth and lips, and that of the lotus which unfolds its petals? They are its lips and this is its natural hymn.’

It is written in The Holy Quran that the 7 heavens, the Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the beasts and many among humankind glorify God, all knowing their individual mode of praise and glorification:c

The 7 heavens and the Earth and those that are therein extol His glory; and there is not a thing but glorifies Him with His praise; but you understand not their praising.  Yet He is Forbearing and Most Forgiving.
The Holy Quran. Bani Israel [Children of Israel]: 44.

I would comment that when first built the mosque of the Prophet ﷺ had no minbar [pulpit] from which to address the congregation. He would speak while leaning against a palm tree trunk in the wall next to the qibla near where he prayed. Eventually he began to use a minbar, as we will explain in its proper place. As he moved over towards it to make his address from it and passed by that tree trunk, it moaned like a love-lorne camel because it had always heard his speeches delivered near itself. And so the Prophet ﷺ returned to it and hugged it until it settled down, just like a baby, and became quiet. Details of this will be given hereafter through various lines, from Sahl b. Sa'd al-Sa’idi, Jabir, 'Abd Allāh b. Umar, 'Abd Allāh b. 'Abbās, Anas b. Mālik and Umm Salama, God be pleased with them.
          What more appropriate than the comment made by al-Hasan al-Basri after relating this story, from Anas b. Mālik, "O Muslims! A piece of wood so pining for the Messenger of God ﷺ! Do not men hoping to meet him have even more right to yearn for him?"

Ibn Kathīr, Ismail. Al-Bidāya wa al-Nihāya: Al-Sīra Al-Nabawiyya [The Beginning & the End: The Life of the Prophet Muḥammad: ii]. 4 vols, (Garnet Publishing Ltd, 1998).  205. 
[4] "Are you there, Little Daughter?" they called, "Twii! Twii! Are you there?" "Yes, robins", she whispered, "I am here".  "Do come back, Little Daughter", they pleaded, "the … [whole] world is so sad without you … Do come back, Little Daughter, … the tall trees have lost all their leaves, so hard have they wept.  The birds sing no more.  No one knows where the daisies have vanished, and [even the] Great Sun is so sad that he rises later every morning and leaves us earlier every night.  Sometimes he hides his face for days behind the clouds and if you do not return, Little Daughter, he may never come again".  "Chut! I will come", whispered Little Daughter, "but I will come as a flower as tiny as a drop, and as white as the snow so that Queen Winter cannot see me".  And Snow-Drop grew out of the snow but everyone knew it was Great Sun’s Little Daughter.  They whispered it to each other when Winter was not about.  And new leaves grew on the branches again, and very shyly the birds sang again, and Great Sun smiled again as never before, and he woke earlier every morning and went to sleep later every night for his little daughter was found and all the big big world was happy once again.
 Khan, Noor Inayat.  Twenty Jataka Tales.  (1939). 

© Rehan Qayoom / Poets and Dreamers, 2015.
a See the Apicius.  
b See Stephanie LaCava. An Extraordinary Theory of Objects.  (HarperCollins, 2012).
c The Holy Quran. Al-Hajj [The Pilgrimage]: 19, Al-Nur [The Light]: 42.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Important Publications Relating to 'Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life' by Professor Jonathan Bate


Falling in love is often about place and placing yourself.
(Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life).
Pre-Publication

Ted Hughes at the Hay Festival, (30 May 1996).  A list of all the poems read can be found here.
Interview with Professor Jonathan Bate about his forthcoming biography Ted Hughes: The Inner Life, (February, 2012).
Jonathan Bate: 'Hughes & Plath', (9 February 2014).
Ted Hughes' estate withdraws biographer's access, (The Guardian, 31 March 2014).
Jonathan Bate: How the actions of the Ted Hughes estate will change my biography, (The Guardian, 2 April 2014).
Damon Parker (on behalf of Carol Hughes), (The Guardian, 3 April 2014).
Frieda Hughes: Why I became a councellor, (BBC, 13 May 2014).
Friday Hughes: The Trouble With Death, (BBC, 13 May 2014).

Post-Publication



Jonathan Bate: Sylvia Plath's suicide note - did it name a final lover?, (The Guardian, 1 October 2015).
Review by Jeremy Noel-Tod, (The Telegraph, 4 October 2015).
Front Row, (BBC: Radio 4, 7 October 2015).
Interview: Sylvia Plath's Husband, Ted Hughes, Lived A Life Of Poetry And Tragedy, (NPR Books, 10 October 2015).
Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death, (Featuring Frieda Hughes, Melvyn Bragg & Simon Armitage.  BBC, 2015)
Book Review by Carl Rollyson author of American Isis: The Life & Art of Sylvia Plath, (Star Tribune, 16 October 2015).
Statement from the Ted Hughes Estate, (The Spectator, 14 October 2015).
Book Review - 'The Deauthorised Life of Ted Hughes' by Carl Rollyson, (The University Bookman).
Erica Wagner: Gossip, truth & the impossibility of biography, (The Guardian, 16 October 2015).
Today, (BBC: Radio 4, 16 October 2015).
TORCH Discussion, (16 October 2015).
Letter - Jonathan Bate: There is no reason to doubt Sylvia Plath's word, (The Guardian, 26 October 2015).
The World at One with Martha Kearney, (BBC: Radio 4, 27 October 2015).
Book Review by Ann Skea: 'Telling Tales', (October 2015).
Frieda Hughes - Alternative Values: Poems & Paintings, (2015).
Interview, (The Telegraph, 31 October 2015).
Review, (New York Times, 21 December 2015).
Janet Malcolm: 'A Very Sadistic Man'(New York Review of Books, 11 February 2016).
Bridget Reed on Malcolm's Review: 'Janet Malcolm: Biased, Mean & Brilliant', (Literary Hub, 26 January 2016).
David Troupes's Review, (PN Review, Jan/Feb 2016).
Review, (The Poetry Review, Winter 2015).
Christopher Benfey, 'Getting Over Sylvia Plath', (The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2016).

Ted Hughes: Posthumous Poems


Live Skull, (Daily Telegraph, 13 May 1999.  31).
Knave of Clubs, (Independent on Sunday, 12 November 2000).
The Zeet Saga, (The Times, 5 June 2003).
A Torridge Tragedy, (The Times, 29 January 2005).
If I were to hear you sigh, (The Sunday Times, 13 August 2006).
'VI' and 'X': Poems not included in Birthday Letters, (The Times, 17 October 2008.  19).
Last Letter, (New Statesman, 11 October 2010).
Sorrow in a Black Coat, (Times Literary Supplement, 5 February 2014).  Hughes' diary for the last week of Plath's life.
Hoof-trimming, (The Spectator, 19 September 2016).

This page will be updated as more material becomes available.

Related Blogs & Essays



A Review of A Memoir of Ted Hughes by Dr. Nathaniel Minton, (Turk's Head Review, 21 June 2015).
A Review of Fixed Stars Govern a Life - Decoding Sylvia Plath I, (The Plath Diaries - a PhD Blog, 16 February 2015).

Friday, 1 August 2014

From the Chaucer of Urdu Poetry: Mir Taqi Mir

But when I tried to catch her, nothing could I find,
A mere hallucination, a fiction of the mind.
One day, out for a walk, I happened to take the road to the newly ruined city [Delhi]. At every step I shed tears and learned the lesson of mortality. And the further I went the more bewildered I became. I could not recognize any neighbourhood house. There were no buildings to be seen, nor any residents to speak to.

The scene of desolation filled my eyes with tears and my mind with the most solemn thoughts.  At every step my distress and agitation increased.  I could not recognise the houses and often lost my bearings.  Of the former inhabitants there was no trace, and no matter whom I inquired about, I was told that he was not there and nobody knew where he might be found.  

Houses had collapsed. Walls had fallen down. The cloisters were bereft of Sufis. The taverns were empty of revelers. It was a wasteland, from one end to the other. What can I say about the rascally boys of the bazaar when there was no bazaar itself! And what can I tell of the pale-cheeked children playing in the streets when there was no [rosy-cheeked one to ask].  The handsome young men had passed away. The austere old men - All had gone. The palace quarters were wholly ruined, their lanes were lost in the rubble. Every place was desolate; there was no sign of a human anywhere.

Suddenly I found myself in the neighbourhood where I had lived - where I gathered my friends and recited verses; where I lived the life of love and cried many a night for the love of tall and slender beloveds and sang high their praises in verses to them; where I spent time with the beauties whose long tresses held me captive. If I were without them for even a moment I would pine for them restlessly. This was in the days when I arranged joyous gatherings and invited beautiful people, feasted them and lived a really [pleasant] life. And now? Not a  soul I could recognise to spend a few convenient moments with in conversation.  The bazaar was a desolate waste; the lane was a track into [the] wilderness. I stood there and looked in amazement, stunned and silent and was horrified and filled with abhorrence at the scene. I swore I would never return to the city again, as long as I lived. 

Mornings and evenings I went to the bank of the river and enjoyed the sights. Such a beautiful place - with gardens on one side and the fort and the establishments of great nobles on the other, you would say it was a river in paradise. The fame of my bikr tarāshi poetic genius [the creation of a new poetic theme or a bundling of associative ideas] had spread far and wide. Bashful beauties and those who had thick black eyelashes; those who coined fine phrases and those who dressed elegantly; and those who had a gift for poesy - they never left me alone and treated me with great respect. 2 or 3 times I walked through the city from one end to the other meeting its scholars Sufis and poets but none could comfort my restless heart.  I said to myself 'Great God! This is the same city that had its fair share of fine houses and gardens and inns, scholars of Hadith; dervishes; Quran-memorizers; Quran-reciters; Imams of mosques and Muezzins, abodes of Faqirs, schools and seminaries and where scholars and jurists, dialecticians, philosophers, divines and gnostics, saints and mystics, physicians and teachers and poets and writers were often seen in every place.  But now I find no place to sit and rest a while and I find not a single person whose company I may share.'  I saw a terrifying wasteland.  And so I grieved deeply and returned after having spent 4 months in the city of my origin. I left with my eyes awash with tears of longing and reached the forts of Suraj Mal.

When they entered Lucknow, his permanent abode, and took residence in the royal palace, new carpets of manifold hues were laid out every day, with golden incense-burners placed on their corners. The area surrounding the house was sprinkled with rose water, and attar was rubbed in the beds. Everyone's clothes were fragrant with perfume. Velveteen carpets [were spread out] such as none had ever stepped upon. Walls glittered like silver [sīm gil karda]. Elegant pavilions were set up in gardens and decorated with screens and curtains. The sweet smell of amber spread everywhere, creating a unique effect. The houses put to shame the homes for spring [makān giraw az bahār band burda]. Roasted almonds and pistachios and firangi tidbits [nuql e firangī] were laid out for munching. At night, there were dances by women who were like fairies - nay, who were like the houris of paradise. Flower vases of crystal and porcelain were carefully arranged. Shelves and niches in the walls were filled with choice fruit, perfectly ripe. A firangi [raqŝ e firnachī] dance was held, a lovely scene - a house of joy. In the evening, they had elaborate illuminations and set off fireworks. The starbursts and rockets [sitārahavāi] touched the sky. The sight of the illuminations stole the hearts [of the spectators]. The flares [mahtābi] turned the night into day. A pavilion of gold brocade was set up - of such beauty that not even the sun had seen its like. The nobles were busy, offering hospitality; the rajas went about, offering their services. Excellent poets sang their praises. Young stalwarts stood by to tend to things. Every house was finely prepared, with shady nooks and channels of flowing water. Vases that held bunches of narcissus flowers seemed like a garden to behold [bāgh e naẓar] in Isfahan, or a garden in Kerman, containing a large lake.  Ice, more pleasing to the sight than molten silver, carefully gathered from water. Bowls of fāluda of many colours and kinds, their sherbet sweeter than the syrup of life.

As for the types of breads at meal times; almond bread [nān e bādām] of utmost delicacy; shīrmāl and bāqar khāni both coloured with saffron on top that would put the sun to shame; youthful bread [nān e javān], so soft and warm that if an old man were to eat it he would act like a youth; paper bread [nān e varaqī]of such a quality that I could fill a whole book with its praises; ginger bread [nān e zanjabīl] too, so flavourful that Taste itself grows happy comprehending it. In the middle were placed varieties of qaliya and do-piyaza, such rich stews of different kinds that the guests were all delighted and satisfied. And the kebabs that were laid out on the long table-cloth: flower kebab [kebāb e gul], full of bloom and flavour; perfectly salted Indian kebab [kebāb e Hindī] stole every heart; Qandahari kebab [kebāb e Qandahārī] attracted all and sundry to itself; stone kebab [kebāb e sang] brought relief to those who were tired from the hardships of the journey; leaf-of-paper kebab [kebāb e varaqī] made to such an amazing recipe-manuscript that it delighted everyone; and all the more common kebabs, spicy and flavourful. 10 large plates of food were placed before every single guest. Then there were pulaos of all kinds and wonderful soups of every type. 'Praise be to One, who is Bountiful and Generous!' 

What a splendid guest! What an exemplary host! A grand guest; a glorious host. A guest of wonderful disposition; a host of the greatest eminence. A guest, so refined and elegant; a host, sun-like in his munificence. The guest, a man of perfect sagacity; the host, an embodiment of hospitality. Their likes had never been seen by the eyes of ages, nor heard of by the ears of sages. In that manner they continued to meet for 6 months, day and night, and conversed and exchanged thoughts.

In short, the world is a place of strange happenings. What houses there were that crumbled down! What young men there were who gave up their lives! What gardens there were that are now a wilderness! What joyous assemblies there were that now seem a fantasy! What flowers, that withered away! What handsome men who passed away! What gatherings of friends, that were tossed to the wind! What caravans, that loaded up and disappeared! What honourable men there were who suffered ignominy! What bold men there were who tasted mortality! I have had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and what things have I not seen and heard! In this brief span of life this drop of blood which men call the heart has suffered all manner of blows, and is all bruised and bleeding.  My temperament was unsuited to these times, and I no longer mix with people.  I am 60 now, and old age is upon me.  I am generally ill, and for some time my eyes have been troubling me .... My failing powers, my sensitiveness, my weakness and grief and despondency, all tell me that my end is near, and the truth is that the times are no longer fit to live in.  it is time to withdraw from the world.  I wish that I may come to a good end, but God's will must prevail

And what should I say of the pain in my teeth - I was at my wits' end.  How long could I go on treating them? Finally I resigned myself to it and had them all pulled out.
Mir Mohammad Taqi Mir. Zikr - E - Mir.  Translated by C. M. Naim. (Oxford University Press, 1999).  93, 94, 96, 97, 121 - 123, 129.

Related links: 'Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match' By Johann Zoffany, (1788). 
                         A Garden of Kashmir.
                         Ab e Hayat: Mir Taqi Mir.  Muhammad Husain Azad, (1880).
                         Mah e Mir.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Ramadan Mubarak


O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may become pious.

            The Holy Quran. al-Baqara [The Heifer]: 184.
Allah is the Light of the heavens and the Earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a crystal globe. The globe is bright as it were a glittering star lamp lit from a blessed olive tree neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whosoever He wills. And Allah sets forth parables for people, and Allah knows all things completely.
   Glowing forth from houses for which Allah ordained that they be exalted and that His name be commemorated in them. Glorify Him therein in the mornings and the evenings.

            The Holy Quran. al-Nur [The Light]: 36, 37.

May this Holy month draw people nearer to God and ease the journey to the Divine beloved. May it be a month that brings peace to the world and to the Muslims in particular so that God in His eternal Mercy may grace the Spirit of peace and the tranquillity of His love.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Brideshead Redivivus

I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
 
        Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 'Kubla Khan'.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Plath 2013

This page will be updated as more material becomes available during 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the poet Sylvia Plath.

Elizabeth Winder.  On Plath's Food & Body Issues.
Interviews: Olwyn Hughes (sister in-law and Plath's Literary Executor), Elizabeth Sigmund (friend and dedicatee of The Bell Jar).
'Bald Glyphs & Psychic Maps: An Examination of Sylvia Plath's 'Sheep in Fog'.  Rehan Qayoom.  (Plath Profiles 6). [2]
 Sylvia Plath Mini Blogathon.
1963 - The Big Freeze.  (BBC, 1963, 2013).
'What You Don't Know About Sylvia Plath'.  Carl Rollyson, (The Huffington Post US, 11 February 2013).
The Last Days of Sylvia Plath, (BBC, February 2013).
Andrew Wilson on Plath Behind the Glass, Interview
The Legacy of Sylvia Plath:Interview with Carl Rollyson & Peter K. Steinberg, (ABC, 11 February 2013).
Sylvia Plath had "literally hundreds of lovers", (Newstalk, 20 February 2013).
Today with Pat Kenny, (RTÉ, 14 February 2013).
'There Are Almost No Obituaries For Sylvia Plath', (Interview with Plath Scholar Peter K. Steinberg).
Sylvia Plath: A 50-Year Retrospective, commemoration in Ireland, (University of Ulster).
'What Sylvia Plath Loved', (The Academy of American Poets).
'Arts Extra: Sylvia Plath'.  Maeve O'Brien, (BBC Radio Ulster, February 2013).  
Searching For Sylvia, (Sunday Times, 20 February 2013).
'When Sylvia Was A Millie: An Interview With Elizabeth Winder', (The Millions, 16 April 2013).
Sylvia Plath's New York, (Huffington Post,16 April 2013).
'Book Corner: Sylvia Plath, Party Girl?'.  Elizabeth Winder, (Harper's Bazaar, 17 April 2013).
'Author Elizabeth Winder Writes of Sylvia Plath's Intern Summer', (Women's Wear Daily, 17 April 2013). 
Q & A with Elizabeth Winder, (Gaithersburg Book Festival, 18 May 2013).
Frieda Hughes: Jospehine Hart Poetry Hour, (10 June 2013).
Behind the Curtain - Elizabeth Winder, (A Lovely Being, 27 June 2013). 
Sylvia Plath’s Daughter on a Remarkable Trove of Her Mother’s Drawings.  (Time, 1 July 2013).
New book examines New York summer for in-depth look at Sylvia Plath, (Daily Press, 25 July 2013). 
'Sylvia Plath's unseen drawings'.  Frieda Hughes.  (The Times, 24 August 2013). 
'Frieda Hughes shares her family treasures & keepsakes', (Daily Mail, 22 September 2013).
Elizabeth Winder, (The Aesthete).
Elizabeth Winder Discusses Sylvia Plath in Fashion, (Phoenix Art Museum: 11 October). 
Interview: Elizabeth Winder, (New Books Network, 18 October 2003).
Elizabeth Winder: The Sylvia Plath Cliché, (Zola Books, 25 October 2013).
Talk: Elizabeth Winder, (Melrose Public Library, 26 October 2013).
Revisiting Plath & Her Cultural Afterlife At 50.
Book Marc: Elizabeth Winder.

Related Links: A Celebration, this is
                      The Plath Diaries - a PhD Blog
                      Rehan Qayoom, 'Beautiful, beautiful America!' - On Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters.
                      Ted Hughes Commemoration in Poet's Corner.
[1] Ann Skea's works on Ted Hughes include Ted Hughes: The Poetic Quest,  (University of New England, 1994), Poetry & 
   Magic: An Analysis of Ted Hughes' Use of Tarot & Cabbala in 'Adam & the Sacred Nine', 'Capriccio' & Birthday 
   Letters' and 'Ted Hughes & the Goddess'.
[2] Plath Profiles 6 features major essays including 'These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past' by Gail Crowther 
     & Peter K. Steinberg, works by Maeve O' Brien'The Smoke & Mirrors of "The Couriers" by Julia Gordon-
     Bramer'The Right Mind of Sylvia Plath: Magic, Myth & Metamorphosis' by Carole Brooks Platt.  Reviews of 
    recent books on Plath & tons more!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

'3VOΓVE: The Living Bridge'. Hollace M. Metzger


Premiered at 'The Living Bridge' multi-media exhibition benefit for Tibet, 31 August - 9 September 2012.  Community Gallery, Dunedin - New Zealand.

Metzger & Qayoom Col-lab-orative: 'Muse's Shadow', (August 2012, Turk's Head Review, 2014).
'The Night I Saw Diamonds', (February 2013). 

Related Links: Facsimile of 'For Hollace' (The Delinquent, Visions) from About Time in guitar instrumental by Teresa Gabriel to 'Echoes of Thoughts Cascading' from Why the Willow by Hollace M. Metzger.  
                       'A Retrospective Appraisal of 3VOΓVE'.
                       Thoughts on Eternal Story by Hollace M. Metzger.
                       MiDEA Spotlight.

© Hollace M. Metzger, 2012.

Monday, 4 June 2012

William & Kate's Royal Wedding & The Queen's Diamond Jubilee


© Copyright ITV, 2011.


Tohfa e Qeysariyya [A Gift for the Queen].  (Ziyaul Islam, 1897.  English: Islam International Publications Ltd, 2012).  By Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
Sitara e Qeysarra [The Star of the Empress].  (Ziyaul Islam, 1899).

Letter to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II from Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad - Khalifatul Masih V.
'The Thames, London 2012'.  By Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
'The Crown'.  By Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Game Royale.

"By the way if ever you want to ride, just let Lynch know and he'll sort it out for you."
"Oh, Papa, Cousin Matthew doesn't ride."
"I ride."
"And do you hunt?"
"No I don't hunt."
"I dare say there's not much opportunity in Manchester."
"Are you a hunting family?"
"Families like ours are always hunting families."
"Not always.  Billy Skelton won't have them on his land."
"But all the Skeltons are mad."
"Do you hunt?"
"Occasionally.  I suppose you're more interested in books than country sports."
"I probably am.  You'll tell me that's rather unhealthy."
"Not unhealthy.  Just unusual.  Among our kind of people."
Julian Fellowes.  Downton Abbey.
O for "illicit" venison, I side with Alexander Pope's verse about preferring a rogue with it 'to a saint without.' Pope liked his 'ven'son'.  His letters often mention dining on friendly venison with quite some relish (which about 70 years ago would have contravened rule 47b of the Emergency Butchery Act). Do you fancy the haunch yourself, or "half an 'aunch" (quoth Phoebe in Goodnight Sweetheart: London Pride)? Or would you prefer pheasant? In India there is a traditional succulent curry prepared from the freshly-hunted leg meat and pheasant together. Enjoy these biting lines from Pope's 'Epistle To Allen Bathurst: Of the Use of Riches':
What made Directors cheat in South-sea year?
To live on ven'son when it sold so dear.
Ask you why Phryne the whole Auction buys?
Phryne foresees a General Excise,
Why she and Sappho raise that monstrous sum?
Alas! they fear a Man will cost a plum.
Julian Fellowes is right 'I think you look at those people and they have a kind of personal discipline in many cases, not just the toffs, everyone, they were very disciplined and dignified and I think we have lost a bit of that and I think we're a less dignified generation.'

Friday, 23 December 2011

Ted Hughes Commemoration in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.

Minute after minute, aeon after aeon,
Nothing lets up or develops.
And this is neither a bad variant nor a tryout.
This is where the staring angels go through.
This is where all the stars bow down.  
        Ted Hughes. 'Pibroch'.

I received an invitation to attend the unveiling ceremony of a memorial stone to Ted Hughes by Seamus Heaney in Westminster Abbey.  I set off at 3pm and realised half-way to the station that I had forgotten the invitation card at home so had to go back to pick it up.  



Walking past the Houses of Parliament I saw the Home Secretary Theresa May coming out in her car.  The abbey always looks really awesome in the floodlight.  I entered through the arch and the East Cloisters which were really dark and atmospheric.  It was quite an experience walking through the dimly lit cloisters with tombstones on the floor until I reached an area that had been cordoned off where people gathered slowly.  A glance upon the floor revealed a tombstone marked Aphra Behn, the Restoration dramatist.  I spotted Simon Armitage and got up from where I was sitting upon the stone benches along the walls to talk to him about his work on 'Sir Gawain & the Green Knight' and its relation to the eighteenth chapter of The Holy Quran but then changed my mind and sat back down thinking, perhaps, that this was not the occasion for such talk.  As always everybody always knows each other or seems to, so I have a habit of taking out my book to read.  I read a bit of Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life by Adam Feinstein before we were ushered in through a door leading to Poets' Corner.  There was a lady to my right who asked how or if I had a Hughes connection.  I had read Plath first but then really discovered his work at college after Birthday Letters came out.  She remarked that she was a librarian at Cambridge University where she had seen him read in the seventies upon which the lady to my left observed that she was from Cambridge too.  I spotted Andrew Motion and Hughes' widow Carol dressed beautifully in opal, she laid flowers from the garden at Court Green (their house in Devon). 


Sitting in Poets' Corner among so many countless tombs and memorials to writers, poets, historians and theologians and just being present in Westminster Abbey is always a spiritually uplifting experience.  The intensity of historical presence is overpowering.  The Urdu poet Parveen Shakir wrote a poem on this sense of being overwhelmed by history in her poem 'Westminster Abbey'.  All the seats had the Order of the Service placed upon them.  Dr John Hall, the Dean said "We have come to Poets' Corner, where the word is celebrated.  Here Geoffrey Chaucer lived and died, and was buried in 1400.  Here William Caxton set up his printing press in 1476.  Here writing in English and its publication were first achieved."
        "Buried here is all that could be buried of Edmund Spenser and John Dryden, Tennyson, and Browning.  They are remembered; their words live on."  Lord Evans of Temple Guiting read from Hughes' letter to Plath of 1 and 2 October 1956 scientifically arguing in favour of reading aloud.  Hughes says that was how all reading was done until the invention of Caxton's press.  It is an incredible passage to read.  This was followed by a reading of Hughes' poems 'Full Moon and Little Frieda' 'Anniversary' and 'Where I Sit Writing My Letter' by Juliet Stevenson.  The acoustics of the abbey offering a resound.  Then Heaney who I saw for the first time delivered an address, beginning with a quotation from Beowulf and remarking upon Hughes' natural use of the alliterative Anglo-Saxon meter in, for example, the first line of 'The Thought Fox' and in 'Fern'.  But, he said, he did not intend to lecture on Hughes' uses of language and meter.  This was followed by him unveiling the memorial stone, Daniel Huws' reading of 'In Memory of Ted Hughes' by the poet R. S. Thomas and Heaney's readings of 'Some Pike for Nicholas' 'For the Duration' 'That Morning'. 

The Order of Service contained some interesting points about Poets' Corner: Chaucer was buried here not because he was a great poet but because he had served as the Clerk of Works to the palace of Westminster, Joseph Addison first referred to 'the poetical quarter' in The Spectator and the first written use of the title that is known was in a poem of 1733 'Upon the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey'.  

In all about 300 people attended.  As everyone walked past the plaque I glanced at the names on the chits upon the chairs, lots of lords and ladies and one 'Mrs T. S. Eliot' who I've never seen and didn't catch this time either.  There were refreshments afterwards for those with a blue ticket.  I did have 2, one white and one blue but I'm certain it wasn't the blue one so I made my way back.  There were carol singers at Westminster station singing 'Ding dong merrily on high':
So we found the end of our journey.
     So we stood, alive in the river of light
Among the creatures of light, creatures of light. 
            Ted Hughes.  'That Morning'.