"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

31 December 2013


Stay close to anything that makes you glad you are alive.



... we tangled our minds and hearts together.


Thank you, Poetessa.

Gregory Alan Isakov, "Living Proof"

Steve Earle, "Days Aren't Long Enough"


Alma-Tadema, A Reading from Homer (detail), 1885

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,

then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.

Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy birthday, Matisse.

Matisse, Polynesia, The Sea, 1946

Henri Matisse was born on this date in 1869.

Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue.

Henri Matisse

From the BBC series, Modern Masters ...

27 December 2013


The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.

Ted Hughes


Turner, Three Seascapes, 1827

A Muse of Water

We who must act as handmaidens   
To our own goddess, turn too fast,
Trip on our hems, to glimpse the muse   
Gliding below her lake or sea,   
Are left, long-staring after her,   
Narcissists by necessity;

Or water-carriers of our young
Till waters burst, and white streams flow   
Artesian, from the lifted breast:   
Cupbearers then, to tiny gods,   
Imperious table-pounders, who   
Are final arbiters of thirst.

Fasten the blouse, and mount the steps   
From kitchen taps to Royal Barge,   
Assume the trident, don the crown,   
Command the Water Music now   
That men bestow on Virgin Queens;   
Or goddessing above the waist,

Appear as swan on Thames or Charles   
Where iridescent foam conceals   
The paddle-stroke beneath the glide:   
Immortal feathers preened in poems!   
Not our true, intimate nature, stained   
By labor, and the casual tide.

Masters of civilization, you
Who moved to riverbank from cave,
Putting up tents, and deities,
Though every rivulet wander through   
The final, unpolluted glades
To cinder-bank and culvert-lip,

And all the pretty chatterers
Still round the pebbles as they pass
Lightly over their watercourse,
And even the calm rivers flow,
We have, while springs and skies renew,   
Dry wells, dead seas, and lingering drouth.

Water itself is not enough.
Harness her turbulence to work   
For man: fill his reflecting pools.   
Drained for his cofferdams, or stored   
In reservoirs for his personal use:   
Turn switches! Let the fountains play!

And yet these buccaneers still kneel   
Trembling at the water's verge:   
“Cool River-Goddess, sweet ravine,   
Spirit of pool and shade, inspire!”   
So he needs poultice for his flesh.   
So he needs water for his fire.

We rose in mists and died in clouds   
Or sank below the trammeled soil   
To silent conduits underground,   
Joining the blindfish, and the mole.   
A gleam of silver in the shale:   
Lost murmur! Subterranean moan!

So flows in dark caves, dries away,
What would have brimmed from bank to bank,   
Kissing the fields you turned to stone,
Under the boughs your axes broke.
And you blame streams for thinning out,   
plundered by man’s insatiate want?

Rejoice when a faint music rises   
Out of a brackish clump of weeds,   
Out of the marsh at ocean-side,   
Out of the oil-stained river’s gleam,   
By the long causeways and gray piers   
Your civilizing lusts have made.

Discover the deserted beach
Where ghosts of curlews safely wade:   
Here the warm shallows lave your feet   
Like tawny hair of magdalens.
Here, if you care, and lie full-length,   
Is water deep enough to drown.

Carolyn Kizer

Happy birthday, Kepler.

Johannes Kepler was born on this date in 1571.

It should not be considered unbelievable that one can retrieve useful knowledge and sacred relics from astrological folly and godlessness. From this filthy mud one can glean even an occasional escargot, oysters or an eel for one's nutrition; in this enormous heap of worm-castings there are silk-worms to be found; and, finally, out of this foul-smelling dung-heap a diligent hen can scratch up an occasional grain-seed -- indeed, even a pearl or a gold nugget.

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler and Planetary Motion, part 1 ...

Johannes Kepler and Planetary Motion, part 2 ...


Waterhouse, Listen to my Sweet Pipings, 1911

Hymn to Pan

From the forests and highlands
         We come, we come;
From the river-girt islands,
         Where loud waves are dumb
                Listening my sweet pipings.
The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
         The bees on the bells of thyme,
The birds on the myrtle bushes,
         The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was,
                Listening my sweet pipings.

Liquid Peneus was flowing,
         And all dark Tempe lay
In Pelion's shadow, outgrowing
         The light of the dying day,
                Speeded by my sweet pipings.
The Sileni, and Sylvans, and Fauns,
         And the Nymphs of the woods and the waves,
To the edge of the moist river-lawns,
         And the brink of the dewy caves,
And all that did then attend and follow,
Were silent with love, as you now, Apollo,
                With envy of my sweet pipings.

I sang of the dancing stars,
         I sang of the daedal Earth,
And of Heaven, and the giant wars,
         And Love, and Death, and Birth—
                And then I chang'd my pipings,
Singing how down the vale of Maenalus
         I pursu'd a maiden and clasp'd a reed.
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!
         It breaks in our bosom and then we bleed.
All wept, as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood,
                At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

Percy Byssche Shelley

The Waterboys, "How Long Will I Love You?"

26 December 2013


An old English family mansion is a fertile subject for study. It abounds with illustrations of former times, and traces of the tastes, and humours, and manners of successive generations. 

25 December 2013

A Christmas Carol

Neil Gaiman reads from the only surviving "prompt copy" – Dickens' own performance script – of "A Christmas Carol."

Merry Christmas.

Schramm, Madonna and Child (detail), 1851

24 December 2013


For several days over Christmas in 1914 the fighting stopped on the battlefields of the First World War ...

22 December 2013


Curators at the Museum of London have discovered what they believe to be the first ever recordings of a family Christmas.


17 December 2013


What if the point of life has nothing to do with the creation of an ever-expanding region of control? What if the point is not to keep at bay all those people, beings, objects and emotions that we so needlessly fear? What if the point instead is to let go of that control? What if the point of life, the primary reason for existence, is to lie naked with your lover in a shady grove of trees? What if the point is to taste each other's sweat and feel the delicate pressure of finger on chest, thigh on thigh, lip on cheek? What if the point is to stop, then, in your slow movements together, and listen to the birdsong, to watch the dragonflies hover, to look at your lover's face, then up at the undersides of leaves moving together in the breeze? What if the point is to invite these others into your movement, to bring trees, wind, grass, dragonflies into your family and in so doing abandon any attempt to control them? What if the point all along has been to get along, to relate, to experience things on their own terms? What if the point is to feel joy when joyous, love when loving, anger when angry, thoughtful when full of thought? What if the point from the beginning has been to simply be?

Derrick Jensen

13 December 2013

Roxy Music, "Tara"


The Pantheon Paris (Latin Pantheon, from Greek Pantheon, meaning "Every god") is a building in the Latin Quarter of Paris, France. It was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but after many changes now combines liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a facade modelled after the Pantheon in Rome surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante's "Tempietto".


09 December 2013


ParkeHarrison, da Vinci's Wings, 1998

If I ask myself what makes us human, one answer jumps out at me straight away – it is not the only answer but it is the one suggested by the question. What makes us human is that we ask questions. All the animals have interests, instincts and conceptions. All the animals frame for themselves an idea of the world in which they live. But we alone question our surroundings. We alone refuse to be defined by the world in which we live but instead try to define our nature for ourselves.


Uncertainty is an inherent part of new ideas, and it’s also something that most people would do almost anything to avoid. People’s partiality toward certainty biases them against creative ideas and can interfere with their ability to even recognize creative ideas.


Whoever you are! claim your own at any hazard! 
These shows of the east and west are tame, compared to you; 
These immense meadows—these interminable rivers—you are immense and interminable as they; 
These furies, elements, storms, motions of Nature, throes of apparent dissolution—you are he or she who is master or mistress over them, 
Master or mistress in your own right over Nature, elements, pain, passion, dissolution. 

The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an unfailing sufficiency; 
Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever you are promulges itself; 
Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted; 
Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.

Walt Whitman

For Drew & Zuzu 


Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, 

when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, 

when we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore. 

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life, 
having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity, 
and in our efforts to build a new earth, 

we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim. 

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, 
where storms will show your mastery, 
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. 
We ask you to push back the horizon of our hopes, 
and to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love. 
This we ask in the name of our Captain, who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake 

08 December 2013

"The Kiss"

From the BBC's, Private Life of a Masterpiece, Rodin's, "The Kiss" ...

Happy birthday, Claudel.

Claudel, Cacountala (detail), 1905

Camille Claudel was born on this date in 1864.



We had now come in full view of the old family mansion, partly thrown in deep shadow, and partly lit up by the cold moonshine. It was an irregular building of some magnitude, and seemed to be of the architecture of different periods. One wing was evidently very ancient, with heavy stone-shafted bow windows jutting out and overrun with ivy, from among the foliage of which the small diamond-shaped panes of glass glittered with the moonbeams. The rest of the house was in the French taste of Charles the Second's time, having been repaired and altered, as my friend told me, by one of his ancestors, who returned with that monarch at the Restoration. The grounds about the house were laid out in the old formal manner of artificial flower-beds, clipped shrubberies, raised terraces, and heavy stone balustrades, ornamented with urns, a leaden statue or two, and a jet of water. The old gentleman, I was told, was extremely careful to preserve this obsolete finery in all its original state. He admired this fashion in gardening; it had an air of magnificence, was courtly and noble, and befitting good old family style. The boasted imitation of nature in modern gardening had sprung up with modern republican notions, but did not suit a monarchical government; it smacked of the levelling system.—I could not help smiling at this introduction of politics into gardening, though I expressed some apprehension that I should find the old gentleman rather intolerant in his creed.—Frank assured me, however, that it was almost the only instance in which he had ever heard his father meddle with politics; and he believed that he had got this notion from a member of parliament who once passed a few weeks with him. The Squire was glad of any argument to defend his clipped yew-trees and formal terraces, which had been occasionally attacked by modern landscape-gardeners.

As we approached the house, we heard the sound of music, and now and then a burst of laughter from one end of the building. This, Bracebridge said, must proceed from the servants' hall, where a great deal of revelry was permitted, and even encouraged, by the Squire throughout the twelve days of Christmas, provided everything was done conformably to ancient usage. Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snapdragon: the Yule log and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe, with its white berries, hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.

Washington Irving, from Old Christmas

Vivaldi, "Gloria"

Rinaldo Alessandrini conducts Concerto Italiano with mezzo-soprano, Sara Mingardo ...

07 December 2013


I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

06 December 2013


I have learned that you can't be at home in your body, your truest home, if you wish to be somewhere else, and that you have to find yourself where you already are in the natural world around you.

Jim Harrison

Corelli, Сoncerti Grossi, Op.6, No.4, in D major,

Jordi Savall performs and directs Hesperion XXI with Enrico Onofri, fiddle ...


In the literary world of Jim Harrison, there’s a Zen-like notion that when the going gets tough, the tough go fishing.

And no character in Harrison’s nearly 50 years of writing goes fishing more than Brown Dog, the half-blood Indian who wanders the Upper Peninsula in search of affectionate women, remote trout streams and cold beer.

Steve Winwood, "Can't Find My Way Home"


... there’s nothing like returning to a farm with horses and chickens, and then on to a fairly remote cabin off a two-track road where when you try to sleep at night you hear a river flowing, probably the best sound on earth.


05 December 2013

Mozart, Requièm Mass in D minor, K. 626

Mozart died on this day in 1791.

Sir George Solti conducts the Vienna Philharmonic ...


Poems are not, as people think, feelings (those one has early enough) -- they are experiences. For the sake of a verse one must see many cities, men, and things, one must know the animals feel how birds fly, and know the gesture with which the little flowers open in the morning.

I am learning to see. I don't know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn't stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of ... I am no longer who I was.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Ray Davies, "20th Century Man"

You keep all your smart modern writers
Give me William Shakespeare
You keep all your smart modern painters
I'll take Rembrandt, Titian, da Vinci and Gainsborough

04 December 2013

Happy birthday, Rilke.

Rainer Maria Rilke was born on this date in 1875.

Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures.

Rainer Maria Rilke

02 December 2013

Madeleine Peyroux, "Dance Me To The End Of Love"


The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself. 

Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Happy birthday, Callas.

Maria Callas was born on this date in 1923.

Here she performs "Col sorriso d'innocenza" from Bellini's opera, Il Pirata.