Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Friday, April 24, 2009

La Belle Dame Sans Merci - Another Diversion

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful - a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said -
'I love thee true'.

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep
And there I dreamed - Ah! woe betide! -
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried - 'La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!'

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci ( the beautiful woman without pity) is one of the sidhe, a beautiful faery woman who lures men to the Otherworld of faeryland. If a man kisses one of the sidhe then he is doomed to wander in the madness of love and never return to a normal life in the world of mortals. The knight in the poem is only one of many unsuspecting men who have fallen for her wiles and now languish on the hillside as pale shades of their former selves.

There are two versions of Keats' poem and the one I've used is the original written in 1819.
The illustrations are by Sir Frank Dicksee, Arthur Hughes, John William Waterhouse and Frank Cadogan Cowper. All are Pre-Raphaelite artists who were often inspired by medieval themes in poetry. Of the four paintings my favourite is the last one by Frank Cadogan Cowper and surprisingly, considering how much I love the work of John William Waterhouse, his is the one I like least. The original 'diversion' of the title is here for anyone who is interested.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St George's Day

April 23rd is the feast day of St George, Patron Saint of England. St George's name was invoked to his soldiers by Henry V in his speech on the eve of theBattle of Agincourt in 1415 and after the tremendous victory against all the odds St George's Day was elevated to become a feast day as important as Christmas in the English church calendar. Today is also the anniversary of both the birth and the death of William Shakespeare so in celebration of both England's patron saint's day and of her greatest playwright I am posting these stirring words written by Shakespeare and spoken by Henry V during the Battle of Agincourt.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more Or close the wall up with our English dead! In peace there's nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of a tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage; Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; Let it pry through the portage of the head like the brass canon; let the brow o'erwhelm it As fearfully as doth a galled rock O'erhang and jutty his confounded base, Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit To his full height! On, on you noblest English! Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof; Fathers, that like so many Alexanders, Have in these parts from morn til even fought, And sheath'd their swords for lack of argument. Dishonour not your mothers; now attest That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you. Be copy now to men of grosser blood, And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman, Whose limbs were made in England, show us here The mettle of your pasture; let us swear That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not; For there is none of you so mean and base That hath not noble lustre in your eyes. I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game's afoot: Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge, Cry 'God for Harry! England and Saint George!
Happy St George's Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Back to the Iron Age

My elder son and daughter-in-law came for lunch yesterday along with the two girls and in the afternoon we went out into Derbyshire and walked up Higger Tor and across to Carl Wark. The photo above shows Higger Tor in the foreground and Carl Wark behind it.

Kaitlyn leading the way up to Higger Tor.

This part of the Peak District is gritstone country and some of the rock formations are pretty impressive. Gritstone was used to make millstones for grinding flour and also grindstones for sharpening the blades of the knives and other edge tools that were made in Sheffield. The Little Mesters were famous all over the world for the fine quality of their cutlery.

Carl Wark is an ancient hillfort built on a natural escarpment and fortified on the remaining side by a wall built of large gritstone blocks. It is thought to be Iron Age but this has never actually been proved.

More of the huge gritstone boulders on top of Higger Tor with the track to Carl Wark disappearing into the distance.

Only three of us scrambled down the rocks and walked over to Carl Wark, Hannah and Lucy found a nice sheltered spot in the sun and waited for us. As usual the intrepid explorere is leading the way! If you click on the photo you will see the gritstone wall of the fort quite clearly, it's still extremely substantial even though it's around 2000 years old.

Standing on top of Carl Wark and looking across the moor to Stanage Edge which is a mecca for rock climbers, there are 800 recorded climbs of all grades and climbers come from all over Britain to climb here. Clicking on the photo will make the Edge a bit clearer.

A triumphant return to Higger Tor to collect mummy and Lucy then it's home for tea after a very exciting and satisfactory afternoon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Drawer of Infinite Possibilties!

I am almost at the point of completing a cross-stitch sampler which I began at least eight years ago, possibly more! This is unlike me, usually I begin something and finish it reasonably quickly but this sampler contains a few other stitches apart from cross-stitch and one is called Queen stitch. I kept looking at it and couldn't work out how it was done,I passed the first area where it appeared, leaving gaps. I did the same with the second area and all the time I was leaving it longer and longer between each stitching session. Last summer I virtually finished the cross-stitch and backstitch then it went away again. After I finished knitting the blanket for my newest grandchild I decided I wanted a change so thought that I'd get out the sampler, crack the mysteries of Queen stitch and get the so-and-so thing finished! What the expression on the lady's face will say when I take it to be framed I dread to think - after eight plus years it's rather the worse for wear.......
Anyway after this triumph I've decided to look in The Drawer and see what else I have that needs finishing and make this the Summer of Finished Projects. Clicking on the images will enlarge them if you want to see them more clearly.

In the past I have had a mild interest in doll's houses mostly because my friend L has a couple of really fantastic ones which she has done a lot of work on over the years. I went to one or two Doll's House events and obviously got carried away one day and bought this kit for making a miniature baby's shawl. The needles are incredibly fine and the things that look like bits of string are actually hanks of wool! And there are two small pieces of fabric - I don't even know what I had in mind for those - a quilt? miniature cushions? Who knows - somehow I think those will be staying in the drawer for a while yet.

I love this design - actually I bought the chart first and then came across the pack with the silks and fabric in. This is a possibility - but it has beads on it and I've never done any beading. On the other hand if I never try I shall never know whether I can do it or not.

I bought this to do for my elder son and his wife, they have lived in Africa and have a lot of African bits and pieces in their home so it would fit in. Could I get it done by Christmas? Of course I could - just don't ask which Christmas:)

Now what are these doing in this drawer - souvenirs from a visit to Florence with my daughter a year or two ago. Postcards from the church of Santa Croce showing the tombs of Galileo and the great Italian composer Rossini. Michelangelo is buried here too. As for the receipts from Prada - my daughter made me go in there! I didn't want to, really I didn't!

Think I must have had my sunglasses on when I bought this fabric. It's aim in life is to become a cushion cover - it can go in the Lancashire house in the conservatory if it ever gets finished.

Oh joy! I still have the instructions and lots of card templates for the patches! Yeeeeah!!!

Now this little chap is finished but didn't get framed. I feel a stocking present for a small grandson coming on......

More cross-stitch, this was definitely bought for me, wolves are my favourite animal.

Hmmm, yes, well! One day I will learn to crochet and then I can make a lovely lacey something with all this cotton yarn.

You mean you thought the drawer must be empty by now? Oh no, there's still....

....the pattern for some knitted cushion covers. Now these are in with a chance! The beaded cross-stitch ornament is pretty and would be good practise for the Celtic Christmas picture.

Well, well, what have we got here? It's the doll's pram quilt I'm making for my daughter - she'll be 29 next week :):):) Perhaps I'd better move the goalposts a bit and say it's for my granddaughter!

And here's a potholder waiting for me to finish quilting it - if I can still remember how.

Probably about time I finished Wastwater off I think, I'd forgotten it existed (the sewing that is, not Wastwater!) but it's rather nice so I might put that near the top of the list. That's a nasty crease down the middle, why on earth did I fold it? It isn't exactly gigantic! Actually I can't help having a horrible feeling that it got left because I made a mistake somewhere.........

Apparently I was intending to make some cards - I used to do a lot of cross-stitch cards and sell them at craft fairs and I could certainly produce one or two for various birthdays - I'd completely forgotten I had these too.

As for these - WHAT was I thinking? Bookmarks, yes I'll make those up but if I have the other two forever more I still shan't be making tiny bows or rose ribbons for doll's houses. If anyone could make use of them I'd be happy to pass them on. If there should be more than one I'll get DH to pull a name out of a hat. I confess I'm not expecting to be overwhelmed with requests:)

So there we are - which shall it be? Wastwater I think, then Dove Cottage. Let's just hope I don't fall off my perch before I get the rest of them finished.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Suffolk Summer Part Two

This lovely Elizabethan timber framed farmhouse caught my eye as I drove into Brent Eleigh. For some reason it looked vaguely familiar.

This is the reason why! One of my favourite artists is A R Quinton and in the early 1900s he travelled all round England painting local scenes which were published as postcards by the firm of J.Salmon Ltd. I like his work because he paints the kind of scenes that appeal to me and he has left a pictorial record of the England that existed before the advent of the car. The scene that appealed to me obviously appealed to Alfred Quinton as well and the wonderful thing is that apart from the fact that the lane has a modern tarmac surface the scene is virtually unchanged a hundred years later. Alas the lovely working horses and the geese are no longer there but the green is there and even better is what is not there - no modern buildings have appeared.

St Mary's Church is tucked away up a long quiet lane and hidden away behind trees. It is fortunate in having escaped a Victorian 'restoration' and therefore the outside looks now pretty much as it did when it was built around 1400.

Inside it still has the old box pews and in the chancel behind the altar are some rather special medieval wall paintings. They were whitewashed over at the Reformation and rediscovered in 1960 and are among the most important in England.

This is 14th century and was designed as an altarpiece, it depicts the Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and St John standing on either side. Clicking on the photo will enlarge it.

This is a detail from the painting on the south side of the altar and shows the priest who was its donor. This painting is late 13th century. Clicking to enlarge this will make the priest's face very clear - a little window into the past.

The Colmans were Lords of the Manor until the male line died out in 1739.

The classic view of Kersey said to be the prettiest village in Suffolk. It shows the little River Brett flowing across the road and the church at the top of the hill. You may be relieved to know that there are no interior photographs as this was the only church I came cross in Suffolk that was actually locked! Although John Appleby (see Part One) doesn't seem to have visited Brent Eleigh he did go to Kersey and was rather disappointed by it though he did like the church which, unlike me,he did get to see the inside of!

Kersey is a typical linear village laid out mostly along one long main street. This is looking from the watersplash in the opposite direction to the church.

I think this cottage is just beautiful with it's pink walls, thatched roof and pretty cottage garden.

The medieval Bell Inn - it has stood here for 700 years and watched all the joys and sorrows of village life. What stories it must have locked in its memory.

Another of Kersey's beautiful old houses.

I'm rather keen on weather vanes and always photograph them if I see attractive or unusual ones.

A final view of Kersey. These lovely houses are on a lane off the main street at the top of the hill near the church.

Hadleigh is a small Suffolk town with a very long history, it was settled first of all in the 5th and 6th centuries by Angles and Friesians from across the North Sea and a century or two later the Vikings made an appearance and also eventually settled in the area though not before they'd done a little raiding and plundering first! Guthrum, the Viking leader who was defeated in battle by Alfred the Great, was converted to Christianity and became the King of what is now northern and eastern England. He died in Hadleigh and is supposedly buried in the church of St Mary pictured above. The present rather splendid church is 14th century but stands on the site of an older Saxon church which is where Guthrum would have been buried.

The 15th century Guildhall which is now a rather splendid venue for weddings. Hadleigh was another of the places visited by John Appleby, he had tea in a tea shop on the High St - now long gone I imagine. He considered Hadleigh to be 'the dullest place in Suffolk' which is perhaps a little harsh!

Some of the many fine old medieval buildings in Hadleigh.

Suffolk is full of lovely old lanes like this, you can see from the patches of grass growing in the middle of the road that there isn't a lot of traffic along here. Who knows where this leads - perhaps back into the past........