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Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Song of Solomon

Sir William Russell-Flint's 'Song of Solomon' 1909
It is not generally realised how much the Old Testament's Song of Solomon pervades modern culture. It contains some of the most beautiful love poetry ever written:

Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.

It is important to know that this is just the first chapter and that the 'voice' of the poem switches from person to person. Biblical scholars argue whether or not this was written by Solomon or for him. Here are just a few of the references that have been made:

  • Stephen 'Tin Tin' Duffy's 1985 song  Kiss Me quotes directly from the Song of Solomon.
  • Toni Morrison's novel Song of Solomon was instrumental in her winning a Nobel Prize.
  • Chapter 2, verse 15 (not reproduced here) provided the title for Lillian Hellman’s 1939 play Little Foxes.
  • Also the opening line of Chapter 2 provides the name 'Rose of Sharon' used by Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.
  • Countless number of (mostly obscure) rock groups have taken their names and song titles from Song of Solomon.
  • One of Kate Bush's song from The Red Shoes  is Song of Solomon
  • In his poem When I Hear You Sing, Leonard Cohen refers to the Song of Solomon.
  • Many writers and composers through history have taken inspiration from this work. They include Geoffrey Chaucer, JS Bach and up to Steeleye Span and Neil Diamond (in Holly Holy).
Finally I wish all visitors to the blog a peaceful and healthy New Year. Be inspired by this poetry and remember that love is better than hate!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Quiz Questions (18): Harder Christmas Quiz!

Christmas Cactus, Schlumbergera
(1) What story is set in Bedford Falls?

(2) Which is the only one of Santa's reindeer who is female?

(3) Which is the odd-one-out of these Christmas plants and why? I know there are often various possible answers to odd-one-out questions but in this one you need to be psychic and know which answer I have chosen! Hopefully it's the only possible answer.

  • (a) Poinsettia
  • (b) Christmas Cactus
  • (c) Mistletoe
  • (d) Holly
(4) What Christmas food is made from marsh-whorts?
Answers to be posted over the Christmas Holiday.
Q What did the English teacher call Santa's helpers?
A Subordinate clauses
(Found in very expensive Christmas crackers from Fortnum & Masons, a posh London store. Allegedly.)
Answers now in the comments

Friday, 16 December 2011

Quiz Questions (17): Bazza's Christmas Quiz
  1. In Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol, who was Scrooge's dead business partner? 
  2. The song White Christmas was first performed in which 1942 film? 
  3. Who were Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar (or Gaspar)? 
  4. Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is a territory of which country? 

Answers published here in a few days. 

And finally...
Good King Wenceslas phoned for a pizza. The salesgirl asked him, 'Do you want your usual? Deep pan, crisp and even?'!
Answers now given in the comments.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

London Monopoly (4): The Angel, Islington
My journey around the London Monopoly board has now arrived at The Angel, Islington. The Angel is a public house (pub) in the London Borough of Islington. It was founded as an inn in 1665 - the year of the great plague of London. Having been rebuilt several times it is a famous London landmark and the current building , which dates from 1889 has a domed tower on the roof.
The inn was mentioned in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist and one of William Hogarth's famous London drawings was set in the courtyard.
It was originally built by a toll-gate on the Great North Road - the first one outside the City of London.
The Angel n the nineteenth century

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Painting of the Month (24) December 2011: John Yardley

Savannah by John Yardley. Watercolour 20" by 14"
I don't know any other USA locations painted by John Yardley although there must be some. I don't think he would have travelled all the way from his home in Surrey, England just to paint this one but I chose it because it is typical of his work and makes an effective base for discussion.
John Yardley was born in Yorkshire, England in 1933 and happily is still painting. He retired from his job as a banker in 1961 to become a full-time painter. How wonderful is that?
Although primarily a watercolourist he does also paint in oils but I much prefer the former. The typical characteristics of his style shown in this painting are:
  • The clever way he illustrates sunlight. What does he do to achieve this? Nothing. He lets the white of the paper do the work for him!
  • The limited and subdued palette (that means the range of colour that he employs.)
  • There is usually, among the restrained colour, one or two splashes of brightness to draw the eye inward. In this picture the back of the red car on the right does this although there are better examples elsewhere.
  • He often manages to convey movement of people with a few deft brush strokes and obviously believes that 'less is more'. Look at the way he has conveyed the tree, centre-top of this painting, with a few strokes of paint.
If you would like to see more follow this link: John Yardley paintings Of course, double-clicking the above image will show a much better enlarged view.