30 March 2020

Art Offers Relief

Gustave Coquiot, Maurice Utrillo (Paris: André Delpeuch, 1925), pp. 60-61 (my translation):
I still remember — and how vividly! — the time, that happy time, when Utrillo worked only for me. Up there on the Butte, in the middle of the war, this strange monk shut up in his cell provided me with the only moments of relief I knew in the midst of all that hideous human carnage. Verdun, the mass graves, the deformed faces, all the blood, all the death, all the stench of the slaughterhouses, all the cries, all the horror of those lunatics who had been turned against each another by the butchers of Empire or Republic. When I contemplated a new painting by Utrillo, I forgot it all for a moment. The sight of a small white church, it gave one hope for less savage tomorrows. The war is finally over, crushed under the weight of so many corpses. What was the source of this brief feeling of respite? I do not want to analyze it too closely, for fear of regretting all the things which, if I had been born in a different age, I should have been able to share with others...
The libraries are shut down, hundreds of thousands of people are out of work, and Amazon says that book deliveries will be delayed: I can't think of a more auspicious time to announce that my translation of this monograph is now available. Readers in North America may visit  Google Books for a preview.


Maurice Utrillo, Church at Anet (c. 1916-18)

27 March 2020

To Them Who Have Eyes to See and Hearts to Feel

William Ellery Channing, "The Religious Principle in Human Nature," The Perfect Life (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1873), pp. 12-13:
Beauty, that mysterious charm which is spread over and through the universe, who is unconscious of its winning attraction? Whose heart has not softened into joy, as he has looked on hill and valley and cultivated plain, on stream and forest, on the rising or setting sun, on the constant stars and the serene sky? Now whenever this love of the beautiful unfolds into strong emotion, its natural influence is to lead up our minds to contemplate a brighter Beauty than is revealed in creation. To them, who have eyes to see and hearts to feel the loveliness of nature, it speaks of a higher, holier Presence. They hear God in its solemn harmonies, they behold Him its fresh verdure, fair forms, and sunny hues. To great numbers, I am persuaded, the beauty of nature is a more affecting testimony to God than even its wise contrivance.

Carl Gustav Carus, Blick auf Dresden bei Sonnenuntergang (c. 1822)

25 March 2020

Poetry Readings Cancelled

George Orwell, "Poetry and the Microphone," The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. II (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), pp. 331-332:
In broadcasting your audience is conjectural, but it is an audience of one. Millions may be listening, but each is listening alone, or as a member of a small group, and each has (or ought to have) the feeling that you are speaking to him individually. More than this, it is reasonable to assume that your audience is sympathetic, or at least interested, for anyone who is bored can promptly switch you off by turning a knob. But though presumably sympathetic, the audience has no power over you. It is just here that a broadcast differs from a speech or a lecture. On the platform, as anyone used to public speaking knows, it is almost impossible not to take your tone from the audience. It is always obvious within a few minutes what they will respond to and what they will not, and in practice you are almost compelled to speak for the benefit of what you estimate as the stupidest person present, and also to ingratiate yourself by means of the ballyhoo known as "personality". If you don't do so, the result is always an atmosphere of frigid embarrassment. That grisly thing, a "poetry reading", is what it is because there will always be some among the audience who are bored or all but frankly hostile and who can't remove themselves by the simple act of turning a knob. And it is at bottom the same difficulty — the fact that a theatre audience is not a selected one — that makes it impossible to get a decent performance of Shakespeare in England. On the air these conditions do not exist. The poet feels that he is addressing people to whom poetry means something, and it is a fact that poets who are used to broadcasting can read into the microphone with a virtuosity they would not equal if they had a visible audience in front of them.

Eric Gill, Ariel Between Wisdom and Gaiety (1932)
Broadcasting House, London

19 March 2020

The Only Passion Which Augments With Age

John Claudius Loudon in the introduction to An Encyclopaedia of Gardening (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), p. 2:
The pleasure attending the pursuit of gardening is conducive to health and repose of mind; and a taste for the enjoyment of gardens is so natural to man, as almost to be universal. Our first most endearing and most sacred associations, Mrs. Hofland observes, are connected with gardens; our most simple and most refined perceptions of beauty are combined with them; and the very condition of our being compels us to the cares, and rewards us with the pleasures attached to them. Gardening has been the inclination of kings and the choice of philosophers, Sir William Temple has observed; and the Prince de Ligne, after sixty years’ experience, affirms, that the love of gardens is the only passion which augments with age: “Je voudrois,” he says, “échauffer tout l’univers de mon gôut pour les jardins. II me semble qu’il est impossible, qu’un méchant puisse 1’avoir. Il n’est point de vertus que je ne suppose à celui qui aime à parler et a faire des jardins. Pères de famille, inspirez la jardinomanie à vos enfans.” 1 (Memoires et Lettres, tom. i.)

That which makes the cares of gardening more necessary, or at least more excusable, the former author adds, is, that all men eat fruit that can get it; so that the choice is only, whether one will eat good or ill; and for all things produced in a garden, whether of salads or fruits, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none.
My (liberal) translation from the French: "I wish I could make the whole universe as fond of gardens as I am. I do not believe a wicked person could share this fondness. If a man likes to discuss and cultivate gardens, I do not doubt any of his virtues. Family men, encourage a craze for gardening among your children!"

Arthur Melville, A Cabbage Garden (1877)

An unpaid endorsement:
I received my package from the Ontario Seed Company just 3 days after placing the order.

17 March 2020

O Foode of Filthy Woorme

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, "Cur Mundus Militat," lines 20-25, The Paradise Of Dainty Devices (1576-1606), ed. Hyder Edward Rollins (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927), p. 6:
O foode of filthy woorme, oh lumpe of lothsome clay,                          20
O life full like the deawe, which mornyng sunne dooth waste:
O shadowe vayne, whose shape with sunne dooth shrinke away,
Why gloryest thou so much, in honour to be plaste?
Sith that no certayne houre, of life thou dost enjoy,
Most fyt it were, thy tyme in goodnesse to employ.                                25
Sith: Since

In his notes (p. 181), Rollins writes: "Perhaps no other poem was more popular in Middle English and Tudor English — to say nothing of French — than St. Bernard's."


George Frederic Watts,
Time, Death, and Judgement (1899-1900)

A related post: Of Worms and the Man I Sing

10 March 2020

A Disinclination to Sleep Away From Home

J. L. Carr, A Month in the Country (London: Penguin Classics, 2000), p. 51:
Day after day that August, the weather stayed hot and dry. These days we call it real holiday weather but, then, only the well-to-do in those parts went far afield and even a week at Scarborough was remarkable. Folk stayed at home and took their pleasure from an agricultural show, a travelling fair, a Sunday-school outing or, if they had social pretentious, a tennis party with cucumber sandwiches. Most country people had a deep-rooted disinclination to sleep away from home and a belief that, like as not, to sojourn amongst strangers was to fall among them. It was the way they always had lived and, like their forefathers, they travelled no further than a horse or their own legs could carry them there and back in a day.

Charles-François Daubigny, Harvest (1851)

Related posts:

4 March 2020

Big in Japan

My translation of Henri Le Sidaner's biography is currently ranked 34th in the Art History category on Amazon Japan. I do not know why, but I am glad that it is so.

ありがとうございます


I've got the style, but not the grace.

A related post: Henri Le Sidaner

2 March 2020

Quarantine

Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus 27.2-4 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
Indeed, nothing was left untouched and neglected, but with all the necessary details of life he [Lycurgus] blended some commendation of virtue or rebuke of vice; and he filled the city full of good examples, whose continual presence and society must of necessity exercise a controlling and moulding influence upon those who were walking the path of honour.

This was the reason why he did not permit them to live abroad at their pleasure and wander in strange lands, assuming foreign habits and imitating the lives of peoples who were without training and lived under different forms of government. Nay more, he actually drove away from the city the multitudes which streamed in there for no useful purpose, not because he feared they might become imitators of his form of government and learn useful lessons in virtue, as Thucydides says, but rather that they might not become in any wise teachers of evil. For along with strange people, strange doctrines must come in; and novel doctrines bring novel decisions, from which there must arise many feelings and resolutions which destroy the harmony of the existing political order. Therefore he thought it more necessary to keep bad manners and customs from invading and filling the city than it was to keep out infectious diseases.

Ambroise Tardieu, Lycurgus of Sparta (c. 1820-1828)