Punishment of the Gods

Atlas At Culzean

The ‘Atlas’ Sundial, Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland … Photo: WHB 2003  ©

PUNISHMENT OF THE GODS

The ancient gods of Greece and Rome, omniscient in their sagacity,
Showed no restraint at all in exercising their voracity.

Eternal punishment was dealt by Zeus to those who crossed him;
Ever the vengeful God dispersed reprisal on a whim.

Prometheus, fettered to a rock, Zeus’s ego damaged,
Condemned to have his entrails by an eagle daily ravaged.

For Sisyphus he set the task of rolling a stone uphill. 
For all I know that poor old chap is pushing skywards still.

Wretched Tantalus suffered long, his grasp forever taunted
By receding fruit and water, always close, but always daunted.

For lusting after Zeus’s wife, Ixion was bound to a wheel,
Then the wheel was set on fire, a vicious cruel ordeal.

Other gods and goddesses were equally disdaining
Of lesser gods and vulgar mortals of whom they were complaining.

Arachne she was killed by fate, but brought back as a spider,
Condemned continually to weave, forever an outsider.

Actaeon was turned into a stag for just one venial sin,
Then torn apart by his own hounds, his heart ripped from his skin.

Narcissus met his Nemesis beside the mirrored pool.
He pined away with love forlorn; he broke the golden rule.

Atlas he was made to bear the whole of heavens’ weight; 
Upon his shaken Titan shoulders, his cursed aeonian fate.

So thus discomfited mankind was taught not to transgress;
Displease the gods who dares, condemned to unceasing deep distress.

 

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Fire, Forge and Furnace

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‘The Smith’: Illus.from’The Book Of English Trades’, Museum of English Ryral Life, Reading University.

FIRE, FORGE & FURNACE

It began with the furnace
When limping Hephaestus
tamed his volcanic forge,
before Prometheus
poached fire,
and brought to mankind,
his creation,
those skills of
 inspired artistry
 in metal and the arts,
for which he suffered
until, released, liver-less,
 from his eagle-torn fate

So, his legacy,
passed on to the smith,
farrier, blacksmith, metalworker,
a noble calling
worthy trade
artist in iron
his skill
portrayed in metal
wrought within the fire
of Vulcan’s heart

Bent over the anvil
he finds his future
his art is in iron
his heart lies there too
the kiln his spirit
the anvil his easel
tongs his palette knife
his hammer his brush

Rendering and wrenching
forging
forcing his will
on that malleable metal
moulding with skill
stroking the steel
forming shape
to match imagination
to meet a need
create a masterwork
from his mind’s ferment

The furnace,
bellowed into life,
bright burning coals
in heat and fusion
throw shadows all around
as if their flickering flames
are desperate to escape
and return
to the place of their birth –
the fiery inferno
in Vulcan’s heart.

Hephaestus

Hephaestus

 

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Ode To Mount Felix

(No.52 of my favourite short poems) 

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A community stitch project has recently been completed and put on display to commemorate the centenary of the Mount Felix Hospital which, throughout World War 1 and afterwards for several years served, as a military hospital in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, for soldiers from New Zealand wounded at Gallipoli and in later battles.    The project is in the form of a tapestry of 44 panels stitched by community groups ranging from primary schools to experienced embroiderers.   By the end of WW1 the hospital, in conjunction with another nearby hospital, had nearly 1,900 beds and some 27,000 patients had been treated during the operational lives of these two hospitals.

One of the panels, pictured below, features a lovely poem composed during his time in this hospital by one of the patients, name unknown,  who was stunned by the beauty and tranquility of his surroundings after experiencing the horrors of war.  I give photographs above and below of the tapestry on which this verse has been embroidered.

WoT MtFelix1

 

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North Cape – Nordkapp

[ Photo Blog #52 ]

Nordkapp (English: North Cape) is in Finnmark County of Norway.  It was long claimed as the northernmost point of the continent of Europe. In fact it is the furthest north that one can drive in Europe but, by less than a mile, it is not quite the most northerly point.  The administrative centre of the area is in the town of Honningsvag, where the local population is approximately 3,500.   Nordkapp is a splendid spot, weather permitting, from which to see the midnight sun.  It is normal for about 200,000 tourists to  visit there annually during the two to three months of summer,  the main tourist attraction being the splendid views from the North Cape itself.  The North Cape first became famous when the English explorer Richard Chancellor sailed round it in 1553 while attempting to find a sea route through the North-east Passage. Except for the first photograph, the photographs are from my own visit there in 2002. 

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North Cape itself

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Approaching Honningsvag from the sea

 

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Honningsvag – town and harbour

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Traditional reindeer hide tent – set up for the tourists 

 

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Reindeer and boy in traditional costume

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Reindeer

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View of the summit of Nordkapp

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The summit of the cape has a number of sculptures and statues.

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Pointing towards the North Pole

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Signpost giving the Cape’s coordinates

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View from the Cape to the west

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View north towards Svalbard and the North Pole

Gwen JOHN – Rodin’s stalker

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‘Winged Victory – sculpture by Auguste Rodin… modelled by Gwen John

Gwen JOHN – Rodin’s stalker

sucked into his circle
seduced by his attention
the youthful innocent
charmed
awakened
flattered and captured
by his reputation
the innocent ingénue
capitulated
sat
posed
exposed
her youthful innocence
to his gnarled advances
he
an old cracked vase

now linked
to her driven impulsion
her aroused possessiveness
his fate
brought upon himself
his penance for taking her
in her prime
using her
then when she had fully succumbed
to his ardour
discarding her like a broken vase herself
now he was reaping the seed he had sown
being punished in his decrepitude
by her youthful zest
her constant attentions
her clinging ardour
demanding and draining
pressing constantly for his attention
now enfeebling him
the shards of his desire
scattered on the potters floor
Winged Victory de-flowered
disposed of
its remnants scattered
as so many others
the artist’s detritus
swept into a corner of his studio
to take their place
alongside those other rejected manikins
all now redundant.

she became the stalker
the stalker stalked
the predator compromised by his own lust
and trapped in his rapacious past
impotent now and fearful
his winged victory over her
turned turtle
finally repaid
by her triumph over him
resolved only
at his death


Gwen John (1876-1939) , sister of the renowned Welsh painter, Augustus John (1878-1961),  grew up in Pembrokeshire, Wales.  After leaving Britain for France in 1904 she became first the model, then the lover, of the much-older Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) .  Their relationship lasted a decade and shaped the remainder of the Welsh artist’s life and work.

In her lifetime Gwen John was primarily known merely as an appendage to both her brother and to Rodin.  She died on the outbreak of WW2, unrecognised as a serious artist.  In more recent years, however, following rediscovery of her work by art scholars since the 1970s, her own artistic work has undergone a re-appraisal.  

 She is now considered, particularly as a portrait painter, to be almost on a par to her brother.  In fact, Augustus is quoted as saying before he died in 1861, that “In 50 years Gwen will be better known than I am as an artist”.

The story of Gwen John’s intense infatuation with Rodin can be readily discovered on the internet. 

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Gwen John – Self portrait – 1899

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Bruges, Belgium

[ Photo Blog #50 ]

I paid the first of my two visits to this delightful city, the capital of West Flanders, in north-west Belgium in 2003.  As will be seen from the photographs, the weather was not particularly kind during my visit, but the rain stopped long enough to enable me to take the following photographs . . .

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The Belfry is a medieval bell tower in the centre of Bruges

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The West Flanders Provincial Court

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Part of the Provincial Palace, Market Square

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The canals of Bruges are part of the personality of the city. 

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The city’s canals are one of the main attractions in Bruges 

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Navigating through the canals and discovering the most hidden corners of Bruges is essential to enjoying the essence of the city.

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The city has become known as the “Venice of the North”

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Canal artist at work

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Diverse statuary can be seen all over the city

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13Bruges61Bourgogne

14Bruges26LaceShop

Bruges is famous for its lace-making and has many shops selling hand-made lace items.  In many streets lace-makers can be watched using their skills to create beautiful silkware.

 

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SELKIE-The Seal Woman – 2

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©   ‘Selkie’ … Coloured Pen – WHB – August 2017

 

SELKIE-The Seal Woman

PART THE SECOND

 

Now
As the surge of the swollen sea
Sweeps the shore
I scan the rolling waves
For a sign of her presence
A hint of her salt-scent
Her seal-self
The searing splash of her tail
As it breaks the foam’s crest

I sense the silky soft touch of her skin
I know she is there
I sense her nearness
In the clutching drift of the current

The sound of her muted cry
wafting to me with the wistful wind
Towards my rock
Her rock
Our rock
The anchor connecting our two realities
The link
Ocean-forged
Wind-weathered
Sun-scorched
Heart-touched
Communion binding us
In those few delicious moments
When our worlds merge
And we become as one

Creatures of neither sea nor land
Melded in Earth’s memory
To exist for ever
In legend

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SELKIE-The Seal Woman – 1

SELKIES (said to be a diminutive form of the Scottish word for ‘seal’) are mythical creatures which feature in much Celtic literature and folklore.  These stories and the alleged sightings of these shape-shifting creatures are mostly centred on the Hebridean Islands of Scotland and the island groups of the Orkneys, the Shetlands, and further north in the Faroe Islands and around the Icelandic coastline.

Sea-going and fishing communities in these places have their stories to tell about these creatures.  Unlike mermaids, they are not half-human and half-fish.  Selkies, both male and female, are said to live as seals when in the sea, but shed their skin to become humans when on land.

 The legend takes many different forms, but it is generally thought that whenever a selkie and a human meet when both are in human form, the two will always fall in love. Such tales, however, never have a happy ending as the selkie will always at some point have to answer the call of the sea.  Even if their human partner hides the seal skin away, then, as soon as it is discovered, the Selkie will be unable to resist returning to its life as a seal, often leaving his or her children behind.

 Some interpretations of the legends maintain that, in this way, many sea-faring families, having lost their father, brother, grandfather at sea and the body never being recovered, explain the absence to the children as their loved one having re-joined the seal community (‘Gone to join the seal folk’) and will one day return.

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By the sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen – ‘The Seal Woman of Mikladalur’ statue on Kalsoy (2014).  In old Faroese folklore it was believed that at certain times the seals came out of the sea, stripped their seal-skins and became real human beings, dancing on the shore. But before sunrise they had to take on their skins again to be able to return to the sea – their natural element.

SELKIE-The Seal Woman

 PART THE FIRST

She came to me from the Sea
shedding her sealskin
on that rock
A gift vouchsafed from the depths
with the alluring tang of the ocean
She captured my innocence
captivated my soul
absorbed my whole being

Communion we had to excess
our feelings of love unexplained
brought us a peace which neither had known
contentment in each other’s warmth

Then I had thought she was mine
to cherish and to love
to share time
and histories
to plan a life together

But it was not to be
her hidden sealskin discovered
she was compelled to answer
the call of the waves

It could not be for ever
our short-lived passion spent
foregone
Hope and desire
subsumed by time
by the sea’s imperative

So I lost her to the ocean
no more was she mine
only my memories remained
I had to grant
respect for her freedom
her heritage
seek solace in memory
and bury my hopes
in the swell of the sea

Selkie (1)

 PART The Second – to be published tomorrow . . .

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Three Essex Villages, England

[ Photo Blog #47 ]

Just a few of my photographs taken in three beautiful villages in Essex in South East England – to the north and East of London.

Greensted Church, in the small village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar, near Chipping Ongar, is the oldest wooden church in the world, and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century.

Ingatestone is a village in Essex, England, with a population of about 4,500.

Ingatestone Hall is a Grade I listed 16th-century manor house in Essex, some 5 miles (8 km) south west of Chelmsford. It was built by Sir William Petre, and his descendants live in the house to this day.  William Petre bought Ingatestone manor soon after the Dissolution of the Monasteries for some £850 and commissioned the building of the house. Queen Elizabeth I of England spent several nights there on her royal progress of 1561.

The hall represented the exterior of Bleak House in the 2005 television adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel and also appeared in an episode of the TV series Lovejoy. Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novel Lady Audley’s Secret is set at Ingatestone Hall and was inspired by a stay there.

Orsett is a village and ecclesiastical parish located within Thurrock unitary district in Essex

( Information based on entries in Wikipedia )

OrsettCottage

A timbered and thatched cottage in Orsett

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Greensted Church

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Greensted Church –  Wooden South Entrance

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Ingatestone Hall

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Ingatestone Hall – Clock Tower & Weather Vane

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Ingatestone Hall

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Ingatestone Hall – Roadside slogan – ‘Never Underestimate A Minority’

A Lifetime Away

A Lifetime Away

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Photo … Priory East Window – © WHB

 

Three hundred miles
and a lifetime away
from the place where I was born 
the memories are vivid
burned into my soul
heightened by distance
by time past

Ghosts of my past
inhabit my dreams
chances gone begging
opportunities missed
loving and leaving
a heritage of hope
bringing certitude
where doubt once held sway.

I loved and love
those dark purple hills
outcrops and the Nab
towering over the town
Cass Rock
where Sisyphus finally capitulated

Beyond these,
just rolling
heather clad moor
soft dales 
grey-green heathland,
burnt golden yellow gorse
and swaying bracken

And on the scarp slope
the detritus of iron mines
defunct air shafts
ancient workings
the ruins of hard labour
and alongside these
pyramids of shale and slag
creating their own foothills
bracken spores now binding
their surfaces
reconstructing life
nature reclaiming its own

And the view which nurtured me
from my school room
of graveyard and priory
its arched east window
tracery shattered
configuring my sky

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‘Priory and Applegarth . . . Pen & Wash – WHB

The ancient stone dovecote
now sheltering jackdaws
ravens, blackbirds.
the Norman arched gateway
still standing adrift
isolated from the remnants
of its dismantled
castellated walls
whose dispersed masonry
now furnishes
so many of the town’s dwellings

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Norman Arch &Dovecote … Photo ©WHB

The mill pond stocked still
by the descendants of those
pre-dissolution carp
the Augustinians first introduced
fed and nurtured

The monk’s walk
cloistered
by beech and birch
sheltering silent contemplation
which
even now
as I tread in their footsteps
I replicate
in awe and reverence

And in the Apple Garth
where now the wheat
is harvested
still a silent windswept
arbour
now lovers
not penitents
linger
embrace
exchange kisses
and vows.

Thus am I now
beholden to the past
nurturer of my present
promise of my future

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Hills on the north scarp of the North Yorkshire Moors

 

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