VENICE


Venetian Sunset – from Piazza San Marco … Pen & Wash – WHB … 2013

City of Islands
City of dream
Inscribed with colour
 Every line.

City of History
City of deeds
Imbued with story
Every step

City of Passion
City of pride
Engorged with fashion
Every stride

City of Clamour
City of bells
Ringing with meaning
Every knell

City of Turmoil
City of strife
Threaded with suffering
Every hurt

City of Mansions
City of graves
Instilled with ardour
Every shrine

City of Titian
City of art
Awash with beauty
Every part

City of Merchants
City of trade
Echoed by Shakespeare
Every shade

City of Conflict
City of strife
Turbulent city
Every vice

City of Water
City of flood
Sea taking over
Every surge

City of Magic
City of spells
Present in each pile
Every shell

City of Revels
City of fun
Carnivals rule life
Every fete

City of Intrigue
City of masks
Sophistry renews
Every day

City of Drama
City of sin
Would I were there now
Let new life begin.

Venice . . . Pen & Wash – WHB: 2013

SCOTLAND – Pen & Wash

A Gallery of my pen and wash sketches of notable scenes visited in various parts of Scotland – Highlands and Islands

Click on a drawing to enlarge it and view the titles

  1. Ailsa Craig – Firth of Forth
  2. Castle Tioram – Loch Moidart
  3. Castle Dtalker – Argyll
  4. Castle Tioram – 2
  5. Glen Lochranza – Isle of Arran
  6. Lamlash – Isle of Arran
  7. Newton Stewart – Galloway
  8. Rannock Moor Sunset
  9. The Road To The Isles

The Ballad Of Beggar’s Bridge

This bridge, in a traditional Pack Horse shape, has remained intact straddling the River Esk near the moorland village of Glaisdale, in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, for 400 years.   The village is about ten miles inland from Whitby, where the River Esk flows into the North Sea.
It is known as Beggar’s Bridge, and was built in 1619, by Tom Ferris, a local man, son of a poor moorland sheep farmer.   Having been turned down as a suitable suitor for his love, Agnes, by her wealthy land-owning father, Tom vowed to seek his fortune and to one day return to claim Agnes’ for his wife.  After many adventures at sea, Tom returned, now a rich man, married Agnes, and prospered, to such an extent that he eventually became the Lord Mayor of Hull.  The bridge, it is said, was erected by Tom as a memorial to his wife, and as a means for future lovers to cross the river without having to brave its often flooded waters.  The story, as it has been passed down, is a mix of fact and fiction.  The basic facts are essentially true, but the story, has become a local legend and has, no doubt been embellished over the course of time.

I have tried my hand at re-telling this story in a simple and traditional ballad style, the results of which efforts I give below . . .

THE BALLAD OF BEGGAR’S BRIDGE

He lived beside the river Esk
In a fair delightful dale
His story I must tell you now
A truly stirring tale.

Tom loved a lass of high estate
It was not meant to be
For she was of the Manor born
A lowly lad was he.

Her father disapproved the match
Tom was of lowly birth
No land, no money, no position,
Of very little worth.

But their shared love was sound and solid
So secretly they met.
They shared their passions willingly
But always under threat.

Poor Tom was restless and intent
To run away to sea;
He held fast to the thoughts that stirred
Inside him to be free.

He knew one day he’d win his bride,
He would not be gainsaid;
Beyond this dale there was a world
Where fortunes could be made.

So one dark night he set off late
To wish Agnes farewell
To promise to return for her
To ever with her dwell.

She lived beside the river too
But on the other side.
He therefore had to swim across
He would not be denied.

The Esk just then was in full spate
It swirled along the dale.
It almost took Tom’s life that night
He knew he must prevail.

With strength of ten he forged a path
Across the raging stream;
He dragged his aching body out
As if within a dream.

With his goodbyes Tom gave his word
That some day he’d return;
And Agnes gave her solemn oath
She’d wait for him in turn.

Tom took himself to Whitby town
And soon with Drake joined battle;
Against that Spanish fleet he fought
Saw off the invading rabble.

A rover in West Indies then
And piracy his game.
Plunder and pillage gave him wealth
And brought a kind of fame.

He felt that now he could return
To claim his promised bride;
Confront her father without fear,
With new found hope and pride.

And so to Glaisdale Tom returned
His roving days now past.
True to her word Agnes rejoiced,
Her hopes fulfilled at last.

They married soon and lived in bliss,
Or so the story goes.
Tom grew in wealth, in fame, in power,
Commanding all he chose.

Throughout the north he garnered fame
His name grew ever bigger.
Lord Mayor of Hull he then became,
Now a respected figure.

And when his Agnes died at last
Their story he declared,
Would with a bridge over the Esk
With all the world be shared.

A bridge to join the river’s banks
To help new lovers’ trysts;
A bridge secure from spate and flood
Which to this day exists.

The reason it’s called Beggar’s Bridge
No one is very sure.
‘Tis thought was done to prompt us all
That Tom was once so poor.

‘I’m Thinking’: A Dialogue

A.  Don’t interrupt me when I’m thinking.
B.   What about?
A.  You wouldn’t want to know.
B.   Why?  Is it a secret?
A.   Could be.
B.   Tell me.
A.   Wouldn’t be a secret if I did.
B.   Now you intrigue me.
A.   Secrets are for keeping to yourself.
B.   Who says?
A.   That’s the definition of a secret.
B.   But if you tell me I won’t tell anyone.
A.   If I do tell you it won’t be a secret any more.
B.   But only you and I will know.
A.   But then someone else might ask you to tell them.
B.   But I won’t tell them.
A.   But that’s what you said to me.
B.   I did?
A.   Yes … And then you told me.
B.   Did I?
A.   Oh!
B.   It’s no secret that you can’t keep a secret, you know.
A.   Is it?
B.   How do you know that?
A.   It’s a secret.
B.   Tell me.
A.   No,
B.   Why?
A.   It wouldn’t be a secret if I did.

My photographs of the two sculptural heads were taken at ‘Sculpture Heaven’ in Wales  . . .

The Sculpture Gardens, Workshops and Galleries.
Ceri Gwnda,  Rhydlewis, Llandysul,  Ceredigion., SA44 5RN

All the  sculptures there have a strong connection to the fabled past. The works have the appearance of classical antiquities. Many are by British sculptor, Jon Barnes, with artists Terry and Rose Barter complementing the range with their carvings of the  Green Man,  Buddhas, and contemporary sculpture.

‘The Calm That Nature Breathes’

 Photo . . . WHB: (Copyright): I shall remember this view for ever.  I holidayed in 2001 at the Nannybrow , just north of Windermere and a few miles west of Ambleside in The Lake District, Cumbria.

The Calm That Nature Breathes

Such beauty was a wondrous sight to see;
It held my gaze for many a moment then.

A burst of autumn colours and a view,
Exquisite as a verse from Nature’s pen.

It told of Wordsworth’s Lakeland in its glory,
Of luscious greens and tranquil lake so still;
While purpure mountains in the distance loom
And to the mellow view great calm instil.

A murmur in the breeze adorned the scene,
A susurrus in a silent land of ease.
It brought to me a sense of peace and love
Amidst those waters, hills and ancient trees.

The stillness and the quiet of evening time,
The colours then displayed before my sight,
Feelings of calm, of peace, and lasting love,
All came together then for my delight.

Such beauty was a wondrous sight to see;
It held my gaze for many a moment then.

A burst of autumn colours and a view,
Exquisite as a verse from Nature’s pen.

It told of Wordsworth’s Lakeland in its glory,
Of luscious greens and tranquil lake so still;
While purpure mountains in the distance loom
And to the mellow view great calm instil.

A murmur in the breeze adorned the scene,
A susurrus in a silent land of ease.
It brought to me a sense of peace and love
Amidst those waters, hills and ancient trees.

The stillness and the quiet of evening time,
The colours then displayed before my sight,
Feelings of calm, of peace, and lasting love,
All came together then for my delight.


One September day, still and fine, the water levels higher than usual after a period of prolonged rain, I captured the view from the hotel terrace.  I was transfixed for a long time, allowing the serenity and brilliance of the view to embed.  To me it was an absolutely stunning  experience.  The panorama from my viewpoint gives majestic views down the beautiful Brathay Valley and towards the stunning scenery of the Langdales on the horizon.   The photograph I took then introduces my poem.  The scene gave me a sense of the powerful effect which the Lakeland scenery had on William Wordsworth.   In particular it reminded me of the brief quotations below . . .

“A foretaste, a dim earnest, of the calm
That Nature breathes among the hills and groves.”

“. . . the sun in heaven  . . .  Beheld not vales more beautiful than ours”

From:   ‘The Prelude: Book 1″:

The earth and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparell’d in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.

From:  “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

“Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!”

From:   Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

I have used a quotation from ‘The Preludes’ as the title of my own short poem, written in the same pentameter structure as Wordsworth used in many of his poems.

This blog was previously Posted in Rolands Ragbag on September 19, 2016

Six Pen and Wash Sketches

I reproduce below six of my earlier pen and wash sketches – all my own interpretations of visited scenes from the British Isles

Caldey Island, Wales . . . WHB
An English Dawn . . . WHB
Exmouth, Devon . . . WHB
Glenfinnan, Scotland . . . WHB
Ludlow, Shropshire . . . WHB
Rydal Water, The Lake District . . . WHB

Stanley Spencer – A Happy Resurrection

Photograph of Spencer at work in Cookham Village … by WHB . . . 1957

Stanley Spencer, CBE RA (1891 – 1959)was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Wikipedia

The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A teasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Pram pusher extraordinaire
in the Village that lit up his life
inspired his vision
Trundled easel hearse
put to work in progress
To see, to feel, to breathe
destiny on the village green
The past become the present
resurrected in tranquillity
Life-lite under the churchyard yew
this moulded flesh – full featured
bringing joy from the stern grave
Life’s resurrection imagined
in hope and the churchyard
in his eyes and his pigment
Drawn and deified
Death and Resurrection as Spring
As buttercups in the greenest of fields.


The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A pleasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Stanley Spencer: ‘The Resurrection, Cobham … 1924-27. Tate Gallery

Runswick Bay

‘Runswick Bay’ … WHB – Pen & Wash 2012

Atop the sea cliffs
I tread the uneven
foot beaten
 wind worn path
I turn and look back
look down
along the line of this eastern shore
across the arc of the bay towards
the cliff-clinging terracotta cottages
carved from the rock of the wave beaten coast
I watch the writhing waves
pound the seawall rocks
insistently biting into the land’s defences
high casting their salty spume
into the sky’s blue blanket

and all the time beside me
at the path’s edge
the rustle of waving barley
their sighing hush
competing with the sea swell
to bring the landscape into one waving vision
the smooth surface tension of the early summer scene
contesting the still silence
of the placid inland rolling moors
delighting both eye and mind
and bringing contentment
to a world of both beauty and sorrow

Runswick Bay is a small coastal village, set in a sweeping, sheltered bay on the North Sea Coast of Yorkshire. It borders on the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and the Cleveland Way National Trail runs on the coastline above the village.