A Swarm of Bees Worth Hiving

I have a book, passed down to my wife from her father and his father before him, with the title of ‘ILLUSTRATED ANECDOTES and PITHY PIECES’.  It was published in 1874 and which, of course, contains just what the title describes – well, the Victorian idea of such things!

I am reproducing a scanned image of one of the entries which plays with words in rhyming couplets, as I often like to do in my own verses.  (Not sure about the attempt to rhyme ‘faith’ with ‘death’ though!). Amusing and educational aphorisms, life-enhancing even, and very PITHY !!!

The THREE HARES

The’ Three Hares’ Motif … Marker Pen – WHB – 2017

The THREE HARES

Three hares, three ears, How can that be?
Look at the picture you will see.

And yet I know that they have two,
So look again … and so they do.

Chasing each other in a circle,
A never ending race eternal.

This ancient image can be seen
In many places you’ll have been.

In Devon churches they are found,        
You only have to look around.

Germany too has these three hares,  
You may come across them unawares.    

Window at Paderborn Cathedral, Germany

All over Europe and in France
You’ll see them do their threesome dance.

They’re found in China and Japan,
And even in Turkmenistan.

In synagogues and Buddhist caves,
New Age revels and Gothic raves.

In Devon where the tin miner inhabits
They  oft are called the Tinner’s Rabbits.

From east to west and west to east,
Along the Silk Road as trade increased.

Iran – On The Silk Road

They travelled wide in many guises,
Large and small, in varied sizes.

Yet no one seems precisely sure;
Why they are there is still obscure.

What does it mean to have three hares
Cavorting with six ears in pairs?

Yet only three that we can see,
It seems an oddity to me.

They can be seen as an illusion,
Which often leads to much confusion.

Or is it just they are a puzzle,
Certain to test your thinking muscle?

Some say they have a great affinity
With the Christian symbol of the Trinity.

Or they the three realms do unite
Earth, Sea and Sky together aright.

Others say they pledge fertility,
And that does have some credibility.

Certainly they are mysterious rarities,
Perhaps these hares were ancient deities.

I don’t suppose we’ll ever know,
It’s a mystery of long ago.

A puzzle with no attribution,
No context and no resolution.

But most of us will think, “Who cares?
Let’s not end up splitting hares!”

Devon – South Tawton Church roof boss – medieval wood carving

A  SIGN TOO FAR

Street in a Surrey, England .  . .  Photo – WHB 2017

A  SIGN  TOO  FAR

 I was walking down the road the other day
When they met me coming up the other way

I knew not what to do
Not an inkling, not a clue

Should I walk on and ignore them
Should I beg them and implore them

Not to shriek at me so loudly
Not to chastise me so soundly

Just to get out of my way
Let me get on with my day

I really do not wish to buy
I was only passing by

#     #     #

Nor do I feel the urge to hire
A sander or electric fire

Nor will I get an instant thrill
If I just hire a power drill

I surely do not need a sign
To advertise what’s still is mine

I’ve already got more than a few
So they will really have to do

Nor do I need to learn to drive
I’d rather walk and stay alive

I’ll not describe the fine details
But I don’t need polish for my nails

I reckon I’m a beauty too
Stick your cosmetics down the loo

My laundry is for private use
I don’t subject it to abuse

And as for washing all my smalls
I’d rather use Niagara Falls

My house is not for sale just yet
Say any more – I’ll get upset

And as for gas, my need’s not great
My house is all electric, mate

#     #     #

To be attacked by signs is bad
It leaves me feeling very sad
That my main street has reached the stage
When just to earn a living wage
These shops must now our street deface
By planting signs in every place
Leaving me so little space
I think I’m in an obstacle race

SUICIDE ON A WHIM

‘River Liffey Inciden’t . . . Pen & Wash . . . WHB – 1994

SUICIDE ON A WHIM

Suicide on a whim
is not unheard of
but few such perpetrators
live to tell the tale

one such
rescued from his indecision
by the Gardai
lived through his trauma

sweet Liffey run softly
while I tell the story

distraught by his
gambling debts
and the drinking
his only way to a conclusion
seemed to him to be
voluntary
self-inflicted
euthanasia
yes
he thought
that he wanted to die
half-determined
part irresolute

in a single moment of wavering
he had jumped
just fell perhaps
but the fear
and the cold water
soon hit him
hit harder
than the twenty foot drop

an instinctive cry
escaped him
you could call it
a change of mind
his cry for help
was a second thought
an unintended consequence
of his half-hearted conviction

and now he was held
grasped in a rescue bid

but did he wish to be salvaged
to be pleaded with
would that bring him
the closure he craved
attention unwanted

but secured
attention secured
but unwanted

and still
he could not let go
the ladder
his passport to life
a life he did not desire
could he bear to go there
yet again
to continue
victim to more pain
to yet more anguish

but temporary chagrin
is no killer
his cri de coeur
answered
his indecision
thwarted

is it heads or tails
is it stay or go
is life’s hurt
greater than death’s pain
is future shame
worse than eternity’s
opprobrium

we will never know
the prognosis
I suspect
he is still amongst us
ever indecisive
a suitor for attention
defaulting on his debts
not stopping at three pints
one of life’s
protean chancers

‘CAGED’ – William Blake … 1757-1827

‘Caged Beauty’ … Pen&Ink – WHB – 1981

FROM: ‘ Auguries of Innocence’

BY . . . William Blake

“ . . . A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dove house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell thro’ all its regions.
A Dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A Horse misus’d upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fiber from the Brain does tear . . . ”

William Blake … Poet & Artist  … 1757-1827

Two Londons

View from Decimus Burton’s Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner,  Adrian Jones’s sculpture of ‘The Angel of Peace Descending in the Quadriga of War’ (Watercolour – WHB)

LONDON  2017

In all that bright and glorious sunshine,
amongst those trees, those parks, those sculptural delights,
Hidden below that Impressive skyline,
Beneath and among those imposing sights,
How much deprivation is still concealed

As that which was to Blake revealed?

( Pen and Wash drawing and the accompanying verse above are by WHB)

What was revealed to William Blake as he wandered the streets of late 18th and early 19th Century London, he wrote about in the following poem.  It was first published in his ‘Songs of Experience’ in 1794

London-Seven Dial early 19th Century – Sketches by Boz

London    . . .   By William Blake

I wander thro’ each charter’d street
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow.
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse

To Titillate The Tourists

Photo: WHB . . . On a Devonshire Seafront – 2015

TO TITILLATE THE TOURISTS

To be beside the sea
That is our nation’s fashion;
It’s obviously the place
For promulgating passion.

But how do seaside shoppers
Decide just what to buy?
Are they tempted by advertisements?
I often wonder why.

Well, once upon a summer,
On a hot and sunny day,
On holiday in Devon,
On a stroll around the bay.

I came across this advert
Along the promenade;
I must admit initially
I thought I’d have it barred.

A touch of seaside whimsy
That’s OK and I’m all for it,
But such immodest come-ons,
Who’d have ever thought it!

‘KNICKERS FOR A NICKER;
POUCHES FOR A POUND’,
To titillate the tourists,
Well, such ads are all around.

But on a seafront shop
I didn’t think it right;
I even thought that something
Was wrong with my eyesight.

I don’t know why it was
I was so overcome,
With thoughts of indignation
I really was struck dumb.

It was just a bit of fun,
Why was I so upset?
But when little George cried ‘Look Dad’
I broke out in a sweat.

“That’s what you and mum wore
When I spied you yesterday.
Can Sue and me have one each,
Like you?”, I heard him say.

NOTE:

‘Nicker’ is Cockney Slang for One Pound.  The OED says it’s origin is unknown, but suggests it could be originally horse racing slang.  The term … has …  London associations … and dates from the early 20th Century (it explains that terrible old joke: ‘Why can’t a one-legged woman change a pound note? Because she’s only got half a (k)nicker!’ and which nobody seems to know the origin of).

Runswick Bay & Staithes

These are my Pen & Wash sketches of two quite different but equally fascinating coastal villages of North Yorkshire, England.  Below them is a short article about their history of attracting and inspiring artists. 

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Runswick Bay. N.Yorkshire – Watercolour – WHB: 2013

RUNSWICK BAY & STAITHES

These two villages lie only a few miles north of Whitby and within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.  The villages, only about 4 miles apart, each grew up around an inlet of  Yorkshire’s North Sea Coast.  Both villages have a distinctive character and are fascinatingly atmospheric.  At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries  they nourished separate artistic communities, which are now considered to be of greater significance than has previously been recognised because of the number of artists who worked there and the paintings they produced.

One of the best known of these was the Yorkshire-born artist Arthur Friedenson who visited Runswick Bay to work many times.  Friedenson was initially apprenticed as a sign writer, before training as an artist in Paris and Antwerp. However, it was in this lovely Yorkshire coastal village that Friedenson met his future wife, and after they married in November 1906, he returned to Runswick Bay the following spring in order to paint the picture below. It was much admired at the Royal Academy that year, and purchased for the nation.

 

An interesting website, which contains a lot of material about the art galleries and museums in the area, can be found at:     Staithes & Runswick Bay Art Galleries