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 !!!
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 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
“ . . . 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 . . . ”
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 . . . 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 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.
‘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).
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.
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.