Happy Halloween Stephen Rea

Rea

Oooh, Scary!

Stephen Rea, Irish Actor, born on Halloween in 1946.

The photo above shows Stephen in the role of Santiago, the Joker of the Vampires of Paris from the film “Interview with the Vampire”

In 1795 the poet John Keats was also born on Halloween.  As a Romantic I’m sure it was a dark and stormy night, full of terrors and brooding portents.

The Eve of St. Agnes; by John Keats

St. Agnes’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
the hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
and silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
his rosary, and while his frosted breath,
like pious incense from a censer old,
seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

ARE YOU HOOKED:  Look up the full poem here

 

Happy Birthday Eileen Shanahan

West-Gate-Clonmel

Clonmel West Gate

 

Eileen Shanahan was born in Dublin on Oct 28th 1901. She worked as a secretary at the League of Nations in Geneva from 1929 until the invasion of France in 1940. Published widely in magazines and anthologies, she never published a collection of her poems and her work remains uncollected. The Three Children is her best-known poem.

I too have three children, and live not too far from Clonmel.  I too am a king of all that I survey, a road, a mile of kingdom, of banks and stones and every blooming thing.

 

The Three Children (Near Clonmel); by Eileen Shanahan

I met three children on the road,
the hawthorn trees were sweet with rain,
the hills had drawn their white blinds down,
three children on the road from town.

Their wealthy eyes in splendour mocked
their faded rags and bare wet feet,
the King had sent his daughters out
to play at peasants in the street.

I could not see the palace walls;
the avenues were dumb with mist;
perhaps a queen would watch and weep
for lips that she had borne and kissed —

and lost about the lonely world,
with treasury of hair and eye
the tigers of the world would spring,
the merchants of the world would buy.

And one will sell her eyes for gold,
and one will barter them for bread,
and one will watch their glory fade
beside the looking-glass unwed.

Band of Brothers

Crispins

Happy St Crispin and Crispinian's Day
And now let's hear it from Henry of England, fifth of his name.

WESTMORLAND. O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin, Westmorland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enough
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmorland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be rememberèd—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Sugar skulls

DeadK

Here in Ireland we prepare for Halloween and in Mexico they prepare for Nov 2nd day of the dead.  Start looking up those sugar skull recipes, or carving your turnip, or pumpkin.  What does it all have to do with today?

Born today 1942 Douglas Dunn, Scotsman, Librarian, Academic, Poet.

 

The Kaleidoscope: by Douglas Dunn

To climb these stairs again, bearing a tray,
might be to find you pillowed with your books,
your inventories listing gowns and frocks
as if preparing for a holiday.
Or, turning from the landing, I might find
my presence watched through your kaleidoscope,
a symmetry of husbands, each redesigned
in lovely forms of foresight, prayer and hope.
I climb these stairs a dozen times a day
And, by the open door, wait, looking in
at where you died. My hands become a tray
offering me, my flesh, my soul, my skin.
Grief wrongs us so. I stand, and wait, and cry
for the absurd forgiveness, not knowing why.

Maura’s Maybe Birthday

My mothers birthday is shrouded in mystery.  The selection of her birth date is a bit along the lines of what the Christians did when selecting year 1 AD.  It is the first year in which they could categorically say that Jesus was alive.

So 13th October is officially Maura’s birthday, but unlikely to have been her birth date.

It is poignant in being the day before Paddy’s anniversary.  Maura was born in 1927.  Paddy was also born in August of the same year, and passed away Oct 14th 2006.  Maura hung on in there until Christmas Eve 2016.

Below are a few random snaps from the files of Maura & Paddy

BD2

Some Christmas Party with Angela & Paddy O’Flaherty

BD5

Maura holding Jerry while Paddy contemplates how anyone ever chose that carpet

BD3

Maura having a laugh with Esha

BD1

Paddy at one of the kids birthday parties.

BD4

Maura with Gavin decked out in the Christening Robes

 

Centenary of R.M.S. Leinster Disaster

lenister_featuredImage

RMS Leinster was the greatest maritime disaster in Ireland. Sunk one month before the end of WW1 just outside of Dublin Bay.

One passenger was Francis Edward Higgerty. On his way from Canada to take up a commission in the British Army, he took the opportunity to visit the land of his ancestors. The visit cost him his life. Frank was a poet and wrote the following verse on October 8th 1918, two days before the Leinster was torpedoed. The poem was found on his body.

From Canada my homeland, to Ireland my Sireland,
from Ottawa to Dublin, some three thousand miles away.
The call of one’s relations, above the din and war of countries
conserves the one green spot in memory for ever and a day.
And when back o’er the sea I wander to the land that there lies yonder
I’ll bring tidings from dear old Ireland to the land I adore,
to Canada my homeland, from Erin my own Sireland,
stretch fond memories and emotions for ever and evermore.

Three 17 year olds Anthony Baker, Anthony Jones and Ralph Murray, students of the Irish School of Telegraphy in Cork were also lost on the Leinster. The body of Anthony Jones was recovered and buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Cork. The bodies of Anthony Baker and Ralph Murray were never recovered.

Les Morts; by Albert Murray (Father of Ralph)

They sleep in quiet waters where Kish towers,
‘mid sand and slender sea-grass soft and deep,
through all the sunlit and the moonlit hours
they sleep.

They are content, they murmur not, nor weep:
no rushing flotsam hastes to mock their powers;
they are content, and very deep
their sleep.

No tombs enclose them, and they need no flowers,
no mothers’ kisses make their fond hearts leap —
‘mid slender sea-grass, bending where Kish towers
they sleep.

Grimy feet

barefoot-boy

The Hoosier poet, or the Children’s poet, James Whitcomb Riley was born today in 1849.  Budding writers might do well to learn of his life.  He became popular doing recital tours, but was locked into dreadful contracts which limited his earnings.  Effectively he was being exploited.  Then he got good and drunk and made a fool of himself on stage.  His contracts were cancelled and he went on to become filthy rich.

A barefoot boy; by James Whitcomb Riley

A barefoot boy! I mark him at his play.
For May is here once more, and so is he,
his dusty trousers rolled half to the knee,
and his bare ankles grimy, too, as they:
cross-hatchings of the nettle, in array
of feverish stripes, hint vividly to me
of woody pathways winding endlessly
along the creek, where even yesterday
he plunged his shrinking body – gasped and shook –
yet called the water ‘warm,’ with never lack
of joy. And so, half enviously I look
upon this graceless barefoot and his track,
his toe stubbed – ay, his big toe-nail knocked back
like unto the clasp of an old pocketbook.

Perils of translation

Pomegranate

I came across this translation of a poem:

YOUR FACE AND THE TOLLING OF BELLS; by Ayten Mutlu

it was just like spring to laugh with you
and to touch the chimes of your face
lecherous and tranquil like a naked pomegranate

your face was the intimations of forenoon

at the meeting place of autumn
in the closed seas of your face
the birds flew like poisoned arrows
the summer blindfolded at the bottom of a wall

what is left of your face, a rusty shadow
the receding forest, the flower in mourning
pieces of broken glass the colours of spring

how do birds get accustomed to losing a sky?

ah, I’m late in getting to know the rain
like a naked pomegranate I am defeated and offended
where like the deteriorating autumn your old face
vanished with the tolling of the bells
(Translated by Suat Karantay)
(The Turkish PEN, 1995)

You can translate a poem but can you translate the meaning?  From this poem I will take one symbol, the “naked pomegranate”.  Coming from Ireland we have no symbology associated with this fruit.  It made an appearance every year at halloween as an exotic,  something out of the ordinary.  Most Dubliners called it a “Wine Apple”.

In more recent years the pomegranate has been more widely available and has crept in to a more regular role as an ingredient or a garnish in cookbooks.  But it has no deep meaning for us.

If you speak to people educated in the classics they may remember the tale of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, who was whipped off by Hades to his kingdom where she ate six seeds of a Pomegranate and hence we are condemned to 6 months of growth and 6 of death and winter was born.  This Greek tale begins to hint at a deeper symbology to the fruit.  The fact that the seeds represent a calendar, a marker of time or age.

The symbology of the pomegranate in the middle east runs very deep.  Because the tree is evergreen it was used as a symbol of immortality by the ancient Persians.  I can imagine middle eastern children playing a game of counting the seeds of a fruit to represent the years of their life.

Iranian mythology celebrates the ancient hero Esfandiyar who is easily a match for the DC Comics or Marvel superheros.  In one tale he eats a pomegranate and gains super strength like an ancient version of Popeye with his spinach.

The pomegranate appears in ancient Jewish architecture as a symbol of fertility and prosperity.  The fruit was one of the seven species brought by the 12 spies to Moses as proof of the fertility of Canaan.  It has been used as a teaching tool by Rabbis who say the fruit contains the number of mitzvot, 613.

Islam adopted the Jewish symbology of fertility.  Muslims consider the tree one of the four holy fruits along with dates, figs and olives and they depict it in representations of the garden of Eden.

In modern day Turkey as part of new year celebrations a pomegranate is cracked on the floor in a blessing ritual for prosperity in the coming year.  At wedding a bride may be asked to throw a whole pomegranate on the floor and will bear as many children as the seeds that fall out.

The Prophet Mohammed told his wives to eat the fruit so they would bear beautiful children.  From this hadith arises the notion that the fruit is a symbol of beauty.

So when the Ayten Mutlu speaks of a naked pomegranate in her poem she brings a rich weight of symbology of the fruit as a marker for beauty and for the hope of a new beginning and the disappointment of the declining of a life in the winter of years.

Unless you come from the Middle East, or do a lot of research into symbology, it is very difficult to grasp the meaning the poet is trying to convey.  Language and culture erect barriers that are very difficult for the translator to surmount.  Google can translate words, it takes a poet to translate meaning.

Ayten Mutlu is a Turkish Academic, Poet, Writer and Women’s rights activist.  Born this day in 1952.