A Midsummer Night

midsummer night dream lDetail, Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Edwin Landseer (1802 – 1873)

 

Everything changes, nothing dies: the spirit wanders, arriving here or there, and occupying whatever body it pleases, passing from a wild beast into a human being, from our body into a beast, but is never destroyed.
So, I say as a seer, cease to make kindred spirits homeless, by wicked slaughter: do not let blood be nourished by blood!


Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570 BC – c. 495 BC)

in Ovid’s Metamorphosis

 

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The Kongouro from New Holland

kanga stubbs more blueGeorge Stubbs (1724 – 1806), Associate Member of the Royal Academy

 

The first depiction of an Australian animal in Western Art, this portrait was commissioned by Joseph Banks and said to be based on the inflated skin of an animal he had collected from the east coast of Australia in 1770 during Lieutenant James Cook’s first voyage of discovery
[It is, also, clearly a fleshed-out version of a sketch by Sydney Parkinson.]

 

Colliding Worlds

parkinson fruit
Breadfruit, engraving after a drawing by Sydney Parkinson (c. 1745 – 1771)

 

Eye-opening Records of Colliding Worlds

by 

Sydney Parkinson drew the weird animal in a clear sharp line, looking at it carefully, then looking again, erasing his mistakes until he had an image that was beautifully recognisable. He wondered what to call this creature that was so utterly unlike anything back home in Britain.
He found out by speaking with local people and making a brief dictionary of their language. From a British Library exhibition: James Cook: The Voyages, a moving and absorbing account of a moment when worlds apart suddenly met –you can picture how they communicated by pointing at parts of their bodies: words like belly, hand, foot.

Among these basic terms is the name of the creature Parkinson drew. He transcribes it as “kangooroo”. It means, he says, “the leaping quadruped”. What he heard was probably the word “gangurru”, which is indeed the name of a type of kangaroo in the language of the Guugu Yimithirr people who James Cook, his crew, and the artists and scientists they took to the far side of the world met when they landed at the place they named Endeavour River.

As an attempt to give an Australian species an Indigenous Australian name, kangooroo isn’t bad. Parkinson’s drawing – the first ever made by a European – is just one of his sensitive scientific images of flora and fauna including a great white shark.
The adventure cost him his life: he died (of disease, not a shark bite) on the Endeavour’s voyage home. Another artist, Alexander Buchan, who portrayed the people of Tierra del Fuego, had died earlier in the voyage.

The fact that artists, as well as scientists such as the pioneering naturalist Joseph Banks, went on Cook’s voyages was unprecedented.
There were none on the ships of Columbus or Cabot. Cook’s first voyage went to Tahiti so a team of astronomers could observe the transit of Venus. They were not there to conquer. They got on well with the Tahitians – too well for Cook, who worried the newcomers would spread venereal disease and was upset when satirists back home had fun with the romantic exploits of Mr Banks.

Banks’s friendship with the Tahitian female chieftain Purea led to the most unexpected of the expedition’s artworks. Tupaia, high priest of the god of war, was part of Purea’s retinue. He not only became a translator for the English, but also started to record Tahitian life and beliefs in bold, compelling drawings. When the Endeavour sailed on to New Zealand he went too, and portrayed their encounters with Maori people.

Tupaia’s picture of Banks meeting a Maori, done in 1769, is one of the most eye-opening records of cultural encounter you could ever hope to see. For Tupaia, Banks and the Maori are foreign and fascinating. Banks in his blue coat is giving the New Zealander a piece of cloth in exchange for a big, red lobster. “I had a firm fist on the lobster,” remembered Banks. Tupaia also died on the Endeavour’s return to Britain.

Given the death rate of the Endeavour’s artists, it’s amazing that an up-and-coming painter, William Hodges, risked it all to go Cook’s second voyage. Not only would he survive, but he proved an accomplished, ambitious artist. His panoramic sketches of war canoes massing off Tahiti and a Polynesian vessel at sea are great works of art that anticipate JMW Turner – but Turner never went to the Pacific. His pictures of the Resolution and the Adventure isolated in the vast black seas of the Antarctic circle, menaced by towering icebergs, are even more daunting.

Suddenly, you see how far Cook sailed, how extreme the risks these 18th-century explorers took in their frail wooden ships. Hodges in Antarctica painted the most unearthly journey anyone had ever made.
His icy sketches are as incredible as images sent back today by the furthest space probes. But they were made by a human being shivering on a sailing ship with no radio, no contact with home, in a sea with no mercy. “We were the first that ever burst / Into that silent sea,” as Coleridge was to write in 1798, as if dreaming of these images by Hodges. Did Romanticism start in Antarctica?

An array of material at the British Library sets the remarkable artistic legacy of these voyages alongside a mass of documents from the original journals of Cook and Banks, the beautiful charts the captain made and to some of the first examples of Pacific art ever collected by Europeans.

By the end you feel dwarfed by the immensity of the world they sailed and haunted by the faces of the peoples they encountered. The violence of imperialism was coming. Yet this was a moment when strangers looked at one another with open eyes.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/apr/26/james-cook-the-voyages-british-library-review#comments

 

Joy, Musike, Cloves

Vintage Crocus Botanical - Google Search
Crocus speciosus M. Bieb.
Sarah Anne Drake (1803–1857)

 

A Briefe Epitome
Katarzyna Lecky

Unlike many large botanical herbals, which boasted elaborate frontispieces and pages filled with engraved plates of flora, whose size and preciousness made them objects to be admired and treasured, pocket herbals were everyday objects printed cheaply and scribbled in extensively by all sorts of people.

Rams little Dodeon: A briefe epitome of the new herbal, or history of plants, was published in London in 1606 by William Ram. The text is an abridged version of Henry Lyte’s popular A new herball, or historie of plants (1578).
It was a sound sales tactic: Lyte’s English translation of Rembert Dodoens’ 1554 Cruydeboeck had already seen four editions in as many decades, while Dodoens’ herbal would continue to be a seminal text for botanists for at least another century.
But whereas Lyte’s thick quarto was, like Dodoens’ Old Flemish original, an unwieldy reference for the typical herbalist (who in seventeenth-century England was more likely to be an unlicensed practitioner than an certified doctor or academic scholar), Ram claimed that his “briefe and short Epitome” is a “very small volume. 
So as where the geat booke at large is not to be had, but at a great price, which canot be procured by the poorer sort, my endeuor herein hath bin chiefly, to make the benefit of so good, necessary, and profitable a worke, to be brought within the reach and compass as well of you my poore Countrymen & women, whose liues, healths, ease and welfare is to be regarded with the rest, at a smaller price, then the greater Volume is”

Although he names Dodoens’ herbal as his source text, Ram qualifies that the structure of the book is more intertextual:
“the first page of euery leafe being opened, contayneth the practice of M. R. Dodeon:
And that the second opposite page, vnder the Title Incidenta, contayneth the practices of others for the same Physike helpes, collected and inserted by the Author of this Treatise”

Moreover, these cobbled-together recipes are not always strictly herbal.
Under “Good for heart” are listed “Saffron, Bourage, Laughing, Joy, Musike, Cloves”.
The things that encourage or signal delight are intermingled with heart-healthy simples– all are similarly remedies.
The things bad for the heart, meanwhile, include “Anger, Dread, Too much heauinesse”

 

https://collation.folger.edu/2018/03/small-format-herbals/
Katarzyna Lecky is an Assistant Professor of English at Bucknell University.

Her first book, Pocket Empire: Portable Maps and Public Poetry, 1590-1649 (forthcoming from Oxford UP), uses small-format cartography to study how poets writing for monarchs and magistrates drew from cheap print to chart Britain as the property of the commonwealth rather than the Crown.
She has also published in Exemplaria, The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Philological Quarterly, Reformation, Studies in English Literature, and Spenser Studies, as well as edited collections, and has earned fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Folger Shakespeare, Huntington, and Newberry Libraries, among others. 

Weather


Joseph and Mary on the Way to Bethlehem,
Hugo van der Goes (1430 – 1482)

 

Account from the 1540s of weather between Christmas and the new year:

25th: ‘Christynmas was fayre & drye without anye sune shynyng’

26th: ‘St Steven’s daye fayre & drye without any sune shynyng: toward nyght the wynd dyd.’

27th: ‘St John’s daye was verye drye & sone shynyng.’

28th: ‘Innocente daye in the mornyng was a fayre whore froste, a fayre bryght sone shynyng, and drye daye.’

29th: ‘Saynt Thomas’s was dark, drye and after noon verye great wynde; about VI of the clocke it dyd for space of two owres and then the wynde dyd synke. It was drye.’

30th: ‘the 5 daye werys fayre and the sune dyd shyne very bryghtly.’

31st: ‘the 6 daye was dark, and rayne lyke, but at evenyng yt dyd rayne a little and was very wyndy – the nyght was much rayne’

 

Manuscript 62122 from The British Library, twelfth century book.

Thanks to Amy Jeffs, medievalist, Cambridge University

 

Pessimus Cattus

Nicolaes Maes (1634 – 1693 (buried))

 

Manuscript1420

“Hic non defectus est, sed cattus minxit desuper nocte quadam. Confundatur pessimus cattus qui minxit super librum istum in nocte Daventrie, et consimiliter omnes alii propter illum. Et cavendum valde ne permittantur libri aperti per noctem ubi cattie venire possunt.”

 

English translation:

Here is nothing missing, but a cat urinated on this during a certain night. Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book during the night in Deventer and because of it many others [other cats] too. And beware well not to leave open books at night where cats can come.

 

https://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/paws-pee-and-mice-cats-among-medieval-manuscripts/

 

— Grateful to Pádraig Belton for making me aware of this story.  I was defeated in my effort to disentangle the rest of the chain of provenance.

Which Sides Are You On

Portrait of Benjamin Lay
William Williams, Sr. (1727 – 1791)

 

by Marcus Rediker

It was September 1738, and Benjamin Lay had walked 20 miles, subsisting on “acorns and peaches,” to reach the Quakers’ Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Beneath his overcoat he wore a military uniform and a sword — both anathema to Quaker teachings.

He also carried a hollowed-out book with a secret compartment, into which he had tucked a tied-off animal bladder filled with bright red pokeberry juice.

When it was Lay’s turn to speak, he rose to address the Quakers, many of whom had grown rich and bought African slaves.

He was a dwarf, barely four feet tall, with a hunched back, but from his small body came a thunderous voice.

God, he intoned, respects all people equally, be they rich or poor, man or woman, white or black.

Throwing his overcoat aside, he spoke his prophecy: “Thus shall God shed the blood of those persons who enslave their fellow creatures.” He raised the book above his head and plunged the sword through it, and the “blood” gushed down his arm.

Lay did not resist when his fellow Quakers threw him out of the building. He knew he would be disowned by his beloved community for his performance, but he had made his point. As long as Quakers owned slaves, he would use his body and his words to disrupt their hypocritical routines.

Lay’s methods made people talk about him, his ideas, the nature of Quakerism and Christianity, and, most of all, slavery.

According to Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, the name of this “celebrated Christian philosopher” became “familiar to every man, woman and to nearly every child, in Pennsylvania.”

Lay was the world’s first revolutionary abolitionist. Against the common sense of the day, when slavery seemed to most people as immutable as the stars in the heavens, Lay imagined a new world in which people would live simply, make their own food and clothes, and respect nature.

He lived in a cave in Abington, Pa.,   ate only fruits and vegetables — “the innocent fruits of the earth” —          and championed animal rights.

He refused to consume any commodity produced by slave labor and was known to walk abruptly out of a dinner in protest when he found out that his host owned slaves.

Today Benjamin Lay is largely forgotten, for essentially two reasons.

The first is that he did not fit the dominant, long-told story about the history of the abolitionist movement. Formerly a common sailor, he was not one of the so-called gentleman saints like William Wilberforce, an aristocratic leader of the abolition movement in Britain. He was wild and confrontational, militant and uncompromising.

A second reason is that he has long been considered deformed in both body and mind. As a little person and as a man thought eccentric at best and more commonly deranged or insane, he was ridiculed and dismissed, even among Quakers who were ostensibly committed to an ideal of spiritual equality. The condescension continued in subsequent accounts of his life.

Yet Lay predicted that for Quakers and for America, slave-keeping would be a long, destructive burden.  He wrote that it “will be as the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps, in the end.”

The poison and the venom have had long lives indeed, as we still live with the consequences of slavery: prejudice, poverty, structural inequality and premature death.

Disparaged and abandoned by his fellow Quakers, Lay eventually helped win the debate over slavery. He wanted to provoke, to unsettle, even to confound — to make people think and act.

He asked everyone he met, Which side are you on?

Slowly, over a quarter-century, his relentless agitation changed hearts and minds.

In 1758 a friend arrived at his cave to inform him that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting had finally taken the first big step toward abolition, ruling that those who traded in slaves would henceforth be disciplined and perhaps driven from the community. Lay fell silent for a few reverential moments, then rose from his chair, praised God and announced, “I can now die in peace.”

He died a year later, an outsider to the Quaker community he loved, but a moral giant of a man.

By boycotting slave-produced commodities, Lay pioneered the politics of consumption and initiated a tactic that would become central to the ultimate success of abolitionism in the 19th century, and one that still motivates global movements against abuses like sweatshops today.

In his time Lay may have been the most radical person on the planet. He helps us to understand what was politically and morally possible in the first half of the 18th century — and what may be possible now.

It is more than we think.

 

Marcus Rediker, a professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, is the author of the forthcoming “The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist,” from which this essay was adapted.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/08/12/opinion/sunday/youll-never-be-as-radical-as-this-18th-century-quaker-dwarf.html?referer=

 

The Colours of The Winds

detail, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)

 

from the 
SALTAIR NA RANN
attrib. Oengus the Culdee, ninth century

 

King who ordained the eight winds
advancing without uncertainty, full of beauty,
the four prime winds He holds back,
the four fierce under-winds.

There are four other under-winds,
as learned authors say,
this should be the number, without any error,
of the winds, twelve winds.

King who fashioned the colours of the winds,
who fixed them in safe courses,
after their manner, in well-ordered disposition,
with the varieties of each manifold hue.

The white, the clear purple,
the blue, the very strong green,
the yellow, the red, sure the knowledge,
in their gentle meetings wrath did not seize them.

The black, the grey, the speckled,
the dark and the deep brown
the dun, darksome hues,
they are not light, easily controlled.

King who ordained them over every void,
the eight wild under-winds ;
who laid down without defect
the bounds of the four prime winds.

From the East, the smiling purple,
from the South, the pure white, wondrous,
from the North, the black blustering moaning wind,
from the West, the babbling dun breeze.

The red, and the yellow along with it,
both white and purple ;
the green, the blue, it is brave,
both dun and the pure white.

The grey, the dark brown, hateful their harshness,
both dun and deep black ;
the dark, the speckled easterly wind
both black and purple.

Rightly ordered their form,
their disposition was ordained ;
with wise adjustments, openly,
according to their position and their fixed places.

The twelve winds,
Easterly and Westerly, Northerly and Southerly,
the King who adjusted them, He holds them back,
He fettered them with seven curbs.

King who bestowed them according to their posts,
around the world with many adjustments,
each two winds of them about a separate curb,
and one curb for the whole of them.

King who arranged them in habitual harmony,
according to their ways, without over-passing their limits ;
at one time, peaceful was the space,
at another time, tempestuous.

 

Translations from Irish Gaelic Poetry into English Prose and Verse 
SELECTED AND EDITED BY ELEANOR HULL, 1912
To Miss Eleanor Knott I am indebted for valuable help in the translation

 

 

[with thanks to  for twitter discussion of wind-color]

Yes. I Remember

Jacopo Ligozzi (1547, Verona–1627, Florence)

 

                 Adlestrop

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.


Edward Thomas (March 1878 – April 1917)

 

Stones of Ochre

Visita Allo Studio, Odoardo Borrani
(1833 – 1905)

 

by Sarah Cascone

Porc-Epic is a cave that, for 4,500 years, was used to produce ochre, a brownish-yellow pigment often used in prehistoric artwork.

The Porc-Epic cave was discovered by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Henry de Monfreid in 1929 and is thought to date to about 43,000 to 42,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age.
At the site, archaeologists found a stash of 4213 pieces, or nearly 90 pounds, of ochre, the largest such collection ever discovered at a prehistoric site in East Africa.

Ancient visitors to the site processed the iron-rich ochre stones there by flaking and grinding the raw materials “to produce a fine-grained and bright red powder.” The ochre stones can be used to produce powders of varying coarsenesses, in shades of yellow, orange, red, brown, and gray.

Ochre powder could be used medicinally or for other purposes, but this production is “most consistent with symbolic activities, such as body painting, the production of patterns on different media, or for signalling.”A pebble half coated in ochre, for instance, could have been used as a stamp to apply the pigment to soft surfaces. The researchers also compared pieces with long pointy ends to ochre “crayons.”

Apparently the local community relied on Porc-Epic for its ochre needs for millennia, the cave essentially serving as a studio for artists.

 

On May 24, 2017 researchers Daniela Eugenia Rosso of the University of Barcelona and Francesco d’Errico and Alain Queffelec of the University of Bordeaux in France published a paper, “Patterns of change and continuity in ochre use during the late Middle Stone Age of the Horn of Africa: The Porc-Epic Cave record,” in the PLOS ONE journal.
A similar find was discovered in a 100,000-year-old cave in South Africa in 2011.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/worlds-oldest-art-studio-discovered-ethiopia-979637?utm_content=from_&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=June%202%2C%202017%20artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20ALL&utm_term=artnet%20News%20Daily%20Newsletter%20USE