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Posts Tagged ‘William Blake

“When wombats do inspire/I strike my disused lyre”*…



Rossetti mourning his wombat


“‘The Wombat,’ Dante Gabriel Rossetti wrote in 1869, ‘is a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness!’ Rossetti’s house at 16 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea had a large garden, which, shortly after he was widowed, he began to stock with wild animals. He acquired, among other beasts, wallabies, kangaroos, a raccoon and a zebu. He looked into the possibility of keeping an African elephant but concluded that at £400 it was unreasonably priced. He bought a toucan, which he trained to ride a llama. But, above all, he loved wombats…

It isn’t difficult to understand Rossetti’s devotion. Wombats are deceptive; they are swifter than they look, braver than they look, tougher than they look. Outwardly, they are sweet-faced and rotund. The earliest recorded description of the wombat came from a settler, John Price, in 1798, on a visit to New South Wales. Price wrote that it was ‘an animal about twenty inches high, with short legs and a thick body with a large head, round ears, and very small eyes; is very fat, and has much the appearance of a badger.’ The description implies only limited familiarity with badgers; in fact, a wombat looks somewhere between a capybara, a koala and a bear cub.

Despite the fact that they do not look streamlined, a wombat can run at up to 25 miles an hour, and maintain that speed for 90 seconds. The fastest recorded human footspeed was Usain Bolt’s 100m sprint in 2009, in which he hit a speed of 27.8 mph but maintained it for just 1.61 seconds, suggesting that a wombat could readily outrun him. They can also fell a grown man, and have the capacity to attack backwards, crushing a predator against the walls of their dens with the hard cartilage of their rumps. The shattered skulls of foxes have been found in wombat burrows…

Katherine Rundell urges us to “Consider the Wombat.”

* Christina Rossetti  (Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sister)


As we ponder pets, we might wish an elfish Happy Birthday to John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, who was born on this date in 1892.  A philologist and professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, Tolkein is better known for the series of books of which he said “my work has escaped from my control, and I have produced a monster: an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and rather terrifying romance, quite unfit for children (if fit for anybody).”

(Tolkein’s friend and fellow Inkling, C.S. Lewis, when told by Tolkien of a new character with which he was populating The Lord of the Rings, reputedly replied “Not another f—ing dwarf!”)


Bust of Tolkien in the chapel of his alma mater, Exeter College, Oxford. He was later a don down the street, at Merton College



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January 3, 2020 at 1:01 am

“The sublime splendour of ordinary existence was hidden from those who lived embedded in it”*…


Ukrainian artist Alexey Kondakov unites the past and present by giving characters from classic paintings the chance to explore our modern world. The artist skillfully utilizes Photoshop to insert vintage muses in stores, on buses, on stairwells, and in the midst of urban alleyways for his ongoing series titled The Daily Life of Gods. Each image perfectly juxtaposes the paintings’ soft lines and subtle coloring with the harsh, blunt elements of urban locations…

More at “Characters from Classic Paintings Are Inserted into the Modern World.”

* François Mauriac, Thérèse


As we commemorate the quotidian, we might send delicately-colored birthday greetings to George “Sidney” Shepherd; he was born on this date in 1784.  A draughtsman and watercolor painter, Shepherd enjoyed renown in his day as a a topographical artist, painting “views” around England.  Shepherd was one of the founding members of the resurrected New Society of Painters in Watercolors (now the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors), alongside the leading watercolorists of his day, including William Blake.

Shepherd’s watercolor of Aldermaston village (1819)



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December 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

Mugs, shot…


For more than 40 years, Bruce Jackson has been documenting—in books, photographs, audio recording, and film—inmates’ lives in American prisons.  In 1975, he visited Arkansas’ Cummins Unit, a state prison farm, and stumbled upon a drawer filled with old prison ID photos snapped between 1915 and 1940.  He’s collected 121 of them in Pictures from a Drawer.

Read the backstory– and see more of these haunting photos– at Accidental Mysteries.

[TotH to the perpetually-provocative David Pescovitz at Boing Boing]


As we sit up straight, we might send free-thinking birthday greetings to William Blake; he was born on this date in 1757 (a birthday that he shares with the very different John Bunyan, who was born in 1628).  A poet, painter, and printmaker who was largely unremarked in his own time, Blake is now regarded as a seminal figure in the Romantic Age– both as a poet and as an artist– and (with his contemporary William Godwin) as a forerunner of modern anarchism.

from Songs of Experience


Thomas Phillips’ portrait of Blake



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November 28, 2012 at 1:01 am

Special Edition: Out of the Frye-ing pan…

Today would be Northrop Frye‘s 100th birthday.  His first book,  Fearful Symmetry (1947), led the resurgence of interest in the poetry of William Blake; his  Anatomy of Criticism (1957)– the first postulation of a systematic theory of literary criticism– is considered a foundational work of Twentieth Century scholarship… and they’re simply representative of his 35 other books, half-dozen edited collections, and numerous chapters and articles.

Reading Frye, like reading Erich Auerbach, is to be reminded, as Richard Handler put it, “how amazingly unschooled and unread most of us are and continue to be. And how much we’ve forgotten of our own inheritance from Western culture, the Bible itself, the common code for a civilization, being the prime example.”  Indeed, that most stringent of judges, Harold Bloom, considered Frye “the foremost living student of Western literature.”  Frye died in 1991.

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July 14, 2012 at 1:01 pm

“His most prized possession is his library card…”

Scottish artist Frank McNab has completed a cycle of paintings– Oracles in the Community— that celebrates the libraries of Glasgow… and while they’re quite beautiful, there’s a bonus– a puzzle painted into the works, turning on William Blake’s “The Song of the Libraries.”

Travellers repose and dream among my leaves.
Magical libraries give you the whole world and take you even further. The only limits are yours.
The same number as the Pleiades can be found in these imaginings And together they form a word.
This is the tail which must be added to the comet far below before it is sent through the firmament and is put to the oracle.

There is a meaning in the books which are read in the dance with wisdom.
“With it or on it” the women used to say. On it.
At the pillars the ancient symbol of knowledge is his own start.
Far distant on the gates of fire he is small and his case is low.
Above the torch it lies in Arcadia.
Left of aspiration the weeds provide it.
And the sun paints its own initial on the tree of paradise lost.

Now you must attach this to what is under the veil and go to where your imagination camps next…

As we search for hidden vowels, we might recall that it was on this date in 1698 that, in an effort to move his people away from Asiatic customs, Tsar Peter I of Russia (Peter the Great) imposed a tax on beards. All men were required to pay a tax of one hundred rubles a year except for peasants, who had to pay one kopek each, and priests, who were exempt from the levy.

Peter on his deathbed, still beardless

Peter on his deathbed, still beardless

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And lest one forget, today is International Bacon Day!

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 5, 2009 at 12:01 am

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