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July 09, 2010


DISCLAIMER: This is not a short story. This actually happened and I had to write it down before I forgot. Please don't think me mentally disturbed, I found it weird too.

Last night I had a dream. Now, I know this is nothing unusual, especially since I dream every night and always remember them vividily. I think this means I don't sleep well or have a nervous disposition or have a secret desire to be an elephant. Something to that effect.

Anyway. Last night was different. In my dream (which was actually this morning more than last night), I gave birth. It hurt in my dream, and it was very real. Then I had a beautiful baby boy, who I felt love for, I actually felt unbelievable, chest-shattering love. My heart swelled and crushed me from inside out. I was impossibly happy. I left university, and sat around the dinner table in my parent's home, writing lists of possible eternal damnation for the little piece of me I rocked in my arms.

May I remind you, or simply myself, this was just a dream, because even now, a weird love is bubbling in my stomach.

I toyed with Zachary for ages. It is a name I have never considered (no, I am nowhere near birth, but we've all thought about it). "Zachary, yes maybe," I'd thought, but the name didn't fit. I looked down at my boy, my diluted and yet complete, perfect genes, and knew Zachary wasn't right. Now I am awake, I think it is a marvellous name, and have added it to my own mental list (which only contained Molly and Florence for a girl and Oliver for a boy, I'm pretty picky.)


It just fit. He wore it like a comfort blanket I'd knitted with my own fingers, which I then realised, within my dream, that I couldn't knit, and that I'd have to learn. When I awoke, I genuinely swore to myself I will learn to knit before I have a child.

I don't quite remember how it all ended, fizzling into 8am. That weird moment when you try to cling on to a dream, radio static that just keeps missing the station you want, and you know morning is coming, but just one more minute please.

Yet these minutes were years, my baby was 3, and I was teaching Blake to read in a shopping centre with a massive balcony, almost like the inside of Westfields, and Mr. Luck, my A Level Geography teacher was there, and I kept trying to blink him away because he made it less real. Stupidity was slipping in, stupidity in the shape of reality as the beckoning morning taunted me, and my distressed mind tried to clutch at anything from the factual cardboard boxes of my dusty brain, in the shape of a distorted shopping centre and a much adorded teacher. But Blake was as real as ever, as momentarily real as ever, beautiful.

I woke up and cried, not knowing at first why. I went downstairs and as soon as I put the kettle on the phone rang. It was my Mum at work, telling me they needed me to come in to do some odd jobs. I actually cried for the next 15 minutes. I was trying to convince myself all day it was because I was tired and didn't want to go to work and maybe it was just hayfever...

I actually missed a baby that didn't exist, I felt like I'd lost him and I was all to blame. I am highly concerned for my own well-being and well write a story about this soon.

July 07, 2010

To Do List

- Crawl into a large hole

- Crawl into that hole laden down with books

- Stay sober in that hole


- Take enough supplies to be so intoxicated I don't remember ever being in said hole.

July 02, 2010

A Seasoned Non–Traveller

My aunt has never left the country, growing
crazy in her old age in Somerset, the final, slowing
days of her being spent in one room of her home,
a glass prison, a snow globe shaped dome.

Her conservatory is besieged by globes and maps
where she plots her plans and takes her naps,
as aeroplanes score the sky, surgical instruments
cutting into deathly grey flesh, futile attempts,

To revive something of lost life. Guide books her bible,
planning her epiphany in Europe, dreaming of tribal
dances and poverty, crying in African villages,
like the celebrities on fame-hungry pilgrimages.

She is childless, husbandless, and her heart beats
for Greek columns, tapas, cobbled French streets.
My aunt lives beneath an English sky, wishing
for more, like a puzzle with the sky missing.

June 29, 2010


Best of luck to everybody for tomorrow's results!

If anyone wishes to discuss their Med/Ren marks, do get in touch. I'm away from Wednesday afternoon for a few days, but I'll get back to you as quickly as possible.

June 20, 2010

The Waiting Game

The Waiting Game


Childbirth smells like anti-septic,
and tastes, for some
like gin and tonic.

Her nails pierce the mattress,
her mouth fills with saliva.

“Push, yes that’s it...”

She’d always been so terribly punctual
(terribly, because it was ruining her life,
hours wasted being early)
and it was so typical
for her first child
to keep her waiting.


“She’s stupid, I’ve given birth to a stupid child...”

Truly, she didn’t mean it,
but she found it unlikely
the repetition of “Dodo”
was the first sign
of her daughters penchant for zoology.

She offered her an apology
in the shape of chocolate yoghurt.
The smears never came out of the carpet,
tears a futile stain-remover.

“Say something... please, say something for mummy.”

A quizzical look,
and tiny fingers wipe away saline outbursts
and offer dessert in the crater of a petite palm.

“Yoh-urt Mummy?”


The sound of heels in the porch
was as joyous as that first wail
from newly-born lungs.

She conceals her happiness however
behind the yells.

“It’s 3am, where the hell have you been?”

The worst thoughts had tormented her sleep,
the worst possible conclusions,
not even worth mentioning.

Yet innocence prevails
in that apologetic, yet nonchalant smile,
before innocence vomits across hallway tiles.


Twelve cups of tea
made waiting for the bathroom
slightly difficult.

It was the nerves,
curtain-twitching, nail-biting, postman-scorning

The metal clatter of the letter box,
footsteps down the stairs,
crying... blissful crying.

A place, to study veterinary science
(not zoology)
at university.

Two hundred miles away.

“I’m so proud of you, but wait before you accept...”

Eighteen years waiting to not to be a parent
came too soon
landing on the doormat
as though out of the blue,
as though it wasn’t expected
as though there was a God
who answered Mother’s pleas

“Don’t let her pass...”


“It’s just cold feet, he’ll be here baby, I promise”

Tears in a chapel,
the photographer yawning,
pictures of the happy couple
looking less and less likely.

“Your Father was nervous too!”

“He left you on your honeymoon!”

She takes the punch to her pride
as daughterly love,
screams as the car pulls up
and sobs the whole way through the ceremony.

a Grease medley,
made bearable for the chance
to stand on her son-in-law’s foot
when he offers his new Mother a dance.


The hospital years:
baby scans and miscarriages.
A redundant womb waiting to be a Mother,
a Mother waiting to be a Granny,
interrupted by out of date magazines,
“It will never happen to me”
and a room full of coughing OAPS.

A daughter thinking
“Is Mum really that old? She can’t be.”

A letter from the hospital
confirms the wretched news,
“It will never happen to me”
swallowed like a bitter pill.


Waiting for the curtain to touch in the middle,
she tries to stand up and rip them down
but the little girl next to her holds her hand.

“Will I never see Grandma?”

She doesn’t answer
but nods
and cries
and smiles,
knowing she will,
but it will be a long wait yet.

Question 9, Part B

Love hearts in biro stain your weak efforts
Already sealed and stamped with a large ‘F’
Shakespeare mocks you and Einstein simply points,
Naked likes in an exam hall fool you.
You regurgitate equations and toast.
Your education starts to taste sour
And everyone stares with red pen in hand
Legs are shaking – anticipate the grade.
Your failure of a Mother downs her fifth
And the babies scream out for some comfort.
A hundred teenage pores drip with worry.
Life is an essay awaiting judgement,
Why bother? No one marks it anyway.

June 15, 2010

Sermon on the Mount: Harrow–on–the–hill

Radio Play: The Revolution

Luke – teenage boy, fairly well-spoken
Eve – teenage girl, strong London accent
Teenage preacher – London accent
Matt – teenage boy

[Background laughter and screaming of teenage kids]

[Luke, panting slightly as he is walking]:
We could all feel the movement coming; perhaps it was the knock-off cider diluting our blood, making every step up the hill just slightly more purposeful, or that just one week before a kid from Whitmore had been stabbed outside the bus station. I could see Matt, eagerly trying to make it to the top first, in all his intoxicated glory, tripping over tree stumps and abandoned wine bottles.

[Sound of glass smashing and boy yelling OW!]

The sun was flickering into nothingness, like a cigarette being feverishly puffed, lungs determined not to miss a single dose of nicotine.

[Sound of lighter being flicked numerous times until cigarette is lit and voice inhales]

We all anticipated the blue lights of the law illuminating Hillspur Road soon, to take the underage stoners back home. I was surprised to see such an impressive crowd forming, a hundred flies on a carcass. I immediately wanted to leave, made anxious by the presence of some of the Whitmore kids who were a little more rough and ready that the Queensmead and Field End lot.

I dunt even know why we came though yeah!? Look at these freaks. It’s like some kind of juvenile asylums broke loose yeah.

Yet something made me stay. Something was in the air, something of a revolution. I so badly didn’t want to be part of it, not another sheep in that crowd of blurred faces... but I stayed. That’s when I heard him speaking.

[Teen Preacher]:
Don’t hate on the poor, for their currency is the air we breathe, their pennies are experience and they will not succumb to the dictator that is capitalism.

Bless those whose brothers have fallen, they did not hold the knife but it cut them the deepest, and we will do all we can to prevent such reckless violence. Our respect goes out to the Whitmore crowd that is here tonight.

[3 Seconds silence]

Everyone bowed their heads, some even took off their baseball caps and a few of the girls could be seen crying. There was some laughter, at the ridiculousness of it all, but a few of the more intimidating lads shot vicious looks at those of us who dared to mock them.

[Teenage Preacher]:
Celebrate the sober, for their livers are probably in a fitter state that our Father’s, and theirs are the paths we follow home (in the back of Ford KAs that have no road tax).

Thank God for the peacemakers, who endeavour to make sure we only return home with one black eye and not two, and prevent us from jumping to ludicrous conclusions (sorry John, could have sworn I saw you getting off with my ex Mary that time).

The tension broke, and we dared to laugh, some of us even called out in agreement.

[Teenage Preacher]:
And what would we do without those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, who take bullets for us in the court because they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and “owed us one.”

Yeah like James man! Stabbed just cos of his postcode yeah? It ain’t right man.

[Teenage Preacher]:
I hear you sister! And it’s people like James we owe our lives to. They are the light of our world, the matches that ignite our cigarettes, the flame that burnt down the science block.

[Cheers from the Field End crowd]

So forgive each other your wrong-doings, forgive the boy who stole your girlfriend, forgive the friend who never answers your texts, forgive the parents who didn’t send you to private school and have thus dashed your hopes of a future, forgive the drunk Uncle and the mentally ill Aunt.

Don’t forget my slag of a sister!


[Teenage Preacher]:
And your slag of a sister of course Matt, we all know here well.

Oi! Too far!

[Teenage Preacher]:
And do not be led into a life of temptation; resist the evils of this world. We shall not fight with knives or guns; we shall fight with words, with the sacred dictionary.
Do not judge or you shall be judged in return, and we’re all self-medicated or slipped anxiety pills by our Mothers.

[The sound of police sirens begin quietly in the background, growing louder]

And we will not be jealous of each other! You can also get a girl as hot as your mate! Girls, you are worthy of a boy with brains and brawn (I’m single by the way ladies), and you can get that job, you will buy those Topshop jeans, because you are incredibly special and no one has such impeccable taste as you.

Turn the other cheek, but if you can’t, outwit them with your words and not your fists.

And love your neighbour! Enough of the postcode wars yeah guys?!

[Cheering and applause, sirens very loud now]

That’s when we ran, free into the night, knowing we had heard it first, that we were the revolution. Some got arrested, others beaten by their Mother’s for being home late but we all knew it had been worth it. It had begun

May 27, 2010


If I’d have known you liked red-heads
I’d have never dyed my hair brunette
And I would have shown you photographs
Of my Mother when she was young,
Auburn locks burning bright like magnesium,
And maybe you would have thought that
She was beautiful, and you’d realise,
maybe, I was beautiful too.

May 21, 2010

Good luck for the exam!

Tuesday 1st June 2010 (week 6)

9:10am, Butterworth Hall

Best of luck to you all!

May 18, 2010

Optional sample commentary

This is an optional sample exercise, designed to give you practice on the commentary section of the exam. If you'd like to practice, please do e-mail me sample commentaries.

Comment briefly (approximately one side) on the following passage, taking into account points of interest in the passage itself, and its relation to the work as a whole.

'Lo, lord,' quoth the lede and the lace hondeled,
'This is the bende of this blame I bere in my nek;
This is the lothe and the losse that I laght have
Of cowardise and covetyse that I have caght thare;
This is the token of untrauthe that I am tan inne,
And I mot nedes it were whil I may last.
For none may hyden his harme bot unhap ne may hitte,
For ther hit ones is tached twynne wil hit never.

tached: attached
twynne: be separated

From Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, Fitt 4

May 12, 2010

Last Two Sample Translations

I'm posting these now so they're available for anyone who wants them. Here are the last two optional passages for translation, which gives you four in all to practice on. As ever, do feel free to e-mail me with your versions and I'll be happy to give you feedback. If you complete all four and want more (!), let me know.


"Nay, frayst I no fyght, in fayth I the telle.
Hit are aboute on this bench bot berdles childer.
If I were hasped in armes on a high stede,
Here is no mon me to mach, for myghtes so wayke.
Forthy I crave in this court a Cristmasse game,
For hit is Yol and Newe Yere and here are yep mony.
If any so hardy in this house holdes himselven,
Be so bold in his blode, brayn in his hed,
That dar stifly strike a stroke for an other,
I schal gif him of my gift this giserne rich,
This axe, that is hevy innogh, to hondele as him likes."

yep: young men
brayn: rash
giserne: axe

The Wife of Bath's Prologue

Wher can ye seye, in any manere age,
That hye God defended mariage
By expres word? I pray yow, telleth me.
Or where comanded he virginitee?
I woot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
Th'apostel, whan he speketh of maydenhede,
He seyde that precept therof hadde he noon.
Men may conseille a womman to been oon,
But conseillyng is no comandement.
He putte it in oure owene juggement;
For hadde God comanded maydenhede,
Thanne hadde he dampned weddyng with the dede.

expres: explicit
drede: doubt

May 07, 2010

Work for next week: John Donne

For next week:

Read the following John Donne poems in your Norton Anthologies:

"The Sun Rising"
"Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy's Day" (p.1272)
"Good Friday 1613: Riding Westward" (p.1299)

We'll focus on these three poems in the seminar, though as ever please do feel free to read more widely: there's a fantastic selection of Donne's work in the Anthology, including the beautiful Holy Sonnets.

Practice your close reading on these three poems; remind yourselves how formal elements (metre, form, rhyme etc.) organise a poem's ideas.

In the seminar, we'll be discussing the poems in conversation with one another, so think about how they interact and reflect on each other: what are the themes and ideas that arise from them? How is Donne arranging his ideas in these short poems?

Optional Translation

Another lady hir lad by the lyft hande
That was older then ho, an auncian hit semed,
And highly honoured with hatheles aboute.
Bot unlyke on to loke tho ladies were,
For if the yong was yep, yolwe was that other.
Rich red on that one rayled aywhere;
Rogh ronkled chekes that other on rolled.
Kerchofes of that one with mony clere perles
Hir brest and hir bryght throte bare displayed,
Schon schyrer then snowe that shedes on hilles.

yep: fresh
rayled: arranged, set

Venus and Adonis essay building

In today's session, I encouraged you in small groups to respond to an essay-style question:

How persuasive are Venus' and Adonis' arguments?

I asked you to contextualise this in the light of the debates we've been covering during the course about love, lust, beauty, procreation and time, as a framework within which you can think about the question.

In an open question like this, the important things are to establish what the parameters of the question are, and what you feel is important to discuss. Particular to this one, of course, is the question of who is to be persuaded by each: each other within the context of the poem, or the reader in terms of a wider educational or subversive context - a good essay could be constructed around either or both, as long as you identify the kind of essay you're writing. You also need to establish what arguments you're discussing: obviously, the issue at hand is whether or not they're going to have sex. From there, you can then consider what angle you want to take on the question and construct your thesis statement.

Here are three groups' notes, all of which build towards a slightly different argument, but all of which could lead towards an excellent exam-style essay. I hope these are useful!


Chastity + procreation = mutually exclusive?
Free will --- overcome by Venus' immortality.
Hierarchy of desire over purity of love.
Inaction of poem proves priority of free will
- He doesn't succumb to her desires.
At the end, Adonis is turned to a flower, still inactive.
Although Venus is a goddess, she never gets what she wants (sexual pleasure)
She can only do what she wants to do to Adonis (ie possess him) in death.

This essay chooses to view the words spoken retrospectively through the subsequent actions of the poem. Ideas of fate and destiny are subverted by the fact that Adonis' own choice is actually realised, though not in the way he anticipated. The arguments of Venus would, in this reading, be argued to be ultimately less persuasive than Adonis' as it is his that are borne out in practice.


Are love and lust compatible?
Love = duty to mankind.
Chastity leads to Death.
Conservative vs. Progressive

These notes tackle the core issues head on, positioning Venus' protestations of love versus Adonis' complaint that her arguments are in favour of lust, not love. Building on ideas raised by Spenser in the Garden of Adonis, as well as the argument of the sonnets, love and procreation are seen as a duty to mankind which Adonis fails to fulfill, and his death might be seen as a reassertion of natural order: a kind of karmic punishment or natural selection. The essay then goes on to ask if this is an essentially conservative or progressive poem, and the arguments will be more or less persuasive accordingly.


Familiar morals and arguments are misapplied here.
Venus' lust makes her disingenuous.
Perversion of the characters' roles - Venus is here not encouraging conservative married "love"
Arguments are familiar to us and would resonate with audience BUT here are illogical.
Urgency of the bloodline is particuarly important under Queen Elizabeth I.

This essay argues that, while the arguments may be persuasive in a wider Elizabethan context, and bear on contemporary political and national concerns regarding the succession, their placing in the mouths of these characters renders them incongruous and comic. Rooted around the essential incongruity of these arguments in these mouths, the contextualisation in contemporary culture allows for an exploration of why the arguments are here "misapplied": is Shakespeare sending up the serious use of these arguments elsewhere?

May 05, 2010

The Little Angel Theatre's Venus and Adonis

Unfortunately there's no video footage available of this, but the RSC hosted a wonderful production of Venus and Adonis some years ago, which I've included some photos of below. It was a puppet production, performed by the Little Angel Theatre, London's premier puppet theatre company.

What was particularly wonderful was the characterisation of the two main characters. Venus was utterly flamboyant, manipulative and sexually aggressive (this puppet show, incidentally, had an age recommendation of 16+). This picture is a great image of Lines 589-94:

"The boar!" quoth she, whereat a sudden pale,
Like lawn being spread upon the blushing rose,
Usurps her cheek; she trembles at his tale,
And on his neck her yoking arms she throw.
She sinketh down, still hanging by his neck,
He on his belly falls, she on her back.

Little Angel Theatre

While the cause of her anguish is real (as real as anything is with Venus), she's also using the opportunity to faint to great advantage. Here, the puppet thrust her breasts into Venus' face and grabbed him forcibly as she fell to the ground, pulling him on top of her. The expressionless face of Adonis, of course, was particularly funny at this moment. It's a useful image and passage to pull out, too, to remind us of the physicality of Shakespeare's depiction of the two: the poetry is incredibly visual and continually evokes the sense of physical space between the two.

This picture gives you a more direct view of the two puppets.

Little Angel Theatre

Note what they've captured in Adonis' expression: that slight petulance, which when he looks away from the goddess reads as proud disdain. He's clearly a boy, but the long hair and smooth skin goes some way towards feminising him (as, indeed, was the case with Leander). Considering what I mentioned in the last seminar about ideas of classical beauty and sculpted images, a puppet is perhaps the best vessel for capturing Adonis: frozen in time and moulded in a fashion too perfectly constructed to be human, the puppet Adonis perfectly evokes, for me, that idea of the boy as object of desire, unchanging and unmoved.

May 02, 2010


We knew it was the end, the moment
He told me “You’re far too poetic”,
so I hurled my copy of Byron at him
crying, “why can’t you just accept it?”

Then to annoy him more, quoted Hamlet
“Well, I hope Milton makes you happy”
“That was Shakespeare, not Milton.”
“Well, your poetry, it’s, it’s crappy!”

April 30, 2010

Work for next week: Venus and Adonis


Venus and Adonis (available in the handouts given out in the lecture)

If you weren't in the lecture, my recommended online edition is at http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/plays/Ven.html- though there are hundreds of sites out there, so find one that reads well to you.


As revision, look back through the earlier texts we've studied (Canterbury Tales, sonnets and songs, Faerie Queene, Hero and Leander) and find as many references to the Venus and Adonis myth as you can. Think about how this myth and these characters are being used by the various authors and in different kinds of narrative, and compare this with Shakespeare's use of them in Venus and Adonis. They're two of the most important mythic figures in Renaissance literature, and this will help shape some of your revision reading.

Optional Translation

If you would like some extra translation practice, translate the following and I'll be happy to mark it and give you feedback. Either e-mail your work to me, or just bring it to next week's seminar.

Franklin's Tale 4592-4603

Now, goode men, I prey yow herkneth alle:
Lo, how Fortune turneth sodeynly
The hope and pryde eek of hir enemy!
This cok, that lay upon the foxes bak,
In al his drede unto the fox he spak,
And seyde, "Sire, if that I were as ye,
Yet sholde I seyn, as wys God helpe me,
'Turneth agayn, ye proude cherles alle!
A verray pestilence upon yow falle!
Now I am come unto the wodes syde;
Maygree youre heed, the cok shal heere abyde.
I wol hym ete, in feith, and that anon!'"

Maugree youre heed: in spite of all you can do

Hero and Leander handout


Blazon (blason)    A poetic catalogue of a woman's admirable physical features, common in Elizabethan lyric poetry: an extended example is Sidney's ‘What tongue can her perfections tell?’ The Petrarchan conventions of the blazon include a listing of parts from the hair down, and the use of hyperbole and simile in describing lips like coral, teeth like pearls, and so on. These conventions are mocked in Shakespeare's famous sonnet, ‘My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun’.

Here are full texts of the two sets of conventions noted in the definition:

Sir Philip Sidney's "What tongue can her perfections tell?" from The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia

What tongue can her perfections tell
In whose each part all pens may dwell?
Her hair fine threads of finest gold
In curled knots man's thought to hold;
But that her forehead says, 'in me
A whiter beauty you may see."
Whiter indeed; more white than snow
Which on cold winter's face doth grow.
	That doth present those even brows,
Whose equal lines their angles bows,
Like to the moon when after change
Her horned head abroad doth range;
And arches be to heav'nly lids, 
Whose wink each bold attempt forbids.
	For the black stars those spheres contain,
The matchless pair, e'en praise doth stain.
No lamp whose light by art is got,
No sun which shines, and seeth not,
Can liken them without all peer,
Save one as much as other clear;
Which only thus unhappy be
Because themselves they cannot see.
	Her cheeks with kindly claret spread,
Aurora-like new out of bed,
Or like the fresh queen-apple's side,
Blushing at sight of Phoebus' pride.
Her nose, her chin, pure ivory wears,
No purer than the pretty ears,
Save that therein appears some blood,
Like wine and milk that mingled stood.
In whose incirclets if you gaze 
Your eyes may tread a lover's maze,
But with such turns the voice to stray,
No talk untaught can find the way.
The tip no jewel needs to wear;
The tip is jewel of the ear.
	But who those ruddy lips can miss,
Which blessed still themselves do kiss?
Rubies, cherries, and roses new,
In worth, in taste, in perfect hue,
Which never part but that they show
Of precious pearl the double row,
The second sweetly-fenced ward
Her heav'nly-dewed tongue to guard,
Whence never word in vain did flow.
	Fair under these doth stately grow
The handle of this pleasant work, 
The neck, in which strange graces lurk.
Such be, I think, the sumptuous towers
Which skill doth make in princes' bowers.
	So good a say invites the eye
A little downward to espy
The lovely clusters of her breasts,
Of Venus' babe the wanton nests,
Like pommels round of marble clear,
Where azured veins well mixed appear,
With dearest tops of porphyry.
	Betwixt these two a way doth lie,
A way more worthy beauty's fame
Than that which bears the milken name. 
This leads unto the joyous field
Which only still doth lilies yield'
But lilies such whose native smell
The Indian odours doth excel.
Waist it is called, for it doth waste 
Men's lives until it be embraced.
	There may one see, and yet not see,
Her ribs in white well armed be,
More white than Neptune's foamy face
When struggling rocks he would embrace.
	In these delights the wand'ring thought
Might of each side astray be brought,
But that her navel doth unite
In curious circle busy sight,
A dainty seal of virgin wax
Where nothing but impression lacks.
	Her belly there glad sight doth fill,
Justly entitled Cupid's hill;
A hill most fit for such a master,
A spotless mine of alabaster,
Like alabaster fair and sleek,
But soft and supple, satin-like,
In that sweet seat the boy doth sport.
Loath, I must leave his chief resort;
For such an use the world hath gotten,
The best things still must be forgotten.
	Yet never shall my song omit
Those thighs (for Ovid's song more fit)
Which, flanked with two sugared flanks,
Lift up their stately swelling banks
That Albion cliffs in whiteness pass,
with haunches smooth as looking glass.
	But bow all knees, now of her knees
My tongue doth tell what fancy sees:
The knots of joy, the gems of love,
Whose motion makes all graces move;
Whose bought incaved doth yield such sight,
Like cunning painter shadowing white.
The gart'ring place with childlike sing
Shows easy print in metal fine.
	But there again the flesh doth rise
In her brave calves like crystal skies,
Whose Atlas is a smallest small,
More white than whitest bone of whale.
	There oft steals out that round clean foot,
This noble cedar's precious root;
In show and scent pale violets,
Whose step on earth all beauty sets.
	But back unto her back, my muse,
Where Leda's swan his feathers mews,
Along whose ridge such bones are met,
Like comfits round in marchpane set.
	Her shoulders be like two white doves,
Perching within square royal rooves,
Which leaded are with silver skin,
Passing the hate-spot ermelin.
	And thence those arms derived are;
The phoenix's wings be not so rare
For faultless length and stainless hue.
	Ah, woe is me, my owes renew!
Now course doth lead me to her hand,
Of my first love the fatal band,
Where whiteness doth for ever sit;
Nature herself enamelled it.
For there with strange compact doth lie
Warm snow, moist pearl, soft ivory.
There fall those sapphire-coloured brooks,
Which conduit-like, with curious crooks,
Sweet islands make in that sweet land.
As for the fingers of the hand,
The bloody shafts of Cupid's war,
With amethysts they headed are.
	Thus hath each part his beauty's part;
But how the Graces do impart
To all her limbs a special grace,
Becoming every time and place,
Which doth e'en beauty beautify,
And most bewitch the wretched eye!
How all this is but a fair inn
Of fairer guest which dwells within,
Of whose high praise, and praiseful bliss,
Goodness the pen, heav'n paper is;
The ink immortal fame doth lend.
As I began, so must I end:
	No tongue can her perfections tell
	In whose each part all pens may dwell.

Shakespeare Sonnet 130

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips; red;
If snow be white, why then her breats are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

"Blazons" in Hero and Leander

Hero: Lines 5-36
Leander: Lines 51-90


epyllion (plural -llia )    A miniature epic poem, resembling an epic in metre and/or style but not in length. The term dates from the 19th century, when it was applied to certain shorter narrative poems in Greek and Latin, usually dealing with a mythological love story in an elaborately digressive and allusive manner, as in Catullus' poem on Peleus and Thetis. The nearest equivalents in English poetry are the Elizabethan erotic narratives such as Marlowe's Hero and Leander ( 1598 ) and Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis ( 1593 ), although the term has also been applied to later non-erotic works including Arnold's Sohrab and Rustum ( 1853 ).

"epyllion"  The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Chris Baldick. Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  University of Warwick.  27 April 2010  http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t56.e412

Other references

Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, whose penultimate scene features a puppet show pastiching the story.

LEATHERHEAD (the puppeteer)
This while young Leander with fair Hero is drinking,
And Hero grown drunk, to any man's thinking!
Yet was it not three pints of Sherry could flaw her, 
Till Cupid, distinguished like Jonas the drawer,
From under his apron, where his lechery lurks,
put loue in his sack. Now mark how it workes.

O Leander, Leander, my dear, my dear Leander,
I'll forever be thy goose, so thou'lt be my gander. 

And sweetest of geese, before I go to bed,
I'll swim o'er the Thames, my goose, thee to tread.
But lest the Thames should be dark, my goose, my dear friend,
Let thy window be provided of a candle's end.

Fear not my gander, I protest I should handle
My matters very ill, if I had not a whole candle.

Well then, look to't, and kiss me to boot.

Shakespeare's As You Like It, with several references to both Marlowe and his poem

Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of might:
"Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?" (III.v.80-1) (Marlowe was often referred to as a shepherd)

When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room. (III.iii.7-9) (widely interpreted as a reference to Marlowe's murder)

Leander, he would have lived many a fair year though Hero had turned nun, it if had not been for a hot midsummer night, for, good youth, he went but forth to wash hiim in the Hellespont and being taken with the cramp was drowned. And the foolish chroniclers of that age found it was 'Hero of Sestos'. (IV.i.68-72)

Translation test and sample answers

Here are the two extracts from this week's translation test, and some sample answers. First, though, a couple of general tips/reminders.

1) Translate into PROSE, not verse. The reason I keep emphasising this is because it will allow you to see much better the grammar and syntax of your translated version. If you translate into verse, you run the risk of seeing each line as a self-contained unit, and not linking it correctly to the next.

2) Make sure it is MODERN English prose. Read it back to yourself afterwards - if you've let constructions like "It it be so" or "From me turn their hearts away" or "this grace I desire", say it back to yourself and ask yourself if that is really modern English, or if you're preserving archaic forms. This is a judgement call, but it will help you enormously with the next point.

3) Don't just modernise the words. If there's an easy line where all the words are obvious, too many of you are simply modernising the words and leaving them all in the same order. We're asking you to translate; if you just modernise, that's too mechanical, and has a habit of leaving you with archaic-sounding constructions, or sometimes simple nonsense. Even if it looks easy, we still want to see you creating something out of it that shows us you're engaging with the meaning as well as the words.

GAWAIN 2091-2109:

'For I have wonnen yow hider, wye, at this tyme,
And now nare ye not fer fro that note place
That ye han spied and spured so specially after.
Bot I schal say yow for sothe, sithen I yow know
And ye are a lede upon live that I wel lovie;
Wolde ye worch by my wyt, ye worthed the better.
The place that ye prese to ful perelous is holden.
There wones a wye in that waste the worst upon erthe,
For he is stif and sturn and to strike lovies.'

For I have brought you here, sir, at this time and you are now not far from that well-known place which you have sought and asked after so particularly. But I shall tell you truthfully, since I know you and since you are a living man whom I love well, that if you would act according to my suggestion you would fare better. The place that you are hurrying towards is considered to be very dangerous. A man lives there in that waste land who is the worst on earth, because is he strong and grim and loves to strike.

There are several possible variations. Note 'holden', which many people missed: the place is "held to be", "considered" to be very dangerous - that ambiguity, of course, is deliberate in terms of the (unknown) test Gawain is facing.

KNIGHT'S TALE: 2314-2325

And Palamon, that hath swich love to me,
And eek Arcite, that loveth me so soore,
This grace I preye thee withoute moore,
As sende love and pees bitwixe hem two,
And fro me turne awey hir hertes so
That al hire hoote love and hir desir,
And al hir bisy torment, and hir fir
Be queynt, or turned in another place.
And if so be thou wolt nat do me grace,
Or if my destynee be shapen so
That I shal nedes have oon of hem two,
As sende me hym that moost desireth me.

And as far as concerns Palamon, who has such love for me, and also Arcite who loves me so deeply, I pray you for this favour above anything else, that you should send love and peace between the two of them, and so turn their hearts away from me that all their hot love and desire, and their continual torment and fire should be quenched or directed in another direction. And if it happens that you do not wish to do me this favour or if my fate has been so organised that I must necessarily have one of the two of them, please give me the one who desires me the most.

The passage demanded something at the start to link the first two lines into the construction that follows: I suggested "as regards" to everyone, while the sample suggests "as far as concerns" - this is an example of needing to look at the whole in order to make sense of the individual lines. It's also worth making the distinction between "grace" and "favour" - obviously the passage uses the word "grace", but in modern English the context carries the sense of 'favour', 'reward' or 'request' far more strongly than the kind of 'grace' we discussed in relation to The Faerie Queene.

April 28, 2010


I fear it is far too ambitous to try and write 4000 words of poetry, near enough from scratch, in about 3 weeks. However, it is marvellously self-indulgant and justifies afternoon trips to the pub for 'poetic' inspiration. Alas, my liver disagrees.

April 26, 2010



We shared 204 microwaveable dinners
but never a fish pie,
I’m much thinner now you left me
the best thing about heartbreak
is the loss of appetite,
my waist 4inchs slimmer.

We shared 38 verbal fights
(and 2 with fists)
I don’t condone violence,
let alone that time I threw the iron at you
(but seriously, clothes belong on hangers
not the floor, I told you it was the last straw
if I had to pick up one more lip-stick stained collar
and you’d be out the door).

We shared 2 beds,
a single, which was cosy,
then a double.
The trouble was we didn’t share the covers,
you were always cold,
hogging them,
you were an unaffectionate lover with poor circulation
(if you know what I mean...)

We shared 13 photo frames
smiling half-heartedly on our walls
to fool other couples at pretentious dinner parties
that we were in love.

We shared 251 bottles of red wine
(please note, this was more than microwaveable dinners)
but it was the antidote to the arguments.
I’m doing the drinking for the both of us now.
I’ll even drink rosé, but who knows hey?
Maybe I’ll go t-total somehow.
Prove you wrong.

We shared 23 ice creams,
and 6 holidays,
a getaway
from the suburban everyday
and then I’d find out you booked
and I was your waiter for the week
because “seafood didn’t sit well with you.”
Then you’d announced in front of honeymoon couples
“go to hell! I’m not paying extra just to eat at a restaurant that just happens to be on the seafront.”

Oh you old romantic you,
taking me across the Atlantic
just to frantically serve you tea and toast
whilst you roasted in the sun,
and boasted that you looked brilliant with a tan
and that I looked like a lobster.

No, seafood really didn’t sit well with you,
but you still managed to give me crabs in Ibiza,
and you confessed over pizza in Rome
that you think we should just stay at home next year.

We shared everything,
1034 days, 9 dark secrets, 212 lies,
just to find, our traits didn’t match.
So I can eat my crayfish
and you can soak up the rays with another floozy.

Now we share nothing,
and I eat prawn sandwiches alone
in what was our home...
And I doubt you ever think of me...
and what we shared,
unless you walk past the chippy.

April 22, 2010

Morte D'Arthur @ The RSC

Writing about web page http://www.rsc.org.uk/whatson/8960.aspx

Strongly recommend going to see this.

Morte D

It opens in June, so plenty of time to catch it before you disappear off for the summer. There are some very strong performers in it, and Mike Poulton's adaptation of Canterbury Tales for the company a few years ago was tremendous.

April 19, 2010


Oh I do apologise dearest cyberspace for the lack of attention I have given you over Easter. It began well, with a very productive week in Warwick library, even using the moving shelves at the risk of my death. I got two essays complete. Marvellous, bravo me.

Then I came home and went into my funny "I'm not leaving my bed, ever" moods. I watched 3 series of Lost on megavideo and spent the remainder of my loan on ebay. It was a sad a lonely two weeks of turning down plans just to wallow in pointless misery. Why do I do that!? But to summarise, I got threats from my bank and only left my bed to frantically try and lose weight on my exercise bike and answer the door to collect my pointless deliveries.

But, then I got sick of living in my own filth and got back on with living which was wonderful. I spent a lovely few days in Liverpool shopping in Quiggins which is this beautiful vintage place and writing some poetry on the train. I was breathing and moving again, but also The Fear wa slowly setting in and I knew I would soon have to return home to revise.

Thus, today I am back to working (and writing)... I will post some more stuff up soon. It's been too long!

April 13, 2010

Hero and Leander

Writing about web page http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=fe8VAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=chapman+%22hero+and+leander%22&source=bl&ots=O8ljSEvZq4&sig=iQ6_jzMRGaj3mPS70MGWYb0dLZk&hl=en&ei=EqzES_w1n_zTBLbOvNsO&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CBMQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Christopher Marlowe's Hero and Leander is a famously unfinished poem. While we'll only be discussing Marlowe's original fragment, as printed in the Norton anthology, Marlowe's contemporary George Chapman (himself a dramatist and poet of no mean standing) took upon himself to complete the poem, and you might find it useful. A very old, but very readable, edition from 1821 is available here on Google Books, which includes the entire "completed" poem, and some of the editions in the library also include Chapman's work. Entirely optional, but if you take a look, enjoy!

Hero and Leander

Title page of the first quarto of Hero and Leander with Chapman's editions. The poem was first published five years after Marlowe's death.

March 30, 2010

The Faerie Queene: What Happens Next

In case you're interested in how the stories from Faerie Queene III play out, here's a breakdown of the relevant bits of Books IV-VI.

Book IV (Friendship)

Scudamour is tricked by Duessa and Ate (deity of discord) into thinking that Britomart and Amoret (who are travelling together) are lovers. Only much later does he discover that Britomart is a woman; however, he and Amoret continue to miss each other on their respective travels. We also discover that Scudamour won Amoret through trial.

The False Florimell continues on her travels and winds up in the company of Paridell (as false as ever) and his travelling companion Blandamour, who represent bad friendship. They are contrasted with the Book's titular heroes, Cambel and Telamond, who represent complete accord but only appear in a couple of cantos as a continuation of Chaucer's unfinished Squire's Tale.

Satyrane holds a tournament for Florimell's discarded girdle, which Britomart wins, in the process unhorsing the disguised Artegall. Britomart meets Artegall and they are betrothed. However, to Britomart's disappointment, Artegall postpones their immediate happiness in order to complete his own quest.

Amoret is captured by a lustful monster, but escapes and is rescued by Belphoebe and Timias. Belphoebe is stung by jealousy to see Timias carefully tending Amoret and disdains him. In despair, Timias goes into the woods, builds himself a hermitage and lives alone for several years, until Belphoebe finally forgives him (thus continuing the Raleigh/Elizabeth metaphor).

Finally, Marinell goes to Proteus' palace with his mother for a wedding ceremony and hears the real Florimell's woes. He persuades his mother to bargain for Florimell's freedom, which is won, and the two fall in love.

Book V: Justice

We mostly follow Artegall and his terrifying servant Talus, who is made entirely of iron. Artegall has various adventures dispensing justice, which is usually mercilessly enforced by Talus.

At Florimell and Marinell's wedding, Braggadocchio is finally revealed to be a charlatan and is stripped and whipped by Artegall and Talus.

After Artegall is captured by an Amazon, Radigund, Britomart (pining at home) rides out and rescues him, before returning home while he carries on.

Artegall joins up with Arthur for further executions of justice, and the two witness the arraignment of Duessa by Queen Mercilla for her many crimes. Duessa is beheaded.

Book VI: Courtesy

Our hero for this book is Calidore, who pursues the Blatant Beast, an avatar of slander. Very few of the characters from Books I or III appear, but Arthur and Timias are at last reunited.

March 28, 2010

I have cut my leg open

and when I mean open, I mean very open. The odd thing is, I am very unsure how I have acheived this. I do confess, I was ever so slightly intoxicated tonight, but that is no excuse for this massive assault upon my thigh.

I'm sorry I have not spoken in 10 days but, life has been a cruel mistress, resulting in the following findings:

1) Really do never judge a book by a cover, even for good reasons, like believing someone is lovely, because they will still lie to you whilst you cry, and you will soon find out they lied, and you'll want to cry some more... and now I feel like a bitch for holding a grudge.

2) Go with gut feelings, I don't even know where my gut is, but I know it's right in comparison to some of the decisions of both my heart and my head recently.

3) When you wish to write, even if this is after 48 hours lack of sleep, write. When inspiration comes, milk it for all it is worth. I lost something yesterday, and I have a horrible feeling it is brilliant.

4) Self discipline is a wonderful thing, in all walks of life.

5) Dance more, alone, with a locked door and open windows, at 6am, to songs you would not normally dance to. It is a more glorious feeling than ice cream dribbling down... well, it is a glorious feeling.