Tag Archives: arthur rackham

Who Goes There?

I’ve always liked owls and the variety of portrayals of them. They can be beautiful and deadly, fluffed up and cute, Victorian or tribalsuper modern or very folksy. I’m glad they’re sort of in style now, because it means I have a better chance of finding them to nab for design elements before they go out of style again!

Although too many seem to have rhinestones this time around…) I haven’t found any stampings I like yet, but I did find some cute wrapping paper with owls that pop more than the Arthur Rackham version I love but have yet to make into  a pendant I’m entirely please with.

 

My mother used to have a blue and purple retro print style poster with the rhyme

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

For a long time I didn’t know it was considered a traditional nursery rhyme (I don’t think she did either). It’s original meaning was probably intended as a ‘children should be seen and not heard’ kind of thing.

I like the more general and less harsh idea of it being a reminder that sometimes we need to just shut up and listen to others and look around… It’s one we all need some days!

Some good old-fashioned nonsense with great imagery, Edward Lear‘s The Owl and the Pussy-cat:

 

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

    In a beautiful pea green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

    Wrapped up in a five pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

    And sang to a small guitar,

‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,

      What a beautiful Pussy you are,

          You are,

          You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

II

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!

    How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

    But what shall we do for a ring?’

They sailed away, for a year and a day,

    To the land where the Bong-tree grows

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

    With a ring at the end of his nose,

          His nose,

          His nose,

With a ring at the end of his nose.

 

III

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

    Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’

So they took it away, and were married next day

    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

    They danced by the light of the moon,

          The moon,

          The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

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Lord, what fools these mortals be! Or Happy Maximum Tilt Day…

The image that first got me hooked on Arthur Rackham and his Shakespeare illustrations.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends
.

 

Puck’s speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, scene i

 

In honor of the summer solstice (and to pair with my previous Tempest post) I decided to be a little bit brave and post an old poem I wrote in college in response to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I don’t remember what the assignment was, but I chose to play with Titania’s character. I always felt kind of bad for her at the end of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. All she was trying to do was take charge of the child of an old retainer and yet her husband chose to make an absolute fool of her.

 

Titania’s Promise

(a response to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Malicious sprite, darkly dancing,

shadow cast under a quicksilver moon.

Oh yes, these shadows have offended.

Spiky foxgloves stand and hiss.

Whispering falsehood and deceit

from full, rainbow-spotted throats.

Beware, beware. Capricious Robin

plays with truth, and breaks his toys.

He knows his herbs and potions—

houndstongue and hellebore,

wolfsbane and rosemary,

the bitter bite of wormwood—

He serves his lord and master well.

He made me a fool before my court,

My ladies laughed behind their hands.

He bathed my eyes in purple poison—

made me love unwillingly

and waste my favors on a hairy beast.

My eyes were cleansed,

I see truly now.

Do they?

I can wait, I shall bide my time.

I can counterfeit a proper wife.

In their arrogance they believe,

that I, like some green willow,

would bend my will so easily.

Playful Puck, Oberon’s steward,

Robin not-so-Goodfellow,

though it take me centuries,

I will be avenged.

Like The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is believed to have been written to celebrate an important wedding and is a mostly original story. (The play within a play is based on Greek mythology, as are the names of the rulers.) The super short version of the story is “Mix-and-match couples in the woods near Athens.” as Shakespeare for Dummies puts it! It’s a play about many things but basically all the ways love messes with people’s heads.

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