When all visible light is extinguished, one finds the light of the self.”
– The Upanishads
“The Sun of the One I love has risen in the night,
Resplendent, and there will be no more sunset…
I saw my Lord with the eye of the heart, and I
said “Who are you?” and he said, “Your Self.”
– Al Hallâj
A short note…
A big hello to Graham in London, and to Doug as well. A hello out to my sister Rebecca, and Deva.
Lots to read, the mind is wandering a bit. Summer is coming on so nicely. Beauty abounds.
Have a sweet Day.
On The Menu:
On The Month of May
The Articles: The Horned Women & The Fairy Dance
The Poetry: LI T’AI-PO
The Art: Arthur Rackham
Arthur Rackham was born September 19, 1867, in London, England. He studied at the Lambeth School of Art, was elected to membership in The Royal Watercolour Society and the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts, and became Master of the Art Workers’ Guild. Books he illustrated included Rip van Winkle (1905), The Ingoldsby Legends (1906), Alice in Wonderland (1907), and many other children’s books and classics throughout the years until his death in 1939. His last work, for The Wind in the Willows, was published posthumously. He won gold medals at Milan (1906) and Barcelona (1911), and his books and original art are now collected in many countries throughout the world.
“In imagination, draftsmanship and colour-blending, his work stands alone. His deep understanding of the spirit of myth, fable, and folklore affords him a transcendent range of expression.” [Arthur Rackham, a Bibliography, by Sarah Briggs Latimore and Grace Clark Haskell, Los Angeles, Suttonhouse, 1936]
Rackham has been called “the leading decorative illustrator of the Edwardian period…. We see him…. in 1905 at the outset of twenty years of the most prolific and prosperous creative work ever enjoyed by an English illustrator.” [Arthur Rackham, His Life and Work, by Derek Hudson, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1960]
“Rackham’s illustrations to Grimm, Hans Andersen or Poe show him at his most imaginative and observant of human nature, while his gnomes, fairies and gnarled anthropomorphic trees in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens or A Midsummer Night’s Dream represent his more fantastic side…. He was – and remains – a soloist in front of an orchestra, a player with the responsibility to interpret and add a personal lustre to great works with variations of infinite subtlety and grace.” [Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration, by James Hamilton, Pavilion Books, Ltd., London, 1990; published in New York by Arcade Publishing, Inc. as Arthur Rackham, A Biography]
O Day after day we can’t help growing older.
Year after year spring can’t help seeming younger.
Come let’s enjoy our winecup today,
Nor pity the flowers fallen.
– Wang Wei, On Parting with Spring
May is a pious fraud of the almanac.
– James R. Lowell, 1819 – 1891
‘Sap which mounts, and flowers which thrust,
Your childhood is a bower:
Let my fingers wander in the moss
Where glows the rosebud
‘Let me among the clean grasses
Drink the drops of dew
Which sprinkle the tender flower, –
– Paul Verlaine, Spring
Spring – An experience in immortality.
– Henry D. Thoreau
The year is ended, and it only adds to my age;
Spring has come, but I must take leave of my home.
Alas, that the trees in this easter garden,
Without me, will still bear flowers.
– Su Ting, circa 700AD
From Old Ireland: The Horned Women
A RICH woman sat up late one night carding and preparing wool while all the family and servants were asleep. Suddenly a knock was given at the door, and a voice called–” Open! open!”
“Who is there?” said the woman of the house.
“I am the Witch of the One Horn,” was answered.
The mistress, supposing that one of her neighbours had called and required assistance, opened the door, and a woman entered, having in her hand a pair of wool carders, and bearing a horn on her forehead, as if growing there. She sat down by the fire in silence, and began to card the wool with violent haste. Suddenly she paused and! said aloud: “Where are the women? They delay too long.”
Then a second knock came to the door, and a voice called as before–” Open! open!”
The mistress felt herself constrained to rise and open to the call, and immediately a second witch entered, having two horns on her forehead, and in her hand a wheel for spinning the wool.
“Give me place,” she said; “I am the Witch of the Two Horns,” and she began to spin as quick as lightning.
And so the knocks went on, and the call was heard, and the witches entered, until at last twelve women sat round the fire–the first with One horn, the last with twelve horns. And they carded the thread, and turned their spinning wheels, and wound and wove, all singing together an ancient rhyme, but no word did they speak to the mistress of the house. Strange to hear, and frightful to look upon were these twelve women, with their horns and their wheels; and the mistress felt near to death, and she tried to rise that she might call for help, but she could not move, nor could she utter a word or a cry, for the spell of the witches was upon her.
Then one of them called to her in Irish and said–
“Rise, woman, and make us a cake.”
Then the mistress searched for a vessel to bring water from the well that she might mix the meal and make the cake, but she could find none. And they said to her–
“Take a sieve and bring water in it.”
And she took the sieve and went to the well; but the water poured from it, and she could fetch none for the cake, and she sat down by the well and wept. Then a voice came by her and said–
“Take yellow clay and moss and bind them together and plaster the sieve so that it will hold.”
This she did, and the sieve held the water for the cake. And the voice said again–
“Return, and when thou comest to the north angle of the house, cry aloud three times and say, ‘The mountain of the Fenian women and the sky over it is all on fire.”
And she did so.
When the witches inside heard the call, a great and terrible cry broke from their lips and they rushed ‘forth with wild lamentations and shrieks, and fled away to Slieve-namon, where was their chief abode. But the Spirit of the Well bade the mistress of the house to enter and prepare her home against the enchantments of the witches if they returned again.
And first, to break their spells, she sprinkled the water in which she had washed her child’s feet (the feet-water) outside the door on the threshold; secondly, she took the cake which the witches had made in her absence, of meal mixed with the blood drawn from the sleeping family. And she broke the cake in bits, and placed a bit in the mouth of each sleeper, and they were restored; and she took the cloth they had woven and placed it half in and half out of the chest with the padlock; and lastly, she secured the door with a great cross-beam fastened in the jambs, so that they could not enter. And having done these things she waited.
Not long were the witches in coming back, and they raged and called for vengeance.
“Open! Open!” they screamed. “Open, feet-water!”
“I cannot,” said the feet-water,” I am scattered on the ground and my path is down to the Lough.”
“Open, open, wood and tree and beam!” they cried to the door.
“I cannot,” said the door; “for the beam is fixed in the jambs arid I have no power to move.”
“Open, open, cake that we have made and mingled with blood,” they cried again.
“I cannot,” said the cake, “for I am broken and bruised, and my blood is on the lips of the sleeping children.”
Then the witches rushed through the air with great cries, and fled back to Slieve-namon, uttering strange curses on the Spirit of the Well, who had wished their ruin; but the woman and the house were left in peace, and a mantle dropped by one of the witches in her flight was kept hung up by the mistress as a sign of the night’s awful contest; and this mantle was in possession of the same family from generation to generation for five hundred years after.
From Old Ireland: The Fairy Dance
THE following story is from the Irish, as told by a native of one of the Western Isles, where the primitive superstitions have still all the freshness of young life.
One evening late in November, which is the month when spirits have most power over all things, as the prettiest girl in all the island was going to the well for water, her foot slipped and she fell, it was an unlucky omen, and when she got up and looked round it seemed to her as if she were in a strange place, and all around her was changed as if by enchantment. But at some distance she saw a great crowd gathered round a blazing fire, and she was drawn slowly on towards them, till at last she stood in the very midst of the people; but they kept silence, looking fixedly at her; and she was afraid, and tried to turn and leave them, but she could not. Then a beautiful youth, like a prince, with a red sash, and a golden band on his long yellow hair, came up and asked her to dance.
“It is a foolish thing of you, sir, to ask me to dance,” she said, “when there is no music.”
Then he lifted his hand and made a sign to the people, and instantly the sweetest music sounded near her and around her, and the young man took her hand, and they danced and danced till the moon and the stars went down, but she seemed like one floating on the air, and she forgot everything in the world except the dancing, and the sweet low music, and her beautiful partner.
At last the dancing ceased, and her partner thanked her, and invited her to supper with the company. Then she saw an opening in the ground, and a flight of steps, and the young man, who seemed to be the king amongst them all, led her down, followed by the whole company. At the end of the stairs they came upon a large hall, all bright and beautiful with gold and silver and lights; and the table was covered with everything good to eat, and wine was poured out in golden cups for them to drink. When she sat down they all pressed her to eat the food and to drink the wine; and as she was weary after the dancing, she took the golden cup the prince handed to her, and raised it to her lips to drink. Just then, a man passed close to her, and whispered–
“Eat no food, and drink no wine, or you will never reach your home again.”
So she laid down the cup, and refused to drink. On this they were angry, and a great noise arose, and a fierce, dark man stood up, and said–
“Whoever comes to us must drink with us.”
And he seized her arm, and held the wine to her lips, so that she almost died of fright. But at that moment a red-haired man came up, and he took her by the hand and led her out.
“You are safe for this time,” he said. “Take this herb, and hold it in your hand till you reach home, and no one can harm you.” And he gave her a branch of a plant called the Athair-Luss (the ground ivy). [a]
This she took, and fled away along the sward in the dark night; but all the time she heard footsteps behind her in pursuit. At last she reached home and barred the door, and went to bed, when a great clamour arose outside, and voices were heard crying to her–
“The power we had over you is gone through the magic of the herb; but wait–when you dance again to the music on the hill, you will stay with us for evermore, and none shall hinder.”
However, she kept the magic branch safely, and the fairies never troubled her more; but it was long and long before the sound of the fairy music left her ears which she had danced to that November night on the hillside with her fairy lover.
[a] In Ancient Egypt the ivy was sacred to Osiris, and a safeguard against evil.
Poetry: LI T’AI-PO
SHE SPINS SILK
Far up river in Szechuan,
waters rise as spring winds roar.
How can I dare to meet her now,
to brave the dangerous gorge?
The grass grows green in the valley below
where silk worms silently spin.
Her hands work threads that never end,
dawn to dusk when the cuckoo sings.
IN THE MOUNTAINS ON A SUMMER DAY
Gently I stir a white feather fan,
With open shirt sitting in a green wood.
I take off my cap and hang it on a jutting stone;
A wind from the pine-tree trickles on my bare head.
WATERFALL AT LU-SHAN
Sunlight streams on the river stones.
From high above, the river steadily plunges —
three thousand feet of sparkling water —
the Milky Way pouring down from heaven.
TO TU FU FROM SHANTUNG
You ask how I spend my time —
I nestle against a treetrunk
and listen to autumn winds
in the pines all night and day.
Shantung wine can’t get me drunk.
The local poets bore me.
My thoughts remain with you,
like the Wen River, endlessly flowing.
I sat drinking and did not notice the dusk,
Till falling petals filled the folds of my dress.
Drunken I rose and walked to the moonlit stream;
The birds were gone, and men also few.
701 – 762
Poetry was the most celebrated art during the golden age of the Tang dynasty. The collection of Tang poetry included 48,000 poems written by 2,000 poets. Li T’ai-Po ranks together with his friend Tu-Fu as the greatest Chinese poet and one of the greatest poet’s in world history.
Li Tai-po was one of the most popular poets during the T’ang dynasty. His lyrics are characterized by spontaneity and vivid imagination. He was a pleasure lover. He drank continually, travelled a good deal and used to stand in drunken amazement on arched bridges and among the ruins of ancient palaces where he would conjure up the past before his minds eye. Popular legend has it that he drowned when, sitting drunk in a boat, he attempted to seize the moon’s reflection in the water. So even his death became a poem.
Exit now, through here….