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Gedicht Ton van Reen: Dominospelers

 

Ton van Reen

Dominospelers

De droge tijd is een last voor de dominospelers
het stof zit in hun neus, keel en oren
zodat ze niet van zich af kunnen spuwen
steeds weer moeten ze het bord schoon blazen
dat doet pijn, want hun keel is gebarsten
ze hebben dorst en kankeren op de vrouwen
die hen zijn vergeten en geen thee brengen
maar ze kunnen niets doen, ze zitten vast,
elkaars tegenstander voor de duur van het spel

Met hun lichaam beschermen ze het bord
tegen de droge wind; ze leven alleen voor het spel  
o, wat verlangen ze naar de koele regentijd
als het speelbord vrij is van stof
en ze krachtig naar buiten kunnen spuwen
en zonder haperen door kunnen spelen
als de regen op het zinken afdak klatert
nu biedt het dak niet eens bescherming
tegen de hitte die hen dwingt als duivels te spelen
en naar elkaar te schreeuwen met hun gebarsten kelen

Soms lopen de emoties hoog op
en vliegen ze elkaar naar de strot
maar er blijft hen niets anders over
dan dag en nacht door te spelen
het domino kluistert hen aan deze plek
dit hok is hun deel van de wereld
o, als de goede regentijd aanbreekt
en de regen hun driften zal koelen
soms, als de strijd luwt, zijn ze even stil
en bidden ze dat ze samen de regentijd halen

 

Ton van Reen poetry: De naam van het mes. Afrikaanse gedichten

kempis poetry magazine

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Ed Schilders: Pietro Aretino. De geschiedenis van een reputatie (6)

Ed Schilders

Pietro Aretino

De geschiedenis van een reputatie

Zes

Als Hancarville in 1783 de schandaalgeschiedenis van de Romeinse Caesars nog eens overdoet in zijn Monumens de la Vie Privée des Douze Caesars en bij Tiberius aanbelandt, blijkt ook hem de reputatie bekend: ‘Zijn bibliotheek stond vol met erotische en wulpse boeken, waaronder de werken van Elephantis van Miletus . . .’ Geen woord, geen beeld is daar echter van overgebleven, alleen haar reputatie. Ze keert hieronder nog terug. Jonson moet bijzonder onder de indruk van Aretino’s werk geweest zijn, of wat daarvoor mocht passeren, want hij is ook de enige die hem als dichter noemt en wel in Volpone (1607) waarin hij Lady Would-be en Volpone Italiaanse dichters laat bespreken:

Lady Would-be:

Your Petrarch is more passionate, yet he,

In days of sonneting, trusted ’em with much.

Dante is hard, and few can understand him.

But for a desperate wit, there’s Aretine!

Only, his pictures are a little obscene

terwijl even later Corvino, in zelfverdediging!, te spreken komt over hot Tuscan blood/That had read Aretine, conned all his prints,/Knew every quirk within lust’s labyrinth. In het zesde gesprek uit L’Académie des Dames (Satyra Sotadica; Dialogues de Luisa Sigea) noemt Tullia ook Elephantis: a young greek lady, represented in paintings the postures which she knew to be fashionable among libertines, that they might be henceforth pleased to ‘execute the business after the pictures. Ze voegt er aan toe,another devised twelve different ways of copulating, ways calculatedto afford the filter the greatest possible amount of voluptuousness. On this account they called her Dodecamechanos. (5) Aretino is de directe opvolger van deze dames met zijn witty satirical Dialogues.‘, de Sonetti blijven ongenoemd. Titiaan en Carracci worden in zijn voetspoor genoemd.
De verbinding Elephantis-Aretino werd al gelegd door Aretino’s tijdgenoot en vriend Ariosto. In zijn proloog bij I Suppositi (De Verwisselden, 1509) lezen we dit advies: ‘Neemt, waarde luisteraars, dit onderstellen niet al te kwalijk: men kan onderstellen op heel andere wijzen dan Elephantis ondersteld heeft in haar Figurenboek.’
Ariosto heeft het proza, zoals al zijn komedies, later herschreven in verzen en dan luidt het, veel actueler: ‘Hoewel ik u spreek over onderstellen/Gelijken mijn onderstellingen echter niet/Die antieke onderstellingen die Elephantis,/in diverse houdingen en standen, op gevarieerde wijze,/heeft geschilderd, en die men zoals u weet/onlangs hernieuwd heeft, in Heilig Rome/gedrukt heeft op vellen schoner dan ze kuis zijn,/zodat jan en alleman er een exemplaar van kan kopen.’
Ook Brantôme heeft zich van Elephantis’ reputatie bediend. Hij komt hieronder nog aan het woord. Hier mag al samengevat worden dat de berichten over in standen gespecialiseerde en handelende dames volgens Robert Burton nog verder teruggaan. In Partition III van zijn Anatomy of Melancholy(1621 etc. etc.) bespreekt hij onder het hoofd Love – Melancholy Artificial Allurementsde meest uiteenlopende tactieken en technieken die de verleiding en het opwekken van de begeerte ten dienste staan.
Daaronder bevinden zich ook de lascivious discourses: such as Astyanassa, Helena’s waiting-woman, by the report of Suidas, writ of old, de variis concubitus modis . . .{Suidas, eigenlijk Suda, een naslagwerk, werd samengesteld in de 10e eeuw). Na Astyanassa, schrijft Burton, kwamen Philaenis (Dodekamechanos?) en Elephantis, en na deze dames Aretine’s dialogues– waaruit hij regelmatig citeert — en such-like pictures as those of Aretine. Het resultaat van zulke dialogen, dingen en prenten: many by this means are quite mad.

Binnenhuisarchitectuur. Nog in 1824 echoot de roem van de modi. In dat jaar verscheen The Voluptarian Cabinetwaarin het ‘Eleusian Institution’ – een soort vrouwencafé – beschreven wordt. Eigenaresse is de legendarische Mary Wilson (spinster) en de boudoirs van haar instituut zijn ‘behangen met de meest fantastische schilderingen van Aretino’s Houdingen naar Julio (sic) Romano en Ludovico Carracci.’ Romano is terug, maar het is de vraag of met Ludovico Carracci niet Raimondi bedoeld wordt.
Nog meer interieurdecoratie vinden we in The Wandring Whore als Julietta, zojuist teruggekeerd uit Venetië (!) de kamers van de dames aldaar beschrijft: ‘In onze kamers hangt een afbeelding van het Italiaanse slot (= de kuisheidsgordel), en ook Peter Aretines houdingen, merkwaardig geschilderd, en nog enige andere prachtige afbeeldingen, spiernaakt …Sodom (1684), het toneelstuk dat wordt toegeschreven aan The Earl of Rochester, opent met de aanwijzing dat het eerste bedrijf zich afspeelt in een Antechamber hung round with Aretin’s Postures.
Dat men voor het ‘beoefenen’ van deze moeilijke standen alleen in bordelen en gespecialiseerde boudoirs terecht kon is natuurlijk niet feitelijk juist maar wel een fictief gegeven dat met graagte werd aangegrepen om de lewdnessof de expertness van de betrokken dames snel en effectief te typeren. In de aan Aretino toegeschreven Strange and True Nevvesbesluiten de meisjes: ‘Niemand van ons clubje zal weigeren de daad van moeder natuur achterstevoren te doen of welke andere houding van Peter Aretine dan ook, zo lang ze er voor betaald wordt.’ Achterstevoren betekent natuurlijk het anale verkeer, en dat ging zelfs sommige betaalde minnaressen te ver (ik ben me, opnieuw, bewust, dat hierin volgens sommigen een pleonasme schuil gaat). Mother Creswel licht Dorothea voor in The Whore’s Rhetoric (1683):

M.C. Aretin’s Figures have no place in my Rhetoric, and I hope

will find no room in my Pupil’s apartment. They are calculated

for a hot Region a little on this side Sodom, and are not necessary

in any Northern Clime.

D.: What do you mean by Aretin’s Figures?

M.C.: Only, Child, Six and Thirty Geometrical Schemes which

he drew for his own diversion (6)


Op Dorothea’s
vraag of ‘die tamme dingen hier ook te koop zijn’, antwoordt Moeder dat er van de 36 bekende prenten 24 ‘ruwe schetsen voor geld te koop zijn.’ Misschien verwijst de schrijver daarmee toch naar de door Ashbee genoemde, geaborteerde druk op de persen van Oxford.

(wordt vervolgd)

Ed Schilders: Pietro Aretino. De geschiedenis van een reputatie (6)

fleursdumal.nl magazine

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Peter Goires: Dutch landscape

Peter Goires photos: Dutch landscape

Zeeland, September 2010

kempis poetry magazine

More in: Dutch Landscapes, Peter Goires Photos

Virginia Woolf: A Letter to a Young Poet

Virginia Woolf

(1882-1941)


A Letter to a Young Poet

My Dear John,

Did you ever meet, or was he before your day, that old gentleman—I forget his name—who used to enliven conversation, especially at breakfast when the post came in, by saying that the art of letter–writing is dead? The penny post, the old gentleman used to say, has killed the art of letter–writing. Nobody, he continued, examining an envelope through his eye–glasses, has the time even to cross their t’s. We rush, he went on, spreading his toast with marmalade, to the telephone. We commit our half–formed thoughts in ungrammatical phrases to the post card. Gray is dead, he continued; Horace Walpole is dead; Madame de Sévigné—she is dead too, I suppose he was about to add, but a fit of choking cut him short, and he had to leave the room before he had time to condemn all the arts, as his pleasure was, to the cemetery. But when the post came in this morning and I opened your letter stuffed with little blue sheets written all over in a cramped but not illegible hand—I regret to say, however, that several t’s were uncrossed and the grammar of one sentence seems to me dubious—I replied after all these years to that elderly necrophilist—Nonsense. The art of letter–writing has only just come into existence. It is the child of the penny post. And there is some truth in that remark, I think. Naturally when a letter cost half a crown to send, it had to prove itself a document of some importance; it was read aloud; it was tied up with green silk; after a certain number of years it was published for the infinite delectation of posterity. But your letter, on the contrary, will have to be burnt. It only cost three–halfpence to send. Therefore you could afford to be intimate, irreticent, indiscreet in the extreme. What you tell me about poor dear C. and his adventure on the Channel boat is deadly private; your ribald jests at the expense of M. would certainly ruin your friendship if they got about; I doubt, too, that posterity, unless it is much quicker in the wit than I expect, could follow the line of your thought from the roof which leaks (“splash, splash, splash into the soap dish”) past Mrs. Gape, the charwoman, whose retort to the greengrocer gives me the keenest pleasure, via Miss Curtis and her odd confidence on the steps of the omnibus; to Siamese cats (“Wrap their noses in an old stocking my Aunt says if they howl”); so to the value of criticism to a writer; so to Donne; so to Gerard Hopkins; so to tombstones; so to gold–fish; and so with a sudden alarming swoop to “Do write and tell me where poetry’s going, or if it’s dead?” No, your letter, because it is a true letter—one that can neither be read aloud now, nor printed in time to come—will have to be burnt. Posterity must live upon Walpole and Madame de Sévigné. The great age of letter–writing, which is, of course, the present, will leave no letters behind it. And in making my reply there is only one question that I can answer or attempt to answer in public; about poetry and its death.

But before I begin, I must own up to those defects, both natural and acquired, which, as you will find, distort and invalidate all that I have to say about poetry. The lack of a sound university training has always made it impossible for me to distinguish between an iambic and a dactyl, and if this were not enough to condemn one for ever, the practice of prose has bred in me, as in most prose writers, a foolish jealousy, a righteous indignation—anyhow, an emotion which the critic should be without. For how, we despised prose writers ask when we get together, could one say what one meant and observe the rules of poetry? Conceive dragging in “blade” because one had mentioned “maid”; and pairing “sorrow” with “borrow”? Rhyme is not only childish, but dishonest, we prose writers say. Then we go on to say, And look at their rules! How easy to be a poet! How strait the path is for them, and how strict! This you must do; this you must not. I would rather be a child and walk in a crocodile down a suburban path than write poetry, I have heard prose writers say. It must be like taking the veil and entering a religious order—observing the rites and rigours of metre. That explains why they repeat the same thing over and over again. Whereas we prose writers (I am only telling you the sort of nonsense prose writers talk when they are alone) are masters of language, not its slaves; nobody can teach us; nobody can coerce us; we say what we mean; we have the whole of life for our province. We are the creators, we are the explorers. . . . So we run on—nonsensically enough, I must admit.

Now that I have made a clean breast of these deficiencies, let us proceed. From certain phrases in your letter I gather that you think that poetry is in a parlous way, and that your case as a poet in this particular autumn Of 1931 is a great deal harder than Shakespeare’s, Dryden’s, Pope’s, or Tennyson’s. In fact it is the hardest case that has ever been known. Here you give me an opening, which I am prompt to seize, for a little lecture. Never think yourself singular, never think your own case much harder than other people’s. I admit that the age we live in makes this difficult. For the first time in history there are readers—a large body of people, occupied in business, in sport, in nursing their grandfathers, in tying up parcels behind counters—they all read now; and they want to be told how to read and what to read; and their teachers—the reviewers, the lecturers, the broadcasters—must in all humanity make reading easy for them; assure them that literature is violent and exciting, full of heroes and villains; of hostile forces perpetually in conflict; of fields strewn with bones; of solitary victors riding off on white horses wrapped in black cloaks to meet their death at the turn of the road. A pistol shot rings out. “The age of romance was over. The age of realism had begun”—you know the sort of thing. Now of course writers themselves know very well that there is not a word of truth in all this—there are no battles, and no murders and no defeats and no victories. But as it is of the utmost importance that readers should be amused, writers acquiesce. They dress themselves up. They act their parts. One leads; the other follows. One is romantic, the other realist. One is advanced, the other out of date. There is no harm in it, so long as you take it as a joke, but once you believe in it, once you begin to take yourself seriously as a leader or as a follower, as a modern or as a conservative, then you become a self–conscious, biting, and scratching little animal whose work is not of the slightest value or importance to anybody. Think of yourself rather as something much humbler and less spectacular, but to my mind, far more interesting—a poet in whom live all the poets of the past, from whom all poets in time to come will spring. You have a touch of Chaucer in you, and something of Shakespeare; Dryden, Pope, Tennyson—to mention only the respectable among your ancestors—stir in your blood and sometimes move your pen a little to the right or to the left. In short you are an immensely ancient, complex, and continuous character, for which reason please treat yourself with respect and think twice before you dress up as Guy Fawkes and spring out upon timid old ladies at street corners, threatening death and demanding twopence–halfpenny.

However, as you say that you are in a fix (“it has never been so hard to write poetry as it is to–day and that poetry may be, you think, at its last gasp in England the novelists are doing all the interesting things now”), let me while away the time before the post goes in imagining your state and in hazarding one or two guesses which, since this is a letter, need not be taken too seriously or pressed too far. Let me try to put myself in your place; let me try to imagine, with your letter to help me, what it feels like to be a young poet in the autumn of 1931. (And taking my own advice, I shall treat you not as one poet in particular, but as several poets in one.) On the floor of your mind, then—is it not this that makes you a poet?—rhythm keeps up its perpetual beat. Sometimes it seems to die down to nothing; it lets you eat, sleep, talk like other people. Then again it swells and rises and attempts to sweep all the contents of your mind into one dominant dance. To–night is such an occasion. Although you are alone, and have taken one boot off and are about to undo the other, you cannot go on with the process of undressing, but must instantly write at the bidding of the dance. You snatch pen and paper; you hardly trouble to hold the one or to straighten the other. And while you write, while the first stanzas of the dance are being fastened down, I will withdraw a little and look out of the window. A woman passes, then a man; a car glides to a stop and then—but there is no need to say what I see out of the window, nor indeed is there time, for I am suddenly recalled from my observations by a cry of rage or despair. Your page is crumpled in a ball; your pen sticks upright by the nib in the carpet. If there were a cat to swing or a wife to murder now would be the time. So at least I infer from the ferocity of your expression. You are rasped, jarred, thoroughly out of temper. And if I am to guess the reason, it is, I should say, that the rhythm which was opening and shutting with a force that sent shocks of excitement from your head to your heels has encountered some hard and hostile object upon which it has smashed itself to pieces. Something has worked in which cannot be made into poetry; some foreign body, angular, sharp–edged, gritty, has refused to join in the dance. Obviously, suspicion attaches to Mrs. Gape; she has asked you to make a poem of her; then to Miss Curtis and her confidences on the omnibus; then to C., who has infected you with a wish to tell his story—and a very amusing one it was—in verse. But for some reason you cannot do their bidding. Chaucer could; Shakespeare could; so could Crabbe, Byron, and perhaps Robert Browning. But it is October 1931, and for a long time now poetry has shirked contact with—what shall we call it?—Shall we shortly and no doubt inaccurately call it life? And will you come to my help by guessing what I mean? Well then, it has left all that to the novelist. Here you see how easy it would be for me to write two or three volumes in honour of prose and in mockery of verse; to say how wide and ample is the domain of the one, how starved and stunted the little grove of the other. But it would be simpler and perhaps fairer to check these theories by opening one of the thin books of modern verse that lie on your table. I open and I find myself instantly confused. Here are the common objects of daily prose—the bicycle and the omnibus. Obviously the poet is making his muse face facts. Listen:

Which of you waking early and watching daybreak
Will not hasten in heart, handsome, aware of wonder
At light unleashed, advancing; a leader of movement,
Breaking like surf on turf on road and roof,
Or chasing shadow on downs like whippet racing,
The stilled stone, halting at eyelash barrier,
Enforcing in face a profile, marks of misuse,
Beating impatient and importunate on boudoir shutters
Where the old life is not up yet, with rays
Exploring through rotting floor a dismantled mill—
The old life never to be born again?

Yes, but how will he get through with it? I read on and find:

Whistling as he shuts
His door behind him, travelling to work by tube
Or walking to the park to it to ease the bowels,

and read on and find again

As a boy lately come up from country to town
Returns for the day to his village in EXPENSIVE SHOES—

and so on again to:

Seeking a heaven on earth he chases his shadow,
Loses his capital and his nerve in pursuing
What yachtsmen, explorers, climbers and BUGGERS ARE AFTER.

These lines and the words I have emphasized are enough to confirm me in part of my guess at least. The poet is trying to include Mrs. Gape. He is honestly of opinion that she can be brought into poetry and will do very well there. Poetry, he feels, will be improved by the actual, the colloquial. But though I honour him for the attempt, I doubt that it is wholly successful. I feel a jar. I feel a shock. I feel as if I had stubbed my toe on the corner of the wardrobe. Am I then, I go on to ask, shocked, prudishly and conventionally, by the words themselves? I think not. The shock is literally a shock. The poet as I guess has strained himself to include an emotion that is not domesticated and acclimatized to poetry; the effort has thrown him off his balance; he rights himself, as I am sure I shall find if I turn the page, by a violent recourse to the poetical—he invokes the moon or the nightingale. Anyhow, the transition is sharp. The poem is cracked in the middle. Look, it comes apart in my hands: here is reality on one side, here is beauty on the other; and instead of acquiring a whole object rounded and entire, I am left with broken parts in my hands which, since my reason has been roused and my imagination has not been allowed to take entire possession of me, I contemplate coldly, critically, and with distaste.

Such at least is the hasty analysis I make of my own sensations as a reader; but again I am interrupted. I see that you have overcome your difficulty, whatever it was; the pen is once more in action, and having torn up the first poem you are at work upon another. Now then if I want to understand your state of mind I must invent another explanation to account for this return of fluency. You have dismissed, as I suppose, all sorts of things that would come naturally to your pen if you had been writing prose—the charwoman, the omnibus, the incident on the Channel boat. Your range is restricted—I judge from your expression—concentrated and intensified. I hazard a guess that you are thinking now, not about things in general, but about yourself in particular. There is a fixity, a gloom, yet an inner glow that seem to hint that you are looking within and not without. But in order to consolidate these flimsy guesses about the meaning of an expression on a face, let me open another of the books on your table and check it by what I find there. Again I open at random and read this:

To penetrate that room is my desire,
The extreme attic of the mind, that lies
Just beyond the last bend in the corridor.
Writing I do it. Phrases, poems are keys.
Loving’s another way (but not so sure).
A fire’s in there, I think, there’s truth at last
Deep in a lumber chest. Sometimes I’m near,
But draughts puff out the matches, and I’m lost.
Sometimes I’m lucky, find a key to turn,
Open an inch or two—but always then
A bell rings, someone calls, or cries of “fire”
Arrest my hand when nothing’s known or seen,
And running down the stairs again I mourn.

and then this:

There is a dark room,
The locked and shuttered womb,
Where negative’s made positive.
Another dark room,
The blind and bolted tomb,
Where positives change to negative.
We may not undo that or escape this, who
Have birth and death coiled in our bones,
Nothing we can do
Will sweeten the real rue,
That we begin, and end, with groans.

And then this:

Never being, but always at the edge of Being
My head, like Death mask, is brought into the Sun.
The shadow pointing finger across cheek,
I move lips for tasting, I move hands for touching,
But never am nearer than touching,
Though the spirit leans outward for seeing.
Observing rose, gold, eyes, an admired landscape,
My senses record the act of wishing
Wishing to be
Rose, gold, landscape or another—
Claiming fulfilment in the act of loving.

Since these quotations are chosen at random and I have yet found three different poets writing about nothing, if not about the poet himself, I hold that the chances are that you too are engaged in the same occupation. I conclude that self offers no impediment; self joins in the dance; self lends itself to the rhythm; it is apparently easier to write a poem about oneself than about any other subject. But what does one mean by “oneself”? Not the self that Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley have described—not the self that loves a woman, or that hates a tyrant, or that broods over the mystery of the world. No, the self that you are engaged in describing is shut out from all that. It is a self that sits alone in the room at night with the blinds drawn. In other words the poet is much less interested in what we have in common than in what he has apart. Hence I suppose the extreme difficulty of these poems—and I have to confess that it would floor me completely to say from one reading or even from two or three what these poems mean. The poet is trying honestly and exactly to describe a world that has perhaps no existence except for one particular person at one particular moment. And the more sincere he is in keeping to the precise outline of the roses and cabbages of his private universe, the more he puzzles us who have agreed in a lazy spirit of compromise to see roses and cabbages as they are seen, more or less, by the twenty–six passengers on the outside of an omnibus. He strains to describe; we strain to see; he flickers his torch; we catch a flying gleam. It is exciting; it is stimulating; but is that a tree, we ask, or is it perhaps an old woman tying up her shoe in the gutter?

Well, then, if there is any truth in what I am saying—if that is you cannot write about the actual, the colloquial, Mrs. Gape or the Channel boat or Miss Curtis on the omnibus, without straining the machine of poetry, if, therefore, you are driven to contemplate landscapes and emotions within and must render visible to the world at large what you alone can see, then indeed yours is a hard case, and poetry, though still breathing—witness these little books—is drawing her breath in short, sharp gasps. Still, consider the symptoms. They are not the symptoms of death in the least. Death in literature, and I need not tell you how often literature has died in this country or in that, comes gracefully, smoothly, quietly. Lines slip easily down the accustomed grooves. The old designs are copied so glibly that we are half inclined to think them original, save for that very glibness. But here the very opposite is happening: here in my first quotation the poet breaks his machine because he will clog it with raw fact. In my second, he is unintelligible because of his desperate determination to tell the truth about himself. Thus I cannot help thinking that though you may be right in talking of the difficulty of the time, you are wrong to despair.

Is there not, alas, good reason to hope? I say “alas” because then I must give my reasons, which are bound to be foolish and certain also to cause pain to the large and highly respectable society of necrophils—Mr. Peabody, and his like—who much prefer death to life and are even now intoning the sacred and comfortable words, Keats is dead, Shelley is dead, Byron is dead. But it is late: necrophily induces slumber; the old gentlemen have fallen asleep over their classics, and if what I am about to say takes a sanguine tone—and for my part I do not believe in poets dying; Keats, Shelley, Byron are alive here in this room in you and you and you—I can take comfort from the thought that my hoping will not disturb their snoring. So to continue—why should not poetry, now that it has so honestly scraped itself free from certain falsities, the wreckage of the great Victorian age, now that it has so sincerely gone down into the mind of the poet and verified its outlines—a work of renovation that has to be done from time to time and was certainly needed, for bad poetry is almost always the result of forgetting oneself—all becomes distorted and impure if you lose sight of that central reality—now, I say, that poetry has done all this, why should it not once more open its eyes, look out of the window and write about other people? Two or three hundred years ago you were always writing about other people. Your pages were crammed with characters of the most opposite and various kinds—Hamlet, Cleopatra, Falstaff. Not only did we go to you for drama, and for the subtleties of human character, but we also went to you, incredible though this now seems, for laughter. You made us roar with laughter. Then later, not more than a hundred years ago, you were lashing our follies, trouncing our hypocrisies, and dashing off the most brilliant of satires. You were Byron, remember; you wrote Don Juan. You were Crabbe also; you took the most sordid details of the lives of peasants for your theme. Clearly therefore you have it in you to deal with a vast variety of subjects; it is only a temporary necessity that has shut you up in one room, alone, by yourself.

But how are you going to get out, into the world of other people? That is your problem now, if I may hazard a guess—to find the right relationship, now that you know yourself, between the self that you know and the world outside. It is a difficult problem. No living poet has, I think, altogether solved it. And there are a thousand voices prophesying despair. Science, they say, has made poetry impossible; there is no poetry in motor cars and wireless. And we have no religion. All is tumultuous and transitional. Therefore, so people say, there can be no relation between the poet and the present age. But surely that is nonsense. These accidents are superficial; they do not go nearly deep enough to destroy the most profound and primitive of instincts, the instinct of rhythm. All you need now is to stand at the window and let your rhythmical sense open and shut, open and shut, boldly and freely, until one thing melts in another, until the taxis are dancing with the daffodils, until a whole has been made from all these separate fragments. I am talking nonsense, I know. What I mean is, summon all your courage, exert all your vigilance, invoke all the gifts that Nature has been induced to bestow. Then let your rhythmical sense wind itself in and out among men and women, omnibuses, sparrows—whatever come along the street—until it has strung them together in one harmonious whole. That perhaps is your task—to find the relation between things that seem incompatible yet have a mysterious affinity, to absorb every experience that comes your way fearlessly and saturate it completely so that your poem is a whole, not a fragment; to re–think human life into poetry and so give us tragedy again and comedy by means of characters not spun out at length in the novelist’s way, but condensed and synthesised in the poet’s way–that is what we look to you to do now. But as I do not know what I mean by rhythm nor what I mean by life, and as most certainly I cannot tell you which objects can properly be combined together in a poem—that is entirely your affair—and as I cannot tell a dactyl from an iambic, and am therefore unable to say how you must modify and expand the rites and ceremonies of your ancient and mysterious art—I will move on to safer ground and turn again to these little books themselves.

When, then, I return to them I am, as I have admitted, filled, not with forebodings of death, but with hopes for the future. But one does not always want to be thinking of the future, if, as sometimes happens, one is living in the present. When I read these poems, now, at the present moment, I find myself—reading, you know, is rather like opening the door to a horde of rebels who swarm out attacking one in twenty places at once—hit, roused, scraped, bared, swung through the air, so that life seems to flash by; then again blinded, knocked on the head—all of which are agreeable sensations for a reader (since nothing is more dismal than to open the door and get no response), and all I believe certain proof that this poet is alive and kicking. And yet mingling with these cries of delight, of jubilation, I record also, as I read, the repetition in the bass of one word intoned over and over again by some malcontent. At last then, silencing the others, I say to this malcontent, “Well, and what do YOU want?” Whereupon he bursts out, rather to my discomfort, “Beauty.” Let me repeat, I take no responsibility for what my senses say when I read; I merely record the fact that there is a malcontent in me who complains that it seems to him odd, considering that English is a mixed language, a rich language; a language unmatched for its sound and colour, for its power of imagery and suggestion—it seems to him odd that these modern poets should write as if they had neither ears nor eyes, neither soles to their feet nor palms to their hands, but only honest enterprising book–fed brains, uni–sexual bodies and—but here I interrupted him. For when it comes to saying that a poet should be bisexual, and that I think is what he was about to say, even I, who have had no scientific training whatsoever, draw the line and tell that voice to be silent.

But how far, if we discount these obvious absurdities, do you think there is truth in this complaint? For my own part now that I have stopped reading, and can see the poems more or less as a whole, I think it is true that the eye and ear are starved of their rights. There is no sense of riches held in reserve behind the admirable exactitude of the lines I have quoted, as there is, for example, behind the exactitude of Mr. Yeats. The poet clings to his one word, his only word, as a drowning man to a spar. And if this is so, I am ready to hazard a reason for it all the more readily because I think it bears out what I have just been saying. The art of writing, and that is perhaps what my malcontent means by “beauty,” the art of having at one’s beck and call every word in the language, of knowing their weights, colours, sounds, associations, and thus making them, as is so necessary in English, suggest more than they can state, can be learnt of course to some extent by reading—it is impossible to read too much; but much more drastically and effectively by imagining that one is not oneself but somebody different. How can you learn to write if you write only about one single person? To take the obvious example. Can you doubt that the reason why Shakespeare knew every sound and syllable in the language and could do precisely what he liked with grammar and syntax, was that Hamlet, Falstaff and Cleopatra rushed him into this knowledge; that the lords, officers, dependants, murderers and common soldiers of the plays insisted that he should say exactly what they felt in the words expressing their feelings? It was they who taught him to write, not the begetter of the Sonnets. So that if you want to satisfy all those senses that rise in a swarm whenever we drop a poem among them—the reason, the imagination, the eyes, the ears, the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, not to mention a million more that the psychologists have yet to name, you will do well to embark upon a long poem in which people as unlike yourself as possible talk at the tops of their voices. And for heaven’s sake, publish nothing before you are thirty.

That, I am sure, is of very great importance. Most of the faults in the poems I have been reading can be explained, I think, by the fact that they have been exposed to the fierce light of publicity while they were still too young to stand the strain. It has shrivelled them into a skeleton austerity, both emotional and verbal, which should not be characteristic of youth. The poet writes very well; he writes for the eye of a severe and intelligent public; but how much better he would have written if for ten years he had written for no eye but his own! After all, the years from twenty to thirty are years (let me refer to your letter again) of emotional excitement. The rain dripping, a wing flashing, someone passing—the commonest sounds and sights have power to fling one, as I seem to remember, from the heights of rapture to the depths of despair. And if the actual life is thus extreme, the visionary life should be free to follow. Write then, now that you are young, nonsense by the ream. Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley, imitate Samuel Smiles; give the rein to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and syntax; pour out; tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch, coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write. But if you publish, your freedom will be checked; you will be thinking what people will say; you will write for others when you ought only to be writing for yourself. And what point can there be in curbing the wild torrent of spontaneous nonsense which is now, for a few years only, your divine gift in order to publish prim little books of experimental verses? To make money? That, we both know, is out of the question. To get criticism? But you friends will pepper your manuscripts with far more serious and searching criticism than any you will get from the reviewers. As for fame, look I implore you at famous people; see how the waters of dullness spread around them as they enter; observe their pomposity, their prophetic airs; reflect that the greatest poets were anonymous; think how Shakespeare cared nothing for fame; how Donne tossed his poems into the waste–paper basket; write an essay giving a single instance of any modern English writer who has survived the disciples and the admirers, the autograph hunters and the interviewers, the dinners and the luncheons, the celebrations and the commemorations with which English society so effectively stops the mouths of its singers and silences their songs.

But enough. I, at any rate, refuse to be necrophilus. So long as you and you and you, venerable and ancient representatives of Sappho, Shakespeare, and Shelley are aged precisely twenty–three and propose—0 enviable lot!—to spend the next fifty years of your lives in writing poetry, I refuse to think that the art is dead. And if ever the temptation to necrophilize comes over you, be warned by the fate of that old gentleman whose name I forget, but I think that it was Peabody. In the very act of consigning all the arts to the grave he choked over a large piece of hot buttered toast and the consolation then offered him that he was about to join the elder Pliny in the shades gave him, I am told, no sort of satisfaction whatsoever.

And now for the intimate, the indiscreet, and indeed, the only really interesting parts of this letter. . . .

Written in 1932
Virginia Woolf: The Death of the Moth, and other essays

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Edith Södergran: 2 gedichten

Edith Södergran

(1892-1923)

 

De boom uit mijn kinderjaren

De boom uit mijn kinderjaren staat hoog in het gras
en schudt zijn hoofd: wat is er van je geworden?
Zijn verwijten staan als pilaren in de rij: onwaardig ga je onder ons!
Je bent kind en moet alles kunnen.
Waarom ben je in de banden van een ziekte geketend?
Je bent mens gebleven, vreemd gehaat.
Toen je kind was voerde je lange gesprekken met ons.
Je blik was wijs.
Nu willen wij je het geheim van het leven vertellen:
de sleutel van alle geheimen ligt in het gras van de frambozenhelling.
Wij willen je voor het hoofd stoten, jij slapende.
Wij willen je wekken, dode, uit je slaap.

Zonder titel

De maan weet … dat hier bloed zal vloeien vannacht.
Langs koperen stroken boven het meer komt het stellige weten:
Tussen de elzen zullen lijken liggen op het prachtige strand.
De maan strooit haar mooiste licht op het mysterieuze starnd,
De wind is een klaroen tussen de dennen
Wat is de wereld mooi op dit verlaten uur.

Edith Södergran poetry
kempis poetry magazine

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Gedicht Ton van Reen: De straat is van de mannen

 

Ton van Reen

De straat is van de mannen

 

De mannen van Gondar slenteren over straat

want de straat is van de mannen

hand in hand lopen ze op en neer

lachend maken ze grappen over elkaar

soms staan ze stil, om te praten

met de mannen die ze juist hebben ontmoet

toen ze de andere kant op liepen

want elke ontmoeting is weer nieuw

 

Tientallen keren treffen ze elkaar

en elke keer is er weer wat te verhalen

over wat ze zojuist van andere mannen

over weer andere mannen hebben gehoord

in Gondar is de straat van de mannen

omdat mannen onder elkaar willen zijn

en zoveel over elkaar te zeggen hebben

 

Ze slenteren door tot ver na middernacht

er komt geen einde aan het praten

want ze hebben elkaar steeds weer opnieuw

zo ontzettend veel over elkaar te vertellen

pas tegen het ochtendgloren, bekaf van het praten

gaan ze naar huis met de tong op de schoenen

hun buik plat van de honger, om te slapen

en de dag lang te dromen over de komende avond

wanneer ze weer alles over elkaar kunnen horen

 

Ton van Reen: De naam van het mes. Afrikaanse gedichten

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William Shakespeare: Sonnet 048

William Shakespeare

(1564-1616)

THE SONNETS

 

48

How careful was I when I took my way,

Each trifle under truest bars to thrust,

That to my use it might unused stay

From hands of falsehood, in sure wards of trust!

But thou, to whom my jewels trifles are,

Most worthy comfort, now my greatest grief,

Thou best of dearest, and mine only care,

Art left the prey of every vulgar thief.

Thee have I not locked up in any chest,

Save where thou art not, though I feel thou art,

Within the gentle closure of my breast,

From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part,

And even thence thou wilt be stol’n I fear,

For truth proves thievish for a prize so dear.

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Multatuli: Idee Nr. 428

Multatuli

(1820-1887)

Ideën (7 delen, 1862-1877)

 

Idee Nr. 428

Het voorbeeld voor de kinderen? Hoe, gyzelf gelooft niet ‘aan die gekheid’ – dat is de term – en toch zendt ge uw kinderen naar kathechizatie of biechtstoel? Hoe, ge schimpt op de ‘zwartrokken’ ge yvert voor ‘t gescheiden houden van Kerk en Staat, ge verwerpt pausdom, theokratie, priester-regeering, en toch laat ge uw kinderen biologeeren door die priesters? Ge verwerpt de wonderen van Tobias, van Paulus, van Elias, of hoe al die goochelaars heeten mogen, en ge gaat voort de kerken te bezoeken die in-stand worden gehouden door ‘t vertellen, uitleggen, kommentarieeren van die wonderen? Hoe, ge spot met de wawelary van dominee of pastoor die ‘n broodwinning maakt van ‘t uitrekken eener zinledige fraze tot ‘n preek, en zonder protest gaat ge voort de belasting optebrengen waarmee dat gewawel betaald wordt?

Duizendmaal liever is my de eenvoudige geloovige. Hy verkracht niet het gezond verstand dat-i niet heeft. Doch wie, daarmee wèl begaafd, toch den weg opgaat van die arme zinneloozen, begaat ‘n moord aan z’n denkvermogen.

 

kempis poetry magazine

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Giacomo Leopardi: Consalvo

Giacomo Leopardi

(1798-1837)

 

Consalvo

Presso alla fin di sua dimora in terra,

Giacea Consalvo; disdegnoso un tempo

Del suo destino; or già non più, che a mezzo

Il quinto lustro, gli pendea sul capo

Il sospirato obblio. Qual da gran tempo,

Così giacea nel funeral suo giorno

Dai più diletti amici abbandonato:

Ch’amico in terra al lungo andar nessuno

Resta a colui che della terra è schivo.

Pur gli era al fianco, da pietà condotta

A consolare il suo deserto stato,

Quella che sola e sempre eragli a mente,

Per divina beltà famosa Elvira;

Conscia del suo poter, conscia che un guardo

Suo lieto, un detto d’alcun dolce asperso,

Ben mille volte ripetuto e mille

Nel costante pensier, sostegno e cibo

Esser solea dell’infelice amante:

Benchè nulla d’amor parola udita

Avess’ella da lui. Sempre in quell’alma

Era del gran desio stato più forte

Un sovrano timor. Così l’avea

Fatto schiavo e fanciullo il troppo amore.

Ma ruppe alfin la morte il nodo antico

Alla sua lingua. Poichè certi i segni

Sentendo di quel dì che l’uom discioglie,

Lei, già mossa a partir, presa per mano,

E quella man bianchissima stringendo,

Disse: tu parti, e l’ora omai ti sforza:

Elvira, addio. Non ti vedrò, ch’io creda,

Un’altra volta. Or dunque addio. Ti rendo

Qual maggior grazia mai delle tue cure

Dar possa il labbro mio. Premio daratti

Chi può, se premio ai pii dal ciel si rende.

Impallidia la bella, e il petto anelo

Udendo le si fea: che sempre stringe

All’uomo il cor dogliosamente, ancora

Ch’estranio sia, chi si diparte e dice,

Addio per sempre. E contraddir voleva,

Dissimulando l’appressar del fato,

Al moribondo. Ma il suo dir prevenne

Quegli, e soggiunse: desiata, e molto,

Come sai, ripregata a me discende,

Non temuta, la morte; e lieto apparmi

Questo feral mio dì. Pesami, è vero,

Che te perdo per sempre. Oimè per sempre

Parto da te. Mi si divide il core

In questo dir. Più non vedrò quegli occhi,

Nè la tua voce udrò! Dimmi: ma pria

Di lasciarmi in eterno, Elvira, un bacio

Non vorrai tu donarmi? un bacio solo

In tutto il viver mio? Grazia ch’ei chiegga

Non si nega a chi muor. Nè già vantarmi

Potrò del dono, io semispento, a cui

Straniera man le labbra oggi fra poco

Eternamente chiuderà. Ciò detto

Con un sospiro, all’adorata destra

Le fredde labbra supplicando affisse.

Stette sospesa e pensierosa in atto

La bellissima donna; e fiso il guardo,

Di mille vezzi sfavillante, in quello

Tenea dell’infelice, ove l’estrema

Lacrima rilucea. Nè dielle il core

Di sprezzar la dimanda, e il mesto addio

Rinacerbir col niego; anzi la vinse

Misericordia dei ben noti ardori.

E quel volto celeste, e quella bocca,

Già tanto desiata, e per molt’anni

Argomento di sogno e di sospiro,

Dolcemente appressando al volto afflitto

E scolorato dal mortale affanno,

Più baci e più, tutta benigna e in vista

D’alta pietà, su le convulse labbra

Del trepido, rapito amante impresse.

Che divenisti allor? quali appariro

Vita, morte, sventura agli occhi tuoi,

Fuggitivo Consalvo? Egli la mano,

Ch’ancor tenea, della diletta Elvira

Postasi al cor, che gli ultimi battea

Palpiti della morte e dell’amore,

Oh, disse, Elvira, Elvira mia! ben sono

In su la terra ancor; ben quelle labbra

Fur le tue labbra, e la tua mano io stringo!

Ahi vision d’estinto, o sogno, o cosa

Incredibil mi par. Deh quanto, Elvira,

Quanto debbo alla morte! Ascoso innanzi

Non ti fu l’amor mio per alcun tempo;

Non a te, non altrui; che non si cela

Vero amore alla terra. Assai palese

Agli atti, al volto sbigottito, agli occhi,

Ti fu: ma non ai detti. Ancora e sempre

Muto sarebbe l’infinito affetto

Che governa il cor mio, se non l’avesse

Fatto ardito il morir. Morrò contento

Del mio destino omai, nè più mi dolgo

Ch’aprii le luci al dì. Non vissi indarno,

Poscia che quella bocca alla mia bocca

Premer fu dato. Anzi felice estimo

La sorte mia. Due cose belle ha il mondo:

Amore e morte. All’una il ciel mi guida

In sul fior dell’età; nell’altro, assai

Fortunato mi tengo. Ah, se una volta,

Solo una volta il lungo amor quieto

E pago avessi tu, fora la terra

Fatta quindi per sempre un paradiso

Ai cangiati occhi miei. Fin la vecchiezza,

L’abborrita vecchiezza, avrei sofferto

Con riposato cor: che a sostentarla

Bastato sempre il rimembrar sarebbe

D’un solo istante, e il dir: felice io fui

Sovra tutti i felici. Ahi, ma cotanto

Esser beato non consente il cielo

A natura terrena. Amar tant’oltre

Non è dato con gioia. E ben per patto

In poter del carnefice ai flagelli,

Alle ruote, alle faci ito volando

Sarei dalle tue braccia; e ben disceso

Nel paventato sempiterno scempio.

O Elvira, Elvira, oh lui felice, oh sovra

Gl’immortali beato, a cui tu schiuda

Il sorriso d’amor! felice appresso

Chi per te sparga con la vita il sangue!

Lice, lice al mortal, non è già sogno

Come stimai gran tempo, ahi lice in terra

Provar felicità. Ciò seppi il giorno

Che fiso io ti mirai. Ben per mia morte

Questo m’accadde. E non però quel giorno

Con certo cor giammai, fra tante ambasce,

Quel fiero giorno biasimar sostenni.

Or tu vivi beata, e il mondo abbella,

Elvira mia, col tuo sembiante. Alcuno

Non l’amerà quant’io l’amai. Non nasce

Un altrettale amor. Quanto, deh quanto

Dal misero Consalvo in sì gran tempo

Chiamata fosti, e lamentata, e pianta!

Come al nome d’Elvira, in cor gelando.

Impallidir; come tremar son uso

All’amaro calcar della tua soglia,

A quella voce angelica, all’aspetto

Di quella fronte, io ch’al morir non tremo!

Ma la lena e la vita or vengon meno

Agli accenti d’amor. Passato è il tempo,

Nè questo dì rimemorar m’è dato.

Elvira, addio. Con la vital favilla

La tua diletta immagine si parte

Dal mio cor finalmente. Addio. Se grave

Non ti fu quest’affetto, al mio feretro

Dimani all’annottar manda un sospiro.

Tacque: nè molto andò, che a lui col suono

Mancò lo spirto; e innanzi sera il primo

Suo dì felice gli fuggia dal guardo.

 

 

Giacomo Leopardi poetry

fleursdumal.nl magazine

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C. S. Adama van Scheltema: De Populieren

C. S. Adama van Scheltema

(1877-1924)

 

De Populieren

 

Het ruischt in de’ avondstond,

Het ruischt in ‘t zingende verbond

Van mijne lieve donkre populieren –

Ik hoor hun koelen geest

Het winderige avondfeest

Met eene diepe sombre vreugde vieren.

 

Als in den morgen nauw

Hun stammen rijzen uit den dauw,

Zingen mijn hooge tooverige boomen –

Ik hoor hun kalme klacht

Tot in den stillen sterrennacht

Van al hun zangerige takken stroomen.

 

Als ik het leven vlied

Met in mijn hart zijn jammerlied,

Luister ik naar hun ritselende blaren –

Tot leed en wrevel vlucht,

En ik met een gelaten zucht

Mij onder hunnen balsem voel bedaren.

 

Zoo ‘k aan hun wortels kniel,

Als ‘t waait en wankelt door mijn ziel,

Hoor ‘k over mij hun rustig vrome koren –

Dan gaat mijn weenend hart

En heel mijn menschelijke smart

Onder hun zingend gebed verloren.

 

Als in het morgenlicht

Ik, blijde om een droomgezicht,

Verdwaal onder hun sombere gezangen –

Dan zwijgt mijn zwakke lach,

En blijft dien ganschen wijden dag

Een vreemde stilte in mijn boezem hangen.

 

Ik weet wat mij verstomt,

Wat van hun loovers nederkomt,

Wat daalt uit hunne wankelende kronen: –

Dat is vergetelheid –

De adem van de eeuwigheid,

Die in die duizend blare’ is blijven wonen.


Ik zit in de’ avondwind,

Een stil geworden menschenkind,

Onder mijn lieve donkre populieren –

Ik doe mijn oogen toe,

En luister eenzaam zwijgend hoe

Zij fluisterend hun sombre vreugden vieren.

 

C. S. Adama van Scheltema gedicht

kempis poetry magazine

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Delmira Agustini: Intima

Delmira Agustini

(1886-1914)

 

Intima

 

Yo te diré los sueños de mi vida

En lo más hondo de la noche azul…

Mi alma desnuda temblará en tus manos,

Sobre tus hombros pesará mi cruz.

 

Las cumbres de la vida son tan solas,

Tan solas y tan frías! Y encerré

Mis ansias en mí misma, y toda entera

Como una torre de marfil me alcé.

 

Hoy abriré a tu alma el gran misterio;

Tu alma es capaz de penetrar en mí.

En el silencio hay vértigos de abismo:

Yo vacilaba, me sostengo en ti.

 

Muero de ensueños; beberé en tus fuentes

Puras y frescas la verdad, yo sé

Que está en el fondo magno de tu pecho

El manantial que vencerá mi sed.

 

Y sé que en nuestras vidas se produjo

El milagro inefable del reflejo…

En el silencio de la noche mi alma

Llega a la tuya como a un gran espejo.

 

Imagina el amor que habré soñado

En la tumba glacial de mi silencio!

Más grande que la vida, más que el sueño,

Bajo el azur sin fin se sintió preso.

 

Imagina mi amor, amor que quiere

Vida imposible, vida sobrehumana,

Tú que sabes si pesan, si consumen

Alma y sueños de Olimpo en carne humana.

 

Y cuando frente al alma que sentia

Poco el azur para bañar sus alas,

Como un gran horizonte aurisolado

O una playa de luz se abrió tu alma:

 

Imagina! Estrecha vivo, radiante

El Imposible! La ilusión vivida!

Bendije a Dios, al sol, la flor, el aire,

La vida toda porque tú eras vida!

 

Si con angustia yo compré esta dicha,

Bendito el llanto que manchó mis ojos!

¡Todas las llagas del pasado ríen

Al sol naciente por sus labios rojos!

 

¡Ah! tú sabrás mi amor, mas vamos lejos

A través de la noche florecida;

Acá lo humano asusta, acá se oye,

Se ve, se siente sin cesar la vida.

 

Vamos más lejos en la noche, vamos

Donde ni un eco repercuta en mí,

Como una flor nocturna allá en la sombra

Y abriré dulcemente para ti.

 

 

Delmira Augustini poetry

fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: Agustini, Delmira, Archive A-B

Joep Eijkens photos: Umbrella

Umbrella: A collapsible shade for protection against weather consisting of fabric stretched over hinged ribs radiating from a central pole; especially : a small one for carrying in the hand. A portable, hand-held device that is used for protection against rain and sunlight. The modern umbrella consists of a circular fabric or plastic screen stretched over hinged ribs that radiate from a central pole. The hinged ribs permit the screen to be opened and closed so that the umbrella can be carried with ease when not in use. Umbrellas in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India were used to protect important persons from the sun. They were often large and held by bearers, and they served as marks of honour and authority for the wearer. The ancient Greeks helped introduce umbrellas into Europe as sunshades, and the Romans used them to protect against rain. The use of umbrellas disappeared in Europe during the Middle Ages but had reappeared in Italy by the late 16th century, where they were regarded as marks of distinction for the pope and clergy. By the 17th century the use of the umbrella had spread to France, and by the 18th century umbrellas were common throughout Europe. A small, dainty umbrella used for shading women’s faces from the sun became known as a parasol and was a standard element of fashionable women’s outdoor attire in the 18th and 19th centuries. The traditional construction of umbrellas using cane ribs was replaced in the 1850s by modern umbrellas using a very light but strong steel frame. Men in the West began carrying umbrellas for personal use in the mid-19th century. Men’s umbrellas were generally black, but in the 20th century men’s as well as women’s umbrellas were made in a variety of bright and colourful designs.

Joep Eijkens photos

fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: Joep Eijkens Photos

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