Scott Joplin sheet music

I find it curious that a quarter of Scott Joplin's works are titled botanically.

Maple Leaf Rag (1899)
Peacherine Rag (1901)
Weeping Willow - Ragtime Two Step (1903)
Palm Leaf Rag - A Slow Drag (1903)
The Sycamore - A Concert Rag (1904)
The Chrysanthemum - An Afro-Intermezzo (1904)
Rosebud - Two-Step (1905)
Gladiolus Rag (1907)
Rose Leaf Rag - A Ragtime Two-Step
Fig Leaf Rag - A High Class Rag (1908)
Sugar Cane - A Ragtime Classic Two-Step (1908)
Pine Apple Rag (1908)
Sunflower Slow Drag (with S. Hayden, 1901)
Lily Queen (with A. Marshall, 1907)
Heliotrope Bouquet (with L. Chauvin, 1907)

more Scott Joplin sheet music

May 28, 2004 | Comments (0)

My Wold Ooman

The Shire dialect is a pleasant and interesting one, which can be reduced to a few easy rules, like English Grammar. The first rule is to omit the common or garden "w" whilst supplying a few of your own. Thus a woman is an ooman, and your wife is your Wold ooman. The second, more curious, rule deals with the crushed past participle. For "frozen" we say "friz"; for "frightened," "frit"; for "written," "writ." The man who has been warped by his education can only rise to the abbreviation "isn't," but we extend this throughout the verb "to be." "Be'nt" is as good as "isn't." Thus, if I were asked for a short sentence illustrative of all that is best in the Shire, I should produce:

"A be'ant frit of my Wold ooman."

I have had to sit down under such a lot of guff in definition of the "gentleman," from the pulpit, the maternal lecture and the pure-bred snob, that I really don't see why I shouldn't begin defining him myself. I define him by his hospitality. The infallible test for a gentleman is to drop in upon him suddenly at an awkward hour, preferably at half-past nine o'clock in the evening, unfed, and see what he does about it. If he is too mean to do anything but pass it off as a breach of good manners, or if he rings for the butler and provides you with a caviare sandwich or some such flummery, then he is no friend of ours. But if his wife dives into the kitchen, and provides you there with the best in the house, even if it is only bread and butter (though there is sure to be some little relish), at a moment's notice, and if the kitchen is clean, then that person is a gentleman and God is with his house.

T.H. White, England Have My Bones (1936), pp. 248, 249.

May 28, 2004 | Comments (0)

Ignis fatuus

An idiosyncrasy peculiar to the herring is that, when dead, it begins to glow; this property, which resembles phosphorescence and is yet altogether different, peaks a few days after death and then ebbs away as the fish decays. For a long time no one could account for this glowing of the lifeless herring, and indeed I believe that it still remains unexplained. Around 1870, when projects for the total illumination of our cities were everywhere afoot, two English scientists with the apt names of Herrington and Lightbown investigated the unusual phenomenon in the hope that the luminous substance exuded by dead herrings would lead to a formula for an organic source of light that had the capacity to regenerate itself. The failure of this eccentric undertaking, as I read some time ago in a history of artificial light, constituted no more than a negligible setback in the relentless conquest of darkness.

W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn, p.58. The "relentless conquest of darkness," indeed. Visit darksky.org before your next city council meeting.

May 28, 2004 in Natural History | Comments (0)


non ridere, non lugere,
neque detestari, sed intelligere.
   — B. Spinoza
    (Tractatus Politicus, cap. I, par. 4)

Signature quotation stolen from an email correspondent.

May 16, 2004 | Comments (0)

Aquilegia rockii

Aquilegia rockii

Aquilegia rockii ranges from southeastern Tibet to northwestern Yunnan and southwestern Sichuan. Joseph Rock collected the type specimen at 11,000ft. on Mount Siga in what used to be known as the Muli Kingdom, where he enjoyed royal hospitality (moldy cheese, etc — see "The Land of the Yellow Lama," National Geographic, April 1925). J.R.'s collection note (swiped from the herbarium sheet at the National Herbarium):

Rock 17935

Rock provisionally identified this collection as A. vulgaris, but P.A. Munz, upon analysis of the type specimen, in his 1946 treatment of the genus Aquilegia (Gentes Herbarum vol. 7) determined it to be a new species and named it after Rock. A. rockii populations intergrade with A. oxysepala var. kansuensis where their ranges overlap, resulting in individuals, such as our specimen, which are hard to place.

May 15, 2004 in Rockiana | Comments (0)


Rummaging around in the library this morning I happened upon this by a favorite former professor, Jody Maxmin — I didn't know she was also a poet:


When it became apparent
to the long-wandering Ithacan,
weary and morose, far from home,
that Euryalos' snide sneer —
"you don't look like an athlete" —
was aimed at the very soul of his being,
his first impulse was to doubt himself,
to doubt he still possessed the
necessary strength to shine
among the curious Phæacians.
His arm seemed too unpractised,
his will worn too thin by the consuming sea,
to lift the discus, let alone attempt to throw it.
But then, remembering the rousing words of Peleus,
"To be the best and excel over others,"
he sensed the fiery old determination
coursing through his tawny limbs,
and he grabbed the biggest discus,
and hurled it way beyond the rest.

Printed as a headquote in The Ages of Homer: A Tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule (eds. Jane B. Carter and Sarah P. Morris)

May 15, 2004 | Comments (0)

Pool of Hylas

First, Idyll XIII is Theocritus', not Apollonius', tale of the demise of the unfortunate page Hylas. So we allow for some literary license; if he wants three naiads, so be it. But at lines 39-42 Theocritus is not writing fancifully; he is describing an actual pool in the landscape of his adopted island of Cos. John Raven has been there:

          Τάχα δέ κράναν ἐνόησεν
ἡμένῳ ἐν χώρῳ· περί δέ θρύα πολλὰ πεφύκει,
κυάνεον τε χελιδόνιον χλωρόν τ' ἀδίαντον
καὶ θάλλοντα σέλινα καὶ εἰλιτένης ἄγρωστις.

Andrew Gow's translation (with the cavil that it should be creeping bentgrass, rather than dog's-tooth):

Soon in a low-lying place he spied a spring, round which grew rushes thick, and dark celandine, green maidenhair and wild celery luxuriant and creeping dog's-tooth.

John Raven:

I will first describe the pool in some detail. The water is crystal clear and, considering that the pool occupies only a shallow depression, unexpectedly deep in the middle; you cannot see into the depths because of the constant ripple on the surface caused by a tiny waterfall which splashes over the damp ledges of a shelving rock into the head of the pool. Below the fall, however, the little stream immediately spreads out, thanks to the depression in the ground, to form a pool, one bank of which is a low but steep slope with a few rocks cropping out through the quite short grass, the other, in striking contrast, a flat and luxuriant bog with a quantity of tangled grass fringing the pool and actually spreading out here and there right into the water, so that it is hard to say where pool ends and bog begins. Altogether a most attractive place; it is no wonder that here the nymphs gathered to dance and Hylas hastened to dip in his pitcher for Heracles' and Telamon's picnic supper. To visit it, go to the village of Zia on the lower slopes of Mount Dikeon in Cos, and follow one of the little rivulets flowing northwards from there until, converging with others on its way, it debouches into the sea near the salt-pans at Alikes. My reasoning for this conclusion is as follows...

You may follow the detective-work which led him to the very pool near the mouth of the Neanthes in his Plants and Plant Lore in Ancient Greece. Indeed, most of this book is comprised of detective-work of one sort or another; it is not the survey of the subject the title would lead one to believe. It is an odd book: four lectures by John Raven (1914-1980); a preface, introduction, an essay, postscript, and epilogue by other hands; two papers, one previously unpublished, and selected botanical sketches by Alice Lindsell (1878-1948); and another Raven lecture. Lindsell's papers are very much in Raven's vein and thus do not feel intrusive. Her paper "Was Theocritus a Botanist?" is especially interesting for her speculations that Theocritus learned botany through an association with the Coan medical school of Æsculapius where Erasistratus, who had been a pupil of Theophrastus, was a leading doctor. By the way, if you are using the Loeb Theophrastus (or the Liddell and Scott dictionary), be very careful of the hapless Sir William Turner Thiselton-Dyer's plant identifications, and read Raven's first lecture post haste, where he "with unholy glee" exposes "the superficiality of his scholarship and the absurdity of his diagnoses."

I should add that it was John Raven who in 1948 detected the shenanigans of an otherwise eminent botanist on the island of Rum in the Hebrides, a story not fully told until Karl Sabbagh's 1999 A Rum Affair: A True Story of Botanical Fraud (also published as "A Rum Affair: How Botany's 'Piltdown Man' was Unmasked").

May 13, 2004 in Natural History | Comments (1)


Some time ago, we noticed a volunteer columbine seedling growing under the Rosa wichuriana. Curiosity got the better of us; we let it grow on. Here it is:


May 9, 2004 in Saturday in the Garden | Comments (1)

Paeonia 'Tria'

Paeonia Tria

May 1, 2004 in Saturday in the Garden | Comments (0)