John Clare's Hazel Copse: Summer

Clare's favorite tree, if we may judge by its ubiquity in his poetry, was the hawthorn. But the hazel drew his eye from time to time and inspired a number of charming depictions. So let him join Angelo Poliziano in my literary Coryletum.

from The Evening is for Love (p.339)

...Wi’ hairy leaves and droping flowers The canterberry-bell
Grows underneath the hazle-bower By most folks favoured well…

from The Humble Bee (p.338, 339)

…In the wood-briars and brambles
Hazel-stools and oak-trees
I enjoy such wood-rambles
And hear the wood-bees…

…He flies throught the stovens
Brown, hazel and grey
Through fern-leaves like ovens
Still singing his way…

from Twilight (p.322, 323)

   …Sweet twilight thy cool dews
   Are beautifully spread
   Where the nightingale its song renews
   Close by the old cow-shed
In that low hazel oft’ I’ve heard her sing
While somber evening came on downy wing…

   …Spring leaves seem old in green
   And the dull thorn is lost in the
   Dun twilight--but the hazel still is seen
   In sleeping beauty by the old oak-tree
Giving the woods a beauty and a power
While earth seems Eden in such an hour…

from The Flitting (p.198)

…The summer like a stranger comes
I pause and hardly know her face
I miss the hazel’s happy green
The bluebell’s quiet hanging blooms

Excerpted from John Clare: Selected Poems (Penguin Classics, 1990, 2000).

July 23, 2005 in Natural History | Comments (0)


Shaw and I were much better fitted for this mode of travelling than we had been on betaking ourselves to the prairies for the first time a few months before. The daily routine had ceased to be a novelty. All the details of the journey and the camp had become familiar to us. We had seen life under a new aspect; the human biped had been reduced to his primitive condition. We had lived without law to protect, a roof to shelter, or garment of cloth to cover us. One of us at least had been without bread, and without salt to season his food. Our idea of what is indispensable to human existence and enjoyment had been wonderfully curtailed, and a horse, a rifle and a knife seemed to make up the whole of life's necessaries. For these once obtained, together with the skill to use them, all else that is essential would follow in their train, and a host of luxuries besides. One other lesson our short prairie experience had taught us; that of profound contentment in the present, and utter contempt for what the future might bring forth.

Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail [1849; published serially in the Knickerbocker, 1847-49] (Library of America, 1991), pg. 256.

July 8, 2005 | Comments (0)

Annals of Scholarship

    My wish to learn Greek had always been great, but before the Crimean war I did not venture upon its study, for I was afraid that this language would exercise too great a fascination over me and estrange me from my commercial business; and during the war I was so overwhelmed with work, that I could not even read the newspapers, far less a book. When, however, in January 1856, the first tidings of peace reached St. Petersburg, I was no longer able to restrain my desire to learn Greek, and at once set vigorously to work, taking first as my teacher Mr. Nicolaos Pappadakes and then Mr. Theokletos Vimpos, both from Athens, where the latter is now archbishop. I again faithfully followed my old method; but in order to acquire quickly the Greek vocabulary, which seemed to me far more difficult even than the Russian, I procured a modern Greek translation of Paul et Virginie, and read it through, comparing every word with its equivalent in the French original. When I had finished this task, I knew at least one-half the Greek words the book contained, and after repeating the operation I knew them all, or nearly so, without having lost a single minute by being obliged to use a dictionary. In this manner it did not take me more than six weeks to master the difficulties of modern Greek, and I next applied myself to the ancient language, of which in three months I learned sufficient to understand some of the ancient authors, and especially Homer, whom I read and re-read with the most lively enthusiasm.
    I then occupied myself for two years exclusively with the literature of ancient Greece; and during this time I read almost all the classical authors cursorily, and the Iliad and Odyssey several times. Of the Greek grammar, I learned only the declensions and the verbs, and never lost my precious time in studying its rules; for as I saw that boys, after being troubled and tormented for eight years and more in schools with the tedious rules of grammar, can nevertheless none of them write a letter in ancient Greek without making hundreds of atrocious blunders, I thought the method pursued by the schoolmasters must be altogether wrong, and that a thorough knowledge of the Greek grammar could only be obtained by practice,--that is to say, by the attentive reading of the prose classics, and by committing choice pieces of them to memory. Following this very simple method, I learnt ancient Greek as I would have learnt a living language. I can write in it with the greatest fluency on any subject I am acquainted with, and can never forget it. I am perfectly acquainted with all the grammatical rules without even knowing whether or not they are contained in the grammars; and whenever a man finds errors in my Greek, I can immediately prove that I am right, by merely reciting passages from the classics where the sentences employed by me occur.

Heinrich Schliemann [1822-1890], Ilios: the city and country of the Trojans (New York: B. Blom, 1968; reprint of the 1881 ed.), pp.14,15.

July 2, 2005 | Comments (0)


News and new entries at the Gallery of Book Trade Labels.     Enjoy!

July 1, 2005 | Comments (0)