Of The Rabbit Year and Walt Whitman


Come February 3rd, according to Chinese astrology, we enter the year of the rabbit.   According to belief,   during rabbit years, people tend to concentrate much on family and loved ones.  There is a renewed desire to slow down and enjoy the little things in life.  And yes, there is often much passion and sex.  Rabbit nature being as it is.

Rabbits are the 4th sign in the Chinese zodiac and are noted for being  happy-go-lucky, sensual, refined,  loyal, and very serene.  They tend to hate discord of any kind and will go out of their way to avoid rows.  It is not that they are timid, so much as they just wish to be left alone and live in harmonious environments.

On the negative side, rabbits may be moody, overly sensitive, and aloof.

To ensure good fortune during their special year, those born under the sign of Rabbit should wear red on the New Year, and avoid washing their hair.  (don’t want to wash away any good luck!)

And now a poem from that Rabbit Victorian, Walt Whitman:


by: Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

      ASSING stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
      You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me as of a dream,)
      I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
      All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
      You grew up with me, were a boy with me or a girl with me,
      I ate with you and slept with you, your body has become not yours only nor left my body mine only,
      You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass, you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
      I am not to speak to you, I am to think of you when I sit alone or wake at night alone,
      I am to wait, I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
      I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm  Comments (23)  
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Poe and Baudelaire

The lovely DD’s post over at http://fillingspaces.wordpress.com/ reminded me that January 19th was the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe.  As my blog is titled, “Writing the Victorian Gothic”, it is with some shame that I admit to having missed the important date.

So I thought I’d post a poem by Poe, as well as one by Charles Baudelaire.  For it was largely due to the French poet’s painstaking translations of the former, that the man who died broken was brought to the world’s attention.

The Conquerer Worm by Poe

Lo! ’tis a gala night
   Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight.
   In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
   A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
   The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
   Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly-
   Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
   That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
   Invisible Woe!

That motley drama- oh, be sure
   It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore,
   By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
   To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
   And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see, amid the mimic rout
   A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
   The scenic solitude!
It writhes!- it writhes!- with mortal pangs
   The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
   In human gore imbued.

Out- out are the lights- out all!
   And, over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
   Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
   Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, “Man,”
   And its hero the Conqueror Worm.

 Dance of Death from “The Seventh Seal”


by: Charles Baudelaire

      ARRYING bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves,
      Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves
      With all the careless and high-stepping grace,
      And the extravagant courtesan’s thin face.
      Was slimmer waist e’er in a ball-room wooed?
      Her floating robe, in royal amplitude,
      Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod
      With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod.
      The swarms that hum about her collar-bones
      As the lascivious streams caress the stones,
      Conceal from every scornful jest that flies,
      Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes
      Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays
      Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways,
      Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae.
      O charm of nothing decked in folly! they
      Who laugh and name you a Caricature,
      They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure,
      The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone,
      That is most dear to me, tall skeleton!
      Come you to trouble with your potent sneer
      The feast of Life! or are you driven here,
      To Pleasure’s Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir
      And goad your moving corpse on with a spur?
      Or do you hope, when sing the violins,
      And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins,
      To drive some mocking nightmare far apart,
      And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart?
      Fathomless well of fault and foolishness!
      Eternal alembic of antique distress!
      Still o’er the curved, white trellis of your sides
      The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides.
      And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find,
      Among us here, no lover to your mind;
      Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave?
      The charms of horror please none but the brave.
      Your eyes’ black gulf, where awful broodings stir,
      Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller
      Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath,
      The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth.
      For he who has not folded in his arms
      A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms,
      Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent,
      When Horror comes the way that Beauty went.
      O irresistible, with fleshless face,
      Say to these dancers in their dazzled race:
      “Proud lovers with the paint above your bones,
      Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons!
      Withered Antinoüs, dandies with plump faces,
      Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces,
      Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath,
      Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death.
      From Seine’s cold quays to Ganges’ burning stream,
      The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream;
      They do not see, within the opened sky,
      The Angel’s sinister trumpet raised on high.
      In every clime and under every sun,
      Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run;
      And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye
      And mingles with your madness, irony!”
Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Comments (12)  
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1860s: The Decade Hats Went To The Birds


Ever since man and woman decided to opt for something more sophisticated than fig leaves, once popular fashions have often caused later generations to raise their eyebrows.  “Men really thought that wearing powered wigs was…well, manly?  Women thought that extending the diameter of their skirt to six feet was a good idea?”

Recent decades has brought bellbottoms, parachute pants, and well…too many oddities to name.

But perhaps the weirdest fashion, the one that really brings to mind,  “What the hell were they thinking?”- is the fad which began in the 1860s.

Yes, this was the year that some Victorian women decided bows and lace and frill were simply not decorative enough for their hats.

And so came the birds.

*In 1864, the London Saturday Review noted that Parisians were wearing exotic butterflies and real hummingbirds in their hair.

In 1875,  Harper’s Bazaar noted,  “The entire bird is used, and is mounted on wires and springs that permit the head and wings to be moved about in the most natural manner.”  They went on to mention that while blackbirds were the most popular, swallows were stuffed, as well as heads of pigeons.

Birds as hat-wear, not surprisingly, was not without its objectors.

*By 1877 Mrs. Haweis (English artist and writer) lamented, “A wired edifice of tulle and velvet, trimmed with a mass of valueless blond (lace), a spray of tinsel, and perhaps a bird’s nest or something else equally bad in taste- e.g. moths, beetles, lizards, mice &c.- can never be a beautiful object.  At present the bonnets and the brains they cover are too often not unfit combinations.”

In 1886, Ornithologist Frank Chapman penned a letter to the editors of Forest and Stream: A Journal of Outdoor Life, Travel, Nature Study, Shooting in which he detailed the number of birds he’d seen upon the women passing him on the street. 

“Editor Forest and Stream:

In view of the fact that the destruction of birds for millin­ery purposes is at present attracting general attention, the appended list of native birds seen on hats worn by ladies in the streets of New York, may be of interest. It is chiefly the result of two late afternoon walks through the uptown shopping districts, and, while very incomplete, still gives an idea of the species destroyed and the relative numbers of each.

Robin, four.
Brown thrush, one.
Bluebird, three.
Blackburnion warbler, one.
Blackpoll warbler, three.
Wilson’s black-capped flycatcher, three.
Scarlet tanager, three.
White-bellied swallow, one.
Bohemian waxwing, one.
Waxwing, twenty-three. 
Great northern shrike, one.
Pine grosbeak, one.
Snow bunting, fifteen.
Tree sparrow, two.
White-throated sparrow, one.
Bobolink, one.
Meadow lurk, two.
Baltimore oriole, nine.
Purple grackle, five.
Bluejay, five.
Swallow-tailed flycatcher, one.
Kingbird, one.
Kingfisher, one.
Pileated woodpecker, one.
Red-headed woodpecker, two.
Golden-winged woodpecker, twenty-one.
Acadian owl, one.
Carolina dove, one.
Pinnated grouse, one.
Ruffed grouse, two.
Quail, sixteen.
Helmet quail, two.
Sanderling, five
Big yellowlegs, one.
Green heron, one.
Virginia rail one.
Laughing gull, one.
Common tern, twenty-one.
Black tern. one.
Grebe, seven.

It is evident that, in proportion to the number of hats seen, the list of birds given is very small; but in most cases mutilation rendered identification impossible.  Thus, while one afternoon 700 hats were counted and on them but 20 birds recognized, 543 were decorated (?) with feathers of some kind. Of the 158 remaining, 72 were worn by young or middle aged ladies and 86 by ladies in mourn­ing or elderly ladies, or—

Percentage of hats with feathers…………………..77
Without feathers……………………………….10
Without feathers, worn by ladies in mourning or elderly ladies……………………………………..12”

*from “Victorian and Edwardian Fashion:  A Photographic Survey” – by Alison Gernsheim

Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm  Comments (41)  
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A Gypsy’s Plans for the New Year

First, Happy New Year to everyone!

I was just checking last year’s post:  https://gypsyscarlett.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/plans-for-a-victorian-in-the-new-year/, in which my goals were to read 12 German novels, keep up my daily writing, and find Sput a new hobby so she would stop regaling me nonstop about her city.

Let’s see how I fared.

I did indeed read 12 novels in German.

I wrote almost everyday, and in doing so revised PORTRAITS several times, and completed a few rough drafts.

And I did find Sput some new hobbies!   She’ll thank me one day. 

So, onto this year’s plans

1.  Rewrite, revise, edit, etc one of my rough drafts into a lovely, polished piece ready for submission

2.  Continue my German studies.  But while I’ll still be reading German, this year, I intend to concentrate on improving my listening skills.  (my weakest point, I fear).  So I shall intensely listen to German for at least one hour a day.  No eating, or writing, or knitting, or anything else but paying close heed to the sounds of Deutsch for that hour.  Let’s see if 365 hours of intense German listening has helped by the end of the year.

3.  Read at least one novel in French.  Yes,  the bug known as Francophilia has overtaken me.  Goodness, help me!

So, what shall you be working on this year?

– Ishtar’s Gate inside the Pergamon Museum

Published in: on January 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm  Comments (23)  
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