Tag Archives: history

The lost children of Hamelin | Maria J. Pérez Cuervo

“In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul, the 26th of June, 130 child­ren born in Hamelin were seduced by a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours, and lost at the calvary near the koppen.” The town of Hamelin hasn’t forgotten this loss. The street where, supposedly, the children were last seen is called Bungelosen­strasse: street without drums”. Even so many years after the event, no one is allowed to play music or dance there.

Oral tradition preserved and enriched the story until the Brothers Grimm included it in their compil­ation of German legends, Deutsche Sagen (1816–18). In the Grimms’ version, mediæval Hamelin is hit by a plague of rats. A seemingly hero-like figure appears, in the shape of a mysterious stranger dressed in red and yellow clothes. He promises to rid the town of the vermin, and the townsmen promise him money in exchange. The rat-catcher has a strange, almost supernatural gift: he plays a tune on his pipe that lures the rats into the river Weser, where they all drown. But, blinded by their greed, the townsmen refuse to honour their promise and pay the Piper his fee. The Piper leaves the town, plotting his revenge. When he returns to Hamelin, he wears the attire of a hunter. He plays a melody that hypnotises the children, who follow him to the mountains, never to be seen again. The cruelty of the denouément strikes us doubly, because it surpasses our expect­ations. What initially looks like a classic ‘Overcoming the Monster’ plot turns into a nightmarish tale of disproportionate revenge.

 

The main difficulty when trying to trace the roots of the legend is the lack of primary sources. The earliest surviving reference to the tragedy of Hamelin is a note in a manuscript copy of the Catena Aurea of Heinrich von Herford (c.1370), generally referred to as the Lüneburg Manuscript. According to both this manuscript and the inscription found in the Rattenfängerhaus, the events took place on 26 June 1284. There are, however, reports of scholars who accessed earlier documents that are now lost. Dutch physician and demon­ologist Johann Weyer mentioned in the fourth edit­ion of his Delusions of the Devil (1577) some of the historical sources that contained mult­iple references to the tragedy of Hamelin: “These facts are thus written in the annals of Hammel and are religiously guarded in the archives. They are to be read also in the sacred books of the Church, and to be seen in the painted panes of the same; of which fact I am an eyewitness. Besides, as confirmation of the story, the older magist­racy was accustomed to write together on its public documents: ‘in the year of Christ and in that of the going out of the children’, etc.” [1] Weyer was probably referring to the book of statutes of Hamelin, Der Donat, (c.1351), or to a collection of local historical documents called the Brade.

The Market Church in Hamelin exhibited another piece of the puzzle, a glass window dating from the 1300s depicting the stranger dressed in multicoloured clothes taking away a crowd of children dressed in white. The window was destroyed in 1660, but it inspired a 1592 watercolour by Augustin Von Moersperg that preserves its essence and represents the main geographical elements of the legend – the town, the river Weser, and the mountain, with a dark entrance to a cave.

The Black Death

Although neither the Lüneburg Manuscript nor the glass window suggest that rats played an important part in the Hamelin events, folklore has assimilated the figure of the Pied Piper with that of a rat-catcher. The first surviving reference to rodents appears in the 16th-century Zimmern Chronicle (c.1559–65), followed by Weyer’s aforementioned Delusions of the Devil, both written almost three centuries after the tragedy. If the rats were most likely a later addit­ion rather than an original element of the Hamelin episode, they gave depth to the tale and resonated in the popular imagin­ation thanks to a play of macabre symbolic associations. The image of a rat-infested mediæval town instantly brings to mind thoughts of the plague. Plagues and epi­demics have had a continuous impact on the collective imagination, taking us back to the Ten Plagues of Egypt in Exodus: biblical plagues were a punishment from God. The Piper, able to defy the curse with the power of his music, is thus invested with supernatural abilities.

In mediæval representations, Death presented himself as a skeleton wearing a colourful pied attire, a jester who always laughs last (perhaps the reportedly widespread fear of clowns – see FT226:34–41 – might even derive from this image). The Pied Piper thus becomes the lord of the rats, the Black Death (known at the time as the Great Death or simply the Pestilence) personified, and the one responsible for taking the lives of the 130 children of Hamelin.

Associations of the Piper with the Black Death aren’t limited to the subtext of the tale. The plague has also been used to contextualise the story; Jacques Demy’s 1972 film, featuring singer/songwriter Donovan as the Piper, is a good example. However, the peak of Black Death in Europe was between 1348 and 1350, that is, more than 64 years after the date of the children’s disappearance if we follow the Lüneburg Manuscript’s chronology.

City of lost children

In the earliest accounts of the Hamelin events, we are told that the children were “lost”, but not necessarily dead. The Brothers Grimm, at the end of their version, add that “some say that the children were led into a cave, and that they came out again in Transylvania,” a conclusion retained by Robert Browning in his 1842 poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The terms from the Lüne­burg Manuscript used to describe the place of the children’s disappearance (Calvary, Koppen), have been interpreted in different ways. Historian Hans Dobbertin assimilated the word Calvary, place of the skull, to the word Koppen, meaning head. In the Bible, Calvary or Golgotha was the place of the execution of Jesus – a mountain or a hill. This might suggest that the children of Hamelin were executed, or perhaps the word Calvary is merely used to describe the skull-like shape of a hill, like the biblical Golgotha.

Scholars such as Heinrich Spanuth, Jürgen Udolph and Dobbertin have sugg­ested that the Piper could have been an emissary sent by the ruling nobility to promote a campaign for the colonisation of Moravia, East Prussia, Pomerania or the Teutonic Lands to the East. The expression “children of Hamelin” could have been a general term for all the inhabitants of the town who listened to this brightly dressed “recruiting sergeant”, and their exodus a response to politico-economical factors.

In this light, the story of the Pied Piper might be seen to bear certain similar­ities to that of the Children’s Crusade, an extraordinary series of events that purportedly took place in 1212. In both episodes, the border between history and myth is a porous one. The Children’s Crusade appears in mediæval sources, but historians now question its authenticity. The crusade was said to have been led by a child shepherd named Nicholas, from Cologne, Germany, who preached that the purity of children would allow them to conquer the Holy Land; the legend says that they starved and died along the way.

The piper as a trickster

The scarce and enigmatic reports of the loss of an entire generation in Hamelin reverberated down the centuries. Literal interpretations of the story present the Piper as a kidnapper or a psychopathic pederast. This vision has endured in popular culture (even the 2010 remake ofNightmare on Elm Street suggests that there are some similarities between the characters of Freddy Krueger and the Piper), but its underlying idea was first expressed five centuries ago, in the work of German physicist and Humanist Jobus Fincelius (De miraculis sui Temporis, 1556), who believed that the Piper was the Devil in disguise: “Of the Devil’s power and wickedness will I here tell a true history. About 180 years ago, on S. Mary Magdalene’s Day, it came to pass at Hammel on the Weser in Saxony, that the Devil went about the streets visibly in human form, piped and allured many children, boys and girls, and led them through the town-gate towards a mountain”. [4] This idea is repeated in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), where the Piper turns up as an example in episode two, A Digression of the nature of Spirits, bad Angels, or Devils, and how they cause Melancholy.

The 19th century romanticised the figure of the Pied Piper, just as it did other outsiders –the pirate, the gypsy, the bandit. Goethe’s 1802 poem Der Rattenfänger, clearly inspired by the Hamelin legend, presents the rat-catcher of the title as “the bard known far and wide, / The travell’d rat-catcher beside; / A man most needful to this town”. Along similar lines, the most popular retelling of all is Robert Browning’s 1849 poem, where the children of Hamelin are happy to leave a town governed by greedy, dishonourable adults. The Piper, the “travell’d rat catcher” of Goethe’s lines, arrives in Hamelin offering a fresh start for a new generation.

Appropriately setting the figure of the Piper to music (and why so late?), Goethe’s poem would, in turn, be adapted by Rom­antic composer Schubert and, later, Hugo Wolf. The Romantic take on the Piper contains an idea that has proved unsurprisingly appealing to musicians: the transformation of youth by a mysterious outsider who has inherited the musical skills of Orpheus or Pan  – a theme that’s been revisited by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Megadeth and even ABBA.

Over more than 700 years, the Pied-Piper of Hamelin has become an archetypal Trickster figure (see FT175:40–41; 185:53–55). The Trickster is known for challenging the establishment, breaking the rules and spreading anarchy. In his dual nature, he can be seen as malignant or mischievous, but he is also a messenger of the gods and an agent and symbol of transformation. The Pied Piper, like the Trickster, is a shape-shifter who wears a number of different masks – the psychopath, the hero, the rebel… even Death himself. Like Shakespeare’s Puck or Barrie’s Peter Pan, he spreads a net of enchantment, leading our children to the Otherworld. Whether this Otherworld was a new land to colonise, an altered state of consciousness or the realm of the dead remains a mystery.

[note: this is an abridged version of the original article – please follwo the link for the full article]

[note too! I can’t find a credit for this image of the Pied Piper, but I love his cloak here! If anyone knows the source of the image, please let me know and I’ll add it – Jaq]

Source: The lost children of Hamelin | Maria J. Pérez Cuervo

Chirologia, or The Natural Language of the Hand (1644) | The Public Domain Review

handlanguage

Is gesture a universal language? When lost for words, we point, wave, motion and otherwise use our hands to attempt to indicate meaning. However, much of this form of communication is intuitive and is not generally seen to be, by itself, an effective substitution for speech.

John Bulwer (1606 – 1656), an English doctor and philosopher, attempted to record the vocabulary contained in hand gestures and bodily motions and, in 1644, published Chirologia, or the Naturall Language of the Hand alongside a companion text Chironomia, or the Art of Manual Rhetoric, an illustrated collection of hand and finger gestures that were intended for an orator to memorise and perform whilst speaking.

For Bulwer, gesture was the only from of speech that was inherently natural to mankind, and he saw it as a language with expressions as definable as written words. He describes some recognisable hand gestures, such as stretching out hands as an expression of entreaty or wringing them to convey grief, alongside more unusual movements, including pretending to wash your hands as a way to protest innocence, and to clasp the right fist in the left palm as a way to insult your opponent during an argument.

Although Bulwer’s theory has its roots in classical civilisation, from the works of Aristotle, he was inspired by hundreds of different works, including biblical verses, medical texts, histories, poems and orations, in order to demonstrate his conclusions.

Source: Chirologia, or The Natural Language of the Hand (1644) | The Public Domain Review

The Cave Dwellers of Tinker’s Cave

The cave is down a steep and rocky climb on the east side of the island, which had a pre clearance population of close to 200, and is also known by its Gaelic name of “Uamh na gaisgeach”, translated as the “cave of the famous warrior.” It was used for Sunday services right up until 1912, when a new church was built on the island and then sporadically up until the 1970s. The original stone pews are still intact (comfort not being a priority back in the day) as is the alter, and the natural font that is perpetually replenished from water dripping through the rocky roof above. If you are feeling adventurous, then you can still get married here. It is a sad reminder of the death of rural communities and the importance of religion to them, but somehow the fact that the cave is still intact when churches have long since fallen into ruin, mean that it still remains like a weirdly intact postcard from a bygone era. Dwellers of the Tinkers Cave Dr Arthur Mitchell meets the cave dwellers For the poorest sections of society, living in caves was a necessary hardship. Right into the 20th century, society’s underclass had little choice when it came to securing shelter.

Cave dwelling was officially prohibited in 1915 by an act of parliament, with the intention of keeping the coastline free from fires during the war, but a 1917 government census shows 55 people as still listed as officially living in caves. One of the most famous of these, the tinkers cave on the south side of Wick Bay, can still be visited today. The name originates from the itinerant tinsmiths who would reside there for brief spells during the summer, but laterally people were living there all year round. Dr Arthur Mitchell, an eminent 19th century physician described a visit where he encountered no less than 24 people crammed into the single chamber, his photographs of a family posing at the cave mouth are strangely endearing. Inner city slums at the time were squalid places to live but no comparison to the hardships of having to winter in a cave, a visit is a way to remember just how short a time ago it was that this desperate poverty was commonplace.

Source: Forgotten Caves of Scotland: Fairies, Poverty and Murder! – True HighlandsTrue Highlands

Emperor Julian – To Apollo and The Sun

JulianBust

The Sun’s resplendent deity I sing,
The beauteous offspring of almighty Jove,
Who, thro’ the vivifying solar fount
Within his fabricative mind conceal’d,
A triad form’d of splendid solar gods;
From whence the world’s all-various forms emerg’d
From mystic darkness into beauteous light,
Perfect, and full of intellectual goods.
Hail! Supermundane king of light divine,
And fairest image of the unknown good:
For, as the light proceeding from the one,
The god of gods, and beauty’s matchless flower,
Intelligibles, with deific rays
Occult, illumes; so from Apollo’s beams
Exulting glorious through harmonic power,
The mental world with elevating light
Is fill’d exub’rant: and th’ apparent Sun
Largely diffuses thro’ the world of sense,
Light, all-prolific, beautiful, divine.
To thee, as bright Apollo, it belongs
All multitude in union to collect,
And many natures generate from one;
With vigour in thy essence to convolve
The diff’rent ranks of secondary forms;
And thro’ one fair hyparxis tocombine

All-various essences and fertile powers.
‘Tis thine, from multitude exempt, t’ inspire
In forms subordinate, prophetic truth;
For truth and pure simplicity are one:
And of preserving unpolluted power,
Thy liberated essence is the source.
Fam’d mystic bards of old, in sacred song,
By thee inspir’d, as th’ arrow-darting god,
Constant invok’d thee, with resistless sway,
Because thy vig’rous beams like arrows pierce,
And totally, whate’er of measure void the world
Inordinate or dark contains, destroy.
And last, thy revolution is the sign
Of motion, harmonizing into one
The various natures of this mighty whole.
Thy first bright Monad hence, illustrious god,
Enunciates truth and intellectual light;
That light, which in the essence of the gods,
Subsists with rays uniting and unknown.
Thy second, ev’ry thing confus’d destroys:
And from thy third, the universe is bound
In beauteous symmetry and just consent,
Thro’ splendid reasons and harmonic power.
Add, that thy essence, ‘midst the mundane gods,
A super-mundane order is assign’d;
An unbegotten and supreme command
O’er all the ranks of generated forms;
And In the ever-flowing realms of sense,
An intellectual dignity of sway.
Progression two-fold, hence, to thee belongs,–
One in conjunction with the mundane gods,
The other supernat’ral and unknown:
For when the Demiurgus form’d the world,
He kindled in the solar sphere a light,
Unlike the splendour of the other orbs,
Drawn from his nature’s most occult retreats,
A symbol fair of intellectual forms;
And openly announcing as it shines
To ev’ry part of this amazing whole,
The essence solitary and arcane

 

Of all the ruling, supermundane gods.
Hence too, when first thy beams the world adorn’d
The mundane gods were ravish’d at the sight;
And round thy orb, with emulative zeal
And symphony divine, desir’d to dance,
And draw abundant from thy fontal light.
‘Tie thine by heat apparent to exalt
Corporeal natures from the sluggish earth,
Inspiring vivid, vegetative power;
And by a nature secretly divine,
And from the base alloy of matter free,
Inherent in thy all-productive rays,
Thou draw’st to union with thy wond’rous form,
Exalted souls, that In dark Hyle’s realms
Indignant struggle for the courts of. light:
All beauteous, seven-rayed, supermundane god!
Whose mystic essence secretly emits
The splendid fountains of celestial light.
For ‘midst the ruling, super-mundane gods
A solar world, and total light subsists;
A light, which as a fertile monad shines
Superior to the three corporeal worlds.
By sacred Oracles of old, ‘tie said,
Thy glorious orb beyond the starry sphere
And in the last etherial world revolves.
But in thy course, harmoniously divine,
Thy orb, quadruply intersects these worlds;
And then twelve powers of radiant gods displays,
Thro’ twelve divisions of the zone oblique.
And still abundant in productive might,
Each into three of diff’rent ranks divides.
Hence, from the fourfold elegance and grace
Of times and seasons, by thy course produc’d,
Mankind a triple benefit receive,
The circling Graces’ never-failing gift.
All-bounteous god, by whom the soul is freed
Prom Generation’s dark corporeal bands,
Assist THY OFFSPRING, borne on mental wings,
Beyond the reach of guileful Nature’s hands
Swift to ascend, and gain thy beauteous world.
The subtle vestment of my soul refine,
Etherial, firm, and full of sacred light,
Her ancient vehicle by thee assign’d;
In which invelop’d, thro’ the starry orbs,
Urg’d’ by the Impulse of insane desire,

 

She fail’d precipitate, till Lethe’s shore,
Involv’d in night, unhappily she touch’d,
And lost all knowledge of her pristine state:
O best of gods, blest dæmon crown’d with fire,
My soul’s sure refuge in the hour of woe,
My port paternal in the courts of light,
Hear, and from punishment my soul absolve,
The punishment incurr’d by pristine guilt,
Thro’ Lethe’s darkness and terrene desire:
And if for long-extended years I’m doom’d
In these drear realms Heav’n’s exile to remain,
Oh! grant me soon the necessary means
To gain that good which solitude confers
On souls emerging from the bitter waves
Of fraudful Hyle’s black, impetuous flood.
That thus retiring from the vulgar herd,
And impious converse of the present age,
My soul may triumph o’er her natal ills;
And oft with thee In blissful union join’d
Thro’ energy Ineffable, may soar
Beyond the highest super-mundane forms;
And in the vestibule supreme survey,
Emerging from th’ intelligible deep,
Beauty’s transcendent, solitary Sun.

Translated by Thomas Taylor (1793)

The Roman Emperor Julian (331-363 CE) suceeded Constantius in 361 CE. He shocked the empire by renouncing Christianity, which earned him the title ‘the Apostate’ by Church historians. He issued an edict of religious freedom, rebuilt the Pagan temples, ended banishment of religious exiles, and eliminated special privileges for Christian officials. He founded the Neo-platonic school of philosophy. Julian spurned the decadant Byzantine palace; he dressed simply, studied philosophy, promulgated tax reform, and fostered study of the humanities and arts. However, his reign lasted only twenty months; he died in June of 363 in battle with the Persians, possibly at the hand of a Christian.


Wyld’s Great Globe in Leicester Square

800px-Greatglobe_sectionalWyld’s Great Globe (also known as Wyld’s Globe or Wyld’s Monster Globe) was an attraction situated in London’s Leicester Square between 1851 and 1862, constructed by James Wyld (1812–1887), a distinguished mapmaker and former Member of Parliament for Bodmin. At the centre of a purpose-built hall was a giant globe, 60 feet 4 inches (18.39 m) in diameter. The globe was hollow and contained a staircase and elevated platforms which members of the public could climb in order to view the surface of the earth on its interior surface, which was modelled in plaster of Paris, complete with mountain ranges and rivers all to scale. Punch described the attraction as “a geographical globule which the mind can take in at one swallow.”

By day the globe was illuminated by the light from the glass set into the dome directly above it and by night with gas lighting.Visitors entered the globe through an opening into the Pacific Ocean, then ascended through a series of four platforms. At each stage they could see a different portion of the world represented on the concave interior face of the globe. The platform scaffolding was built up from the conveniently desolate Southern Ocean; Antarctica was largely unknown at the time – Wyld dismissed stories of the existence of a great Southern continent:

“It was formerly imagined that a great continent must exist somewhere towards the South Pole, to counterbalance the mass of land lying in the northern hemisphere, but the discoveries of the English, under Ross, and of the American, French, and Russian navigators, prove, that although a large mass of broken land, with volcanoes now burning, exists there, the southern continent cannot be of a great extent.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyld%27s_Great_Globe

The Poetry of Dafydd Ap Gwilym – The Nightingale of Dyfed

centre_piece

Dafydd ap Gwilym was described by his fellow-poet Madog Benfras as eos Dyfed, “the nightingale of Dyfed”. Dafydd was born sometime between 1320 and 1330 and died around 1380. He was a member of one of the most influential families in South Wales, and was buried at Strata Florida like many of the princes of Dyfed. Consequently he felt no need to look up to the English conquerors. Neither was he dependent on the patronage of noble families, unlike most of his contemporaries. This was to have a profound effect on the subject matter of his poetry, which is lighter, and more playfully risqué than the other works of his age.

It is believed that he was educated in the court of his Uncle Llywelyn ap Wilym ab Einion, a man of great learning. He was to be surrounded by the greatest European works of the time, from which he borrows a great deal of his subject matter and style. Dafydd skilfully ties this in with the Welsh tradition – a master of ‘cynghanedd’ and the ‘awdl’ he was to create works of great beauty and merit. His poems are often merry and playful. His tales of the adventures experienced whilst trying to court young ladies, Morfudd and Dyddgu in particular, are truly hilarious. Dafydd also wrote extremely beautiful nature poetry, and there is a general consensus that he is one of, if not the greatest of Welsh poets and of European stature.

Dafydd ap Gwilym, Wales’ greatest poet (and lover!), is a fascinating yet shadowy figure from the past. He was born in the early part of the fourteenth century, a contemporary of Boccaccio and some thirty years older than Chaucer. He spent his early years in Llanbadarn with his parents and with his uncle Llywelyn in Castell Newydd Emlyn. He spent much of his later life in exile, and, so popular belief has it, was buried in Strata Florida, near Tregaron. Llywelyn was described by Dafydd as a warrior, as Lord of Dyfed, and also as a poet, a scholar, a linguist and a teacher. Llywelyn and Dafydd were learned and cultured: they probably spoke several languages and were versed in both contemporary and in classical literature. Dafydd describes Llywelyn’s house, Cryngae, as a white-washed house perched on a hill, with lamps burning brightly, with seats covered with silk brocade, and in which fine French wine was drunk from cups of gold.

I took the above from an old file of mine, that I put together many years ago, and unfortunately the links no longer work – sadly, the link to the notes below no longer works either! It is regrettable that I cannot credit the work and words to their rightful owners.

His family originated from the cantref of Cemais in Pembrokeshire, and it had in earlier generations included several officials who had held positions of high authority in the same area under the English crown. The few datable allusions which Dafydd makes to contemporary events all point to the middle years of the 14th century as his period of maximum poetic output: he may thus have been born about 1320 – a slightly older contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Tradition places Dafydd’s birth at Brogynin in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr, a few miles north-east of Aberystwyth, in a substantial mansion or plasty which lay adjacent to a farmhouse still retaining this name. It is believed that he lies buried not far away, near Pontrhydfendigaid, within the precincts of the monastery of Strata Florida. Several poems indicate that the neighbourhood of Aberystwyth and north Ceredigion was more familiar to Dafydd than any other part of Wales, yet he appears to have travelled widely throughout the length and breadth of the country, and to have been well-acquainted with places in Anglesey such as the borough of Rhosyr or Newborough, and with Bangor and Caernarfon in Gwynedd. He may also have visited Chester, whose famous Cross is the subject of a poem which has latterly come to be accepted as belonging to the canon of his work; but there is no indication other than this that Dafydd ever travelled beyond the borders of Wales.

He describes himself, no doubt fancifully, as a member of the clêr: these were the Welsh equivalents of the clerici vagantes or “wandering scholars” of other countries, and Dafydd may indeed have qualified at an early period in his life for minor religious orders – a not uncommon practice. But the indications are that he was a man of birth and breeding, and of no fixed occupation, who had sufficient means to travel at will through town and country, visiting the taverns in the Norman boroughs, and the homes of his cultivated friends over a wide area of Wales. And in both tavern and plasty there were no doubt to be found audiences fully capable of appreciating the cywyddau which, in their different kinds, he composed for their entertainment.

Dafydd’s range of personal contacts included his fellow-poet Gruffudd ab Adda, Madog Benfras, and Gruffudd Gryg – the last being an Anglesey poet with whom Dafydd exchanged a sequence of cywyddau in the form of a debate concerning the proper subjects to be treated of in the newly-introduced cywydd verse-form. Among his friends and acquaintances were also uchelwyr or men of hereditary station in Ceredigion and further to the south – men such as Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd of Glyn Aeron and his family, and his uncle Llywelyn ap Gwilym, the constable of Newcastle Emlyn, who appears to have been a powerful educational influence upon the poet’s early life. Dafydd’s uncle may, perhaps, have been the first to have introduced Dafydd to the “two cultures” – that is to the native bardic tradition as well as to the language and poetry and romances of the Anglo-Norman world. There was in addition Dafydd’s friend and patron Ifor ap Llywelyn or “Ifor Hael” of Basaleg in present-day Gwent. To all of these men he addressed praise-poems which by the very fact of their existence provide an authentic framework, however exiguous and inadequate, for the bare facts of the poet’s life. For in all his other compositions but these few poems, fantasy intermingles with fact to such an extent that it is impossible to distinguish the one from the other, or to estimate the degree of reality which lies behind what Dafydd ruefully presents as his perpetually thwarted love-affairs.

Love and Nature are the prime subjects of his poetry, and the two are very frequently blended, for he presents his love-theme most characteristically in an idealised woodland setting, in which he imagines himself as building a deildy or house of leaves and branches in which to shelter with his chosen sweetheart – “Morfudd” or “Dyddgu” or some other un-named girl, making his retreat with her in the wilderness, as an escape from the hampering restrictions of conventional society.

There is a website dedicated to his work, and it can be a little fiddly to navigate initially, but it’s easy once you familiarise yourself with it. There is a choice of language on the home page, so for English speakers, select English. Then select “The Poems”. You are then asked to choose a poem, and there is a drop down list, but the list is in Welsh! Once you select the poem however, there are options along the bottom of the page; one of which is “English Translation”. On selecting this option, the poem is shown in Welsh on the left hand side of the page, and in English on the right. For non-Welsh speakers, it’s pretty much pot luck selecting the verse, but as his verse is very beautiful, you can’t go wrong.

http://www.dafyddapgwilym.net/index_eng.php
Here is one example: The Wind from

Sky-wind, unhindered course,
mighty commotion passing yonder,
you are a harsh-sounding minstrel,
4 world’s fool without foot or wing.
It’s amazing how wondrously you were sent
from the pantry of the sky without any feet,
and how swiftly you run
8 now across the hilltop on high

Constant hymn, tell me your destination,
you north wind of the valley.
You fly the length and breadth of the world,
12 hilltop weather, be on high tonight,
oh man, and go to Uwch Aeron
nice and gently, a clear song.
Don’t wait, don’t restrain yourself,
16 don’t be afraid despite Bwa Bach,
[he who] serves a malicious accusatory complaint.
The land and its nurture is closed to me.

[One who] steals nests, though you winnow leaves
20 no one indicts you, you are not restrained
by any swift troop, nor officer’s hand,
nor blue blade nor flood nor rain.
No mother’s son can kill you (false expression),
24 fire won’t burn you, deceit won’t weaken you.
You won’t drown, you’ve been forewarned,
you won’t get entangled, you are smooth.
There’s no need for any swift horse beneath you,
28 or bridge over estuary, nor boat.
No official or retinue will arrest you
to bring you to judgement, winnower of treetop foliage.
No eyesight can see you, huge open lair,
32 thousands hear you, nest of the great rain.

You are God’s blessing over all the earth,
roaring, fierce shattering of oaktree tops,
swift-natured notary of the sky,
36 fine leaper over many barren lands.
Dry nature, powerful creature,
trampler of the sky, immense journey,
shooter on snowfields up above,
40 noisy disperser of chaff-heaps,
storm agitating the sea,
high-spirited lad on beach waves,
you are a fine author of an awdl who scatters snow,
44 you are a scatterer, a pursuer of leaves,
free laugher [on] hilltop,
thruster of the wild-masted white-breasted sea.

Woe is me that I placed deep love
48 on Morfudd, my golden girl.
A maiden made me an exile,
run on high to her father’s house.
Knock on the door, make it open
52 to my messenger before daybreak,
and seek a way to her, if there be one,
and sing the voice of my sigh.
You come from the splendid stars,
56 say this to my noble faithful maid:
as long as I be in the world,
I am a true servant.
Woeful is my face without her,
60 if it is true that she is not untrue.
Go up on high, you will see the fair girl,
go down below, sky’s favourite.
Go to fair-haired Morfudd Llwyd,
64 come back safely, you are the sky’s treasure.

Echoes of Gilgamesh in the Jacob Story

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Echoes of Gilgamesh in the Jacob Story  – Esther J. Hamori

Excerpt:
“It was popular for some time to seek apparent Near Eastern parallels to bibli-cal narratives. The methodology employed was at times problematic, and conclusions were often overstated, as similarities between texts explicable in any number of ways were attributed to direct relationship.
For some biblical texts, of course,there is stronger evidence for Near Eastern influence. I propose that this is the casein regard to one text for which a Near Eastern counterpart has not previously been suggested: the story of Jacob’s wrestling match in Gen 32:23–33 (Eng. 32:22–32).There is reason to believe that the Israelite author knew some form of Gilgamesh,and particularly the scene of the wrestling match between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
The case presented here is not simply one of a shared motif or logical group-ing of elements, but one of an unexpected and striking series of correspondences
[…]
“The final outcome of the match is shared by the two texts as well. In each casethe victor is blessed by his attacker. It should be noted immediately that this is nota usual context for a blessing. As Westermann has observed, this is in fact the only place in the Tanakh in which a blessing is acquired through a struggle.

Furthermore, the two blessings are similar in both form and content. Jacob’s attacker declares: “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with human beings, and have prevailed” (Gen 32:28). This can be divided into two parts. First, the divine opponent makes a declaration regarding the identity and legacy of Jacob in relation to God; second, he affirms that Jacob has prevailed over all others. Enkidu’s blessing of victorious Gilgamesh follows the same pattern: “As one unique your mother bore you, the wild cow of the sheep-folds, Ninsunna! Your head is extolled above men; kingship of the people Enlil hasdecreed for you” (P 234–39). Again, the first statement is in regard to the identity and legacy of Gilgamesh in relation to his mother, the goddess; the second statement affirms that Gilgamesh prevails over all others. In both cases, the force of the blessing is clear: the hero will continue to prevail as the divinely appointed father or leader of his people.”

Full Paper: http://www.academia.edu/1213087/_Echoes_of_Gilgamesh_in_the_Jacob_Story_JBL_130_2011_625-42

With thanks to History of The Ancient World

The Virga Aurea – Seventy-two magical and other related alphabets.

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“In order to bring all this mass of material together, Hepburn must have had a wide range of source material to study, and it seems most likely that this material was available in the Vatican Library itself. As to what Hepburn’s motives were for publishing such a collection of alphabets, we can only speculate. He certainly produced these in a form which gave it scholarly respectability and also by heading it with the figure of the Virgin Mary, using the pun ‘Virga’ Rod-Virgin, gave it credibility in terms of the Church. The timing of the publication, 1616, right at the centre of the Rosicrucian/hermetic publishing period, suggests that Hepburn in his own way may have been responding to that impulse. Under the guise of the Virgin Mary heading the plate, Hepburn was able to publicly reveal the symbolism of many alphabets, and in particular, magical alphabets. If we further take into account Hepburn’s interest in the Kabbalah, and his translation and publication of a Solomonic occult text, I think we are justified in assuming that Hepburn may have, in some small way, contributed to the public revelation at that time of the esoteric wisdom of the past. At the very least one can suggest that he was inspired by this movement into producing the Virga Aurea. As librarian at the Vatican, he certainly would have received early copies of the Rosicrucian publications. The Virga Aurea, although a single large engraving contains such a mass of detail that an exhaustive analysis will be left till later.” By Adam McLean. First published in the Hermetic Journal 1980.

For more images and to read more about the Virga Aurea, follow the link to the article on Adam McLean’s website, below

http://www.levity.com/alchemy/virga_aurea.html

The Unsolved Mystery of the Tunnels at Baiae | Past Imperfect

The Unsolved Mystery of the Tunnels at Baiae | Past Imperfect.

“The antrum at Baiæ proved difficult to explore. A sliver of tunnel, obviously ancient and manmade, disappeared into a hillside close to the ruins of a temple. The first curious onlookers who pressed their heads into its cramped entrance beat a hurried retreat–the pitch-black passageway was uncomfortably hot and wreathed in sulfurous smoke. There the mystery rested while the Second World War intervened, and it was not revived until, early in the 1950s, the site came to the attention of Robin Paget.”

The Death of the Gods – Julian the Apostate by Dmitry Merezhkovsky

The Death of Gods. Julian the Apostate came out in 1895 (Severny Vestnik, ##1–6); it opened the Christ & Antichrist trilogy and in retrospect is regarded as the first Russian symbolist novel. This publication made all the difference […]  Critics there were aplenty (most of them denouncing the author’s alleged Nietzscheanity), but not one of them dared to question this debut’s major significance. As for allies, they were ecstatic. “A novel made for eternity”, Bryusov marveled. Five years later Julian the Apostate was published in France (translated by Z. Vassilieva) and made Merezhkovsky a respected European author. Read the book in English online, here: http://archive.org/stream/deathgods01meregoog#page/n10/mode/2up

wiki page about Merezhkovsky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitry_Merezhkovsky