Introduction and Welcome

Welcome to All Things Bright and Beautiful. If you are new to this site, I would recommend that you read my very first entry - which is an introduction and welcome to this blog. You can view it here

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Albert Anker - Girl Knitting, Hector Berlioz - Les Troyens - Royal Hunt and Storm, Robert Browning - Apparent Failure

Our last painting by Albert Anker is of a lovely young girl knitting.  I use four needles to knit like this when I make sleeves or socks.  I love the color of her skin and the curly wisps of hair around her face.  Do you or any of your children like to knit?  

Our final work by Hector Berlioz is Les Troyens - Royal Hunt and Storm.

I don't know if it's really fitting to choose this poem as the last by Robert Browning, but he has a lot of wisdom and sees things from a different angle than most and isn't afraid to take on difficult subjects to make his point.  Here he describes visiting Paris for the baptism of the prince and then walking along the Seine River and visiting the morgue.  He talks about three men he saw there that had drowned themselves in the river and surmises what their lives were like and why they had wanted to end it all.  He completes his poem with some sound wisdom on what to seek in life -"It’s wiser being good than bad;  It’s safer being meek than fierce: It’s fitter being sane than mad." and "what began best, can’t end worst, Nor what God blessed once, prove accurst."

              Apparent Failure

NO, for I ’ll save it! Seven years since,
    I passed through Paris, stopped a day
To see the baptism of your Prince;
    Saw, made my bow, and went my way
Walking the heat and headache off,
    I took the Seine-side, you surmise,
Thought of the Congress, Gortschakoff,
    Cavour’s appeal and Buol’s replies,
So sauntered till—what met my eyes?

Only the Doric little Morgue!
    The dead-house where you show your drowned
Petrarch’s Vaucluse makes proud the Sorgue,
    Your Morgue has made the Seine renowned.
One pays one’s debt in such a case;
    I plucked up heart and entered,—stalked,
Keeping a tolerable face
    Compared with some whose cheeks were chalked
Let them! No Briton’s to be baulked!

First came the silent gazers; next,
    A screen of glass, we’re thankful for;
Last, the sight’s self, the sermon’s text,
    The three men who did most abhor
Their life in Paris yesterday,
    So killed themselves: and now, enthroned
Each on his copper couch, they lay
    Fronting me, waiting to be owned.
I thought, and think, their sin’s atoned.

IV. Poor men, God made, and all for that! The reverence struck me; o’er each head Religiously was hung its hat, Each coat dripped by the owner’s bed, Sacred from touch: each had his berth, His bounds, his proper place of rest, Who last night tenanted on earth Some arch, where twelve such slept abreast,— Unless the plain asphalte seemed best. V. How did it happen, my poor boy? You wanted to be Buonaparte And have the Tuileries for toy, And could not, so it broke your heart? You, old one by his side, I judge, Were red as blood, a socialist. A leveller! Does the Empire grudge You’ve gained what no Republic missed? Be quiet, and unclench your fist! VI. And this—why, he was red in vain, Or black,—poor fellow that is blue! What fancy was it turned your brain? Oh, women were the prize for you! Money gets women, cards and dice Get money, and ill-luck gets just The copper couch and one clear nice Cool squirt of water o’er your bust, The right thing to extinguish lust! VII. It’s wiser being good than bad; It’s safer being meek than fierce: It’s fitter being sane than mad. My own hope is, a sun will pierce The thickest cloud earth ever stretched; That, after Last, returns the First, Though a wide compass round be fetched; That what began best, can’t end worst, Nor what God blessed once, prove accurst.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Albert Anker - Signing the Marriage License, Hector Berlioz - Benvenuto Cellini, Robert Browning - A Wall

Most of Albert Anker's paintings were people.  Since our daughter is getting married later this summer I decided to feature today's painting of the signing of a marriage license.

Hector Berlioz wrote the music for today's opera piece.  I can't say I'm really enjoying Hector Berlioz's music but it is dramatic and emotional.
Here is the Act 1 Finale of the Benvenuto Cellini Opera. 
Or you may enjoy the Overture from Benvenuto Cellini.
Wikipedia's information on the Benvenuto Cellini opera.

One of the things I've noticed about Robert Browning's poetry is that it is deep and not always to be understood on the surface or even with careful reading.  But it is beautiful and worth reading and reading again and I guess like with Scripture we take away what we are able and ready for and come back later for more.  Today's poem is no exception.  He's describing a wall, but not really talking about just a wall:

            A Wall

O the old wall here! How I could pass
  Life in a long midsummer day,
My feet confined to a plot of grass,
  My eyes from a wall not once away!

And lush and lithe do the creepers clothe
  Yon wall I watch, with a wealth of green:
Its bald red bricks draped, nothing loath,
  In lappets of tangle they laugh between.

Now, what is it makes pulsate the robe?
  Why tremble the sprays? What life o'erbrims                                10
The body,--the house no eye can probe,--
  Divined, as beneath a robe, the limbs?

And there again! But my heart may guess
  Who tripped behind; and she sang, perhaps:
So the old wall throbbed, and its life's excess
  Died out and away in the leafy wraps.

Wall upon wall are between us: life
  And song should away from heart to heart!
I--prison-bird, with a ruddy strife
  At breast, and a lip whence storm-notes start--                            20

Hold on, hope hard in the subtle thing
  That's spirit: tho' cloistered fast, soar free;
Account as wood, brick, stone, this ring
  Of the rueful neighbours, and--forth to thee!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Albert Anker - Baby on the Table, Hector Berlioz - Harold in the Mountains Part II, Robert Browning - Tray

Such sweet expressions in this Albert Anker painting.  There are tell-tale details in furnishings and setting that are interesting to note.  

Today we'll listen to the second part of Harold in Italy - Harold in the Mountains Part IIHector Berlioz's music is dramatic and intense. 

You may or may want to quit reading at line 37 as the last bit of the poem may not be suitable for young children - but I appreciate Robert Browning's twist of sarcastic humor and insight into humanity, and the poem is a good story. 

Sing me a hero! Quench my thirst
Of soul, ye bards!
Quoth Bard the first:
"Sir Olaf, the good knight, did don 3
His helm, and eke his habergeon ..."
Sir Olaf and his bard----!

"That sin-scathed brow" (quoth Bard the second), 6
"That eye wide ope as tho' Fate beckoned
My hero to some steep, beneath
Which precipice smiled tempting Death ..."
You too without your host have reckoned! 10

"A beggar-child" (let's hear this third!)
"Sat on a quay's edge: like a bird
Sang to herself at careless play,
And fell into the stream. 'Dismay!
Help, you the standers-by!' None stirred.

"Bystanders reason, think of wives
And children ere they risk their lives.
Over the balustrade has bounced
A mere instinctive dog, and pounced
Plumb on the prize. 'How well he dives! 20

"'Up he comes with the child, see, tight
In mouth, alive too, clutched from quite
A depth of ten feet--twelve, I bet!
Good dog! What, off again? There's yet
Another child to save? All right!

"'How strange we saw no other fall!
It's instinct in the animal.
Good dog! But he's a long while under:
If he got drowned I should not wonder--
Strong current, that against the wall! 30

"'Here he comes, holds in mouth this time
--What may the thing be? Well, that's prime!
Now, did you ever? Reason reigns
In man alone, since all Tray's pains
Have fished--the child's doll from the slime!'

"And so, amid the laughter gay,
Trotted my hero off,--old Tray,--
Till somebody, prerogatived
With reason, reasoned: 'Why he dived,
His brain would show us, I should say. 40

"'John, go and catch--or, if needs be,
Purchase that animal for me!
By vivisection, at expense
Of half-an-hour and eighteen pence,
How brain secretes dog's soul, we'll see!'"

Friday, June 5, 2015

Albert Anker, Hector Berlioz - Harold in Italy, Robert Browning - A Tale

Are you enjoying summer yet?  For me, it gets harder to set aside the time for art, music, and poetry as we take summers off from formal schooling to garden.  But then, we also find so many more natural opportunities for nature study and exploration, which makes summer a pleasure.  For the past few summers we've tried to fit most of our work into Monday through Thursday so we can clean house quick Friday morning and head to a local park for lunch and nature time, swimming, hiking, and playing on the playground.  The older girls often bring a book and Lizzy sometimes brings her harp - it's very peaceful and relaxing.  I'm looking forward to our Fridays at the park this summer.  This week's painting by Albert Anker looks like a grand nature walk in progress. 

Today's piece of music by Hector Berlioz is from Harold in Italy.  You can listen to the First Movement of Harold In Italy here. I like the part featuring the viola.  Here is Wikipedia's article on Harold in Italy.  You can also listen to the entire work here.  You may also want to pursue the poem that this work is named for Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron and the poem itself - Gutenburg Project's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.  I haven't read this poem yet, but it may see if I can find time yet this week. 

Our poem this week by Robert Browning 
                A Tale
What a pretty tale you told me
  Once upon a time
--Said you found it somewhere (scold me!)
  Was it prose or was it rhyme,
Greek or Latin? Greek, you said,
While your shoulder propped my head.Anyhow there's no forgetting
  This much if no more,
That a poet (pray, no petting!)
  Yes, a bard, sir, famed of yore,                                           10
Went where suchlike used to go,
Singing for a prize, you know.

Well, he had to sing, nor merely
  Sing but play the lyre;
Playing was important clearly
  Quite as singing: I desire,
Sir, you keep the fact in mind
For a purpose that's behind.

There stood he, while deep attention
  Held the judges round,                                                     20
--Judges able, I should mention,
  To detect the slightest sound
Sung or played amiss: such ears
Had old judges, it appears!

None the less he sang out boldly,
  Played in time and tune,
Till the judges, weighing coldly
  Each note's worth, seemed, late or soon,
Sure to smile "In vain one tries
Picking faults out: take the prize!"                                         30

When, a mischief! Were they seven
  Strings the lyre possessed?
Oh, and afterwards eleven,
  Thank you! Well, sir,--who had guessed
Such ill luck in store?--it happed
One of those same seven strings snapped.

All was lost, then! No! a cricket
  (What "cicada"? Pooh!)
--Some mad thing that left its thicket
  For mere love of music--flew                                               40
With its little heart on fire,
Lighted on the crippled lyre.

So that when (Ah joy!) our singer
  For his truant string
Feels with disconcerted finger,
  What does cricket else but fling
Fiery heart forth, sound the note
Wanted by the throbbing throat?

Ay and, ever to the ending,
  Cricket chirps at need,                                                    50
Executes the hand's intending,
  Promptly, perfectly,--indeed
Saves the singer from defeat
With her chirrup low and sweet.

Till, at ending, all the judges
  Cry with one assent
"Take the prize--a prize who grudges
  Such a voice and instrument?
Why, we took your lyre for harp,
So it shrilled us forth F sharp!"                                            60

Did the conqueror spurn the creature
  Once its service done?
That's no such uncommon feature
  In the case when Music's son
Finds his Lotte's power too spent                                           65
For aiding soul development.

No! This other, on returning
  Homeward, prize in hand,
Satisfied his bosom's yearning:
   (Sir, I hope you understand!)                                             70
--Said "Some record there must be
Of this cricket's help to me!"

So, he made himself a statue:
   Marble stood, life size;
On the lyre, he pointed at you,
   Perched his partner in the prize;
Never more apart you found
Her, he throned, from him, she crowned.

That's the tale: its application?
   Somebody I know                                                           80
Hopes one day for reputation
  Thro' his poetry that's--Oh,
All so learned and so wise
And deserving of a prize!

If he gains one, will some ticket
   When his statue's built,
Tell the gazer "'Twas a cricket
   Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt
Sweet and low, when strength usurped
Softness' place i' the scale, she chirped?                                   90

"For as victory was nighest,
  While I sang and played,--
With my lyre at lowest, highest,
   Right alike,--one string that made
'Love' sound soft was snapt in twain
Never to be heard again,--

"Had not a kind cricket fluttered,
   Perched upon the place
Vacant left, and duly uttered
   'Love, Love, Love,' whene'er the bass                                    100
Asked the treble to atone
For its somewhat sombre drone."

But you don't know music! Wherefore
   Keep on casting pearls
To a--poet? All I care for
   Is--to tell him that a girl's
"Love" comes aptly in when gruff
Grows his singing, (There, enough!)