martes, 30 de abril de 2013

REQUIEM FOR AN OLD SOLDIER

REQUIEM FOR AN OLD SOLDIER 
on the 381st anniversary of his lamentable death.
A eulogy written in iambic pentameter 
by Sandra Dermark on the 29th-30th of April, 2013

There once was a commander long ago,
an old Walloon, with silver locks and beard,
not overcome by drink, nor wench, nor foe,
unwed, to God and Kaiser true alone,
a scourge to foes, a father to his men.
Such was one Jean 't Serclaes, Count of Tilly,
who had, after harsh Jesuit boarding school,
for decades served the Habsburg dynasty,
given command over the Catholic League.
Yet, after six-and-thirty victories
against the Protestants and their allies,
his fortunes would take a turn for the worse.
For Sweden's ruler, younger and more free,
recently landed, was ready to fight
for the Protestants' freedom of belief.
And thus, on the vast plains of Breitenfeld,
both armies clashed with all their bravery.
Gustavus, with advanced technology,
and new strategy plans recently known,
made himself the sole master of the field.
Over the League set the September sun:
two thirds of men had died, and Leipzig fell.
Tilly would rather have been slain than lived.
Such a debacle shattered his career.
And thus, sternly pursued by Swedish ranks,
defeated by the Vasa constantly,
he was obliged to flee back south again,
until he reached the ford across the Lech,
in the springtime of 1632.
There, the League finally entrenched itself.
The Swedes showed soon up on the other side,
determined to cross to Bavarian lands.
Would Count Tilly let such a foe succeed?
He saw a wooden bridge raised by the Swedes,
who then began to cross the confluence.
Despair tore at his bosom painfully.
Alas, were he but killed at Breitenfeld!
Within, a repressed wish of suicide
found its way to his very consciousness.
He knew that there was no deadlier sin,
but the stain on his good name left no chance.
Sword drawn, ready for one last rendezvous,
there he gallops, leading the Catholic ranks,
ready to keep the bridge across the Lech!
Now they battle the Swedish ranks! What now?
Tilly falters and falls, pale, from his steed!
Carried off by Croatians and Walloons,
who retreat, letting the Swedes cross the bridge,
he's examined: they find a bullet hole
in his right thigh, precisely above the knee!
Ablaze with fever, seized with searing pain,
the old commander now contends with death.
Though he's been wounded many times before,
he can't resist: there is no hope for life.
Tears are shed by both officers and men
as the surgeon, a blond, rosy young gent,
tells them their leader is about to die.
And then he bursts into warm tears himself,
and turns his steps towards the Swedish camp:
he is the surgeon to the King of Swedes,
by his liege to the hold of Ingolstadt 
sent, to tend to the wounded Count Tilly.
Gustavus seizes the physician tight,
and decides to mourn such a worthy foe,
while, on his deathbed, in the locked hold,
the elderly commander shuts his eyes,
as blue as the Bavarian skies above,
and, pale as his hair, ceases then to breathe,
lulled into rest for all eternity.

THE EIGHTH PLAGUE

I just can't take out these words from my head!!!!

"I send the locusts on the wind such as the world has never seen,
on every leaf, on every stalk, until there's nothing left of green!
I send my scourge! I send my sword!
Thus saith the LORD!"

(OK, "LORD" should be written in small caps, but I don't know how to type them!)

viernes, 26 de abril de 2013

LES MISÉRABLES IN LEGO


Jean Valjean, convict #24601, is paroled and breaks parole:

Valjean decides to change his life after a good deed:


Fantine, a young proletarian and single mother, gets into trouble:


 Fantine is in dire straits:


Turns out that an English sailor made Fantine fall ill. Mortally ill:

Cosette (Fantine's daughter) dreams of better times, while the Thénardiers rob and trick their guests:


Valjean rescues Cosette from the devious Thénardiers, and they find sanctuary in a convent, where the little girl learns the three Rs and ther guardian becomes a gardener. Later on, we are introduced to dashing university student and rebel leader Enjolras:


The Thénardiers have moved to Paris, where university students are planning a revolution, in which the Thénardier children, Éponine and Gavroche, have decided to partake. Meanwhile, Javert is in the capital as well, and he hasn't given up yet:


I will post more chapters of this stop-motion film as soon as they appear!

miércoles, 24 de abril de 2013

PETER GOES NORTH

Over a century after Beatrix Potter created Peter Rabbit, Emma Thompson (Beatrice in Much Ado about Nothing) has come up with a brand new adventure for everyone's favourite bunny:
Aside from starring in Much Ado, Emma has been Miss Trelawney, the eccentric foretelling teacher at Hogwarts.
In The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit, the titular character is accidentally sent across Hadrian's Wall in a picnic basket. In the unfamiliar heathlands, he encounters a taller black bunny in a kilt: Finlay McBurney, a hitherto unknown relative of his.

In the McBurney rabbit-hole, Peter has his first bowl of porridge, and he learns that he is blood-related to his Scottish hosts. The next day, the English bunny helps Finlay win the rabbit version of the Highland Games.
Tossed up in the air, to celebrate victory.
But the story reaches a bittersweet conclusion when Peter, seized with homesickness, has to return south, to the lush Cotswolds, with his worried mother and sisters. Cue the McBurneys shedding many a tear and telling Peter Rabbit to return soon!
Eleanor Taylor's illustrations are a real piece of art, and Peter's discovery of Scottish blood running through his veins was something completely unexpected. These are the reasons why I recommend this book!
It is available in Castilian, and costs 15 euros (aprox.) in Spain.

martes, 23 de abril de 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHAKESPEARE!

A special greeting for a middling glover's son, who became the most renowned playwright that there "Will" ever be:
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you,
happy birthday, dear William, happy birthday to you!
Thanks for all the lovely plays and poems!
My gift is a Victorian e-book, written by a lady who fell in love with your characters two centuries ago:
http://books.google.es/books?id=YbQ0AQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=es#v=onepage&q&f=false

THIRTEEN AT THE DINNER TABLE


Long ago, I wrote in a diary a list of twelve fictional characters from literature that I gladly would invite to a party at my place. I don't care if thirteen people at the dinner table bring bad luck.
OK, ladies and gents! Here's the list.
1. Pauline, the Arctic explorer from Jules Verne's novel In the Fur Country. In those days when ladies were expected to be quiet and demure, she broke moulds just like Winifred Banks, Mary Kingsley, and many others.



2. The Mad Hatter. Say no more! He is really entertaining, wisecracking and dashing, by the way.




3. The Clever Princess (in Andersen's "The Snow Queen IV"), who reads all newspapers in the world: she's royalty and she cleans up nicely, aside from knowing so many things.




4. Her equally young, clever, eloquent, and good-looking spouse. They were made for each other. I don't care if they are supporting characters in "The Snow Queen" (in fact, most of the guests are supporting characters).












5. Lord Henry Wotton, from Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. A Victorian courtier who enjoys the good things in life and dresses sharply.




6. Count Jean de Satigny, by Isabel Allende. A gentleman of wealth and taste, like Lord Wotton, but French. Though he may be slightly self-centered, he shows interest in the fine arts.

7. Pippi Långstrump, as long as she stays sober. A pirate captain's daughter, well travelled, strong as Hercules and clever as Ulysses. Just don't give her either caffeine or ethanol to drink, or else, all hell will break loose!


8. Captain Nemo. In my opinion, he needs a little bit of social life.



9. (Major) Charles Eastwood (from D.H. Lawrence's The Virgin and the Gypsy). A dashing young officer, my type (tall, blond, and blue-eyed...). Yet a veteran of the Great War and a born survivor (he has left the Royal Army recently). Lives in a cottage in the Southern hinterland of the UK with his Jewish wife and their children. And he does the housework!

10. Luna Lovegood, from the Harry Potter books. A Ravenclaw student of my age and mindset. She would sit on my right side and next to the Baron, so that the three of us could enjoy a yarn-spinning competition.









11. Hieronymus von Münchhausen, Prussian baron and military officer, well-known for spinning yarns. After having read his first adventures, I could hardly doubt anything written in a classic tale.



12. Elizabeth Bennet (the heroine of Pride and Prejudice). Solo, without her husband. The only sane one at the dinner table, I presume.


jueves, 18 de abril de 2013

THOSE DAYS WHEN YOUNG PEOPLE READ INSTEAD OF WATCHING

Not so long ago, I published my review of a Thirty Years' War documentary on YouTube.
Translated from the Spanish, it reads like this:
"My Swedish ancestors didn't grow up on epic films or anime:
Gustavus Adolphus was their Natsu (a firebrand from the anime Fairy Tail), Tilly was their Jiraiya (the sympathetic old mentor in Naruto), Wallenstein was their Hitsugaya (a character in Bleach, whose alignment and morality are never made clear), and the pages of history books and adventure novels were the screens where they saw their adventures.
And I have decided to follow in the footsteps of those pre-WW2 generations.
In my humble opinion, the Thirty Years' War is better than Star Wars, LOTR, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or any adventure anime.

martes, 16 de abril de 2013

SHORTEST VILLAIN SONG EVER

In every 1990s animated musical, the bad guy or bad gal always gets the best song.
Don Bluth's Rock-A-Doodle features the shortest villain song in the history of animated musicals. It lasts eighteen seconds:


"No Batteries" is sung by some classical-music-obsessed, aristocratic owls (why do the bad guys nearly always get associated with high culture? That's both unfair and anti-intellectualist!).
Lyrics:
Tweedleedee (Tweedleedee)
They're running out (They're running out)
They're running out of batteries... (Of batteries...)
Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
No batteries!

THE ODYSSEY

"My name is Nobody".
After decades of war, he is returning home, to his wife and child. The wrath of the gods causes Ulysses/Odysseus (AKA Nobody) to take epic detours. Braving lightweight cyclops, magical femmes fatales and dastardly monsters before the Cinderella-like finale (in which a clever queen "dowager" has all her suitors, including a ragged stranger, try to shoot with her "late" husband's bow... guess who succeeds, and who the victorious beggar actually is!). (Did it remind you of "Cinderella", gender-flipped?)
The first classic of Western literature, supplying subsequent fiction with shout-outs and motifs, established the premise of the homecoming adventure genre.

POPE IN THE LINE OF FIRE

A rumour about Pope Francis as the victim of a kidnapping plot has spread through the Web like wildfire:


A fellow Jesuit of Francis's has, luckily, unravelled the Pope-nappers' plan!

Why do I post this on a literary blog?
Simply because the former pope of the Catholic Church, Ratzinger, wrote sacred texts:
When I first heard of Ratzi's abdication, I thought it was a joke. Then, I was shocked upon discovering that it was true! 

MEET CHRIS

Chris, from the anime Li'l Pri
He's not only a dead ringer for Carroll's White Rabbit.
He is actually magical royalty.

NINETIES MYTH HUMOUR

Following the release of the Hercules film, Disney made the series, rife with anachronisms and 1990s pop cultural references:
http://www.youtube.com/user/ChrisTheGreek2007?feature=watch
A YouTube thread covering the whole series...

sábado, 13 de abril de 2013

AND NOW... THE BOOKS ON MY SHELVES!

Time to introduce my latest purchases:
Leila Blue Series, by Miriam Dubini.
Essentially, a retelling of "The Snow Queen", in which the titular heroine's mother Grace is enchanted and taken to the Ice Palace. Leila decides, in response, to gather an army of magical creatures...
A six-book series with lots of references to Celtic culture and fairy tales.
Milla & Luna Series, by Prunella Bat.
Milla is the red-haired tomboy, while Luna is the dark-skinned beauty. They are a witch and a fairy, respectively, and also the chosen ones who, again and again, fend off the decadent Dark People. A great animesque take on the magical girl genre!

Princess College Series, by Prunella Bat (author of Milla & Luna)
No magical girls, but still lots of glamour and high culture in this ongoing novel series about the students at the titular all-girls boarding school and the cadets at a nearby military academy. Animesque illustrations, comedy, romance, the power of friendship, rivalry between classmates, all which compensate the lack of magic and technology...

miércoles, 10 de abril de 2013

FANDOM AND ORIGINAL WORKS

Here, I will explore the intertextual relations between my own fan fiction and other literary texts.
Language: Spanish.
Published in: 2011.
Characters/Motifs from: Vocaloid
Original story: 
"The Forget-Me-Not", Gustav Heinrich zu Putlitz,  Berlin (Prussia), 1850

Language: Catalan
Published in: 2012
Characters/Motifs from: Haikara-san ga Tooru
Original stories: 

Language: Spanish
Published in: 2012
Characters/Motifs from: Vocaloid
Original story: 
"The Day Boy and the Night Girl", George MacDonald, London (UK), 1879

Language: English
Published in: 2012
Characters/Motifs from: Pandora Hearts
Original story:
"The Three Feathers", Germanic folklore:

Language: English
Published in: 2012
Characters/Motifs from: Gundam Wing
Original story:
The Tragedy of Othello, William Shakespeare, London (England), 1604.
Retold and abridged by:
Edith Nesbit, London (UK), 1897: http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/6323/

Language: Spanish (opens with English excerpt)
Published in: 2012
Characters/Motifs from: Saint Seiya and Pichi Pichi Pitch (crossover)
Original story:
"The Little Mermaid", Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen (Denmark), 1837:




MY MOST SELF-BIOGRAPHICAL WORKS

In this section, I will explain the self-biographical elements of my works.

"Here is my Journey's End", Catalan, autumn 2012:
http://es.scribd.com/doc/130990968/AQUEST-ES-EL-FINAL-DEL-MEU-TRAJECTE
This one is mainly an exploration of my interactions with the world. István's home shire in Croatia owes a lot to my strictly Catholic provincial upbringing. Experiences abroad, secularization and socialization ensue. This story has a tragic ending that reflects the clash between society and my psyche (phobias, outbursts).

"The tale of Katinka", Swedish, summer 2012:
http://es.scribd.com/doc/122420818/Sagan-Om-Katinka
In this blog, a paraphrasis in English of the story with the title "A Letter to Katinka", can be found. Single mother's only child, backwater environment, tomboy, cold father figure, romantic daydream and crafts to escape harsh reality, new home and comfort after many a trial. I stand for both Katinka and her "other self", Gustav Adolf.

"Christina's Choice", Spanish, summer 2012:
http://es.scribd.com/doc/112850503/LA-ELECCION-DE-KRISTINA
Identification with historical figure (Christina Vasa): curious, pacifist, move from backwater environment into high class, single mother's only child, tomboy, eager to know more, live in the present. Combines my social, physical, and psychological circumstances.

"Star-Crossed Lieberecht", Spanish, spring 2012:
http://es.scribd.com/doc/90506127/LEBERECHTELDESGRACIADO
Psychological study on innocence and backstabbing. Live in the present, eager to know more, socialization, move from backwater environment into high society. Particularly sarcastic ending.

NOT A FAREWELL YET, BUT...

Sooner or later, within a fortnight, I will submit the link to this blog.
I hope that I have reached the minimum word count.
I am currently running out of topics... but I will start a new thread on intertextuality within my works.
References to my own life and self-biography in the stories will also be covered.

AN EGG IN A BASKET

Right now, I would like a nice, warm egg in a basket, washed down with a glass of peach juice.

HOW TO PRONOUNCE "URANUS"

Ah, the seventh planet from the Sun...
Is it pronounced "your A-nus", or "U-rine us"? Or is there a third alternative?
It is pronounced "oor-AH-nus" or "oo-RAN-us" in German. And a Prussian astronomer was the one who christened the planet.
He didn't realize that the English pronunciations of the name he had chosen would have such unfortunate implications.
So, stick to the German pronunciation! Or adapt it as "you RAN us!"



As for "lieutenant", I recommend either the original French ("lyöt-NAA") pronunciation, or the British one ("lef-TE-nent").

VISUAL PUNS

Now is the winter of our disco tent...
Now is the winter of our disco tent... as in "discontent"!
A famous quote by Shakespeare, which has found its way into popular culture!

THINGS THAT SURPRISE ME


  • Cowards are called "yellow" in English. Why? Because some chickens are yellow? Or Asians (OK, not all Asians are yellow-skinned)?
  • Inherently funny words: the English animal names "duck", "frog", and "weasel" make speakers and listeners laugh...
  • Some idioms: "brass monkey", "dead as a doornail", "the straw that broke the camel's back".
  • Bach: not the flower therapy, but the late cantor of Leipzig. This baroque composer has some extraordinarily dense and evolving cantatas. And I do like such music. Especially when in a good mood.
  • Coke: the recipe is secret. So what's in the can? Does Coke dissolve teeth, kill sperm, act as a love potion, or have any other unusual properties?
  • Red Bull: the same as for Coke. Besides, at the age of 16, I noticed protrusions on my shoulder blades having drunk this product. Nothing more. But does it qualify as "growing wings"?
  • My own state of mind: I am currently researching about the amygdala, the real seat of human emotions (though saying "with all one's amygdala" or "from the bottom of one's amygdala" sounds disastrous). It's an ovoid structure of white matter, the size of an almond or of a quail's egg, located in the human midbrain. And in my case, it doesn't have a secure cortical connection, leading to phobias, philias, manias and other quirks that sometimes prove a thorn in the flesh.
  • Sacred texts: why are old-fashioned sacred books displaying male chauvinism, nationalism, and fatalism (the Bible and the Torah, to quote only a few), still so popular nowadays?

MOOD

I'm currently in a difficult mood.
Not a good mood or a bad mood... just a hard mood (homework to boot, my own perfectionism and symptoms, etc.)
I wish I were less high-strung.
And I wish I didn't have the problems I am currently battling.
Today I am in the perfect mood for doing my Spanish homework.
So, I'll start the first reading of the book that I have to write my report on, before the second, deeper read with pen and tonnes of paper at hand.
And then, there is the trouble with the audiobook... I have finally found a good one.
It was Carlos, a former teacher of mine, who recommended both books during our last chance encounter at the University Library.

miércoles, 3 de abril de 2013

ZAUBERFLÖTE AND THE ISLAND OF MOON DEW

The Enchantress, Temptress or Femme Fatale (Siduri in Mesopotamia, Circe and Calypso in Homeric myth, Proserpina in Apuleius's "Cupid and Psyche") is an age-old archetype that always has fascinated me.
She is a beautiful and hedonistic, but cold-hearted young woman (note that this character is nearly always female!) who lives in an isolated stronghold, fortress or palace located on an island or at least on a shore. She invites strangers to stay with her, treats them sumptuously, and then, when she has grown tired of their company, transforms them into monster, animal or vegetable shapes.
This character represents the temptation of earthly delights, the "lust of the flesh" and "lust of the eyes" spoken of in the New Testament. She is a personification of Pleasure (like the Ghost of Christmas Past is of Memory, or Britannia of the British nation).
This excerpt from an Edwardian fairytale shows the persistence of the archetype:

"On the third day, they descried a speck of land on the horizon, and towards the evening they could see that it was an island with misty hills and lights on it. All round it on the sea, which the sunset had turned fiery, little white sails seemed to be scudding towards it, and when the sun set and the stars came out there came to them from the island a faint thread of wonderful sound.
"Hautboy and Cornet said they thought it would be a good thing to land at this island for the night, and Lieblich Gedacht was so curious to hear more of the lovely music that he forgot all about the warning Unda Maris had given him not to stop anywhere on the way, and he consented.
"So they ran their boat into a sandy cove, hauled her up on to the beach, and landed. The island was overgrown with tall ferns; and shapes of trees, such as none of them had ever seen before, nodded to them from the hills. There appeared to be no birds, beasts, or any living creature on the island, but the thread of sound they had heard in the distance, was fuller now and more silvery, and they walked up along a grassy path towards the place where it seemed to come from. After they had climbed up the ground in front of them for some time, they reached a spot where the ground ceased to rise. Lieblich Gedacht turned round to have one last look at the sea before walking down into the valley which was before them. The stars twinkled in the sky and the sea mirrored them like quiet glass, and strange to say, all the little white sails which they had seen at sunset scudding round the island had disappeared.
"They went down into the valley, and the ferns became more dusky and taller, the path darker and darker, and the sound of music sweeter and more insistent; they crossed the valley, and the pathway led them uphill once more to a clear space, and before them rose pinnacles and domes all grey and shimmering like a mist which hides the sun, and in this frail dwelling-place a hundred little lights glistened like glowworms, and the whole place trembled with the magical silvery sound which they had followed.
"They walked on, and they came to a grey portal with colours in it like those of a fading rainbow, and a voice bade them enter. They did so, and found themselves beneath a cloudy dome, so high that they could not see the top of it, and although there were myriads of small lights twinkling everywhere, the air remained dim and mysterious: but the sound was louder and clearer. They could not but follow it, and it led them beyond the dome up a flight of steps to a terrace which was open to the sky. The terrace was long and broad, and as unreal and unsubstantial as though it were built of moonshine. They walked on, straight in front of them, until they came to a transparent wall. They looked over this, and beneath them was a steep slope covered with grasses and ferns, trees and shrubs; down this slope, which was interrupted at intervals by the outline of smaller terraces and ledges, in which were sheets of light, like pools of water, they seemed to hear a hundred waterfalls rushing whispering down the slope; and far away in the darkness they saw the ghosts of white fountains rising and sobbing. On their left, the terrace overlooked the sea, and went sheer down to the beach; and on their right, tall shadows hid from their view the fern-forests of the island. In  the air there was scent of flowers, and the whole terrace was overgrown with some sweet jessamine-like flower which they could not see, for both the terrace and the sloping garden beneath them were shrouded in a mist in which millions and millions of fireflies swarmed and glistened. And all this time the sound grew softer, clearer, and stronger. Just as they were wondering where it could be coming from, there came to them from out and through the filmy walls of the dwelling, a beautiful lady. Her face was like a pale flower, and her hair, which fell to her feet, was dark as the night, and she was dressed in clinging folds of dewy silver, and she stretched out her white arms to them and said in a voice which seemed like that of the summer darkness—
"'Welcome!' Then she led them into the house, up into a high room, built in the clouds and from which they could see the circle of the island and the sea beyond.
"They at once fell into a deep sleep,  and in their dreams winged shapes fanned them and soft voices whispered to them. The next morning when they awoke, although the sun was shining the mists did not rise from the island; everything remained filmy, grey, and dim, shimmering like a bell of foam; lights twinkled and fountains and waterfalls plashed, and the island echoed with hidden voices and the same magical sound.
"'I suppose,' said Lieblich Gedacht, 'we ought to go on with our journey?'
"'Yes,' said Hautboy, 'but where are we going to?'
"'Yes, where are we going to?' repeated Cornet.
"And Lieblich Gedacht thought and thought, and puzzled and puzzled; but neither he nor any of them could remember where they were going. Presently Hautboy said—
"'Why should we go anywhere? What place could be better than this island?'
"'This is better than fighting,' said Cornet.
"'And then making verses and singing them,' said Viol d'Amore.
"'And then piping all day,' said Piccolo.
"'Nobody asked your opinion,' said Hautboy.
"And so they wandered about in this magical island, listening to the delicious sound and smelling flowers which they could not see; they were steeped in the mist of the place, and they could not remember what it was they had set out to do. They were captives to the dream and the spell of the place, and however much they tried they could not drive the mist from their minds and remember what they had set out to do. At sunset the beautiful lady appeared again and gave them fruits to eat and water in a crystal cup, and she sang to them a song, and never had they heard anything so lovely. When she had done singing, Lieblich Gedacht asked her who she was and what the island was called.
"She said: 'I am the daughter of the moon, and this island is called the Island  of Moon Dew. I am very lonely, but you shall keep me company now.'
"'But,' said Lieblich Gedacht, 'we must not stay here long. We are bound on a quest, only we can't remember just now exactly what it is.'
"'We will talk of that later,' said the lady, 'in the meantime I will sing you a song.' And she sang them to sleep with her wonderful voice.
"A whole year passed, and every day was spent in the same way, in dream and song and sleep. Cornet, Hautboy, and Viol d'Amore had quite stopped worrying about their journey, and about what they should do in the future. But Lieblich Gedacht was sad because he knew there was something he ought to do, but he could not remember what it was. One day when he was wandering by himself in the gardens of the island, he sat down to rest on the grass beside some misty bushes. He was trying hard to remember, and he happened to take out of his pocket the little egg which Echo had given him. He had quite forgotten what it was, and he played with it, throwing it up and catching it; and then growing tired of this game, he put the egg on the grass next to the misty bushes so that it touched one of them. Directly he did this a myrtle bush, which had not been there before, appeared out of the mist quite distinct, and it at once began to speak.
"'Who are you,' it said, 'who have made me visible and given me the power to speak?'
"'I am Lieblich Gedacht,' he answered. 'I have been here a year, and what I am doing I don't know, because I can't remember things.'
"'You are protected by some powerful spell,' said the myrtle, 'or else you would have suffered my fate already. Don't you know where you are?'
"'No,' said Lieblich Gedacht, 'we came here in a boat one evening after sunset; we have seen the Lady of the Island, but we do not know her name.'
"'Then I will tell you,' said the myrtle. 'You are in the island of Zauberflöte the enchantress. All who come here lose their memory and forget their homes, their native country, and the faces that they love. And when they have been here a year, Zauberflöte puts them to the test. She bids them listen to the Moon Song, and if they can listen to it without falling asleep, they are free, but if they fall asleep, then they are hers for ever, and she changes them into ghostly shapes: shrubs, fountains, streams, waterfalls, flowers, trees, ferns, or whatever she wishes.'
"'And who are you?' asked Lieblich Gedacht.
"'I,' said the myrtle, 'am the youngest son of the Sleeping Beauty in the wood. I was on my way to Musicland to seek adventure. I stopped at this island, although my fairy godmother had warned me not to, and after I had been here a year Zauberflöte sang me the Moon Song and I fell asleep, and she changed me into a myrtle bush. There are many, many people on this island who have suffered the same fate. From my country there are the Marquis of Carrabas,  who stayed here for a night to feed his cat: he is changed into a fuchsia and the cat into a tiger-lily; and Cinderella is here too: she was changed into a glass slipper; and there are many knights and maidens from all the corners of the world, sleeping here in the shape of ghostly ferns and trees and flowers.'
"'What must I do?' he asked, 'to resist the Moon Song?'
"'It is very difficult,' said the myrtle, 'no one has ever resisted it yet; but you must have some spell about you or else you could not have made me visible and given me speech. But look, what is that egg lying on the grass next to my stem?'
"'Oh, Echo gave me that,' said Lieblich Gedacht; 'I had forgotten, but I remember now; she told me to crush it if I was in danger!'
"'You must not crush it until the Moon Song has begun,' said the myrtle, 'and then the spell will be broken, and we shall all be free, for as soon as some one is found who can resist the Moon Song, the spell will cease to  bind us; but if you don't break the egg in time, you will sleep here for ever. Now I must not talk any more or else we shall be discovered.'
"Lieblich Gedacht thanked the myrtle and went away. That night there was a full moon, and never had the island looked so beautiful. Zauberflöte came on to the terrace, and called Hautboy, Cornet, Viol d'Amore, Lieblich Gedacht and Piccolo, and said she would sing to them.
"She began to sing the Moon Song, and never had her voice been so silvery and never had they listened to such a song; all the island was trembling with joy, and the moon and the stars seemed to be leaning out of the sky to listen. And just as Lieblich Gedacht was yielding to the spell and sinking into a delicious ocean of dreams he cracked the egg to pieces between his fingers.
"At that moment the song stopped, and Lieblich Gedacht heard the echo of Vox Angelica's voice, which came from the egg, sighing: 'Lieblich Gedacht, my betrothed, have you forgotten me?'
"'Of course I haven't,' said Lieblich Gedacht. 'Come, Hautboy, Viol d'Amore, and Cornet, we are bound for Bourdon's castle.' At that moment Viol d'Amore, Hautboy, and Cornet remembered everything they had forgotten and whither they were bound.
"As Lieblich Gedacht said this, Zauberflöte disappeared at once into her mysterious palace. The mists lifted and vanished and the garden appeared in its true shape, just like an ordinary garden, with stone terraces overgrown with jessamine, and trees and bushes, and flowers and grass and weeds, just like anywhere else, and the shadows on one side of the terrace were cypress trees, and Zauberflöte's palace was an ordinary palace built of marble. From the garden came Prince Myrtle, the Marquis of Carrabas, Cinderella, and a hundred other knights and maidens who had been spellbound there for years; and they all thanked Lieblich Gedacht for setting them free."

Since the first advanced cultures were patriarchal, it comes as no surprise that this character is depicted most frequently as female. However, Enchanters/Tempters/Hommes Fatals, their spear counterparts, have lately been created ("equal rights", anyone?). Such male personifications of Pleasure include Lord Henry Wotton, created by Oscar Wilde; and Lando Calrissian, from George Lucas's space epic.

lunes, 1 de abril de 2013

A TIME TO BE SILENT AND A TIME TO SPEAK

A mantra is a chant repeated (whispered, if the circumstances do not allow words to be spoken aloud) to relax and let go of stress.
To get a hold of impatience, my besetting sin, I use a verse from the Bible's Old Testament as a mantra.
The verse I chant is Ecclesiastes 3:7:
"(There is) A time to keep silence, and a time to speak".
I usually chant it in Swedish or German, though (It works best with Luther's translation: "Schweigen hat seine Zeit, und reden hat seine Zeit").
The author of the Ecclesiastes, identified by most scholars with Solomon, was right. Though most people, including the writer of this blog, are not so fond of the time to keep silence when it comes to waiting.
Waiting in silence and without any distractions on one's own is something that the reader is very likely to dislike as much as I do.
Another "time to keep silence" is when a totalitarian government bans self-expression, freethought, and/or freedom of speech. Think Ferdinand II, Oliver Cromwell, Benito Mussolini and other Fascist dictators, Josif Stalin and other Communist dictators. After years of violent repression, all of them finally failed.
It comes as no surprise that great international shifts into self-expression values and deviance tolerance (Hellenism, Enlightenment, Sexual Revolution) always succeed the defeat of the crises caused by such totalitarianisms, that appear in the pages of history of ideas as Losers with capital letters.
Several Bible critics have also given their thoughts on this verse:
Clarke:
"Wisdom restrains
The tongue, when words are vain: but now,
'Tis time to speak, and silence would be criminal."
Sometimes, "words are vain", No more details.
Gill:
 "A time to keep silence, and a time to speak ; when it is an evil time, a time of calamity in a nation, it is not a time to be loquacious and talkative, especially in a vain and ludicrous way, ; or when a particular friend or relation is in distress, as in the case of Job and his friends,  or when in the presence of wicked men, who make a jest of everything serious and religious, ; and so when under afflictive dispensations of Providence, it is a time to be still and mute, and not open the mouth in a murmuring and complaining way, . And, on the other hand, there is a time to speak, either publicly; or privately [···].
That's right. Persecution. The blues (either when oneself or an acquaintance has the blues). Those are convenient scenarios to be silent.
Keil and Delitsch:
"To keep silence has its time, and to speak has its time." Severe strokes of adversity turn the mind in quietness back upon itself; and the demeanour most befitting such adversity is silent resignation.
The blues, again. When you feel like that, nothing appears pleasant.



SELF-EXPRESSIVE SWEDES


In the World Values Survey, Sweden ranked first (on the top of the list!) when it comes to self-expression values. Nine out of ten Swedes would accept a woman for a ruler (there have been two titular queens, Christina and Ulrika Eleonora the Younger, and one queen consort much more influent than her spouse, Louise Ulrika, aside from Crown Princess Victoria, the current heiress to the throne), support divorce, homosexuality, abortion, and euthanasia.
Swedish picture books feature children with two parents of the same gender (one heroine had a Swedish birth mother and a Turkish stepmother!), characters eager to cross gender boundaries (both tomboys playing football and sensitive guys dressing up dolls [aside from our dynamic and self-reliant acquaintance Christina, there have been sensitive, effeminate monarchs such as Charles X and Gustavus III]), and discussions about taboos such as sex and death (in a 2004 storybook, two children and their father discuss whether their pet pig should be euthanized: the gent himself had, as a child, got to put a fatally wounded seagull to sleep).
From a backwater/hinterland Danish province oppressed by absolute monarchs, Sweden has become "the most modern nation in Europe", competing with Japan for the world title. Such development could not be possible without the contribution of many a socially aware ruler:
  •  
    Gustavus I / Gustavus Vasa: regarded as the father of the nation, the revolutionary feudal aristocrat who, in the sixteenth century, sucessfully defeated Christian II and welcomed the Protestant Reformation. He established also the national colours and emblems (blue and yellow, flag with cross, three crowns on the coat of arms).
  • Gustavus (II) Adolphus: the eldest grandson of Gustavus Vasa welcomed Central European Protestant refugees, established iron foundries and universities, and fought for freedom of thought against the Catholic League in the Thirty Years' War. When he fell, like a true hero, on the field of battle at Lützen (in 1632), his victories had weakened the Habsburg Empire enough to trigger its decadence.
  •  Christina: the only daughter of Gustavus Adolphus. Against her regent's warmonging posture, she supported the Peace of Westphalia and caused it to be signed, sealing also the fate of the defeated Habsburgs and the rise of victorious Protestant Europe. A lover of the arts and literature, she supported cultural life both in Sweden and abroad (during her self-imposed exile). She was also a woman ahead of her times, refusing to marry and bring up children.
  •  Charles XI: left fatherless at the tender age of four, this seventeenth-century ruler was socially aware and gave lands from the aristocracy to the poor peasants (of course, the aristocracy didn't approve as much as the peasants did). Perhaps this decision, along with his pacifism, prompted the royal tutors to raise the heir to the throne the Spartan way. Obviously, Charles XII, being the antithesis of his late father, lost many a war (mostly, to Russia) and caused the deaths of many able young men, plunging Sweden back into misery.
  • Ulrika Eleonora the Younger: daughter of Charles XI, who rose to power after her father's death (due to cancer), her brother's death (killed in action, as he deserved), and her weak-willed German consort's death (though, when Frederick was still alive, she was the one who pulled the strings of state). She put an end to Charles XII's absolutism and reinstated Parliament. Then, she had to hold Parliament together, because warmonging MPs, with a military background, and Enlightened, socially-aware MPs were always quarrelling whether public funds should be invested in another war on Russia, or in more yielding crops and farm animals  aside from education. Having had no children, she adopted two high-bred German young people. And one of them was: 
  • Louise Ulrika: born in Prussia, she was abused by her father and trained, against her will, to become the submissive ideal spouse. That generation of Prussian royal children had to read books and play music in secret. Louise's eldest brother would be Frederick the Great, who would make a relevant and developed nation-state out of Prussia. Shortly after her father's death, she was adopted by Ulrika Eleonora and transferred to Sweden. Since her consort, Adolphus Frederick, lacked willpower, she became the de facto ruler of her adoptive country, where she could pursue her passions for literature and dressing up. However, upon the death of her spouse, she returned to the Prussian court due to conflict with her eldest son. And who was he?
  • Gustavus III: Sweden's resident enlightened despot took after his Prussian-born mother. He shared Louise Ulrika's love of the arts, literature and costumes, and he had a strong will and an extraverted personality. Thus, it came as no surprise that, once come of age, he clashed with his mother. By creating the Royal Academy of Science and the Swedish Academy of Letters, opening public schools in rural areas, and sparing death penalty for extreme cases, he became a figurehead for the Enlightenment. However, he also gained the hatred of the nobility (like Charles XI before), and thus, he was shot by conspirators during a masked ball in 1792.
  • Charles XIV John ( Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, born a Frenchman): When Gustavus III was dead, his son Gustavus IV in exile (having lost a war to Russia), and Gustavus III's brother Charles XIII was elderly, childless, and prone to seizures, Lieutenant Mörner went to Paris and back to get an heir to the Swedish throne. Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, a humble clerk from the Pyrinees, had enlisted to seek his fortune. The French Revolution gave him a lieutenant's epaulets, and he was one of Napoleon's twelve marshals when Mörner offered him the crown of Sweden. Bernadotte accepted, and it meant nothing to him to convert to Lutheranism and change his name. Aside from freeing Central Europe from Napoleonic sway, the forefather of Sweden's current ruling dynasty made basic education obligatory for the Swedish public: the State started to offer education for free to all children, regardless of gender and economic standing. This was the first step in the successful Nordic model of welfare state.