Tim Roth to star in David Cronenberg’s “The Knifeman”, 18th century London series.

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It has been a long month of November for me personally, but there’s some good news for my fellow Coleridgians:

After Garrow’s Law, it seems we will get another ambitioned mini-series project set in 18th century London: Wendy Moore’s “The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching and the Birth of Modern Surgery” is getting adapted for TV, with the pilot directed by nobody else but David Cronenberg. Tim Roth stars as the titular Knifeman in what appears to be joining recent historical drama procedurals such as Ripper Street and Copper.

Now, since my impression of both of those was rather mixed, I am not expecting too much, except for the usual Hollywood kiss-kiss-bang-bang, this time with wigs, maybe.

What leaves me rather hopeful, though, is that 18th century London per se can be an extraordinary background for historical mysteries, as Keith Heller’s George Man Mysteries proved in a rather impressive fashion. To be true, I’d rather like to see the Man Mysteries on the silver screen, than yet another sensationalist fictional adaptation of a non-fiction book. 

I welcome, though, that Coleridge’s London might get a spotlight in the media that it wouldn’t get otherwise. Also, that the production will at least pretend to tell a serious story. Also, it’s Cronenberg. 🙂

From what I understand, the series is slated for a late 2014 release. I am happy to say, I am very much looking forward to watch it when it’s out!

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“There was a man who lived a life of fire”, by Stephen Crane.

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This poem was published in 1905 in the volume The Black Rider & Other Lines.

(Via Wikisource.)

There was a man who lived a life of fire

There was a man who lived a life of fire.
Even upon the fabric of time,
Where purple becomes orange
And orange purple,
This life glowed,
A dire red stain, indelible;
Yet when he was dead,
He saw that he had not lived.

There is no such thing as the “Angel’s Glow”: Photorhabdus luminescens

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From comic book hero Spawn to the undead in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, undead creatures are often portrayed with glowing eyes, or glowing body parts.

Which looks rather dramatic, but is easy to explain – as this article does:

Mental Floss – Why Some Civil War Soldiers Glowed in the Dark

Now, the article tells this story as if it was something new and sensational, which is not true: I remember to have heard similar explanations for similar phenomena many years ago already, I think in connection with explanations of vampirism.

Benedict Cumberbatch reads Keats’ “The Nightingale”.

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Benedict Cumberbatch is certainly the man of the moment, but besides that, he really is a man of extraordinary talent. I am not thinking so much of his recent work on Sherlock, or even Parade’s End (which should have been more critical of Imperialism), but I liked his performance in To the Ends of the Earth, a series that I will review in a while from now, and warmly recommend to all of you. All the childish hype aside, Cumberbatch is quickly becoming the leading character actor of his day, if Hollywood doesn’t waste him over the usual villain roles.

This has to be the single best reading of Keats’ Nightingale that I ever had the pleasure to listen to. So, without much ado, enjoy! 🙂

“Der Knabe im Moor”, Part IV: A ‘shadow play’, by German students.

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Illustration by German artist Gerhard Wedepohl.

As sort of a finale to our series on Der Knabe im Moor, I want to present you this video, the work of a high school drama group from the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Trier.

EDIT: For some reason, WP seems to reject my code, so I will simply just put the link here. Click it!

http://vimeo.com/54156978

I think this is excellent, outstanding work – for students, of course. Still, very enjoyable, and worth more than a small note: In a time when most kids usually respond to reading with sentences like ‘does this exist as a smartphone app?’, I am delighted to see that even classic writers like Droste still get such a passionate and engaging treatment. 🙂 Gonna copy that MO for a poem I do with my own class.

“Der Knabe im Moor”, Part III: German original, and an English translation.

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Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run” video kind of reminds me Droste. In fact, the sequel video, “I love you”, reminds me of “Kubla Khan”. But that’s just me, right…?

 

“Der Knabe im Moor”

By Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, 1842.

The original poem, as it appeared in a the German Morgenblatt.

O schaurig ist’s übers Moor zu gehn,
Wenn es wimmelt vom Heiderauche,
Sich wie Phantome die Dünste drehn
Und die Ranke häkelt am Strauche,
Unter jedem Tritte ein Quellchen springt,
Wenn aus der Spalte es zischt und singt! –
O schaurig ist’s übers Moor zu gehn,
Wenn das Röhricht knistert im Hauche!

Fest hält die Fibel das zitternde Kind
Und rennt als ob man es jage;
Hohl über die Fläche sauset der Wind –
Was raschelt drüben am Hage?
Das ist der gespenstige Gräberknecht,
Der dem Meister die besten Torfe verzecht;
Hu, hu, es bricht wie ein irres Rind!
Hinducket das Knäblein zage.

Vom Ufer starret Gestumpf hervor,
Unheimlich nicket die Föhre,
Der Knabe rennt, gespannt das Ohr,
Durch Riesenhalme wie Speere;
Und wie es rieselt und knittert darin!
Das ist die unselige Spinnerin,
Das ist die gebannte Spinnlenor’,
Die den Haspel dreht im Geröhre!

Voran, voran, nur immer im Lauf,
Voran als woll’ es ihn holen!
Vor seinem Fuße brodelt es auf,
Es pfeift ihm unter den Sohlen
Wie eine gespenstige Melodei;
Das ist der Geigemann ungetreu,
Das ist der diebische Fiedler Knauf,
Der den Hochzeitheller gestohlen!

Da birst das Moor, ein Seufzer geht
Hervor aus der klaffenden Höhle;
Weh, weh, da ruft die verdammte Margret:
»Ho, ho, meine arme Seele!«
Der Knabe springt wie ein wundes Reh;
Wär’ nicht Schutzengel in seiner Näh’,
Seine bleichenden Knöchelchen fände spät
Ein Gräber im Moorgeschwele.

Da mählich gründet der Boden sich,
Und drüben, neben der Weide,
Die Lampe flimmert so heimatlich,
Der Knabe steht an der Scheide.
Tief atmet er auf, zum Moor zurück
Noch immer wirft er den scheuen Blick:
Ja, im Geröhre war’s fürchterlich,
O schaurig war’s in der Heide!

 

 

“The Boy on the Moors”

Tranlated by Charles Wharton Stork

 
I am not sure about the legal status of this translation, but I am glad it was posted on Linda Hines’ blog, as the translator turns out to be Charles Wharton Stork. Stork, a rather obscure literary figure, worked for several poetry-related magazines from the 30s to the 70s, and is now all but forgotten. Out of respect to the man’s work, I posted a biographical note I found after the text by Droste-Hülshoff, but I am not I will be able to confirm that this is the person in question.
 
The Boy on the Moors
 
‘Tis an eerie thing o’er the moor to fare
When the eddies of peat-smoke justle,
When the wraiths of mist whirl here and there
And wind-blown tendrils tussle,
When every step starts a hidden spring
And the trodden moss-tufts hiss and sing
‘Tis an eerie thing o’er the moor to fare
When the tangled reed-beds rustle.
 
The child with his primer sets out alone
And speeds as if he were hunted,
The wind goes by with a hollow moan–
There’s a noise in the hedge-row stunted.
‘Tis the turf-digger’s ghost, near-by he dwells,
And for drink his master’s turf he sells.
“Whoo! whoo!” comes a sound like a stray cow’s groan;
The poor boy’s courage is daunted.
 
Then stumps loom up beside the ditch,
Uncannily nod the bushes,
The boy running on, each nerve a twitch,
Through a jungle of spear-grass pushes.
And where it trickles and crackles apace
Is the Spinner’s unholy hiding-place,
The home of the cursèd Spinning-witch
Who turns her wheel ‘mid the rushes.
 
On, ever on, goes the fearsome rout,
In pursuit through that region fenny,
At each wild stride the bubbles burst out,
And the sounds from beneath are many.
Until at length from the midst of the din
Comes the squeak of a spectral violin,
That must be the rascally fiddler lout
Who ran off with the bridal penny!
 
The turf splits open, and from the hole
Bursts forth an unhappy sighing,
“Alas, alas, for my wretched soul!”
‘Tis poor damned Margaret crying!
The lad he leaps like a wounded deer,
And were not his guardian angel near
Some digger might find in a marshy knoll
Where his little bleached bones were lying.
 
But the ground grows firmer beneath his feet,
And there from over the meadow
A lamp is flickering homely-sweet;
The boy at the edge of the shadow
Looks back as he pauses to take his breath,
And in his glance is the fear of death.
‘Twas eerie there ‘mid the sedge and peat,
Ah, that was a place to dread, O!

 

On Charles Wharton Stork, via infoplease.com:

“Born in Philadelphia, Pa., Feb. 12, 1881. Took the degree of A.B. at Haverford College, 1902; of A.M. at Harvard, 1903, and of Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, 1905. He then went abroad to do research work in the universities of England and Germany, where he spent several years. In 1908 he married Elisabeth, daughter of Franz von Pausinger, artist, of Salzburg, Austria, and, returning to America, took up his work at the University of Pennsylvania, where he remained as instructor and associate professor until 1916, when he resigned to engage in literary work. Mr. Stork’s first book of verse to become known was “Sea and Bay”, 1916. Since then he has done a great deal of translating from the Swedish and German, having made admirable renderings of Gustaf Fröding, 1916, as well as many other Swedish poets, whose work he published in an “Anthology of Swedish Lyrics”, 1917. He has since made a translation of “Selected Poems of Verner Von Heidenstam”, the Nobel Prize winner of 1916. In addition to his work in Swedish poetry, he has made an excellent rendering of the lyrics of Hofmansthal, the Austrian poet. Mr. Stork is the editor and owner of `Contemporary Verse’, devoted to the poetry of the present group in America. A second collection of his own verse will soon appear.”

And via the university of Syracuse:

“…American poet, playwright, novelist, editor of Contemporary Verse, 1917-1925, translator of Scandinavian verse, educator.”

“Der Knabe im Moor”, Part II: Musical treatments.

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Like many Romantic poems, Der Knabe im Moor (“The Boy in the Bog”) works as a song, and even to this day, the poem is, at least with some fringe musicians, popular enough to receive an arranged recording here and there.

I have collected some of the finer musical arrangements for you – mind you that I do not know much about the respective bands outside of this, though, asI am not particularly interested in the neo-pagan musical scene, or whatever genre those songs are supposed to belong. Still, I have to give the bands that their respective treatments of Droste’s poem are pretty remarkable. 🙂

“Der Knabe im Moor”, Part I.

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Before Germany’s history would become to be a real-life horror stories, the Germans, and not the English were considered the masters of horror. Don’t believe me? Read up on the origins of the Gothic novel, hehehe.

One of the German masters of the Gothic, that is, if we don’t count Schiller and Goethe themselves, is a woman, not as prolific, but arguably comparable to Anne Radcliffe in her importance for the genre: Annette von Droste-Hülshoff.

Her most famous poem, Der Knabe im Moor, ranks among the best outings of German Gothic poetry. It’s as important to German Romanticism as the Mariner is for the English part of the movement, as far as I see it.

Before I present you the text, dear reader, let’s look further than just on the lyrical side of things: Let’s look at the images that the poem conjures… With this masterful student movie.

You don’t know what “Der Knabe im Moor” means in English? – You will soon be able to guess. Mwahaha.

Autumn is the gloomy season, indeed.

“I back” – Lovecraft Month Roundup.

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Picture by Digivortex/Peter H. via Deviant Art. Beautiful! – Or, rather than that, sublime!

…SO, for the last two weeks, the blog has been relatively quiet – because I was working on stuff. H. P. Lovecraft proved to be a challenge, because of the lack of serious secondary sources.

My research has so far resulted in what I take to be a viable concept to present The Call of Cthulhu to middleschoolers. I’ll likely write about it later, but the main step is to condense the immense contextualization that is needed into one single unit, and then work with the text. Contextualization, meaning to treat with the culture of pulp magazines, theosophism, and, mainly, from the children’s perspective, the underlying racism that accompanies all of Lovecraft’s works.

I am not sure I have formed a coherent opinion on this; for the moment, let me refer to you to those two essays; blog entries that they are, I found them fairly interesting, and simplistic enough to serve as points of orientation:

http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2013/01/17/1461221/hp-lovecraft-is-popular-cultures-racist-grandpa/

http://nicolecushing.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/lovecraft-racism-the-man-of-his-time-defense/

 I leave the links blank, to further pique your interest. Go read them, check them out, they are worthy additions to the world of Lovecraftian studies.

In connection to that, something that might not have come through over the last few – months –  really: I enjoy Lovecraft’s writing, but, and don’t lynch me for it, fanboys, I wouldn’t read it for its own sake.

I read Lovecraft because I consider him one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, and that’s why I have my students read his work, too. If it was only because of an attack of nerdy fanboyism, I’d read stuff like Thieves World, frankly! 🙂 – But that, let’s make that another story, for another time…

An IO9 article about gaslight science…

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As you might guess, dear reader, I have been a bit busy over the last two weeks. So, let me give you this little nugget, for the moment, before I can return to write longer pieces again:

Scientific Hoaxes from the Gaslight Age

The article is written in the same sensationalist tone that lamentably marks most nerd culture outings these days. Yet, for those not too well acquainted with the topic, it might be an interesting insight, as these stories mirror H. P. Lovecraft reality of thought, at least what he draws upon in his stories…

My personal belief, even though other statements of the master of modern horror himself are known, is that Lovecraft grew to despise the sensationalist genre, and wrote his stories, from the very early ones, as satiric treatises. I recommend people to really go and get them a copy of some of the sillier displays of early 20th-century-theosophism to get an idea of how ridiculous, and yet, universally discussed, some of those ideas were.