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Archive for May, 2009

J. Buckett's tombstone

J. Buckett's tombstone

In 1972 when I visited the small village of Stockbridge, England (a little northeast of Winchester) I found this tombstone in the church cemetery. It’s a splendid example of a poetic epitaph. They don’t make them like this anymore.

When I went back in 2002 moss had made some of the writing illegible, but based on my notes from 1972, here’s how it reads:

 

In
Memory of
JOHN BUCKETT
many years Landlord of the King’s Head Inn
in this Borough
who departed this life November 20th (?), 1802
Aged 67 Years.

And is alas! poore BUCKETT gone?
Farewell convivial honest JOHN.
Oft at the well by fatal stroke,
Buckets like pitchers must be broke.
In this same motley shifting scene
How various have thy fortunes been!
Now lifted high, now sinking low,
Today thy brim would overflow.
Thy bounty then would all supply,
To fill & drink & leave thee dry.
Tomorrow sunk as in a well,
Content unseen with Truth to dwell.
But high or low or wet or dry,
No rotten stave could malice spy.
Then rise immortal BUCKETT rise,
And claim thy station in the skies.
’Twixt Amphora and Pisces shine,
Still guarding Stockbridge with thy sign. 

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Fan vaulting in Bath Abbey

Fan vaulting in Bath Abbey

Here’s a shot of the delicate fan vaulting in Bath Abbey. This is from our trip in 2002. Unfortunately we took way too much time at the Tourism bureau trying to arrange a B&B for that night.

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Do but look up

Do but look up

I’d been to Salisbury Cathedral more than once, but on our last visit we decided to talk with a tour guide. He stood right at the base of one of the major columns at the crossing and asked us to look up. The height of the view alone would be breath-taking; but the curvature of the columns makes it startlingly vertiginous. The weight of Salisbury’s spire exerts so much downward force that the columns actually bend. Some believe the tower to be the only surviving large one from before 1400 A.D. William Golding’s bleak novel The Spire is an imagined story of its creation.

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stuckcar

Stuck car

Our daughter has been working for the U.S. Census, now on a temporary assignment in West Virginia. Today two of the enumerators got stuck in the mud. Here’s one, courtesy of her camera phone. Thank goodness for AAA.

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468px-Shakespeare

W. Shakespeare, Gent.

My doctoral area was Anglo-Saxon, but my related area was Renaissance. I don’t see how there could be a better teacher of Shakespeare, though, than in my undergraduate years — George Walton Williams at Duke. I wanted to teach this class in part to honor him. “Themes and Patterns in Shakespeare” was the third class I prepared for Miami University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. Here’s a PDF of my presentation.

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Vowel chart

Vowel chart

One thing everyone is an expert on is his or her own speech. Just try mispronouncing someone’s name or town and see. But we don’t always know where what we say comes from. My History of English class was the second I prepared for Miami University’s Institute for Learning in Retirement. It’s a kind of follow-up to my earlier Anglo-Saxon England class. Here’s the PDF of my presentation.

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Port Isaac

Port Isaac

Writers are always selling somebody out, Joan Didion said. She probably meant their subjects (or maybe their families), but in the case of PBS’s season-ending episode of Doc Martin last night, the people being sold out were the viewers.

In a previous post I mentioned our fondness for this British import. Now, not so much. The episode was being set up as a conventional romantic twist, capping a 3-year story arc. I imagine the writers were congratulating themselves on reversing the audience’s expectations for this episode. Unfortunately they achieved this by undercutting the entire premise of all three seasons. Rather than affirming unconventionality in the final episode, they instead affirmed the village’s conventionality and narrow-mindedness, so carefully delineated in the series’ span. Oh, well, it’s just TV. Ross and Rachel, anyone?

I can imagine the writers saying, “We’re not going to give you a feel-good conclusion.” True. They gave us a feel-manipulated conclusion.

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