Poetry Month – “To Strive, To Seek, To Find, And Not To Yield”

Ulysses is one of the greatest poems of all time, and its author Alfred, Lord Tennyson one of the greatest poets.

Tennyson exemplifies the Victorian Age in poetry. He succeeded Wordworth as Poet Laureate in 1850. He was Queen Victoria’s favorite poet.

Like most Victorian poetry, Ulysses is best appreciated when heard read aloud. So sit back and enjoy this fine recitation of a truly magnificent work of literary art.

It little profits that an idle king,

By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole

Unequal laws unto a savage race,

That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink

Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy’d

Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those

That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when

Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades

Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;

For always roaming with a hungry heart

Much have I seen and known; cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,

Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;

And drunk delight of battle with my peers,

Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’

Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades

For ever and for ever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life

Were all too little, and of one to me

Little remains: but every hour is saved

From that eternal silence, something more,

A bringer of new things; and vile it were

For some three suns to store and hoard myself,

And this gray spirit yearning in desire

To follow knowledge, like a sinking star,

Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle–

Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil

This labour, by slow prudence to make mild

A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees

Subdue them to the useful and the good.

Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere

Of common duties, decent not to fail

In offices of tenderness, and pay

Meet adoration to my household gods,

When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:

There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,

Souls that have toil’d and wrought, and thought with me–

That ever with a frolic welcome took

The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed

Free hearts, free foreheads–you and I are old;

Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;

Death closes all; but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,

Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:

The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep

Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Girl History Month – Gertrude Jekyll ‘Artist Gardener Craftswoman’

There is no spot of ground, however arid, bare or ugly, that cannot be tamed into such a state as may give an impression of beauty and delight.

Gertrude Jekyll

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) was an influential British horticulturist, garden designer, artist and writer. Her brilliant designs continue to inspire gardeners everywhere.

Hidcote Manor Garden

Hidcote Manor Garden

Gertrude was born into a prosperous family and was educated in the arts from an early age. Jekyll’s brother, Walter, was a friend of the author, Robert Louis Stevenson, who borrowed the Jekyll family name for the title of his psychological thriller, Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde.

Young Gertrude

Young Gertrude

When she was 18, Jekyll was admitted to the South Kensington School of Art, where she studied painting, as well as botany, optics and the science of color. She would have had a career as a painter had not her sight begun to fail.

Watercolor by Gertrude Jekyll

Watercolor by Gertrude Jekyll

As her eyesight dimmed, Jekyll conceived the idea of creating art works from flowers and shrubs, and turning the design of gardens into an art form. She started to design simple cottage gardens and, as her career advanced, produced grand designs for country houses.

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Jekyll was greatly influenced by William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in art, architecture, and crafts during the late 19th century.  Morris advocated a return to an informal planting style based upon an idealized English cottage garden.  Jekyll shared Morris’s mystical view of nature and drew on the floral designs in his textiles for her garden designs.

William Morris Textile Design

William Morris Textile Design

In 1889, Jekyll was introduced to the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, with whom she began an association, creating landscapes for his avant-garde constructions. This successful partnership, with each influencing the other, resulted in one hundred Lutyens/Jekyll designs and greatly contributed to the English way of life.

Hestercombe House Garden

Hestercombe House Garden

Jekyll was a formidable plants-woman, who experimented with plants in her own garden at Munstead Wood in Surrey before recommending them to anyone. She taught the value of ordinary plants familiar to gardeners today, Hostas, Bergenias, Lavender and old fashioned roses.

Glebe House

Glebe House

Gertrude Jekyll concentrated her design work on applying plants in a variety of settings, woodland gardens, water gardens and herbaceous borders always striving to achieve the most natural effect. She had an artist’s eye for color and contrasted plant textures to great effect.

Munstead Wood, Surrey

Munstead Wood, Surrey

Jekyll was the author of 15 books, her most famous being Wood and Gardening, a guide to the creation of gardens in a variety of climates and conditions. She was a prolific designer, completing around 350 commissions in England and America, many of which still exist today.

In 1986, the rose breeder David Austin created a deep-pink shrub rose and named it in Jekyll’s honor.

David Austin's "Gertrude Jekyll" Rose

David Austin’s “Gertrude Jekyll” Rose

Jekyll died on December 9, 1932 at Munstead Wood, Surrey. She is buried in St John’s Churchyard, Busbridge. On her tombstone is inscribed the simple epitaph by Sir Edwin Lutyens, ‘Artist Gardener Craftswoman’.

grave stone

Mary Todd Lincoln’s Honey, Almond And Vanilla Cake

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This is supposedly the cake that Mary Todd used to win Abe Lincoln’s heart. The original recipe didn’t call for honey, but it definitely improves the taste and texture of this rich pound cake.

Ingredients

1 cup almond flour

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 cup honey

1 cup granulated sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of baking soda

3/4 cup milk

6 eggs, separated (best when eggs are cold)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan.

With an electric beater or stand mixer, cream butter ,honey and sugar until light yellow in color and fluffy.

Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda three times. Fold flour mix into creamed butter, honey and sugar, alternating with milk, until well blended. Stir in almond flour and beat well.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they have stiff, firm peaks. (Use egg yolks for another use  Beaters and bowl must be washed and dried thoroughly before whipping egg whites or they will not stiffen properly. Fold egg whites gently into batter with a rubber spatula. Add vanilla extract.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and bake for one hour, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool for at least 20 minutes before inverting, then allow to completely cool before serving. Sift confectioners’ sugar on top.

Makes about 12 slices.

Girl History Month – Boadicea, First Queen Of England

One of my very favorite Amazing Girls is Boadicea, the first woman to hold the title of Queen of England.

Boadicea was Queen of the indigenous Celtic Iceni tribe in first century England .

Boadicea (also spelled Boudicca or Boudica) was born into a royal family around 26 A.D. She married Prasutagusking of the Iceni, a tribe located in what is now Norfolk, England. Prasutagus ruled under the auspices of the occupying Romans, who had probably put him on the throne in return for his assistance when they invaded England in 43 A. D.

Upon Prasutagus’s death around the year 59, the kingdom passed into the hands of the Romans. The king had hoped the Romans would allow his two teenage daughters to keep half of his property, but instead the Romans took over completely. When Boadicea complained, she was publicly flogged and forced to watch as her daughters were raped.

Infuriated, Queen Boadicea — described by one Roman historian as a tall, terrifying-looking woman with fierce eyes, a harsh voice, and very long red hair — became the leader of a violent uprising against Roman rule.

Leading a swarming army of angry tribes folk she swept into London, torched its buildings, and slaughtered in the region of 70,000 Romano-Londoners.

To this day, about 18 feet below the current street level there is a level of red ash, known to archaeologists as the Boadicea layer.

The Romans brutally put down the rebellion with their superior numbers and weapons  in a ferocious battle (the exact site of which is uncertain). According to one account, Boadicea then killed herself with poison so she would not fall into Roman hands. Boadicea’s name means “victorious,” or Victoria, and in Victorian times she came to be viewed as a heroic symbol of Britain.

Boadicea’s rebellion was a crucial moment in early British history. Her confederacy of Briton tribes had taken the placid Roman occupiers by surprise; they had assumed that the Celtic “barbarians” were far too disorganized to mount any insurrection. As a result, the Roman officials lessened some of the onerous demands of their colonial rule, including a fairer system of taxation.

Long live Queen Boadicea!

The Poetess of Christmas – Christina Georgina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Christina Rossetti by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Christina Georgina Rossetti was a popular Victorian era poet and the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Her poems about Christmas are among the most beautiful ever written.

Love Came Down at Christmas

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

In The Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.