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Blog for an English independent scholar of fantasy fiction. WARNING: I will post commentary about books in which I am interested and I may include spoilers, so if you do not like spoilers, do not read this Blog !
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1. What's Up Doc?

I've no idea if anyone will be interested since I've badly neglected this blog for so long (writing fiction took precedence over reviewing it), but I'm actually not writing fanfiction any more. Since February I've been writing and researching (more the latter than the former at the moment) a genre-crossing novel (Science Fiction and Crime/Detection fiction) - ie. original fiction, with characters I've - well, I was going to say created, but that'd be an exaggeration because I don't feel like I've created them, it feels more like they've sprung, fully-formed, from my head, like Athena.

I'm world-building in a serious way - working out details about religion, politics, and society, as well as the geography of the main planet (so far there are four planets in my universe). There'll be elements of various genres in there besides SF and crime - the two main characters are police detectives, and the story's set in the 25th century.

The first third of the story must be completed by mid-July as I'm writing it for the scifibigbang over on Live Journal.

If anyone would be interested in reading it, let me know and I'll post a link once the story goes 'live'.

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2. The Story of Martha - Dan Abnett et al


I managed to pick up a copy of The Story of Martha this morning, and since I've been waiting eagerly to read the book since it was announced, I've raced through it.

The novel's divided into 9 parts: 5 are linking chapters (more than one per part) written by Dan Abnett, the other 4 parts are stories of Martha's and Ten's adventures, as follows:

"The Weeping" by David Roden
"Breathing Space" by Steve Lockley & Paul Lewis
"The Frozen Wastes" By Robert Shearmen
"Star-Crossed" by Simon Jowett

Each of these four stories is told by Martha to one or more refugees during her trek around the world, and each of them is an interesting and thought-provoking morsel of adventure in which Martha and Ten do their stuff; "The Frozen Wastes" is my favourite of the mini adventures, closely followed by "Star-Crossed".

Dan Abnett's linking story begins with Martha arriving back in England at the end of her year long trek, before going back to her departure from the Valiant with the aid of Jack's vortex manipulator. We are shown how, initially, Martha's pretty clueless about what she needs to do in order to survive (in the lead up to Roden's story, Martha's spotted by a small girl because of her earrings, and a few pages later she realises running in her heels is going to give her away.

The book only covers the first half of Martha's year-long journey, which she spends being chased by a man named Griffin who's a member of the Master's "Unified Containment Forces" (UCF); the Master's determined to hunt Martha down and one of his ADC's selects Griffin to head up a "kill squad" to go after her.

As a whole, the book's not bad. But it doesn't make my personal canon because Abnett has Martha captured in Japan when her perception filter key fails as the result of some technology being used by a group of bioluminescent aliens called the Drast. They are attempting to get back home, having been on Earth for a decade attempting to manipulate Earth's economic infrastructure in order to take over the planet. The arrival of the Master has rendered their takeover attempt impossible so they're trying to withdraw and have shielded their centre of operations from him using their own advanced technology, which renders Earth technology useless. This leads Martha's key to fail, so she's captured and made to work (although the UCF in Japan show no interest in her per se since the Drast only care about getting home). The Drast, however, find out about Martha when she volunteers to go to the Koban plant to work, which is where the Drast centre of operations is based. They want Martha to tell them how to get rid of the Master so they can take over the world instead. Once she refuses to cooperate, they go back to concentrating on trying to get their means of escape - a Relativistic Segue, which has torn a hole in time and space, creating a doorway through which they can disappear from Earth. Unfortunately, using it will also mean the destruction of Earth.

Griffin, who was captured not long after Martha was, and who also volunteered to go to the Koban camp, threatens to shoot the Segue - which would not only destroy it, but also the Drast themselves. In order to stop him, the Drast shut down the power across Japan, which leads to escape attempts and rioting in the camps - and it's in retaliation for this that the Master burns Japan: Griffin having contacted the ADC who sent him out after Martha once the Drast technology no longer interferes with human technology, and told her all about the Drast).

While I've no objection to the idea of the Drast per se, I can't buy the idea of them being on Earth at the time of the Master's rule, and I definitely don't buy the idea of Martha being imprisoned during her year-long trek. It's not that I think she was too good or perfect to be captured, it's just that I can't see her ever wanting to have anything to do with the Doctor again, or her joining UNIT, if she'd had to endure weeks of imprisonment as part of her year of hardship. Plus which, it's hard enough to believe that she managed to travel the entire Earth in one year; accepting that she spent weeks locked up tests my suspension of disbelief to breaking point.

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3. Poetry Friday - 32

Robert Fuller Murray was born on 26 December 1863, in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the son of John and Emmeline Murray. In 1869, his parents separated, and John took his young son to Kelso, England, and then to York. Robert was educated at grammar schools first in Ilminster, and later in Crewkerne. He attended the University of St. Andrews, where he received a BA in 1881. Owing to a lack of other opportunities, Murray became a research assistant to Professor John M. D. Meiklejohn in 1886, and published poetry in several popular journals. He had a brief career in journalism in Edinburgh in mid 1889, and in 1890 returned to St. Andrews. By this time, he was dealing with consumption. In 1891, he paid a brief visit to Egypt, and saw publication of The Scarlet Gown. Murray's health continued to deteriorate and he died in 1894 in St. Andrews. His second volume of poems, Robert F. Murray: his Poems, was published later that year, through his friend Andrew Lang.

A December Day

Blue, blue is the sea to-day,
Warmly the light
Sleeps on St. Andrews Bay --
Blue, fringed with white.

That's no December sky!
Surely 'tis June
Holds now her state on high,
Queen of the noon.

Only the tree-tops bare
Crowning the hill,
Clear-cut in perfect air,
Warn us that still

Winter, the aged chief,
Mighty in power,
Exiles the tender leaf,
Exiles the flower.

Is there a heart to-day,
A heart that grieves
For flowers that fade away,
For fallen leaves ?

Oh, not in leaves or flowers
Endures the charm
That clothes those naked towers
With love-light warm.

O dear St. Andrews Bay,
Winter or Spring
Gives not nor takes away
Memories that cling

All round thy girdling reefs,
That walk thy shore,
Memories of joys and griefs
Ours evermore.



This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at Wild Rose Reader.

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4. Poetry Friday - 31

Oh look, it's Friday and I'm posting poetry! I've been AWOL again the last few weeks - no excuse except tiredness and extreme busyness. Anyway, this week I've got a short Keats poem for you (said to be his last).

59 Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art

BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.



This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

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5. 90th Anniversary of the Armistice


90 years ago today they signed the Armistice to signal the end of the War to end all Wars. Of course, it wasn't by any means the end of war. This poem wasn't written for the Armistice but it is appropriate for the day, I feel.

Everyone Sang

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on - on - and out of sight.

Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away ... O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.



(c) Siegfried Sassoon

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6. Personal Stuff - Emails

If you received an email (or two) purporting to come from me about an electronics firm, I apologise. Sometime between midday and 1.15pm today my Gmail account was hacked and hundreds of spam messages were sent out. Although I can access my email account still, the hack took my account up to its daily limit with the result I cannot send emails from Gmail (although I can still receive).

To say I'm mad as hell would be an understatement!

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7. Poetry Friday - 30

This week I bring you another poet named William, William Wordsworth, and part of his poem The Nightingale, a Conversational Poem:

The Nightingale, a Conversational Poem

No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
Of sullen Light, no obscure trembling hues.
Come, we will rest on this old mossy Bridge!
You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
But hear no murmuring: it flows silently
O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still,
A balmy night! and tho' the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,
"Most musical, most melancholy" [1] Bird!
A melancholy Bird? O idle thought!
In nature there is nothing melancholy.
--But some night-wandering Man, whose heart was pierc'd
With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,
Or slow distemper or neglected love,
(And so, poor Wretch! fill'd all things with himself
And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
Of his own sorrows) he and such as he
First nam'd these notes a melancholy strain;
And many a poet echoes the conceit,
Poet, who hath been building up the rhyme
When he had better far have stretch'd his limbs
Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell
By sun or moonlight, to the influxes
Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song
And of his fame forgetful!


You can find the full poem here, and this week's Poetry Friday round-up is hosted by Kelly over at Big A, little a.

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8. Poetry Friday - 29

I don't know about anywhere else, but after a burst of unseasonable warmth last weekend (that saw me wearing t-shirt and shorts), it's been perishing cold here the last two mornings, so I thought I'd bring you an appropriate sonnet by Shakespeare:

126. Spring and Winter ii

When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp'd, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-whit!
To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doe blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-whit!
To-who!—a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.



This week's Poetry Friday round-up will be over at Becky's Book Reviews.

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9. Personal Stuff

Apologies to anyone who cares for being MiA the last couple of Fridays for Poetry Friday. I was seriously stressing out about having to move next week.

Except now I don't.

Long story short - my (now ex-)boss at my proofing job kept messing up my wages in the summer and I got seriously behind on my rent because I literally didn't have the funds to pay it (it took 2 months to get the mistakes straightened out!). So about 2 months ago I got a letter from the letting agents to say the landlord wasn't going to renew my lease. I spent weeks trawling room-for-rent ads and trudging to look at places, and then yesterday I got a personal visit from one of the guys at the letting agency to ask if I'd found somewhere new to live. Well I hadn't because finding the money for a deposit (average £350) and a month's rent in advance (another £350) was proving impossible. Anyway he said he'd talk to the landlord and see if he'd agree to me staying here after all. I surmised that the agents hadn't been able to find anyone else prepared to live in this tiny, awkwardly shaped attic room, 'cos the landlord agreed to me staying on after all.

Cue me wilting like a 3 day old lettuce!

I really didn't want the hassle of moving, and while this room's not much, it has been my home for the past 6.5 years!

So that's that - and I'll be back with PF on Friday as usual.

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10. TV that's not Doctor Who


I daresay the world will implode at my admission that I've watched some TV that's not Doctor Who. I've just finished watching ITV's self-insert fanfiction for Austen fans Lost in Austen.

Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), an ardent fan of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, lives in present day London with her boyfriend Michael, until she finds a portal in her bathroom that allows her to swap places with Austen's fictional Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton). Suddenly 21st century Price is face-to-face with the 18th century in all its costumed, mannered glory, and is faced with the problem of how to ensure everyone ends up with the partner they're "supposed" to end up with, despite the fact that Lizzie Bennett's happily living in 21st century Hampstead, working as a nanny and mastering 21st century technology.

Mr Bennet (Hugh Bonneville) and Jane (Morven Christie) seem to accept Amanda as Lizzie's friend with considerable aplomb, despite never having seen her before. Mrs Bennet (Alex Kingston) however, is not so quick to accept Amanda's presence in her home, particularly since she arrives looking rather unlike a proper young lady in her modern clothes!

Christina Cole as Caroline Bingley and Guy Henry as Mr Collins are both superbly obnoxious in their own way. Tom Riley plays a remarkably decent George Wickham (who's the total opposite of Austen's Mr Wickham). Elliot Cowan can't quite match Colin Firth's Darcy for this BBC P&P fan, but he does a pretty good job all the same.

To my enormous delight, the DVD is out from Amazon UK next week - it's already on my wish list! If you get the chance to see this, do - it's not absolutely necessary to know P&P in detail in order to enjoy it, but you'll definitely get even more out of the show if you do know P&P well. It's seriously daft at times, but thoroughly enjoyable.

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11. Poetry Friday - 28

For this week's Poetry Friday offering, I bring you a small part of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (it's far too long to quote it all):

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

PART TWO

THE Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollo!

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red like God's own head,
The glorious Sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
'Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

And some in dreams assur'ed were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.



I picked this particular section of the poem for this verse:

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.


I adore the way that rolls off the tongue when you read it aloud, the alliteration and the imagery are perfect and beautiful.

You can find the whole poem here.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

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12. Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble novels

Be warned, spoilers abound!

Ghosts of India - Mark Morris


Mark Morris' Ghosts of India is set in India in 1947 at a time when the country is in the grip of chaos, as it's torn apart by internal strife. When the Doctor and Donna arrive in Calcutta, they are instantly caught up in a riot and parted from each other. Barely escaping with their lives, they soon discover that the city is rife with tales of 'half-made men' who roam the streets at night and steal people away. It is said that these creatures are as white as salt and have only shadows where their eyes should be. With help from India's great spiritual leader, Mohandas 'Mahatma' Gandhi, the Doctor and Donna set out to investigate these rumours. What is the real truth behind the 'half-made men'? Why is Gandhi's role in history under threat? And has an ancient, all-powerful god of destruction really come back to wreak his vengeance upon the Earth?

Well no. It's actually an alien who's capturing India's poor and using them to create its half-made men - but it takes 5 human beings to create one half-made man. To make matters worse, the alien's spaceship is leaking radiation and infecting the populace, causing horrible growths on man and beast alike, and turning any living creature that's affected by the radiation into a psychotic killer.

This story's quite interesting - not least for using Ghandi as a secondary character, but Morris really hasn't captured Donna or her relationship with the Doctor very well. And most of the other minor characters are only sketched in, relying on the reader's knowledge of the "British family in India" stereotypes.

The Doctor Trap - Simon Massingham


In The Doctor Trap, Simon Messingham does a better job of capturing Donna's voice, but this story has a desperately complicated plot that includes a surgically altered double of the Doctor with whom he keeps switching places, a hell of a lot of robots, and a group of 12 hunters known as the Endangered Dangerous Species Society: they make it their business to hunt down the last examples of any species that's about to become extinct in order to make sure the species is wiped out. And now they're on Planet 1 hunting the Last of the Time Lords.

Planet 1 is the creation of Sebastiene, who may look like a 19th century nobleman but most assuredly is not. He is determined to add the Doctor to the collection in his Trophy Room, but the Doctor is equally determined not to be added.

Shining Darkness - Mark Michalowski


Mark Michalowski was responsible for one of my favourite Ten & Martha novels (Wetworld), and it turns out he's also written my favourite Ten & Donna novel: Shining Darkness. Michalowski has Donna's voice down perfectly, and he also captures their relationship beautifully.

For Donna Noble, the Andromeda galaxy is a long, long way from home. But even two and a half million light years from Earth, there's danger lurking around every corner, and a visit to an art gallery turns into a mad race across space to uncover the secret behind a shadowy organisation known as The Cult of Shining Darkness. From the desert world of Karris to the interplanetary scrapyard of Junk, the Doctor and Donna discover that appearances can be deceiving, that enemies are lurking around every corner - and that the centuries-long peace between humans and machines may be about to come to an end.

It's clear to me that Mark Michalowski really likes Donna - at one point she takes on the mantle of The Ginger Goddess to a race of aliens who hold an artefact that the people she's with want to get back - just as he really liked Martha, and that really added to my enjoyment of the book. He captures Donna's willingness to learn from her travels and her ability to change her mind beautifully - this is the Donna who begged the Doctor to save just one family in Fires of Pompeii and didn't hesitate to join him in pulling the lever that would destroy Pompeii but save the world. I recommend this story.

NB - make sure you read the novels in the order above because there are some brief references to The Doctor Trap in Shining Darkness (you can read the last two the wrong way round, 'cos I did, but I wished I hadn't!)

For those who wish for more Ten & Donna stories (there's only one more Ten & Donna novel scheduled for release in January), there is another audio novel coming out in October: The Forever Trap by Dan Abnett (author of the Torchwood novel Border Princes). Like Pest Control, this story will only be available in audio format.

Review x-posted to my LJ.

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13. Poetry Friday - 27

It was on September 19, 1819 that John Keats wrote the last of his odes, "To Autumn":

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.



I woke up this morning to the realisation that it's no longer warm enough to sit around in t-shirt and shorts as I've been doing - autumn's bite is definitely in the air here!

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Author Amok so feel free to run amok over there!

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14. Poetry Friday - 26

They started up experiments with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN this week (deep under the Swiss/French border in the Alps). Radio 4 commemorated this amazing experiment with a day of radio programmes, including a one-off radio episode of Torchwood - the more "adult" Doctor Who spin-off, Lost Souls written by Joseph Lidster. It was a mixture of pseudo-science (this IS the Whoniverse after all!) and philosophical musings on life-after-death, but the story ended with two of the characters quoting lines from a poem by Alfred Tennyson (this is what I love about the Whoniverse - the wild mixture of serious and silly, and of "low" and "high" culture).


All Things Will Die

Clearly the blue river chimes in its flowing

Under my eye;
Warmly and broadly the south winds are blowing

Over the sky.
One after another the white clouds are fleeting;
Every heart this May morning in joyance is beating

Full merrily;
Yet all things must die.
The stream will cease to flow;
The wind will cease to blow;
The clouds will cease to fleet;
The heart will cease to beat;
For all things must die.
All things must die.
Spring will come never more.
O, vanity!
Death waits at the door.
See! our friends are all forsaking
The wine and the merrymaking.
We are call’d—we must go.
Laid low, very low,
In the dark we must lie.
The merry glees are still;
The voice of the bird
Shall no more be heard,
Nor the wind on the hill.
O, misery!
Hark! death is calling
While I speak to ye,
The jaw is falling,
The red cheek paling,
The strong limbs failing;
Ice with the warm blood mixing;
The eyeballs fixing.
Nine times goes the passing bell:
Ye merry souls, farewell.
The old earth
Had a birth,
As all men know,
Long ago.
And the old earth must die.
So let the warm winds range,
And the blue wave beat the shore;
For even and morn
Ye will never see
Thro’ eternity.
All things were born.
Ye will come never more,
For all things must die.



The lines used were worked into the play in a very natural manner, rather than being shoe-horned in, and were a genuinely moving conclusion to the story.

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Biblio File.


(Somehow it doesn't seem like a week since I was sitting at Oxford station, waiting to get the train to Stratford and the most memorable evening of my life so far!)

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15. Hamlet RSC 2008 - a reaction

(I missed yesterday's Poetry Friday - which is rounded up here at Wild Rose Reader - owing to being out of town, so this is a Shakespeare Saturday post instead!)

In which your reviewer attempts to stay coherent and calm, but may flail on occasion!


OK. First things first - I've never seen "Hamlet" live before (I've read it about 6 times (including 3 times while I was doing it for my English degree a few years ago), I've seen the Gibson film (yeah, I know, but I couldn't get hold of the Brannagh version), and I've no real idea about how to talk about directing decisions, so please bear with me!

So. Having never seen "Hamlet" live before, I picked a performance with two of my favourite actors in the lead roles - David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, I'm looking at you. And boy was that a GOOD choice. These two men are bloody brilliant as Hamlet and Claudius - I don't tend to use the word "genius" of living people because it's a hard word to live up to, but these two men are genius actors. The play had me spellbound and I barely noticed the 3.5 hours passing by.

The stage and the back wall behind it are both mirrored (I don't know if that's the norm for the Courtyard Theatre - this was also my first production at the RSC in Stratford - talk about a whole heap of firsts!) – and the director (Greg Doran) makes excellent use of it in the opening scenes with the watchmen on the tower seeing old Hamlet's ghost – they carried torches which they occasionally shone onto the floor, reflecting the light and making the whole scene incredibly spooky – just what you need to introduce a ghost!

David's first scene is when everyone arrives on stage following the wedding of Hamlet's uncle Claudius to his brother's wife/Hamlet's mother Gertrude. He came on and stood in a corner of the stage (actually about 6 – 8 feet from where I was sitting in the stalls). He had his hair slicked back and was wearing a dark suit (this is a modern dress performance), and I was immediately reminded of David's role as Barty Crouch Jr – there was the same stillness about him, plus a slight air of menace and controlled purpose. (I'm not saying he was recreating Barty Jr – just that the look and the stillness reminded me of the HP character. Yes, I am going to reference other roles I've seen him in, just so you know!)

Hamlet's stillness and dark clothes are in strong contrast to the rest of the wedding party, so he drew my eye and I found myself keeping half an eye on him even as I watched the other characters interacting.

Patrick Stewart, as Claudius, wore a 3-piece suit throughout (I think – bear with me – I had about 2 hours sleep last night and I'm feeling a bit fuzzy-headed now!), and wire-framed glasses which give him a wise and respectable air (which is, of course, completely at odds with him being old Hamlet's murderer).

This was a great ensemble cast. The descent of Ophelia (Mariah Gale) into madness was beautifully acted and quite unnerving. Rosencrantz (Sam Alexander) and Guildernstern (Tom Davey) were really rather stupid. Laertes (Edward Bennett) didn't really work for me in the latter part of the play: when he's threatening Claudius, he was unconvincing – like a teenager, who'd been watching too many gangster movies, and his death didn't really bother me.

Gertrude (Penny Downie) was excellent – particularly during the dumbshow (which was very OTT and funny) which precedes the play-within-the-play – I saw her fidgeting uneasily throughout and her hands were never still – and during the closet scene in which she confronts Hamlet about his behaviour and he accuses her of incest, he says:

You cannot call it love; for at your age
The hey-day in the blood is tame, it's humble,
And waits upon the judgment: and what judgment
Would step from this to this?


And I noticed (and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this!) that her nipples were very visible, and I thought "Yeah, she's not so old as all that, Hamlet, for all you're 30!"

Horatio (Peter de Jersey) was very good as Hamlet's friend – trying to inject some sanity and wisdom into Hamlet's mad proceedings. Interestingly, David played Hamlet as less mad than knowing/calculating – and oh so witty and funny! I've never had so much of a sense of the comedy in the play as I did when seeing this production: David has amazing comic timing – which Patrick Stewart freely acknowledged during the after-show talk with (most of) the cast. The exchanges between Hamlet and Polonius (Oliver Ford Davies) were brilliantly witty and clever, showing up Polonius for the old windbag that he is. Oliver Ford Davies does a brilliant job actually – going off into mumbled asides, or losing the thread of what he's saying.

Things that particularly stood out: the quiet intensity of the graveyard scene where Hamlet's discussing old Yorick, whom he once knew well; the closet scene with Gertrude where David leaps up onto the bed to stand arguing with her; the sword fight with Laertes; the hauntings by the Ghost of old Hamlet; Ophelia's scenes wherein she's mad; Gertrude's reaction to the dumbshow before the play-within-the-play; this exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia:

Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
[Spinning a small footstool by one foot in his right hand]
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?
Ophelia: I think nothing, my lord.
Hamlet: That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.


- David's Hamlet puts great emphasis on the first syllable of "country" all the while squatting in front of her on hands and heels and thrusting his crotch at her (how any of us in the audience who fancy DT managed to restrain ourselves at that point, I really don't know!); Horatio's final lines to Hamlet: Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: / And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! (which I'm not ashamed to say reduced me to tears).

All in all, this was a fantastic performance from the whole cast and I'm very grateful to have had the chance to see the show live and with my two favourite actors in the lead roles (hooray for early 40th birthday presents!).

It was also great to see the show with three of my LJ friends!!

X-Posted to LJ.

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16. Poetry Friday - 25

This time next week I shall, all being well, be sitting in the Courtyard Theatre at Stratford upon Avon, listening to the immortal words of the Bard and watching a barefoot David Tennant thrill the audience.

Hamlet: Act II, Scene ii

I have of late -- but
wherefore I know not -- lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave
o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to
me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling
you seem to say so.



I'm still not very excited as yet. I simply can't believe it's going to happen, but hopefully it will!

This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Charlotte's Library.

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17. Dalek I Loved You: A Memoir - Nick Griffiths


Another book review! It'll surely snow!! Mind you, this one's Doctor Who related, so maybe it'll only be a light snowfall rather than a full out blizzard?

I decided, before plunging into a re-read of Hamlet in preparation for seeing it live next week, to read Nick Griffiths' Dalek I Loved You: A Memoir.

I found this book laugh out loud funny, in places, which will doubtless please Nick Griffiths, who likes the idea of making people laugh. I found it warm, witty and wry. Sometimes it was even genuinely moving: he talks of interviewing Jon Pertwee for the Radio Times 16-page Doctor Who supplement in honour of the TV Movie only a short while before Pertwee's death at the age of 76 had me choking back tears (the Third Doctor was Griffiths' first Doctor), even though it's described in a very understated (ie typically British) way.

I suspect this book will appeal most to British readers between the ages of 35 and 45 who grew up watching Doctor Who at the same time that Griffiths did, and who will therefore understand the many pop culture references scattered throughout the book. It was definitely a nostalgia trip for me, and one I enjoyed taking.

He talks mostly of the classic series (New Who was part way through its second season as he was finishing writing the book), giving handy little summaries of particular episodes he's talking about (prefaced with the episode's title and "for the unfamiliar").

He lists his Top Ten Doctor Who Episodes Ever (The Deadly Assassin, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, Pyramids of Mars, The Robots of Death, The Daemons, Horror of Fang Rock, Terror of the Autons, Genesis of the Daleks, The Android Invasion, The Mind Robber with honourable mentions to The Sea Devils and State of Decay - if you were wondering). Actually, he likes lists quite a lot - listing favourite music, things he loves, things he hates, some things that have embarrassed him, etc. (He hates Adric, loves making people laugh, adores David Bowie).

I recommend the book, with the proviso that it might not appeal if you're not a Brit of a certain age.

Clearly the book's proved popular, because there's a sequel coming out in late October: Who Goes There, which is (according to Amazon's blurb) a travel book with "Doctor Who" at its core. Nick travels England and Wales, seeking locations used in the show, both Classic and New. Being an odd kind of show, its locations too are odd. This is no glamorous trip. Dungeness Nuclear Power Station, anyone? A flooded china clay pit in Cornwall? As he travels, so Nick discovers another side to our well-trodden country, which is no less evocative. Then he goes to the pub. As in "Dalek I Loved You", the travel writing is backed up by Nick's childhood reminiscences and contemporary musings."Who Goes There" isn't just for Who fans - it's for anyone who fancies a trip off the beaten path. And a very funny book.

X-posted to my Live Journal.

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18. The Princess Bride - William Goldman


Here's a thing. Oh, it's called a book review, isn't it?

I know! It's OK, I'll just wait and give you all time to recover from the shock of me posting an actual book review (and it's not even a Doctor Who book!)...

Are you recovered now, or do you need a bit more time? (I'm sorry, I should have given you some warning, shouldn't I?)

Right.

Book review. So about 500 years after the rest of the world, I finally got around to reading William Goldman's The Princess Bride (What can I say? Bandwagons generally pass me by as they're careering madly downhill while I plod upwards!)

Someone mentioned the book somewhere (I suspect it was a less-Doctor-Who-obsessed Live Journal friend of mine), and I thought "Huh, I've heard a lot about that, never read it. Wonder if they library's got it?" And they did have it - though it's so wildly popular I had to wait two weeks to get hold of it! - and I rather enjoyed it.

I'm sure everyone else is already familiar with the fact that this book is a rather tongue-in-cheek fairytale of love, life, death, action, and life again. Featuring the obligatory handsome Prince (Westley - I kept calling him Wesley, too much Buffy, methinks!) and a incredibly beautiful princess (improbably named Buttercup). It also boasts a Spanish sword wizard ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."); a terrifying Zoo of Death; an immense, chocolate-coated resurrection pill, and a whole lot of villains, who run the gamut from evil, through even more evil, to (blimey!) most evil.

And then there's Fezzik, the gentle giant who's addicted to rhyming but too afraid to tell most people.

William Goldman - who's twice won an Oscar for his screenwriting (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men if you're interested) - has always claimed he merely abridged this text, extracting the "good parts" from an inventive yet wordy and political satire by Florinese literary superstar, S Morgenstern.

Whether or not that's the case, doesn't really matter. This is a fun book. Also gripping, with edge-of-the-seat suspense by the bucketload.

If by any chance I'm NOT the last person in the English-speaking world to read this book, do grab a copy and be prepared for a tale of "true love and high adventure".

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19. Poetry Friday - 20

It's been a helluva week here... On Tuesday I picked up my reading glasses, and the arm fell off. But instead of the screw having fallen out, the arm had actually broken. A replacement pair will cost me £67!

On Wednesday morning I was checking my emails and what-not first thing and my laptop threw a major wobbly, crashing and refusing to reboot. I had to wait until yesterday to get hold of an XP disc to reinstall the OS - and in the process I lost all my data!

Yesterday morning, in the middle of our heatwave, my electric fan (an essential item in this well insulated attic room) died!

The only thing that's keeping me from having the screaming abdabs about all this is the knowledge that I'm seeing Freema Agyeman in person on Sunday at the Doctor Who Prom.

Since I'm so stressed, I've resorted to Shakespeare - my comfort reading poetry-wise...


Sonnet 19

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's jaws,
And burn the long-liv'd phoenix, in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet'st,
And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,

To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O! carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen;
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty's pattern to succeeding men.
Yet, do thy worst old Time: despite thy wrong,
My love shall in my verse ever live young.



This poem reminds me that "this too, shall pass"...

The Poetry Friday round up this week is over at A Year of Reading.

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20. Doctor Who Prom Report

So I went to the Prom today and managed NOT to explode from squee and glee (or melt in the heat!)

I met a couple of friends from LJ - although not until after the Prom was over.

I also spoke to Phil Collinson (outgoing Exec Producer) - poor bloke must have wondered who the hell the over-excited loony was who accosted him outside the RAH just after he and his party exited. I thanked him for his work on Who - because I know he's worked very hard on it. And he immediately diverted me into discussing the concert so I babbled like the fool I am and then wished him luck for the future.

I also saw Russell T Davies (Who's chief writer and producer) but he was up in a balcony seat (with Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) beside him) so I didn't speak to him. I did wave and shout at Catherine and she saw me and waved back!

Anywho, onto the concert proper:

It opened with a concert prologue sung by Melanie Pappenheim (she of the ethereal voice who does the Doomsday music).

Then they showed a short clip sequence featuring all the New Who companions (including Mickey and Jackie) but not Sarah Jane Smith (my first companion) which was followed by Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" - which I thought was a lovely choice (and I adore that piece of music anyway!)

Then Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones) came out to introduce it and we had "All the Strange, Strange Creatures" - and it was fantastic to hear it live! There were 2 Sontarans (one helmeted, one not), 2 Judoon (ditto) and 3 Cybermen milling around during this piece. The helmeted Judoon was at the end of my row of seats (I was about 6 - 8 seats in from the aisle) and I saw it scanning some of the kids.

This was followed by Mark-Anthony Turnage's "The Torino Scale" having its UK premiere. It was a very loud, dramatic piece with lots of odd noises from the orchestra (deliberately odd, I hasten to add!)

Then one of my long time favourites - Holst's "Jupiter" from "The Planets" - during which three Ood appeared in three of the aisles.

Next was "The Doctor Forever" - which sounded quite different live compared to the CD version I'm used to hearing. Then came music for Rose, followed by Martha vs The Master (with clips from "Sound of Drums" and "The Last of the Time Lords"). Freema came out afterwards and admitted to being biased and liking that!

Then we had the "TARDIS cutaway" scene "Music of the Spheres" with the Doctor and the Graske (again) - which was aimed squarely at the children, but rather amusing too. At one point the Doctor started talking to us directly, then he threw some music he'd written through the "spatial anomaly" (I can't remember what technobabble name RTD gave it) and suddenly sheets of paper flew out over the orchestra who then played what the Doctor had supposedly just written (a raucous noise!).

RTD says of this segment (in the programme notes) that the Tenth Doctor "hadn't yet shown any aptitude for music" (after listing the various musical interests of the previous nine incarnations) - which just goes to show how little notice he takes of his own show since Ten sang bits of "I could have danced all night" (from "My Fair Lady") in Girl in the Fireplace and he tries to take Rose to an Elvis concert in "The Idiot's Lantern" - he also mentions Ian Drury at one stage too...

We then had an interval and the second part started with Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyrie" (without the cannons, alas!).

Then Noel (Mickey Smith) and Camille (Jackie Tyler) came out and introduced Murray's music for the Daleks and Davros - and a Dalek appeared on stage and Davros appeared in the Promming area and started telling us that he was going to make the Royal Albert Hall his "palace" and we would be his servants (there was quite a bit of jeering and hissing going on!). Three Cybermen also appeared in three of the aisles to gesture wildly at the Dalek and Davros.

Then we had an unexpected treat - Catherine Tate appeared on stage (she wasn't listed in the programme as presenting, unlike Freema, Noel and Camille)!! She got huge cheers before she introduced music for Donna, Reinette and Astrid.

Freema introduced Prokofiev's "Montagues and Capulets" theme from his ballet Romeo and Juliet and reminded us that Martha had met Shakespeare. Then we had This is Gallifrey (and clips with this piece included Derek Jacobi's Master regenerating into John Simm's Master) and "Doomsday" with Murray Gold letting rip on the piano.

Then Freema and an Ood introduced "The Doctor's Theme" and "Song of Freedom", the triumphant version of the "Ood Song" that we heard when the TARDIS crew were piloting the ship (and Earth) back home (Freema mentioned that day's filming was one of her absolute favourites!) - and it was nice to see some shots of the Ninth Doctor during "The Doctor's Theme".

Finally we had Tim Phillips singing "Song for Ten" and then the DW Theme from Season 4 before they encored Song of Freedom and encouraged everyone to clap along...

Oh! I forgot to mention that Freema came on stage at one point and said David had just rung her 'cos he was listening to it live in Stratford and we all cheered (and I bellowed "Hello David" like a fool!)

I had a fantastic time. I'm a bit disappointed I didn't get to see Freema or Catherine at the stage door afterwards, but there was a real screaming scrum when they appeared, and we were told to go home very quickly by the security guard, unfortunately. Still Freema was standing in the aisle just a few seats away twice and I could see how tiny and gorgeous she is!!

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21. Poetry Friday - 21

Life has quietened back down again for me this week (and the weather's cooling down too, thank goodness) after last week's laptop crash, etc.

This week's poem is by W H Auden.

Musée Des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking
dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.



This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at The Well-Read Child.

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22. Poetry Friday - 22

Given the weather we've been having this week, this poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley seems apt!

The Cloud

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night 'tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skyey bowers,
Lightning, my pilot, sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven's blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardors of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aery nest,
As still as a brooding dove.

That orbed maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun's throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon's with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,--
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-colored bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colors wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.



A friend was bemoaning the typical British weather (ie. rain) yesterday and I offered her a snippet of this by way of distraction. I *think* she appreciated it!


This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Becky's Book Reviews.

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23. Poetry Friday - 23

In three weeks time, I shall be seeing this for myself:







(Photos Alistair Muir)

And my excitement levels are steadily rising. This means I'm in well into Shakespeare Mode right now, so this week I'm bringing you another of the Bard's Sonnets.

Sonnet 23

As an unperfect actor on the stage
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart.
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharged with burden of mine own love's might.
O, let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast,
Who plead for love and look for recompense
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.



I can hardly wait to see one of my favourite Shakespeare plays live - and with no less than two of my favourite actors (David Tennant and Patrick Stewart) in leading roles.

This week's Poetry Friday round up is over at Big A, little a

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24. Poetry Friday - 24


I recently read Laura Lippman's In A Strange City, a murder mystery novel in which a strange little man attempts to hire PI Tess Monaghan in order to unmask the Visitor (also known as the Poe Toaster), who has been visiting the Baltimore grave of Edgar Allan Poe every year on 19 January for the past fifty years. On each visit s/he leaves three red roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac. Since the Visitor is committing no crime Tess refuses the assignment, but she worries that a less scrupulous PI may take it on, so she goes to the 19 January vigil as an observer. She watches as two cloaked figures approach the grave, appear to embrace and then part, but as they walk off in different directions, there's a gunshot and one of them is killed. Tess quickly learns that the dead man is not the regular Visitor. So who is he? And why was he there? When it turns out that Tess's would-be client had given her a fake name, she knows she must try to find him. And when an old friend from her past surfaces, claiming that the shooting was a homophobic hate crime, things only get more complicated...

This was a fascinating novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also gave me a taste for reading Poe's poetry, so this week I'm sharing this poem:

Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love —
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me —
Yes! — that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we —
Of many far wiser than we —
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling — my darling — my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.



Today is the birthday of Virginia Eliza Clemm Poe, Edgar Allan Poe's first cousin whom he married in 1835 (despite being only 13 years old, and there being a 14 year age gap between them. Virginia contracted tuberculosis when she was 19, and when she died in 1847, Poe was devastated and started drinking heavily. It is possible that she was the inspiration for this poem.


This week's Poetry Friday round-up is over at Read. Imagine. Talk!.

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25. Reading 101

Just thought I'd share this with you - it's written by a Live Journal friend of mine who's a very thoughtful, caring mom.

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