“My Gracious Silence”

I watched the Hiddlestone Coriolanus a few nights ago, and was enthralled. It is an excellent production, from casting to staging, as Terpsichore described. (Seriously, how does a dirt-grimed man moving a chair look so attractive?)

He doesn’t know either.

Coriolanus is a grand tragedy of political and personal dimensions, revolving around several very forceful, very egotistic, and very vocal characters. Caius Macius Coriolanus is the manliest of men, (especially when played by Hiddleston,) but cannot bend his convictions (however flawed they be) to curry political favor. His bossy mother Volumnia not only verbally whips her son, but claims responsibility for her son’s martial prowess.

But in this version, my attention was caught by the quiet, peace-loving wife, Virgilia.

This Virgilia is only vocally silent.

In their first scene together,  Coriolanus address his wife as “my gracious silence”. This phrase has always captured my attention, mostly because that adjective lends a warmth and power to a quality that is often overlooked or criticized. But as a  title it often translates into a negative portrayal of the character.

Virgilia has barely 26 lines, in the whole play, none of which are particularly poignant or important. This title and her own words combined mark her a passive character, waiting for the action of others to determine her fate, ruled by her voluble mother-in-law, and cloistering herself inside wait for her husband. (It is the mother-in-law, Volumnia, who lives up to her name with some of the most rhetorically powerful speeches in the play.)

Shakespeare’s actions often occur in the spoken words and language: actions are told through mediation, interior action revealed through monologues or dialogues, and  particularly as Shakespeare included very few stage directions. A character with few lines often fades into the background.

Yet in this production, Virgilia’s silence is not taken to be complete inaction. When she introduced, her mother-in-law and various friends are trying the convince her to leave off  worrying and weeping over the absence of her husband. Her continued weeping often cements the image of her as a weak-willed, but discounts one revealing fact:  Virgilia is the only character in the play who can hear the rhetoric of persuasion unmoved. While the rest of the cast fall prey to various arguments, it is only Virgilia who remains steadfast in her convictions and in her silence.

She might be silent in part because it is impossible to speak when Volumnia holds forth. But in a play with increasing tension between honest speech and “fair words”, it is notable that Virgilia repeatedly chooses to hold her silence. Volumnia, the passionate orator, urges Coriolanus to,

” . . .  speak To the people; not by your own instruction,
Nor by the matter which your heart prompts you,
But with such words that are but rooted in
Your tongue, though but bastards and syllables
Of no allowance to your bosom’s truth. ” (2232-2236)

And when Coriolanus bends his character to comply, Virgilia becomes almost mute. When his inability to make the bastard words credible destroys Corilanus, Virgilia (in this portrayal) can use her lips only to kiss him farewell.

It is not passivity that silences Virgilia;  it is words themselves that fail her.

Corrupt language is what destroyed her husband.  At several points she can only issue broke cries of, “oh heavens, oh heavens!”, as if words themselves cannot hold depth of her heartache (2533).  She is almost choking on her words, as if to articulate them would derive them of reality. Speeches would only make her agony seem trite, so she carries them quietly.

Shakespeare, the word master, has crafted excruciating monologues of pain, grief, and reasoning, so it is more than strange that he gives Virgilia such a consistent silence. Yet his use of silence is not uncommon; “silence is the perfectest herald of joy”, declares Claudio, the false lover. Although Claudio’s joy and faith falters,  silence does herald a great many other interior movements. Sobs speak more tellingly of grief than words, as in Lear’s broken speech over the death of Cordelia. And both Hero’s and Hermione’s outrage and sorrow are manifested in the gravest of silences.

This staging of Coriolanus the embraces Virgilia’s actions as speaking more poignantly than all of Volumnia’s syllables. Where Menelius and Volumnia use language to deceive, incite, and woo, Virgilia’s lack of words grounds her husband.  Her love for him is clear in every gesture, and need to no other articulation. Virgilia’s lack of speech is not empty, but is itself a powerful counterweight to Menelius’ smooth persuasions and Volumnia’s fierce lectures. Where words corrupt and manipulate, Virgilia remains constant.  Her silence is truly filled with grace.

who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you

A Toast to Tom

Earlier this month, my housemate Cecilia requested of all and sundry that someone bring Tom Hiddleston to her.  Since none of us have made his acquaintance (and since honor demands that another friend meet him first, should it ever depend on me), the best thing I could offer was a Hiddleston-inspired cocktail.

So we set to work.  The first item of business was asking “If Tom Hiddleston were a drink, what would he be?”  Our Facebook friends were delightfully forthcoming:
            Something proper and classic, but also playful.
            Obviously mead given his asgardian roots.
            It would have to involve gin.
            Something that makes you raise your eyebrows and go ‘daaang’.
            a gin and tonic with extra lime for that dazzle that gives little playful dollop to a classic beverage.
            Something tall and delicious.

The two of us also brainstormed a fair bit: we wanted something classy and elegant, appropriately British, sweet, strong, a little fruity or perhaps a little nutty.  Then Cecilia said “Fun, but with an edge; a little bit crazy,” and I wondered if we were still talking about Tom or if we’d conflated him with his various roles.

Bottles and bottlesand bottles some more

In the end, we decided that the best thing to do was to create a drink based on Tom himself, then a few others based on our favorite characters he’s played.  I hauled bottle after bottle up from the basement, consulting Cecilia on the smell of each spirit and liqueur we proposed to combine.  Here’s what we came up with:

Tom Hiddleston
1.5 oz gin (Beefeater)The Tom Hiddleston
.75 oz St-Germain
.75 oz Pama
Dash orange bitters
Champagne to top in a wineglass (4-5 oz)

Verdict: appropriately sparkling; good and all, but more formal; not quite a pajama party or anything.
We tried adding ½ a tablespoon of Fee’s grenadine.  Adding some sweetness was a good idea, but it turned out to be too much; this whole recipe needs some work.


Loki #1
3 oz champagne
1 oz green crème de menthe
Serve in champagne flute; garnish with mint sprig

Verdict: This was mostly an excuse to use up some champagne as well as the incredibly green crème de menthe.  It’s powerfully minty, which makes it seem boozier than it really is.  It’s not that crazy, but the mint sprig adds the touch of slipping into the drinker’s face, as if to holler “LOKI’D!”

Loki #2
.75 oz green Chartreuse
.5 oz lime juice
.25 oz Maraschino liqueur
.25 oz simple syrup
¼ tsp absinthe
Stir gently and strain into cocktail glass.

Verdict: This is a paler green, but comes much closer to the “crazier than a bag of cats” taste we were going for.  It’s very similar to a Last Word, but removes the gin and adds the anise taste of absinthe.  I was well satisfied.

Coriolanus

Coriolanus
1.5 oz vodka
.25 oz Campari
.25 oz Amaretto
.25 oz Cherry Heering
.25 oz syrup
Stir in a martial fashion and strain into cocktail glass.  Sip while looking down your nose at the rabble.

Verdict:  It was quite as red as we hoped for; the strength of the vodka, bitterness of the Campari, and some visual allusion to all the blood covering Coriolanus were our chief goals.  In addition, since we were surprised by how sympathetic all the characters were in the Donmar Warehouse production, we added the syrup and liqueurs to make it go down a bit more easily.

Henry V
2 oz Laird’s Old Apple Brandy
1 oz complex syrup*
.7 oz lemon juice 
1 dash old fashioned bitters
Shake, strain, and garnish with a sage leaf.
*Boil a cup or so of sugar and water with sage, thyme, and rosemary for remembrance; strain and cool before use.

Verdict: This is something of a modified Sidecar, made with ingredients that evoked a much more rural England of centuries past.  Cecilia declared that it was “more Kenneth than Tom because of the sourness/bitterness.”  I declared that we had had enough to drink.

005

…then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words – Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester – Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

Review: Coriolanus

On Sunday, my roommates and I headed down to the Michigan Theater to see the National Theatre Live broadcast of Coriolanus.

I was a muddle of expectations: on one hand, I expected good things because it had Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss at the very least.  On the other hand, the bits of the play I’d read (or read about) suggested that it involved a lot of politics (bleah) and Coriolanus being a jerk (which…could be interesting, but might just be annoying).  On the other other hand, I’d heard good things from Em about it.

So I went, braced for a bit of gore, some speeches I couldn’t hear very well, the possibility of boredom.

And?

I was blown away.

Why?  The reasons include, but are not limited to, the following:

Set.  We watched it on-screen, of course, but it still had the without-a-net feeling live theater gives – no editing, nothing between you and the players.  The set was spare: a red wall with graffiti projected on it, a ladder, some chairs.  Some explanation was given beforehand about the effects they sought to achieve with the red wall and graffiti; it’s a way of lampshading both ancient Rome and modern political discontent.  The space was dedicated to the players, to movement, dynamic and compelling.  The set changes were strangely electric.  The costumes were a great mix of old and new – modern shirts and trousers, accented with leather cuffs and breastplates and carefully chosen jewelry.

Suspense.  Despite knowing more or less how the play would end, I was on the edge of my seat.  Virgilia’s anxiety over her husband somehow renders the possibility of grave injury to him as more probable and pressing.  The discussions amongst Menenius, Brutus, Sicinius, and Cominius keep the question of consulship open, not a foregone conclusion.  It even seemed possible that Coriolanus might kill Aufidius early on, or be killed in Aufidius’s household.

Clearly the servant is ready to stab him at a word from Aufidius.

Clearly the servant is ready to stab him at a word from Aufidius.

Sympathy.  Throughout the whole play, each character made understandable choices and acted in consistent ways.  Though it turned out badly, it’s hard to castigate Cominius and Volumnia for encouraging Coriolanus to become consul.  It’s impossible to assign all the culpability to Coriolanus either.  One could blame the tribunes Brutus and Sicinius, but at least some portion of their double-tongued talk rings true.

Tom Hiddleston as Caius Marcius Coriolanus.  As noted, this is hardly a sympathetic role.  Caius is a successful general who takes over a city, thereby winning the name Coriolanus, but he’s rather less successful at public office.  His campaign for consul – encouraged by his commander Cominius and his glory-hungry mother Volumnia – ends in a lot of yelling, since Coriolanus doesn’t think much of the citizens and doesn’t ever try to hide it.  People lambaste him for his pride, for rudeness, for harsh speech, etc., and yet it’s easy to see why Coriolanus is proud of his military service, guarded with his scars, impatient with the easily led rabble, and angry when accused of treason.  He goes from hollering in the streets to covering himself in blood in battle to clean-cut mama’s boy to smirking voice-stealer, and that’s just in the first couple acts.

Coriolanus hips

Mark Gatiss as Menenius.  For the bulk of the play, he alternates between encouraging everyone to behave reasonably (you can almost hear “Sherlock Holmes, put your trousers on,” except it’s more a “Coriolanus, take your shirt off so everyone can see your battle scars”) and being a master of sass:

Men.  Our very priests must become mockers if they shall encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are. When you speak best unto the purpose it is not worth the wagging of your beards; and your beards deserve not so honourable a grave as to stuff a botcher’s cushion, or to be entombed in an ass’s pack-saddle. Yet you must be saying Marcius is proud; who, in a cheap estimation, is worth all your predecessors since Deucalion, though peradventure some of the best of ’em were hereditary hangmen. Good den to your worships: more of your conversation would infect my brain, being the herdsmen of the beastly plebeians: I will be bold to take my leave of you.

So that was quite entertaining enough on its own.  But then I watched him bid Coriolanus farewell in Act IV, and approach his camp to beg Coriolanus to spare his erstwhile home from destruction in Act V.  Terribly moving, even more in my estimation than the tears of Virgilia or the clamorous exhortation of Volumnia.

All in all, I went away flooded with thoughts and reeling with emotion.  Somehow I didn’t expect that.  It’s been a while since a Shakespearian play has been such a surprise for me.  This, I kept thinking, this is why Shakespeare is still a big deal.

This is what theater should be.

This is what art ought to do.

Catch an encore performance if you possibly can, and prepare thy brow to crease in laughter, to frown, to furrow in sadness.

In the Event of Cylon Apocalypse, the World Must Be Peopled

What book will I bring with me on the emergency evacuation ship when the Cylons destroy civilization, and we have to start over again?

In true Apocalyptic form, I am late for this last meme question. That’s not because I didn’t have an answer, though.  No, I’ve always pretty much known that in the event of the alien invasion, I’m grabbing my Bible first, and then a copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

This is what my copy looks like. Though I’m pretty sure I don’t have the “portable” edition. But a heavy book will do double duty as part of my personal defense system. Even alien robots pay attention when 20 lbs. of sonnets and tragedies come hurtling their way.

There really wasn’t a very complicated decision process here.  I asked, “Which book could I not bear to have perish from history forever?” and the Bard was the obvious answer.  No more Hamlet?  No Julius Caesar or Romeo and Juliet?  I don’t want to live in that world.  These are the stories that have shaped the imaginations of readers for generations.  They’re the books behind all the books I love today.  They’re the fertile ground from which springs much of modern English language and usage.  If we want to preserve our tongue and some piece of our storytelling tradition, we ought to keep these books alive.  I’m not really surprised by my choice.  After all, these are all the reasons I’m going to grad school to (God-willing) get a degree to teach English lit at a university setting.

Now, I hope I never have to take such action for real.  There are plenty of other books I’d weep to have to leave behind.  My Gaiman, my McKillip, Tolkien, Lewis, Jane Austen.  James Thurber!  I hope that by the time the Cylons come, I’ll have a Kindle with all my favorite books on it.  Heck, the need for a contingency plan might just be reason enough to overcome my technophobia regarding digital books and buy a Kindle.  I’ll be the first to admit, all this sci-fi that I read and watch has made me a little paranoid…

Mel’s Meme: You Have Stolen My Heart

Literary pickup lines? Seriously? Who wrote this meme?

Oh. Yeah. Ahem.

That was me.

Sorry.

This is one that I deliberately left open. It requires some personal definition. And when it comes down to testing it, it all depends on the people involved.

I like to protest that I am not a romantic person, and keep a slightly cynical cloak about me to protect myself from the world.

But when pushed, I find that I do have a penchant for the sweet and sincere and lovely.

I admit that almost any line from John Donne makes my heart beat quickly. A particularly good reading of “The Flea” makes laugh and smile, capturing both my attention and my affection.

And I would swoon over the man who can deliver  the line, “I will live in thy heart, die in the lap, and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle’s!”

Because there is something that line that encapsulates the heart of romance for me. It has the dual strength of poetic devotion and practical aid; the promise of union in both spiritual and material worlds.

Which brings to me to The One Reference To Rule . . .  er, My Heart, Mind, and Soul:

The Song of Songs

(Aka: The Song of Solomon, The Canticle of Canticles)

This is book is, frankly, hilarious. I first read it when I was about twelve or thirteen, and could not stop giggling. “Your hair is like a flock of goats”? Strange. How is that a compliment?

Any woman drawn by these descriptions would look pretty odd. (Like here.)

But at the heart of the Song of Songs is a deep, dramatic, devoted adoration of the beloved. The similes may sound a tad amusing, but they are rooted in deep affection and deep reality.

Like the above quote from my man Benedick, this poem unites two worlds. It is rooted in the “material world”. It addresses the physical beauties and difficulties that we know, from the immediately accessible similes, to the earnest admiration and desire beneath the words. It is deeply, deeply sensual. Often this is all read as a pure allegory, for when taken as literal truth it feels a bit . . . uncomfortable to read.

There is certainly that level of meaning, the allusion to the sacred union of God and the church, the devotion that we the Bride should feel for our intensely loving bridegroom. In Aquinas’ commentary, he opens up the meanings of the phrases that I find ridiculous, and layers their sweet expression with the sublime gravity and intensity of spiritual truth.

But it maintains both worlds, full in of themselves, within the same imagery. As poetry, it achieves what Allen calls the “symbolic imagination”.

And in doing so, it becomes one of the most beautiful books of the Bible.

It has the romantic devotion rightly ordered, the spiritual truth, the unity of spiritual and practical meaning, and the simplicity of two loving  hearts aching to be as one.

Er, simple. Yes.

It is, ultimately the most poetic retelling of the greatest love story.

Some phrases might make me laugh, still. But that is not a bad thing.

This poem it is intensely, devotedly, beautifully romantic.

Once a friend found me reading this, and he warned me quite seriously, “Be careful! That book might teach you to love!”

He

1 How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
not one of them is alone.
Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
are like the halves of a pomegranate.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
all of them shields of warriors.
Your breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle
that browse among the lilies.
Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
and to the hill of incense.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride,
come with me from Lebanon.
Descend from the crest of Amana,
from the top of Senir, the summit of Hermon,
from the lions’ dens
and the mountain haunts of leopards.
You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have stolen my heart
with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
10 How delightful is your love , my sister, my bride!
How much more pleasing is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your perfume
more than any spice!
11 Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride;
milk and honey are under your tongue.
The fragrance of your garments
is like the fragrance of Lebanon.
12 You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride;
you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.
13 Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates
with choice fruits,
with henna and nard,
14     nard and saffron,
calamus and cinnamon,
with every kind of incense tree,
with myrrh and aloes
and all the finest spices.
15 You are a garden fountain,
a well of flowing water
streaming down from Lebanon.

She

16 Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits.

Thursday Dances: Words With Which to Woo

I once heard of a couple girls (A and B, shall we say) who spent a day picking out what manner of engagement rings they wanted from a jeweler’s website: an exercise in aesthetics, perhaps.  This done, B told A’s boyfriend all about it so he could get exactly what A wanted without tipping her off.  On one hand, it seemed nice that he would trouble to learn her opinion – but on the other, it struck me that it should have been unnecessary.  Surely if he knew her well enough, he’d be able to discern whether she preferred antique or modern styles, round or square cuts, white or yellow gold.  Surely her character and personality would indicate what would suit her.

This post feels similar: picking out the things that seem shiny or seem to fit.  Any enterprising fellow who likes may feel free to use them, should he find opportunity.  But surely anyone interested in winning my heart would be able to find his own words.

…or perhaps not; “Sihaya” was the nickname an old boyfriend gave me, and I include it now though it has lost most of its power.

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
- W. Shakespeare, Sonnet 29

“Joanna,” he said, “y’ ’ave saved my life, and I have saved yours; and we have seen blood flow, and been friends and enemies—ay, and I took my belt to thrash you; and all that time I thought ye were a boy.  But now death has me, and my time’s out, and before I die I must say this: Y’ are the best maid and the bravest under heaven, and, if only I could live, I would marry you blithely; and, live or die, I love you.”

“And, dear Dick—good Dick—but that ye can get me forth of this house before the morning, we must even kiss and say good-bye.”
“Nay,” said Dick, “not I; I will never say that word.  ’Tis like despair; but while there’s life, Joanna, there is hope.  Yet will I hope.  Ay, by the mass, and triumph!  Look ye, now, when ye were but a name to me, did I not follow—did I not rouse good men—did I not stake my life upon the quarrel?  And now that I have seen you for what ye are—the fairest maid and stateliest of England—think ye I would turn?—if the deep sea were there, I would straight through it; if the way were full of lions, I would scatter them like mice.”
“Ay,” she said, dryly, “ye make a great ado about a sky-blue robe!”
“Nay, Joan,” protested Dick, “’tis not alone the robe.”
– R. L. Stevenson, The Black Arrow

I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
that you were beautiful, and that I strove
to love you in the old high way of love…
- W. B. Yeats, “Adam’s Curse”

O go you onward; where you are Shall honor and laughter be,
Past purpled forest and pearled foam, God’s winged pavilion free to roam,
Your face, that is a wandering home, A flying home for me.

– G. K. Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
– E. E. Cummings, “somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond”

“Miss Vane – I admired you for speaking as you did tonight. Detachment is a rare virtue, and very few people find it lovable, either in themselves or in others. If you ever find a person who likes you in spite of it – still more, because of it – that liking has very great value, because it is perfectly sincere and because, with that person, you will never need to be anything but sincere yourself.”

“Just exercise your devastating talent for keeping to the point and speaking the truth.”
“That sounds easy.”
“It is – for you. That’s what I love you for. Didn’t you know?

She had often wondered, in a detached kind of way, what it was that Peter valued in her and had apparently valued from that first day when she had stood in the dock and spoken for her own life. Now that she knew, she thought that a more unattractive pair of qualities could seldom have been put forward as an excuse for devotion.

“Placetne, magistra?”
– Lord Peter Wimsey, D. Sayers, Gaudy Night

“I am beginning to understand,” said the little prince. “There is a flower… I think that she has tamed me…”

To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you– the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or ever sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Le Petit Prince

“You are Sihaya, the desert spring.”
– Paul Muad’dib, Frank Herbert, Dune

“Dying would have been the easy way never to have to answer your question,” he said, “or any questions, and if there is one thing that has always been true about you, it’s that you make me question myself — and questioning myself inevitably proves to me how little of myself exists to sustain that sort of interrogation. I know you, my dear, better than I know myself. You are whole and entire — loyal and honest and stupidly, amazingly stubborn and beautiful as you are — and I’m shadows and the ghost of old lies held together by good intentions and hope.”
– Not telling.  Muahah.

Tuesday with Thalia: Winning Words

Lovelies, I am not feeling especially clever today. So I am taking here the path of least resistance and interpreting this to mean “words and phrases that I love.” I know that there are lots of other interpretations. I look forward to reading about them. But for today, bear with me, my friends, and let me share some delicious phrases.

I am an insatiable connoisseur of tasty words. If you don’t know what I mean, I can only conclude that you had a barren and dusty childhood which warped your soul into an unhealthy shape. Some words taste really, really good when you say them! Here is a sample drawn from an endless supply of Tasty Words.

sphygmamanometer, bumbershoot, cudgel, pith.

Chant those for a while and get a feel for the flavor, the rhythm, the feeling. Then get back to me, cretinous one.

Anyway, my favorite phrases and words from books share a few things. Strong imagery, lyric rhythm and the music of sound are important. There is also a deepseated need for style. Style, the indefinable quality that distinguishes artistry from pedantry.  Hwaet.

“I shrugged my shoulders, and burnt my boats.” The Pale Horse

“Once there was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“No more of comfort shall ye get/Save that the sky grows darker yet/And the sea rises higher.” Ballad of the White Horse. 

“Death smelled different in Russia.” A Time to Love, A Time to Die.

“There he saw the sister of Gregory, the girl with the gold-red hair, cutting lilac before breakfast, with the great unconscious gravity of a girl.”  The Man Who Was Thursday

“….That meeting displeases me. I am going to pull that meeting’s great, ugly, mahogany-colored nose.” Ibid.

“Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house. ” The Two Towers

“‘I knew it!’ said Peter. ‘Whoop! I knew it!! You blasphemed the aspidistra and something awful has come down that chimney!'”
Busman’s Honeymoon 

“Two Beggars said I could not miss my way!” Cymbeline 

“This is the forest primeval….” Evangeline

 

Off the top of my head, I can’t remember any more. I know there are many lines that I read which strike deep and sink into my heart. But they are archived for moments when I need them. These are the ones in the top files today. Do share your favoritest line of writing in the comments!

 

Mel’s Meme: Ye Olde Monikers

It is tempting – oh, so tempting! – to announce that I would name my children things like “Eomer”, “Lothirial”, “Idril”, “Beren”, “Eilonwy”, “Gwydion”, “Alighieri”, and so forth.

But sadly, I could never do such a thing.

This is not mere cowardice on my part – although I cringe to think of the looks I would receive for naming a child that – but what I would like to think of as “humanity”. As much as I love Middle Earth, my children will have to live on this earth. And deal with the societies of this earth. So, I prefer not to make it too difficult for them.

And I have long since come to the opinion that some names qualify as child abuse. Therefore, there must be rules in naming children.

Rule #1: The name must not be too cumbersome for the poor, defenceless babe who must go through life bearing this name.

 

Some more obscure characters do tempt me to use their names. In particular, Miss Anathama Devyce from Good Omens, whose parent chose her name based more on sound than meaning. The thing is, it is a pretty sounding name . . .

My given name means “ready for the harvest”, which is pretty prosaic. My siblings all have cool name meanings, like “grace”, “beauty”, “womanly”, “bold protector”, “strength” and “elf army”. So not fair!

My children must have name meanings that are awesome.

Rule #2: The name must be examined for both sound and meaning.

 

Aside from the fantastically named literary figures, there are few who would make decent patrons for baby humans.

Susan Sto Helit. Anne Eliot. Gabriel Gale. Rupert Psmith. Sam Gamgee. Princess Irene.  Sebastian Flyte.

Er, maybe not the last one.

But none of the names on their own resonate with the associations of that character. I could name child Susan, and no one know who I was naming her after.

This works the other way too. What is it with villains having nice names? I love the name Margaret, but Shakespeare’s histories have ruined that one for me.

Also, the end of the character makes a difference. Desdemona is such a pretty name, but I would prefer to lessen my child’s chances of strangling.

And authors themselves make wonderful role models, but so often their own names are strange, or ugly, or dull!

John Ronald Ruel? No thank you. Clive? Ugh.

And while I like the names “Agatha” and “Dorothy”, (although I do prefer “Dorothea”,  or even “Theodora”: they all mean “gift of God”!) I am not soooo fond of Ms. Christi or Ms. Sayers as to claim their patronage for my offspring.

And though t’would be delightful to name a man-child after Chesterton, that is a moniker of such determined presence that it would require an equally strong surname. So I cannot exactly plan on using it.

Rule #3: The name must be clearly associated with figures whom I can respect, who are decent patrons, and who do not have horrible fates.

 

Oh, the naming of a child is already a fearful and wonderful responsibility!

See, I am also working on a theory that names affect character.

For instance, think of all the people to you know who are named, (or go by,) “Ben”. Aren’t they all fun, odd, unique, quirky, smart people? I would not mind having a “Ben” for a child.

But I would mind having a “Fred”. All the Freds that I have known, in either fiction or real life, tend to be . . . . annoying.

Rule #4: The name must in of itself recall excellent character and personality.

 

These all being the case, there are very few literary characters for whom I would actually name my children.

After much thought and consideration, (and conferencing with my dad,) I managed to pull the Pevensie children to mind. And I can say with complete certainty that I would enjoy having a Lucy and an Edmund.

Also, perhaps, a Miranda, an Andromache, a Gareth, (or Gawain,) a Cúchulainn, or a Gertrude.

But in truth, there are only two characters for whom I would absolutely name my children. These I did not have to think about; they have long been lurking in the corners of my imagination, awaiting only the child.

 

So, unless my husband vehemently (very vehemently) objects, my first son will be named “Benedict”.

After Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. (But with a slight spelling change.) I love this name not just for it’s association, and the hope that my child will become as smart, manly and sweet as his namesake,  but for the fact that it means “Blessed”.

And, oddly enough, one of my daughters will be named “Beatrice”.

Not, shockingly, after the Shakespearian counterpart. But after Dante’s Beatrice, who guided him in Heaven.

Both these characters are ones whom I admire and respect and even love.

And, for Heaven’s sake, they both just have awesome names!