BBWB 5: Suffragettes

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This was a most ‘immoral’ age
Dancing new-fangl’d tangos
Eliza swearing on the stage
Catwalks of risque clothes

An age it was of civil strife
Trade Unions upstirring
As strikes in every walk of life
Halts empire’s engines’ whirring

& bless the brazen Suffragette
That patriarchy smothers
“We’ll all get to the hustings yet
We sisters, sweethearts, mothers!”

Among whose thriving militants
Stands Sarah Fullarton
Emitting clear omnipotence
Until the vote is won

She was the fairest e’er to walk
The fragrant curves of Brodick
A lily on a fillystalk
But ‘tricky’ as a chopstick

For in an age of man & wife
When wives were more like servants
She’s chose to forge a finer life
‘Spite disapproving parents

In Glasgow there’s a rally sworn
All in Saint Andrew’s Hall
From Brodick, by swift steamer borne,
She’ll answer Pankhurst’s call.

Where if the Police did barge inside
Misusing all their powers
The speaker’s platform fortified
With barbwire mask’d by flowers

The room erupts, queen Emmeline
Captures the room starstatur’d
This is the season aquiline
When hearts by reason raptur’d

“Good morning sisters of the world
For future time each fights
When every little new-born girl
Shall share her brother’s rights

My promise kept, I’m here my friends
Despite our Kingship’s serpentin’d
Government’s inord’nate spends
To silence womenkind

But wit and ingenuities
Of women overcome such
Disgraceful elitist committees
That jaded aegis clutch

& come the change to surely come
That only time hold’s back
We’ll bang the democratic drum
Out of the cul-de-sac

Of our dead nation that ignores
The honest protestations
Of women knocking at all doors
Of legal delegations

Archbishops and the King himself
Dismisses each petition
Places them unread on a shelf
& calls its text sedition

How can one assume seditious
Equality twyx sexes
& socio-political justice –
Instead they avoid or vex us!”

With angry shouts & whistle blows
A storm of surging policemen
Surge thro’ the hall, a pure storm rose
Of women fighting men

Towards the stage the Police advance
With batons drawn for battles
Hail-dodging in a weird wardance
Chairs, boxes, buckets, bottles

A confus’d scene of bloody streams
& violence erupted,
The reckoning of dark regimes
By wickedness corrupted

A tornado’s worth of odium
All round the stage congeal’d
The Policemen reach the podium
Paus’d by barb’d wires conceal’d

Then stabbing pincers crab on crab
Hands lunge at Emmeline
Men drag her to a waiting cab
Some shameful concubine

She’s tossed inside a mouldy cell
Refuses bread & water
For you she’s done it, damoiselle,
For your mother & your daughter

All night the hungerstrike she kept
In noble spirit springing
Erewhile the streets of Glasgow slept
The Suffragettes were singing

Next morning she was roughly strapp’d
To stretcher & then driven
To Central Station, how they clapp’d
Those women who had striven

To line the route from cell to rail
Conjoin’d in common chorus
A movement that must never fail
Against the dinosaurus

That is the patriarchal beast
As down to Holloway
Goes Mrs Pankhurst whose increas’d
Her cause that awful day

When politics & ministers
Spurn basic Human Rights
& sends in strong-arm sinisters
Those ant-farm saprophytes!

Lord Byron on Poets & Poetry

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Embedded in canto III of Don Juan – stanzas 78-100 – is what can be consider’d Lord Byron’s ‘Apologie to poetry.’ It is a glorious mix of acute insight & criticism that reads amongst the best of his works. In the middle of the stanzas we can also find one of his most beautful ballads – named ‘The Isles of Greece’ – which invokes & laments the freedom of Greece. The extract begins with Juan & his recently acquired ladyfriend, Haidee, are lavishly entertaining in her father’s house, who they think as actually dead. Among the entertainers there is a famous poet which becomes the mouthpiece for Byron’s panaramic exposition of poetry.

And now they were diverted by their suite,
Dwarfs, dancing girls, black eunuchs, and a poet,
Which made their new establishment complete;
The last was of great fame, and liked to show it:
His verses rarely wanted their due feet;
And for his theme—he seldom sung below it,
He being paid to satirize or flatter,
As the psalm says, ‘inditing a good matter.’

He praised the present, and abused the past,
Reversing the good custom of old days,
An Eastern anti-jacobin at last
He turn’d, preferring pudding to no praise—
For some few years his lot had been o’ercast
By his seeming independent in his lays,
But now he sung the Sultan and the Pacha
With truth like Southey, and with verse like Crashaw.

He was a man who had seen many changes,
And always changed as true as any needle;
His polar star being one which rather ranges,
And not the fix’d—he knew the way to wheedle:
So vile he ‘scaped the doom which oft avenges;
And being fluent (save indeed when fee’d ill),
He lied with such a fervour of intention—
There was no doubt he earn’d his laureate pension.

But he had genius,—when a turncoat has it,
The ‘Vates irritabilis’ takes care
That without notice few full moons shall pass it;
Even good men like to make the public stare:—
But to my subject—let me see—what was it?-
O!—the third canto—and the pretty pair—
Their loves, and feasts, and house, and dress, and mode
Of living in their insular abode.

Their poet, a sad trimmer, but no less
In company a very pleasant fellow,
Had been the favourite of full many a mess
Of men, and made them speeches when half mellow;
And though his meaning they could rarely guess,
Yet still they deign’d to hiccup or to bellow
The glorious meed of popular applause,
Of which the first ne’er knows the second cause.

But now being lifted into high society,
And having pick’d up several odds and ends
Of free thoughts in his travels for variety,
He deem’d, being in a lone isle, among friends,
That, without any danger of a riot, he
Might for long lying make himself amends;
And, singing as he sung in his warm youth,
Agree to a short armistice with truth.

He had travell’d ‘mongst the Arabs, Turks, and Franks,
And knew the self-loves of the different nations;
And having lived with people of all ranks,
Had something ready upon most occasions—
Which got him a few presents and some thanks.
He varied with some skill his adulations;
To ‘do at Rome as Romans do,’ a piece
Of conduct was which he observed in Greece.

Thus, usually, when he was ask’d to sing,
He gave the different nations something national;
‘T was all the same to him—’God save the king,’
Or ‘Ca ira,’ according to the fashion all:
His muse made increment of any thing,
From the high lyric down to the low rational:
If Pindar sang horse-races, what should hinder
Himself from being as pliable as Pindar?

In France, for instance, he would write a chanson;
In England a six canto quarto tale;
In Spain, he’d make a ballad or romance on
The last war—much the same in Portugal;
In Germany, the Pegasus he ‘d prance on
Would be old Goethe’s (see what says De Stael);
In Italy he ‘d ape the ‘Trecentisti;’
In Greece, he sing some sort of hymn like this t’ ye:


The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.

The Scian and the Teian muse,
The hero’s harp, the lover’s lute,
Have found the fame your shores refuse;
Their place of birth alone is mute
To sounds which echo further west
Than your sires’ ‘Islands of the Blest.’

The mountains look on Marathon—
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream’d that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

A king sate on the rocky brow
Which looks o’er sea-born Salamis;
And ships, by thousands, lay below,
And men in nations;—all were his!
He counted them at break of day—
And when the sun set where were they?

And where are they? and where art thou,
My country? On thy voiceless shore
The heroic lay is tuneless now—
The heroic bosom beats no more!
And must thy lyre, so long divine,
Degenerate into hands like mine?

‘T is something, in the dearth of fame,
Though link’d among a fetter’d race,
To feel at least a patriot’s shame,
Even as I sing, suffuse my face;
For what is left the poet here?
For Greeks a blush—for Greece a tear.

Must we but weep o’er days more blest?
Must we but blush?—Our fathers bled.
Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae!

What, silent still? and silent all?
Ah! no;—the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent’s fall,
And answer, ‘Let one living head,
But one arise,—we come, we come!’
‘T is but the living who are dumb.

In vain—in vain: strike other chords;
Fill high the cup with Samian wine!
Leave battles to the Turkish hordes,
And shed the blood of Scio’s vine!
Hark! rising to the ignoble call—
How answers each bold Bacchanal!

You have the Pyrrhic dance as yet,
Where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?
Of two such lessons, why forget
The nobler and the manlier one?
You have the letters Cadmus gave—
Think ye he meant them for a slave?

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
We will not think of themes like these!
It made Anacreon’s song divine:
He served—but served Polycrates—
A tyrant; but our masters then
Were still, at least, our countrymen.

The tyrant of the Chersonese
Was freedom’s best and bravest friend;
That tyrant was Miltiades!
O! that the present hour would lend
Another despot of the kind!
Such chains as his were sure to bind.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
On Suli’s rock, and Parga’s shore,
Exists the remnant of a line
Such as the Doric mothers bore;
And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,
The Heracleidan blood might own.

Trust not for freedom to the Franks—
They have a king who buys and sells;
In native swords, and native ranks,
The only hope of courage dwells;
But Turkish force, and Latin fraud,
Would break your shield, however broad.

Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!
Our virgins dance beneath the shade—
I see their glorious black eyes shine;
But gazing on each glowing maid,
My own the burning tear-drop laves,
To think such breasts must suckle slaves

Place me on Sunium’s marbled steep,
Where nothing, save the waves and I,
May hear our mutual murmurs sweep;
There, swan-like, let me sing and die:
A land of slaves shall ne’er be mine—
Dash down yon cup of Samian wine!

Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,
The modern Greek, in tolerable verse;
If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
Yet in these times he might have done much worse:
His strain display’d some feeling—right or wrong;
And feeling, in a poet, is the source
Of others’ feeling; but they are such liars,
And take all colours—like the hands of dyers.

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
‘T is strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper—even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that ‘s his.

And when his bones are dust, his grave a blank,
His station, generation, even his nation,
Become a thing, or nothing, save to rank
In chronological commemoration,
Some dull MS. oblivion long has sank,
Or graven stone found in a barrack’s station
In digging the foundation of a closet,
May turn his name up, as a rare deposit.

And glory long has made the sages smile;
‘T is something, nothing, words, illusion, wind—
Depending more upon the historian’s style
Than on the name a person leaves behind:
Troy owes to Homer what whist owes to Hoyle:
The present century was growing blind
To the great Marlborough’s skill in giving knocks,
Until his late life by Archdeacon Coxe.

Milton ‘s the prince of poets—so we say;
A little heavy, but no less divine:
An independent being in his day—
Learn’d, pious, temperate in love and wine;
But, his life falling into Johnson’s way,
We ‘re told this great high priest of all the Nine
Was whipt at college—a harsh sire—odd spouse,
For the first Mrs. Milton left his house.

All these are, certes, entertaining facts,
Like Shakspeare’s stealing deer, Lord Bacon’s bribes;
Like Titus’ youth, and Caesar’s earliest acts;
Like Burns (whom Doctor Currie well describes);
Like Cromwell’s pranks;—but although truth exacts
These amiable descriptions from the scribes,
As most essential to their hero’s story,
They do not much contribute to his glory.

All are not moralists, like Southey, when
He prated to the world of ‘Pantisocracy;’
Or Wordsworth unexcised, unhired, who then
Season’d his pedlar poems with democracy;
Or Coleridge, long before his flighty pen
Let to the Morning Post its aristocracy;
When he and Southey, following the same path,
Espoused two partners (milliners of Bath).

Such names at present cut a convict figure,
The very Botany Bay in moral geography;
Their loyal treason, renegado rigour,
Are good manure for their more bare biography.
Wordsworth’s last quarto, by the way, is bigger
Than any since the birthday of typography;
A drowsy frowzy poem, call’d the ‘Excursion.’
Writ in a manner which is my aversion.

He there builds up a formidable dyke
Between his own and others’ intellect;
But Wordsworth’s poem, and his followers, like
Joanna Southcote’s Shiloh, and her sect,
Are things which in this century don’t strike
The public mind,—so few are the elect;
And the new births of both their stale virginities
Have proved but dropsies, taken for divinities.

But let me to my story: I must own,
If I have any fault, it is digression—
Leaving my people to proceed alone,
While I soliloquize beyond expression;
But these are my addresses from the throne,
Which put off business to the ensuing session:
Forgetting each omission is a loss to
The world, not quite so great as Ariosto.

I know that what our neighbours call ‘longueurs’
(We ‘ve not so good a word, but have the thing
In that complete perfection which ensures
An epic from Bob Southey every spring),
Form not the true temptation which allures
The reader; but ‘t would not be hard to bring
Some fine examples of the epopee,
To prove its grand ingredient is ennui.

We learn from Horace, ‘Homer sometimes sleeps;’
We feel without him, Wordsworth sometimes wakes,—
To show with what complacency he creeps,
With his dear ‘Waggoners,’ around his lakes.
He wishes for ‘a boat’ to sail the deeps—
Of ocean?—No, of air; and then he makes
Another outcry for ‘a little boat,’
And drivels seas to set it well afloat.

If he must fain sweep o’er the ethereal plain,
And Pegasus runs restive in his ‘Waggon,’
Could he not beg the loan of Charles’s Wain?
Or pray Medea for a single dragon?
Or if, too classic for his vulgar brain,
He fear’d his neck to venture such a nag on,
And he must needs mount nearer to the moon,
Could not the blockhead ask for a balloon?

‘Pedlars,’ and ‘Boats,’ and ‘Waggons!’ Oh! ye shades
Of Pope and Dryden, are we come to this?
That trash of such sort not alone evades
Contempt, but from the bathos’ vast abyss
Floats scumlike uppermost, and these Jack Cades
Of sense and song above your graves may hiss—
The ‘little boatman’ and his ‘Peter Bell’
Can sneer at him who drew ‘Achitophel’!

The Kilmarnock Burns And Book History

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The Kilmarnock in wrappers (Image by kind permission of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, National Trust for Scotland)

Patrick Scott is Research Fellow for Scottish Collections and Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina. His work on the Kilmarnock Edition is a must read for all fans of Rabbie Burns.

Allan Young and I have just published the first-ever attempt to track down all surviving copies of Burns’s first book, Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect (Kilmarnock: Wilson, 1786), the Kilmarnock Burns (1). Mr Young started working on this project fifteen years ago, and I have been collaborating with him for the past two years. We located just eighty-four surviving copies, which makes Burns’s book three times rarer than the Shakespeare First Folio.

At one level, this project might seem merely antiquarian. As early as 1903, the purchase of a Kilmarnock by the Burns Monument trustees was fiercely denounced in an Aberdeen newspaper:

Really, I think it is absurd for the Burns Trustees to throw away so much money […] Private individuals may spend their thousands on first editions if they choose: but could the memory of Burns not be honoured in a more practical way than by giving £1,000 for a book which is to go in a glass case and be looked at by tourists? (2)

Yet one of the big recent shifts in literary studies has been the growing interest in ‘book history’, and in the material forms in which we encounter literary texts. Mr. Young and I were not just listing the eighty-four copies, but trying to describe them and track their stories. After 230 years, the ravages of time and the pride of former owners have left marks on each surviving copy. Many copies carry ownership inscriptions, annotations, or bookplates. Some include manuscript poems, a few in Burns’s hand. Successive bindings and re-bindings mean that the copies vary quite a bit in size. Some have tears or missing leaves, and even after repair and replacement, most restoration leaves detectable traces. The accumulative of such changes makes every copy distinctive, and through reading these differences one can reconstruct changing attitudes to this book, and to Burns himself.

Like much about Burns, the story is very easy to oversimplify. To its first readers, in July and August 1786, Burns’s book made its appearance in plain blue-gray paper wrappers, with the page edges untrimmed, and it was available chiefly through local distribution to subscribers in Ayrshire itself. The wrappers were fragile, and the paper spine cracked away easily, so few copies survive in this original form, but one is at Alloway, in the Birthplace Museum (the same copy that drew that protest in 1903), and it can be viewed on the RBBM website. (3)

But just as Henry Mackenzie’s ‘Heav’n-taught ploughman’ would morph into the late Victorian National Bard, so the Kilmarnock’s original fragile wrappers would in time typically be replaced by fine bindings in gold-tooled full morocco, from such noted London binders as Bedford or Rivière. The majority of copies now surviving are in a binding from this period, though not all quite as spectacular as the one illustrated below, which Ross Roy used to say was more appropriate for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam than for a Kilmarnock. (4)

The Kilmarnock rebound: full red morocco, gilt, by Rivière, ca. 1900 (Image courtesy of the G. Ross Roy Collection, University of South Carolina / photo: Robert Smith)

Such bindings were not only a statement about the importance of Burns, but also of the owner’s wealth and status, and the best examples are collectible in their own right: indeed, most copies in fine bindings were housed in their own protective morocco slip cases or boxes that to the casual eye look equally impressive. By 1900, Burns was not only a prestige author, but an international one. Both buyers and prices had changed: instead of an Ayrshire farmer the typical early twentieth-century Kilmarnock purchaser might be a Scottish peer or an American railroad baron. Burns’s original subscribers had paid just 3 shillings (15p), but in 1929 a copy sold at auction for £2,550 (£140,000 at current value). In 2017, while there are still six copies in Ayrshire, and twenty-five in Scotland, there are at least forty-eight in the United States.

The contrast seems obvious enough. A Kilmarnock as originally issued was all of a piece with hodden gray, hamely fare, and a’ that. The Kilmarnock as later collected was a precious icon of world literature. Relatively few of the later collectors aimed to build a comprehensive collection of Burns editions. Most of them were adding a Kilmarnock alongside other Great Books. Indeed, part of its prestige in the market was its inclusion in One Hundred Books Famous in English Literature, a collector-list published in 1902 by the Grolier Club of New York.

Both sides of this contrast need more nuance. The original page format and paper show the Kilmarnock was always intended to look superior to John Wilson’s previous books. The distinctive title-page decorations, also used throughout the book, seem to have been specially purchased to reflect this ambition. The paper covers were intended to be temporary, and most purchasers had their copy put in a more serviceable binding; Burns himself told his friend John Richmond ‘you must bind it neatly’. (5)

These early bindings, rather than the copies in wrappers, show best how Burns was read by his Ayrshire contemporaries. Distribution also qualifies too populist a narrative. As Richard Sher has pointed out, the immediate economic success of the volume came more from the backing of a few major supporters than from individual subscribers; over two thirds of the 612 copies were bought by just seven names. (6) In November 1786, when a letter to the Edinburgh Evening Courant complained that ‘not one’ of Ayrshire’s ‘Peers, Nabobs, and wealthy Commoners’ had ‘stepped forth as a patron’ to Burns, Gavin Hamilton fired back that, of the original print run, ‘the greatest part […] were subscribed for, or bought up by, the gentlemen of Airshire’. (7)

On the other side, even in the 1890s and early 1900s, many individual Kilmarnock owners on both sides of the Atlantic have not been people of great wealth. Duncan M’Naught, longtime editor of the Burns Chronicle, was parish schoolmaster of Kilmaurs, but owned two Kilmarnocks. One of the most famous wrappered Kilmarnocks was owned in the 1890s by A. C. Lamb, proprietor of a temperance hotel in Dundee. By 1900, too, many copies had become tatty, and the elaborate bindings played an important role in their survival. Unlike the Shakespeare First Folio, the Kilmarnock Burns is a thin volume that, in an undistinguished early binding or in bad condition, could well be overlooked when an owner dies or a house is cleared. Part C of our book contains several anecdotes of this kind. It was not till the collector generation that the special importance of the surviving wrappered copies was recognized, and the competition between collectors who couldn’t get one put a special premium on other copies with early inscriptions or manuscript material. Once a Burns manuscript had been bound up with a Kilmarnock in red morocco gilt, its survival was ensured. It was many years later before university libraries and other public institutions took over this role to any significant extent.

The Kilmarnock in a contemporary binding: full calf, gilt spine with label, edges trimmed (The Earl of Glencairn’s copy / image courtesy of Dr. William Zachs)

In his own times, Burns’s poetry was disseminated in many different ways, not just in books, from manuscript and oral transmission to newspapers, chapbooks and broadsides. Burns himself wrote a satiric squib about fine bindings and insect damage in an aristocratic library:

Through and through th’inspired leaves,
Ye maggots, make your windings,
But, oh! Respect his lordship’s taste,
And spare his golden bindings.

Two centuries later, the importance of Burns’s own poems means that all Kilmarnocks, whatever their binding, can be of great research interest as well as of monetary value. Even a copy that is damaged or imperfect tells a story. It is often through the material form in which Burns’s first book has survived, in the ambitious ‘improvements’ made by earlier owners and in the traces of neglect or mishandling, that we can now reconstruct the varied ways in which Burns has been valued.

End Notes
1 – Allan Young and Patrick Scott, The Kilmarnock Burns: A Census (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Libraries, 2017). The discussion here draws from my introductory essay, ‘Describing the Kilmarnock’, pp. xxi-xxxvi, which gives fuller references.
2 – Aberdeen Journal, July 29, 1903, p. 10.
3 – Robert Burns Birthplace Museum object 3:3135
G4 – . Ross Roy, in Burns Chronicle Homecoming 2009, ed. Peter J. Westwood (Dumfries: Burns Federation, 2010), p. 415.
5 – Letters of Robert Burns, ed. G. Ross Roy (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985), I: 50.
6 – Richard Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors & Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, & America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), p. 230.
7 – The exchange is reprinted in Donald A. Low, ed., Robert Burns: the Critical Heritage (London: Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1974), pp. 65-66.
8 – Poems and Songs, ed. James Kinsley (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), II: 906.

On The Antiquities of Arran (4): Machrie Moor and the Samothrakean Mysteries

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Is it possible, still, that the ancient gods can influence the modern world. Recent investigations of mine have landed my personal supposition on the notion firmly in the YES camp. It all begins with my first glimpse of Samothraki, last summer, about this time of year actually, when I remarked to myself how like Arran the island appear’d – a great mountainous heap on an isolated island, with lower levels spread either side of the peak. Fengari Mountain & Goat Fell are both about the same size & rise like jagged dragonsteeth from the sea & anyone seeing both peaks can only assume they were crafted by the same forces.

On Samothraki is the anciently famous Sanctuary of the Great Gods, which I visited last year & was inspired to recreate the Mysteries once held there – Alexander the Great’s mum & dad were two initiates who met during the ceremony. On visiting the sprawling complex I was inspired to recreate the Mysteries from the scraps of detail recorded millennia ago – the following two posts ( a video) show the idea & its fruition.

Reconstructing the Samothrakian Mysteries

The Samothracian Mysteries

Roll on a year & I am conducting a chispological survey into the antiquities of Arran – see what I can dig up that has been missed. So let us revisit Machrie Moor, an amazing place I was last at a few weeks back. A century ago scholars had decided that because they found sepulchral remains in the circles of Machrie Moor, then this was their main purpose. However, holy sites in Britain have always evolved. It is not uncommon in the south of England especially to find a church built upon the site of a Roman temple, which in turn was erected on some pagan place of worship. It is possible, then, that the Machrie Moor complex had also evolved, from Pagan through Cronos worship into this fresh hyperbasis upon which I shall now attempt to show its one-time relationship with the Great Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothraki.

We begin with a 20th century American author, Jean Stafford, who noticed the connection between Corrie & Cora, inventing a rather spurious story about her being related to Alexander the Great, but adding an interesting detail that her ancestors had migrated from Samothraki to Arran. A strange start, admittedly, but as a Chispologist I see the latent possibility in the village Corrie of being connected to the Goddess Cora, also known as Persophone, the daughter of the great mother nature goddess, Demeter. This leads us then to Strabo, who on discussing the geographical writings of Artemidorus of Ephesus [late second-century BC], we read that, ‘his report about the goddesses Demeter and Core is more credible. He says that there is an island near Britain on which sacrifices are performed like those in Samothrace for Demeter and Core.’

Of course that only narrows the Samothracian mysteries to an island off mainland Britain, but the fact that the rites were performed in this area is both astonishing & also unacknowledged by academia! Those mysteries, by the way, were said to have been founded by two legendary heroes & brothers, Dardanos and Iasion, who became associated with the divine twins known as the Dioscuri. This then leads us to Diodorus Siculus’ discussion of Timaeus [early third century BC];

Historians point out that the Celts who live on the shore of the Ocean honor the Dioscori above other gods. For there is an ancient tradition among them that these gods came to them from the Ocean.

The Sanctuary of the Great Gods
Machrie Moor

One way of looking at that information is to place Dardanos and Iasion voyaging along the fringes of north west Europe, coming across the Samothracian looking Arran & deciding to set up a sister mystery ceremony. Perhaps. But if they did, then it must have been at Machrie Moor, a series of stone circles which seem to mirror the areas at Samothraki thro which the initiation ceremony convey’d. In the following image of Samothraki, the buildings themselves were erected over many centuries but noble patrons, but like I said before, these constructions may have been novel ‘improvements’ on earlier layers, which could well have been stone circles or something akin. This is a quote from my own post on Recreating the Samothrakean Mysteries;

The physical evidence of the Mystery ceremony can be found at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothraki, a sprawling religious pan-centurial site which contains the three sacred precincts which the initiate had to move through in order to complete the Mystery procession. These were the preliminary Myeses, the Telete & the Epopteia. One school of thought states that after a prospective initiate had been prepared in the Sanctuary’s Sacristy, the Myesis took place in the Anaktoron’s main hall, followed by the Telete in the inner adyton at the building’s north end. Once this concluded, the mystai (initiates) could proceed to the Hieron where they acquired the higher degree, the epopteia.

I will leave this post with one last hint at the background to what I now believe is the sacred colony of Samothraki that had been set up on Arran. We begin with a passage from Diodorus Siculus discussing the mysteries;

And Iasion is reputed to have been the first to initiate strangers into them and by this means to bring the initiatory rite to high esteem. And after this Cadmus, the son of Agenor, came in the course of his quest for Europê to the Samothracians, and after participating in the initiation he married Harmonia, who was the sister of Iasion and not, as the Greeks recount in their mythologies, the daughter of Ares.

This wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia was the first, we are told, for which the gods provided the marriage-feast, and Demeter, becoming enamoured of Iasion, presented him with the fruit of the corn, Hermes gave a lyre, Athena the renowned necklace and a robe and a flute, and Electra the sacred rites of the Great Mother of the Gods, as she is called, together with cymbals and kettledrums and the instruments of her ritual; and Apollo played upon the lyre and the Muses upon their flutes, and the rest of the gods spoke them fair and gave the pair their aid in the celebration of the wedding.

The claim is also made that men who have taken part in the mysteries become both more pious and more just and better in every respect than they were before. And this is the reason, we are told, why the most famous both of the ancient heroes and of the demi-gods were eagerly desirous of taking part in the initiatory rite; and in fact Jason and the Dioscori, and Heracles and Orpheus as well, after their initiation attained success in all the campaigns they undertook, because these gods appeared to them.

The key nugget here is the mention of Agenor, who I believe is present in the Pictish King List as Agam/Agnoiun at the very start of the Pictish arrival in Britain.

The children of Gleoin, son of Ercol, took possession of the islands of Orcc, that is, Historend, son of Historrim, son of Agam, son of Agathirsi

Cruithne, son of Cinge, son of Luctai, son of Parthalan, son of Agnoiun

Which leaves us perfectly poised for the next installment of The Antiquities of Arran, where I shall be associating the island with the Hyksos diaspora…

On the Antiquities of Arran (3) : Sacrifice on Stronach Ridge

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There has been a new development to my time on Arran. But before we step forth upon the evolution, here is one last sonnet from my Sannox explorations, with rather a lovely name I think;


Following the bob of the deers’ head guide

I scamper’d up my first Arran hillside

Not quite a goat, not even younger man

But, damn it, let me do the best I can

For I shall dwell the best part of a year

Upon these stones, where bones of mountaineer

Who died a lonely death, a broken pile,

Lies hidden in some crevice peristyle;

On scene-sunk ridge I gulp’d a morsel thrill

But storming midgies meant no standing still

Until I froze, & found I’d lost my hat

A good one, & my only one at that

Destin’d to join the lost lives Arran’s claim’d,

Ungarnish’d & ungarden’d & unnamed.

As for my personal progression, I have found a patron here, who seems a fan of my poetical intellect & historical instincts. One could say Clio & Calliope have gone to work. The gentleman lives in England, but has a holiday home on Arran & after a most serendipitous meeting he has leant me his house &, better, still, his copious cornucopia of archeology books, including many on Arran itself.

A couple of days after we met he took me on a small expedition to the woodlands behind Brodick School, parking the car near the entrance to Glen Rosa. It was not too deep into the forest that we came across certain slanting rocks on which were carved cup marks & some images that looked like circles & keyholes. 

I also noticed certain channels & after a while I I began to get the notion that because there were two channels per circle – the legs of the keyhole so to speak – there might have been some kind of oracular purpose based upon the blood flow of sacrificed animals, or even humans. I.e. putting a bird or a human heart in the circle & seeing where the blood flowed, either the yes or the no channel.

My new friend said he’d never heard that before & a few days later after he’d left for England I began to analyze his library in search of more information on those markings.

In the very famous 2 volume Book Of Arran by J.A. Balfour (volume 1 – archeology 1910), there is a chapter by Fred T Coles entitled ‘Cup & Ring-Marked Rocks: Stronach Ridge, Brodick,’ which immediately gave me the name of the place I had become curious about – Stronach Ridge. In 1910 Mr Coles had made a special examination & drawings of the site for the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, which Balfour reprinted.

Of the images, Coles writes;

These designs, though never hitherto noticed in Scotland in anything like the same number, have their cognates elsewhere. For example, on a rockat Gillroannie, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, there occurs just such a plain oval ‘boss’ as is found here on Stronach Ridge… & in Yorkshire, on a stone near the Panorama Stone, & on other surfaces in that neighbourhood, near Ilkley.

In a later book of the 20th century, ‘Exploring Arran’s Past’ Horace Fairhurst adss a little more correlative knowledge;

Examples of comparable decorated surfaces occur notably at Kilmichael Glassary & other sites in Mid-Argyll, & again around Gatehouse of Fleet. Boulders with man-made cup markings on them are common in various parts of Scotland, including Kintyre, but they seem to be scarce on Arran.

As a scholar of Pictish history, I also noticed the similarity between the ring marks & one of the Pictish symbols, monicker’d the ‘Disc & Rectangle.

At this point in my study I would like to bring to your attention a certain passage in Hector Boece’s 16th century history of Scotland. In recent centuries Academia has debated & argued its way through the possible meaning of the Pictish symbols, but perhaps Boece knew the answer all along; 

Those who died fighting the Britons should be honored with conspicuous monuments, and obelisks should be erected over their tombs to match the number of men they had killed. A large quantity of these obelisks can still be seen in the Highlands. In later times the custom arose that the tombs of the most famous and distinguished men were held in veneration like shrines, and men would build cairns of stones and erect large ones on which were inscribed the shapes of fish, snakes, and birds (that age used these instead of letters of the alphabet for writing arcane things), to advise passers-by who they were and what fair things they had achieved in life.

A very early Pictish presence on the island could well be connected to the cairns mentioned by Boece & also Thomas Pennant, who tour’d the Scottish highlands in 1772. Of the cairns, Balfour writes;

The Chambered Cairns of Arran are chiefly distributed over the southern half of the island. It is probable that many examples of this class of monument have disappeared owing to the extension of cultivation. Since the date of Pennant’s tour (1772) a number of great cairns which he describes have wholly vanished.

I shall be analyzing the very early Pictish connection to Arran in the next ‘episode,’ which the cairns might be a relique of. My studies are definitely gonna happen now, I’m sure, for I’ve been bless’d with a sense of security & permanence. My bookshop is up & running, as is the ground coffee beans element which I’ve introduced to my ‘revenue stream.’ Indeed, I feel rather safe, blessed even, to continue my investigations into the Antiquities of Arran.

Samuel Johnson on Pope & Dryden

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Sir Joshua Reynolds famous portrait of Dr Johnson
Sir Joshua Reynolds famous portrait of Dr Johnson

Dryden’s page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope’s is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.

As tradition ebbs & flows, so fashion comes & goes, & there can be no more of a fashion in English poetry than the more than a century long fastidious passion of the neo-classical couplet. Beginning in the mid seventeenth century & lasting all the way up to the dawn of the Romantics, of the poets who composed in the form there are two which may be considers as the true musical composers of the language. If Milton was a church organ, then Dryden & Pope were symphonies with strings. Pope’s reputation as a poet has always fluctuated. Some ages dote all over him, while others deny him even the title of a poet, as in Hazlitt’s;

The question, whether Pope was a poet, has hardly yet been settled, & is hardly worth settling; for if he was not a great poet, he must have been a great prose writer, that ism he was a great writer of some sort.

For me, Pope was a poet inhibited by poetical experience. Physically invalided, he never really travelled & his poetical creation was confined to books & his prodigious imagination. But a poet he has to be, his Iliad is the greatest transcreation in the English language, a real store house of my language’s phraseology, diction & vocabulary – a true epic lacking only its author’s original muse. Indeed, it was Dryden’s own work with the epic of Virgil that seems to have inspired Pope to his Iliadic task. Coleridge writes, in his Biographia Literia;

Of the two poets, & their differences, Samuel Johnson remarks with acute dissemination. The following passages come from his 1781 ‘Life of Pope,’ so obviously contains a slight bias to Pope, but it is in the comparison with Dryden that we gain such an accurate judgement of both men’s abilities.

In his perusal of the English poets he soon distinguished the versification of Dryden, which he considered as the model to be studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his instructer that he persuaded some friends to take him to the coffeehouse which Dryden frequented, and pleased himself with having seen him.

Dryden died May 1, 1701, some days before Pope was twelve: so early must he therefore have felt the power of harmony, and the zeal of genius. Who does not wish that Dryden could have known the value of the homage that was paid him, and foreseen the greatness of his young admirer?

Pope had now declared himself a poet; and, thinking himself entitled to poetical conversation, began at seventeen to frequent Will’s, a coffee-house on the north side of Russel-street in Covent-garden, where the wits of that time used to assemble, and where Dryden had, when he lived, been accustomed to preside.

He professed to have learned his poetry from Dryden, whom, whenever an opportunity was presented, he praised through his whole life with unvaried liberality; and perhaps his character may receive some illustration if he be compared with his master.

John Dryden

Integrity of understanding and nicety of discernment were not allotted in a less proportion to Dryden than to Pope. The rectitude of Dryden’s mind was sufficiently shewn by the dismission of his poetical prejudices, and the rejection of unnatural thoughts and rugged numbers. But Dryden never desired to apply all the judgement that he had. He wrote, and professed to write, merely for the people; and when he pleased others, he contented himself. He spent no time in struggles to rouse latent powers; he never attempted to make that better which was already good, nor often to mend what he must have known to be faulty. He wrote, as he tells us, with very little consideration; when occasion or necessity called upon him, he poured out what the present moment happened to supply, and, when once it had passed the press, ejected it from his mind; for when he had no pecuniary interest, he had no further solicitude.

His declaration that his care for his works ceased at their publication was not strictly true. His parental attention never abandoned them; what he found amiss in the first edition, he silently corrected in those that followed. He appears to have revised the Iliad, and freed it from some of its imperfections; and the Essay on Criticism received many improvements after its first appearance. It will seldom be found that he altered without adding clearness, elegance, or vigour. Pope had perhaps the judgement of Dryden; but Dryden certainly wanted the diligence of Pope.

In acquired knowledge the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose education was more scholastick, and who before he became an author had been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations from a more extensive circumference of science. Dryden knew more of man in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope by minute attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope.

Poetry was not the sole praise of either, for both excelled likewise in prose; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied, that of Pope is cautious and uniform; Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind, Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden’s page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope’s is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.

Alexander Pope

Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet; that quality without which judgement is cold and knowledge is inert; that energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates — the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred that of this poetical vigour Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more, for every other writer since Milton must give place to Pope; and even of Dryden it must be said that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dryden’s performances were always hasty, either excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestick necessity; he composed without consideration, and published without correction. What his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the flights of Dryden therefore are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden’s fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope’s the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight.

This parallel will, I hope, when it is well considered, be found just; and if the reader should suspect me, as I suspect myself, of some partial fondness for the memory of Dryden, let him not too hastily condemn me; for meditation and enquiry may, perhaps, shew him the reasonableness of my determination.

The chief help of Pope in this arduous undertaking {The Iliad} was drawn from the versions of Dryden. Virgil had borrowed much of his imagery from Homer, and part of the debt was now paid by his translator. Pope searched the pages of Dryden for happy combinations of heroick diction, but it will not be denied that he added much to what he found. He cultivated our language with so much diligence and art that he has left in his Homer a treasure of poetical elegances to posterity. His version may be said to have tuned the English tongue, for since its appearance no writer, however deficient in other powers, has wanted melody. Such a series of lines so elaborately corrected and so sweetly modulated took possession of the publick ear; the vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and the learned wondered at the translation.

Poetical expression includes sound as well as meaning. “Musick,” says Dryden, “is inarticulate poetry”; among the excellences of Pope, therefore, must be mentioned the melody of his metre. By perusing the works of Dryden he discovered the most perfect fabrick of English verse, and habituated himself to that only which he found the best; in consequence of which restraint his poetry has been censured as too uniformly musical, and as glutting the ear with unvaried sweetness. I suspect this objection to be the cant of those who judge by principles rather than perception; and who would even themselves have less pleasure in his works if he had tried to relieve attention by studied discords, or affected to break his lines and vary his pauses.

On The Antiquities of Arran (2): Machrie Moor, Stonehenge & the Worship of Saturn

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The History of the Isle of Arran

Time has advanced my stay on Arran by a few weeks now, leading to me leaving my job at the hotel & in a few days opening the island’s first second hand bookstore in many years. A suitable base for a poet to have his office, close to both the opening of Glen Rosa & the sea, I hope to lead a fulfilling expedition into the antiquities of Arran. It will be called NINE BEES BOOKS, with the nine bees standing for ‘Burnley boy Bullen’s braw banter, butties, brews, browsing & …’ I think I might check ‘booyakasha’ in there somewhere. The butties & brews reference alludes to my wanting to sell proper ground coffee & open a spinach & sandwich bar.

As for my previous employment, I left the hotel after an incident. To cut a long story short, if you dont sub your breakfast chef a bottle of wine til morning, he won’t be making breakfast. That’s an old Burnley proverb, that is. But its also given me the freedom to be true to myself – a poet should be working on poems in the morning, not poached eggs. Then history in the afternoon, where I have made an important early breakthrough, I believe. 

On the western side of Arran one finds the cosmically wonderful series of stone circles upon Machrie Moor. I visited the area the other day with my wee dog Daisy, who had escorted me to Arran with a load of stock for the Nine Bees. While she was cuddling up to the tourists I just sat awhile & ponder’d on the history of its ancient uses – long lost to us now; BUT, I believe I have made the first into exhuming the first bones of their religious rituals. The key is simple – understanding that a double circle of stones, such as those erected at Stonehenge & Machrie Moor (number 5), are astral mirrors of Saturn & its ring(s). This infers some kind of ancient worship of Saturn (Roman), or Cronos (Greek), of which there is definitive evidence, both epigraphical & archeological.

1: Epigraphical Evidence

In Plutarch’s moral essay ‘On the Face appearing in the Orb Of the Moon,’ the journeys of a certain ‘stranger, are narrated to him by Sylla the Carthagean, who had heard the tale himself from the servants of the temple of Cronus in Carthage, where the ‘stranger’ had recently visited. The key passage reads;

An isle Ogygian lies far out at sea,’ distant five days’ sail from Britain, going westwards, and three others equally distant from it, and from each other, are more opposite to the summer visits of the sun; in one of which the barbarians fable that Saturn is imprisoned by Jupiter, whilst his son lies by his side, as though keeping guard over those islands and the sea, which they call ‘the Sea of Cronos.’ The great continent by which the great sea is surrounded on all sides, they say, lies less distant from the others, but about five thousand stadia from Ogygia, for one sailing in a rowing-galley; for the sea is difficult of passage and muddy through the great number of currents, and these currents issue out of the great land, and shoals are formed by them, and the sea becomes clogged and full of earth, by which it has the appearance of being solid. That sea-coast of the mainland Greeks are settled on, around a bay not smaller than the Mæos, the entrance of which lies almost in a straight line opposite the entrance to the Caspian Sea. Those Greeks call and consider themselves continental people, but islanders all such as inhabit this land of ours, inasmuch as it is surrounded on all sides by the sea; and they believe that with the peoples of Cronos were united, later, those who wandered about with Hercules, and being left behind there, they rekindled into strength and numbers the Greek element, then on the point of extinction, and sinking into the barbarian language, manners, and laws; whence Hercules has the first honours there, and Cronos the second. When the star of Cronos, which we call the ‘Informer,’ but they ‘Nocturnal,’ comes into the sign of the Bull every thirty years, they having got ready a long while beforehand all things required for the sacrifice and the games … they send out people appointed by lot in the same number of ships, furnished with provisions and stores necessary for persons intending to cross so vast a sea by dint of rowing, as well as to live a long men in a foreign land. When they have put to sea, they meet, naturally, with different fates, but those who escape from the sea, first of all, touch at the foremost isles, which are inhabited by Greeks also, and see the sun seng for less than one hour for thirty days in succession; and this interval is night, ended with slight darkness, and a twilight glimmering out of the west.

A shorter version of all that would go something like this: Greek colonists settled North America – the great continent – sometime in the distant past. Every thirty years – when Saturn enters the sign of Taurus – some of them set off for a holy island, somewhere in the ocean beyond Britain, said to be where Cronos – ie the earthly deification Saturn – was imprisoned. Once on the island, the acolytes would remain an entire cycle of Saturn then move on, one of whom ended up in Carthage to tell the tale. Plutarch writes; ‘he had a strange desire and longing to observe the Great Island (forso, it seems, they call our part of the world), when the thirty years had elapsed, the relief-party having arrived from home, he saluted his friends and sailed away.’

2: Archeological Evidence

If we look at the plan of Stonehenge & the planet Saturn from above, the resemblances are stunning. The two sets of rings are there, as is the central sphere. Around the latter at Stonehenge are two circles of post-holes – the inner containing 29 holes & the outer 30. These numbers actually correspond to the moment when the long-term observation of Saturn corresponds with the long term observation of the sun. A synodic periods is the time required for a body of the solar system to return to the same position relative to the Sun as seen by an observer on the Earth, which in Saturn’s case is just over 378 days. After 29 of these periods, we reach the same number of days – more or less – as those ticked off by 30 solar years. Thus Plutarch is accurate when he describes Saturn worship on a 30 year solar cycle, & anyone who happen’d to be at Stonehenge, & the first circle by reading the post-holes calendar would have known when the new acolytes would have been setting off from ‘The Great Continent.’ In addition, there is also a ring of 56 chalk-filled holes, known as the Aubrey Holes, which could relate to 56 synodic periods of Saturn matching 717 lunar months, & the fact that one more synodic period equals 59 solar years –  when the configurations of Saturn in the sky are repeated exactly two days later inthe solar year – perhaps to check the accuracy of the whole lunisolar calendar.

Ancient Observations of Saturn

The problem is – how did the ancients know about the rings of Saturn. We cannot see them with the naked eye, & apparently could not until the 17th century & Galileo’s invention of the telescope. HOWEVER, there are numerous & wondrous astronomical observations made by our ancients, among whom the ‘myth’ that Saturn was ringed, or held in chains, had spread far & wide. Perhaps the Greeks or some other people such as the Harrappan civilisation had possessed lenses adapted for the observation of celestial bodies, or were the rings around Saturn were visible to the naked eye at some time in the past? But however the ancients knew of the rings, they definitely knew.

In the Zend-Avesta it is said that the star Tistrya (Jupiter &, later, Venus) keeps Pairiko in twofold bonds, relating to Saturn’s girdle of two groups of rings. The text actually reads, “Tistrya, bright star, keeps Pairiko in twofold bonds, in threefold bonds.” A third ring around Saturn was observed in 1980! 

The ‘Pairi’ phonetic of the Zend-Avesta is present in the New Zealand Maori name for Saturn, Parearau. The word pare denotes a fillet or headband; while arau means “entangled”—or perhaps “surrounded” in this case. IIn The Astronomical Knowledge of the Maori, Genuine and Empirical, published by Elsdon Best in Wellington, NZ in 1922, he writes;

Parearau, say the Tuhoe people, is a wahine tiweka (wayward female), hence she is often termed Hine-i-tiweka. One version makes her the wife of Kopu (Venus), who said to her, “Remain here until daylight; we will then depart.” But Parearau heeded not the word of her husband, and set forth in the evening. When midnight arrived she was clinging to another cheek, hence she was named Hine-i-tiweka. Parearau is often spoken of as a companion of Kopu. Of the origin of this name one says, “Her band quite surrounds her, hence she is called Parearau.”

An ancient engraved wooden panel from Mexico shows the family of the planets: one of them is Saturn, easily recognizable by its rings (see Kingsborough, Antiquities of Mexico (London, 1830), vol. IV)

The Egyptian apellative for Osiris was “the swathed” & in Egyptian legend Isis (Jupiter) swathes Osiris (Saturn). 

The rings of Saturn are referred to by Aeschylus in his Eumenides: “He {Zeus} himself cast into bonds his aged father Cronus”

Mithraic representations of Kronos with his body encircled by a snake (see F. Cumont’s The Mysteries of Mithra [1903]) may attest to a memory of the rings of Saturn. Similarly, the Hindu Sani (the planet Saturn) shown in an ancient woodcut reproduced in F. Maurice, Indian Antiquities (London, 1800 – vol. VII), and described by the author as “encircled with a ring formed of serpents.” 

The Babylonian Tammuz, who represents Saturn, was called “he who is bound.” 

The statue of Saturn on the Roman capitol had bands around its feet.

An epigram of Martial reads, ‘these chains with their double fetter Zoilus dedicates to you, Saturnus. They were formerly his rings.”

In his Saturnalia, Macrobius writes, “Saturn, too, is represented with his feet bound together, and, although Verrius Flaccus says that he does not know the reason . . . Apollodorus says that throughout the year Saturn is bound with a bond of wool but is set free on the day of his festival.” 

In the early second century AD, in his Fourteenth Discourse Dio Chrysostom writes, “And yet the King of the Gods, the first and eldest one, is in bonds, they say, if we are to believe Hesiod and Homer and the other wise men who tell this tale about Cronus.”

The shrines to Saturn in Roman Africa portrayed the god with his head surrounded “by a veil that falls on each of his shoulders,” in a way reminiscent of the planet’s rings. See J. Toutain, De Saturni Dei in Africa Romana Cultu (Paris, 1894)

… & so on. The fact that the ancients knew that Saturn was surrounded rings is beyond doubt, the only question is how they knew. Perhaps Saturn was closer to Earth in the past, or a telescopic eyeglass was invented by some long lost civilisation.

Daisy & a ‘stranger’ at Machrie Moor

Cronos Worship off North-West Europa

Returning to Machrie Moor & its wonderful Saturnine first circle, one gets the feeling that this place especially of the Scottish stone circles is connected to Cronos worship. What else we know comes from Plutarch’s essay & some geographical speculations. A couple of weeks ago, while on Arran, I had a radio interview with the main Faroe Islands media company, who are thinking of putting a story of mine on their ‘Good Morning Faroe’ show. It basically goes that the prison island of Kronos was on the Faroe Islands themselves. My reasoning was that at the southern reaches of the islands – in Sudouroy, near the village of Lopra – stands a pyramidical peak – man made or natural – called Kirvi. Thename contains the initial phonetics of Kronos, & transchispers easily into the Akkadian (3rd-2nd millenium BC) version of Kronus – Kaiwan.



Pin on Terra
Mount Kirvi

The fate of Cronus differs across texts, but with Orpheus he is incarcerated in the cave of Nyx, a cave of night or darkness, which perfectly reflects the extreme northerness of the Faroe Islands & their ‘eternal’ nights & days. In Plutarch’s moral essay, Obsolescence of Oracles (DeDefectu Oraculorum) one of the speakers is a certain Demetrius, who in an aside remarks upon the eternalimprisonment of Cronus. He relates that Cronus was confined in a cave on an island close to Britain, guarded as he slept by the ancient Briareüs and various other daimones (demi-gods). The Faroe Islands are indeed close to Britain, & even record a local folk lore about Holy Man inhabitaing Sudouroy long before the Norse arrived.

As for the prison island given in Plutarch’s ‘On the Face of the Moon,’ somewhere in the ‘Cronian Sea,’ for me it feels as if Ogygia is phantasy – there’s no island 5 days west of Britain – but the three islands referre’d too are Iceland & the two equidistant’ islands the Faroe archipelago,& Greenland. The latter island then fits well with it being 5000 stadia – about 600 miles, from the ‘Great Continent’ – North America.

The sea is difficult of passage and muddy through the great number of currents, and these currents issue out of the great land, and shoals are formed by them, and the sea becomes clogged and full of earth, by which it has the appearance of being solid. That sea-coast of the mainland Greeks are settled on, around a bay not smaller than the Mæos, the entrance of which lies almost in a straight line opposite the entrance to the Caspian Sea.

The Gulf of Maine is both on the same latitude as the Caspian Sea &about twice the size as the Sea of Azov, called ‘ Mæos’ in classical times. The Gulf of Maine is the best waterway that matches Plutarch’s ‘great number of currents, and these currents issue out of the great land.’ Under the surface, the elevated sea flooor of George’s Bank shapes the floow of currents and divides the Gulf of Maine from the Atlantic Ocean south of Cape Cod. Two major currents, the Labrador Current and Gulf Stream, meet just outside this boundary. Within the Gulf of Maine, the coastline alters the course of cold water owing into the Bay of Fundy, forming a gyre that deteects water southward. As ocean water moves throughout the gulf, it transports heat, sediment, nutrients, and a variety of small organisms unable to swim against the current known as plankton. Currents carry the building blocks of the ecosystem on which all other marine life depends. This of course matches Plutacrh’s ‘ shoals are formed by {the currents}, and the sea becomes clogged and full ofearth, by which it has the appearance of being solid.’

In the same area, the native American tribe known as the Iroquois seem related to the ancient Lycians of Anatolia, who were said to have originated in Crete when it was still polulated by pre-Greek ‘barbarians.’ Is it possible, then, that at the same time Crete sent out its ‘Greeks’ to Turkey, some also cross’d the Atlantic. The matriarchal gynococracy of the Iroquois certainly recalls the Lycians of Anatolia as described by Herodotus.

One custom {the Lycians} have which is peculiar to them, and in which they agree with no other people, that is they call themselves by their mothers and not by their father; and if one asks his neighbour who he is, he will state his parentage on the mother’s side and enumerate his mother’s female ascendants. If a woman who is a citizen marry a slave, the children are accounted to be of gentle birth; but if a man who is a citizen, though he were the first man among them, have a slave for wife or concubine, the children are without civil rights

Lafitau, an early 18th century missionary to the area, show that the name of the Thracian goddess Bendis was derived from the same root as the Iroquois endi or enni, which meant both the ‘day’ and the ‘sun’, the bringer of light. In addition, as each Iroquois village was divided into three ‘families’, of the Wolf, the Bear and the Turtle. So also were the Spartans divided into the three Dorian tribes, and archaic Rome had its Tities, Ramnes and Luceres, whose names are too ancient for us to understand. We also have the name ‘Iroquois’ itself, with its Basque roots (koa denotes where a person comes from) suggesting another link to ancient Eurasia.


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Brighton Fringe
28 th May – 27 th June, 2021

‘Nevergreen’ was a film created by a team of 10. Written by Gus Mitchell it was rehearsed, shot and edited during 2020 London lockdown. Freshly brought to this year’s Brighton fringe. Starring Katurah Morrish we were met with film footage of a living room that was minimal, though very stylish if dated. She took her time to introduce Rachel Carson who died at 56. Rachel was a writer, scientist, ecologist, and she in her time delved further than most into the world of nature and its assured
place in poetry.

Katurah’ energy as a huge fan of Rachel’s life and writings had her singing her praises in the indoor scenes of this movie/documentary/ theatrical event. We stepped with Katurah into a wood. It was a nice looking day, Rachel’s story was told intimately as we listened to her poetry that was so well constructed and sorted out.

She was alone outside in the wood and as time passed she told her emboldened thoughts “I grew up by the river.” Her illustrious poetry brought about such great happenings as she led her way in and out of existence using nature and imagination to make complete circles like the seasons passing.

The visual illustrations where all by the artist Ana Zoob, having movements of blues and greens and purples. The sound of bird song met with the sound of howling of wolves nearby. This contrasted with her narration of reading Rachel’s poetry that she spoke with long and big meaningful pronunciations.

Taking time to set the scenes she spoke with longing about the deep blue sea. She probed everything to find its essence, its journey, examining minutely with rhetorical resonations and revelations. Her questions were her greatest friend and she took on whatever journey she would find until the next journey.

The act of visiting the trees and rocks was shown as Katurah spoke in sincerity which was nice to be part of. It was told as if there and Katurah compelled us to listen with great focus on the things we were seeing in this journey into the beyond. Performed with a slight smile on her face, it began to speed up, as in a certain place a sense of urgency was introduced. All with wonderful visual art by Ana Zoob of souring and heartfelt illustrations of birds, insects who morphed in and out of life and served as a backdrop as the Direction of Eloise Poulton passed seamlessly.

But when she came to man she began to unravel. And with simple images of city skyline went into the destructive journey of man as they drag all else to the bottom in an inane and out of date striving for power. Rachel was saying that to be in nature is a far finer truth than it is to be separate or outside and without nature, logically suggesting that there is no place without nature, therefore we cannot be without it.

To strive into it, and think about it, and lie down in it and even gently touch a tree and rub leaves. And celebrate the poetry all around us and interwoven into all things. It had striking imagery and production and a very good case for the power of nature that is also in us, pleased and putting a slight smile on our face too. Making this point at the right time and certainly in the right place, But sharing it into an offering to the fringe of something so well written and finished.

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

Lord of Life

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Brighton Fringe
28th May – 27th June, 2021

For our next act in the 2021 Brighton Fringe came the amazing ‘Lord of life’. The Rhino loomed like a hero in pen and ink illustrations of Sally Scott who could never have drawn like that without reverence and compassion for the magnificent animal. In gentle terms this piece of poetry was selected from Norman Morrissey’s book ‘For Rhino in a shrinking world’.

He wrote about an account he had with a Rhino who visited him in his tent when he was asleep one night. The smartly short piece delivered such an amazing an endearing comment upon these animals and the situation we are putting them in. How can we be harming these creatures who as Norman wrote and Harry Owen and Roddy Fox were to read we are torturing for ornament and so called medication.

With these feelings flying the words came with a soft and sweet flavour which confronted our idea of what these animals are; graceful teachers who ever so gently breathed upon him like a kind nurse to nurture him and to ease his day. He wrote that it was an old white rhino with such touching poetry as to bring joyful and gracious tears of love to our hearts, it was really that deep.

The book ‘ For Rhino in a shrinking world’ was written towards the end of Morrissey’s life, making it all the more poignant as we imagine his encounter to have been quite magical though obviously very real. It was a movie of illustrations put together by In Tandem (which is poetry put to imagery) from the spoken word recited by Owen and Fox.

A beautiful eulogy whose message came from the heart and broken heart of one who loved the animals. We were left at his side and were taken beside the rhino itself as it so compellingly lives and breathed among us. With the slightest of composure set the editing of the film as to marvel at. So simple, soft and real, and so true and right in this time.

Daniel Donnelly