Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

“A Young Girl Reading” by the French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806)


Among my favourite books there is one to which I keep returning - John Betjeman’s verse autobiography “Summoned by Bells.” The edition I have is superbly illustrated by Hugh Casson.

There’s something about John Betjeman’s writings that really appeals to me and I admire someone who could say "I don't think I am any good. If I thought I was any good, I wouldn't be."

The first verse of his poem “How to get on in Society” is wonderful -

Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served.

And I love “In Westminster Abbey” where the second verse runs -

Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans,
Spare their women for Thy Sake,
And if that is not too easy
We will pardon Thy Mistake.
But, gracious Lord, whate'er shall be,
Don't let anyone bomb me.

One of my favourites is “Myfanwy” and here it is, read by Tom O’Bedlam.


There’s another “Myfanwy” - a song which is popular with Welsh male voice choirs. The words were written by Richard Davies (1833-1877) and it’s thought that the subject matter is based on a 14th century tale about the daughter of the Norman Earl of Arundel and a young poet called Hywel ab Einion.

I liked the words and thought it worth while to include them here.

Why is it anger, O Myfanwy,
That fills your eyes so dark and clear?
Your gentle cheeks, O sweet Myfanwy,
Why blush they not when I draw near?

Where is the smile that once most tender
Kindled my love so fond, so true?
Where is the sound of your sweet words,
That drew my heart to follow you?

What have I done, O my Myfanwy,
To earn your frown? What is my blame?
Was it just play, my sweet Myfanwy,
To set your poet's love aflame?

You truly once to me were promised,
Is it too much to keep your part?
I wish no more your hand, Myfanwy,
If I no longer have your heart.

Myfanwy, may you spend your lifetime
Beneath the midday sunshine's glow,
And on your cheeks O may the roses
Dance for a hundred years or so.

Forget now all the words of promise
You made to one who loved you well,
Give me your hand, my sweet Myfanwy,
But one last time, to say "farewell".


There’s absolutely no connection with the above and what follows, but this clip is a lot of fun. I give it full marks. The music is “Kalinka” which means snowball tree or Guelder rose. I couldn’t find any information about the musicians.


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