Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Bounty: Pauline Baynes

(I got my income tax return a couple of weeks ago and got a batch of books, many of which I've had my eye on for quite a while. I intend to go over them during the next week, to list and briefly discuss them.)

Pauline Baynes is most famous for illustrating C. S. Lewis' Narnia books and several short works by J. R. R. Tolkien, but her prolific and distinctive talent did so much more over the years. I bought four more of the books she illustrated, and show here samples from each.

The Dragon of Og (1981), by Rumer Godden, is based on a legend of the Scottish lowlands, and reads like a combination of The Reluctant Dragon and Farmer Giles of Ham. I love Baynes' dragons, and there is an ample showcase for her draconian style here.

The Isle of Gramarye (1970), an anthology of the poetry of magic, edited by Jennifer Westwood. Of particular interest to me was the illustration for J. R. R. Tolkien's Errantry, showing his "merry passenger" fighting giant bees; also the pictures of the Great Selkie od Skule Skerry and Thomas Rhymer meeting the Queen of Faerie.

A Dictionary of Chivalry
(1968), by Grant Uden. This is a copy of a book we had in our own public library that I always wanted to delve into, but because it was filed as a reference book it could not be checked out. Which was a shame, because it is a lovely browsing book; many of the entries are like tiny short stories. Every one of its 379 pages has illustrations by Pauline Baynes, many time multiples to a page, illuminating details that bring the age alive. Pictures from here include Arthur drawing the sword from the stone amidst many animals, Sir Thomas Malory in prison, and Blondin the minstrel.

A Family Book of Nursery Rhymes (1964) by Iona and Peter Opie, is another book full of pictures by Baynes, tiny little gems scattered all over the pages, ranging in style from Medieval to Eighteenth Century.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Satyrday: Pan


What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.

He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river;
The limpid waters turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.

High on the shore sat the great god Pan,
While turbidly flow'd the river;
And hack'd and hew'd as a great god can
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.

He cut it short, did the great god Pan
(How tall it stood in the river!),
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notch'd the poor dry empty thing
In holes, as he sat by the river.

"This is the way," laughed the great god Pan
(Laughed while he sat by the river),
"The only way, since gods began,
To make sweet music, they could succeed."
Then dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,
He blew in power by the river.

Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.

Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man:
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain--
For the reed which grows never more again
As a reed with the reeds by the river.

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Between Sadness And Hope

Three things that have made me sad recently: the deaths of John Neville (Nov. 19, 2011), Nicol Williamson (Dec. 16, 2011), and John Severin (Feb. 12, 2012).

Four things I have to look forward to (besides the upcoming Hobbit movies): James P. Blaylock's new novel of Langdon St. Ives, The Aylesford Skull, to be published on March 9; Tim Power's new book Hide Me Among The Graves on March 13; Neil Gaiman is working on an adaptation of his American Gods for HBO; and the movie of Jeff Smith's Bone is finally definitely in production.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Stinks: The Skunk Valentine Card

Thinking about my last post, I did a quick sweep of eBay and Google and easily came up with all these images of skunk valentines, the card to send to your unfavorite classmate when I was in school. If you got one of these, you knew you had your own personal antagonist. Back in those days, when people said "kids can be so cruel," we took it as permission.