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Richard Walker

An Anglo-Saxon Nursery Rhyme

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I think some nursery rhymes go back that far, they have that feel.

I tried to do a back-translation of two lines from one of my favorites. See what you think. Can you work it out?

Cyning in goldhord atellith

Cwen in rum cambe aitest.

And I like that a lot as a little poem.

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Richard Walker

Cleopatra's One Liner

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Our dynasty couldn't afford to own our own snake. But we aspired to rent one.

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Richard Walker

My One Liner

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 24 Dec 2015, 00:36

I couldn't conform.

I couldn't shape up as a prisoner.

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Richard Walker

Where I Grew Up

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We never wrote poems. It could get you killed, and we were risk-averse.

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Richard Walker

Winter Moon Haiku

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Winter moon

Rips up the clouds

My love please help me mend them.

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Richard Walker

The Bargain: A Poem

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As you looked into my eyes
I think you knew I told you lies.
And I, looking at your mouth
Wished to believe you told me truth.

But facing loneliness again,
We struck a bargain all the same.




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Richard Walker

Where I Grew Up

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Hardly any families had scruples. Any neighbor needed a screw pulled, they came right round to us.

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Richard Walker

Educating Rita and Macbeth

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 21 Dec 2015, 04:42

I was recently reminded about Educating Rita, a play and film which present education as a journey of self-discovery.

Watching the film anew, I got to where OU student Rita (Julie Walters) gatecrashes alcoholic lecturer Frank (Michael Caine's) seminar on tragedy, because she's just seen a performance of Macbeth, and has been blown away by it.

The literary sense of tragedy, Frank explains, is a great person brought down by a character defect, not just the popular meaning.

Rita's response is something like, "I don't understand all that. It's just such a great story!"

At this point Macbeth jumped in. I forgot about all educating Rita and straightaway watched a couple of film versions of the Scottish play.

The first was the 1978 version with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. There have been many films of the play but this may have set a gold standard.

The second was from 2010, with Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood. I'd never seen this version before but found it astonishing and compelling. It's set, not in medieval Scotland, but in some 20-centrury totalitarian country, a sort of Stalin's Scottish Soviet Union. Sometimes new settings for plays don't work, but this one succeeds brilliantly.

Macbeth is a somber play, and Macbeth's last soliloquy unrivaled in its bleak despair. I decided I would learn by heart it, though, to add it to the few bits of Shakespeare I know. Here's my test, do I have it right?

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day.
Until the last syllable of recorded time.

And all our yesterdays
Light fools the dusty way to death.

Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage.
And then is heard no more.

A tale, told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury.
Signifying nothing.

On YouTube you can find an interesting clip in which Ian McKellen analyses this soliloquy, from the point of view of the actor. The audience should hear it as though for the first time. There is also a clip in which Patrick Stewart explains how Ian McKellen advised him that... it's "Tomorrow AND tomorrow AND tomorrow" — the tragic sense of time.

I think Patrick Stewart captures it well.


Frank, Rita and Shakespeare each had their own idea of tragedy. One of its classical qualities is that the downfallen character come to a realization, something learned, and this is perhaps Macbeth's education. It is a pessimistic vision, but I find it noble that human beings can stare eternity in the face.



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Richard Walker

Forgetfulness

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I went upstairs for a reason

But I only came down with a poem.

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Richard Walker

One Liner

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Where I grew up all the families fought one another. Ours was at the bottom of the feud chain.

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Richard Walker

Daily Argos Front Page

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 18 Dec 2015, 00:32

AGAMEMNON DEAD

Destroy Troy Boy in Wife Knife Life Drama

Experts say daughter slaughter may "be contributory factor"


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Richard Walker

One Liner

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The price of balloons has shot up. Inflation.

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Richard Walker

About an Ology

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 17 Dec 2015, 00:32
The prof asked "What's a tautology?"

I was like, "You tell me, you're teaching it dude."
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Richard Walker

One Liner

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 16 Dec 2015, 21:15

The meek shall inherit the earth. Subject to probate.

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Richard Walker

Arboreal Daffynitions

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 15 Dec 2015, 19:15
Ash = illegal substance

Beech = cast aspersions

Birch = landing spot for birds

Elder = hugs

Elm = nautical steering wheel

English oak = tradition summer weather

Fir = distant

Maple = tonight could be the night

Plane = youthful self-entertainment

Poplar = liked

Rowan = means of boat propulsion

Sycamore = perverse love

Willow = delayed payment

Yew = pronoun

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Richard Walker

Short One Liner

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Bondage. 87?

(Think about it)

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Richard Walker

"At the Mineralogist's Ball"

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 14 Dec 2015, 16:44
The Hammonds with their daughter Di.
Mr and Mrs Stone and their Gaelic sons Liam and Sandy.
The Hite clan, accompanied by their grandmother, daughters Flora and Pearl, and Graf Hite, a cousin belonging to the German nobility.
Mr and Mrs Bester and their posh daughter Ali.
The Herald family and their daughter Em.
The Fists and their daughter Amy.
The Bedenham family with their daughter Molly.
Mr and Mrs Carr, their son Mike and daughter Cilla.
The Coise family and son Dirk.
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Richard Walker

Survival Haiku

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Year's end —
If I survive a few more of them

I'll have worn a rut in the lane.

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Richard Walker

The Difference Between a Dog and a Dogma

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A dog is love without bounds but a dogma is belief without grounds.


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Richard Walker

Three terrific tongue twisters

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 11 Dec 2015, 01:49

As I stumbled along the beach of life I came across an accidental tongue-twister, a sort of object trouvé, like the pebbles beachcombers collect.

Every day the Times of London has a Quick Cryptic Crossword.

Try saying the phrase out loud 10 times in rapid succession.

I've always adored tongue-twisters. My favorite is one I heard many years back on the radio. I don't know who invented it but I'm very grateful to them. It comes with a little backdrop story.

The late Queen Mother was going round a saucepan factory. Pausing by a workman she asked what he was doing, which lead to the following noblesse oblige conversation:

"Are you aluminiuming them my man?" "No, I'm copper-bottoming 'em Mum."

I've often wondered whether there is a theory of tongue-twisters. Could a computer design phenomenally hard ones? There must be some kind of analysis possible that would let us understand what makes a phrase hard to say repeatedly.

Step forward MIT. In 2013 a research team collected and analyzed a collection of speech errors made by experimental subjects. Based on this they devised a fiendishly difficult tongue-twister. Are you ready? Do you want to fetch a glass of water for safety's sake? OK here we go.

pad kid poured curd pulled cod

Call that tongue-twisting? Feeble, isn't it?

Science, successful in so many ways, flunked here. And commentators were too lazy to say so — or couldn't — or wouldn't.

In contrast, here is a real killer I was taught by a Polish friend. For background, Lola is a woman's name; loyola means 'is loyal'; 'nie' pronounced 'knee-ay' means not. But the meaning doesn't matter really. Just remember how 'nie' should be said. 10 times out loud remember.

Lola loyola. Lola nie loyola.

The word tongue-twister is fairly recent it seems. The Oxford English Dictionary only records it from 1898, and in 1904 the Speaker offered this, which ain't bad

Miss Smith's fish-sauce shop

Favorite tongue-twisters anybody?

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Richard Walker

One Liner

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 10 Dec 2015, 11:21

He told me he was a futures trader. I was like wow, yes let's swap.

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Richard Walker

The Magnetism Of Light

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Each night
I glimpse a gable light
And so I come
Safe home.
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Richard Walker

Winter Walk Berries

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015, 01:32


I've been reading The Idler's Companion and came across a Chinese poem that begins

Reply to Chang Yin

I have a cottage in the Chungnan foothills
The Chungnan mountains face it.
All year long no guests.
And the gate remains shut.

This a genre I've always found appealing: a person of letters and action retires to a place of seclusion; there to live in quiet contemplation; and seek wisdom. 

It's by Wang Wei, who lived in the 8c: a painter, poet, and high official in the imperial administration. I looked Wang Wei up and found another celebrated poem.

When those red berries come in springtime, 
Flushing on your southland branches, 
Take home an armful, for my sake, 
As a symbol of our love. 

On a winter walk I found the striking red berries at the top of this post. They reminded me irresistibly of this poem, even though spring has passed, and no-one will be gathering them for my sake.
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Richard Walker

The Power of Eagles

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 6 Dec 2015, 15:52

Last night in my local, the Moon Under Water, talk turned to how the Roman road known as Ermine Street, which runs near here, got its name.

One theory was that it was called after the animal, the stoat in its white winter coat with a black-tipped tail, and derived from this a heraldic 'tincture' which is a background of white with black tail tips arranged in a pattern .

Few saw easily what the connection could be though, and in fact the explanation is totally different.

Ermine street is a corruption of an Anglo-Saxon name Earninga Straete, which would mean "the Roman road of Earn's people", Earn presumably being a tribal leader.

The word earn is the Anglo-Saxon for eagle and survives today in the form erne, meaning the sea eagle (or possibly the golden eagle too). Probably the tribal leader wasn't actually called Earn, because Anglo-Saxon names tended to be dithematic — composed from two parts, such as Alfred, "elf counsel" or Mathilda, "mighty battle".

However these names often got shortened. To any Maddys reading: did you realize you were warlike? Alfs, did you think of yourself as guided by supernatural beings?

In a similar way Earn was perhaps short for Earnwald, "eagle power". In forms such as Arnold it remains a common name today. Arnie?

And where did Earnwald's people live? Probably somewhere near the Cambridgeshire village of Arrington, which lies on Ermine Street. In the Domesday book it is Erningtone, "Ern's people's farmstead", which lends support to this idea.

I wondered what the Romans called this road. We have no idea. It seems we know the Latin names of few, or no, Roman roads in Britannia, although names were certainly given to roads elsewhere.

To end on a Roman note: here is an example of true eagle power. Jupiter was supposed to ride a chariot pulled by eagles, as shown in this spirited engraving. Sorry it is a bit dark but there was a bit of weather about as you can tell.

Picture credit

Welcome images, via Wikimedia commons


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Richard Walker

I'm Just a Verse That Can't Say No.

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 4 Dec 2015, 00:17
Little verse
I launch you into the world.
If they try plagiarize you
Always say yes.
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