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Richard Walker

Tom Swiftie at the Bar

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"Evening all", Tom said entrancingly.

"Everyone have a drink on me", Tom said roundly.

"It's an old drinking song", Tom said bruisingly.

"Ready salted please", Tom said crisply.

"The pub's run out of beer", Tom said bitterly.

"Guinness is good for you", Tom said stoutly.

"Let's have just one more", Tom said tightly.

"See you all tomorrow", Tom said regularly.


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Richard Walker

One liner

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"Nobody likes advice", I said. But they didn't listen.

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Richard Walker

Mortality

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Suddenly Death was at my throat

And all at once brought me down.

Paws hard on my rib cage

Cold breath in my face.


Oh the stench of it.

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Richard Walker

Roy Andersson's films

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 18 Oct 2015, 02:15

I'm a big fan of the film maker Roy Andersson. If you want to know why, see this interview.

Tonight I'm watching 'You, the Living', whose title is from a poem by Goethe. It's the middle film of a trilogy that took 14 years to make. They are humanistic films, about poetry and existence.

There are many YouTube clips so you can join me if you want.


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Richard Walker

To You The Living

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Edited by Richard Walker, Saturday, 17 Oct 2015, 01:40
In these slave mines
We have paid the bill of democracy
Without representation.
If you pass by Laurium
Remember us.


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Richard Walker

A Celtic Sundog

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 16 Oct 2015, 14:49

The other night, in my local pub, 'The Moon Under Water', a friend brought in an archaeological find, a gold coin.

Photographing coins is hard, because getting the lighting is tricky, especially on a bar counter, but here is my snapshot.

This is a Celtic gold stater. 'Stater' is from Greek, and the Greeks and the peoples from Asia Minor they traded with were the first in the western world to mint coins, about 600 BCE, see this famous example from the British Museum.

Incidentally the origin of the word stater is of great interest. It meant 'weight' and is connected with Latin stare, English stand, the suffix -stan (as in Parkistan), and similar words in most Indo-European languages.

Knowledge of the use of coins diffused westward and eventually reached the Iron Age people of Gaul and Britain. One suggestion is that the idea could have been transmitted by Celtic mercenary soldiers, perhaps fighting under Phillip or Alexander the Great, who survived and returned safe home with coins in their pockets. Or perhaps dissemination was via Rome.

Either way, before the Romans conquered the fashion had caught on and the Gauls and the Britons minted their own staters. This is one from that era.

It is a 'uniface' coin; the reverse is just a smooth, slightly convex, surface. The design you can see in my photograph is a stylized horse, a common motif on staters.

It would have been 'struck': an engraver would have cut a die from a harder metal and used it to stamp out the coin. Looking at online images of these coins, many thousands of which have been found, it's impossible not to be impressed by the artistry of the engravers. Even though they followed stereotypes, every individual die had its own originality and lively depiction of the things it portrayed, like the horse in the photograph.

I advertised a sundog.

Cunobeline, the 'Cymbeline' of Shakespeare's play, was a real person, a king of the part of modern Britain where I live now, with a domain stretching from Hertfordshire to Essex. He was probably in power from about 5 BCE until around 40 AD.

'Cunobeline' means 'Dog of the sun'. The first element 'cuno' means dog, as in Latin canus (think canine) or Ancient Greek kunos (as in cynic, the kunikoi were the 'dog philosophers').

The second element is from the Celtic god Belenus, whose name seems to mean 'shining' and who may have been a sun god. His name survives in the name of the summer festival Beltane and he was associated with the horse and the wheel, perhaps connected with the sun's passage across the sky.

The coin in my photograph is probably from one of the sundog Cunobeline's mints, since it's believed there was one not far from here.

Here's a striking quotation from Cymbeline. It's one of my favorites from Shakespeare.

Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.


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Richard Walker

First Winter Haiku

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Woodsmoke!

We snuffled greedily.

Still in my hair.

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Richard Walker

The Heart Speaks

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 13 Oct 2015, 00:46

I'd almost forgotten the home star
Until I sensed my heart
Beating out a message
To some twin.
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Richard Walker

Haiku for Angels

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 11 Oct 2015, 18:21

Michael—remember

The lower angels

Are the human face of God.


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Richard Walker

In An English Country Paradise

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Edited by Richard Walker, Saturday, 10 Oct 2015, 04:40

I always used to think 'paradise' was from the Greek 'paradisos', a garden—and so it is, but the word is apparently something classical Greek borrowed, from an ancient Persian word for a deer park, or something with a wall round it.

The word survives into modern Greek, although 'κηπος' ('key-poss') is commoner.

Now here's the link-up. 'Garden' means a guarded place. It's Germanic and seems to imply a perimeter fence. Variants are 'yard' (as in front or back), and 'ward', as in keep watch over (what a warden does).

So gardens are places that have walls around them, to conserve things. Just like paradises.

And what is kept in a 'κηπος'? Well if it's trees it could be a "δενδρόκηπος', dendrokipos = tree garden = orchard.

Beware the apples Adam and Eve! You may be evicted and end up beyond the pale.

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Richard Walker

Poetry Cure

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 9 Oct 2015, 01:33

I grew up

Being told poetry is good for you.

After fifty years

It's beginning to work,

I feel

Slightly better.

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Richard Walker

Limerick on Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 6 Oct 2015, 00:52

There was an old fellow called Clerihew,

Who never wrote Limericks, or very few.

He frequently tried

But after the third line his attempt always died.

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Richard Walker

Another Sun Dog

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Here's a 'Sun Dog'  I snapped tonight. I've posted about these before, because they fascinate me.



You can see the real sun is just off to the left.

Sun Dogs are sunlight refracted through ice crystals acting as miniature prisms.

Not a great photo (smartphone only) but hope you get a hint of the spectral colors, and also see the start of a big ring around the sun, which is hardly ever seen completely.

The photo does at least show why these are often called 'false suns'.

I'm planning to get a real camera.


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Richard Walker

Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 4 Oct 2015, 02:55

Julius Caesar
What a helluva geyser.
He said "Let's bring it on!" [1]
And crossed the Rubicon.

[1] "alea iacta est"

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Richard Walker

Checkmating Time

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Time, never forget

We do love

Better than you,

Loser.

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Richard Walker

Scales

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I daren't get on the scales anymore.

They're frightened of me too.

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Richard Walker

Born On A Binary Star Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 1 Oct 2015, 00:41

Born in a two-starred place,

Four seasons here,

Make me sicken for home.

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Richard Walker

Appeal To A Toad

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 2 Oct 2015, 03:05

Chora wrote a famous and charming haiku: as a gardener addressing a toad he knew, and who probably knew him.

If this sounds improbable, my aunt had a toad who lived for several years at the bottom of her garden. She would feed him (or her) and as a teenager I was taken to see the toad, who lived under some stones and did indeed hop out to greet us, and would consent to be scratched on the head, and tickled on the chin.

Chora's haiku goes something as follows in (very) free translation:

Dear old Toad
PLEASE hop leftward a little
Planting these bamboos is my job.

I thought that, for once, rather than compress a poem, which is my instinct, I would try to expand one, and also add rhyme and meter. Usually haiku in English are without rhyme, and end on a characteristic falling tone, which is very evocative, but not necessarily faithful to the original Japanese tradition. Other languages however have different and now longstanding traditions about the form translated or composed haikus. That's for another post though.

Here is my longer appeal to Mr Toad, in entirely my own idiom. But with falling tone.

Here we are again
Dear friend.
I know it's a pain
But, might you bend
To the left somewhat?

Respectfully I ask
Knowing each other as we do.
My task
Is planting bamboo.
Am I asking a lot?



By an unknown artist, Japan, 1814. Via The British Museum





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Richard Walker

Night Cat Haiku

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A cat scuttled between two streetlights.

For one second

An octapud.


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Richard Walker

Dark Thought Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 29 Sept 2015, 01:15

As I slept
A dark thought
Jumped on my back
"I am Winter",
It hissed.

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Richard Walker

Beating Time

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 28 Sept 2015, 02:04
Hold my hand once


Then there is something time cannot tear from us.

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Richard Walker

I ask therefore

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What is thought, what knowledge?

Such a troubling question.

Asked in every season.

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Richard Walker

Moon Talk

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Under this moon

How can I disagree?

You're such a good friend Autumn.

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Richard Walker

Autumn by Water Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Saturday, 26 Sept 2015, 01:30

I'm heartbroken by

A last dragonfly's symmetry.

At sunset.




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Richard Walker

What The Pharaoh Saw

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 25 Sept 2015, 01:51

I've just been reading about star charts from ancient Egypt. Not many of these have been found and much about them is mysterious: for example what they were for. Most of the examples we have were on the inside of coffin lids, so they weren't for the use of the living.

One suggestion is that the ancient Egyptians believed that someone with enough inherited divinity (such as a pharaoh) would after death ascend to become a star (this notion has parallels in many cultures of course). So the start chart on the coffin lid would be there to help your ka know where to go.

This is a poetic idea but more poetic is what I believe is the truth; we shall not become stars—rather, starts have become us.

At first there was only hydrogen but the reactions in the stars that condensed from the primeval hydrogen have produced all the other elements.

When the Solar System was formed it can't have been just from hydrogen, there must have been many other elements swirling around in the mixture.

How did these arrive there? Stars must have come to the end of their lives and exploded. Small stars that just died and fizzled out will simply have shrunk to embers. None of their constituents can have found its way here. No, the rocks on which we stand, and most of the elements necessary for life, must have come from the explosions that are novae or supernovae, and after billions of years come to form part of you: or me; or the pharaohs.



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