Monday, September 22, 2014

Poppies, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Study of Poppies, by John Constable
via V + A Museum website
They walked along listening to the singing of the bright-colored birds and looking at the lovely flowers which now became so thick that the ground was carpeted with them. There were big yellow and white and blue and purple blossoms, besides great clusters of scarlet poppies, which were so brilliant in color they almost dazzled Dorothy's eyes.

"Aren't they beautiful?" the girl asked, as she breathed in the spicy scent of the flowers.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (1900)

The Wizard of Oz is familiar enough through the 1939 film with Judy Garland that an introduction to it is likely unneeded. Instead, then, I have taken this excerpt. In the Hollywood version, the flowers have been enchanted by the Wicked Witch of the West; in this version, the fragrance of the poppies in themselves is a sedative. When reading this chapter, I wondered, if in 1900, laudanum was still used as a medicine even for children. (Wikipedia: American patent medicine manufacturers were first required to list opium content in 1906; preparations of coca leaf and preparations of opium were roundly restricted by the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914, and Britain and France formulated their own similar restrictions a few years later.)

Illustration: Made in Great Britain, ca. 1832.
Maker: John Constable, born 1776 - died 1837. Oil on paper with a brown ground. Given to the Victoria and Albert museum by Isabel Constable. Museum number: 329-1888.

In honour of the exhibition: Constable: The Making of a Master, in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, UK), from September 20th, 2014 to January 11th, 2014. More information here.

Laudanum and Harrison Narcotics Tax Act [Wikipedia]
Text quoted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (New York: Alfred A. Knopf — Everyman's Library, 1992), p. 68

Friday, September 19, 2014

Burns's Shelterless Mouse

'To a Mouse' is one of my favourite poems, which I came across during school. Robert Burns wrote it in 1785, after he indeed met by putting athwart a nest of mice amid agricultural pursuits, according to his brother. He writes it from the point of view of marauding man, with a half-affectionate disrespect that is already in the first lines. I am guessing from a knowledge of English rather than of Scots, but he is naming the mouse 'little, sleek, cowering and timorous.'

Its Scots Wikipedia entry is worth citing here:
'To a Mouse' (Scots: Tae a Moose) is a Scots poem written bi Robert Burns in 1785 that wis includit in the Kilmarnock Volume, his first settin furth o musradry.


I'm truly sorry Man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion,
                               Which makes thee startle,

Northumberland Bestiary: folio 33.
Between 1250 and 1260.
via Wikimedia Commons

WEE, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.