The Power of Poetry to Humanize External Nature

Portrait of Alfred Tennyson by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1865

 
 

“…Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip,
To light her shaded eye;
A second flutter’d round her lip
Like a golden butterfly;

“A third would glimmer on her neck
To make the necklace shine;
Another slid, a sunny fleck,
From head to ankle fine,

“Then close and dark my arms I spread,
And shadow’d all her rest—
Dropt dews upon her golden head,
An acorn in her breast.

“But in a pet she started up,
And pluck’d it out, and drew
My little oakling from the cup,
And flung him in the dew.

“And yet it was a graceful gift—
I felt a pang within
As when I see the woodman lift
His axe to slay my kin…”

Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Talking Oak
(Fragment)

 
 

First published in 1842, and republished in all subsequent editions with only two slight alterations: in line 113 a mere variant in spelling, and in line 185, where in place of the present reading the editions between 1842 and 1848 read, “For, ah! the Dryad-days were brief”.

Tennyson told Mr. Aubrey de Vere that the poem was an experiment meant to test the degree in which it is in the power of poetry to humanize external nature. Tennyson might have remembered that Ovid had made the same experiment nearly two thousand years ago, while Johann Wolfgang Goethe had immediately anticipated him in his charming Der Junggeselle und der Mühlbach (The Young Apprentice and the Millstream). There was certainly no novelty in such an attempt. The poem is in parts charmingly written, but the oak is certainly “garrulously given,” and comes perilously near to tediousness.

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The Light of a Butterfly’s Wing

“…She could have done it differently of course; the colour could have been thinned and faded; the shapes etherealised; that was how Paunceforte would have seen it. But then she did not see it like that. She saw the colour burning on a framework of steel; the light of a butterfly’s wing lying upon the arches of a cathedral. Of all that only a few random marks scrawled upon the canvas remained. And it would never be seen; never be hung even, and there was Mr Tansley whispering in her ear, ‘Women can’t paint, women can’t write …’”

Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse

 
 

Sunflower and Butterfly, photo by Julia Margaret Cameron, undated

From the Point of View of a Villain

“God makes all things good; man meddles with them and they become evil.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

 
 

 
 

A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent, has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

 
 

Theatrical release poster

 
 

On May 12, 2009, it was revealed that Brad Bird was developing a live-action motion picture based on Walt Disney‘s Sleeping Beauty (Clyde Geronimi, Les Clark, Eric Larson, and Wolfgang Reitherman, 1959), retold from the point of view of Maleficent with Angelina Jolie starring as the eponymous character. In January 2010, it was rumored that Tim Burton was to direct the film. Reports surfaced online in May 2011 stating that Burton had left the project to focus on his other upcoming projects; Disney began to look for a replacement director, with David Yates being cited as a potential candidate due to his experience with the fantasy genre, having directed the final four Harry Potter films. On January 6, 2012, Disney announced that Robert Stromberg would direct the film.

 
 

The character is Disney’s version of the wicked fairy godmother from the original French fairy tale, loosely based on Carabosse from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet

 
 

Maleficent (2014) marks the directorial debut of Robert Stromberg after serving as a visual effects supervisor on numerous films, including Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003), and more significantly, as a production designer of Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), Alice in Wonderland (Tim Burton, 2010), and Oz the Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi, 2013); the first two films earned him consecutive Academy Awards for Best Production Design.

Angelina Jolie also said that “having a director (Robert Stromberg) coming from the world of production design really helped pull me into the fairy tale world. The film is beautiful but also has a sexy, dark edge because the story is coming from the point of view of a villain.”

 
 

By coincidence, Maleficent (2014) was released on May 30, 2014; precisely the same year as the 55th anniversary of Walt Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty (1959)

 
 

Angelina Jolie worked very closely with Anna B. Sheppard,the costume designer and make-up department to develop Maleficent’s menacing look. Disney executives objected, hoping to take advantage of Jolie’s beauty in marketing the film, but the actress insisted that the character maintain the scarier look of the animated incarnation. Maleficent’s prosthetics and make-up were inspired by singer Lady Gaga, particularly on her Born This Way album cover.

 
 

Single cover designed by Nick Knight

 
 

Angelina Jolie based her character’s speech and accent in homage of the original Sleeping Beauty voice actor Eleanor Audley. Her laughter in the film was also based on the best variation she tried in front of her children and chosen by them.

 
 

Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, who portrays Princess Aurora as a young girl, is the daughter of Angelina Jolie (who plays Maleficent in the movie) and Brad Pitt

 
 

Angelina Jolie was definitely interested to be in the movie to begin with. She repeatedly stated it was because 1.) she grew up on Disney movies as a child, especially Sleeping Beauty (1959); she was quite fond of the character Maleficent: “Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always my favorite,” Jolie said. “I was terrified of her, but I was also drawn to her. I wanted to know more about her. She had this elegance and grace, yet she was wonderfully, deliciously cruel,” 2.) she wanted to a movie in which her children can go see her in, as well as the fact that her children really also wanted her to be in the movie, 3.) the beauty, warmth, complexity, and strong intelligence of the script, and 4.) she was very impressed with Maleficent’s characterization for this film. In fact, Jolie also served as an executive producer on the film.

 
 

Maleficent marked the first time that Elle Fanning has appeared in a film opposite Angelina Jolie, after starring opposite Brad Pitt, Jolie’s fiancé, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008).

A Mexican Fiesta in Paris

Jean Paul Gaultier went down Mexico way. All the way. He had a mariachi band. He had gauchos, sombreros, striped peasant blankets, Spanish shawls, enough hand-tooled leather, cowboy boots to outfit an army of gauchos, and cigars. He had a conquistador moment—and then he was into the jungle, weaving leaves with indigenous peoples. Gaultier turned his spring/summer 2010 haute couture collection into a Mexican fiesta in Paris.

The “enfant terrible” of Paris fashion even managed to rope in the Aztecs, via Moctezuma-style turquoise, restyled as extreme corsetry, and paid homage to James Cameron‘s sci-fi, box office blockbuster, Avatar with multi-plaited hairstyles, in the manner of the Narvi, Amazonian tattoos, and tropical, jungle motifs.

Apparently, Jean Paul Gaultier had been to an exhibition about Moctezuma, the Aztec emperor, in London last year, and that—with the side influence of Avatar’s tribal-eco message—is what set him off in this direction.

 
 

Thwarted by Outside Forces

Romeo and Juliet as depicted by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1929

 
 

“Star-crossed” or “star-crossed lovers” is a phrase describing a pair of lovers whose relationship is often thwarted by outside forces. The term encompasses other meanings, but originally means the pairing is being “thwarted by a malign star” or that the stars are working against the relationship. Astrological in origin, the phrase stems from the belief that the positions of the stars ruled over people’s fates, and is best known from the play Romeo and Juliet by the Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare. Such pairings are often but not always said to be doomed from the start.

The phrase was coined in the prologue of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet:

“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life” (5–6).

It also refers to destiny and the inevitability of the two characters’ paths crossing each other. It usually but not always refers to unlucky outcomes, since Romeo and Juliet’s affair ended tragically. Further, it connotes that the lovers entered into their union without sufficient forethought or preparation; that the lovers may not have had adequate knowledge of each other or that they were not thinking rationally.

 
 

Wuthering Heights (William Wyler, 1939)

 
 

Examples of famous star-crossed lovers vary in written work. Pyramus and Thisbe are usually regarded as the source for Romeo and Juliet, featured in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights are considered one of the greatest love stories in literary works. In Wuthering Heights, the narrative tells the tale of the all-encompassing and passionate, yet thwarted, love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and many around them.

 
 

The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1874. Albumen silver print from glass negative. David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1952

 
 

Lancelot and Guinevere are often remembered for their affair. Guinevere was the queen of Camelot and wife of King Arthur, while Lancelot was a trusted knight of Arthur’s Round Table. In some versions of the tale, she is instantly smitten, and when they consummate their adulterous passion, it is an act which paves the way for the fall of Camelot and Arthur’s death.

 
 

The End of The Song,  Edmund Leighton, 1902

 
 

The legend of Tristan and Iseult (also known as Tristan and Isolde) is an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with as many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the lovers. The narrative predates and most likely influenced the Arthurian romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, and has had a substantial impact on Western art and literature since it first appeared in the 12th century. While the details of the story differ from one author to another, the overall plot structure remains much the same.

Hero and Leander is a Greek myth, relating the story of Hero (Greek: Ἡρώ), a priestess of Aphrodite who dwelt in a tower in Sestos, at the edge of the Hellespont, and Leander (Greek: Λέανδρος, Leandros), a young man from Abydos on the other side of the strait. Leander fell in love with Hero and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to guide his way.

 
 

Sarah Bernhardt in Pelléas et Mélisandre

 
 

Pelléas and Mélisande (French: Pelléas et Mélisande) is a Symbolist play by Maurice Maeterlinck about the forbidden, doomed love of the title characters. A classical myth, was a common subject for art during the Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Troilus and Cressida is a tragedy by Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1602. The play (also described as one of Shakespeare’s problem plays) is not a conventional tragedy, since its protagonist (Troilus) does not die.The play ends instead on a very bleak note with the death of the noble Trojan Hector and destruction of the love between Troilus and Cressida.Venus and Adonis is classical myth during the Renaissance. Heer Ranjha is one of the four popular tragic romances of the Punjab.

 
 

The fainting of Laylah and Majnun, Author unknown, c. 1550-1600

 
 

Layla and Majnun ( by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi) is a classical Arabian love story . It is based on the real story of a young man called Qays ibn al-Mulawwah from the northern Arabian Peninsula, in the Umayyad era during the 7th century. There were two Arabic versions of the story at the time. In one version, he spent his youth together with Layla, tending their flocks. In the other version, upon seeing Layla he fell passionately in love with her. In both versions, however, he went mad when her father prevented him from marrying her; for that reason he came to be called Majnun Layla, which means “Driven mad by Layla”. To him were attributed a variety of incredibly passionate romantic Arabic poems, considered among the foremost examples of the Udhari school.

 
 


The Butterfly Lovers is a Chinese legend about the tragic romance between two lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. The legend is sometimes regarded as the Chinese equivalent to Romeo and Juliet.

 
 

Other classic star-crossed lovers include Devdas and Paro (Parvati) in Devdas, Paris of Troy and Helen of Sparta in The Iliad, Oedipus and Jocasta in Oedipus the King, Mark Antony and Cleopatra during the time of the Roman Empire, Khosrow and Shirin during the time of Sassanid Persia, Heloise and Peter Abelard during the Middle Ages, and Emperor Jahangir and Anarkali, Cyrano and Roxane in Cyrano de Bergerac, Hagbard and Signy and Maratha Peshwa (Prime Minister) Bajirao and Mastani during the peak of Maratha Empire.

Star-Crossed Lovers

Poster designs by BLT Communications, LLC. BLT is an independently owned advertising agency founded in 1992.

 
 

For the Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) movie poster, the film’s producer James Schamus wanted to emulate the one-sheet for the biggest film of all time, the Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) movie poster. For that reason they similarly used the theme of star-crossed lovers.

When it came time to design the poster for the film, Schamus didn’t research posters of famous Westerns for ideas. He looked at the posters of the 50 most romantic movies ever made. “If you look at our poster,” he said, “you can see traces of our inspiration, ‘Titanic’.”

Psychedelic Superheroes

 
 

Sunshine Superman is a song written and recorded by British singer-songwriter Donovan. The Sunshine Superman single was released in the United States through Epic Records in July 1966, but due to a contractual dispute the United Kingdom release was delayed until December 1966. It has been described as having, “proven to be [one of the] classics of the era,” and as, “the quintessential bright summer sing along”.

By 1966, Donovan had shed the overt Bob Dylan/Arlo Guthrie influences and become one of the first British pop musicians to adopt a flower power image. More importantly, his music was developing and changing rapidly as he immersed himself in jazz, blues, Eastern music, and the new generation of U.S. West Coast bands such as Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. He was now entering his most creative and original phase as a songwriter and recording artist, working in close collaboration with Mickie Most and especially with arranger, musician, and jazz fan John Cameron. Their first collaboration was “Sunshine Superman”, one of the first overtly psychedelic pop records.

Sunshine Superman reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, and subsequently became the title track of Donovan’s eponymous third album. The song was written for Donovan’s future wife Linda Lawrence. The lyrics of the song mention not only Superman, but also another DC Comics superhero, Green Lantern.

 
 

 
 

By the way, writer Grant Morrison referenced the song in an issue of Animal Man by creating Sunshine Superman, an African American version of Superman who was a member of the Love Syndicate of Dreamworld, from a world based on the drug culture of the 1960s.

 
 

 
 

Beautiful Stranger is a song by American singer Madonna and was released on May 29, 1999 by Maverick Records. It was written and produced by Madonna and British songwriter and musician William Orbit, who had previously worked on the 1998 studio album Ray of Light. The song was written for the soundtrack and motion picture Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Jay Roach, 1999). Mike Myers who plays the main role in the film, also appeared in the accompanying music video, directed by Brett Ratner. Beautiful Stranger is an up-tempo love song featuring heavily reverberated guitars and bouncy drum loops with lyrics telling a tale of romantic infatuation.It employs a lyrical theme and instrumentation similar to that found in the song Amazing which is included on Madonna’s album Music (2000).

Keep Your Pants On

Braces may have been employed since the end of the eighteen century to hold up men’s buckskin breeches but in the 1990s we no longer boast buck on our bums and we no longer use the word braces. Its mere utterance conjures up those pimply days of puberty and all of its embarrassments: corn kernels wedged in tinsel teeth, locked lips on a first kiss, rubber bands that smacked your valentine right between her eyes. The British say “braces”. Americans say “suspenders”.
 
Ok, we have learned what they’re called, so now we should learn what to avoid wearing. Beware of elaborately floral, shocking pink or insignia-imprinted designs. Because suspenders are most often worn with ties, the potential for clashing is high. Solid and subtly patterned suspenders are easier to match. Even for a punk or a hipster.
 
However, because fashion now is about being democratic, if you opt for a patterned pair, make sure the pattern is woven into the fabric and not ironed (or silk-screened) on. It’s classier.
 
Considering wearing a belt with your suspenders? Please, don’t.
 
Once upon a time, before the steamy factory days driven by mass production, a man could have his braces custom-made. Brass levers (as they were never anything but brassy) would rest comfortably in the personal hollow of a man’s chest. If they were set too high (above the bottom half of the chest), the levers’ double layer of material would pad the chest and the buckles would sneak up toward the face. In today’s world suspenders are a one-size-fits-all-deal. And so, as the bias stands, if you are going to brace yourself you’d better be tall. A kind tailor might customize a pair for you. A kind shoe repairman might as well.
 
A word on placement: The front buttons should be sewn securely inside the waistband and aligned with that clean pleat closest to the bone. This prevents our pants from fanning when we stand; it also defines the trouser’s creases and weights their depth. A button set too far to the side of the trousers relaxes the tension on the strap, permitting it to slip, like a woman’s bra might, coquettishly from the shoulder. Not flirty. Not sexy. Not cute.
 
Suspenders date to the French court of Louis XVI, when aristocrats began to use strips of ribbon to support their trousers. Long considered underwear — exposing them was against the law on Long Island as recently as 1938.
 
Here are few more historical facts about suspenders:
 
It’s been said that Benjamin Franklin invented them.
Claude Debussy wore floral ones.
Napoleon Bonaparte flaunted his bee insignia on his.
Victorian sweethearts would woo their suitors with hand-embroidered ones.

 
 

Clark Gable

 
 

Gary Cooper

 
 

Marlon Brando

 
 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

 
 

Jude Law. Still from Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003)

 
 

Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)

 
 

Maxwell

 
 

Raoul Bova accompanied by Monica Belluci

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

Suspenders. Photography by Leon Levinstein, 1955

 
 

Joe Strummer

 
 

Haircut 100

 
 

A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

 
 

Alexander McQueen Menswear

 
 

Diesel ad campaign

 
 

Fun. Carry On music video (Anthony Mandler, 2012)

 
 

Nicole Kidman photographed by Craig Mcdean

 
 

Charlotte Rampling in a promotional picture for Il Portiere di Notte / The Night Porter (Liliana Cavani, 1974)

 
 

Madonna. Erotica music video (Fabien Baron, 1992)

 
 

Jeffrey Costello & Robert Tagliapietra

 
 

Several kind of suspenders had been shown in Ralph Lauren collections whether for women or for men and for children as well