Our Friend Behn

Aphra Behn is pretty awesome. I read her 1688 novel Oroonoko in my 18th Century Literature class at St. Vincent. It’s hard enough for anyone, male or female, to make a living writing in this day and age. I can’t imagine how hard it was for a woman in the seventeenth century to do so, especially one as pioneering, independent, challenging and thought-provoking as Behn certainly was!

Eleventh Stack

File:Aphra Behn by Peter Lely R.jpg

“One hour of right-down love is worth an age of dully living on.” Aphra Behn

 

Aphra Behn was the first woman to make a living by writing in the English language.  As it is Women’s History Month, and this is a library blog, it’s only right that we salute the saucy and enigmatic mother of English writing.

Top Ten Reasons Why Aphra Behn Pretty Much Rules

  1. She was a spy!  Aphra’s early life is unknown, but we do know that she spent some years in her 20s as a spy for Charles II in Antwerp.  What a great way to inform your writing!  Another great way to inform your writing is to find yourself in debtors’ prison, because you paid your spy expenses out of pocket, on promise from the king that he would repay you.  The king never repaid Aphra, and indeed she was imprisoned.  Way to look out…

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“My Heart Leaps Up” #worldpoetryday

March 21 is World Poetry Day, so of course I have to once again post my favorite poem by my favorite poet.  English Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) wrote “My Heart Leaps Up” on March 26, 1802 – nearly 210 years ago today.

20120321-085122.jpg“My Heart Leaps Up” (1802)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

I’m currently reading The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge by Adam Sisman.

The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge

Sisman tells the story of the close friendship and creative partnership between English Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I bought the book when it was first published in 2006, but I finally feel like now is the right time to read it.  It’s a great read so far – it recounts the two poets’ personal histories in post-French Revolution Europe and how they came to meet each other and eventually collaborate on Lyrical Ballads (1798), a canonical collection of poetry generally considered the impetus for the English Romantic movement in literature.

From the Introduction:

“The names of Wordsworth and Coleridge have been linked ever since. They have passed into legend as a pair, like Boswell and Johnson, or Lennon and McCartney . The myth making began while they were still living, and has continued uninterrupted. The image of these two young geniuses, the progenitors of English Romanticism, roaming the Quantock Hills in an ecstasy of shared understanding and creative fulfillment, is irresistibly romantic. Their subsequent estrangement, quarrel, and superficial reconciliation complete a story as poignant as any love affair.”

From Wordsworth to Wilson

Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought I would share my favorite poem from my favorite poet, William Wordsworth, a major poet of the Romantic Age in England (probably my favorite period in literary and art history) .

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

One of my future travel destinations is Dove Cottage, located on the edge of the village of Grasmere in England’s Lake District, where Wordsworth made his home from 1799-1808.

Dove Cottage

During his residency at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth composed much of his celebrated poetry, including my favorite poem, which was written on March 26, 1802.

My Heart Leaps Up (Also known as The Rainbow)

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

The poem is brief yet extremely powerful.  I designed, created and framed a cross-stitch pattern of the poem, which I look at every day to remind myself never to lose my sense of wonder about nature and an appreciation for the simple things in life.

The connections you can make between literature and music, both classic and modern, are amazing.  Brian Wilson, one of my absolute favorite songwriters (he’s a genius), and lyricist Van Dyke Parks were inspired by Wordsworth and used the line “child is father of the man” in a song for The Beach Boys‘ legendary abandoned album, SMiLE.  Wilson released a newly recorded version of the album in 2004, which I highly recommend.  The SMiLE Sessions, a much-anticipated complilation of  The Beach Boys’ original studio sessions as well as a fully assembled album, will be released in 2011. (I can’t wait!!!)

Original SMiLE album cover

“Child is Father of the Man” – From Brian Wilson’s SMiLE (2004)

The line also appears in the coda of The Beach Boys’ song “Surf’s Up,” planned for the 1967 SMiLE, but eventually included on The Beach Boys’ 1971 album Surf’s Up and also on Wilson’s SMiLE (2004).

“Surf’s Up” – From The Beach Boys’ Surf’s Up (1971)