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Friday, October 11, 2013

Ben Jonson: My Picture Left in Scotland

As we're going further through this month of October, days are shorter and evenings darker and colder. Loneliness can be depressing, and it is advisable to have company. A jug filled with good whisky is a fine companion that kills the boredom. And a book, of stories, or of poetry. Well, whisky or whiskey? This needs some explanation, but I'd leave it to a web site (here) that's very informative. There is a rule of thumb: if the beverage comes from a country having E in its name (like England or UnitEd StatEs), it's whiskey. If not, it's whisky. Dewar's brand comes from Scotland, thus it's whisky.

This jug above has an effigy on it, like any other Kingsware coming from the manufactures of Royal Doulton in Lambeth, south of London. It's the effigy of Ben Jonson, and a poem by him is appropriate in this circumstance. It's named My Picture Left in Scotland. Curious title for a poem, isn't it? Well, by those times the craft of making photos was not known, thus gentlemen were giving paintings of themselves to their sweethearts. And the sweetie of the poet (or rather a would-be sweetie) forgot the painting someplace in Scotland, so far away - an indication of her lack of interest. Jonson plays here with the ancient adagio, love is blind: it'd have been better, as the guy was clearly not very attractive being old enough. No, love was rather deaf, thus insensible to his masterly crafted words of erotic persuasion.

I now think Love is rather deaf than blind,
For else it could not be
That she,
Whom I adore so much, should so slight me
And cast my love behind.
I'm sure my language to her was as sweet,
And every close did meet
In sentence of as subtle feet,
As hath the youngest He
That sits in shadow of Apollo's tree.

O, but my conscious fears,
That fly my thoughts between,
Tell me that she hath seen
My hundred of gray hairs,
Told seven and forty years
Read so much waste, as she cannot embrace
My mountain belly and my rocky face;
And all these through her eyes have stopp'd her ears.

(Ben Jonson)



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