lördag 1 december 2012


 The lakes of ice gleam bluer than the lakes
Of water 'neath the summer sunshine gleamed:
Far fairer than when placidly it streamed,
The brook its frozen architecture makes,
And under bridges white its swift way takes.
Snow comes and goes as messenger who dreamed
Might linger on the road; or one who deemed
His message hostile gently for their sakes
Who listened might reveal it by degrees.
We gird against the cold of winter wind
Our loins now with mighty bands of sleep,
In longest, darkest nights take rest and ease,
And every shortening day, as shadows creep
O'er the brief noontide, fresh surprises find.
                                                             Helen Jackson Hunt

torsdag 1 november 2012


 This is the treacherous month when autumn days
With summer's voice come bearing summer's gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts
Her head and blooms again. The soft, warm haze
Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways,
And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts,
The violet returns. Snow noiseless sifts
Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning's rays
Will idly shine upon and slowly melt,
Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt?
What profit from the violet's day of pain?
                                                                                        Helen Jackson Hunt

måndag 1 oktober 2012


The month of carnival of all the year,
When Nature lets the wild earth go its way
And spend whole seasons on a single day.
The spring-time holds her white and purple dear;
October, lavish, flaunts them far and near;
The summer charily her reds doth lay
Like jewels on her costliest array;
October, scornful, burns them on a bier.
The winter hoards his pearls of frost in sign
Of kingdom: whiter pearls than winter knew,
Or Empress wore, in Egypt's ancient line,
October, feasting 'neath her dome of blue,
Drinks at a single draught, slow filtered through
Sunshiny air, as in a tingling wine!

                                                                 Helen Jackson Hunt

torsdag 13 september 2012


 O golden month! How high thy gold is heaped!
The yellow birch-leaves shine like bright coins strung
On wands; the chestnut's yellow pennons tongue
To every wind its harvest challenge. Steeped
In yellow, still lie fields where wheat was reaped;
And yellow still the corn sheaves, stacked among
The yellow gourds, which from the earth have wrung
Her utmost gold. To highest boughs have leaped
The purple grape,--last thing to ripen, late
By very reason of its precious cost.
O Heart, remember, vintages are lost
If grapes do not for freezing night-dews wait.
Think, while thou sunnest thyself in Joy's estate,
Mayhap thou canst not ripen without frost!
                          Helen Jackson Hunt

onsdag 1 augusti 2012


 Silence again. The glorious symphony
Hath need of pause and interval of peace.
Some subtle signal bids all sweet sounds cease,
Save hum of insects' aimless industry.
Pathetic summer seeks by blazonry
Of color to conceal her swift decrease.
Weak subterfuge! Each mocking day doth fleece
A blossom, and lay bare her poverty.
Poor middle-agèd summer! Vain this show!
Whole fields of golden-rod cannot offset
One meadow with a single violet;
And well the singing thrush and lily know,
Spite of all artifice which her regret
Can deck in splendid guise, their time to go!
             A Calendar of Sonnets, by Helen Hunt Jackson

söndag 1 juli 2012


Some flowers are withered and some joys have died;
The garden reeks with an East Indian scent
From beds where gillyflowers stand weak and spent;
The white heat pales the skies from side to side;
But in still lakes and rivers, cool, content,
Like starry blooms on a new firmament,
White lilies float and regally abide.
In vain the cruel skies their hot rays shed;
The lily does not feel their brazen glare.
In vain the pallid clouds refuse to share
Their dews; the lily feels no thirst, no dread.
Unharmed she lifts her queenly face and head;
She drinks of living waters and keeps fair.

                                   A Calendar of Sonnets, by Helen Hunt Jackson

fredag 1 juni 2012


 O month whose promise and fulfilment blend,
And burst in one! it seems the earth can store
In all her roomy house no treasure more;
Of all her wealth no farthing have to spend
On fruit, when once this stintless flowering end.
And yet no tiniest flower shall fall before
It hath made ready at its hidden core
Its tithe of seed, which we may count and tend
Till harvest. Joy of blossomed love, for thee
Seems it no fairer thing can yet have birth?
No room is left for deeper ecstasy?
Watch well if seeds grow strong, to scatter free
Germs for thy future summers on the earth.
A joy which is but joy soon comes to dearth.
.................From A Calendar of Sonnets by Helen Hunt

måndag 21 maj 2012

Half-Past Bedtime

by H. H. Bashford is such a lovely story book that I’m sorry I don’t have any children in my immediate vicinity.
So far I’ve only read two of the stories, but it took only a few sentences before I fell in love with the book.
In the first story Marian is having tea with the bumpies.

"What are bumpies?" she said.

"My hat!" he gasped. "Haven't you ever heard of bumpies?"

Marian shook her head.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" he sighed. "Have you ever heard of angels?"

"Well, of course," said Marian. "Everybody's heard of angels."

"Well then, bumpies," said Mr Jugg, "are baby angels. They're called bumpies till they've learned to fly."
_ _ _

She introduced Marian to all the bumpies.

They gave her three cheers, and then went on with their tea, and soon Marian was having tea herself—such a tea as she had never had before, not even at her Uncle Joe's. There was bread and butter with bumpy jam on it and bumpy Devonshire cream on the top of the jam, and there was bumpy cake with bumpy cherries in it, and there were bumpy meringues, and there was bumpy honey.

"Why, it's just like a birthday tea!" said Marian.

"That's because it is one," said Mr Jugg. "Every tea's a birthday tea down here. There are so many bumpies, you see, that it's always somebody's birthday."

tisdag 1 maj 2012


 O month when they who love must love and wed!
 Were one to go to worlds where May is naught,
 And seek to tell the memories he had brought
 From earth of thee, what were most fitly said?
 I know not if the rosy showers shed
 From apple-boughs, or if the soft green wrought
 In fields, or if the robin's call be fraught
 The most with thy delight. Perhaps they read
 Thee best who in the ancient time did say
 Thou wert the sacred month unto the old:
 No blossom blooms upon thy brightest day
 So subtly sweet as memories which unfold
 In aged hearts which in thy sunshine lie,
 To sun themselves once more before they die.
From "A Calendar of Sonnets" by Helen Hunt Jackson

torsdag 5 april 2012


August Leopold Egg

Having decided to write on Easter, I took out a volume of The Encyclopædia Britannica in order to make up the subject of eggs, and the first entry under "Egg" that met my eye was:

"EGG, AUGUSTUS LEOPOLD (1816-1863), English painter, was born on the 2nd of May, 1816, in London, where his father carried on business as a gun-maker."

I wish I had known about Augustus five years ago. I should like to have celebrated the centenary of an egg somewhere else than in a London tea-shop. Augustus Leopold Egg seems to have spent a life in keeping with his name. He was taught drawing by Mr Sass, and in later years was a devotee of amateur theatricals, making a memorable appearance, as we should expect of an Egg, in a play called Not so Bad as We Seem. He also appears to have devoted a great part of his life to painting bad eggs, if we may judge by the titles of his most famous pictures—Buckingham Rebuffed, Queen Elizabeth discovers she is no longer young, Peter the Great sees Catherine for the First Time, and Past and Present, a Triple Picture of a Faithless Wife. She was a lady, no doubt, who could not submit to the marriage yolk. Anyhow, she had a great fall, and Augustus did his best to put her together again. "Egg," the Encyclopædia tells us finally, "was rather below the middle height, with dark hair and a handsome, well-formed face." He seems to have been a man, take him for all in all: we shall not look upon his like again.

Even so, Augustus was not the only Egg. He was certainly not the egg in search of which I opened the Encyclopædia. The egg I was looking for was the Easter egg, and it seemed to be the only egg that was not mentioned. There were birds' eggs, and reptiles' eggs, and fishes' eggs, and molluscs' eggs, and crustaceans' eggs, and insects' eggs, and frogs' eggs, and Augustus Egg, and the eggs of the duck-billed platypus, which is the only mammal (except the spiny ant-eater) whose eggs are "provided with a large store of yolk, enclosed within a shell, and extruded to undergo development apart from the maternal tissues." I do not know whether it is evidence of the irrelevance of the workings of the human mind or of our implacable greed of knowledge, but within five minutes I was deep in the subject of eggs in general, and had forgotten all about the Easter variety. I found myself fascinated especially by the eggs of fishes. There are so many of them that one was impressed as one is on being told the population of London. "It has been calculated," says the writer of the article, "that the number laid by the salmon is roughly about 1000 to every pound weight of the fish, a 15-lb. salmon laying 15,000 eggs. The sturgeon lays about 7,000,000; the herring 50,000; the turbot 14,311,000; the sole 134,000; the perch 280,000." This is the sort of sentence I always read over to myself several times. And when I come to "the turbot, 14,311,000," I pause, and try to picture to myself the man who counted them. How does one count 14,311,000? How long does it take? If one lay awake all night, trying to put oneself to sleep by counting turbots' eggs instead of sheep, one would hardly have done more than make a fair start by the time the maid came in to draw the curtains and let in the sun on one's exhausted temples. A person like myself, ignorant of mathematics, could not easily count more that 10,000 in an hour. This would mean that, even if one lay in bed for ten hours, which one never does except on one's birthday, one would have counted only 100,000 out of the 14,311,000 eggs by the time one had to get up for breakfast. That would leave 14,211,000 still to be counted At this point, most of us, I think, would give it up in despair. After one horrible night's experience, we would jump into a hot bath muttering: "Never again! Never again!" like a statesman who can't think of anything to say, and send out for a quinine-and-iron tonic. Our friends meeting us later in the day would say with concern: "Hullo! you're looking rather cheap. What have you been doing?"; and when we answered bitterly: "Counting turbots' eggs," they would hurry off with an apprehensive look on their faces. The naturalist, it is clear, must be capable of a persistence that is beyond the reach of most of us. I calculate that, if he were able to work for 14 hours a day, counting at the rate of 10,000 an hour, even then it would take him 122-214 days to count the eggs of a single turbot. After that, it would take a chartered accountant at least 122-214 days to check his figures. One can gather from this some idea of the enormous industry of men of science. For myself, I could more easily paint the Sistine Madonna or compose a Tenth Symphony than be content to loose myself into this universe of numbers. Pythagoras, I believe, discovered a sort of philosophy in numbers, but even he did not count beyond seven.

After the fishes, the reptiles seem fairly modest creatures. The ordinary snake does not lay more than twenty or thirty eggs, and even the python is content to stop at a hundred. The crocodile, though a wicked animal, lays only twenty or thirty; the tortoise as few as two or four; and the turtle does not exceed two hundred. But I am not really interested in eggs—not, at least, in any eggs but birds' eggs—or should not have been, if I had not read The Encyclopædia Britannica. The sight of a fly's egg—if the fly lays an egg—fills me with disgust—and frogs' eggs attract me only with the fascination of repulsion. What one likes about the birds is that they lay such pretty eggs. Even the duck lays a pretty egg The duck is a plain bird, rather like a char-woman, but it lays an egg which is (or can be) as lovely as an opal. The flavour, I agree, is not Christian, but, like other eggs of which this can be said, it does for cooking. Hens' eggs are less attractive in colour, but more varied. I have always thought it one of the chief miseries of being a man that, when boiled eggs are put on the table, one does not get first choice, and that all the little brown eggs are taken by women and children before one's own turn comes round. There is one sort of egg with a beautiful sunburnt look that always reminds me of the seaside, and that I have not tasted in a private house for above twenty years. To begin the day with such an egg would put one in a good temper for a couple of hours. But always one is fobbed off with a large white egg of demonstrative uncomeliness. It may taste all right, but it does not look all right. Food should appeal to the eye as well as to the palate, as everyone recognises when the blancmange that has not set is brought to the table. At the same time, there is one sort of white egg that is quite delightful to look at. I do not know its parent, but I think it is a black hen of the breed called Spanish. Not everything white in Nature is beautiful. One dislikes instinctively white calves, white horses, white elephants and white waistcoats. But the particular egg of which I speak is one of the beautiful white things—like snow, or a breaking wave, or teeth. So certain am I, however, that neither it nor the little brown one will ever come my way, while there is a woman or a child or a guest to prevent it, that when I am asked how I like the eggs to be done I make it a point to say "poached" or "fried." It gives me at least a chance of getting one of the sort of eggs I like by accident. As for poached eggs, I agree. There are nine ways of poaching eggs, and each of them is worse than the other. Still, there is one good thing about poached eggs: one is never disappointed. One accepts a poached egg like fate. There is no sitting on tenterhooks, watching and waiting and wondering, as there is in regard to boiled eggs. I admit that most of the difficulties associated with boiled eggs could be got over by the use of egg-cosies—appurtenances of the breakfast table that stirred me to the very depths of delight when I first set eyes on them as a child. It was at a mothers' meeting, where I was the only male present. Thousands of women sat round me, sewing and knitting things for a church bazaar. Much might be written about egg-cosies. Much might be said for and much against. They would be effective, however only if it were regarded as a point of honour not to look under the cosy before choosing the egg. And the sense of honour, they say, is a purely masculine attribute. Children never had it, and women have lost it. I do not know a single woman whom I would trust not to look under an egg cosy—not, at least, unless she were forbidden eggs by the doctor. In that case, any egg would seem delicious, and she would seize the nearest, irrespective of class or colour.

This may not explain the connection between eggs and Easter. But then neither does The Encyclopædia Britannica. I have looked up both the article on eggs and the article on Easter, and in neither of them can I find anything more relevant than such remarks as that "the eggs of the lizard are always white or yellowish, and generally soft-shelled; but the geckos and the green lizards lay hard-shelled eggs" or "Gregory of Tours relates that in 577 there was a doubt about Easter." In order to learn something about Easter eggs one has to turn to some such work as The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, which tells us that "the practice of presenting eggs to our friends at Easter is Magian or Persian, and bears allusion to the mundane egg, for which Ormuzd and Ahriman were to contend till the consummation of all things." The advantage of reading Tit-Bits is that one gets to know hundreds of things like that. The advantage of not reading Tit-Bits is that one is so ignorant of them that a piece of information of this sort is as fresh and unexpected as the morning's news every Easter Monday. Next Easter, I feel sure, I shall look it up again. I shall have forgotten all about the mundane egg, even if Ormuzd and Ahriman have not. I shall be thinking more about my breakfast egg. What a piece of work is a man! And yet many profound things might be said about eggs, mundane or otherwise. I wish I could have thought of them.
From "The Pleasures of Ignorance", 1921, by Robert Lynd

 Still Life with Eggs (Nature morte aux œufs), 1907
Claude Monet

söndag 1 april 2012


No days such honored days as these! When yet
Fair Aphrodite reigned, men seeking wide
For some fair thing which should forever bide
On earth, her beauteous memory to set
In fitting frame that no age could forget,
Her name in lovely April's name did hide,
And leave it there, eternally allied
To all the fairest flowers Spring did beget.
And when fair Aphrodite passed from earth,
Her shrines forgotten and her feasts of mirth,
A holier symbol still in seal and sign,
Sweet April took, of kingdom most divine,
When Christ ascended, in the time of birth
Of spring anemones, in Palestine.

From "A Calendar of Sonnets" by Helen Hunt Jackson

måndag 12 mars 2012

Another Book Title Tea

Afternoon Dresses for Tea, 
Fashion Plate from 'Art Gout 
Beaute' Magazine, 1924

Maybe you’ll find this book title tea less tricky than the previous — and more fun. 

A Book Title Tea. 2.

This is an original entertainment for a few friends. Have amusing pen and ink sketches handed around together with a small note book and pencil for each guest. Explain that each sketch is supposed to represent some well-known book and each guest is given an opportunity to put on his or her thinking cap and name the volume in his note book and pass the sketch on. This novel game affords no end of mirth and enjoyment and at a given time the hostess looks over the books and corrects them.

The House of Seven Gables is very simple and easy to guess, it being simply a rough sketch of a house with seven gables.

An Old-Fashioned Girl is represented by a girl of ye olden time in simple and quaint costume with a school bag on her arm.

A small snow covered house is enough to suggest "Snow Bound" to many of the guests. (A favorite of mine)

The Lady and the Tiger ought not to puzzle anyone, it is a simple sketch of a lady's head in one corner and a tiger in the other. (“The Lady, or theTiger”, most probably)

On one card appears 15th of March, which seems more baffling than all the others. It proves to be "Middlemarch."

A large letter A in vivid red of course represents "A Scarlet Letter." (I think it should be “The Scarlet Letter”)

"Helen's Babies" is a sketch of two chubby boys in night robes.

"Heavenly Twins" is represented by twin stars in the heavens.

"Darkest Africa" needs nothing but the face of a darkey boy with mouth stretched from ear to ear.

One of the sketches is a moonlight scene with ships going in opposite directions and is easily guessed to represent "Ships that Pass in the Night."

Anyone with originality can devise many other amusing and more difficult sketches. Prizes might be given to the one who guesses the largest number correctly.

måndag 5 mars 2012

A Book-Title Tea

Tea Dresses

One of my latest finds is “Breakfasts and Teas, Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions", by Paul Pierce from 1907. There are two more books by the same author: “Dinners and Luncheons, Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions" and "Suppers, Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions". None of them includes recipes, they are “Respectfully dedicated to the overworked, perturbed American hostess in the sincere hope that the suggestions herein may lighten her perplexities and transform her work of entertaining from a task of dread to one of delight.”
Even if you entertain as seldom as I do, which is never, you might find it as amusing as I do, to read about it. 

A "Book-Title" Tea. 1.

The latest novelty in afternoon entertainments in England is what is called a "book-title" tea. Of course, this would be just as amusing in the evening, and any refreshments may be served that the hostess prefers.
The guests are all expected to devise and wear some particular badge or ornament which indicates, more or less clearly, the title of some book, preferably works which are well known.

The "badges" worn may be very clever and most tastefully executed. "Dodo" may be impersonated by showing a bar of music containing the two representative notes of the tonic sol-fa method. "Little Men" is represented by a badge bearing the names of little great men, such as Napoleon, Lord Roberts, etc.

A lady may wear around her neck fragments of china tied by a ribbon. This represents "The Break-Up of China," Lord Charles Beresford's book. Another lady, whose name is Alice, may wear a necklace of little mirrors, and this represents "Alice Through A Looking Glass." An ingenious design consists of a nickel coin, a photo of a donkey, another nickel coin, and a little bee, meaning "Nickolas Nickleby." A daisy stuck into a tiny miller's hat stands for "Daisy Miller," and the letters of the word olive twisted on a wire for "Oliver Twist."

Two little gates, made of paste board and a jar, represents "Gates Ajar," and a string of little dolls dressed as men, "All Sorts and Conditions of Men." There are many other interesting and ingenious designs.

söndag 4 mars 2012


Month which the warring ancients strangely styled
 The month of war, — as if in their fierce ways
 Were any month of peace! — in thy rough days
 I find no war in Nature, though the wild
 Winds clash and clang, and broken boughs are piled
 At feet of writhing trees. The violets raise
 Their heads without affright, without amaze,
 And sleep through all the din, as sleeps a child.
 And he who watches well may well discern
 Sweet expectation in each living thing.
 Like pregnant mother the sweet earth doth yearn;
 In secret joy makes ready for the spring;
 And hidden, sacred, in her breast doth bear
 Annunciation lilies for the year.
 From "A Calendar of Sonnets" by Helen Hunt Jackson (1891)

tisdag 14 februari 2012

A suggestion

 In case you’re without something to read today — I have a most appropriate suggestion. Old Valentines A Love Story by Munson Aldrich Havens.

"May I call you Phyllis?" asked John, breaking the silence suddenly.
"Why, yes; if you wish—and if you think you ought, you know."

"Well, then,—Phyllis. Your name has become to me the one name worth saying in the world. Ever since I met you for the first time, four months ago, I have been saying it, Phyllis; but I wanted to say it to you. So with your face: I know every mood of you by the lights and shadows of it. I can see it in your absence, almost as well as when I am with you. Your dear, sweet face, Phyllis, and your crown of gold, and your loyal eyes, I know by heart, as well as your name. Dear Phyllis. And I know, too, your quick and beautiful mind; its clear, wise judgment of the true and the false. I know its freedom from selfishness, and all littleness. I know its purity and its steadfastness I know your capable hands, Phyllis, and your eager, pitying heart,—for I have seen them at work day after day, and week after week. I love you, my dearest, and I must tell you so. I think I have loved you longer than I have known you, but I know I have loved you as long. Perhaps you can care for me, and perhaps you can't. Sometimes I have dared to hope you might, but almost always I have known it was too high a hope. For I am only a poor poet, with nothing but faith in myself and love for you to offer. I know you have everything; a beautiful home, and beautiful clothes, and beautiful jewels, probably, though I haven't seen them. Every wish of yours is answered almost before you know it is yours. Life's promise to you is the earth and the fullness thereof; and I offer you only love. But in the end I shall win, Phyllis, I am perfectly certain of that. I shall never, never be rich; possibly never even well-to-do; but I love you, Phyllis; I love you. I want to ask you to wait for me—and be my wife."

måndag 13 februari 2012

Valentine Eve

It was Sarah Chauncey Woolsey’s birthday a couple of weeks ago. She is probably better known as Susan Coolidge, the author who wrote the books about Katy and her siblings. As I wrote a short post about her, I couldn’t resist looking through some of her books. In “What Katy Did”, they have a Valentine party — I did remember that, but I didn’t remember that they it was held on “Valentine Eve”. Thinking of it, I can’t recall that I ever heard, or read, about celebrating Valentine on any other day than the 14th .

Valentine's-Day was the next Friday. When the children came home from school on Thursday afternoon, Aunt Izzie met them, and, to their great surprise, told them that Cecy was come to drink tea, and they must all go up stairs and be made nice.

"But Cecy comes most every day," remarked Dorry, who didn't see the connection between this fact and having his face washed.

"Yes—but to-night you are to take tea in Katy's room," said Aunt Izzie; "here are the invitations: one for each of you."

Sure enough, there was a neat little note for each, requesting the pleasure of their company at "Queen Katharine's Palace," that afternoon, at six o'clock.

This put quite a different aspect on the affair. The children scampered up stairs, and pretty soon, all nicely brushed and washed, they were knocking formally at the door of the "Palace." How fine it sounded!
The room looked bright and inviting. Katy, in her chair, sat close to the fire, Cecy was beside her, and there was a round table all set out with a white cloth and mugs of milk and biscuit, and strawberry-Jam and doughnuts. In the middle was a loaf of frosted cake. There was something on the icing which looked like pink letters, and Clover, leaning forward, read aloud, "St. Valentine."

"What's that for?" asked Dorry.

"Why, you know this is St. Valentine's-Eve," replied Katy. "Debbie remembered it, I guess, so she put that on."

Nothing more was said about St. Valentine just then. But when the last pink letter of his name had been eaten, and the supper had been cleared away, suddenly, as the children sat by the fire, there was a loud rap at the door.
"Who can that be?" said Katy; "please see, Clover!"

So Clover opened the door. There stood Bridget, trying very hard not to laugh, and holding a letter in her hand.

"It's a note as has come for you, Miss Clover," she said.

"For me!" cried Clover, much amazed. Then she shut the door, and brought the note to the table.

"How very funny!" she exclaimed, as she looked at the envelope, which was a green and white one. There was something hard inside. Clover broke the seal. Out tumbled a small green velvet pincushion made in the shape of a clover-leaf, with a tiny stem of wire wound with green silk. Pinned to the cushion was a paper, with these verses:

  "Some people love roses well,
    Tulips, gayly dressed,
  Some love violets blue and sweet,—
    I love Clover best.
  "Though she has a modest air,
    Though no grace she boast,
  Though no gardener call her fair,
    I love Clover most.
  "Butterfly may pass her by,
    He is but a rover,
  I'm a faithful, loving Bee—
    And I stick to Clover."
This was the first valentine Clover had ever had. She was perfectly enchanted.
"Oh, who do you suppose sent it?" she cried.

But before anybody could answer, there came another loud knock at the door, which made them all jump. Behold, Bridget again, with a second letter!

"It's for you, Miss Elsie, this time," she said with a grin.

There was an instant rush from all the children, and the envelope was torn open in the twinkling of an eye. Inside was a little ivory seal with "Elsie" on it in old English letters, and these rhymes:

  "I know a little girl,
  She is very dear to me,
  She is just as sweet as honey
  When she chooses so to be,
  And her name begins with E, and ends with E.
  "She has brown hair which curls,
  And black eyes for to see
  With, teeth like tiny pearls,
  And dimples, one, two—three,
  And her name begins with E, and ends with E.
  "Her little feet run faster
  Than other feet can flee,
  As she brushes quickly past, her
  Voice hums like a bee,
  And her name begins with E, and ends with E.
  "Do you ask me why I love her?
  Then I shall answer thee,
  Because I can't help loving,
  She is so sweet to me,
  This little girl whose name begins and ends with 'E.'"
"It's just like a fairy story," said Elsie, whose eyes had grown as big as saucers from surprise, while these verses were being read aloud by Cecy.

Another knock. This time there was a perfect handful of letters.
Everybody had one. Katy, to her great surprise, had two.
"Why, what can this be?" she said. But when she peeped into the second one, she saw Cousin Helen's handwriting, and she put it into her pocket, till the valentines should be read.

Dorry's was opened first. It had the picture of a pie at the top—I ought to explain that Dorry had lately been having a siege with the dentist.
  "Little Jack Horner
  Sat in his corner,
    Eating his Christmas pie,
  When a sudden grimace
  Spread over his face,
    And he began loudly to cry.
  "His tender Mamma
  Heard the sound from afar,
    And hastened to comfort her child;
  'What aileth my John?'
  She inquired in a tone
    Which belied her question mild.
  "'Oh, Mother,' he said,
  'Every tooth in my head
    Jumps and aches and is loose, O my!
   And it hurts me to eat
   Anything that is sweet—
     So what will become of my pie?'
  "It were vain to describe
  How he roared and he cried,
    And howled like a miniature tempest;
  Suffice it to say,
  That the very next day
    He had all his teeth pulled by a dentist!"
This valentine made the children laugh for a long time. Johnnie's envelope held a paper doll named "Red Riding-Hood." These were the verses:

  "I send you my picture, dear Johnnie, to show
    That I'm just as alive as you,
  And that you needn't cry over my fate
    Any more, as you used to do.
  "The wolf didn't hurt me at all that day,
    For I kicked and fought and cried,
  Till he dropped me out of his mouth, and ran
    Away in the woods to hide.
  "And Grandma and I have lived ever since
    In the little brown house so small,
  And churned fresh butter and made cream cheeses,
    Nor seen the wolf at all.
  "So cry no more for fear I am eaten,
    The naughty wolf is shot,
  And if you will come to tea some evening
    You shall see for yourself I'm not."
Johnnie was immensely pleased at this, for Red Riding-Hood was a great favorite of hers.
Philly had a bit of india-rubber in his letter, which was written with very black ink on a big sheet of foolscap:

  "I was once a naughty man,
    And I hid beneath the bed,
  To steal your india-rubbers,
    But I chewed them up instead.
  "Then you called out, 'Who is there?'
    I was thrown most in a fit,
  And I let the india-rubbers fall—
    All but this little bit.
  "I'm sorry for my naughty ways,
    And now, to make amends,
  I send the chewed piece back again,
    And beg we may be friends.

"Just listen to mine," said Cecy, who had all along pretended to be as much surprised as anybody, and now behaved as if she could hardly wait till Philly's was finished. Then she read aloud:


  "If I were a bird
  And you were a bird,
  What would we do?
  Why you should be little and I would be big,
  And, side by side on a cherry-tree twig,
  We'd kiss with our yellow bills, and coo—
  That's what we'd do!
  "If I were a fish
  And you were a fish,
  What would we do?
  We'd frolic, and whisk our little tails,
  And play all sorts of tricks with the whales,
  And call on the oysters, and order a 'stew,'
  That's what we'd do!
  "If I were a bee
  And you were a bee,
  What would we do?
  We'd find a home in a breezy wood,
  And store it with honey sweet and good.
  You should feed me and I would feed you,
  That's what we'd do!

"I think that's the prettiest of all," said Clover.

"I don't," said Elsie. "I think mine is the prettiest. Cecy didn't have any seal in hers, either." And she fondled the little seal, which all this time she had held in her hand.

"Katy, you ought to have read yours first because you are the oldest," said Clover.

"Mine isn't much," replied Katy, and she read:

  "The rose is red the violet blue,
    Sugar is sweet, and so are you."
"What a mean valentine!" cried Elsie, with flashing eyes. "It's a real shame, Katy! You ought to have had the best of all."

Katy could hardly keep from laughing. The fact was that the verses for the others had taken so long, that no time had been left for writing a valentine to herself. So, thinking it would excite suspicion to have none, she had scribbled this old rhyme at the last moment.

"It isn't very nice," she said, trying to look as pensive as she could, "but never mind."

"It's a shame!" repeated Elsie, petting her very hard to make up for the injustice.

onsdag 1 februari 2012


Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white;
And reigns the winter's pregnant silence still;
No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill,
And willow stems grow daily red and bright.
These are the days when ancients held a rite
Of expiation for the old year's ill,
And prayer to purify the new year's will:
Fit days, ere yet the spring rains blur the sight,
Ere yet the bounding blood grows hot with haste,
And dreaming thoughts grow heavy with a greed
The ardent summer's joy to have and taste;
Fit days, to give to last year's losses heed,
To reckon clear the new life's sterner need;
Fit days, for Feast of Expiation placed!
                From "A Calendar of Sonnets" by Helen Hunt Jackson (1891)

lördag 7 januari 2012

What I forgot


Tom and the Andirons

It was perfectly natural in one respect, anyhow. There was really no reason in the world why Tom should not lie upon the great bear-skin rug in front of the library fire those cold winter nights if he wanted to, nor need anyone be surprised that he should want to. It was indeed a most delightful place to lie in. The bear-skin was soft and in every way comfortable and comforting. The fireplace itself was one of those huge hospitable affairs that might pass in some apartment houses in our narrow cooped-up city streets for a butler's pantry or small reception room—in fact in the summer time Tom used to sit in the fireplace and pretend he was in his office transacting business with such of his sister's dolls as could be induced to visit him there; giving orders to imaginary clerks and bookkeepers and keeping an equally fanciful office boy continually on the run. And then apart from the rug and the fireplace it was a beautiful room in which they were. Tom's father was very fond of books, and, although he was a great many years older than Tom, he had not forgotten how to enjoy the very same kind of books that Tom liked. He was not ashamed to have one little niche of his library filled with the stories which had delighted him in his boyhood days, and which still continued to please him, and, of course, this lent an additional charm to the library in Tom's eyes. It held his heroes, and on some of those drowsy nights when the only sounds to break the stillness of the room were the scratching of his father's pen, the soft humming of some little tune by his mother sitting and sewing by the evening lamp, and the fierce crackling of the burning logs, Tom could almost see these heroes stepping down from the shelves and like so many phantoms flitting in and about the room. In fact, upon one occasion, Tom is convinced he did see these very people having a dance upon the great tiled hearth—but of that you shall hear later.
From "Andiron Tales" from 1906, by John Kendrick Bangs and illustrations by Clare Victor Dwiggins.

My mind is not only simple — it’s tired. In the last post I forgot to write about the other simple books I’ve read this fall. Maybe beacuse I had forgotten the titles (I told you my mind is tired), and when I went over to Gutenberg to check the titles, I forgot what I was looking for, and I started to look at other interesting books!
So here I am with only a vague notion of what I’ve read, and what I thought about it. Yes, I remember that I read “The Enchanted Barn” by Grace Livingston Hill Lutz, but not what I meant to say about it. I’ve written about the author before, and I’m still not quite sure what I think about her. This time I kept notes while I read — notes that now are resting in my other computer. The men in her books are either unlikely gentlemanly, or terrible villans — while the the female protagonist is feminine and ladylike (and usually poor). It sure sounds as cheap pulp literature, doesn’t it?

One of the books I’ve enjoyed is “Dandelion Cottage” by Carroll Watson Rankin. The book was first published in 1904, but this edition was printed in 1977, and had rather modern illustration by Mary Stevens. They are not bad, but I don’t care for them.
I’ve never heard of the book before, but I understand that it is considered a classic — at least in the midwest where it take place. It’s a charming book, and I think I’ll read “The Cinder Pond“, by the same author, which also is available at Gutenberg.

I’m about to start reading “Andiron Tales”  so far I haven’t read much more than the paragraph above. If the rest of the book is as delightful as the beginning, I will not be disappointed.

söndag 1 januari 2012

Simple books for a simple mind

 January.—Now the weather is very cold. There are no leaves upon the trees. The ground is frozen quite hard. Perhaps it is covered with snow. Every thing looks very cold and comfortless. A little boy or girl, when out of humor, reminds me of this month. Bring plenty of wood and make a good fire, that we may warm ourselves.
From “The Twelve Months of the Year, with a Picture for each Month. Adapted to Northern Latitudes”, author Unknown

Well, it’s not very cold — after two very cold winters with plenty of snow, this unusually mild winter is a blessing. We’ve had a few cold spells, but it has never been below -15°C (5°F). 

A fire, books, music, tea and a purring cat are the perfekt ingrediens for a pleasant winter - even if it isn’t very cold. After an autumn with a bit too much of almost everything, it’s very healing to to listen to the fire while you nod off, with a book in your lap. 
I’ve heard so much about “Miss Silver”, everybody seems to love Patricia Wentworth books about her, but I haven’t read any of the books until now. And I was hooked after the first paragraph! I meant to read them in order, but the first book ("Gray Mask") isn’t available here, so I started with “The Case is Closed”, and have ordered two more in the series. I don’t think I can get hold of them all, but intend to read as many as I can lay my hands on.