e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Archive for the tag “Nicholas Albery”

Rhapsodomancy: a form of divination

Rhapsodomancy is another word new to me, and one that actually has some application. It means using the text of a poem to foretell the future.41VKAAY5nvL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_

According to Wikipedia there are several ways of determining which poem to use. Some of the systems involve writing a poem or some poems’ titles on bits of paper (or tree-bark if you want to be really authentic), putting the papers in a pot and drawing one out (without looking of course). Alternatively you can spread the papers over your desk and toss a die at them. The one the die lands on is the one you use.

Fortunetelling isn’t really my thing, but I was intrigued by my reading about rhapsodomancy so I thought I’d give it a go. Writing a lot of titles or lines out seemed like work and a waste of paper, but using the die is a good idea, so I decided to adapt that. It took a few goes to make it work, so what follows isn’t entirely my first effort.

Some time ago I was given a copy of a lovely book, Poem for the Day: One edited by Nicholas Albery, which has one poem for each day of the year. It seemed a good book to use as my text – very varied poems by many poets.

To find the poem I need I have to have a randomly chosen date. Since we are in the first half of the month I decided the date used should to be in the first two weeks. So I toss a die. It lands on 6.

I don’t need another toss – I’m not going to do any adding. If I used another toss I might get a 1 or 2 and could use them with the 6 to give me 16 or 26, but I’ve already decided to rule these dates out.

So now to toss for the month. I get a 2 – February. I toss again in case I get December, but I don’t – I get a 3. Since there are no months 23 or 32, I stick with February.

Now for the text for 6th February. It is The Passionate Shepherd to his Love by Christopher Marlowe. But it has six stanzas which seem too much for divination, so I toss again and get a 6.

The verse:

The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning.
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me, and be my love.

All this die work is just the preamble. We’re now at the tricky part, which is working out what it means.

An experienced diviner could probably draw a lot of conclusions from such a verse. My immediate reaction is that next May there will be dancing and singing near enough to me for me to observe it and maybe join in. This is such a cheerful prediction that I’m going to stop there and wait until May 2016 to see if it comes true.

If any of my readers see something different in the verse, I’d love to hear what it is.

The first professional woman writer in England

I have a wonderful book – Poem for the Day edited by Nicholas Albery. Not only does it give a poem for each day of the year (plus leap year), but also a whole collection of poetry-related snippets.

Today is the anniversary of the death of Aphra Behn (1640 to 16th April 1689). What a lady! In a relatively short life, by modern standards, she fitted in travel, marriage, widowhood, work as a spy and a stint in debtors’ prison, as well as writing plays, novels and poems. She was one of the first women to earn enough by writing to support herself. She was sympathetic to Catholics (at a time when Catholics were seriously unpopular), and was one of the first to write against the horrors of slavery.

She was no saint and has had plenty of criticism in her day and since. But her fame lives on – both for her writing and her feminism. Virginia Woolf wrote of her:

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon
the tomb of Aphra Behn, …for it was she who earned
them the right to speak their minds.

Like many other famous spies, there are mysterious gaps in her biography. These have allowed later authors to invent incidents and include her in their stories. She even appears in the science fiction series Riverworld by Jose Phillip Farmer.

Most of her poems are about love. Love Armed, below, is one of the shorter ones.

Love Armed

Love in fantastic triumph sate
Whilst bleeding hearts around him flow’d,
For whom fresh pains he did create
And strange tyrannic power he show’d:
From thy bright eyes he took his fires,
Which round about in sport he hurl’d;
But ’twas from mine he took desires
Enough t’ undo the amorous world.

From me he took his sighs and tears,
From thee his pride and cruelty;
From me his languishments and fears,
And every killing dart from thee.
Thus thou and I the god have arm’d
And set him up a deity;
But my poor heart alone is harm’d,
Whilst thine the victor is, and free!

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: