Saturday, 16 March 2013

Jaime Gil de Biedma: To Gabriel Ferrater


Dedicándole un ejemplar de Moralidades

More than nine years ago, —a hell of a lot of time—
In an old country manor while the lingering chime
Of rain was heard outdoors, by the fire we sat.
Lazy, well fed, indoorish, each other’s best liked cat,
For both of us were in very high spirits,—
Chinchón if I remember— we kept playing old lyrics
Sung by Judy Garland, thought the world was a friend
And talked ourselves to drunkenness for hours without end.
Let them now do the talking, those sons-of-what-we-spoke,
— Your poems and my poems, our old own private joke!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Vladimir Nabokov: Breitensträter – Paolino, an essay (December 1925; with actual photographs of the two boxers)

Breitensträter – Paolino
Everything in the world plays: the blood in the veins of a lover, the sun on the water, and the musician on a violin.
   Everything good in life – love, nature, the arts, and family jests – is play. And when we actually play – whether we’re knocking down a tin battalion with a pea or drawing together across the net barrier in tennis – what we feel in our very muscles is the essence of that play which possesses the marvellous juggler, who tosses from hand to hand in an unbroken sparkling parabola . . . the planets of the universe.
   Man has played as long as he has existed. There are ages – holidays of humanity – when man is especially impassioned by games. So it was in bygone Greece, in bygone Rome, and so it is in our own Europe of today.
   A child knows, that in order to play to his heart’s content, he must play with someone else or at least imagine somebody, he must become two. Or to put it another way, there is no play without competition; which is why some kinds of play, such as those gymnastic festivals in which fifty-odd men or women, moving as one, form into patterns across a parade ground, seem insipid, since they lack the very thing which gives play its entrancing, exciting charm. Which is why the Communist system is so ridiculous, since it condemns everyone to doing the same tedious exercises, not allowing that anyone be fitter than his neighbour.
   Not for nothing did Nelson say that the Battle of Trafalgar was won on the tennis and football fields of Eton. [Sic.] And the Germans too have lately realized that the goose step can only take you so far, and that boxing, football and hockey are more valuable than military or any other exercises. Boxing is especially valuable, and there are few spectacles as healthy and beautiful as a boxing-match. An uptight gentleman, who does not like washing naked in the mornings, and who is inclined to express surprise that a poet who works for two and a half connoisseurs earns less money than a boxer who works for a crowd of many thousands (a crowd which, by the way, has nothing in common with the so-called masses and is possessed of a rapture far purer, more sincere, and goodnatured than that of the crowd welcoming home its national heroes), this same uptight gentleman will feel indignation and disgust towards a fist fight, just as in Rome, most likely, there were people who frowned at the sight of two huge gladiators demonstrating the very best in the gladiatorial arts, slugging each other with such iron blows that not even the “pollice verso”1 was necessary, they’d finish each other off anyway.
   What matters, of course, is not really that a heavyweight boxer is a little bloodied after two or three rounds, or that the white vest of the referee looks as though red ink has leaked out of a fountain pen. What matters is, first, the beauty of the art of boxing, the perfect accuracy of the lunges, the side jumps, the dives, the range of blows – hooks, straights, swipes – and, secondly, the wonderful manly excitement which this art arouses. Many writers have depicted the beauty, the romance of boxing. Bernard Shaw has a whole novel about a professional boxer. Jack London, Conan Doyle, and Kuprin have all written on the subject. Byron – the darling of all Europe, except fastidious England – was a great friend of boxers and loved to watch their fights, just as Pushkin and Lermontov would have loved it, had they lived in England. Portraits have survived of the professional boxers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The famous Figg, Corbett, Cribb fought without gloves and fought masterfully, honourably, tenaciously – more often to the point of utter exhaustion, than to a knockout.
   Nor was it commonplace humanity that led to the appearance of boxing gloves in the middle of the last century, but rather a desire to protect the fist, which could otherwise be too easily broken in the course of a two-hour bout. All of them have long since stepped down from the ring – those great, legendary pugilists – having won their supporters quite a few pounds sterling. They lived to a ripe old age, and in the evenings, in taverns, over a pint of beer, they would talk with pride of their former exploits. They were followed by others, the teachers of today’s boxers: the massive Sullivan, Burns, who looked like a London dandy, and Jeffries, the son of a blacksmith – “the white hope”, as they called him, a hint that black boxers were already becoming unbeatable.
   Those who had hoped that Jeffries would beat the black giant Johnson lost their money. The two races followed this fight closely. But despite the furious enmity between the white and black camps (the event took place in America twenty-five or more years ago), not a single boxing rule was broken, even though Jeffries, with every one of his blows, kept repeating: “Yellow dog . . . yellow dog”. Finally, after a long, splendid fight, the enormous negro struck his opponent so hard that Jeffries flew backwards from the platform, over the encircling rope and, as they say, “fell asleep”.

Churchman Boxing Personalities, Card 36: Paolino Uzcudun

   Poor Johnson! He rested on his laurels, gained weight, took a beautiful white woman for his wife, began appearing as a living advertisement on the music-hall stage, and then, I think, ended up in jail, and only briefly did his black face and white smile flash out from the illustrated magazines.
   I have had the luck to see Smith, and Bombardier Wells, and Goddard, and Wilde, and Beckett, and the miraculous Carpentier who beat Beckett. That fight, which paid the winner five thousand, and the runner-up three thousand pounds, lasted exactly fifty-six seconds, so that someone who had paid twenty pounds for their seat had only enough time to light a cigarette, and when he looked up at the ring, Beckett was already lying on the boards in the touching pose of a sleeping baby.
   I hasten to add that in such a blow, which brings on an instantaneous black-out, there is nothing grave. On the contrary. I have experienced it myself, and can attest that such a sleep is rather pleasant. At the very tip of the chin there is a bone, like the one in the elbow which in English is called “the funny-bone”, and in German “the musical-bone”. As everyone knows, if you hit the corner of your elbow hard, you immediately feel a faint ringing in the hand and a momentary deadening of the muscles. The same thing happens if you are hit very hard on the end of the chin.
   There is no pain. Only the peal of a faint ringing and then an instantaneous pleasant sleep (the so-called “knock-out”), lasting anywhere between ten seconds and half an hour. A blow to the solar plexus is less pleasant, but a good boxer knows just how to tense his abdomen, so that he won’t flinch even if a horse kicks him in the pit of the stomach.
   I saw Carpentier this week, on Tuesday evening. He was there as trainer to the heavyweight Paolino, and it was as though the spectators did not immediately recognize the recent world champion in that modest, fair-haired young man. His glory is now dimmed. They say that after his fearsome fight with Dempsey he sobbed like a woman.
   Paolino appeared in the ring first and, as is customary, sat down on a stool in the corner. Huge, with a dark square head, and wearing a splendid robe down to his heels, the Basque resembled an Eastern idol. Only the ring itself was lit, and in the white cone of light falling from above, the platform looked like silver. This silvered cube, which was in the middle of a gigantic dark oval, where the dense rows of countless human faces called to mind kernels of ripe corn strewn across a black background, – this silvered cube seemed lit up not by electricity, but by the concentrated force of all the gazes fixed upon it out of the darkness. And when the Basque’s opponent, the German champion Breitensträter, stepped onto the platform, fair-haired, in a mouse-coloured robe (and for some reason in grey trousers, which he immediately proceeded to pull off), the enormous darkness trembled with a joyful roar. The roar did not die down when the photographers, jumping onto the edge of the platform, pointed their “monkey-boxes” (as my German neighbour called them) at the fighters, at the referee, at the seconds, nor when the champions “pulled on their boxing gloves” (which makes me recall “the young oprichnik and the valiant merchant”2). And when both opponents threw off their robes (and not “velvet furs”) from their mighty shoulders and rushed towards each other in the white shimmer of the ring, a light moan passed through the dark abyss, through the rows of corn-kernels and the misty upper tiers – for everyone saw that the Basque was much bigger and bulkier than their favourite.
   Breitensträter was first to attack, and the moan turned into an ecstatic rumble. But Paolino, hunching his head into his shoulders, answered him with short hooks from below, and from almost the first minute the German’s face glistened with blood.
   With every blow that Breitensträter took, my neighbour sucked in his breath with a whistle, as if he himself were taking the blows – and all the darkness, all the tiers croaked a kind of enormous supernatural croak. By the third round it became noticeable that the German had weakened, that his punches could not push off the hunched orange mountain that was moving towards him. But he fought with extraordinary courage, trying to make up, with his speed, for the fifteen pounds by which the Basque outweighed him.
   Around the luminous cube, across which the boxers danced with the referee twisting between them, the black darkness froze, and in the silence the glove, shiny with sweat, slapped juicily against the live naked body. At the beginning of the seventh round Breitensträter fell, but after five-six seconds, jerking forwards like a horse on black ice, he stood up. The Basque fell upon him immediately, knowing that in such situations you must act swiftly and decisively, and put all your strength into your punches, for sometimes a blow that is stinging but not firm will, instead of finishing off your weakened opponent, enliven him, wake him up. The German bent away, clinging onto the Basque, trying to win time, to make it to the end of the round. And when once more he went down, the gong did in fact save him: on the eighth second, he got up with great difficulty, and lugged himself to his stool. By some kind of miracle he had survived the eighth round, to mounting peals of applause. But at the start of the ninth round Paolino, striking him beneath the jaw, hit him just as he had wanted. Breitensträter collapsed. In frenzy and discord, the darkness roared. Breitensträter lay twisted like a pretzel. The referee counted down the fateful seconds. Still he lay.
   And so the match came to an end, and when we had all emptied out onto the street, into the frosty blueness of a snowy night, I was certain, that in the flabbiest family man, in the humblest youth, in the souls and muscles of all the crowd, which tomorrow, early in the morning, would disperse to offices, to shops, to factories, there existed one and the same beautiful feeling, for the sake of which it was worth bringing together two great boxers, – a feeling of dauntless, flaring strength, vitality, manliness, inspired by the play in boxing. And this playful feeling is, perhaps, more valuable and purer than many so-called “elevated pleasures”.
Translated by Anastasia Tolstoy and Thomas Karshan. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Paintings at The Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Henry Smith (c.1775/1778–1840) by unknown artist

Oil on canvas, 39.5 x 31.5 cm

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry 

       Allfaire Benevolent Society

by Brian Percy Mann

Date painted: 1863

Oil on canvas, 74.5 x 100 cm

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry 

First Degree Tracing Board

by unknown artist

Oil on canvas, 90 x 44.5 cm

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry


HRH Edward (b.1935), Duke of Kent

by Derek Hill

Date painted: 1975

Oil on canvas, 149.5 x 120 cm

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Edward (b.1935), Duke of Kent, is the Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, the governing body of Freemasonry in England and Wales. He has held the position since 1967.

Right Honourable Henry George Charles (1882–1947), 6th Earl Harewood

by William Nicholson

Date painted: 1937

Oil on canvas, 239 x 147.5 cm

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry 


            HRH George (1762–1830), Prince of Wales, KG

by Barnett Samuel Marks

Date painted: 1885

Oil on canvas, 238.5 x 147.5 cm

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Brother Robert Burns (1759–1796)

by unknown artist

Oil on canvas, 68 x 55 cm

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry

George Washington (1732–1799), President of the United States of America

by Robert Gordon Hardie

Date painted: 1900

Oil on canvas, 239 x 148 cm (estimated)

Collection: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry 


This location is open to the public

Freemasons' Hall 60 Great Queen Street, London, Greater London, England, WC2B 5AZ
Contact details
Tel: 0207 395 9257
This location is part of The Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Charles Mingus - Live in Belgium, Norway and Sweden (1964; 120Min.)


So Long Eric
Peggy's Blue Skylight
 Meditations On Integration

So Long Eric
Orange Was The Colour Of Her Dress,Then Blue Silk
Take The "A" Train

 So Long Eric
Meditations On Integration 

Magazine 391 - No. 19 (Edited by Francis Picabia; Paris, Oct. 1924)

391 was the magazine which Picabia edited to diffuse his poems, notes, and drawings. 

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