I have previously stressed the importance of the translator in a book rendered into English, or any other language for that matter. None more so than The Forest Giant by Adrien le Corbeau.

Adrien le Corbeau is one of the pen-names of the Romanian born writer, Rudolf Bernhardt (1886-1932), who, writing in French entitled his work ‘Le Gigantesque’. The translator was T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), who used the name J. H. Ross.

Because the prose in my 1935 edition was not as fluent as, for example, in Reginald Merton’s translation of ‘A Hero of Our Time’ featured in I researched the internet for the original French version, which I assumed not to be the first language of Bernhardt, in order to obtain some idea of the quality of the author’s prose. It seems that the novel has lapsed into obscurity and the nearest I could find was the Castle Hill Press 2004 edition which presents parallel French and English texts at prices which tested my desire to investigate further.

Le Corbeau’s work is described as a novel that, through the story of a fictional sequoia from conception to death and beyond, discusses the histories of all forms of life.

I found this a philosophical exploration of life and death, not with great literary merit, but presented in a fascinating manner. The opening sections, following the journey of the seed to germination are those most smoothly flowing, but all does become more cumbersome further on. I can forgive the author for doubling the life expectation of the giant sequoia and for testing the vocabulary of his translator, but I am no wiser concerning the ultimate style I have read.

It seems that Lawrence (Ross), although he had apparently asked for the commission to translate it, did not like the book at all. While working on the translation, completed in 1923, he wrote: ‘At last this foul work: complete. Please have [it] typed and send [it] down that I may get it off my suffering chest before I burst. Damn Adrien le Corbeau and his rhetoric. The book is a magnificent idea, ruined by jejune bombast. My version is better than his: but dishonest here and there: but my stomach turned. Couldn’t help it.’

To my mind ‘jejune bombast’ is itself simply pompous.

Preferring the earlier, more sinuous, Art Nouveau, this Art Deco period of illustration is not my favourite, but the exquisite wood engravings of Agnes Miller Parker are very skilled examples.

This afternoon Becky, now somewhat recovered, came back for a few days. She had arranged for Jacob, a neighbour, to deliver a replacement mattress for Flo’s bed, which he did later.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s pasta Bolognese and runner beans, with which she and Becky drank Bordeaux Rosé 2020 and I drank Ponce de León 2020.

Further Down The River

We continued the garden manicure this morning. My contribution was to set up a further compost bin and to dead head roses and poppies. We each filled a further trug.

Sadly, Jackie found the undamaged body of Nugget Junior this morning. His Dad visited us often, perhaps in mourning.

Shortly before lunch heavy, steady, rain set in for the afternoon, during which I scanned my final pages of Agnes Miller Parker’s flowing engraved illustrations complementing the exquisite pastoral prose of “Down The River” by H.E. Bates.

As usual, click on any image to access the gallery. Just beneath each picture, to the right, a box invites you to ‘view full size’, which can be further enlarged.

This evening we enjoyed a second sitting of Mr Chan’s splendid Chinese Take Away, with which Jackie drank Becks and I drank Alma da Vinha Douro Doc 2018.

The Prime Suspect

Jackie spent much of the morning watering the garden and tying up roses. After lunch I joined her and dead-headed roses and Welsh poppies while she continued.

When the heat drove us in for a rest, the Head Gardener watched Gardeners’ World and I scanned another 21 pages from

H.E. Bates’s “Down The River” illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker.

Later I took a few photographs and joined in a another watering session.

Here are a few images from upstairs, featuring the blooms of the Cordyline Australis; the eucalyptus; the yellow Bottle Brush plant; and the red Chilean lantern tree receiving attention from Jackie.

Even this last mentioned small tree was wilting in the heat. The two-toned pink peony can be glimpsed just above left of centre in the first image.

For several days now Jackie has discovered pure white eggs, of a size too large to have been laid by our garden birds, either secreted among the flowers beds or lying on the lawn. Yesterday evening she noticed one on the grass bearing a small hole through which she discerned yellow yolk and clear viscous albumen. She left it intact.

This morning this is what it looked like. Our neighbours on the corner beside the pub keep ducks. Clearly someone is nicking their eggs, depositing them in our garden, and enjoying a meal later. To our mind the prime suspect must be a fox, but we haven’t seen one. Maybe Russell Crow.

Certainly not this tiny mouse that Jackie watched feeding on borage seeds.

Mr Chan at Hordle Chinese Take Away opened up again today. That fare, is therefore what we ate for dinner. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and drank more of the Carles.

Old Curtains Or Blackout Fabric

Jackie continued refurbishing hanging baskets

and containers such as those she is watering here.

At the moment most of these involve cuttings she has preserved over the winter. We have heard today that garden centres are likely to open again next week, thus offering the opportunity for more variety – not that the Head Gardener has, thanks to Ferndene Farm shop, been completely devoid of bedding plants like these

calibrachoa awaiting a resting place.

Oak leaved geraniums and

Palmatums have survived in the open.

The burgeoning red climbing rose is now rapidly overhauling the fading wisteria;

while the nearby Chilean lantern tree is nicely lit.

Snow White Madame Alfred Carriere now relaxes with Summer Wine rouge above the Rose Garden where

the tiny Flower Power is having its strongest showing yet,

and the lyrical Shropshire Lad has found his rhythm.

A bustling bumble bee, hastening to reach its pollen count, scatters the microscopic yellow grains.

This afternoon I received an e-mail from our sister-in-law Frances wondering whether Mum had made Chris and my VE Day street party suits

from old curtains or blackout fabric. I had always thought velvet, but to ascertain the material’s origin I suggested Mum might remember.

Later  I scanned ten more pages of Agnes Miller Parker’s

elegant illustrations to H. E. Bates’s “Down The River”.

While I was working on this, Jackie began preparing the Cryptomeria Bed and found herself virtually surrounded by what seemed the whole robin family. Nugget, Lady, and two or three fledglings were all in attendance.

This evening I produced a meal of fillet steaks, mashed potato, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and runner beans. Modesty prevents me from mentioning its quality. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.

Down The River

The English author, H. E. Bates (1905 – 1974) is best known for his novels, in particular those embracing the escapades of the Larkin family, starting with “The Darling Buds of May”. Peter J. Conradi, in his Guardian obituary, offers the quotation that Bates had the gift of putting the English countryside down on paper.

This gift is amply demonstrated  in

which I finished reading last night. The work predates, by just 3 years, “Sweet Thames Run Softly”, Robert Gibbings’s first celebration of his riverine peregrinations.

Bates’s first such wanderings were guided by his beloved grandfather along East Anglia’s Rivers Nene and Ouse. We are taken on these rambles and more as the writer develops into manhood. River is, however, his main character. The waterways and their denizens – flora and fauna – are described in such exemplary prose that comparison with Gibbings is inevitable. In my view the latter has the lighter touch and wanders off down periodic tributaries, often involving myth and legend, as his spirit moves him. Bates, equally as eloquent, is more organised and offers observations on contemporary issues such as killing otters for sport.

A product of Glasgow School of Art, Agnes Miller Parker (1895-1980) was described by me in my eponymous post of December 14th 2015 as ‘one of the best illustrators of her day’.

I trust her wood engravings will bear this out. The above illustration is the title page.

Here is the book jacket, still intact after not far off 100 years.

Because of the number of engravings in this volume I present here a first selection,

and will add a few more at intervals to my normal ramblings.

This evening we dined on succulent roast gammon; roast potatoes: Jackie’s piquant cauliflower cheese; firm carrots and broccoli; tangy red cabbage; and tender green cabbage with leeks. I drank Patrick Chodot Fleurie 2018. The Culinary Queen had enjoyed her Heineken whilst cooking.



A Shropshire Lad

Last year’s Folio Society edition of ‘A Shropshire Lad’ by A. E. Housman contains Agnes Miller Parker’s 1940 wood engravings to this timeless set of poems. Much as I admire this superb artist’s work, I already possessed the Society’s 1986 edition illustrated in a more modern vein, so, I was not tempted to buy it. Well, not greatly. It is the latter version I finished reading today.

Here is the book jacket to another of my treasures, illustrated by the great engraver:

Agnes Miller Parker book jacket

This is how The Folio Society publicise their latest edition:

“Beloved by both scholars and general readers, A Shropshire Lad was self-published in 1896 and has been continuously in print ever since. Housman, who was also the greatest classical scholar of his age, wrote the cycle of 63 poems after the death of his friend Adalbert Jackson. Among his themes are the transience of youth, the sorrow of death, the loss of friendship and the beauty of the English countryside. The poems’ depiction of young, brave soldiers made them widely popular during and after the Boer War and the First World War. They also captured the imagination of many composers, with George Butterworth, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Samuel Barber among those to set them to music.

Housman evokes a semi-imaginary pastoral landscape, his tone often rueful and elegiac as he evokes the ‘golden’ years of youth and the realm of classical myth. But it is perhaps for the directness and poignancy of his language that the poems have endured. On the vagaries of feeling and the fragility of human kinship, he is at once emotional and unsentimental, lyrical and frank.”

I enjoyed the poems and would concur with the above blurb.

Patrick Procktor’s illustrations suitably complement the text.

A Shropshire Lad

Here is the frontispiece;

A Shropshire Lad endpaper

and here the design for the endpapers.

For many years now, Folio Society publications have come in stiff cardboard slipcases. These are mostly unembellished. This one, however, has this portrait on the back:

A Shropshire Lad slipcase

Does it represent Adalbert Jackson?

This evening we dined on Jackie’s perfect pork paprika, savoury rice, and green beans, followed by lemon and lime merengue tart. The Cook drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the malbec.

12342653_490921431079669_5710528345196685012_nP.S. I am indebted to Judith Munns for the information and Barrie Haynes for the photograph of this statue of Housman that stands in Bromsgrove, where Judith once lived: