It’s #worldpoetryday

A poem from my cousin Gina to her father’s memory reminds me that I tried my hand at a few verses about the old time travellers

a bit ambitious for someone who never really did ‘get in to’ poetry, but here goes!

Feathered spats, flowing mane, tail a flicking
Clip-clop, snort, fart, whinney, the patient grai
Trundles my painted vardo
On the one-way road to Destiny.
For life is not a carousel.

Shining metal monster comes on puffed up with pride
It smells of coal, sour steam and oil.
Struts steaming on the road.
Its whistle blows. ‘Out of my way.’
Its mighty pistons menace

But naught can spook my vanner.
He’s earned himself some rest;
Crops grasses at the roadside,
As, chugging self-importance,
The thing goes huffing past.
Or as a sort of haiku moment:
Steam-belching Behemoth
Blocks pinto-powered vardo.
And my vanner calmly g(r)azes.

Having managed the above, I stumbled on the idea of trying to adapt John Masefields poem, Sea Fever, to Gypsy life at the end of the 19C. This might have been how Keomi might have expressed it, soon after she left Sandys and returned to the Romany life. I know it’s sort of cheating (like my version of Blake’s Tyger)
Tyger Tyger’s burning plight … Is thy mortal end in sight? ….. Will our human hand and eye…. See thee in the cimetrie?

but this is what I came up with:

On The Road
I must take to the road again, to the eternal whims of Fate,
And all I ask is my bow-top, and my patient vanner’s gait,
And the wheel’s kick and the bird song and the harnesses a shakin’,
And a chill mist on the barley, and a cool pink dawn a breakin’.

I must take to the road again, for the wanderlust of the Roma
Is a wild call and a clear call that never will be over.
And all I ask is a new day to bring its random treasures,
The pinto’s might, and the blown dust, and morning’s early pleasures.

I must take to the road again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the raven’s way and the pilgrim’s way, far from worldly strife.
And all I ask is a sweet song from my loving fellow-rover,
And a quiet sleep, and a sweet dream, when my final day is over.

With apologies to John Masefield.


More of my writings on bill-macfarlane.co.uk

#GypsyModel #Romany #BillMacfarlaneBooks #PoetsDay#PreRaphaelites


Probably as long as I can remember I have been a keen admirer of pulchritude. So too were the pre-Raphaelites, but if their paintings are any indication, their concept of female beauty was, except in certain aspects, the product of their time. The 21st century man can still appreciate the skin tones of neck and decolletage, the luxurious hair and fullness of thighs pressing through draped fabrics of voluminous gowns depicted in colourful settings; the Cupid’s bow lips, the artificiality of posture and composition, less so.
Well, we all know where beauty lies; and that it so often does. We know that it is ephemeral, but that it may be preserved in paintings, photographs and best of all in poignant images, ‘photo shopped’ by memory’ of past loves; obsessions that can almost amount to worship.
Yes, folks, this is Old Bill talking. Has the fellow taken leave of his senses?
All this is triggered by my recent forays into the world of the Pre-Raphaelites and their muses.
When researching Sandys for ‘The Gypsy Model’, I couldn’t resist following the idea that he was obsessed by models who played their parts so well that they really became for him the seductive witch-like creatures of his masterpieces: Morgan le Fey, Vivien, Helen of Troy, Danae, Judith and Medea. That was one of the themes I developed in the book, along with the professional and romantic relationships between the artist and his models
It wasn’t just Sandys either. There are plenty of indications that others of the artists were prone to similar illusions. Take Burne-Jones for example: besotted by his Greek models, Mary Zambaco and her cousin Maria Stillman, his fascinations gave rise to masterpieces that produced waves of disapproval in Victorian society; besides, there was that explicit letter to him from Mary Zambaco, that his wife Georgie discovered in his pocket.
There are many examples of this strange fascination, but let’s restrict ourselves to Burne-Jones:

Cupid Delivering Psyche. 

Here Cupid modelled by Marie Spartali embraces Psyche (Mary Zambaco), rescuing her from the Stygian sleep to which Proserpine’s fiendish casket has condemned her.

‘The sexual ambivalence is both lovely and disturbing and must have been more so for Burne-Jones’ contemporaries ‘(Henrietta Garnett).

That Ned Burne-Jones was well able to capture the likeness of his models must have produced a frisson of general disapproval. Victorian morality, remember.

Demophoon and Phyllis


Our hero rescues his lover from her fate (she was turned into a tree). Ned goes one better in this, picture, using Mary Zamboco as model for the heads of both protagonists, a circumstance that led to trouble, and not only at the Old Water Colour Society for which it was commissioned. Again the faces were recognizable. You can make what you will of the male appendage Ned provided for Mary as Demophoon. Suffice it to say that The OWCSociety didn’t much like it. I leave it to my sharp eyed reader to spot the difference between the painted renditions of our almost naked hero…


The Beguiling of Merlin

MERLIN burne-jones_
For me this picture summarizes Ned’s obsession. Nimue (Mary Zambaco) is voluptuous and Merlin’s hopeless expression perhaps mirrors the artist’c hopeless bewitchment.

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