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Friday Bridge Blogging

by PeWi Sun Oct 30th, 2005 at 10:27:26 AM EST

Back from the front page ~ whataboutbob

This TBB will be another trip down parallel lines. No, not railway lines. Parrallel, as such, as it starts with an image of a bridge

but continues quite different after the fold.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

            Earth has not anything to show more fair:
            Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
            A sight so touching in its majesty:
            This City now doth, like a garment, wear
            The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
            Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
            Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
            All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
            Never did sun more beautifully steep
            In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
            Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
            The river glideth at his own sweet will:
            Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
            And all that mighty heart is lying still!

this is probably how Wordsworth saw it - in this Canaletto painting from 1747

and not like Monet only a couple of years later.


1] Dorothy Wordsworth in her Journal July 31, 1802, described the scene as she and her brother left London, early in the morning, for their month-long visit to Calais: "It was a beautiful morning. The city, St. Paul's, with the river, and a multitude of little boats, made a most beautiful sight as we crossed Westminster Bridge. The houses were not overhung by their cloud of smoke, and they were spread out endlessly, yet the sun shone so brightly, with such a fierce light; that there was something like the purity of one of nature's own grand spectacles." 1

however the poem that accompanies this bridge in Arta, Greece

is rather more tragic: It describes  in lyrical terms how the masons built the structure all day long  just to find that it collapsed overnight. With this process repeating  itself for a long time to the desperation of the masons, only  divine intervention could save the bridge, and it came in the  form of a message from a bird. The building of the bridge according  to the message required the personal sacrifice of the foreman's  beautiful wife. The poem revolves around the foreman's conflict  between his own tragic personal loss, and the resulting common  good. The conflict resolves itself with the tragic death of the  young wife as she unknowingly becomes victim for the benefit of  the greater society. This epic poem has survived through oral  tradition for centuries.

Unfortunately I could not even find a greek version, but this quote is from here

there are of course many more poems and many more bridges, which ones spring to your mind?

  1. Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department  of English, University of Toronto.
    Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services,  University of Toronto Libraries.

    Original text: William Wordsworth, Poems in Two Volumes (1807). See The Manuscript of William Wordsworth's Poems, in Two Volumes (1807): A Facsimile (London: British Library, 1984). bib MASS (Massey College Library, Toronto).
    First publication date:  1807
    RPO poem editor: J. R. MacGillivray
    RP edition: 3RP 2.372.
    Recent editing: 2:2002/3/15

    Rhyme: abbaabbacdcdcd

Since we were talking about Westminster bridge. here is a bonus picture:

from this side, which has a fantastic collection of historic photographs...

by PeWi on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 08:28:39 PM EST
and since we are talking poems


I stood on the Bridge at midnight,
And gazed at the waters below,
And thought of the fanciful dreams that
From the brains of our Councilors flow.

Then I thought of the quick intuition,
Which these schemes had engendered and said,
"Will these schemes ever come to fruition?"
Then I quietly stood on my head.

 For I'd looked at the question sideways,
And from both sides of the town,
Taking careful account of the tideways,
But never from upside down.

So I`ve got a new angle of vision,
As bright and as fresh as wet paint,
Which will take off the general attention?
Away from the New Market Saint

Up my sleeve I've another red herring,
"The Scare of the Bidyadhari Silt",
Which will merrily keep the ball rolling?
Ere The Bridge on the Hooghly is built.

-Diogenes, in the "Englishman"

(Appeared in The Calcutta Municipal Gazette dated 11 th July 1925)

by PeWi on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 08:31:59 PM EST
how can one remove a post? site gnoms....
by PeWi on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 08:39:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
got it...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 02:56:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, only, but, ehem - the other one had the link - ah well - here is the link again.

here the link to the poem

here a link to the webpage with the images, careful turn your speakers down before going there...

by PeWi on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 07:31:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
sorry...pushed the wrong button...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 10:30:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and since its never just about bridges...

Donna Kate Ruskin

I've had enough
I'm sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody

Can talk to anybody
Without me


I explain my mother to my father my father to my little  sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white  feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black  church folks
To the ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists  the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to the my  friends' parents. .

Then I've got to explain myself

To everybody
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it
I'm sick of it

I'm sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white  people

Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip
I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
Your manhood
Your human-ness

I'm sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long

I'm sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf of your better selves

I am sick
Of having to remind you to breath
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self.
Forget it
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die

The bridge I must be
Is the Bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
My own weaknesses
I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful.

by PeWi on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 08:34:29 PM EST
by PeWi on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 08:37:03 PM EST
Damn, that was what I wanted to post...

I'll do it anyway - here is the Michael Mitchell translation of German poet Theodor Fontane's famous poem, the first few lines:

"When shall we three meet again?"
"At seven o' the clock, when comes the train."
"Upon the bridge."
"I'll douse the flame."
"I'll be there too."
"From the north I'll fly."
"I from the south."
"From the sea come I."
"There our sabbath to celebrate,
And send the bridge plunging into the spate."

"And the train that comes at the seventh hour?"
"Is in our power!"
"Is in our power!"
"Built on sand -- "
"Are all the works of human hand!"

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 07:21:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry Dodo, but I wanted to stretch the brains and not go for the easy ones.....

but thank you for Fontane - I had to learn it at school, and some of the fragments are still in my head.

and as a side note - I once was in love with the daughter of the vicar that now (then) lives (lived) in the house in which Theodore Fontane lived and there are Birnbaeume, with very delicious fruits.....

by PeWi on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 07:35:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Tay Bridge Disaster is the Greatest Poem in the English Language.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 12:20:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ups forgot to mention it. It is the bridge in Arta, Greece. I put in a link to the image and the text. Thanks.

more info on the fantastic structura webpage

by PeWi on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 08:06:14 AM EST
(re-post with some atrocious spelling/grammar errors corrected)

I note such masonry legends were very common in the Middle Age. One immortalised in a Hungarian poem is connected to castle Déva (today in Romanian: Deva; in the German of Transsylvanian Saxons: Diemrich). The legend the poem is based on tells of twelve masons who were trying to build the castle, but the newly built walls tumbled down every midday and midnight. Then they made a pact to wait until the first of the twelve men's wives arrives, and throw her on the fire - and use the ash in the mortar. The unlucky husband was called Kelemen (Clement).

(The castle itself was connected to a lot of important historical events, but was unfortunately destroyed in an accidental munitions explosion during the 1848/9 Hungarian revolution.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 08:20:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
Et nos amours
Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
Tandis que sous
Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l'onde si lasse

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

L'amour s'en va comme cette eau courante
L'amour s'en va
Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l'Espérance est violente

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

Passent les jours et passent les semaines
Ni temps passé
Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine

Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
Les jours s'en vont je demeure

Guillaume Apollinaire

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 10:06:25 AM EST
and a nicely decorated bridge at that - however, my french is rather rusty, eh, none existant...

however what a European Guillaume was:

Guillaume Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky kept his origin secret, but he was probably born in Rome as the illegitimate son of a Polish adventurer called Angelica de Kostrowitzky, a rebellious Polish girl. His father was possibly a Swiss-Italian aristocrat, Francesco Flugi d'Aspermont. He disappeared early from Apollinaire's life, and the future poet was raised by his gambling mother in Italy, in Monaco, on the French Riviera, and in Paris. In his youth Apollinaire assumed the identity of a Russian prince. He received a French education at the Collège Saint-Charles in Monaco, and afterwards in schools in Cannes and Nice. During the summer of 1899 he traveled in the Ardennes region of Belgium.
then he lived in Germany and then he moved to France from here
by PeWi on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 11:05:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quick translation:

Under the Mirabeau Bridge flows the Seine,
And it has to be that
I'm reminded of our love
Joy always came after pain.

Comes the night, rings the hour
The days go by, I remain.

Hand in hand let's stay face to face
While beneath
The bridge of our arms passes
The weary wave of eternal gazes

Comes the night etc

Love goes away like this flowing water
Love goes away
How life is slow
And how hope is violent

Comes the night etc

Pass the days and pass the weeks
Nor past time
Nor love return
Under the Mirabeau Bridge flows the Seine.

Comes the night, rings the hour,
The days go by, I remain.

Famously set to music and sung by Léo Ferré.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 12:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a note on Westminster Bridge: dating and attribution of Canaletto paintings is sometimes difficult. It's strange if this one is from 1747, because the bridge is shown complete, when in fact it was opened in November 1750. (But the artist may have sketched in what remained to be built...)

The Monet painting is rather more than a couple of years later -- say about a century after the Canaletto and half a century after Wordsworth's sonnet. No?

If you like, I'll put something up in another Bridge Blogging about London's bridges, particularly Old London Bridge, the one that is falling down, my fair lady. (another bridge poem). Let me know when that might fit in with future subjects.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 12:14:11 PM EST
In fact Monet's bridge was opened in 1862. It's the bridge that is still there today.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Oct 28th, 2005 at 12:29:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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