Friday, October 28, 2011

The Maid

The Maid by Kimberly Cutter

Statue of Joan of Arc in Paris from wikipedia:
(of gilt bronze)

A powerful and beautifully scripted story
of Joan of Arc. Magnificent in its scope
and also an inspirational story of an inspirational
young woman who inspired thousands of soldiers
to follow her.

I enjoyed reading this book. It is as though the reader
travels with Joan of Arc through her tumultuous life,
relating to her sadness and also her joy of life.

This book is descriptive and evokes a time in France of
the early fifteenth century when life was very different with
the English and Burgundy in opposition to the Holy Kingdom
of France, as Joan of Arc at the time believed the kingdom was
and that she had been sent on a holy mission from God to
free France and crown the king, Charles VII, at Reims Cathedral,
where all previous kings had been crowned.

The story is quite extraordinary as Joan of Arc was a young peasant
girl without material support or influence initially,
but who showed true faith, strength in opposition and determination.

Unfortunately, there are also gruesome battle accounts in the story
however the author does portray the times authentically and is most
likely reflecting the harsh reality of some of those more distant battles
in the past. Also, sometimes perhaps the harshness of life.

The sword of Charles Martel, who had freed France from the Saracens
was also carried by Joan of Arc. In her magnificent armour and splendid
war horse she must have presented quite a spectacle, a radiant vision, leading her soldiers on to
battle and riding with the wind across the beautiful fields of France holding her
white satin banner aloft with the inscription of Jesu Maria on both sides
and a picture of Jesus on the globe and two winged angels with golden lilies
in the background and was also trimmed with golden fringe.
Joan of Arc showed bravery and was a fearless
warrior. She also had many loyal supporters. She became quite the heroine
after the siege of Orleans.

This book gives an incentive to
Joan of Arc. There is a site “Maid of Heaven” of poetry written by a
contemporary poet of the time, Christine de Pisan who wrote of Joan of Arc.

“The Maid” is a wonderful story to read with magnificent settings in the Valley
of the Loire and the castles where Joan of Arc often stayed with the king and
his courtiers.
The depiction of the characters surrounding Joan of Arc, her supporters and fellow
soldiers, including the The Duc D'Alencon, who had been a prisoner of the English
for five years, gives a personal perspective.
The dialogue is crisp and clear and the story flows from the pages.
A wonderful story to behold! Beautiful.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Vision of Beauty

A Vision of Beauty

In 1693 at the time of his retirement, Le Notre, the King's gardener,
gave a gift to the King. He invited Louis XIV to select any paintings
he wished from his art collection of 250 paintings.

It is significant and noteworthy that many of the paintings which Louis XIV
selected are now available to view at the Louvre in Paris.

Included paintings of the 20 paintings which the king initially included in his small gallery are:

Albani's “Acteon Changing into a Stag”
“Apollo and Daphne”
“Salmacis and Hermaphrodite”
Claude Lorraine's “Seaport at Sunset”
“Village Fete”
Poussin's “Woman Taken in Adultery”
“Moses Saved from the Waters”
“Saint John Baptising the People”

Significant also that the themes of the paintings selected
were of a mythological nature, beauty (“Sea Port at Sunset” is
mystical, magical, beautiful) and religion.

The king had an eye for beauty, wished to create beauty.
He had a vision of Versailles from a young age. He had
often gone hunting there in his earlier days.

Where had stood atop the hill a little windmill which
his father would sleep in at nights after hunting in the
nearby forest of St Leger. Thereafter a little pavilion
was built by Louis XIII.

Nicholas Fouquet's “Vaux-le-Vicomte” may have been the
time for change and which eventually did inspire him to
start his own building plan. Prior to this time, Louis XIV
had been confined to older style palaces in Paris or Fontainebleu.
Vaux le Vicomte may have given him a glimpse of what was
achievable with new concepts, space and light, entertainment
areas and gardens.

His new finance Minister, Colbert, would have liked to have seen
Louis XIV devote more time and energy to the Louvre. However,
over time Louis XIV became so inspired by Versailles that he actually
would oversee personally the decorating and arranging of art works
himself at Versailles, including the gardens also.
If the king was not in attendance,
as he may have been away, he would write for updates to be given of
the progress of the works, fountains, flowers.
Louise de la Valliere was at one
time an inspiration for the beautiful gardens of Versailles. Being of a serene
and peaceful nature the softer images of the flowers and parterres would have
complemented her beauty also.

The Grand Canal and gondolas which were given by the Senate of
Venice enhanced the colours and magic of the landscaped scene with
their flags and pennants and sailors in bright coloured livery.
Beautiful white swans glided gracefully along the Grand Canal.

The king enjoyed water concerts and fire-works displays but at one time
his doctor told him he should forgo these activities.
In winter the royal party enjoyed sleigh rides and ice-
skating on the Grand Canal. The king's son enjoyed
these winter sports.

The fountains were magical. It was almost as a gift that the two
Francini brothers arrived at the right time to enhance the
fountains and gardens with beautiful water works.
Wonderful arches of spray would form on a summer's day
where the courtiers and ladies could walk
under the jets of water without becoming wet.
So many fountains and jets of spray, at least fourteen hundred.

The Labyrinthe being quite magical was the place of mythological
statues, animals and stories with the figures of Cupid and Aesop
at the entrance. Unfortunately, this Labyrinthe no longer exists.
At the time it was a marvel and admired by many influential people.

There was also a Marais which had belonged to Madame de Montespan,
creating the artificial with nature, lights from a fountain and tree.
Louis XIV ordered the Marais to be
replaced later. As also, the Trianon de Porcelaine, known as a Palace of
Flora, for its beautiful and rare flowers. Flowers of every kind. This was
subsequently replaced by the Marble Trianon. Sometimes in the evenings
the king and some of his attendants and ladies would visit these flower gardens.

There is a note written by an English author: from Project Gutenburg's
“The Story of Versailles” by Francis Loring Payne:

"In the midst of all the austerities imposed upon him by the ambition of Madame de Maintenon, the King went to Trianon to inhale the breath of the flowers which he had planted there, of the rarest and most odoriferous kind. On the infrequent occasions when the Court was permitted to accompany him thither to share in his evening collation, it was a beautiful spectacle to see so many charming women wandering in the midst of the flowers on the terrace rising from the banks of the canal. The air was so rich with the mingled perfume of violets, orange flowers, jessamines, tuberoses, hyacinths and narcissuses that the King and his visitors were sometimes obliged to fly from the overpowering sweets. The flowers in the parterres were arranged in a thousand different figures, which were constantly changed, so that one might have supposed it to be the work of some fairy, who, passing over the gardens, threw upon them each time a new robe aglow with color."

The Hall of Mirrors, the “Galerie des Glaces” was a wonderful show piece.
Thousands of wax candles glimmered in chandeliers of crystal
and silver ware creating an effect of extreme beauty. Silverware, beautiful
views overlooking the gardens, the rays of the sunlight which at different times
of the day would pattern the marble floor would have created a beauteous
and peaceful image.
At sunset the rays would have shone directly into the Hall of Mirrors in all of
its gilded splendour creating a magical scene, sublime with the beauty and
colour of the sun.
The marble floor and silverware, including orange trees in silver vases,
were subsequently replaced.

Flowers, clothing, ornamentation and entertainments created a wonderful
theatre of life.
Louis XIV was a magical king who created a show piece of magnificence
and wonderful landscaped gardens which were admired
and followed by other European courts.
Tradition and ceremony, religion, were all important to him.
He was also loved by the people.

I have visited Versailles three times and each time it is with a sense of wonder
that I first see a statue of the king on a horse at the entrance gates and the grand
setting of the courtyard and buildings which housed so many people when the
court and courtiers lived at Versailles. The centre of court and government.
A scheme of things.

Don't Fence Me In and A Visit to the Park

Once again the poetry of Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson proves popular
at Poetry in Paradise which was held at the library in the week-end.  These
poets wrote bush poetry of Australia and stories of the outback which is a
popular genre.

I include two poems which I wrote for the occasion.
(For poems of Versailles, please refer to earlier postings.)

I have commenced reading the powerful novel of Joan of Arc and read to
chapter 25 last night.  I will continue reading this riveting story and write a
review later.  The book
is "The Maid" by Kimberly Cutter and this is powerful writing indeed!  I
am finding the book enjoyable to read as it is set in early times in rural France,
 Domremy, the little village where Joan of Arc grew up with her family.
I love books which are set in France and also enjoyed reading of the early years
of Louise de la Valliere in rural French towns and villages in the Loire region
of France and Paris in Sandra Gulland's
novel of "Mistress of the Sun."

I sometimes think I would like to write a novel.  The  standard of writing by
new and contemporary writers is quite extraordinary. I am always impressed.

Don't Fence Me In

What a wonderful song!
A reminder of old times round a piano
A sing-song
Don't Fence Me In:
The Song would go
From a long time ago:

I think of beautiful meadows
where elk and deer roam free
Tall grasses, wild swan
And trees of glorious colour would see

And the antelope chases down a mountain stream
The Song of the antelope
As a dream

Wild nature at its best
Natural environment forms the rest;

Shingle pathways with wild flowers
Swaying in the breeze

fields and fields of corn and maize
and in the distance
a setting sun
glimmering in its haze-

A Sun's haze-
beautiful, enduring
creating a golden landscape
of spectacle;

The darkening shadows
The land at Sun-fall

an eclipse, a Star-light glimpse,
where Earth and Sun and Moon collide
“Now you see me,
Now you don't”-
In a magical Earth-like slide
And the Sun and the Moon do glide
In glorious wonder from Heaven's side
“Oh, to be a fairy on a magical Moon trip ride”
Through the celestial stars and skies so wide:

Nature and magic
It is so blessed
A beauteous world
golden, carressed;

Glimpsed with wonder in my eyes
The sparkling lights of Texas lie
Flying across American skies:
So beautiful for sure
This wondrous world
with sights unfurled;

“Beauty” and “Light”
Falls within
and falls without-
Now we know what the Song's about
“Don't Fence Me In.”

As the seasons are now changing and on the
Gold Coast the spring colours are quite vibrant,
noticeable and beautiful I will take some more
pictures and post some of the photos.

Next poem:
Visiting the Park

Visiting the Park
spring colours
Bright and stark.

Oranges, yellows
greens and blue
In shades and shadows
Budding flowers of every hue-

What a gift of nature be
Glorious in majesty:-

Lilies on a gleaming pond
Star-light, Star-bright
A glittering Sun:-
ducklings, starlings
can be found;
In trees of ever-green
bird song echoes
a magical sound
swirling in a care-free scene:

A beauteous light
Patterned bright
sets the scene:
A world is free:-

And here it was
that a golden friend
was met be chance
came across my path:

For as the day
deepened and became dark
He needed shelter from the park:

Golden labrador,
that he was-
His name “Amber” was because:
Amber eyes with golden coat
Knew instructions as by rote:
“Sit Down,
Come here.”-
Friendly, happy
As with people
he could cope:
Such a good boy
A cherished friend
And to his home
I had to send.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Brother of Fire by Christian Jacq

The Brother of Fire by Christian Jacq

On New Year's Day in New Zealand Concert FM
would play the most popular pieces of music which
had been voted by the listeners. Invariably a musical
score by Mozart was in the top few favourite pieces of

I remember listening to some of Mozart's music and found it
so beautiful, sublime, incredibly moving, spiritual and magical.
This was often the best.

Having read “The Brother of Fire” by Christian Jacq now gives me
more insights into the wonderful music of Mozart. As was mentioned
in the book, Mozart's music would echo through the centuries which
of course it has done.

The spiritual dimension of the music, the life and tribulations of Mozart,
his father, Leopold, his wife, Constanze, his bird, Star, and dog, Gaukerl,
his musical friends and fellow brothers of freemasonry all make for a wonderful
story in the setting of Vienna, a musically inspiring
city itself.

The story of freemasonry in this setting is also a major part of the
book. The rituals, the spiritual nature and the quest for the mysteries of
Ancient Egypt to be revealed give fascinating insights of a spiritual nature.
The dialogue, flow of conversation and story of Vienna in the eighteenth
century governed by the Emperor, Josef II are magnificent. This city was
soon to be engaged in battle with the Turks which was frightening for many
of its citizens.

I found this book to be one of the best of the Mozart series of books. There was
deep meaning to be found in the operas, “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don
Giovanni” which gave an extra dimension to the book and understanding of
the beauty and spiritual nature of the music of Mozart. The writer has a
clear affinity with the composer and an understanding of the composer's
life, music, world and need for perfection. The music of Mozart could
transport people to new dimensions, and Mozart did like to sometimes
listen to the music of the great Johann Sebastian Bach.

For great adventure and a wonderful read I would recommend this book
“The Brother of Fire” for people with a love of the beautiful music of
Mozart. This book is historical fiction with a ring of truth about it. It is
wonderful to read.