Friday, July 19, 2013

Sleep beholds me from afar awake

This week I haven't been sleeping really well. It's probably down to hormonal changes and a night-owl body clock, neither of which conform to office hours. But I'm not going to moan about that. 


Let me introduce you to Algernon Charles Swinburne, who wrote the words in my post title as part of his poem "Laus Veneris" (In Praise of Venus) in 1866. Swinburne was a British aristocrat, educated at Eton and Oxford, acquainted with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and part of the Aesthetic movement. He was decadent, kinky and a little high-strung. He was a rock star of his time.

My outfit is inspired by SpyGirl's 52 Pick-Me-Up, Go with the Flow, this week calling for long, loose, and drapey. Anne Spy suggested a few goddesses we might like to emulate, and I was torn between the Grecian goddess and the rock goddess. So this is Venus meets Ann Wilson.


Let me tell you a little more about Swinburne and "Laus Veneris", or if you aren't interested you can just look at the pictures. Wikipedia describes him as "an alcoholic and algolagniac…" Do you know this word? I had to look up algolagniac, but just think of S&M and you'll get the idea. Oscar Wilde said he was "a braggart in matters of vice, who had done everything he could to convince his fellow citizens of his homosexuality and bestiality without being in the slightest degree a homosexual or a bestialiser."

The poem, which is indecently long, is based on a medieval German legend about a good Christian knight who is seduced by Venus. Thinking he's in love, he goes to live in her lair, where he spends a lusty year indulging his physical desires with the goddess of love. 

But he's bored now. Evidently even cosmic sex gets old.

The language Swinburne uses is drippingly sensual and saturated – red, blood, lips, bruises, flesh, heat, softness, hardness – it's all there. There's also a lot of imploring God, because the knight is feeling guilty now that he realizes Venus is all about lust, not love. 

Here's the first stanza:

Asleep or waking is it? for her neck,
Kissed over close, wears yet a purple speck
Wherein the pained blood falters and goes out;
Soft, and stung softly--fairer for a fleck.

And later…

There is a feverish famine in my veins;
Below her bosom, where a crushed grape stains
The white and blue, there my lips caught and clove
An hour since, and what mark of me remains?

I dare not always touch her, lest the kiss
Leave my lips charred. Yea, Lord, a little bliss,
Brief bitter bliss, one hath for a great sin;
Nathless thou knowest how sweet a thing it is.


The scent and shadow shed about me make
The very soul in all my senses ache;
The hot hard night is fed upon my breath,
And sleep beholds me from afar awake.

The poem and the legend inspired this painting by Edward Burne-Jones.


If you have a few hours free, you might like to read the whole thing here.

Or just go on over to Spy Girl and see who else is going with the flow!

Sunday update - Why didn't I think to provide you some music from the inimitable Ann Wilson, and her goddess sister Nancy! And then I'll link up with Visible Monday, to make the weekend complete.



The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

Love that post about old Walt. Great outfit. I will have to dig out something long and floaty now.

Anne M Bray said...

Wow, Val! Swinburne's poem sounds a tad vampiric! I wonder if it's on a books on tape (well, books on CD I guess now). Who would we want to hear intone this? Someone with a deep plummy voice, methinks. Thanks for introducing me to him!

Love Venus meets Ann Wilson! You waft well! Great twirl! And thanks for linking up with 52 Pick-me-up.

ann wood said...

Saucy fellow! I'm having trouble with sleeping these days too. Love the feeling of freedom in these pictures. Your summer outfit looks both pretty and comfortable.

blue hue wonderland

Une femme said...

Love your Grecian-goddess-meets-rock-goddess look!

Une femme said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Carillo Style Files said...

Thanks for introducing me to that poet. I love Oscar Wilde. He was always straight to the point.

I like the filters you've added to the photos as well. Mystical.

The outfit is boho cool.


PinkCheetahVintage said...

LOVE this outfit!!! Great Wilde quote :D

Sheila said...

Fabulous outfit - off to read about Swinburne! Thank you!

Connie said...

OK Val. Keep spinning and you'll have plenty of racy poems written about you. I've always liked the aesthetes.

pastcaring said...

Oh that naughty old Swinburne, he was a one, wasn't he? Can't say I ever cared too much for the poetry though, I always thought he tried too hard, but that's just me. Love the Burne-Jones painting though.
And I also love your rock chick a la Venus (sounds like a dinner party dish from the 70s...) and your twirling, great photos.
I am having disturbed nights too, which is very unusual for me, I blame hormonal whimsy and heat. Perhaps I should revisit some poets from my English Lit degree when I find myself awake in the wee small hours? xxxxxx

meriusa said...

Searching in the high poetry, finding the right outfit !

Hollie "Jet" Black-Ramsey said...

a love the psychedelic photos and the layered necklaces. You are soooo pretty!!

Vix said...

Grandma had a regular driver when I was little, he was Mr Swinburne and she always use to quote his namesake's poetry.
Love your cool outfit, you look gorgeous. xxx

Patti said...

Oh, saucy poetry and a rock/love goddess outfit,a nd gorgeous color saturations . . . . I may be awake tonight reading sultry poems, myself. Thanks for sharing the fun with Visible Monday!

The Style Crone said...

You are the ultimate goddess in your long, loose and drapey. And Swinburne was quite the character! I didn't even need my coffee this morning to wake up!

teatimewithtrina said...

Venus meets Ann Wilson, love it! Actually love every little itty bitty piece of this post, you brought long, loose and drapey to a whole new level. Your choice of attire is perfectly put together including the color mixture of brown and turquoise to your loose and drapey earthy necklaces.

Paula Ruta said...

Love the filters on your pics Val! xoxo

menopauselsupermodel said...

Totally gonna check him out!!
You look very cool in your rock goddess outfit!!
Ann Wilson (& Heart) are AMAZING!!
Saw them in 75 & 79!!

Zalina Walton said...

Very pretty outfit. You wear it well!

Donna said...

Love your hair, love the outfit.

Jan Graham-McMillen said...

One of my favorite posts of all time ... so glad Anne inspired you! Let's see, who else do we know who might be a little decadent, maybe a little kinky and perhaps a little high-strung? Surely someone around these parts! Knew Swinburne, and the poem from decades ago, but had not seen the painting nor read what Wilde had to say. Dangerous habits in those days to claim if you weren't any of them!
You look lovely, lovely and definitely Venusian! So glad I stopped by. What a treat ...