Friday, October 10, 2003

Such Aladdin's Caves of Air...

Here are the answers to yesterday's questions. Most of these could have been googled - though the last one in the classical section is one where you would have had to know the answer in broad before that would have helped, and this page is now the only place that would help on the final question.

Classical (Before the fall of Constantinople)

  1. Q. Dante and Aeneas are linked by a person and a place. Who? And where?

    A. Virgil, and the Underworld

    The poems referenced are Virgil's Aeneid, book VI, in which Aeneas visits the underworld whilst yet embodied; and Dante's Divine Comedy, in which Dante, still embodied, is led through a descent into Hell and the ascent of Mt. Purgatory by the shade of Virgil. As a theological note, the function of the pagan underworld of the Aeneid is more akin to that of Mt. Purgatory, though its location matches that of Dante's Hell.

  2. Q. Who was the Golden Ass?

    A. Lucius

    The poem is The Metamorphoses, by Lucius Apuleius, a work more commonly known as the Golden Ass. The viewpoint character, also called Lucius, is transformed into the eponymous beast.

  3. Q. "Mind must be the firmer, heart the more fierce, courage the greater, as our strength diminishes..." Who died, and his body later buried at Ely?

    A. Byrhtnoð

    The poem is The Battle of Maldon or Byrhtnoð's Death - date and author unknown.

    The words

    "Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað.... "

    are spoken by Byrhtnoð's old comrade Byrhtwold over Byrhtnoð's body, as the Danes under Sweyn Forkbeard, son of King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark [yes, that Bluetooth] are closing in on the last of the English. After the battle the Danes probably carried off Byrhtnoð's head as a battle trophy, but his body was recovered by the monks of Ely and buried there - there's a carven stone there in the cathedral today that reads

    Brithnothus Northumbrior Dux, Prælio Cæsus a Danis A.D. DCCCCXCI
  4. Q. Where in the Divine Comedy does Dante explain that surface brightness of an extended source is unvarying with distance?

    A. The Moon

    The reference within the poem is to Paradiso, Canto II:46. In this canto, a number of hypotheses as to the mottled appearance of what ought be a perfect - as being heavenly - body are discussed. Dante refutes the suggestion that the darker areas are simply further away by referring to an experiment with a candle and three mirrors, the middle one set back from the other two.

Tudor to Victorian

  1. Q. "Thou art more lovely and more temperate" than what?

    A. A summer's day

    The poem - Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII

    "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:"
  2. Q. If the Lamb is Innocence, what beast is Experience?

    A. The Tyger

    The poems are Blake's - the Lamb, in Songs of Innocence, and the Tyger, in Songs of Experience.

  3. Q.

    "There was a naughty boy
    And a naughty boy was he,
    For nothing would he do
    But scribble poetry"

    - Whose self-assessment?

    A. John Keats, the poem being his A Song about Myself.

  4. Q. Who was the Red Cross Knight, and where did King Arthur meet him?

    A. The knight referred to almost exclusively as Red Cross is George, who later in the poem goes on to slay a dragon and hear the prediction that he will become patron saint of England; they met in the dungeons of the castle of Duessa, where Arthur rescues him from captivity.

    The poem is Spenser, The Faerie Queene, the meeting in Bk I, Canto VIII

    There are a lot of red-cross knights out there - Galahad (though I don't know of a poem), Hugo, son of Sir Uwaine, (Sir Uwaine's daughter by Thomas de Berverley (George Newcomen) - which dated 1925 is out of period), the Red Cross Knight by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) - his poem of which I have no further detail, but is out of period, and Sir Lancelot (Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott) a poem from which Arthur himself is absent - but the epithet is only applied occasionally (once per poem) to those knights in the texts I do know.

Modern (20th century)

  1. Q. What is done in Madingley on Christmas Eve?


    "And things are done you'd not believe
    At Madingley, on Christmas Eve."

    - Rupert Brooke, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester.

    This is from the middle section of the poem in which he libels most of the villages and towns in south and west Cambridgeshire

  2. Q. If "London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down" by the end, what is cruel at the start?

    A. April - "the cruelest month"

    - T.S. Eliot, the Waste Land.

  3. Q. Who tells you "That's the way things are."

    A. Your father

    The poem is from Roger McGough, The way things are, and has the refrain

    "I'm your father, and that's the way things are."
  4. Q. If one invented a cure for the common cold, what other cure would be required?

    A. Another cure for complacency

    The poem is by the late Robert Calvert, The Recovery, and celebrates the return of the sense of smell after a filthy cold. This was a deliberately recherché question. The poem appeared in his 1978 collection, sold as merchandise on the Hawklords 1978 tour, Centigrade 232, and can be heard under the final section of the track Psi Power from the Twenty Five Years On album, from which, at time of writing, we are a few days over 25 years on from. (Doesn't time fly when you're having fun!)

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