Sunday, 25 November 2012
Notes on my "five eyes" doodle: published today)
My favourite singing teacher (before college) was a great coach. He gave memorable, inspiring lessons accompanied on a beautiful baby grand by his wife (where did that piano go?). It's all such a long time ago, but the joy of working with "Tommy" has stayed with me and is infused into everything I tried and still try to do. He loved good English art songs. One of them was called "Five Eyes", from a poem by Walter de la Mare (music by C Armstrong Gibbs), who was one of the best loved English poets. It's a poem everyone should know. It's also a perfect lesson in social history, since it vividly recalls the need for working household pets - the cats dealt with the rats (My cat would think I was bonkers if I told her to go to work!). It is also arguably the best poetic description of cats there is except for T.S. Eliot's "Cats", known at least from the musical (I wonder if those poems were inspired by "Five Eyes"?). Since the mandala is pentagonal, it matches, though the cats are only in the mind! The original drawing is with a black graphic pen, but after colouring a copy (yes, print one - don't mess up your original), I realized that I had been over-enthusiastic about the pen shading and should have used a finer pen and fewer strokes. So I tried to improve the black and white version with a white gel pen. Here's the poem:
In Hans' old Mill his three black cats
Watch the bins for the thieving rats.
Whisker and claw, they crouch in the night,
Their five eyes smouldering green and bright:
Squeaks from the flour sacks, squeaks from where
The cold wind stirs on the empty stair,
Squeaking and scampering, everywhere.
Then down they pounce, now in, now out,
At whisking tail, and sniffing snout;
While lean old Hans he snores away
Till peep of light at break of day;
Then up he climbs to his creaking mill,
Out come his cats all grey with meal --
Jekkel, and Jessup, and one-eyed Jill.