Category Archives: Art and death

Who Killed Cock Robin?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

 

 

Posted by Vale

THE DEATH AND BURIAL OF POOR COCK ROBIN

Who killed Cock Robin?
"I," said the sparrow,
"With my little bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin,"

Who saw him die?
"I," said the fly,
"With my little eye,
I saw him die."

Who caught his blood?
"I," said the fish,
"With my little dish,
I caught his blood."

Who'll make his shroud?
"I," said the beetle,
"With my thread and needle.
I'll make his shroud."

Who'll carry the torch?
"I," said the linnet,
"I'll come in a minute,
I'll carry the torch."

Who'll be the clerk?
"I," said the lark,
"If it's not in the dark,
I'll be the clerk."

Who'll dig his grave?
"I," said the owl,
"With my spade and trowel
I'll dig his grave."

Who'll be the parson?
"I," said the rook,
"With my little book,
I'll be the parson."

Who'll be chief mourner?
"I," said the dove,
"I mourn for my love,
I'll be chief mourner."

Who'll sing a psalm?
"I," said the thrush,
"As I sit in a bush.
I'll sing a psalm."

Who'll carry the coffin?
"I," said the kite,
"If it's not in the night,
I'll carry the coffin."

Who'll toll the bell?
"I," said the bull,
"Because I can pull,
I'll toll the bell."

All the birds of the air
Fell sighing and sobbing,
When they heard the bell toll
For poor Cock Robin.

I came across these beautiful Victorian illustrations of the nursery rhyme on the Daily Undertaker The full set can be found here.

Buried in a ‘Wasp Rockery’

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Posted by Vale

Gore Vidal died at the end of July aged 86. Although he would have wanted to be remembered as a writer and thinker, he was perhaps better known as a raconteur and wit with a vicious line in put downs. He had a long feud with writer Norman Mailer and once goaded the belligerent Mailer so much that he knocked Vidal down. As he fell to the floor Vidal managed to say ‘Ah, Norman, lost for words again’.

But then, with an insouciant air the GFG itself likes to sport, he believed that ‘Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.’

Dick Cavett, who used to host a TV chat show, has said that ‘You can be sure of one thing. Gore Vidal hates being dead. Unless of course we die and go somewhere you write, drink, have sex, appear on TV and, above all else, talk.’

It’s less well known that he had chosen and laid out his final resting place many years ago. His headstone of polished granite, marked with his date of birth, was in place and waiting only for his own death and interment for its inscription to be completed. The headstone includes Gore’s lifelong companion, Howard Austen, who died in 2003.

It’s in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington DC which dates back to the early 1700s. Christopher Hitchens called it a ‘WASP rockery’. You’d expect the patrician Vidal to want to keep distinguished company. Perhaps more unexpected is the suggestion that he chose his plot for another reason altogether. Nearby is the grave of Jimmie Trimble, a school friend and lover of Vidal’s who died on Iwo Jima. Jimmie was, the New York Times has suggested, ‘the only person with whom [Vidal] ever felt wholeness.’

Sources: Dick Cavett, Huffington Post

For the post mortem amusement of…

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Richard Brautigan

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Posted by Vale

Richard Brautigan was a writer and a poet. He died not long ago, which makes this poem very timely. Ed Dorn wrote it ‘for the post mortem amusement of Richard Brautigan’. Let’s hope he is:

A B H O R RE N C E S
November 10, 1984
Death by over-seasoning: Herbicide
Death by annoyance: Pesticide
Death by suffocation: Carbon monoxide
Death by burning: Firecide
Death by falling: Cliffcide
Death by hiking: Trailcide
Death by camping: Campcide
Death by drowning: Rivercide
Lakecide
Oceancide
Death from puking: Curbcide
Death from boredom: Hearthcide
Death at the hands of the medical profession: Dockcide
Death from an overnight stay: Inncide
Death by suprise: Backcide
Death by blow to the head: Upcide
Death from delirious voting: Rightcide
Death from hounding: Leftcide
Death through war: Theircide & Ourcide
Death by penalty: Offcide
Death following a decision: Decide

Ed Dorn wrote the famous Gunslinger. Brautigan is best known for books like The Confederate General from Big Sur and Trout Fishing in America

Thanks to Celebrant Kim Farley for finding the poem.

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Disinherited!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Posted by Vale

Once in a while, looking around, it dawns on you that getting to the kitchen has become an obstacle course; setting off for the bedroom an orienteering event. It’s the moment you realise that your books have stopped furnishing your rooms and begun – like a literary occupy movement – to take them over. Bitter as it is, it’s the moment you realise that a clear out is needed.

We were tackling a pile or two recently (on the scree slopes in the dining room) when our son came in and cried out ‘but those are my heirlooms!’ It’s a comfort to know that my collection of Mazo de La Roche and Marks and Spencer Cookbooks will be in good hands after I am gone but, I thought, what will he do with the electronic books?

It’s a good question. Libraries (and record collections) can be read and loaned, treasured, split up and shared out – unless they are electronic. The problem is that you never wholly own a Kindle book – you simply purchase a right to read that is at present non-transferable. Equally a music collection bought from Apple cannot be passed on as digital content (legally at least). Nowadays the day you die is the day the music dies too. It’s a queer reversal.  In the past it was you that exited while your possessions lived on in other hands. In the digital world you will live on in a thousand guises, while it is your digital assets that fade away.

It looks as though you might as well be buried with your Nook or  your Kindle, iPods or iPad – new grave goods for the virtual afterlife. After all your books and music will already be safe, stowed away again in their own clouds.

Read more about it here.

Leaving this life

Thursday, 16 August 2012

 

Photos by Tajette O’Halloran, film-maker and photographer in Australia. In her own words: 

Leaving This Life is a new series I have created and will be exhibiting later in the year. It is a voyeuristic and sensual portrait series exploring the fragility of life in relation to murder, violence and dying before our time. The images reflect the moment where youth, beauty and raw sexuality transition into death. I explore the futile fight against the elements, the spirited struggle to maintain a foot in this realm and the calm surrender of returning to the earth.

Hat tip TW

Is it a phenomenon? You decide

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Posted by Vale

After some trees were felled in a Belfast cemetary this appeared. As the video asks: is it a phenomenon? You decide...

New Orleans comes to London

Thursday, 2 August 2012

 

 

Posted by Vale

Celebrant Kim Farley went to Abram Wilson’s memorial service a week or so ago. He was a young American Jazz Musician who died unexpectedly aged just 38. She writes: ‘There was a procession from the South Bank to St John’s in Waterloo and once inside the relative cool of the packed church, there was more music and singing and readings and a brilliant eulogy by his young widow. I didn’t know him, but she helped everyone get a strong sense of his vibrancy, humour and spirit.

They were together for 3 years. He died at 38. She spoke of how he’d usually be talking to her so happily in the morning that he’d join her on the walk to the tube station when she left for work. And then like as not, stay with her, down to the platform. Where she would miss the first train. And the second. And then usually get the 4th, on which he might just have decided to accompany her anyway. “It’s just a train ride, Baby”.

Here’s Abram himself playing some modern New Orleans Jazz (by Wynton Marsalis)

The Common and the particular

Thursday, 12 July 2012

 

Posted by Vale

I like these men and women who have to do with death,
Formal, gentle people whose job it is,
They mind their looks, they use words carefully.

I liked that woman in the sunny room
One after the other receiving such as me
Every working day. She asks the things she must

And thanks me for the answers. Then I don’t mind
Entering your particulars in little boxes,
I like the feeling she has seen it all before.

There is a form, there is a way. But also
That no one come to speak for a shade
Is like the last, I see she knows that too.

I’m glad there is a form to put your details in,
Your dates, the cause. Glad as I am of men
Who’ll make a trestle of their strong embrace

And in a slot between two other slots
Do what they have to every working day:
Carry another weight for someone else.

It is common. You are particular.

The poem is by David Constantine. It was found in Neil Astley’s Anthology Being Human. You can find it here. Hat tip to Sweetpea.

Death, Time, Soup

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

 

 

Posted by Vale

Over in the New York Review of Books there’s a conversation with South African artist William Kentridge that includes this video. Danse Macabre, Dance of Fools he seems to be saying that all life presses on to…Well the video ends with a black hole. Although there is an afterthought.

Find out what the afterthought is, read about the work and see more of Kentridge’s remarkable videos here.

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