“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth”

By way of a footnote to yesterday’s quote about creativity and art and play and magic, my page-a-day calendar today told me:

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.”

It claims that this is a ‘Persian proverb’.

Hmmm, that’s what you say if you don’t really know, isn’t it? So I googled. Of course there is dispute, with some muddle-headed folk attributing it the Koran and Mohammed, and others to Elbert Green Hubbard (June 19, 1856 – May 7, 1915)  an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher (Wikiepeed).

The choice of hyacinth is a  clue, it’s a plant that operates as a madelaine* for me, my mum always had them on the window sill in the early 60s. Obviously not native to the UK, so let’s investigate… hmm, native to Turkey, Israel and the North-East corner of Iran. And not America. Hah – major clue..

More googlage:

“If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul”
– Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

(APB: Very Omar Khayyám )

“If I had but two loaves of bread
I would sell one of them
& buy White Hyacinths to feed my soul.”
– Elbert Hubbard
(1856-1915)

(APB: I prefer the simplicity of my calendar’s version.)

Found here on this lovely blog:

http://www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_journal_individual.asp?blog_id=5251068

Do follow the link to a lovely story of two people who love each other and a kindly florist. In my experience, most florists are lovely. I suppose you have to be: births, deaths, marriages. Must be tough haggling down the wholesale market, though.

So I think that is definitive.  Lazy writers half-remembering ‘Muslihuddin’ as ‘Mohammed’ and a DWM**, USA variety, riffing on it.

So:

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.”

I like that very much.

Reminds me of an observation, which in a similar lazy way I’m going to attribute to Eno, because I’m half-remembering him talking about Sarajevo during the Serb bombing and watching a smartly dressed woman in her mid-thirties in high heels, picking her way along the rubble-strewn remnants of pavement on her way to the shops, as shots rang above her head*****.

Life without beauty? We’d rather die.

Eno was in what was then Yugoslavia to record sessions with U2 and Pavarotti (I know, weird), which produced, inter alia, the sublime ‘Miss Sarajevo‘. Spotify it, music fans: yes it contains opera, yes it is brilliant.

Pause as I go find the track. Easy, the CD was where I thought it was. Great opening to the chorus from the Bonio***, who isn’t afraid to reference and steal from the greats: “Here she comes”. The vibe of the song is very much the Velvets on the first album – think “I’ll be your mirror“, or ”Sunday morning”. There is a Velvets’ song, nagging at the back of my brain which has the specific phrase ‘here she comes’ but… no,  can’t catch it. And ‘G-l-o-r-i-ay’ by Van Morrison. Lots of fine songs about fine women walking down streets, oddly enough, eh? The other reference point, leaving the worst until last, is of course the bathetic “Doo Wah Diddy” by Manfred Mann and the Manfreds, possibly the most simultaneously egotistical and unimaginative of the 60s ‘person and the nouns’ style of group naming: “Here’s she comes, just a-walking down the street, singing doo wah diddy dum diddy do.…” And might I add: ‘zig a zig ah’, which I’m told is the Serbian for ‘couldn’t be bothered to think of a better lyric’.  (Hey, hey we’re the Manfreds, people say we’ve got a crap name…)

OK, let’s find out more about the song, the politics and the history.

Some time later.

I’ve always loved the lyrics, and I’m pleased to discover, thanks to Wikipedia, that Bonio*** says the song is his favourite. I think it might be his best, praise be to Eno. Great tune, killer arrangement, and superb, clever, twisty lyrics.  Love the way he plays with ‘beauty queen’ and turning to Mecca****, for example. It’s probably too much to claim his words are Joycean, but they are sharp, profound, surreal and allusive, loving and dark. It is worth reading the whole lyric, find it here:

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Miss-Sarajevo-lyrics-U2/F599D4161F63665F48256896002E7E49

It’s also worth reading the wikipedia entry about the song, from which I pulled this quote:

“… the dark humour of the besieged Sarajevans, […] surrealism and Dadaism are the appropriate responses to fanaticism…”

Characteristics obviously reflected in Bono‘s lyric. Well done, dubliner.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Sarajevo

So …

“If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth.” 

That’s nothing if not surreal.

Why not tulips or daffodils? Good question. They don’t grow in Persia, and they don’t usually come in a pot- so they don’t persist, unlike the hyacinth. You can save a bulb after it has flowered, letting the leaves soak up the sun’s energy, and at the end of the summer you can store it, for a new bloom next spring. A hyacinth is a sweetly-scented investment for a poor person who has a small glut of bread and is desirous of both beauty and a bargain. And Yugoslavia is not that far from Persia, on opposite edges of our Middle East.

Indeed:

“Surrealism and Dadaism are the appropriate responses to fanaticism.”

s-hiya synth 1

~

I persist here;

in Cameron’s blighted

and pleasant

land.

I’m off to the shops

now -

I’m lucky:

I have bread;

and I must buy

a hyacinth.

~

~

~

~

FOOTNOTARY (PUBLIC):

*Google it, and the word Proust, dear younger readers.

**Dead White Male.

***Yes, of course I know his name is really Bono. Well actually it isn’t, it says ‘Paul David Hewson’ on his birth certificate (thanks, Maggie at the Dublin registrar’s office).

****Mecca: in the 60s we knew Mecca as merely the name on the front of bingo halls and ballrooms. The Mecca organisation puts on Miss World. C’mon, smile.

*****’Shots rang above our heads’. Firstly this is a true story, and there really were snipers on the roof tops. She really was in mortal danger. Fuck you, Death, I’m going shopping. Sometimes Death backs off out of respect, and she persists. Secondly, well spotted, yes, I’m making partial quotage from ‘Heroes’ on the second of Bowie’s trio of Berlin albums – not produced by Eno, as media tart and poet Simon Armitage, in a radio show about Oblique Strategies last week had it, but by the criminally-sidelined Tony Visconti, who produced the majority of Bowie’s oeuvre, sleevenote fans. Such a great line, those shots ringing overhead from other  totalitarian and different circumstances.

________________________________

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Better: doing better on the interweb

http://www.merlinmann.com/better/

He talks about doing all this interweb, blogging, facebook, wwifling*, with more care and attention, better editing, more work, more attention to detail:

BETTER.

He says more than that, he also says why.

I’m going to try to follow his example.

Have a look.

~• posted from the annoyingly buggy but still quite handy WordPress for Android; so please excuse any ‘smart’ phone typos •~

Dime-Store Alchemy: Joseph Cornell’s Surrealist Boxes

http://tpt.to/a24mplf

Joseph Cornell is often considered the first and greatest American surrealist, said to have influenced creators as diverse as iconic French dadaist Marcel Duchamp and beloved speculative-fiction novelist William Gibson. An artist and filmmaker, he is perhaps best-known for the intricate, mysterious boxes he created druing the 1930s through 1960s — bizarre and beautiful assemblages of dime-store tchotchkes and remnants of once-beautiful objects, placed in meticulously hand-crafted small cabinets.”

Untitled (Soap Bubble Set), 1936

Untitled (Soap Bubble Set), 1936
Untitled (The Hotel Eden), 1945

Untitled (The Hotel Eden), 1945

If you don’t understand science your access to…

If you don’t understand science, your access to beauty is unnecessarily constrained…

Feynman explains beauty and science

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– Boing Boing
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