Hurtled into the Safety of a Letter

While the Prime Minister was being hurtled to safety in Canberra I was not that far away in a world of poetry, music and art.  I love this country but choose not to celebrate it on the day it was taken from the original owners so I try to immerse myself in things yobbos would not and The National Library is just the place.

“Handwritten” an exhibition of works from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin was simply wonderful. My last adventure to the Library was to see Nick Cave’s genius, this time it was wonder after wonder. From Dante’s Divine Comedy, exquisite illuminations, letters from Napolean and Kafka to Beethovens 5th Symphony.  His chaotic, powerful notes crossed and re-written  and as you study the darkened marks on the staves -the music opens and my goose pimples explode in those few notes.  In the same darkened room the delicateness of Fanny Mendelssohn, sister to Felix Mendelssohn is a complete contrast and a simple pencil drawing by her artist husband adorns the edge of the manuscript, the words by poet Josephf Von Eichendorff.

It’s this relationship between music, art and poetry that reccurs in a letter dated jdth August 179i3 by Goethe.  He has written a poem especially for his artist friend Roesel who had sent him a drawing. At the top of the letter he has combined a brush and a pen within a laurel wreath.

Perhaps the most poignant comes from a man named Peter Hagendorf, a small intimate well thumbed diary of an ordinary man. A soldier in the 30 year war (1618-1648) This diary covered a 25 year period and described atrocities of war such as a beautiful young woman of 18 burned alive to recipes of tasty pumpernickel. Over this time he writes on losing his wife and eight children and enduring poverty and injuries to wealth and accounts of lands that he journeyed through.

A page from Hagendorf's diary 1624

Picking up a Library Newsletter on the way out was an article concerning Arthur Boyd and Sidney Nolan in producing backdrops for the Ballet. I treasure poetry and music, I am influenced by musicians and poets as much as other visual artists.

I didn’t need the fireworks for Australia Day, Beethoven supplied those.

Images from “HandwrittenTen Centuries of Manuscript Treasures National Library of Australia

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4 thoughts on “Hurtled into the Safety of a Letter

  1. Hi Sue
    I loved this article! I have a small collection of hand written documents going back as far as 1700. They are mostly legal documents but the caligraphy is amazing! Have you seen the illustrated book “True to the Letter” by Pedro Correa Do Lago? It is a book of 800 years of correspondence and ephemera, with some beautifully reproduced documents and the stories behind them.

  2. Hi Katharine -thanks. I was in awe, I have always loved illuminations – I did try my own version ( check in Meroogal category) and painting that small is a definite challenge. I stumbled on this quiz last week and found that I was in a minority drawn to this type of work. Have a go at this, it’s really interesting http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody/mind/surveys/art/
    I will definitely check out that Pedros old book. Cheers Sue

  3. Hi Sue

    I did the quiz and it said for my age and sex I should be most fond of Impressionism but Cubism was my “thing”. I’m not sure how the settled on that as I loved almost everything they showed and indicated I thought they were all done by talented people. Maybe my psychology is very Cubist!

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