Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Watch the reading of The Soul of the Sea

Part 1 or 5

Part 2 of 5

Part 3 of 5

Part 4 of 5

Part 5 of 5

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Eye of the Storm (Part Eight)

I really like the composition of this image, which reminds me of the frozen chaos of Japanese wave paintings. Here, the curve of the waves on either side has a telescoping effect on the tiny figure at the centre of the maelstrom. Unperturbed, he wields his axe within the yellow halo. Massive part of the ballad too, this one, which details Gilliat's battle with the elements - it's as if the sea, seeing that the Frenchman has salvaged the engines, marshals all her forces to try to reclaim them... along with his soul. In peril, then, on this suitably blustery Sunday: enjoy.

PART VIII: The Eye of the Storm

His senses he scarcely dared believe –
The engines lay aboard!
He readied sail to head for home
And claim his love’s reward.

But looking up, he spied the trick
The sea had played with tide:
The hull still held the funnel’s top
As prisoner inside.

Toward the dawn, the strangest sight –
A light from ocean came…
As if it drew its fuel from night
The sea was filled with flames!

Nor furnace red, nor purple edged,
The flames were pale as ghosts:
Of souls sealed deep in ocean’s tomb
They rose to dance and boast.

The Frenchman knew to heed these signs
For he was weather-wise:
He saw a storm’s arrival which
Calm dawn could not disguise.

So straight to raid his stores of wood –
To anchors he leapt not,
And set to fashion sea defences,
His plans to leave forgot.

With planks and joists, then nails and chains
He hoist his last ramparts
Though afternoon yet lent no hint
Of storm about to start.

The ocean’s green was emerald,
The sky was cast sapphire,
The sun did glint a thousand stars:
The sea, that doe-eyed liar!

A line of birds arrowed for land
As west the cloud appeared,
And next the sky from blue to grey
A shadowy mountain reared.

The sun eclipsed, enfolded in
Its gloomy, slow embrace,
From earth to sky the granite cliff
Encircled him in space.

The wall of cloud a ceiling formed
Then crash! The thunder clapped:
And all the fury of the sea
Around Les Douvres wrapped.

Flashes of lightning, splashes of rain –
Then came the wind and waves,
In voice like hordes of chainless beasts
That roared and shrieked and raved.

Hour after hour, blow upon blow
The foam flew higher and higher,
Volleys exploding on the rocks
As loud as musket fire!

Inside his fortress fought the knight
And bold the siege defied:
His hammer strikes repairing breaks
Each thunder clap replied.

A sudden brightness breached the sky
As if the storm had ceased;
The window closed as swell uprose
And rolled in from the east…

Gigantic pillars on their sides,
Huge cylinders of glass –
They shattered over each defence
As one by one they passed.

Within the last, the shape of fins –
It seemed a living thing!
Its monstrous death upon the rocks
Away his beams did fling.

The waters seethed between the rocks –
His castle wall was down!
They sought the stronghold of the sloop,
And engines for their crown…

Above a blaze of lightning showed
Disaster was at hand:
Durande was also breaking up
And on the sloop would land.

Its mass was swinging on a hinge
With sad and grinding noise –
One half would fall safe, the other
Over his boat was poised.

The waters seethed, the hinges creaked,
His hour was almost run –
At last he grasped the means to meet
His enemies as one!

A danger is a power to some –
He mounted on the wreck,
And balanced by his axe began
To cut away the deck.

The planks were bent like leaves of books –
Beneath his feet they shook;
His strokes were notes of proud defiance
For the life he had forsook.

A furious eye upon him flexed
But hurled its lightning blind;
Its winds it whirled like ropes round night:
The storm had lost its mind.

His axe in air, the Frenchman paused –
One half about to fall –
It fell, and caught between the rocks
To form another wall.

And now the sea could only rage
Against its passage blocked,
For sloop and engine both secured
And safe inside were locked.

Its final vengeance on the wreck
Had made the storm his tool:
So turning to his vanquished foe,
He cried full-throat: “You fool!”

From blackest night to dawning light
His battle cry was heard,
For from the gloom there dashed a shape –
He blinked to glimpse a bird!

The only sound a surly growl
As rain stopped all around:
The storm had ceased as sudden as
A plank that fell to ground.

His victory quick gripped his limbs,
Fatigue pulsed through and through –
Then tumbling in his sloop, he slept,
As above the seagulls flew.

“The greater the trial,” said the priest,
“The more cause to rejoice…”
“Then follow deep to where the fiend
Did dwell,” replied the voice.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Exhibition Open

The exhibition is officially open today, after a really enjoyable private view last night.

Inside the gallery there are original watercolours, prints of 15 images, copies of the ballad and a film - so lots to keep any visitor busy!

A few of the orginals have been sold, but prints of all the images are still available...

Meanwhile, we are now seeking sponsorship to help us combine the ballad and illustrations together in a book: spread the word!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Bed among the Birds (Part Six)

PART VI: A Bed among the Birds

The Frenchman turned his thoughts toward
His shelter and his mooring,
For though the wind was breathing soft
Soon it could be roaring.

He gazed along the chain of rocks,
Les Douvres to the ‘Man’:
The Man stood like a citadel –
Its size gave him his plan.

Beneath that hulk of granite hewn
There stretched a sort of creek;
He steered his sloop inside its gate
His harbour there to seek.

His sloop safe moored, the sun had soared,
The tide was now full low;
Gazing from the Man to Douvres
His fears began to grow.

Between the two, the smaller rocks
Did form a corridor
Divided by the surf and squall
As sharp as tooth and claw.

No time to lose, he could not choose
His place to lay his head:
If he must labour day and night,
Les Douvres must be his bed.

He packed his sack upon his back
And hopped from rock to rock;
Arriving there, he climbed to reach
The steamer’s grisly dock.

The hull was split, the planks all ripped,
Each gust a tremor sent –
But paddles, chain and engine whole,
The funnel not even bent!

The sea had kept the ship alive
As might a cat a mouse;
Below it washed across red rocks
Like blood in a slaughterhouse.

He could not sleep aboard Durande
For fear that she would plummet:
His home must be the plateau on
The greater Douvre’s summit.

Its glossy sides too smooth to scale
And slippery as soap,
He thrust his hopes on the trusty
Sling and grasp of his rope.

His rope he threw, the aim was true –
Up flew the grappling hook:
Two times it scratched and slipped, the third –
It latched inside a nook.

Hand over hand he hauled himself
Atop the precipice
As far below the foam did seethe
At the foot of the abyss.

A bed once found inside a niche,
His problems both were solved;
He lay awake and watched above –
The darkening sky revolved!

The circling birds returning whirled
A halo thick as night;
Denied their nests upon the peak
To the Man they did alight.

The squawking chorus there denounced
The impostor on their rock:
In weeks to come, each conference
His task would seem to mock.
The adventure continues as Gilliat finds a bed among the birds atop the Greater Douvre. One of my favourite illustrations of the lot, this one...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Vanishing Captain (Part Five)

PART V: The Vanishing Captain

His good deed done, by set of sun
The Frenchman was back at sea,
Tacking toward Les Douvres rocks
To answer Lethierry’s plea.

At dawn against the horizon
A majestic ‘H’ did rise:
The pillars held Durande aloft
As if boasting of their prize.

In breaking light, the sloop drew close
Beneath the pillars’ height –
The rocks were wet as wrestlers who
Still sweated from a fight.

Those sides that rose so dark and steep
Now gleamed like moonlit armour:
How could he bring the engine down
Yet manage not to harm her?

And where had Captain Clubin gone,
The skipper of Durande,
Who refused to leave the steamer
Till he brought her back to land?

The crew and all aboard Durande
To lifeboat he had banished,
But left alone upon those rocks
By morning he had vanished.

None yet suspected the skipper
Had been seduced by sin –
None knew he’d cast aside virtue
As snakes do shed their skin…

A really dramatic illustration for this descriptive section in which the reader discovers the scale of the task facing Gilliat; meanwhile, the mystery surrounding Durande's captain deepens... more tomorrow!

Interview in the Press

Charlie is interviewed about her artwork in the Press today ahead of the exhibition's opening this Friday night. See p.16 of your Press for more!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Horn of the Beast (Part Four)

PART IV: The Horn of the Beast

No sooner did he hear these words,
Gilliat away did turn
To fit his sloop and set his sails,
His lady’s love to earn.

He set his course along Les Banques
And through the rocks steered true;
At Kidormur aghast he saw
A man admired the view!

For there the waves had worn some steps
Up to a polished seat –
But not for little was that throne
Known as ‘the Horn of the Beast’.

The breakers there burst like banshees
Upon the water’s rise:
At times the ocean is as fatal
As a woman’s eyes.

He waved, he wailed, then close he sailed
As up the tide did creep,
And at the rock his fears confirmed:
The man was fast asleep!

He took the stranger’s foot then shook
And woke him with the shock,
“Now climb aboard,” cried Gilliat,
“Or perish on this rock!”

Aboard the sloop, the black-clad man
Explained he was a priest
But new arrived, who had not known
The dangers of ‘the Beast’.

At dock he said, “You saved my life!”
Handing over a bible;
They bid farewell not in the least
Suspecting they were rivals.
The plot thickens! With the introduction of a new character in the shape of a priest, Hugo's tale takes another twist here. Likewise, with its silhouette and shadows, Charlie's illustration has a wonderful sense of mystery about it...