Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Peake & Pye in Sark

The Sark Folk Festival begins this Friday. When I've been in the past there's been a happy atmosphere and, with its mixture of varied music and friendly people, it's not been difficult to enjoy. Also, they lay on some good cider.

Preparing to travel to Sark is making me think of Mr Pye. I read Mervyn Peake's slimline, fabulistic novel while camping in Sark a couple of years ago. It is a unique and charming book, in which the island of Sark is described in great detail and with much affection, so that it becomes as much of a character as the titular newcomer.

Peake's loving descriptions of the island must have come fairly easily, as the author spent so much time on the island. He was part of a collective of artists and bohemian types that moved to the island (on Peake's part to do outdoor nude painting according to some sources) and built a gallery that is now the island's post office.

a not-nude Mervyn Peake (possibly thinking about being nude)

Peake illustrated a number of children's books, though some of his work was rejected for being too gruesome.  Below are some examples.

one of Peake's illustrations for The Hunt for the Snark

from Peake's illustrations for Alice in Wonderland

from Peake's illustrations for The Rime of the Anceint Mariner

As well as being a bit of a dab hand at the old drawing, penning the trilogy of novels for which he's best known: Gormenghast, painting in the nip on Sark and writing Mr Pye, Peake wrote some brilliant poetry. He mostly wrote what he called nonsense verse and most of that was aimed at children. There are a few examples below:

"The paper is breathless
  Under the hand 
  And the pencil is poised
  Like a warlock's wand."

"O'er seas that have no beaches
To end their waves upon,
I floated with twelve peaches,
A sofa and a swan."

"Leave the stronger
and the lesser
things to me!
Lest that conger
named Vanessa
who is longer
than a dresser
visits thee."

"Each day I live in a glass room
Unless I break it with the thrusting
Of my senses and pass through
The splintered walls to the great landscape."

Finally, I particularly like the sentiment expressed by one character in Mr Pye.That's Tintagieu, who's described as "five foot three inches of sex" and she asks: "Can't a thing just be itself without its having to mean something?".

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