Friday, June 29, 2007

Garden Spot: Oxford Edition

Unlike my colleagues who have spent their time productively transcribing, taking care not to inspire the wrath of special collections librarians, my time here in England has been spent taking care of children, as we visit with their British relatives.

In a comment for the last post, Muse offered her favourite pub in Oxford, the Royal Oak on Woodstock Road. Thinking about her post, I realized I'm hard pressed to identify my own favourite, as many pubs have either changed hands or gone corporate (a sad development), and my criteria have shifted over the years, from quality of atmosphere -- and of the lager -- to the pub's capacity to accommodate my children (. . . so I can enjoy the atmosphere and the lager. Cue the Underworld, "Born Slippy": "Shouting lager, lager, lager, lager. . ."). In that respect, I suppose I do favour the Fishes -- off the beaten path, indeed off the Isis tow path, but with a super garden, climbing frame, and Aunt Sally pitch for the kids. A good time can be had by all.

Where children and an aging liver make pub crawls impracticable, garden tours are still in the offing. Though funny, showing Stroke around today, we did actually hit a couple of high-profile pubs: the King's Arms, across from the Bod and the Sheldonian Theatre (the pub where British academics go to see and be seen), and the Turf (known for its Bill Clinton apocrypha), with a quick stop in ye olde Bear as well. I trusted her to find the Eagle and Child herself (and thus the "famous pubs of Oxford" tour is about complete).

But as I haven't posted from my own garden for a while -- I reckon that bleeding heart has about petered out by now -- I submit to you some shots from today's meandering. Above you can see the garden outside Christ Church, as you head into the meadows. Below we have a magnificent row of lavender:

This last shot, taken in the private garden behind Christ Church, put me in mind of Andrew Marvell, so I follow it with "The Mower, Against Gardens."

LUXURIOUS man, to bring his vice in use,
Did after him the world seduce,
And from the fields the flowers and plants allure,
Where Nature was most plain and pure.
He first inclosed within the gardens square
A dead and standing pool of air,
And a more luscious earth for them did knead,
Which stupefied them while it fed.
The pink grew then as double as his mind ;
The nutriment did change the kind.
With strange perfumes he did the roses taint ;
And flowers themselves were taught to paint.
The tulip white did for complexion seek,
And learned to interline its cheek ;
Its onion root they then so high did hold,
That one was for a meadow sold :
Another world was searched through oceans new,
To find the marvel of Peru ;
And yet these rarities might be allowed
To man, that sovereign thing and proud,
Had he not dealt between the bark and tree,
Forbidden mixtures there to see.
No plant now knew the stock from which it came ;
He grafts upon the wild the tame,
That the uncertain and adulterate fruit
Might put the palate in dispute.
His green seraglio has its eunuchs too,
Lest any tyrant him outdo ;
And in the cherry he does Nature vex,
To procreate without a sex.
'Tis all enforced, the fountain and the grot,
While the sweet fields do lie forgot,
Where willing Nature does to all dispense
A wild and fragrant innocence ;
And fauns and fairies do the meadows till
More by their presence than their skill.
Their statues polished by some ancient hand,
May to adorn the gardens stand ;
But, howsoe'er the figures do excel,
The Gods themselves with us do dwell.

Source: Luminarium.

If you don't hear from me, it means I am in Italy and without internet. Arrivederci!


Amanda Bonner said...

Smashing tour, G; though I found my self just slightly squiffy as I sat in the Rad Cam, finishing off that giant book of ephemera. It took a little for that Americano to kick in :oP.

Just in case you've got some wifi going here are two links to keep la vita *dolce.
A recent recording of Cecilia Bartoli doing a fab Vivaldi aria.

And the famous performance of the same aria at the Teatro Olimpico.

Don't let the facial expressions freak you out ... She's singing to a large hall ... just trying to fill the space.

Miss you, luv.

muse said...

I still like the Turf and King's Arms. Turf is best in winter when there's mulled wine and chestnuts to roast in the courtyard. And don't forget Bookbinders in Jericho, its ceiling covered with playing cards and old LPs, its floor littered with peanut shells. Ah, Oxford. Christ Church gardens and meadow look lovely, even though I'm more partial to Magdalen's Deer park. Are your kids old enough for Pitt Rivers yet? I envy you your relatives! Have a lovely time in Italy.

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