Wednesday, 15 August 2012

What's in a name by Ann Evans

Does the place where you live fill you with inspiration? Is the view from your window of crashing waves, or a rugged clifftop, or maybe fields of poppies dancing in the breeze? No? Me neither. Just a view of houses and gardens, roads and pavements. Except there is inspiration there – in the street names.

The area where I live is called Poets Corner, where as you might guess, the streets are all named after poets. Amongst them we have Longfellow Road, Tennyson Road, Shelley Road, Keats Road, and various others who I have to admit I know little about, such as Meredith Road and Herrick Road.

Seeing as I walk or drive along these streets every day, I thought it only right to find out who these poets were. Obviously I'd heard of Longfellow, Tennyson, Shelley and Keats. But as to Herrick Road, I had to ask Google.

I discovered that Robert Herrick was a 16th century clergyman and poet who wrote more than 2,500 poems, which makes me feel slightly ashamed to say I hadn't even heard of him. I have now though and I've enjoyed browsing some of his work. Here's one of his short poems that you may not have read:

Robert Herrick

Four Things Make Us Happy Here
Health is he first good lent to men;
A gentle disposition then;
Next, to be rich by no by-ways;
Lastly, with friends t' enjoy our days.
        Robert Herrick

We have an Omar Road too, named after the Persian scholar and poet Omar Khayyam. I knew the name but was amazed to learn that he was an 11th century writer – such a long time ago yet we all remember the name.

And then there's Lord Lytton Avenue. Research reveals that this was Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton a 19th century English statesman and poet. I was fascinated to also learn that he was the first person to use the phrase: "The pen is mightier than the sword". It was a line from his play Richelier

And through checking him out on the good old internet I discovered that he also wrote under the name of Owen Meredith – which solves my query regarding who Meredith Road was named after. Two for the price of one here!

Under the pseudonym of Owen Meredith, one of Lytton's works was a 24 verse poem called Vampyre which I've copied and pasted into a file to read at length – possible inspiration for a scary story at some point, maybe. Here's the first verse:

Robert Bulwer Lytton
I found a corpse, with golden hair,
Of a maiden seven months dead.
But the face, with the death in it, still was fair,
And the lips with their love were red.
Rose leaves on a snow-drift shed,
Blood-drops by Adonis bled,
Doubtless were not so red.
    Owen Meredith

And here's a verse that Lord Lytton penned under his own name:

       A Night in Italy
Sweet are the rosy memories of the lips
That first kiss'd ours, albeit they kiss no more:
Sweet is the sight of sunset-sailing ships,
Altho' they leave us on a lonely shore:
Sweet are familiar songs, tho' music dips
Her hollow shell in thoughts's forlornest wells;
And sweet, tho' sad, the sound of midnight bells
When the oped casement with the night-rain drips.
        Robert Bulwer Lytton

And to finish with, one from John Keats. We all know the opening line, but as for the rest of his poem I had long forgotten it.

       A Thing of Beauty
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowers band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season, the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms;
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
And endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring into us from the heaven's brink.
                John Keats

Okay, so where I live is just an ordinary street which may not seem inspiring, until you delve a little deeper. How about you? Are there hidden depths behind where you live?
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Dawn Finch said...

Fascinating blog, but my place is in Bogie Street! Oh dear!

JO said...

We have a Coldharbour Lane, and Blowhorn Street, Patten Alley (the path by the church which would have been so muddy the women needed wooden 'pattens' on their feet to get through it)

But Treacle Bolley - who knows the story behind that!

Sue Hyams said...

What a lovely place to live. Sadly, Ackroyd Road isn't very inspirational!

Pippa Goodhart said...

I live on Nutters Close, so I'm sayaing nothing!

Ann Turnbull said...

I live on Park Street, which I used to think was an ordinary sort of name until I found out that it marks the boundary of the park that once belonged to our local medieval manor house (now a hotel, but mentioned in the Domesday Book).

Anonymous said...

I was brought up in an area in Rugby called Shakespeare Gardens and lived in Tennyson Ave, there were all famous names for roads - Rupert Brook Rd, Southey Rd, Boswell Rd, Wordsworth Rd and Macaulay Rd, all poets and writers, no wonder I've written the words for some of my bands' songs over the years ( it must be catching) .Rob Tysall.

Ann Evans said...

Thank you for your comments, I love Bogie Street and Nutters Close!

Katherine Roberts said...

And isn't your erotic pseudonym meant to be the name of your road combined with your first pet...?

madwippitt said...

Fun post! I live at Gryms Dyke - referring to the nearby ancient Grims Ditch which once formed a boundary between tribes ... it stretches for miles and miles, although I've only walked along short bits ...

Karen King said...

What a fascinating post, Ann. I live in Great Meadow, which I guess speaks for itself and in Worcester City Centre we have Friar Street, The Tithings and Bread Street. Not as inspirational as your street names but I bet there's some fascinating history behind them.

Ann Evans said...

Thanks everyone for all the comments about the places where you live, so interesting. And Katherine, that makes my erotic pseudonym Toby Lytton. I quite like that!

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