#AtoZChallenge Letter Z

ivy-capital-letter-zis for Zuleika Dobson



I read Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm about 40 years ago.  It is an ironic satire on the life of undergraduates at Oxford University in 1911.  Into their lives comes the stunningly beautiful Zuleika.  All the young men fall in love with this femme fatale, but she resists all their charms, even when she falls in love herself.  At the end of the book after the young men have proved they were prepared to die for her, Zuleika sets out for Cambridge, where perhaps the students might have been less melodramatic.  This was Beerbohm’s only novel but it was very successful and established him as a wit whom George Bernard Shaw called,  “the Incomparable Max.”  Max was also admired for his caricatures of famous figures.  Here he shows the pre-Raphaelites William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in their rooms in Red Lion Square.


One last chance to view the choices of the other  AtoZChallngers


#AtoZChallenge Letter Y

Y   is for Yeats

In the following poem written in 1888 William Butler Yeats remembered the deserted island of Innisfree in the middle of Lough Gill in County Sligo which he used to visit as a child.

Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
W.B. Yeats


You can find a list of all the other A to Z Challengers

#AtoZChallenge Letter X

For this letter I have to cheat by using EX

One person you can count on to be depressing is Thomas Hardy.  Here is one of his later poems.


“I had a holiday once,” said the woman-

Her name I did not know-

“And I thought that where I’d like to go,

Of all the places for being jolly,

And getting rid of melancholy, Would be to a good big fair;

And I went.  And it rained in torrents, drenching

Every horse, and sheep, and yeoman,

And my shoulders, face and hair;

And I found that I was the single woman,

In the field- and looked quite odd there!

Everything was spirit-quenching:

I crept and stood in the lew of a wall

To think, and could not tell at all

What on earth made me plod there!”

Thomas Hardy


Rain by Vincent Van Gogh


#AtoZChallenge Letter W

W  is for Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse was an artist who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style, many years after the original  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had ceased to exist.  Today I am going to concentrate on his portrayal of The Lady of Shalott.


I Am Half Sick of Shadows

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote the ballad set at the time of King Arthur, based on the medieval story of Elaine of Astolat.

Unable to look directly on Camelot because of a curse, she must content herself with the reflection in a mirror.


The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot


His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
       Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro’ the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
       The Lady of Shalott.
By the water stood the queenly
       Lady of Shalott.
With a steady stony glance—
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Beholding all his own mischance,
Mute, with a glassy countenance—
       She look’d down to Camelot.
It was the closing of the day:
She loos’d the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
       The Lady of Shalott.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

#AtoZChallenge Letter V

V is for Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter of domestic interior scenes of everyday seventeenth century life.  Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, and frequently used very expensive pigments. He is noted for his skillful portrayal of light.  He was a reasonably successful painter in his lifetime, but he left his wife and children in debt at his death.  Nowadays Vermeer is most famous for his painting Girl with a Pearl Earring.


This simple picture of a woman with a milk jug inspired this poem:-


As long as the woman from Rijksmuseum

in painted silence and concentration

day after day pours milk

from the jug to the bowl,

the World does not deserve

the end of the world.

Wislawa Szymborska

You can find a list of all the other A to Z Challengers






#AtoZChallenge Letter U

ivy-capital-letter-u  is for Untermeyer – Louis Untermeyer

One essential book I used throughout all the years I read poetry with 8 to 12 year olds was The Golden Treasury of Poetry, a superb anthology of poems collected by Louis Untermeyer.


The anthology contains poems by famous poets such as Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, Lewis Carroll and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  It is divided into 12 themes with titles like, “Good Things in Small Packages.  It is beautifully illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund.


Louis Untermeyer was born in New York in 1885.  He wrote fiction, poetry and essays but his most successful enterprise was his anthologies which were widely used in schools.  He had 5 wives and one of them, Jean Starr, he married and divorced twice.  In the 1950s he was investigated by the committee of Un-American Activities due to his socialist leanings. He was a close friend of the poet Robert Frost, whose career he promoted.  He became the fourteenth Poet Laureate of the United States.


Untmeyer poem

You can find a list of all the other A to Z Challengers


#AtoZChallenge Letter T

T  is for The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

Tiger came

Judith Kerr was born in Germany, where as Hitler gained power,the writing of her journalist father made escape essential.  Living first in Switzerland and then Paris, the family finally arrived in London in 1936.  After working for the Red Cross during the war, Judith gained a scholarship to the Central School of Arts and Crafts.  She worked as an artist and a BBC scriptwriter until she started writing stories for her young family.  The Tiger who came to Tea is her favourite.


Judith has also written 17 books about Mog the Forgetful Cat which are also very popular.


Although now 92 years old Judith Kerr is still working.  I can thoroughly recommend her trilogy of books about her family’s escape to freedom, the first When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit being ideal for anyone over 8 years old.

Pink Rabbit

You can find a list of all the other A to Z Challengers here