Saturday, 25 June 2011

Namesakes in Morris

Trawling through the Collected Works for any namesakes I can come up with, I’ve had mixed results. There is an Anthony in Child Christopher and Goldilind the Fair, and since he serves with the men around Jack of the Tofts, he ought to be a decent, if somewhat rough, sort of chap; but unfortunately he doesn’t actually feature in the work, he is merely named in absentia.

So I then turn to the Anthony who appears in The Water of the Wondrous Isles. ‘He was a grizzled-haired man of over fifty summers by seeming’, so he fits me closely enough in age range. However, he has a nasty voyeuristic habit of spying on attractive young women as they take their daily bath; for as he tells the heroine Birdalone, ‘never saw I ... a fairer body than came like rosy-tinted pearl fresh out of the water while I lay hidden in yonder thorn-brake’. Given the current gender distribution of students in university English Literature Departments, I shall have to be careful not to adopt this particular Morrisian namesake as any kind of role model in my professional life.

So let’s try Morris’s unfinished poem ‘Anthony’. There initially seems rather more hope here, for this Anthony is on his way to Norway to rescue his sister; and I like to think that in the unlikely event that my sister Carole were kidnapped by Vikings, I too would promptly get off my backside and try to remedy the situation. But this Anthony is, all the same, a decidedly doleful figure, a ‘restless helpless loveless man’, as he describes himself, ‘since earth is all at strife with all I am’; and we have anyway no idea how the poem is to end. No real luck with namesakes yet, then; and the quest continues.


IpMan said...

If you're willing to count buildings as well as characters, then don't forget St Anthony's Chapel in "The Well at the World's End"!

Tony Pinkney said...

Hum, yes, thanks. There seem in fact to be a whole cluster of St Anthonys in Christian history, so I'm not quite sure what values a church of that name would be seen as embodying in Morris's romance. Well spotted, though.

Tony Pinkney said...

Another Anthony turns up briefly in 'The Man born to be King' from 'The Earthly Paradise', though he doesn't fare very well either. As the Sage reminds the King, 'Stood Antony beneath this tree,/And took a jewelled cup of thee,/And drank swift death in guise of wine'.