Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Euphorbia, fictional names and the village smithy

Brightly coloured flowers have their place in gardens. So do modest,  pale yellows and greens like euphorbia. Every year I feel more at home with it as I hope it feels in our garden. Wild varieties usually have spurge in  the name as in wood spurge. It is a family that deserves attention.

Choosing names for fictional characters always seems to me to be a challenge. A name in a story has to be both appropriate and memorable. But what happens when it coincides with the name of a real person? Can it be libellous particularly when  characteristics in the fictional person  happens to fit the real person? I should know the answer but I don't precisely. These thoughts come to me today as I watch names come up on a screen in the hospital waiting room. Novelists looking for inspiration must find such sources of value. Today I think to myself that the name, Verity Bolter   which pops up for  a moment  could on its own inspire an interesting character. But she is a real person, and in the  unlikely event that she reads this I hope that  she will accept my apologies for the brief intrusion.

Sprouting from a wall in the garden a horse chestnut seedling. Who buried a conker there? A squirrel perhaps. Meanwhile a spreading chestnut tree comes to mind where..
"The village smith stands;
The smith a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as  iron bands..."
The seedling will have to go alas.

5 comments:

marja-leena said...

Your part about choosing names has made me think of a Japanese artist friend of mine. Once he joined us to see a Finnish film being shown at our annual film festival. I noticed he kept writing something in a notebook during the film (with English captioning). Asking him about it later, he said he liked to note unusual especially foreign names and words which he might use as titles for his work. They don't necessarly mean anything other than as abstract titles for abstract works. I don't think he used whole names (first and last) of people, prefering to create almost a fictional language.

Lucy said...

I am tickled to bits with Verity Bolter. When I worked in an admin job once there was a name that recurred, Daphne Fury. This amused me some as the first was that of Tom's first wife, who, by all accounts, was something of the latter.

DG Rossetti wrote a poem about the woodspurge the lines from which I always remember:

From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom nor even memory.
One thing then learned remains to me,
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

Roderick Robinson said...

The dark forge is cold
Where sitteth my dear
But as I draw near
The bellows they roar out
The flames flash and pour out
And flicker round George.

I am so often left behind in the quotation stakes that I have to take my chances wherever they offer. I sang that at the old Bradford Grammar School, the one in the city, and I wonder now whether my voice had then broken. The symbolism seems a good deal more overt than it did at the time.

Joe Hyam said...

M-L How well I understand the note-taking. It has become so habitual with me that without a notebook and pen I am unable to function properly. Thanks to a poor mememory in my case.

Lucy I know the Rosetti poem and I have just read it again. But some strange quirk of memory prompts a poem which concludes with a "cup of five". I can't remember the flower, and the poet? Well Coventry Patmore came to mind but without a result. I have searched everywhere. Now I don't think it exists outside my imagination. Strange.

Robbie That cold, dark forge is haunting particularly nowadays. I wonder about the enthusiasm with which you may or may not have entered into the song.

Lucy said...

Then I just remembered my mum's version of the last two lines of The Village Smithy:

'The muscles on his brawny arms
Stood out like spadgers' kneecaps.'

So glad I had such a culturally rich upbringing...