Page 132. " So we'll go no more a-roving so late into the night "

We'll go no more a-roving (1817) is a poem by English poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824).  He enclosed it in a letter to his friend Thomas More, explaining that at 29 he was beginning to feel the fatigue of age. In full it reads:

So, we'll go no more a-roving

So late into the night,

Though the heart be still as loving,

And the moon be still as bright.

  

For the sword outwears its sheath,

And the soul wears out the breast,

And the heart must pause to breathe,

And love itself must rest.

 

Though the night was made for loving,

And the day returns too soon,

Yet we'll go no more a-roving

By the light of the moon.

The poem was set to music in numerous versions in the 19th and 20th centuries, most famously by Joan Baez on her 1964 Joan Baez/5 album and Leonard Cohen on Dear Heather (2004).

  

  

 

Page 133. " It was her great resemblance to a spectre that struck him most "

Couple with female 'spirit', c1920
Creative Commons AttributionCouple with female 'spirit', c1920 - Credit: National Media Museum

The Victorian era saw a rising public interest in psychic phenomena such as seances, ghosts and communication with spirits.  Spiritualism was a fast growing belief system between 1840 and 1920, combining Christianity with a belief in the spirit world and the possibility of contacting ghosts through mediums.  Classic ghost stories written in this period include A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens; The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

Unscrupulous pretenders took advantage of superstition by posing as mediums, offering exorcisms and hosting seances.  1876 saw the famous trial of Henry Slade, who had practiced as a medium in England and America.  He was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to three months of hard labour.  

Sarah Water's novel Affinity (2000) explores the world of Victorian spiritualism and its potential for deception.

On page 138, Herr M explains why he can only summon female ghosts, referring fleetingly to a lost lover in a 'kingdom by the sea'.  His words reference Edgar Allan Poe's poem Annabel Lee (1849).  The poem tells the tale of a lost love from the point of view of her bereaved lover.  It suggests that the angels, jealous of the couple's happiness, took Annabel away but that she lives on in her lover's dreams, as he sleeps by the side of her tomb.

   

 

Page 136. " Mr Paul claimed his invention would materialise the human desire to live in the past, the present and the future all at once "

Robert Paul was a pioneer of early cinema.  In 1895 he filed a patent application for a cinematic journey through time, and in 1896 was successful in projecting onto a screen for the first time.  His Theatrograph machine was the first commercially produced 35mm projector to be produced in Great Britain.  Early cinema was seen as a form of illusion, following on from the tradition of travelling shows, and his invention would have intrigued both genuine illusionists and creative frauds.

The Praxinoscope was an animation device, created in France in 1877.  It used a strip of pictures placed around the inner surface of a spinning cylinder, with a series of mirrors positioned to give the effect of a moving image as the device rotated.

The Phasmatrope was the first creation to present a sense of movement to a large audience at once.  Images are placed around a metal disc which was rotated by hand crank to position each image briefly in the beam of the projector lamp.

The Zoopraxiscope was created in 1879, and used a disc similar to that of the Phasmatrope to project a sequence of images.  It used glass discs with hand painted images, some of which were very complicated. 

Page 141. " The quick trout and the rose in the heather "
Rainbow trout
Public DomainRainbow trout - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote a lied, or song, called Die Forelle (The Trout) in 1817, using lyrics from a poem by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart (1739-1791).  In 1846, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) transcribed it for piano.  

The lyrics are spoken as if by an observer watching a trout darting in a river.  A nearby fisherman is also watching the fish as it swims close to his hook, but too quickly to be caught.  The fisherman stirs up the waters and the trout, confused by the sudden muddiness, is caught.  The original poem compares the trout's fate to that of young women who flirt with danger and lack the wisdom to flee from it.

Heidenroslein (Heather Rose) is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, arguably German's most famous poet.  It tells of a boy seeing a rose growing among the heather; he threatens to pick the flower, which replies that if he does so, she will prick him and he will not forget her.  He picks her anyway and, although she pricks him, "her complaints did her no good."  Like Die Forelle, the song alludes to the dangers which lie in wait for young women, and which Mignon experiences at the hands of the Ape-man and so many other men.  

The poem was set to music by Franz Schubert and more recently, and in a starkly contrasting style, by the hard rock band Rammstein with the title Rosenrot. 

Page 141. " 'Jolly boating weather'; 'The lark now leaves his watery nest' "

Jolly Boating Weather is the opening line of the Eton Boating Song, the best known school song associated with Eton College.  It was written and set to music by former pupils and first performed in 1863.  It is a quintessential old school song, comparing Eton favourably to rival schools Rugby and Harrow, referring to their strong rowing tradition, and celebrating the ties that bind Old Etonians together into their old age.

The Lark Now Leaves His Watery Nest was a poem written by Sir William Davenant in the 17th century.  It is a romantic sonnet calling to a lover's mistress to awaken, since the dawn cannot break until it is inspired to do so by her beauty.  The poem has been set to music twice, by Edward Horsman (published posthumously in 1919) and John George Calcott (1878), which must be the version sung by Mignon and her friend.

The jollity and sentimentality of both pieces of music contrast poignantly with the dangers alluded to in the previous Schubert lieder, with the odorous horse box and the abuse which both singers must suffer.

 

Page 144. " her Gretchen yellow hair "

Gretchen, or Margarete, is the chief female protagonist of Faust, a tragedy by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  She is a beautiful, blonde girl who Faust sees upon the street; having sold his soul to the devil in return for pleasure on earth, he demands that she be delivered to him.  She is innocent, but falls in love with Faust and agrees to lie with him.  He gives her sleeping potion to silence her mother but it turns out to be poison; when Gretchen also becomes pregnant, her brother challenges Faust to a duel but is killed.  Her tragedy reaches its climax when she drowns her newborn child and is sentenced to death, but at last she sees Faust's true nature, rejects him, and is saved by heavenly voices.  The character of Gretchen was modelled on Friederike Brion, a parson's daughter who had a short but intense love affair with the young Goethe.

There are many parallels between Gretchen and Mignon.  Both are innocents who lose loved ones and suffer at the hands of deceitful men.  A selection of text relating to Gretchen from Goethe's work, known as Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel) was the first successful lied written by Franz Schubert in 1818; Mignon has now become closely associated with Schubert's songs for the female voice.  Gretchen's story ends with her salvation through heavenly voices, singing above; Mignon is similarly saved through music in her alliance with the Princess and the Maestro in Transbaikalia.

 
Page 146. " as full of folk and bustle as a Breughel "

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569) was the most famous of an illustrious family of painters.  Their family name can be spelt in a variety of ways, although Pieter was the only one to sign his work without an 'h'. 

Breughel lived mainly in Brussels and Holland during the Renaissance, and specialised in paintings of peasants in an unsentimental but vivid style. Other works, including religious and satiric paintings, are more peaceful and still, but his most famous pieces include all of the bustle and hurry of peasant life, whether at hunts, meals, festivals, dances or games.