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Two Poems

Anne Stevenson, 12 March 1992

... the way you taught me to pluck my unsightly moustache   with a tool you bought me. I bought us a sapphire, flawed,   (though you did repay me) from a thief on the Ponte Vecchio.   Good breeding made me share the new tent with Aileen   while you and Hartley, in the leaky, unpatchable other,   were dampened nightly. If I weren’t virgo ...

Two Poems

Stephanie Burt, 8 April 2010

... heroes the solace of willing nymphets and smooth-shouldered boys, then give them marble busts and sapphire crowns. Behind the curtain of snow lay temperate air and a firepit, and what heroes, after labours, really want: a couple of apple trees; a brook; warm shade where hardwoods stand; a stump for a table; crisp weather; a place to sit down. Chlorophyll ...

In the Box

Dale Peck, 6 February 1997

How Stella Got Her Groove Back 
by Terry McMillan.
Viking, 368 pp., £16, September 1996, 0 670 86990 2
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by Sapphire.
Secker, 142 pp., £7.99, September 1996, 0 436 20291 3
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The Autobiography of My Mother 
by Jamaica Kincaid.
Vintage, 228 pp., £8.99, September 1996, 0 09 973841 4
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... as opposed to the word ‘writers’ because, while I’m sure Jamaica Kincaid, Terry McMillan and Sapphire could have a perfectly nice conversation, I’m equally sure that their books, if given their druthers, wouldn’t be caught dead on the same shelf.Depending on your point of view, the phenomenon of black women’s writing could be said to have begun all ...

Once a Catholic…

Marina Warner: Damien Hirst, 5 July 2012

Damien Hirst 
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... of value gain efficacy from vehicles of value: crushed lapis lazuli, or Mary’s blue, ‘the sapphire that turns all of heaven sapphire’, was the most expensive pigment in the world after gold. I remember visiting the cathedral in Zaragoza: the sacristan swung open the huge heavy doors of the treasury, where gifts to ...

Saved by the Ant’s Fore-Foot

David Trotter: Pound’s Martyrology, 7 July 2005

The Pisan Cantos 
by Ezra Pound, edited by Richard Sieburth.
New Directions, 159 pp., $13.95, October 2003, 9780811215589
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Poems and Translations 
by Ezra Pound, edited by Richard Sieburth.
Library of America, 1363 pp., $45, October 2003, 1 931082 41 3
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... at his most secular, and therefore at his best, when hunched over water. In the Pisan Cantos, sapphire has paradisal associations derived ultimately from its appearance in Dante’s Purgatorio. Not so, or less evidently so, in Canto 91: The water-bug’s mittens petal the rock beneath, The natrix glides sapphire into ...

At the V&A

Marina Warner: ‘Hollywood Costume’, 20 December 2012

... Marilyn inside it on the grating), the ruby slippers, and a re-creation of the diamond and yellow sapphire necklace worn by Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, designed by Harry Winston, the show’s sponsor. The last is the only item on show that’s not ...

At the V&A

Rosa Lyster: Fabergé in London, 27 January 2022

... colours and, bewilderingly, a ‘composite hardstone sculpture of a Chelsea pensioner’, with sapphire eyes, the last Fabergé purchase Edward made before he died. There is the cigarette case that Alice Keppel gave to Edward, red gold overlaid with royal blue enamel, engraved with a diamond snake holding its tail in its mouth. Two little owls on a gold ...


Soledad Fox: Luis de Góngora, 13 December 2007

Selected Poems of Luis de Góngora 
edited and translated by John Dent-Young.
Chicago, 270 pp., £19, June 2007, 978 0 226 14059 9
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... and splendid as the noble bird that bears as many eyes on its august blue tail as stars are in the sapphire vault, O you who summarise their beauty in just two! For Lorca, ‘Góngora is not easy, but he is intelligible and luminous . . . Even on the rare occasion when his hyperboles go overboard, they always have characteristic Andalusian grace and wit ...

Tomorrow they’ll boo

John Simon: Strindberg, 25 October 2012

Strindberg: A Life 
by Sue Prideaux.
Yale, 371 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 0 300 13693 7
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... jacket, essentially in sepia but with rosy lips and penetratingly blue eyes (‘the most beautiful sapphire blue eyes I have ever seen,’ Shaw called them) can be construed as symbolic: the sepia for his humdrum life, the red for his many passions, the blue for his heaven-storming otherworldliness. Prideaux’s virtues have their downside. There is no ...

Giant Goody Goody

Edwin Morgan: Fairytales, 24 May 2001

The Complete Fairytales 
by George MacDonald, edited by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Penguin, 354 pp., January 2000, 0 14 043737 1
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Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairytales and Femininity 
by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Chicago, 444 pp., £24.50, June 2001, 0 226 44816 9
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... whence the shadows fell’. By the end of the tale Mossy and Tangle have grown old. They find a sapphire keyhole in a rock, turn their golden key in it, enter the rock, and climb up and out of it, emerging in a rainbow where ‘beautiful beings of all ages climbed along with them.’ As the story ends they are still climbing, but there is a strong ...

A Bride for a Jackass

Christopher de Bellaigue: Vita in Persia, 25 March 2010

Twelve Days in Persia 
by Vita Sackville-West.
Tauris Parke, 142 pp., £9.99, August 2009, 978 1 84511 933 1
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... humorous episodes, such as when she startles the mount of a splendid dervish wearing a cape of sapphire blue – he is unseated and writhes in the dust, to the hilarity of everyone watching. She had written in Passenger to Tehran that travel is intellectually a worthless activity, but it has a strong taste, and this stimulates her to a preposterous ...

Fog has no memory

Jonathan Meades: Postwar Colour(lessness), 19 July 2018

The Tiger in the Smoke: Art and Culture in Postwar Britain 
by Lynda Nead.
Yale, 416 pp., £35, October 2017, 978 0 300 21460 4
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... paper. As a vehicle for discussing the experience of West Indian immigrants, Nead’s choice of Sapphire (1959) – a ‘colour bar problem film’ according to the BFI’s Monthly Film Bulletin – is odd because its specificities are evidently unusual. A thriller about a murdered ‘lilyskin’, a mixed-race woman who can pass for white, it is however ...

It looks nothing like me

Adam Smyth: Dürer, 5 July 2018

Albrecht Dürer: Documentary Biography 
by Jeffrey Ashcroft.
Yale, 1216 pp., £95, January 2017, 978 0 300 21084 2
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... his friend’s acquisitive desires, which took very specific forms: fine paper, enamelled glass, a sapphire ring in a small sealed box (‘Everyone says the stone is a real find’), Greek books, precious stones, paintings of ancient history, a crane’s feather. Sometimes Dürer’s exasperation reaches out across the centuries: ‘I have tried my hardest ...

Daddy’s Girls

Anna Vaux, 23 September 1993

Murder in the Heart: A True Life Psychological Thriller 
by Alexandra Artley.
Hamish Hamilton, 268 pp., £14.99, July 1993, 0 241 13150 2
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... girl noted that as the green shade intensified, the moist live flowers turned an even deeper sapphire blue. The Thompson women trusted Artley, however, and wanted her to know their story. They sent her their diaries and notebooks – on which most of this book is based – and spent two years talking to her, looking at old photographs and wandering ...

Uppity Trumpet of the Living Light

Barbara Newman: Hildegard of Bingen, 20 January 2000

Secrets of God: Writings of Hildegard of Bingen 
edited by Sabina Flanagan.
Shambhala, 186 pp., £10.99, August 1998, 1 57062 164 0
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The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen: Vol. II 
translated by Joseph Baird.
Oxford, 215 pp., £36, October 1998, 0 19 512010 8
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Jutta and Hildegard: The Biographical Sources 
edited by Anna Silvas.
Pennsylvania State, 299 pp., £15.50, September 1998, 0 271 01954 9
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by Hildegard of Bingen, translated by Priscilla Throop.
Healing Art, 250 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 89281 661 9
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On Natural Philosophy and Medicine 
by Hildegard of Bingen, translated by Margret Berger.
Brewer, 166 pp., £12.99, July 1999, 0 85991 551 4
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... Gemstones were prized as much for their occult virtues as for their beauty. For instance, the sapphire, symbolising love of wisdom, cures inflammations of the eyes; placed in the mouth and moistened with saliva, it bestows ‘pure understanding and knowledge’ while also healing the stomach; sewn into a leather sack and worn around the neck, with ...

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