11 February 2010

the ornithologists

"And as a bird each fond endearment tries 
To tempt its new-fledg'd offspring to the skies, 
He tried each art, reprov'd each dull delay, 
Allur'd to brighter worlds, and led the way."
~ Oliver Goldsmith

 from Greek: ὄρνις, ὄρνιθος, ornis, ornithos, "bird"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge

Antonio Valli da Todi 1601

they shared many things-
a love of ornithology
McQueen's Spring 2008 Collection
dedicated to Isabella Blow

Like a bird she seems to wear gay plumage unconsciously, 
as if it grew upon her.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird 
Among twenty snowy mountains, 
The only moving thing Was the eye of the blackbird. 
I was of three minds, 
Like a tree In which there are three blackbirds. 
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime. 
A man and a woman Are one. 
A man and a woman and a blackbird Are one. 
I do not know which to prefer, 
The beauty of inflections Or the beauty of innuendoes, 
The blackbird whistling Or just after. 
Icicles filled the long window With barbaric glass. 
The shadow of the blackbird Crossed it, to and fro. 
The mood Traced in the shadow An indecipherable cause. 
On thin men of Haddam, 
Why do you imagine golden birds? 
Do you not see how the blackbird 
Walks around the feet Of the women about you? 
I know noble accents And lucid, 
escapable rhythms; 
But I know, too, 
That the blackbird is involved In what I know. 
When the blackbird flew out of sight, 
It marked the edge Of one of many circles. 
At the sight of blackbirds Flying in a green light, 
Even the bawds of euphony Would cry out sharply. 
 He rode over Connecticut In a glass coach. 
Once, a fear pierced him, 
In that he mistook The shadow of his equipage For blackbirds. 
The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying. 
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing And it was going to snow. 
The blackbird sat In the cedar-limbs.
-Wallace Stevens

Now came still evening on, and twilight gray 
Had in her sober livery all things clad; 
Silence accompany'd; for beast and bird, T
hey to their grassy couch, these to their nests, 
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale; 
She all night long her amorous descant sung; 
Silence was pleas'd. 
Now glow'd the firmament With living sapphires; 
Hesperus, that led The starry host, 
rode brightest, till the moon,
Rising in clouded majesty, 
at length.Apparent queen unveil'd her peerless light, 
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw.
Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die, 
Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.
~Langston Hughes

a hd versa tube
Eagle Sculpture
inspired by McQueen & Blow's mutual love of ornithology
Spring2008 Collection

 'My relationship with McQueen began in 1994, when I went to a Saint Martins graduate show. I couldn't get a seat, so I sat on the stairs and I was just watching, when I suddenly thought: I really like those clothes, they are amazing. It was his first collection.‘It was the tailoring and the movement which initially drew me to them. I tried to get hold of him and I kept calling his mother, but he was on holiday.She kept saying: 'He's not here, he's not here.' She told him: 'This crazy person is trying to get hold of you.' I eventually got to meet him and I decided to buy the collection: I bought one thing a month and paid him £100 a week. He'd bring an outfit in a bin liner, I'd look at it and then he'd come to the cashpoint with me.'
~ isabella blow

The stripped and shapely Maple grieves 
The ghosts of her Departed leaves. 
ground is hard, As hard as stone. 
The year is old, The birds are flown.

Sonnet: To a Child 
Sweet is your antique body, not yet young; 
Beauty withheld from youth that looks for youth; 
 Fair only for your father. Dear among Masters in art. 
To all men else uncouth; Save me, who know your smile comes very old, 
Learnt of the happy dead that laughed with gods; 
For earlier suns than ours have lent you gold; 
Sly fauns and trees have given you jigs and nods. 
But soon your heart, hot-beating like a bird's, Shall slow down. 
Youth shall lop your hair; And you must learn wry meanings in our words. 
Your smile shall dull, because too keen aware; 
And when for hopes your hand shall be uncurled, 
Your eyes shall close, being open to the world. 
~Wilfred Owens

McQueen images from Style.com


  1. please go and read Ulla's memories of her work with Alexander McQueen, it is a beautiful tribute to the designer and it is what makes her blog Model's Own one of my daily read.

  2. What a beautiful elegy. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. The last poem certainly brought a tear to my eys - a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary creative genius.


  4. This is beautiful, your whole blog is beautiful.
    Thank you

  5. Blow, McQueen, its all so very sad, but your tribute, the images and the poetry, so moving.

  6. Exquisit post.
    So sad about Alexnder McQueen.

    My grandmother, the milliner, once took me to a supplier in Philadelphia called the south african feather company, long gone now. it was gigantic warehouse full of exotic feathers from the far corners, including birds of paradise! So very beautiful, and so very sad.

  7. I recently added myself to your blog and since have dropped in a few times, but this evening I wanted to express my gratitude in this post of yours.

    Apart from being enriched intellectually and visually, my memory is transported back to images of Aztec feather dress.

    Thank you.

    Wishing you a wonderful Valentine Weekend,

  8. la -
    This post is about as good as it gets.





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