It probably deserves some explanation.
Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, notable for his work in fantasy published under the name Lord Dunsany. More than eighty books of his work were published, and his oeuvre includes hundreds of short stories, as well as successful plays, novels and essays.
Dunsany was a huge influence on H.P. Lovecraft, the (now) well-known American horror fiction writer. It was through Lovecraft that I found Lord Dunsany’s work, and I have been a fan of his particular brand of literary enchantment ever since.
“Come with me, ladies and gentlemen who are in any wise weary of London: come with me: and those that tire at all of the world we know: for we have new worlds here.”
― Lord Dunsany, “The Book of Wonder.”
His prose is dense but immensely lovely. I can fairly be accused of being a bit wordy at times, but I grew up admiring writers who were renowned for being florid. Perhaps no excuse, but still, it’s hard to not fall in love with such passages as:
“The witch approached it and pared its edges with a sword that she drew from her thigh. Then she sat down beside it on the earth and sang to it while it cooled. Not like the runes that enraged the flames was the song she sang to the sword: she whose curses had blasted the fire till it shrivelled big logs of oak crooned now a melody like a wind in summer blowing from wild wood gardens that no man tended, down valleys loved once by children, now lost to them but for dreams, a song of such memories as lurk and hide along the edges of oblivion, now flashing from beautiful years of glimpse of some golden moment, now passing swiftly out of remembrance again, to go back to the shades of oblivion, and leaving on the mind those faintest traces of little shining feet which when dimly perceived by us are called regrets. She sang of old Summer noons in the time of harebells: she sang on that high dark heath a song that seemed so full of mornings and evenings preserved with all their dews by her magical craft from days that had else been lost, that Alveric wondered of each small wandering wing, that her fire had lured from the dusk, if this were the ghost of some day lost to man, called up by the force of her song from times that were fairer.”
― Lord Dunsany, “The King of Elfland’s Daughter.”
“And Ulf said, “There sets, O King, a river outward from earth which meets with a mighty sea whose waters roll through space and fling their billows on the shores of every star. These are the river and the sea of the Tears of Men.”
And the King said:
“Men have not written of this sea.”
And the prophet answered:
“Have not tears enough burst in the night time out of sleeping cities? Have not the sorrows of 10,000 homes sent streams into this river when twilight fell and it was still and there was none to hear? Have there not been hopes, and were they all fulfilled? Have there not been conquests and bitter defeats? And have not flowers when spring was over died in the gardens of many children? Tears enough, O King, tears enough have gone down out of earth to make such a sea; and deep it is and wide and the gods know it and it flings its spray on the shores of all the stars. Down this river and across this sea thou shalt fare in a ship of sighs and all around thee over the sea shall fly the prayers of men which rise on white wings higher than their sorrows.”
― Lord Dunsany, “Time and the Gods.”
“And presently I discerned, though faintly, the souls of a great concourse of cities, all bending over Andelsprutz and comforting her, and the ravines of the mountains roared that night with the voices of cities that had lain still for centuries. For there came the soul of Camelot that had so long ago forsaken Usk; and there was Ilion, all girt with towers, still cursing the sweet face of ruinous Helen; I saw there Babylon and Persepolis, and the bearded face of bull-like Nineveh, and Athens mourning her immortal gods.”
― Lord Dunsany, “A Dreamer’s Tales.”
Dunsany is an influence on so much of what I consider to be the best of modern fantasy. J.R.R. Tolkien was influenced by Dunsany, as was Ursula K. Le Guin, for example. More recently, Neil Gaiman’s novel “Stardust” stands as a flat-out homage to Dunsany’s storytelling style.
So whence the title of this blog?
Dunsany was fond of reusing certain phrases. “The fields we know” are … well, here. This place we find ourselves. This world of imperfections, though at times he says it’s perhaps wise that we keep our proper perspectives and appreciate what we have.
“Beyond the fields we know” lie places of strangeness, beauty, danger and light. Vales of love, sorrow, hope and despair.
And wonder. Always wonder.
“To those who may have wisely kept their fancies within the boundary of the fields we know it is difficult for me to tell of the land to which Alveric had come, so that in their minds they can see that plain with its scattered trees and far off the dark wood out of which the palace of Elfland lifted those glittering spires, and above them and beyond them that serene range of mountains whose pinnacles took no colour from any light we see. Yet it is for this very purpose that our fancies travel far, and if my reader through fault of mine fail to picture the peaks of Elfland my fancy had better have stayed in the fields we know. Know then that in Elfland are colours more deep than are in our fields, and the very air there glows with so deep a lucency that all things seen there have something of the look of our trees and flowers in June reflected in water. And the colour of Elfland, of which I despaired to tell, may yet be told, for we have hints of it here; the deep blue of the night in Summer just as the gloaming has gone, the pale blue of Venus flooding the evening with light, the deeps of lakes in the twilight, all these are hints of that colour. And while our sunflowers carefully turned to the sun, some forefather of the rhododendrons must have turned a little towards Elfland, so that some of that glory dwells with them to this day.”
― Lord Dunsany, “The King of Elfland’s Daughter.”
I plan to use this space for several things. Maybe a few snippets of fiction, certainly longer-form essays that don’t fit well on social media. Mostly, it’s a place for my thoughts that I can better curate and tend.
I hope to share a bit more of myself, my real self, here. And I hope that you will find something you enjoy.
We all need a place of refuge, and I hope to make this one, far away from the ever-churning sea of social media, its tumult and fury. I find myself less and less interested in participating in the din.
And yet, I still want to share. And why not?
“A man is a very small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.”
― Lord Dunsany
One thought on “What does that name mean?”
His writing is so evocative. I can see his imagery so clearly. I’m going to look for his books.
Thank you for sharing and I look forward to more of your writing!
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