IDYLL: From the Aerie

A Prose-Narrated Video by Richard Kerry Holtzin


Note: At the start of the video are essential program highlights the reader may first want to read. Otherwise, the following information relates all other background details.

An introduction to Idyll: From the Aerie: The rudimentary draft of this composition on Nature got its start in 1968 during the latter part of my enlistment in the Navy, whose intermittent modifications over the years rendered a seeming final draft in Paris, France in 1983. Before I left that atmospheric City of Lights, I mailed a copy to Professor Ronald Watkins, in England, whose claim to fame, as a celebrated Shakespearean director, lecturer, and author, eventually earned him the Order of the British Empire. Hence, his legacy as “Sir Ronald Watkins.” (And long before that, I had studied the Bard’s plays and sonnets under his tutelage in the early 1970s. Since then he I became friends and his influence on my life was always profound.) It was a year or so later after I returned to the Colorado Rockies when I received a surprise package in the mail. Inside was a letter and a studio recorded cassette tape of my work. The professor casually mentioned in his correspondence that he thought I might enjoy hearing my work as an audible interpretation. In this case, his audible narration of Idyll in the veritable King’s English! 

Originally written in the style of poetic rhyming couplet, the draft was later changed to free verse and imagery. Over many years of rewriting Idyll’s portrayal of seeming ordinary and amending scenes throughout the day its expressive chronicle had evolved to seven-line verses, with an average of eleven or twelve feet per line (the overall meter). Each verse framed the conscious report of the composition, with a three-line followup meant to serve as a rejoinder. Thus, a subconscious report. Here is an example of both aspects:

     A solitary hawk flies into the ethereal vault, 
     turning on lithe wings that draw lazy circles. 
     Ascending ever higher into the azure dome, 
     and indistinguishable, like a small ebony dot, 
     the raptor resembles a silent spirit departing. 
     Then vanishes and reappears, again and again, 
     performing graceful ballet to unheard music. 

          It teases one to peer into that tunneling dimension
          where birds, like clouds, float along like cotton,
          one using effortless wing, the other effortless wind.

Here’s another sample verse:

     The sun had finally met and courted her west
     and eventide lingers lonely, then wanes.
     The mask of nightfall steals quickly its place,
     as though in waiting for the perfect moment.
     Countless high lighted lanterns begin poking
     scintillating eyes through a black tarp, one by one.
     Soon an inverted field of twinkling candles appear.

          Shimmering their starlight, I gaze back at them, through
          ephemeral worlds of time and time––to the collector of all
          time––where it all, somehow, must fall back upon itself.

Combined, the dialogue of the verses creates a medium and incentive of the narrative based on my own recount of similar observations over many years (and in different parts of the world). Hence, watching Nature’s affairs throughout an entire day, then later jotting down on paper what my senses perceived.

Using the enticement of imagery that abetted and embellished those observations (i.e., a florid use of purple prose), I was always indebted to Professor Watkins for his insights and instruction when applying imagery’s capacity meant to paint pictures by words and phrases. For this reason, I sent a copy of Idyll and thanked him for what he had taught me over the years (mainly through regular correspondence). Naturally, the greater credit was owed to William Shakespeare, whom the professor thought was the penultimate when applying figurative language to his plays and sonnets. 

Since our first meeting at the University of Colorado’s Mary Rippon Outdoor Theater, this soft-spoken man from Harrow-on-the-Hill was indeed instrumental in my life in many ways, and remains an influence even though he has since exchanged his Form for the Formless. My reason for sharing Idyll with him was also solely meant to demonstrate how much his guidance had helped me (as a writer), particularly employing the literary art of imagery throughout the text. 

The intricacies of Idyll’s import to my senses: Like a circle, this essay of meditative prose begins at a certain point in time and ends at the same point, only twenty-four hours later. As a chronometer measures moments, the effect on my gates of perception, including a fair amount of presentiment, by way of anticipation of diurnal changes of waxing and waning light throughout the day, was boundless and blissful. Curiously, and for the most part, a linear concept of time in Idyll’s report appears to be wholly absent. Almost from the start of composing this work, that is, the mental construct of recall that was later rendered in prose with a rhythmic meter, the narrative set its course on describing something extraordinary taking place before me––the sentinel ensconced in a provisional aerie––and where a seeming ordinary day in passing became extraordinary. In this light, eternity peeked through the ken of a prosaic and changing tableau, thereby presenting a whole other view of process and reality. Actually, a better way to say it is how a heightened sense of temporality was newly conveyed through a circular stream of transitory moments. As such, I was a witness to altering moods, and at some arcane level, I sensed something extraordinary had reached out to me or perhaps I let go and reached out to something else. 

To create the paradox of a synchronous and immutable vision within the context of ephemeral time, Idyll’s reliance on Impressionism conveyed through parlance is composed from an intimate stance; where typical gates of perception of seeing, hearing and feeling couple with imagination and intuition, then flows through the conduit of an unspoken discourse. As the narrative develops, the usually busy (thought prone) mind quietly drifts away, allowing a stream of consciousness to run its wayward course, while leaving only mental footprints behind––not thoughts. And so words and phrases, as mentioned earlier, really do paint pictures in the mind, thereby stimulating the imagination and stirring the soul.

The conceded profuse use of imagery that came to me in later rewrites of this work was the only way I could get at the marrow of describing prosaic events turned momentous, and for the sake of  illustrating a rarer exhibition of the life process many people are not aware of at a conscious level. That effort afterward produced a chronicle somewhat akin to the meter of iambic pentameter in the seven-lines of each verse (i.e., the conscious report). Given the moments in passing, I, as the observer, hitched a ride on temporality’s clock in two complete sweeps. Hence, effecting a discerning awareness of events, sans any attachment and expectation (as an outcome). 

On this note, when one is carried beyond the conscious self, then crosses over and into the looking glass, the effect elicits a wondrous circle of ad infinitum life experiences perceived in a simplistic way. Literally, a light-hearted and light-minded affair saturating the higher chakras. So it follows how the literary discourse this treatise shares with the reader encompasses the micro within the macro view. Specifically, the thematic development herein is based upon Nature, the Cosmos, as well as the intrigue of the unfathomable and Delphic Higher Self. 

Factors of etymology: Because of the tripartite merger implicit throughout this composition, Idyll’s motif is what it is meant to be: an eco cosmology, that is, a depiction of what’s essentially transmitted throughout its numerous verses. Derived from the Latin, cosmologie, and from the Greek, Kosmos, meaning “order” or world plus “logia,” as in discourse, the combination identifies the pivotal realms combined in Oneness. In other words, a Gestalt. As such, the caveat of each facet is mutually beneficial as a recurrent reflection from an overall source, which defines a life force (prana) derived from the singularity of a greater hologram. Yet another way to state this quizzical point is how the trinity of Nature, Cosmos, and the Higher Self forms a synthesis of a single identity. Each entity, therefore, represents its own ray emanating from this solitary (and unnamable) source, and some entities epitomizing a highly focused intent as willing subjects for the cognitive and spiritual transformation. Likewise, this motif suggests a Pantheistic philosophy, both Vedic and Western in origin, as well as inclusive of relevant notions found in the teachings of Ch’an Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism. To be sure, the lively mix of both Eastern and Western philosophies implied in Idyll’s rumination is not by accident or favoritism. 

In this light, I have spent many years studying and contemplating both academic disciplines, while also realizing only one apposite aspect about either perspective: the distillation of the extraneous and embracing the absolutely essential. Consequently, I came away from these casual or academic inquiries of the mind with the knowledge it is not the learning that counts, not even discovering answers that one might recover for the effort. Rather, it is the unlearning that nets the release of the conceptual aspects, and eventually abets the discovery of more fitting questions. Life is indeed a circle in all respects!

I-so-lat-ing Nature’s role in Idyll’s unfolding: The quintessence of Nature expressed in this prose work relates and refers to the phenomena of the physical world, as well as life (the process) in general or particular. The natural, physical or material world, as well as the greater universe, ranges in scale from the subatomic to the cosmic. Derived from the Latin word “natura,” meaning essential qualities or innate disposition, Nature so described throughout this essay on this facet of life and reality relates to the intrinsic characteristics of plants, animals, as well as all manifested features of the world. It follows how the physical universe is merely one of several expansions gleaned from the original notion of the word. But I prefer the more personal She when describing Nature’s process. Indeed, Nature has shaped my worldly view more than all the academic and experiential learning that has taken me to this point of time. And here I am reminded of something Blaise Pascal wrote: Nature is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere, and whose circumstances is nowhere. Ralph Waldo Emerson adds to this illustrative reminder where he wrote, A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and virtue, will purge the eyes to understanding her text. As though in answer to this pivotal declaration, Thomas Paine admonishes: Man must go back to nature for information. And Idyll: From the Aerie sets out to do just that.  

As previously noted, Idyll’s disquisition typecast of any kind (in my view, this is the case) has undergone many translations over many years. Moreover, each rewrite was akin to a renaissance intended to fine-tune the essay’s methodology conveyed by the chronicle from beginning to end, thence to a new, though unwritten, presumed beginning. Those revisions have not only helped shape the structure of this composition, but my life as well. So, in its own way, Idyll, and the matrix of its intertwined verses, represents a surrogate and ongoing journal of my personal life relative to an untold number of sojourns and consequential experiences that have helped define the basis of my Weltanschauung. In short, those periodic and serendipitous walks that I took down the block of life, all of which were inspired by a whim to go and see what was around the corner. 

The last major rewrite of this composition was in Paris, albeit there have been a few light edits over the years since those halcyon and Bohemian days in Paris, and my own renaissance that began in Georgetown, Colorado.

Richard Kerry Holtzin
Paris, France (1983)
Albuquerque, NM (2014 final revision)


He was a man, take him for all in all.
I shall not look upon his like again.
    “Hamlet,” Act 1, scene 2

Arthur Ronald Dare Watkins (29 August 1904 – 16 February 2001) was a teacher of drama and a director, noted for his work on Shakespeare and was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Throughout his long career, in stage productions, lectures, and writings, Watkins argued for the primacy of language in Shakespeare’s plays and attempted to discover and replicate how Shakespeare himself staged and produced the plays. /// Watkins was born in Kingston Hill, Surrey and educated at Eton and Cambridge, where he was a scholar, and gained a first class degree in Classics. He joined the staff of Harrow School in 1932, teaching English and Classics. In 1948 he married Margaret "Bunty" Watson Brown. /// In 1940 a German bomb severely damaged the Harrow Speech Room. When Watkins produced his first Shakespeare play––Twelfth Night––at Harrow School in 1941, the damaged stage lacked a proscenium curtain and stage lighting. Watkins turned these problems to his advantage, realizing that the minimalist conditions of his stage were similar to those of Shakespeare's own theater. Inspired by the work of John Cranford Adams, Watkins gradually transformed the Harrow Speech Room into an approximation of an Elizabethan stage. The Shakespeare productions became an annual tradition at Harrow, and between 1941 and 1964, Watkins staged 21 plays. In 1952 some of Watkins's former student actors formed the Old Harrovian Players, and this alumni company returned each year to present its own Shakespeare play at Harrow. /// In 1962 Watkins's friends David and June Gordon (Lord and Lady Aberdeen) invited him to direct a Shakespeare play at Haddo House, their country estate in Aberdeen, Scotland. The concert hall at Haddo House was converted into an Elizabethan stage, and Watkins put on a Shakespeare production there in alternate years from 1962 to 1970. /// Watkins retired from his teaching post at Harrow in 1964 and embarked on a 20-year career as a traveling lecturer, touring Europe, the United States, and Canada to promote "The Cause." In 1965 and 1967 he was visiting professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he directed a production of King Lear (1967) and received an honorary doctorate (1976). Watkins donated his library and personal papers to Wake Forest University in 1999. A celebratory event commemorating this gift was held in October 1999, and a Shakespeare in Education symposium took place at Wake Forest in August 2000. His association with Wake Forest began in the 1960s, when the university was a stop on his North American speaking tours. /// Watkins's publications include Moonlight at the Globe (Michael Joseph, 1946) and On Producing Shakespeare (Michael Joseph, 1950; reprinted by Benjamin Blom, 1964). He also co-authored, with Jeremy Lemmon, the series In Shakespeare's Playhouse. Watkins donated the manuscript of his final work, Why Not Ask Shakespeare? (Winston-Salem, NC: Stratford Books, 2002), to Wake Forest. The manuscript was edited by Professor Don Wolfe of Wake Forest University and published posthumously. /// Watkins was an ardent supporter of Sam Wanamaker’s project of reconstructing Shakespeare's Globe Theatre near its original site in London. Watkins was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1996 "for services to the Globe." Watkins died in 2001, at the age of 96.

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