Monday, March 6, 2023

Early 20th Century

Our series today is mostly from the 1920s, and it starts with a model named 
Dion Byngham posing as Dionysos, more often spelled Dionysus.



  1. Dionysos is the transliteration from the Greek Διόνυσος, Dionysus being the Latinate form, albeit that the Romans called him by his alternative name of Bacchus where the Greek again uses an omicron Βάκχος. The model's name is of note: Dion is an abbreviation of Dionysos, and is associated with Zeus, of whom Dionysos was a son. The model is therefore acting out his name. Byngham, with a "Y" and not an "I" places him socially just below the poet Rupert Brooke's left ear... all very Arts and Crafts and Bacchanalian revelry.

    1. I'm suddenly feeling a need to see Rupert Brooke's left ear. You don't have a picture by any chance?

    2. Well, in fact, in had two... this was why he became a member of the Bloomsbury Set, because you had to have a full set of ears to get in. By that flippant remark, I meant that he came, in fact, from solid, if educated, middle-class stock but whose talent took him to the very summit of society, where everyone was anyone preferred a "Y" to an "I" - which is perhaps the reason Oscar Wilde named one of his sons Vyvyan. The above photograph typifies absolutely the social class and Bohemian artistic circles he frequented. His literary legacy was, for his short time on earth, colossally influential. A loyal fan, Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, commissioned him into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary sub-lieutenant. In July 1917 Field Marshal Edmund Allenby - he of the liberation of Jerusalem - was informed of the death in action of his son Michael Allenby, leading to Allenby's break down in tears in public while he recited one of his poems. Brooke died in 1915 of streptococcal sepsis from an infected mosquito bite on the French hospital ship Duguay-Trouin, moored in a bay off the Greek island of Skyros in the Aegean Sea. There he was buried. Perhaps best known for his poems The Dead and The Soldier, it is Day That I Have Loved I think his best work:

      Tenderly, day that I have loved, I close your eyes,
      And smooth your quiet brow, and fold your thin dead hands.
      The grey veils of the half-light deepen; colour dies.
      I bear you, a light burden, to the shrouded sands,

      Where lies your waiting boat, by wreaths of the sea's making
      Mist-garlanded, with all grey weeds of the water crowned.
      There you'll be laid, past fear of sleep or hope of waking;
      And over the unmoving sea, without a sound,

      Faint hands will row you outward, out beyond our sight,
      Us with stretched arms and empty eyes on the far-gleaming
      And marble sand. . . .
      Beyond the shifting cold twilight,
      Further than laughter goes, or tears, further than dreaming,

      There'll be no port, no dawn-lit islands! But the drear
      Waste darkening, and, at length, flame ultimate on the deep.
      Oh, the last fire -- and you, unkissed, unfriended there!
      Oh, the lone way's red ending, and we not there to weep!

      (We found you pale and quiet, and strangely crowned with flowers,
      Lovely and secret as a child. You came with us,
      Came happily, hand in hand with the young dancing hours,
      High on the downs at dawn!) Void now and tenebrous,

      The grey sands curve before me. . . .
      From the inland meadows,
      Fragrant of June and clover, floats the dark, and fills
      The hollow sea's dead face with little creeping shadows,
      And the white silence brims the hollow of the hills.

      Close in the nest is folded every weary wing,
      Hushed all the joyful voices; and we, who held you dear,
      Eastward we turn and homeward, alone, remembering . . .
      Day that I loved, day that I loved, the Night is here!

    3. Fascinating, if tragic, story there. Fine poetry. Whenever I hear about the Bloomsbury set, Harry Daley, England's first openly gay policeman comes to mind. He had an affair with E.M. Forster who broke it off, calling Harry "appallingly indiscrete." How odd that a P.C. would be less worried about being outed than a noted author who moved in bohemian circles and wrote about hypocrisy and class differences. Oh, well. Forster went on to have a longer lasting relationship with another policeman named Buckingham who was married and probably more discrete as a result.

  2. It is so good to see very early photographs of naked men, and think that there were men who enjoyed taking those photographs. Men who appreciated the beautiful male body. I really like this young man.

    1. If you click on the 19th Century label in the column at right, some even earlier examples with come up.