Friday, October 25, 2013

Countdown to Halloween: Pumpkins Redux

"Pumpkin Time", H. Harring after Benjamin Champney for L. Prang & Co., 1872, via
It's about time we saw some pumpkins on this Countdown - so make sure you click the image above to get a good look at a chromolithograph of Benjamin Champney's "Pumpkin Time", from 1872, courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society. There's also a nice blog post on this image, here. But that's not the only pumpkin delight on offer today.

Also getting into the spirit of the season are Oxford Journals, who have put together a selection of articles from their archives that provide some spooky scholarly reading for Halloween - available here. Not to be missed there is Cindy Ott's article on the history of giant pumpkins. And if that whets your appetite, Ott is also the author of Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon, which I need to get hold of sometime soon. In that vein, The American Magazine - published in London in 1851 - has "A Couple of 'Whopping' Pumpkin Stories", here.

But that star of today's show is Henry Ward Beecher. In Eyes and Ears, his 1862 collection of essays, Beecher rhapsodised about "The Pumpkin Family" - which, he felt, was "in the situation of a hero without a poet or historian." Not for long:

Dwelling long on "the world's indebtedness to the pumpkin", Beecher also stakes a claim for the pumpkin's importance to world architecture: "What is the magnificent dome of St. Peter's but the highest development of that idea which you shall see expressed or hinted in every well-conditioned pumpkin!" And that thought leads him on to a Transcendental flight-of-fancy that also serves as a perfect complement to Champney's "Pumpkin Time" at the top of the page:
Let him, when the corn has been cut from the field, and the whole expanse is aglow with radiant pumpkins, sit him down, and like a true poet, letting the coarser substance of the scene subside, imagine himself gazing upon a city so far removed that its spires, minarets, and domes are in proportion to the objects before him. That single stem of corn is a spire, that clump of tall-growing reeds is a palace piercing the sky in many forms of tower, while golden domes glitter in wondrous magnificence as often as his imagination can transform a pumpkin into the ribbed orb of a stately mosque!
And if you enjoyed that, you might as well stick around for Beecher's essay on "Autumn Colors", which follows.

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