Colours

It’s been a busy fortnight punctuated by a weekend reading Horace’s Odes II at Madingley Hall. I usually prefer prose and Horace is particularly difficult so this was a real challenge. Not having a narative was half the problem and the other half was finding the relevant parts of the sentence spread over several lines. One of the things I did appreciate was the range of grammar that seemed to occur compared with prose, in particular vocatives and futures. As discussion ranged over the poems the subject of colour arose because of the cultural aspects of its interpretation. We can all remember arguments about colour especially blues and greens or yellows, browns and oranges. The Tiber was described as yellow because,  like the Yellow River in China , of the yellow coloured soil it carries. I remember a friend who taught in Asia saying that children there coloured rivers brown. In fact rivers are rarely blue. Thinking of my local river,  it is anything but blue. Where it is clear enough to see the bottom it looks various shades of brown and orange but in other places it is more charcoal or even black.

But colours also have connotations. In British culture yellow is connected with jealousy. In Chinese culture red is associated with good fortune. I am interested in green because it seems to have been redeemed somewhat in recent years. Some people think green is unlucky. As well as its association with envy, it is also indicates sickness and immaturity or even naievety. Nowadays however because it represents the environment and environmentally friendly actions it has become a positive attribute.

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