Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Literary Tattoo

Three days ago I got my first ever literary tattoo.

'Byzantium I come not from' is the first line of the Ray Bradbury poem of the same name. I am not usually a fan of poetry but I really like this particular one. I've even memorised it. To me the poem evokes the feeling of a happy childhood and a good home both of which I was lucky enough to get. To me the tattoo also serves as a tribute to Ray Bradbury, a man whose books I really enjoy reading.

The tattoo is still healing which is why it looks a little red around the edges but I wanted to post a pic ASAP as I have no patience :o)

Here is the poem in full;

I come not from
But from another time and place
Whose race was simple, tried and true;
As boy
I dropped me forth in Illinois,
A name with neither love nor grace
Was Waukegan. There I came from
And not, good friends, Byzantium.
And yet in looking back I see
From topmost part of farthest tree
A land as bright, beloved and blue
As any Yeats found to be true.

The house I lived in, hewn of gold
And on the highest market sold
Was dandelion-minted made
By spendthrift bees in bee-loud glade.
And then of course our finest wine
Came forth from that same dandelion,
While dandelion was my hair
As bright as all the summer air;
I dipped in rainbarrels for my eyes
and cherries stained my lips, my cries,
My shouts of purest exaltation;
Byzantium? No. That Indian nation
Which made of Indian girls and boys
Spelled forth itself as Illinois.
Yet all the Indian bees did hum:
So we grew up with mythic dead
To spoon upon midwestern bread
And spread old gods' bright marmalade
To slake in peanut-butter shade,
Pretending there beneath our sky
That it was Aphrodite's thigh;
Pretending too, that Zeus was ours
And Thor fell down in thundershowers.

While by the porch-rail calm and bold
His words pure wisdom, stare pure gold
My grandfather, a myth indeed,
Did all of Plato supersede
While Grandmama in rockingchair
Sewed up the raveled sleeve of care
Crocheted cool snowflakes rare and bright
To winter us on summer night.
And uncles, gathered with their smokes
Emitted wisdoms masked as jokes,
And aunts as wise as Delphic maids
Dispensed prophetic lemonades
To boys knelt there as acolytes
To Grecian porch on summer nights;
Then wen to bed, there to repent
The evils of the innocent;
The gnat-sins sizzling in their ears
Said, through the nights and through the years
Not Illinois nor Waukegan
But blither sky and blither sun.
Though mediocre all our Fates
And Mayor not as bright as Yeats
Yet still we knew ourselves. The sum?

Post by Chris


  1. I love literary tattoos. I am getting my first tattoo in July and it will be from Homer's Odyssey: "Muse-sing for our time too."

  2. Love literary tattoos and the font/words you chose are perfect. Isn't Bradbury fantastic!

  3. Awesome tattoo! :) I LOVE literary tattoos.. they are the best!

    Which is why I love the blog, Bookworms with Ink.

    That is fantastic!
    I love your choice of script as well!

    When (read 'if') I ever finish my dissertation, I'm going to get the image of the compass from John Donne's "Valediction Forbidding Mourning" as a tattoo.


  5. @ Allie: That sounds like a great idea for a tattoo; what made you choose that particular line?

    @ AV: Thank you for your compliment :o) Yes, Bradbury is fantastic, my father introduced me to his writing and i've been a fan ever since!

    @ Rachel: I'm glad you like my tattoo :o) I've visited bookworms with ink several times and it is a good blog, another site worth a visit is contrariwise.org they have many literary tattoos there.

    @ Birdie: Thank you :o) i've tried to find an image of the compass from "Valediction Forbidding Mourning" but unfortunately I couldnt, if you have a copy i'd be interested to see it.


  6. What a great poem and tattoo! I've contemplated something ee cummings but never went for it. Maybe someday.

  7. Away to look up some more of this poets work, I loved this poem, very touching I thought.

    Our friend, a huge fan of Tolkien, has just had a littat (as he informs me they are called)done in elvish runes.

  8. Niiice! I like this!

    I'm desperate to having an 'All Art Is Quite Useless' tattoo since reading Dorian Gray but I have no idea where I'd have it done! Hrmm.

  9. I think you're very brave to get a tattoo. If I was going to get one, it would have to be something literary. Or, biblical. There's not much I'd want to wear forever.

    Thanks for visiting me today. Your blog is beautifu! I'd love to park myself right on that bench in your header; so peaceful.

  10. @ Marieke: Thanks, i'm sure one day you will find the perfect words to get tattooed, it just takes time. I'd wanted a literary tattoo for over a year before I found them.

    @ Petty: It's a wonderful poem and my favourite by far. I've ordered a book of Bradbury's poems so i'll post a review of it here once i've finished it.
    Elvish tattoos have become really popular since the 'Lord of the Rings' films came out i've seen plenty and even considered getting one myself a few years back but decided against it.

    @ Bethany: Just take your time, I was considering a literary tattoo for a long time before I got one. There is never any rush to get marked in ink forever! I like your idea though and if you like the book enough you should go for it! I found it great fun picking the quote, font and exact size and location, its all part of the tattoo experience.

    There are two books by Ina Saltz called 'Body Type 1 & 2' they are brilliant for inspiration as they are full of colour photos of typographic tattoos (some literary and some not) I found them very valuable and they gave me lots of ideas

    @ Bellezza: I have been considering something Biblical as well but there is so much in the Bible that means so much to me it's almost impossible to choose! One day I'm sure i'll choose something...

    Thanks for the compliments. Jess chose the picture of the bench so I can't take any credit!

    By Chris

  11. What a clever tattoo. My first tatto was a sagittarius symbol, btu if I ever got another it would be book related. having said that, I will never get another because I am a big baby and don't ever want to experience that pain again!

  12. Gorgeous tattoo!

    I got my first literary tattoo about a month ago. Its a quote from As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, I had been wanting it for well over a year, and finally plucked up enough courage to have it done :) (it was NOT as sore as I had imagined it would be).

    Really love your blog - first-time visitor!