Felix Randal – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Felix Randal

Felix Randal the farrier, O is he dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it, and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?

Sickness broke him. Impatient, he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!

This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;

How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)

S1 … Felix Randal was a member of Hopkins’ congregation when a minister (priest) in Liverpool, England. So Hopkins gets the news that Randal is dead and therefore his duty as a priest is over. GMH obviously watched the decline of the big-boned handsome farrier as four disorders took control of his body.

S2 … Randal was impatient at the onset of the sickness wanting to get rid of it as it naturally hindered his normal life. But a heavenlier heart helped mend the situation implying a spiritual dimension developed by church involvement under the guidance of GMH – ‘I had our sweet reprieve and ransom / Tendered to him’ – communion.

S3 … Touch and talk helped in his ministration and GMH was very touched himself with the sorry state of the farrier. Sickness endears us to both the individual concerned and the sickness itself. Sickness creates a very personal intimacy between people.

S4 … And there is such a contrast GMH remembering back to the boisterous years when the farrier was well.

We are all touched by similar circumstances in life.

Gerard Manley Hopkins on Wikipedia 

Drowning is not so pitiful – Emily Dickinson

Drowning is not so pitiful

Drowning is not so pitiful
As the attempt to rise.
Three times, ‘t is said, a sinking man
Comes up to face the skies,
And then declines forever
To that abhorred abode

Where hope and he part company,—
For he is grasped of God.
The Maker’s cordial visage,
However good to see,
Is shunned, we must admit it,
Like an adversity.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

This is all about accepting death when death is inevitable. It is part of human nature to fight for survival. So is our attempt to maintain life to the very end pitiful.

Dylan Thomas has a villanelle in the opposition direction as portrayed by the first lines of his well-known poem – ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. He commands us to rage against impending death – ‘Old age should burn and rave at close of day’.

The question is when to be accepting of approaching death and view death not as an adversity but as a welcome friend. There is a time to be submissive and a time to burn and rave to squeeze the most out of life. Only at the very last is the former more appropriate – a matter of judgement.

The ED poem implies that death will be the meeting of the cordial visage of our creator. We are inclined to be negative despite the great goodness in God. But didn’t the bible say something along the lines that each hair on your head is of concern and not to be afraid. So do do not worry if you are having a bad hair!

I have taken a view in line with Emily Dickinson in my reply below to the Dylan villanelle, however I have taken a more gentle approach, rather than the pitiful reproach of Emily Dickinson –

Go Gentle and Enjoy Your Last Day

go gentle and enjoy your last day
focus not on the loss of your sight
give a smile as you pass quietly away

a wise man knows how to play
knows exactly what is indeed right
go gentle and enjoy your last day

a good man accepts the pathway
as he enters the door of the night
give a smile as you pass quietly away

a brave man shows strong display
knows it useless in giving a fight
go gentle and enjoy your last day

a grave man will rise up to say
‘the end is turning quite bright’
give a smile as you pass quietly away

so to all I earnestly pray
savour the disappearing light
go gentle and enjoy your last day
give a smile as you pass quietly away

Richard Scutter

… A link to Emily Dickinson on Wikipedia.

 

Garden Eyes – ‘My Word in Your Ear’ Poetry Collection

Garden Eyes

walking through her garden eyes
clouds depart to clear the way
flowers in sunlight cause surprise

into a world that mystifies
pretty shades come out to play
walking through her garden eyes

dandy smiles and dainty sighs
dance the breeze in disarray
flowers in sunlight cause surprise

depth of colour intensifies
gleaming joyous with the day
walking through her garden eyes

teasing the mind to tantalize
different faces have their say
flowers in sunlight cause surprise

carefree letting the path decide
wandering in thought I dream away
walking through her garden eyes
flowers in sunlight cause surprise

This villanelle is the first poem in my poetry collection ‘My Word in Your Ear  – selected poems 2001 – 2015’. The poem is dedicated to my wife, partner, and critic Maureen.

Here is my audio recording … 

And many thanks to the Australian singer Fiona Jones who used the poem as lyrics to a musical rendition; here is her recording …  

The following is a link to the Ebook version … MWIYEEdition2 

For any who take time out to read I hope you find something to entertain and stimulate the mind.

Cheers Richard  Scutter May 2018

War Baby – Pamela Holmes

It is Anzac Day today in Australia (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.) Too often we hear male oriented war poems. Here is a poignant poem from the home front, from the other side of the equation.

War Baby

He has not even seen you, he
Who gave you your mortality;
And you, so small, how can you guess
His courage, or his loveliness?

Yet in my quiet mind I pray
He passed you on the darkling way –
His death, your birth, so much the same –
And holding you, breathed once your name.

Pamela Holmes

Pamela Holmes was educated at Benenden School, Sussex. Her husband, Lieutenant F.C. Hall, was posted missing believed killed in December 1942. Their daughter was born four months after his death.

From ‘Poetry of the Second World War’ selected by Edward Hudson, with a preface by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire V.C.

Life continues.

Anzac Day …  a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping.

My Home – Clive James – Analysis

My Home

Grasping at straws, I bless another day
Of having felt not much less than alright.
I wrote a paragraph and put some more
Books in a box for books to throw away.
Such were my deeds. Now, short of breath and sore
For all that effort, I prepare for night,
Which occupies the window, as I climb
The stairs. A step up and I stand, each time,

Posed like the statue of a man in pain,
Although I’m really not: just weak and slow.
This is the measure of my dying years:
The sad skirl of a piper in the rain
Who plays “My Home” If I seem close to tears
It’s for my sins not sickness. Soon the snow
Will finish readying the ground for spring.
The cold, if not the warmth that it will bring,

Is made, each day, to clearly manifest
I thank my lucky stars for second sight.
The children of our street head off for school
Most mornings, stronger for their hours of rest.
Plump in their coloured coats they prove a rule
By moving brilliantly through white light:
We fade away, but vivid in our eyes
A world is born again that never dies.

Clive James (1939 –

This poem was the last poem in the anthology “Best Australian Poems – 2014” edited by Geoff Page: appropriately positioned. There are three eight line iambic pentameter stanzas with rhyming scheme ‘abcacbdd’. As usual  CJ is very respectful of form and structure in his work.

CJ is nearing the end of his life and this has been the case for several years now. As indicated in the text he is not in pain but he has breathing problems and consequently his mobility is limited – the first line could easily be ‘G(r)asping at straws, I bless another day’ – and the simple task of walking up the stairs is a great effort as he has to rest after each step – ‘A step up and I stand, each time’.

The ‘sad skirl’ (shrill whirling sound) of the lone piper playing ‘My Home’ – which is a reference to a traditional Scottish or Northumbrian pipe tune. It is used by military bands as a march past, but a slow march contrasting with quick march pasts such as “Highland Laddie” (information from Wikipedia).

For obvious reasons the spring will be cold for CJ as he anticipates the imminent closure of his life. And reflecting on his life there are regrets defined by his ‘sins’ – perhaps chosen for the s alliteration in this line.

The key to his mental outlook is in the line – ‘I thank my lucky stars for second sight.’ For CJ is referring to his new life in his modified state on approaching death. Ironically it is a golden time for him and he is very thankful that he has this second sight or second chance to look at life from quite a different perspective. Another of his poems is illustrative of this fact see ‘The Japanese Maple’ 

And sight and light are seen in the last stanza in double capacity. For CJ light is fading compared to the children who are ‘brilliantly walking in white light’ for they are the on-going metaphor for the eternal life cycle – ‘A world is born again that never dies’ – and this fact (rule) is ‘vivid in our eyes’. A nice way of putting it by using the word ‘rule’ which associates with school and learning.

And ‘My Home’ gives thought to the duality of the physical place that is home and the spiritual connection to the home of eternal life.

 

Would I might find my country – Roland Robinson – Comments

Would I might find my country

Would I might find my country as the blacks
come in and lean their spears up in the scrub,
and crouch and light their flickering fires and spread
their mission blankets on the ground beneath
the dark acacia and bauhinia trees.

Would I might find my people as the blacks
sit with their lubras, children, and tired dogs,
their dilly-bags, their bundles of belongings
tied up in scraps of some old coloured dress,
and pass the long straight smoking pipe around,
and talk in quiet calling voices while
the blood deep crimson flower of sunset burns
to smouldering ash and fume behind the trees,
behind the thin grassed ridges of their land.

Roland Robinson (1912 – 1992)

Lubras – A female Aboriginal Australian (now an offensive term, just as the use of ‘blacks’)
Dilly-bags – is a traditional Australian Aboriginal bag, generally woven from the fibres of plant species of the Pandanus genus.

Roland Robinson was born in Ireland and came to Australia when nine years old. He had many different jobs including a roustabout and boundary rider, railway fettler, cleaner, horse trainer, fencer, and factory worker. He was a conscientious objector in WW2 and was sent to work on the railways in the Northern Territory. It was here that he spent many years working and endorsing the Aborigine life style. And likewise he was highly appreciative of the Australian landscape. He was the first white poet to listen to, and collect, the anecdotes and oral traditions of the Aborigine population.

The poem (a sonnet with a 5/9 split) has nice balance between the start of the evening fire and the closing burn of sunset. It is clearly a statement that the European life style is somewhat wanting compared to that of the Aborigine. Unless one has that heritage it is difficult to comprehend the depth of feeling for the land. Maybe if we had such association we would be far more concerned with environmental issues.

Roland Robinson on Wikipedia

At Shagger’s Funeral – Bruce Dawe – Analysis

At shagger’s funeral

At Shagger’s funeral there wasn’t much to say
That could be said
In front of his old mum – she frightened us, the way
She shook when the Reverend read
About the resurrection and the life, as if
The words meant something to her, shook, recoiled,
And sat there, stony, stiff
As Shagger, while the rest of us, well-oiled,
Tried hard to knuckle down to solemn facts,
Like the polished box in the chapel aisle
And the clasped professional sorrow, but the acts
Were locked inside us like a guilty smile
That caught up with us later, especially when
We went round to pick up his reclaimed Ford,
The old shag-wagon, and beat out the dust
From tetron cushions, poured
Oil in the hungry sump, flicked the forsaken
Kewpie doll on the dash-board,
Kicked the hub-caps tubercular with rust.

The service closed with a prayer, and silence beat
Like a tongue in a closed mouth.
Of all the girls he’d loved or knocked or both,
Only Bev Whiteside showed – out in the street
She gripped her hand-bag, said, ‘This is as far
As I’m going, boys, or any girl will go
From now on.’

Later, standing about
The windy grave, hearing the currawongs shout
In the camphor-laurels, and his old lady cry
As if he’d really been a son and a half,
What could any of us say that wasn’t a lie
Or that didn’t end up in a laugh
At his expense – caught with his britches down
By death, whom he’d imagined out of town?

Bruce Dawe (1930 –

Australian vocabulary
Shagger
One who shags – offensive term for sexual intercourse, a shagger is one known for this as a dominant attribute
Tetron – polyester
Shag-wagon – also referred to in the 1970’s as a sin-bin, typically a panelvan
Currawong – Australian bird
Kewpie – brand of doll

S1 lines 1-8 …
Essential enjambment in lines 7-8 stiff as Shagger
This is all about Shaggers mum and her attendance at the service … on a religious note there was nothing that could be said that was in positive character for the afterlife – so maybe a great disappointment in that regard as his mum visibly shook – showing a little distaste with the behaviour of her son
S1 lines 8-13
His young mates – well-oiled (nice way to say having had a few, considering the shag-wagon  description later – poured oil in the hungry wagon – well they were completely out of place in the church and the service … with no understanding as closed to them as Shagger was in his box
S1 lines 14-20
The mates taking care of the shag-wagon … such an apt description of the panelvan with great representation on the life of Shagger … love the image of ‘hub-caps tubercular with rust’ – the car dying in sympathy with the owner while his mates seem to have some guilt association with that life style, guilt promoted perhaps after being in Church

S2 – the service closure and – ‘silence beat like a tongue in a closed mouth’ – this sums up the whole situation – the locked from speech of all attendees who cannot give expression to their true feelings. But Bev Whitehouse is the only one of his girl friends to turn up and waits outside the church and aptly voices the end to any shagging from Shagger – ‘This is as far / As I’m going, boys, or any girl will go / From now on.’

S3 – Well, it is all about looking at the positives and negating anything that would be completely insensitive at the graveside and perhaps some distortion of the truth might eventuate. Later you can be honest with your mates at the wake and remember with more honesty and with a laugh. Of course Shagger may not have literally been caught with his pants down when he died but appropriate words for his untimely death.

This is such a period piece of poetry defining the Australian scene in the seventies.

More details on this poem

Bruce Dawe is an Australian poet, considered by some as one of the most influential Australian poets of all time.

And Bruce Dawe on Wikipedia 

God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 -1889)

What a powerful first line ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God’. The operative word is ‘charged’ as though the world is some amazing battery of energy and through some unfathomable process became alive – like an umbilical cord of love permeating existence with the grandness of God.  ‘Full’ would not do as an alternative word for ‘charged’ implies the ongoing dynamism of life.

The first 8 lines of this sonnet lament on searing, blearing and smearing – the way humanity has defaced the ‘grandeur of God’ and asks the question ‘why is this so’. The last of these lines give some reason ‘nor can foot feel, being shod’ – a loss of direct contact with nature. So what does this say about the world today with the increasing electronic dislocation with the physical.

But the concluding six lines give hope – ‘nature is never spent’ … and particularly the spirit of God (the Holy Ghost) is still a deep down saving force – ‘with warm breast and with ah! bright wings’. It is nice to end on an optimistic note!

It is Easter when many think of the link between humanity and God and traditionally a God external from the world. But that magnificent first line brings God firmly down to earth. Stephen Hawking in his book ‘The Brief History of Time’ suggests a possible scenario where the universe is a self-contained boundless system with no beginning and no end and he asks where does a ‘creator’ fit into the equation (if you excuse the pun). Well perhaps God has always been here and is very much an integral part in all life and the on-going evolution of the universe. So perhaps we should try more to work with God in the endless journey to improve the universe for all, not easy to do of course!

But Easter Sunday is a great day to just appreciate and celebrate the impressive beauty of our world. Enjoy today whether or not the sun is shining in your world.

More commentary on this poem 

… and my response to that first line

Gerard Manley Hopkins on Wikipedia