My Shadow – Robert Louis Stevenson – Comments

My Shadow

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894)

We all remember ‘Treasure Island’, and ‘Kidnapped’ but few think of Robert Louis Stevenson in terms of poetry. I came across this poem as a child at primary school. A great example for children on personification. A very simple poem that is easy to memorise.

It made the children take an interest in their shadow if they had not already done so. And the fact that a shadow is always part of person and is a bit of a coward being unwilling to be independent – I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me! ‘Nursie’ speaks of the period when privileged children often had a nurse to care for them at home.

Looking back I think one appeal was because the shadow was allowed to be naughty. It was acceptable for the shadow to stay in bed and not be at school; what else could it do on a cloudy day. And the children in class were frequently told to behave so they liked the shadow and they liked the fact that it was a little lazy and stayed at home in bed.

Robert Louis Stevenson on Wikipedia

The Hour is Lost – John Shaw Neilson – Comments

The Hour is Lost

The hour is lost. Was ever hour so sweet?
Fruitful of blessing, friends and honeyed words —
The sunlight in our faces — at our feet
The world bright, beautiful, its flocks and herds,
Foliage of forests, choruses of birds . .
O happy time, why did we stand downcast?
We should have leapt for love: but now, the hour is past.

The hour is lost. Scarce had we time to mark
The glory of the green, the sky’s soft blue;
It came as silently as comes the dark,
Our hearts burned hot within us ere we knew . .
Then suddenly we said, Can it be true
This golden time was ours? — and now downcast
We stand dumb and amazed. Alas! the hour is past.

John Shaw Neilson (1872 -1942)

This sonnet is broken into two distinct seven line stanzas with rhyming scheme ‘ababbcc’.

If we think of life as condensed into an hour then we realize the brevity of our existence.

S1 … When we look back on life as the hour completes then according to the first stanza we may regret not making the most of our time. Life is beautiful, the world is beautiful, friends have been wonderful with honeyed words, nature has been bright before our eyes – did we not see that! We should have leapt for love!

S2 … Time has gone so quickly and our sight has been blinkered by our downcast attitude. We stand dumb and amazed that we did not appreciate the beauty of life to the full. Perhaps we are experiencing the beauty of life for the first time, and then a sad lament that it is late in life and ‘our hour’ could have had more meaning.

So whether you have a few minutes or half an hour or more take time to rejoice and live life to the full in appreciation of your own unique personal experience. Colour the gravity of those bleak news headlines with optimistic eyes seeing beyond the dark shadows to the bright amazing world that abounds around us!

Here are the links to two well know carpe diem (seize the day) poems –

From A. E. Housman …
https://mywordinyourear.com/2018/10/05/loveliest-of-trees-a-e-housman/

And from Andrew Marvell …
https://mywordinyourear.com/2019/01/14/to-his-coy-mistress-andrew-marvell/

Sonnet V – Edna St. Vincent Millay – Comments

Sonnet V

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again–
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbour in a subway train,
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man–who happened to be you–
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud–I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place–
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950)

A sonnet with rhyming scheme ‘abab cdcd efef gg’ with a clear volta breaking the text into the notice of a death and the corresponding effect on the person hearing the news.

There is an ‘if’ about this poem – If I should learn. But it strikes me as being close to the experience of many who have suddenly been made aware of an unexpected death. Recently I was informed of the death of a friend who had limited life but it was quite unexpected that death would arrive quickly and I was immediately stunned by the news. It took me quite awhile to refocus and become emotionally stable enough in order to share with others who knew her.

The poem relates to such a notification but in a public place and by the chance reading of the back page of a paper being read by a fellow traveller on the seat opposite. It is up to the reader to infer the extent of personal connection with the death. We do not know whether it is a close family member or a work college not seen for several years. I have that feeling it might have been someone from the past such as a previous lover. I think there was quite a depth in the relationship with the ‘you’ in the text.

But this is irrelevant for the poem describes the catering of the emotional shock by a somewhat artificial concentration on the station lights and other text on the back of the paper. Self-control is evident in not wishing to draw attention from others on the train. But perhaps this represents an immediate internalisation of the death in coming to terms with the sudden shock unexpected news. It does not, of course, preclude a private emotive release a little later and under different circumstances.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American poet and playwright.  She received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923,  and she was known for her feminist activism.  A link to her on Wikipedia.

Love’s Coming – John Shaw Neilson – Analysis

Love’s Coming

Quietly as rosebuds
Talk to thin air,
Love came so lightly
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as lovers
Creep at the middle noon,
Softly as players tremble
In the tears of a tune;

Quietly as lilies
Their faint vows declare,
Came the shy pilgrim:
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as tears fall
On a wild sin,
Softly as griefs call
In a violin;

Without hail or tempest,
Blue sword or flame,
Love came so lightly
I knew not that he came.

John Shaw Neilson (1872 -1942)

This simple poem concentrates on one aspect of ‘Love’ namely that it is of an imperceptible quiet background nature. Latent to life but not readily recognised.

The four four line opening stanzas are a poetic transfer of this thought in terms of rosebuds, lovers, lilies and tears. The emphasis is on ‘quiet’ the first word of each opening line. The second and last lines of these stanzas rhyme and in a way a ‘list’ introduction.

It is a case of hearing or not hearing love’s coming as it gives subtle voice to its underlying existence. Love’s coming requires an acute sensitivity for any awareness.
There is no fanfare – without hail or tempest.

And the last stanza states that perhaps recognition is only known in retrospect. Love came so lightly / I knew not that he came. It is personified as masculine, I think feminine would be more appropriate given the quiet soft nature described. Perhaps when we look back on life we see how we have been cared for in terms of our spiritual understanding of life.

Now God and ‘Love’ are often equated. If this is the case then perhaps God has a similar subtle positive imperceptible influence on life as it evolves. Many believe that God created the world. However, some think that God then sat back on a cloud and switched to a different channel!

A link to John Shaw Neilson on Wikipedia

It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free – Wordsworth – Comments

It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year;
And worshipp’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

William Wordsworth

Evenings always seem to be a special time of the day. And Wordsworth is totally absorbed in the beauty of the evening, breathless in adoration.

But this is a very special time for Wordsworth for he is in France walking the beach with his illegitimate daughter not seen since he left Paris at the time of the French Revolution. She would be about twelve years of age.

The lines …

                     Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
                     And doth with his eternal motion make
                     A sound like thunder—everlastingly

… obviously relate to the background of the sea … but Wordsworth is in reflective philosophical mode as he is stunned by the beauty of nature and equally the mighty Being could refer to the creator noting that Being is capitalised.

At the Volta the last six lines of the sonnet reflect on the nature of a child who is untouched by such thought. But none the less the child lies in the care of God though she may not know it. Reference is made to ‘Abraham’s bosom’ and a religious heritage of connectivity. Abraham being the common patriarch of three religions.

No matter the mental capacity of a person in an understanding God and independent of age God is there in a supportive role – especially for children. Well, I belief in a caring God for all. A great pillar of support to have such belief.

The Sabbath … is an ‘evening to evening’ observance … more details via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath_in_Christianity

However, there is nothing to stop us having a quiet holy time whenever in communication with God and creation – whether ‘a thank you for just the joy of life’ or for any other personal reason.

 

Why I Wake Early – Mary Oliver – A tribute

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019)

Mary Oliver died on 17 January. She was an American poet who won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. The New York Times described her as ‘far and away, America’s best-selling poet’.

This short poem is a tribute to her wonderful sun-life philosophy. She was, like Emily Dickenson, not one for the limelight. It is not easy to start each day with the sun in your eyes and to say thank you, thank and treat each day anew in such a disciplined positive way. But the dear star defines life and recognition is quite appropriate even if there is a cloud in the sky.

Here is a fitting link to a tribute from Alan Storey (Methodist Minister of Cape Town, South Africa) …
https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2019-01-22-finally-comes-the-poet-a-tribute-to-mary-oliver/

Mary Oliver on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Oliver

Red Rock Headland

red rock headland

The base of Red Rock Headland, Red Rock New South Wales

Red Rock Headland

the first thing you should know
about Red Rock, that is
it’s not Red Rock
Blood Rock is the name
and blood rock it will remain

the sea took up its charge
lovingly far-away
to a place remote, deep
to gracefully nurture
both mother and child
who now rest at peace
in the bosom of her silence

but the sea will never forget
her anger never assuaged
and in indefatigable red rage
continually pit relentlessly
against this headland

for at this headland human flesh
was wantonly herded into her arms
and so, spitting indignation
the surge of a disquiet spray
washes the blood rock red
immovable rock, red rock,
blood rock
for all to witness
a permanent reminder

The NSW National Park memorial plaque on Red Rock Headland …

plaque

In memory of the victims and survivors of the Blood Rock Massacres. Understanding their sacrifice will make us stronger. We as Gumbaingirr people have survived many conflicts over ownership of our traditional lands including a massacre where many were driven off the headland at Red Rock (Blood Rock)

When we checked in at the camp ground I mentioned that I would be walking up to the headland. The receptionist told me it was really ‘Blood Rock’ and told me the history. In the development of Australia there was a lot of pain associated with the mis-treatment of the indigenous population. This must be recognised no matter how uncomfortable.

This poem was included in the latest anthology publication of the ‘Yass Valley Writers’.

Richard Scutter

Old Botany Bay – Mary Gilmore

Today is Australia Day, the 26th of January, the day that the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove. Botany Bay was the designated settlement for the first fleet when it arrived in 1788. It was a settlement intended for the transport of convicts but Govenor Phillip deemed it unsuitable and moved to Port Jackson, Sydney Cove. James Cook had previously landed on the southern banks of Botany Bay, on Sunday 29 April 1770.

Old Botany Bay

“I’m old
Botany Bay;
stiff in the joints,
little to say.

I am he
who paved the way,
that you might walk
at your ease to-day;

I was the conscript
sent to hell
to make in the desert
the living well;

I bore the heat,
I blazed the track-
furrowed and bloody
upon my back.

I split the rock;
I felled the tree:
The nation was-
Because of me!

Old Botany Bay
Taking the sun
from day to day…
shame on the mouth
that would deny
the knotted hands
that set us high!

Mary Gilmore (1865 – 1962)

And this poem clearly celebrates the convicts that made Australia through their hard work. And if it had not been for convicts there would not have been a developed Australia in the first place; at least not by the British.

The key words in this poem are ‘knotted hands’ – their hands made to work but hands that were not free. A day to remember the convict heritage that began the journey in the development of Australia.

Botany Bay became associated in England as the place where convicts were destined even though it was not used as a penal settlement. And that well known song ‘Botany Bay’ was oftten sung in relation to those unfortunates bound for Australia …

Farewell to old England for ever,
Farewell to my rum coes as well,
Farewell to the well-known Old Bailey

Singing too-ral-li, oo-ral-li, addity,
Singing too-ral-li, oo-ral-li, ay,
Singing too-ral-li, oo-ral-li, addity,
And we’re bound for Botany Bay.

See … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botany_Bay_(song)

And some more words from Mary Gilmore (from ‘The Passionate Heart’ 15 February 1919) celebrating those that developed Australia who are now at rest with God … or working with God under more favourable conditions!

Even the old, long roads will remember and say,
“Hither came they!”
And the rain shall run in the ruts like tears;
And the sun shine on them all the years,
Saying, “These are the roads they trod” —
They who are away with God.

Mary Gilmore had a long and very interesting life … a great thinker far beyond her times. She remains current when you use an Australian $10 note.

A link to Mary Gilmore on Wikipedia.

The history behind Botany Bay.