God’s Education – Thomas Hardy – Comments

God’s Education

That haunted in her eye:
I saw him steal the light away
It went so gently none could say
More than that it was there one day
And missing by-and-by.

I watched her longer, and he stole
Her lily tincts and rose;
All her young sprightliness of soul
Next fell beneath his cold control,
And disappeared like those.

I asked: “Why do you serve her so?
Do you, for some glad day,
Hoard these her sweets–?” He said, “O no,
They charm not me; I bid Time throw
Them carelessly away.”

Said I: “We call that cruelty –
We, your poor mortal kind.”
He mused. “The thought is new to me.
Forsooth, though I men’s master be,
Theirs is the teaching mind!”

Thomas Hardy

This is a poem about grief combined with contemplating the here-after. There are four five line stanzas with questions and responses in the last two. The rhyming varies – ‘abbba, cdccd, ebeeb, fgffg’.

God and time steal beauty, people and life and Hardy regards God as a thief –‘I saw him steal the light away’. And Hardy has lost someone precious and not only that to someone that does not care! – ‘fell beneath his cold control’ and in response to his question ‘why do you serve her so’ there is a throw-away response to the beauty of life from an uncaring God – ‘They charm not me; I bid Time throw / Them carelessly away’.

These words are words of grief. Hardy has loved and known this person intimately and the thought that this person will disappear forgotten into the nothingness of time is just not his way of doing things! He instructs God accordingly reversing the teacher-role. Hardy is not the first person to argue with God and this is very healthy in that he uses his God-given intellect in such a way as to engender his own spiritual growth.

For those that do believe in a here-after. What form does it take? What form would you like it to take? I think an endless nothing is a sad reflection; surely we can use our imagination for a better outcome! A bit pertinent to tell God what to do but Thomas Hardy is quite happy to give education to our creator! And according to the last line of the last stanza God is appreciative of the advice – ‘theirs is the teaching mind!’

There are of course alternative positive poetic responses on the nature of God compared to those given by a grief stricken TH.

Thomas Hardy on Wikipedia.

 

Poetical Aspirations – John Keats (Sleep and Beauty)

From Sleep and Poetry
lines 47 to 84

O Poesy! for thee I hold my pen
That am not yet a glorious denizen
Of thy wide heaven—Should I rather kneel
Upon some mountain-top until I feel
A glowing splendour round about me hung,
And echo back the voice of thine own tongue?

O Poesy! for thee I grasp my pen
That am not yet a glorious denizen
Of thy wide heaven; yet, to my ardent prayer,
Yield from thy sanctuary some clear air,
Smoothed for intoxication by the breath
Of flowering bays, that I may die a death
Of luxury, and my young spirit follow
The morning sun-beams to the great Apollo
Like a fresh sacrifice; or, if I can bear
The o’erwhelming sweets, ’twill bring me to the fair
Visions of all places: a bowery nook
Will be elysium—an eternal book

Whence I may copy many a lovely saying
About the leaves, and flowers—about the playing
Of nymphs in woods, and fountains; and the shade
Keeping a silence round a sleeping maid;
And many a verse from so strange influence
That we must ever wonder how, and whence
It came. Also imaginings will hover
Round my fire-side, and haply there discover
Vistas of solemn beauty, where I’d wander
In happy silence, like the clear meander
Through its lone vales; and where I found a spot
Of awfuller shade, or an enchanted grot,
Or a green hill o’erspread with chequered dress
Of flowers, and fearful from its loveliness,
Write on my tablets all that was permitted,
All that was for our human senses fitted.

Then the events of this wide world I’d seize
Like a strong giant, and my spirit teaze
Till at its shoulders it should proudly see
Wings to find out an immortality.

John Keats (1795–1821).

Denizen – resident
Apollo – in Greek and Roman mythology, the god of prophecy, sunlight, music, and healing. He was the son of Zeus and Leto, and Artemis was his twin sister.
Elysium – in Greek mythology, the home of the blessed after death.
Meander – river with twists and turns
Grot – cave

The above are lines taken from his long poem Sleep and Poetry. The poem consists of a series of rhyming couplets. Note that the text breaks are my own splitting of these lines. He wrote this in 1816 at the age of 20.

JK regards poetry as a God to worship and hopefully there will be an answer to his prayer for recognition and service. To kneel upon some mountain-top until there is an answer a glowing splendour round about me hung. It is the duty then of the poet to echo back the voice of thine own tongue. The mystery of poetry is to respond to some voice heard from within the depths of the universe.

JK asks nature to smooth the Godly yield for his intoxication and so the young poet can follow the morning sun-beams to the great Apollo. It is as though he wants to provide a fresh sacrifice to the heaven that is poetry; and then be within the pages of the eternal book. That is if he does not succumb to the sweetness of the task at hand – can bear the o’erwhelming sweets.

He sees himself as a translator of the beauty of the natural world oblivious to how his message emanates from its source in the creation process – many a verse from so strange influence.

Imagination is everything as Einstein would equally agree. And JK delights at the thought of sitting by the fireside discovering a world of total enchantment but quite fearful from its loveliness. Then to write down all that could flow in appropriate words from such experience on to his tablets. Tablets to me implies a permanency for future generations to cherish and in the last line wings to find out an immortality.

And proud he will be to achieve his goal in life.

Here is a link to a companion piece ‘Ode on the Poets’

John Keats on Wikipedia

Meeting at Night – Robert Browning – Analysis

Meeting at Night

I
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

II
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

Parting at Morning

Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain’s rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.

Robert Browning (1812 – 1889)

These two poems go together. Initially, the first poem contained an extra stanza, and it was called ‘Night and Morning’ where the last stanza denoted the morning departure. Browning eventually split ‘Night and Morning’ into the above two poems.

Many have interpreted these poems in relation to Barret and Browning’s courtship. It certainly highlights an intense love affair that was highly secretive and Elizabeth Barret Browning’s father did not approve of Robert Browning or of marriage.

On the 10th of January 1845 Robert Browning wrote the following to Elizabeth in response to reading her work – ‘I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett … this great living poetry of yours … the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos, and true new brave thought … I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart, and I love you too’ then followed much communication in writing not meeting in person until 20 May. They eventually married in secret on 12th of September 1846 before eloping to Italy.  (Reference – Robert Browning – his life and work by F. E. Halliday)

Clearly the sentiments expressed in ‘Meeting at Night’ parallel his personal love journey.

The poem ‘Parting at Morning’ is worthily placed as a separate entity for it expresses the need to move on from the dominant emotive love feeling to the ‘world of men’ and everyday life. Life is perhaps the mix of the mountain top and the mundane.

Robert Browning on Wikipedia.

Recognition – Carol Ann Duffy – Analysis

Recognition

Things get away from one.
I’ve let myself go, I know.
Children? I’ve had three
and don’t even know them.

I strain to remember a time
when my body felt lighter.
Years. My face is swollen
with regrets. I put powder on,

but it flakes off. I love him,
through habit., but the proof
has evaporated. He gets upset.
I tried to do all the essentials

on one trip. Foolish, yes,
but I was weepy all morning.
Quiche. A blond boy swung me up
in his arms and promised the earth.

You see this came back to me
as I stood on the scales.
I wept. Shallots. In the window
creamy ladies held a pose

which left me clogged and old.
The waste. I forgotten my purse,
fumbled; the shopgirl gaped at me
compassionless. Claret. I blushed.

Cheese. Kleenex. It did happen.
I lay in my slip on wet grass,
laughing. Years. I had to rush out,
blind in a hot flush and bumped

into an anxious, dowdy matron
who touched the cold mirror
and stared at me. Stared
and said I’m sorry sorry sorry.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –
from her Selected Poems book

S1, S2 – This is a lady talking, seemingly a lady of that age where her children have left home and leading their own lives and a lady that unfortunately has let things go a little regarding her body and weight. She reflects back to the time when she was lighter and this appears painful for the word strain is used. Her weight problem may have affected her face or it is just painful to accept what has happened to her over time. She is in the process of coming to terms with the situation and hence the title recognition.

S3 – She can’t change of hide the situation with powder on the face. This is merely a superficial way of dealing with the change. She still loves her partner out of duty and it appears that sex is no longer happening – the proof has evaporated.

S4 – This is the start of a shopping sequence. Shopping is a dominant female duty in providing for the household and getting all the essentials can be regarded as a metaphor for life’s journey for she realises that she hasn’t got everything right on her journey and she is crying. Quiche is chosen against the thought of her partner’s unrealistic promise at the start of their relationship – a foreign word.

S5 – She may have weighed herself early in the morning before going shopping and this has caused her thoughts to go back to her slim figure of her younger years and generate tears. Shallots are chosen; well she could have chosen onions. She may have seen mannequins in a shop window (creamy ladies) and this has accentuated the difference when comparing the ideal with that of her own figure.

S6 – And then her predicament at the check-out when she can’t find her purse and the shopgirl shows no sympathy. Claret is such an appropriate item considering her blushing state.

S7 – Cheese for a smile and Kleenex for a tear. And that strong statement to herself that ‘it did happen’ (italics to give emphasis)– yes, she was happy once remembering a certain sexual instance Nice balance with the lack of sex in stanza three..

S8 – She rushes out of the shop. It is also menopause time. But she can’t escape who she is now and gives recognition to this fact in terms of – an anxious, dowdy matron – and she is so regretful saying sorry sorry sorry.

It is change of life time. The big question is – will she change her way of life and recover in some way and be more disciplined in the way she looks after her body. And having recognised the reality of where she is now will she forgive the past and look to a happier future. Is this going to be a turn around point in her life?

Carol Ann Duffy is the current Poet Laureate (since 2009 replacing Andrew Motion)

A Wikipedia link

Footnote … I participate in Parkrun and it is encouraging to see a number of over weight women starting to get back into exercise … walking is quite permisable … a free weekly event on a Saturday morning.

Good and Clever – Elizabeth Wordsworth – Comments

Good and Clever

If all the good people were clever,
And all clever people were good,
The world would be nicer than ever
We thought that it possibly could.

But somehow ’tis seldom or never
The two hit it off as they should,
The good are so harsh to the clever,
The clever, so rude to the good!

So friends, let it be our endeavour
To make each by each understood;
For few can be good, like the clever,
Or clever, so well as the good.

Elizabeth Wordsworth (1840 – 1932)

A classic poem identifying the two groups of people – the good and the clever, so here is a question – in what sense are the good clever and in what sense are the clever good? Goodness knows the clever response.

The Good – of upright and virtuous character
The Clever – demonstrating mental agility and creativity

I don’t like putting people into categories; giving dominant labels that colour other aspects of the  indidual. And the confusion in the last two lines gives voice to a cross classification – a nice way of obviating the way we view people.

Dame Elizabeth Wordsworth was the great-niece of the poet William Wordsworth. She was the Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, from 1878-1909, when she founded St. Hugh’s Hall, a college for poor female undergraduates, in Norham Gardens, North Oxford.

A Wikipedia link  to Elizabeth Wordswoth

Invictus – William Ernest Henley

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley (1849 – July 1903)

Invictus is Latin for unconquerable. This is a poem that gives emphasis to the personal spiritual power of the individual no matter the adversity. WEH wrote this poem when in hospital suffering from tuberculosis. The concluding couplet are those most well-known lines – ‘I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul’.

This poem is all about being independent, about taking full responsibility for your life in total control of your destiny. It is a statement to the strength within the individual to cope no matter the circumstances.

… for a detailed analysis of this poem visit – https://invictusexplained.wordpress.com/

And from Wikipedia …

William Ernest Henley was an English poet, critic and editor of the late-Victorian era in England who is spoken of as having as central a role in his time as Samuel Johnson had in the eighteenth century. He is remembered most often for his 1875 poem “Invictus”, a piece which recurs in popular awareness (e.g., see the 2009 Clint Eastwood film, Invictus). It is one of his hospital poems from early battles with tuberculosis and is said to have developed the artistic motif of poet as a patient, and to have anticipated modern poetry in form and subject matter.

Re – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Ernest_Henley

Footnote Invictus Games is a Foundation supporting those in the Forces recovering from injury by exercise and sport. Prince Harry, the new Duke of Sussex, and Meghan the Duchess are planning to attend the Invictus Games in Sydney in October 2018.

Journey into the interior – Theodore Roethke

Journey into the interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birch trees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

Theodore Roethke (1908 -1963)

Arroyo = a small stream of running water
Butte = flat-topped hill

About not being you
About all the wayside pitfalls in life’s journey
About being in the uncomfortable zone
About the frightening feelings when in the wrong place
About the danger when you veer from your own journey
About being a round peg in a square hole
About being beside yourself in fear
About nature giving a clear message
About the internal battle of self-discovery

This is a list poem with many images on the danger of losing yourself when trying to do the reverse. And reading this poem it is not surprising that Theodore Roethke suffered from depression. There is no easy solution – the ravines ugly.

My only thought on the long journey out of self is to do just that get out of self, out of the interior nightmare, and share and talk with another soul. We all need a ‘life-line’ at some stage to steer us into calmer waters. And if you are in such circumstances my thoughts go with you as you read these words.

Theodore Roethke on Wikipedia

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