Never again would birds’ songs be the same – Robert Frost

Never again would birds’ songs be the same

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds’ song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)

A rhyming sonnet with a break in thought after line eight.

He = Adam – I guess this would be assumed by must readers – a welcome to Eve who combats the loneliness of Adam …as shown by this text – an eloquence so soft could only have an influence on birds.

For contemplation – What did the voice of Eve bring to nature? How did Adam now view nature? Did nature actually change?

This poem gives contrast to the way Robert Frost explores loneliness in his poem ‘The Most of It’ … see my previous post for comments on this poem.

Robert Frost on Wikipedia

The Most of It – Robert Frost – Analysis

The most of it

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree-hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder-broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter-love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff’s talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.

Robert Frost (1874 -1963)

This is a twenty iambic line poem with rhyming scheme ‘ab ab’
talus – sloping fragments of rock

Lines 1-8 … wanting more from the universe
Having the universe to himself was not enough. He wanted more and what he wanted was the universe to talk back and not give the echo copy of his own words. He wanted more than what the universe could offer. He was obviously lonely and needed human companionship. He wanted something personal to counter his love for the universe and asks for an original response.

Lines 9 – 20 … the universe gives a response
This is all that nature could offer and this was not enough but it is an original response. A very poetic statement that man cannot live alone. Making the most of it is insufficient without human company.

More WordPress commentary on this poem … https://socialecologies.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/robert-frost-the-most-of-it/

Robert Frost on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Frost

 

At the Blind Bend

At the blind bend

It had been a hard journey –
a great flood, the odd earthquake
not to mention a few volcanos –
but reaching this blind bend
with the sky continually clouded
and the children coughing, I
thought the danger quite obvious
and a time to stop and think.

There had been many crossings
but this was different – a greater
understanding – and I was somewhat
nervous. The children held tight
for they too sensed that all was
not well – they have that intuitive
understanding in the blood – while
behind the masses murmured.

Then this person next to me said
‘everything will be OK – don’t worry’
a laid-back sort of fellow – you know
the type – and added ‘God willing
we’ll be right’. Another called out
‘Yes’, he said, ‘God will look after us’.
Then, impatiently, one by one they
started to cross in front of us.

Well I thought I’m dreaming –
this can’t be real – perhaps they
just closed their eyes to the
the danger – well it was quite
a mess I can tell you! Of course
we all went to help at once, to
try and clean up things – and the
children were crying.

Richard Scutter July 2018

It has been one of the driest Autumn-Winter periods on record in Australia and in England likewise one of the driest summers ever and in Tokyo extreme heat has been responsible for over a dozen deaths while in Sweden, Finland and the Arctic Circle unprecedented wild fires have caused extensive damage to the local natural environment. And while writing this post fires have been rampaging parts of Greece causing many deaths and three days of national mourning.

It seems our planet is getting a little warmer with extreme weather common; and not a time to ignore climate change or be complacent!

And of course it is always inappropriate to appropriate God in order to justify unthinking action.

One Art – Elizabeth Bishop – Analysis

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911 – 1979)

This poem is a villanelle consisting of five tercets rhyming ‘aba’ and a quatrain of rhyming ‘abaa’ Traditionally the lines are iambic pentameter.

The title One Art.

The title cannot be understood until reading the poem. If the way life to be lived is defined as the ‘The Art of Living’ and if this can be subdivided into countless components such as ‘The Art of Working’, ‘The Art of Communication’, etc. then perhaps one such component could be defined by ‘The Art of Losing’ and this is what life is all about and so too this poem – ‘One Art’ one very important art!

Looking at each stanza –

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Life can be regarded as a continual disappearance game as we lose things all the time – so this must be expected – it’s life! A villanelle as many repetitive lines so very appropriate to the nature of loss.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

We mislay things often and find then quickly hopefully and quite often these are things we use all the time like keys. Annoying and time consuming events that are just part of everyday life and not hard to master!

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

You meet many people visit many places and you lose them as they fade from current life. The question is – are they still latent in your life story. Perhaps of more importance to your thoughts are the places and people you have always been meaning to visit. This is a far different kind of loss because it engenders failure.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

No we start talking of those things of great value to who we are. Items of personal significance and places that have been are home through the years. We lose them as we move on but do not forget their significance or do we.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Then geography and countries and cities are condemned to loss. More so of course as you age and are confined to place after many years of experiencing travel and life in different countries. Elizabeth Bishop lived in Brazil for 15 years before her return to Massachusetts. Maybe not a disaster in that happy memories instils warmth to current life.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Here we end with the greatest loss perhaps – that of a close loved one; whether a partner or family member. And (Write it!) says with such emphatic voice that ‘losing’ is so hard.

This poem is the ‘Art of Losing’ and quite different from ‘The Art of forgetting’.

Elizabeth Bishop on Wikipedia

And an excellent analysis of this poem is on this Site

Excerpt from ‘Aurora Leigh’ – Elizabeth Barrett Browning – Comments

From Book 1, Aurora Leigh – Excerpt II

She liked a woman to be womanly,
And English women, she thanked God and sighed,
(Some people always sigh in thanking God)
Were models to the universe. And last
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty hands
A-doing nothing. So, my shepherdess
Was something after all, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for’t) leaning lovelorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet. By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you’re weary—or a stool
To stumble over and vex you . . “curse that stool!”
Or else at best, a cushion, where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not
But would be for your sake. Alas, alas!
This hurts most, this—that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.

… from Aurora Leigh (1856), Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s epic novel in blank verse, which tells the story of the making of a woman poet, exploring ‘the woman question’, art and its relation to politics and social oppression.

Aeschylus – the ‘tragic poet’ referenced in the text … he died when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head. The eagle thinking his head was something hard so that it would break the tortoise. He is regarded as the father of tragedy – see this Wikipedia link.

These words outline how difficult it was for a woman to take up anything outside of their homely role in the nineteenth century. Men continue to ‘dream of something we are not’. And the product of the homely life is regarded as of little meaning in relation to the need of women to do and be something else – in the case of Aurora Leigh a poet.

‘We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight, / Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir, / To put on when you’re weary’ – a cynical response to homely duties. It hurts most that woman are valued by this work which is nothing compared to the woman potential. So after all women are perhaps paid the worth of their work.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a hard life apart from her illness. Her father did not want any of his daughters to marry. And after the secret marriage to Robert and their elopement to France in 1846 her father disowned her and put all her possessions in storage. It was exceptional that she had the ability and the perseverance to develop her poetic voice. And she like Blake and Dickens was a great advocate for social change; especially in regard to the maltreatment of children during the industrial revolution.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning on Wikipedia.

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.