Demain, dès l’aube – Victor Hugo

Demain, dès l’aube

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Tomorrow, at dawn, at the hour when the countryside whitens,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
I will depart. You see, I know you wait for me.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
I will go through the forest and over the mountains.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
I cannot stay far from you any longer.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
I will trudge on, my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Ignoring everything around me, without hearing a sound,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Alone, unknown, back stooped, hands crossed,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Saddened, and the day will be like night for me.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
I will neither see the golden glow of the falling evening,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Nor the sails going down to Harfleur in the distance,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
And when I arrive, I will place on your tomb
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
A bouquet of green holly and flowering heather.

Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)

This is one of French writer Victor Hugo’s most famous poems. It was published in his 1856 collection Les Contemplations

Harfleur – was the principal seaport in north-western France for six centuries, until Le Havre was built about five kilometres downstream. The suffix fleur comes from Old Norse Flöthe meaning ‘estuary or arm of the sea’ – and not flower. The precise meaning of the prefix “har” is unknown.

It was written after the death of his daughter. A fully focused personal journey of communion. It is a very moving poem.

Here is a reading of the french with a musical background.

I took the translation from the internet. I would prefer some less literal minor changes … for example, in the last stanza –

I will neither see the golden glow of falling evening,
nor the sails going down in the distance at Harfleur,
and when I arrive, I will place on your grave
a bouquet of green holly and heather in flower.

However, I do love the french and nothing can equal the beauty of the original language.

Victor Hugo on Wikipedia … he will always be remembered for Les Miserables

Pluck – Eva Dobell – some ANZAC Day words

Pluck

Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seems to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.

A child – so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.

So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the ‘dresser’ drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.

But when the dreaded moment’s there
He’ll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.

Eva Dobell (1876 – 1963)

Today is ANZAC Day. The 25th of April is one of Australia’s most important national days. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli. It is a day of remembrance for those from both countries who have died in any wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Often war related poetry is from a male perspective. This poem by Eva Dobell is from firsthand experience as a nurse.

Pluck = spirited and determined courage and was certainly needed by many war victims in dealing with horrific wounds at an early age.

S1 – many nurses and medics have thoughts of this nature when seeing the horrors of the condition of their patients. However, recovery even in such adverse conditions is still possible and an on-going life possible albeit a very different life.
S2 – the irony that the soldier falsified his age in order take part in the war and fight for country while others were more circumspect. He was very young and probably out for adventure and without understanding.
S3 – He is about to be dressed and again he shows determined courage in not showing any weakness to the nursing staff.
S4 – He faces his bared wounds as a soldier with unmoved air but the nurse sees the tell-tale suffering undergone in his eyes as he smokes a cigarette. Woodbine was a brand that was cheap and popular with the working class and with soldiers during both World Wars. Smoking was acceptable in the recovery wards.

Eva Dobell on Wikipedia

And here is a link to previous ANZAC Day Posts including the Australian poet Judith Wright.

When All The Others Were Away at Mass – Seamus Heaney – Analysis

When All The Others Were Away at Mass
from Clearances III – In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives—
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

Seamus Heaney (1939 – 2013)

This is a personal poem on a precious incident between mother and son that will always be remembered. Both are engaged in a domestic task working in unison and perhaps of more importance is that they had the time together to share in potato peeling while the rest of the family was away at Mass. ‘I was all hers’ are key words as Seamus reveled at having a time of complete togetherness. And he had obviously seen solder melt and form droplets to fall away from the heated iron. And likewise when the potatoes were peeled they would fall and the splash would break the silence of their intense communion and bring them to their senses. You can easily picture this intimate scene.

The sestet lines are much later in the relationship when his mother is dying and the parish priest is in attendance. The priest is dominating the scene with much noise (hammer and tongs). Oblivious to the religious background Seamus remembers that one incident when he was closest to his mother – ‘her breath in mine’ marrying with the octet words ‘I was all hers’.

I think, for all of us, when we empty the purse of life we will treasure such gold coins among the clutter.

Here is a reading of this poem by Seamus Heaney.

This sonnet was chosen by the public (via a poll by the national broadcaster) as Ireland’s favourite poem of the last 100 years. Here is a link to the eight sonnets Heaney wrote in memory of his mother, Margaret Kathleen Heaney.

For a detailed analysis with images of mother and child see this link.

Seamus Heaney – An Irish poet, playwright and translator is widely recognised as one of the major poets of the 20th century. He is the author of over 20 volumes of poetry and criticism, and edited several widely used anthologies. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.’ He taught at Harvard University (1985-2006) and served as the Oxford Professor of Poetry (1989-1994). ‘Walk on air against your better judgement’ from his poem, ‘The Gravel Walks’ is inscribed on his headstone.

A link to Seamus Heaney on Wikipedia.

Easter Sunday Sunrise

Easter Sunday Sunrise

not just another day
another day of the same
of the no touch of distancing
of not being able to reach out in the community
of confinement to self
of being centered on the inside
not just another day
no!

this day is different
this day is the one day
the one day that opens into every day
the lifeline to eternal tomorrows
as our own tomorrow ending
is contemplated

Richard Scutter

Celebrate this special day with friends and family!

Emily Dickinson on Facebook – Pamela Milne

A U3A friend, Ian, introduced me to a very amusing poem by Pamela Milne that imagined Emily Dickinson on Facebook. He obtained it from this link.

In the poem Milne mentions Emily using a tinted/photo-shopped version of the one famous daguerreotype (early photographic process). Here’s just the thing By Debra Styer to go with the poem.

EmilyDickinson

Emily Dickinson on Facebook

She posts many times a day.
Often during the night and early morning.
Photos of spiders and flies on windowsills,
her garden seen through her bedroom window,
her new tulle dress, flowers in a simple vase.
No poems.
Anyone who requests to be her friend, she accepts,
but she never clicks the Like button.
She never comments.
She never responds to messages.
She joins no groups.
Every weekend she changes her cover photo:
leaves of trees and bushes, surfaces of water,
things seen so close up as to be abstract.
But her profile photo is always the same one.
Sometimes she does something to it in Photoshop –
a tint, a filter, sepia – but still, the same.
Emily.

Pamela Milne

Here are Ian’s comments from a recent U3A Poetry meeting –

The idea of the quintessential recluse Emily Dickinson choosing to be on Facebook sounds oxymoronic at first like … but of course social media, artfully used, is a godsend for the true recluse. Pamela Milne’s sense of how Emily would/wouldn’t use Facebook, how she’d make so much of small things in her necessarily small world, is exquisite. Perfect, even. I went “Gosh!” with admiration when I read it. I can’t find a biographical word anywhere about Milne…so if anyone knows anything about her…

I too could find nothing on the Internet so if I find out more about her this Post will be amended.

Well, seclusion is highly topical with the virus restricting many people to limited space. Emily Dickinson would have no problems adhering to the restrictions! Perhaps those poetically minded or those involved in writing that are in forced confinement can use the time to produce some work. Another thought is the maintenance of a diary. For all those reading this Post and in forced seclusion I wish you well.

And the people stayed home – Kitty O’Meara

Roses.png

And the people stayed home And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.And.in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Kitty O’Meara

This poem recently went viral so many have already read this untitled prose pandemic poem. I think the strong appeal is the positive optimism expressed, and seeing an eventual outcome in terms of a world healing – eventually a better place to live.

Staying at home has many positives outlined in the first stanza; a time for the world to stop and smell the roses. I like the thought of people meeting their shadows. To me this implied coming to terms with oneself, and a time for self-discovery, reflection and prayer.

The staying at home lifestyle could enable a change in thinking, and the world could start to be healed and the world could begin to progress in a healthier direction. In contrast perhaps by those who view the current status quo as a 24 by 7 all-expenses economic road to ruin?

But let it be known that the ‘old-world’, for all its people faults, was a beautiful place with marvelous people. And that the interim change despite world turmoil still emanates much beauty. And that the ‘new-post-pandemic world’ will be equally amazing. I hope you will be around to participate in that creation! I hope to join you!

The following background text on Kitty O’Meara was obtained from this link

Kitty O’Meara of Madison, WI … is the poet laureate of the pandemic. Her untitled prose poem, which begins with the line, “And the people stayed home,” has been shared countless times, on countless backgrounds, with countless fonts, since its first posting. It was most widely popularized by Deepak Chopra, and has since been shared by everyone from Bella Hadid to radio stations in Australia. The poem has become shorthand for a silver-linings perspective during the coronavirus outbreak—the hope that something good can come out of this collective state of “together, apart.”

Fittingly, the poem is proof of what O’Meara has chosen to do with herself while social distancing: Write. “And the people stayed home” was written in one sitting, the by-product of months of built-up anxiety while watching the pandemic brew on the news.
“I was anxious for the past few months. I knew this was coming and I couldn’t be of service,” O’Meara tells OprahMag.com. After years working in palliative care, O’Meara is especially concerned for her friends who still work in the health care profession and are on the frontlines of battling the virus.

“I was getting kind of sad. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t help my friends. I was very worried about them. My husband said: ‘Write. Just write again,’” O’Meara recalls.
So, she did. “I just kind of sat down and wrote it,” O’Meara says matter-of-factly, crediting “spirit” with the process. “I saw the maps of the receding pollution over China and Europe. I thought, ‘There you go. There’s something of blessing in all suffering.’ And I thought with my passionate love for the Earth, maybe that’s one good thing.”
Immediately after writing, O’Meara shared this poem with her friends on Facebook. “I post stuff like that all the time. I usually don’t get a lot of response,” O’Meara says. “But this found its niche.”

That’s an understatement; the poem resonated with people instantly. Soon, a Facebook friend asked to share the poem with her own followers, and within three days of posting, her husband, encountered the poem elsewhere on the Internet. Kitty O’Meara had officially gone viral.

The top image – Autumn roses from our Garden

 

The Afternoon Sun – C P Cavafy – Analysis

The Afternoon Sun

This room, how well I know it.
Now they’re renting it, and the one next to it,
as offices. The whole house has become
an office building for agents, businessmen, companies.

This room, how familiar it is.

The couch was here, near the door,
a Turkish carpet in front of it.
Close by, the shelf with two yellow vases.
On the right—no, opposite—a wardrobe with a mirror.
In the middle the table where he wrote,
and the three big wicker chairs.
Beside the window the bed
where we made love so many times.

They must still be around somewhere, those old things.

Beside the window the bed;
the afternoon sun used to touch half of it.

. . . One afternoon at four o’clock we separated
for a week only. . . And then—
that week became forever.

C P Cavafy (1863 – 1933)
translated by E Keeley

I liked this poem on a first reading. The last stanza had a poignancy that only comes from an intimate personal separation. Grief is rekindled by returning to a house and entering a specific room known well from years ago.

Looking at each stanza and the structure of the poem …

S1 – The first sentence tells it all – this room is significant. And the rest of the stanza states what unfortunately has happened to the house.

S2 – This one line stanza returns to the room, and the poet’s familiarity. It has its own space making the one line stand out in thought. We can imagine the person standing at the open door looking into the room and the emotive response as memories flood back.

S3 – Then what follows is a detailed description of how the room used to be – every item gradually brought to the forefront of memory compared to the new look of the room. And then the significant last sentence, remembering the bed near the window where love took place.

S4 –A one line reflection thinking about the items in the room and what happened to them. Time has taken away physical things as well as emotional loss. Again the one line has space making it stand out in thought.

S5 – The bed has now become the main focus of the poem, and how the sunlight played on half of it. Sunlight has wonderful associations and so to the bed of course. And we can imagine the scene without the need for specifics. And the fact that the sun only touched half of the bed just as coming back only touches part of the original experience.

S6 – And then that poignant statement of the partial separation that became the forever. There is no need for any explanation on why this has happened. The reader can bring to mind his or her own personal experience of intimate loss. So both reader and poet share an emotional intensity.

I like the way this poem is structured as the reader walks-through an instant in life. It is a poem of place as well as grief and memory. The poet goes back to a place of great significance. And when we do this we take our time to absorb the new environment holding the image of the past in the mind as a reference. This is why I like the two one line stanzas because they create a sort of time delay in the reading of the event as it unfolds.

For interest, here is a clip of a sung version of this poem in Greek by Yannis Petritsis. It  might bring an emotional response akin to that experienced from reading the poem. (There are subtitles in English.)

C P Cavafy was an Egyptiot Greek poet, journalist and civil servant. He is one of the most important figures in Greek poetry, and in Western poetry. His poems are, typically, concise but intimate evocations of real or literary figures and milieu that have played roles in Greek culture. Uncertainty about the future, sensual pleasures, the moral character and psychology of individuals, homosexuality, and a fatalistic existential nostalgia are some of his defining themes. He was a perfectionist, obsessively refining every single line of his poetry. He left 155 poems plus more that were incomplete. His mature style was a free iambic form, free in the sense that verses rarely rhyme and are usually from 10 to 17 syllables. In his poems, the presence of rhyme usually implies irony.

And more on C P Cavafy fom Wikipedia

I must add as a follow-up that there is a time to move on and look to the future, hard as it might be. And although the world is changing rapidly fast, the new-all-different tomorrow will always provide opportunities to enrich us with joy.

 

Being Infectious – a personal exchange!

Smiling Is Infectious

Smiling is infectious,
you catch it like the flu,

When someone smiled at me today,
I started smiling too.

I passed around the corner
and someone saw my grin.

When he smiled I realized
I’d passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile,
then I realized its worth.

A single smile, just like mine
could travel round the earth.

So, if you feel a smile begin,
don’t leave it undetected.

Let’s start an epidemic quick,
and get the world infected!

Jez Alborough ? see Note below  (1959 –

It is a fact that smiling appears contagious – and of more importance makes us happier … well we need something to counteract the emotional response to COVID-19!

… smiling is contagious. And according to the ‘facial feedback hypothesis’, which postulates that facial movement can affect emotional experience, smiling can actually make us feel happier – (Reference – The Contagious Power of Thinking: How Your Thoughts Can Influence the World by David Hamilton)

Note – In some Internet Sites this poem is identified incorrectly as one of Spike Milligan’s poems. I have no record of Spike Milligan and this work (Reference – The Compulsive Spike Milligan edited by Norma Farnes). Admittedly it is the sort of thing Spike Milligan  would write. But from the following comment on the Internet this poem appears to be the work of Jez Alborough who posted …

the author is not unknown, it is by jez alborough. I am the author. It was publihed in my collection of poetry back in 91 called shake before opening. It has also been republished in a few poetry collections, aleays credited to me. I have mo idea why other people have beed credited with it, i’d appreciate itif you correct this. Thanks, jez

Jez was born in Kingston upon Thames in 1959. He went to art school in Norwich and then set about entering the competitive world of children’s books. Jez has now written and illustrated over thirty picture books for children, he was runner up of the 1985 Mother Goose Award with his first book Bare Bear. Jez lives in London with his Danish wife.

And of course finding happiness is up to you