Being Optimistic – Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

From Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage: IV, cxxix

Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,
Floats o’er this vast and wondrous monument,
And shadows forth its glory. There is given
Unto the things of earth, which Time hath bent,
A spirit’s feeling, and where he hath leant
His hand, but broke his scythe, there is a power
And magic in the ruin’d battlement,
For which the palace of the present hour
Must yield its pomp, and wait till ages are its dower.

A broken scythe – an implement with a long handle and a long curved single-edged blade, used to cut grass – well time has bent – due to the work at hand broken, with broken tools (broken by humanity)

But, but, but – there is power and magic in the ruin’d battlement … well thank goodness for that – we must have faith

The palace of the present hour … the present hour is a palace despite being a ruin’d battlement

Ages as a dower – a gift that will be given by time – perhaps an evolving gift, from one who is an optimist … perhaps inherent in the creation of time is an inevitability of positive evolution

So have faith and time will be the saviour … and enjoy the palace of the present hour!

From Wikipedia

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is a lengthy narrative poem in four parts written by Lord Byron. It was published between 1812 and 1818 and is dedicated to “Ianthe”. The poem describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands. In a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholyand disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. The title comes from the term childe, a medieval title for a young man who was a candidate for knighthood.

 

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

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

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.

 

The Pains of Sleep – Coleridge – Prayer

From – The Pains of Sleep

Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,
It hath not been my use to pray
With moving lips or bended knees;
But silently, by slow degrees,
My spirit I to Love compose,
In humble trust mine eye-lids close,
With reverential resignation
No wish conceived, no thought exprest,
Only a sense of supplication;
A sense o’er all my soul imprest
That I am weak, yet not unblest,
Since in me, round me, every where
Eternal strength and Wisdom are.

This is the first stanza of a poem written by Coleridge. And this is a little different to have as a Christmas piece. The full poem was written by Coleridge when under the influence of opium and wishing to have a restful night.

Coleridge is lying on his bed he decides to pray not in the conventional way; there are no bended knees and no words uttered. It is a prayer from the mind as he composes thoughts to ‘Love’. In this respect he has a reverential resignation and a sense of supplication. A humble and sincere appeal in his weakness. Note that Love is capitalised.

But the great thing is he recognises that he is not unblest since Eternal strength and Wisdom abound and are everywhere including within his frail weak body. This is such a marvellous statement that honours the creator of life; that honours God.

Today the Christian religion recognises the son of man and the son of God in the birth of Jesus. The wonderful thing about this is the personal human connectivity that this provides.

Truly this is a day for celebration.

My Christmas Letter 2018 – First Edition

I would like to thank all those that read my words and have followed this Site over the years. I guess you have gleaned some insight into my very nature from my Posts; so this year I feel quite happy about sharing my family Christmas Letter. This first edition anyway!

Christmas Letter 2018

Stop Press – First Edition

Dear Reader,

Well it is that time of the year when we all think about our family and friends and of course sharing our Christmas Letter.

First and foremost, I must mention the most important things first. We are here and indeed if we were not here then you would not be able to have the privilege of this letter which I know you will enjoy so much. – so we must be thankful for small mercies – I could say hear hear to that – but that would be very droll!

That’s enough about talking of ourselves!

We do sincerely hope that you are there … because if you are not then I have wasted my time (there, there I didn’t mean to say that)! But if you aren’t there you will miss out on this letter – and unfortunately all our news!

Well a few people have died of course. This too is unfortunate but I always say one must look on the bright side of life – we won’t need to send a letter to them. It is unfortunate too as they will be missing out on our letter. But looking on the bright side again they won’t have to worry about all our comings and goings.

All the children and family have just got that little bit older and they are not the same as last year. I expect you can understand that, and in regards to that we too have followed the same path – so I must update you on that while I think about it!

Well coming to the New Year as I know you always take great interest in our plans. First and foremost I do hope we will be here again to send you all our news in our next Christmas letter. I must add too that we sincerely hope you are there too to receive it!

I see there is little space remaining so having covered the essentials and knowing that you appreciate the usual one page limit on our letters I do wish you all a very happy Christmas and prosperous New year!

(… and of course it goes without saying everyone here says hear, hear to that)!

Love Richard +

Best for Christmas and the New Year

Enjoy with Family and Friends

 

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.

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