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

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.

War Baby – Pamela Holmes

It is Anzac Day today in Australia (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.) Too often we hear male oriented war poems. Here is a poignant poem from the home front, from the other side of the equation.

War Baby

He has not even seen you, he
Who gave you your mortality;
And you, so small, how can you guess
His courage, or his loveliness?

Yet in my quiet mind I pray
He passed you on the darkling way –
His death, your birth, so much the same –
And holding you, breathed once your name.

Pamela Holmes

Pamela Holmes was educated at Benenden School, Sussex. Her husband, Lieutenant F.C. Hall, was posted missing believed killed in December 1942. Their daughter was born four months after his death.

From ‘Poetry of the Second World War’ selected by Edward Hudson, with a preface by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire V.C.

Life continues.

Anzac Day …  a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping.

God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins

God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 -1889)

What a powerful first line ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God’. The operative word is ‘charged’ as though the world is some amazing battery of energy and through some unfathomable process became alive – like an umbilical cord of love permeating existence with the grandness of God.  ‘Full’ would not do as an alternative word for ‘charged’ implies the ongoing dynamism of life.

The first 8 lines of this sonnet lament on searing, blearing and smearing – the way humanity has defaced the ‘grandeur of God’ and asks the question ‘why is this so’. The last of these lines give some reason ‘nor can foot feel, being shod’ – a loss of direct contact with nature. So what does this say about the world today with the increasing electronic dislocation with the physical.

But the concluding six lines give hope – ‘nature is never spent’ … and particularly the spirit of God (the Holy Ghost) is still a deep down saving force – ‘with warm breast and with ah! bright wings’. It is nice to end on an optimistic note!

It is Easter when many think of the link between humanity and God and traditionally a God external from the world. But that magnificent first line brings God firmly down to earth. Stephen Hawking in his book ‘The Brief History of Time’ suggests a possible scenario where the universe is a self-contained boundless system with no beginning and no end and he asks where does a ‘creator’ fit into the equation (if you excuse the pun). Well perhaps God has always been here and is very much an integral part in all life and the on-going evolution of the universe. So perhaps we should try more to work with God in the endless journey to improve the universe for all, not easy to do of course!

But Easter Sunday is a great day to just appreciate and celebrate the impressive beauty of our world. Enjoy today whether or not the sun is shining in your world.

More commentary on this poem 

… and my response to that first line

Gerard Manley Hopkins on Wikipedia 

When my love swears – Sonnet 138 – Shakespeare

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearnèd in the world’s false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.

William Shakespeare (Sonnet 138)

This sonnet is all about acceptance … acceptance of the imperfections of another that they too will accept the imperfections that exist in you.

In a way it is a love sonnet for love totally disregards the faults of others … well, perhaps not quite… may be a subtle approach is needed if correction is warranted … timing is important and at this moment there is total acceptance to the extent that both parties delight in a pretense – in imaging the untruth as true.

So perhaps love is a ‘trading of imperfections’ – though we can hardly call age an imperfection but a nice trade to be seen as young again and age to be ignored – And age in love loves not to have years told!