Easter Hymn – A. E. Housman

Easter Hymn

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.
But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

This was one of his unpublished poems. A. E. Housman was an atheist.

The first stanza …
If JC is just asleep unknowing of a resurrection and the following of millions through the centuries – then sleep on and sleep well.

The second stanza …
… If you are indeed all that is said of you … and if you sit at the right hand of majesty on high … then come down out of heaven and see what is happening here and do something!

A common wish by many that in this troubled world it would be nice to see some direct action from above to rectify, give justice, and lead anew.

Best to take the second stanza and belief in an active responding JC (God and spirit) all be it in a subtle indirect way. On the personal level is up to you to identify any such influences from your own life experience.

Celebrate today with hope in a constructive communion with our creator.

And some Easter words from 2017 …

https://mywordinyourear.com/2017/04/16/easter-sunday-2017/

A. E. Housman on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._E._Housman

 

Walking Away – Cecil Day-Lewis – Analysis

Walking Away

It is eighteen years ago, almost to the day –
A sunny day with leaves just turning,
The touch-lines new-ruled – since I watched you play
Your first game of football, then, like a satellite
Wrenched from its orbit, go drifting away

Behind a scatter of boys. I can see
You walking away from me towards the school
With the pathos of a half-fledged thing set free
Into a wilderness, the gait of one
Who finds no path where the path should be.

That hesitant figure, eddying away
Like a winged seed loosened from its parent stem,
Has something I never quite grasp to convey
About nature’s give-and-take – the small, the scorching
Ordeals which fire one’s irresolute clay.

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show –
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

Cecil Day-Lewis (1904 – 1972)

There are four five line stanzas with rhyming in first, third and last lines.

A poem all about separation of child from parent and still the parent remembers that first day of watching the child take to the sports field to play football. So maybe there is something special to warrant reflection at this time.

Our children have to grow up and move from home to school and develop new paths so aptly portrayed in the last line of the second stanza – who finds no path where the path should be.

But this poem is all about the pain of separation. Apart from dates there are many other triggers that can act to invoke the memory of a past event that has significant personal memory. It appears there was something very special in that movement of the child away from the parent – the child a hesitant figure, eddying away. It is usually the child that moves away rather than the parent.

Then in the third stanza a reflection of how nature frequently has such separations giving the example of a seed from a parent stem.

This parting is very special and gnaws at the mind. We do not know of course what has happened over the eighteen years and to what extent he has developed and grown and forged new paths, or indeed any associated personal tragedy that could have occured.

But parent child separation is an act of love and an imperative. Like God allowing humanity the freedom to develop; despite the times when we think he should be more involved!

Cecil Day-Lewis (or Day Lewis) often writing as C. Day-Lewis, was an Anglo-Irish poet and the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968 until his death in 1972.

Cecil Day-Lewis was buried at St Michael’s Church, Stinsford in Dorset close to Thomas Hardy.

Cecil Day-Lewis on Wikipedia

Cecil Lewis Grave

Shall I be gone long?
For ever and a day.
To whom there belong?
Ask the stone to say.
Ask my song.

from his poem – ‘Is it Far to Go’

The Hour is Lost – John Shaw Neilson – Comments

The Hour is Lost

The hour is lost. Was ever hour so sweet?
Fruitful of blessing, friends and honeyed words —
The sunlight in our faces — at our feet
The world bright, beautiful, its flocks and herds,
Foliage of forests, choruses of birds . .
O happy time, why did we stand downcast?
We should have leapt for love: but now, the hour is past.

The hour is lost. Scarce had we time to mark
The glory of the green, the sky’s soft blue;
It came as silently as comes the dark,
Our hearts burned hot within us ere we knew . .
Then suddenly we said, Can it be true
This golden time was ours? — and now downcast
We stand dumb and amazed. Alas! the hour is past.

John Shaw Neilson (1872 -1942)

This sonnet is broken into two distinct seven line stanzas with rhyming scheme ‘ababbcc’.

If we think of life as condensed into an hour then we realize the brevity of our existence.

S1 … When we look back on life as the hour completes then according to the first stanza we may regret not making the most of our time. Life is beautiful, the world is beautiful, friends have been wonderful with honeyed words, nature has been bright before our eyes – did we not see that! We should have leapt for love!

S2 … Time has gone so quickly and our sight has been blinkered by our downcast attitude. We stand dumb and amazed that we did not appreciate the beauty of life to the full. Perhaps we are experiencing the beauty of life for the first time, and then a sad lament that it is late in life and ‘our hour’ could have had more meaning.

So whether you have a few minutes or half an hour or more take time to rejoice and live life to the full in appreciation of your own unique personal experience. Colour the gravity of those bleak news headlines with optimistic eyes seeing beyond the dark shadows to the bright amazing world that abounds around us!

Here are the links to two well know carpe diem (seize the day) poems –

From A. E. Housman …
https://mywordinyourear.com/2018/10/05/loveliest-of-trees-a-e-housman/

And from Andrew Marvell …
https://mywordinyourear.com/2019/01/14/to-his-coy-mistress-andrew-marvell/

Sonnet V – Edna St. Vincent Millay – Comments

Sonnet V

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again–
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbour in a subway train,
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man–who happened to be you–
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud–I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place–
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950)

A sonnet with rhyming scheme ‘abab cdcd efef gg’ with a clear volta breaking the text into the notice of a death and the corresponding effect on the person hearing the news.

There is an ‘if’ about this poem – If I should learn. But it strikes me as being close to the experience of many who have suddenly been made aware of an unexpected death. Recently I was informed of the death of a friend who had limited life but it was quite unexpected that death would arrive quickly and I was immediately stunned by the news. It took me quite awhile to refocus and become emotionally stable enough in order to share with others who knew her.

The poem relates to such a notification but in a public place and by the chance reading of the back page of a paper being read by a fellow traveller on the seat opposite. It is up to the reader to infer the extent of personal connection with the death. We do not know whether it is a close family member or a work college not seen for several years. I have that feeling it might have been someone from the past such as a previous lover. I think there was quite a depth in the relationship with the ‘you’ in the text.

But this is irrelevant for the poem describes the catering of the emotional shock by a somewhat artificial concentration on the station lights and other text on the back of the paper. Self-control is evident in not wishing to draw attention from others on the train. But perhaps this represents an immediate internalisation of the death in coming to terms with the sudden shock unexpected news. It does not, of course, preclude a private emotive release a little later and under different circumstances.

Edna St. Vincent Millay was an American poet and playwright.  She received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923,  and she was known for her feminist activism.  A link to her on Wikipedia.

Love’s Coming – John Shaw Neilson – Analysis

Love’s Coming

Quietly as rosebuds
Talk to thin air,
Love came so lightly
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as lovers
Creep at the middle noon,
Softly as players tremble
In the tears of a tune;

Quietly as lilies
Their faint vows declare,
Came the shy pilgrim:
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as tears fall
On a wild sin,
Softly as griefs call
In a violin;

Without hail or tempest,
Blue sword or flame,
Love came so lightly
I knew not that he came.

John Shaw Neilson (1872 -1942)

This simple poem concentrates on one aspect of ‘Love’ namely that it is of an imperceptible quiet background nature. Latent to life but not readily recognised.

The four four line opening stanzas are a poetic transfer of this thought in terms of rosebuds, lovers, lilies and tears. The emphasis is on ‘quiet’ the first word of each opening line. The second and last lines of these stanzas rhyme and in a way a ‘list’ introduction.

It is a case of hearing or not hearing love’s coming as it gives subtle voice to its underlying existence. Love’s coming requires an acute sensitivity for any awareness.
There is no fanfare – without hail or tempest.

And the last stanza states that perhaps recognition is only known in retrospect. Love came so lightly / I knew not that he came. It is personified as masculine, I think feminine would be more appropriate given the quiet soft nature described. Perhaps when we look back on life we see how we have been cared for in terms of our spiritual understanding of life.

Now God and ‘Love’ are often equated. If this is the case then perhaps God has a similar subtle positive imperceptible influence on life as it evolves. Many believe that God created the world. However, some think that God then sat back on a cloud and switched to a different channel!

A link to John Shaw Neilson on Wikipedia

It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free – Wordsworth – Comments

It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year;
And worshipp’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

William Wordsworth

Evenings always seem to be a special time of the day. And Wordsworth is totally absorbed in the beauty of the evening, breathless in adoration.

But this is a very special time for Wordsworth for he is in France walking the beach with his illegitimate daughter not seen since he left Paris at the time of the French Revolution. She would be about twelve years of age.

The lines …

                     Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
                     And doth with his eternal motion make
                     A sound like thunder—everlastingly

… obviously relate to the background of the sea … but Wordsworth is in reflective philosophical mode as he is stunned by the beauty of nature and equally the mighty Being could refer to the creator noting that Being is capitalised.

At the Volta the last six lines of the sonnet reflect on the nature of a child who is untouched by such thought. But none the less the child lies in the care of God though she may not know it. Reference is made to ‘Abraham’s bosom’ and a religious heritage of connectivity. Abraham being the common patriarch of three religions.

No matter the mental capacity of a person in an understanding God and independent of age God is there in a supportive role – especially for children. Well, I belief in a caring God for all. A great pillar of support to have such belief.

The Sabbath … is an ‘evening to evening’ observance … more details via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath_in_Christianity

However, there is nothing to stop us having a quiet holy time whenever in communication with God and creation – whether ‘a thank you for just the joy of life’ or for any other personal reason.

 

To His Coy Mistress – Andrew Marvell

To His Coy Mistress

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.

For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Andrew Marvell (1621 – 1678)

It is certainly a carpe diem poem but more than that it speaks to me of the very clever use of seductive words to a lady known to the author. The poem never met recognition until three years after the his death giving weight to the personal nature of the poem.

It is, of course, one of his most well-known poems, especially the following lines from the second stanza. They show his distinct hungering for action using a threatening note by comparing the likes of death on her now beautiful body; something that she has probably never thought about.

Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;

And the following lines in the last stanza emphasize his impatience and frustration –

Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:

He wants to take his beloved to the ‘ball’ … some ball! … he wants to gate crash to get what he wants! … note the gates are made of iron … a certain sense of imprisonment. You cannot stand outside life as an observer! … immediate action please.

Many details on this poem can be found on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_His_Coy_Mistress

And here is a ‘carp diem’ poem from another famous poet considering the brevity of life at an early age …
https://mywordinyourear.com/2018/10/05/loveliest-of-trees-a-e-housman/

So just do it … if you know what you should be doing! … but don’t be pressured into something you are not ready for.

The Sunne Rising – John Donne

The Sunne Rising

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

She’s all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus.
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Three ten line stanza with rhyming scheme ‘abbacdcdee’. The sun personified she is indeed quiet ‘unruly’ highly emotional in her flaring and of course very old and busy. I do like that word ‘wink’ in the second stanza our lifespan so infinitesimal in comparison.

Well the Solar System does sort of control life or the way life is lived. We do have to operate on a time and season basis. But love is beyond such bounds quite independent and outside such realms of the artificial breakup so eloquently defined as ‘the rags of time’. Love is a timeless entity.

Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clim
Hours, days, months, which are the rags of time

The eyes of the sun are blind compared to the personal eyes of love which retains history. Not like the inanimate sun who knows nothing of yesterday.

If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me, …

The world is so much more. The the sun creates life, and bountiful meaning to life. And the sun has a duty to give warmth and life to humanity. It is the centre of everything.

Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

From memory on the nature of the sun millions of sub-atomic particles actually pass through our thumb nail every second!

And from a spiritual Christian perspective there is a lot of similarity between sun and son; and John Donne being the master of the metaphysical.