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.

 

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’

Marmalade and Vegemite – A Retired Couple Issue

Marmalade and Vegemite

When you get to a certain age
you have to learn a new language,
the language of subtle correction
in interpretation.

Let me give you an example.
While driving your partner may say
that you have to turn left
at the next intersection.

Well, you know for certain
that it is a right-hand turn; so
without comment you do
indeed turn right.

In such circumstances
it is very prudent not to
inform your partner that
he or she meant otherwise.

Care must be taken.
For when at breakfast your
partner may ask you to
pass the marmalade.

And then knowing intimately
the certain likes and dislikes you
pass the vegemite without
a moment’s thought.

But beware, he or she may retort
‘how nice to have warm toast
with vegemite. But I really
did want marmalade’.

And then a heated discussion
on a much hated subject may ensue,
with the insistence that you
are in need of a hearing-aid!

Richard Scutter

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

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.