Anointing Ann Anonymous – Recognition and Beauty

Following on from my previous Post on John Keats and ‘Beauty’ and legacy … and recognising the so called ordinary in life’…

Anointing Ann Anonymous
when she was a child
and she was quite sure
that no one was looking
she picked up a stick
to scratch in concrete
                    ‘I was here’
each day
as she walked to school
she would see her work
and laugh to herself
no one would know it was her
in her teenager years
she had that teenage crush
and melting against his name
cleared the dust on his car
with words that only she could write
      ‘I love you’
She thought he really knew
but she would never tell,
in later years
when thinking about him
she would laugh inside
with a little embarrassment
she had a long and ordinary life
a husband, children
and memories to drown
and if she could paint the sky
these would be her words
     ‘life is beautiful’
Richard Scutter

Ann’s legacy – I was here / I love you / life is beautiful

Beauty and John Keats – Endymion

Looking at the poem Endymion by John Keats (1795 – 1821)

Context – Diana, Roman goddess of hunting, chastity and the moon, (also known as Selene or Cynthia in this poem) fell in love with a mortal, the handsome shepherd Endymion. According to myth Diana used to come and kiss Endymion when he was asleep on the top of the mountain each night. Diana’s light touch partly drew Endymion from his slumber and he caught a brief glance of her. Incredulous at her beauty, he attributed it to a dream and began to prefer his dreamlike state over mundane daily routines yet he was never awake when she was present. Through her love, Endymion was granted eternal youth and timeless beauty (mainly from Wikipedia)

Endymion (Keat’s Poem of that name)

Many remember the opening lines from this 4.000 line poem, if nothing else …

From Book 1 … an extract …

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Also the ending lines from his poem Ode on a Grecian Urn

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

And from Keat’s Letters of which two hundred and forty survive today. His letters cover everything from the philosophy of poetry to the joys of a juicy nectarine; his darkest depressions to the exhilaration of backpacking in Scotland . And, always, his deep love for his siblings and his Fanny Brawne.

But for interest here are some extracts from his letters involving ‘Beauty’:

On Tuesday 3 February 1818, Keats wrote to John Hamilton Reynolds:

We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us, and, if we do not agree, seems to put its hand into its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself — but with its subject.

How beautiful are the retired flowers! — how would they lose their beauty were they to throng into the highway, crying out …

On Friday 27 February 1818 Keats wrote to his publisher John Taylor:

In Poetry I have a few Axioms, and you will see how far I am from their Centre.

Here is one of his axioms mentioned in this letter …

Its touches of Beauty should never be halfway thereby making the reader breathless instead of content: the rise, the progress, the setting of imagery should like the Sun come natural natural too him — shine over him and set soberly although in magnificence leaving him in the Luxury of twilight — but it is easier to think what Poetry should be than to write it

Letter to George and Tom Keats, 21, ?27 December 1817 (On Negative Capability)

… the excellence of every Art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from their being in close relationship with Beauty & Truth—Examine King Lear & you will find this exemplified throughout; but in this picture we have unpleasantness without any momentous depth of speculation excited, in which to bury its repulsiveness—The picture is larger than Christ rejected—… I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half knowledge. This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

On 23 February 1821 Keats died in Rome. A year earlier he had written to his fiancée Fanny Brawne:

‘If I should die,’ said I to myself, ‘I have left no immortal work behind me — nothing to make my friends proud of my memory — but I have lov’d the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember’d.’

Well, I think it great if you have a philosophy of looking for beauty in all life. A little idealistic, and a little romantic perhaps but John Keats was part of the romantic poetry movement at the time.

John Keats didn’t put much value on being remembered stating that he thought his writing was ‘on water’. But little did he know that he would be reverently remembered by his work especially on that word ‘beauty’.

I remember Something Beautiful for God a 1971 book by Malcolm Muggeridge on Mother Teresa. The book was based on a 1969 documentary on Mother Teresa (also entitled Something Beautiful for God) that Muggeridge had undertaken. A great legacy – to leave something beautiful for God.

John Keats 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 …

And from Andrew Marvell …

Sonnet to Beauty – Lola Ridge – Analysis

Sonnet to beauty

Show me thy way. Though I have held thy name,
that tremulously now my lips let fall,
as word too dear for traffic of the tongue,
yet I have loved thee, Beauty, beyond all.
Be with me in this hour: dread shapes of thee
apparelled in the lustre not their own –
as buzzard, gracened by the wizardry
of light, looks all but lovely as the swan,
shall not appal. In thy high company –
whereof all things are free and each wild theme
weaves in a relentless rise and fall
to resolution. I shall brokenly –
hear through the fury, through the windless dream,
heart of the terror, chiming at thy call.

Lola Ridge (1873-1941)

Published posthumously.

This poem is all about appreciating beauty when, for whatever reason, it is hard to find beauty in what is happening in life. But LR wants ‘Beauty’ to show her the way and talking about beauty is nonsense – ‘too dear for traffic of the tongue’. She has known beauty through her life.

But she pleads for ‘Beauty’ to be with her in this hour – an hour of need due to sickness or impending death perhaps. She sees some shapes of ‘Beauty’ and likens this to light falling on a buzzard giving ‘Beauty’ to this bird so that it becomes swan like. Swans are beautiful and grace filled images. And high company links to the bird reference in the wild freedom of flight.

The last six lines recognise the power of ‘Beauty’ in everything – it resolves all in a relentless rise and fall. And LR states that she will brokenly hear ‘Beauty’ as she goes through the current terror afflicting her. She will eventually hear ‘Beauty’ answering the call of ‘Beauty’.

This was one of the last poems that she wrote. May beauty astound her to eternity.

Lola Ridge on Wikipedia
and an interesting podcast on Lola Ridge (including commentary by biographer Terese Svoboda)

Only Two Lips – A Spring Poem

Floriade is the name of the  spring flower festival in Canberra in the Commonwealth Gardens near the centre of the city. Mainly a showing of bulbs including of course tulips. It is quite a tourist attraction and many come to Canberra to see the displays.


The U3A ‘Arts’ Exhibition had a theme of tulips, poppies and spring. I wrote the following poem for the opening day (see the previous post) …

Tulips in a vase, focus on flower in foreground

Only Two Lips

who do you think you are
standing so pert and penal
asserting yourself in rich colour
arrogant, obvious
demanding my attention

well I’m not falling for it!
such a brazen showing
with your closed-mouth talk
I will give you what you deserve –
lip service, and just you wait

your day will come
believe me, you will bend
becoming quite dishevelled
falling to kiss the ground
in total disarray

Richard Scutter  2 August 2014

It is always very interesting when you read a poem in public because you never quite know what reception will follow. The audience was mainly  women and  in the older bracket, so that was appropriate. A few realized that I was not actually talking about tulips so much and there were a couple of wry smiles – which was encouraging!

There were a few hangups on the word ‘penal’. Well penal = punishing – and from a male perspective the beautiful can be quite punishing in many ways especially when young, ‘manipulative’ and of a demanding nature.