In Passing – Stanley Plumly – Analysis

In Passing

On the Canadian side, we’re standing far enough away
the Falls look like photography, the roar a radio.

In the real rain, so vertical it fuses with the air,
the boat below us is starting for the caves.

Everyone on deck is dressed in black, braced for weather
and crossing against the current of the river.

They seem lost in the gorge dimensions of the place,
then, in fog, in a moment, gone.

In the Chekhov story,
the lovers live in a cloud, above the sheer witness of a valley.

They call it circumstance. They look up at the open wing
of the sky, or they look down into the future.

Death is a power like any other pull of the earth.
The people in the raingear with the cameras want to see it

from the inside, from behind, from the dark looking into the light.
They want to take its picture, give it size—

how much easier to get lost in the gradations of a large
and yellow leaf drifting its good-bye down one side of the gorge.

There is almost nothing that does not signal loneliness,
then loveliness, then something connecting all we will become.

All around us the luminous passage of the air,
the flat, wet gold of the leaves. I will never love you

more than at this moment, here in October,
the new rain rising slowly from the river.

Stanley Plumly (1939 – 2019)

Stanley Plumly was an American academic who taught creative writing and died at the age of 79 in April this year. John Keats was his spiritual guide in writing poetry. Also he is a poet who wrote about polio which affected his classmates when he was growing up.

The above poem appears to be from a visit to Niagara Falls and viewing the water from a distance on the Canadian side. There are two aspects of this passing encounter which feature in his words. A boat below the Falls which is crossing the fast flowing water, and a leaf drifting down one side of the gorge.

The boat appears a speck in the gorge and it disappears in fog. He is reminded of lovers on a cloud above a valley in a Chekov story. The lovers in this story can look up and be taken away in the open wing of the sky or can look down into their future, perhaps coming down to earth. The downside appropriate to Chekov.

This brings his thought to death as gravity. The people in the boat want to approach the Falls for photographs from many directions, but in doing so they tempt death by the swamping of the boat from the power of gravity in bringing the water over the falls.

But Stanley Plumly now turns attention to his second subject that of the leaf and the natural death of the leaf as it falls. It is much easier for him to get lost in this subject. At first this leaf is lonely by itself as it descends, then watching it further loveliness unfolds. It is representative or connects to what we will become. Death being natural.

He becomes absorbed by the beauty of wet gold leaves and the luminous passage of air penetrating the spray. And this moment becomes a love highpoint. I will never love you more. It is left to the reader to define the you whether nature, life or a person.

In summary, this is a poem about an intense emotional experience generated when visiting Niagara Falls; those moments in life that are held precious to the memory. However, like coming down out of the clouds of love they fall away in passing.

A link to some obituary detail on Stanley Plumly.

And Stanley Plumly on Wikipedia.

 

Leisure – William Henry Davies – Analysis

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940)

This fourteen line poem can be regarded as a sonnet comprising of seven rhyming couplets. It is a simple poem to memorise and people of a certain vintage may have come across this poem in their school days.

This is a poem about time and the use of time that use being defined as ‘Leisure’. Leisure implies taking time out from being busy. The iambic rhythm has been likened to a heartbeat and heartbeats are a measure of time. Also the repetition of the two syllables ‘no time’ in each line reinforces the passage of time.

The first couplet has become memorable to the extent that William Henry Davies is mainly known for this one poem. Each of these lines comprise of eight single syllable words (iambic tetrameter). Single syllable words have more strength in immediate mind absorption because they stand alone and start and finish quickly. This couplet poses the question on the use of time. What is life if we don’t stand and stare? And full of care has implications of self-absorption encouraging us to look outside ourselves.

The next three couplets tell us to appreciate nature advocating that the way to do this is to take time out from what we are usually doing and be still and thus recognise the beauty that abounds in the natural environment. It is more relevant to those that live in rural settings with an obvious English setting as there are no squirrels in Australia.

Unfortunately for me stare has connotations of something not to do so although I fully understand the implications of the use of this word in the context of stopping for a moment to absorb and be aware of surroundings. But I can’t avoid the childhood admonition in respect of people. In the fifth and sixth couplets we are encouraged to appreciate the beauty in another person and maybe the use of glance in these lines encourages some discretion in how this is done to gain appreciation.

The last couplet answers the question posed in the opening lines. Life is diminished if we don’t take time out, or is it putting time in, to appreciate our surrounds and to stop and just absorb.

William Henry Davies on Wikipedia

A Hymn to God The Father – John Donne – Comments

A Hymn to God The Father.

Wilt thou forgive that sinn, which I begunn,
Which is my sinn, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive those sins through which I runn
And doe run still, though still I doe deplore?
When thou has done, thou hast not done,
For, I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sinn, by which I’have wonne
Others to sinn, and made my sinn their dore?
Wilt thou forgive that sinn which I did shunne
A year or twoe, but wallowed in a score?
When thou has done, thou hast not done,
For, I have more.

I have a sinn of feare that when I have spun
My last thred, I shall perish on the shore;
Sweare by thy self that at my Death, thy Sonne
Shall shine as he shines nowe, & heretofore;
And having done that, thou hast done,
I feare noe more.

John Donne (1572 – 1631)

Sin = in the traditional religious context the transgression against God, (perhaps all about not being ‘good’ and failing within oneself and in our relationships with others)

The first stanza is all about sin and the fact that sin pervades all of humanity and John Donne asks for forgiveness from God for his sin and the sin of humanity which cannot be avoided and of which he is part.

The second stanza then asks for forgiveness where John Donne has led others to sin. He refers to many years when he was young and outside Church life – wallowed in a score. But God does not have Donne yet for there is more, play on his surname.

In the last stanza he mentions a fear that he has at his Death. However, if Jesus still shines forgiveness as he has done in life then John Donne fears no more. If that is done then God has Donne, again a play on his name.

This poem is all about forgiving oneself as well as accepting forgiveness from God. Some find this very hard to do when something they have done is deeply regretted.

John Donne on Wikipedia

 

Spring Sonnet – Vivaldi (The Four Seasons)

Below are the words behind ‘Spring’ the first of Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ where each ‘Season’ consists of a three-movement concerto. The words form a sonnet and Vivaldi created a sonnet for each season prior to musical composition.

La Primavera (Spring)
Opus 8, No. 1, in E Major

I. Allegro

Festive Spring has arrived,
The birds salute it with their happy song.
And the brooks, caressed by little Zephyrs,
Flow with a sweet murmur.
The sky is covered with a black mantle,
And thunder, and lightning, announce a storm.
When they are silent, the birds
Return to sing their lovely song.

II. Largo e pianissimo sempre

And in the meadow, rich with flowers,
To the sweet murmur of leaves and plants,
The goatherd sleeps, with his faithful dog at his side.

III. Danza pastorale. Allegro
To the festive sound of pastoral bagpipes,
Dance nymphs and shepherds,
At Spring’s brilliant appearance.

The words are a prose translation from the Italian and were obtained from this Website

I. Allegro— to play fast, quickly and bright … Zephyr = a soft gentle breeze … the underlying theme is ‘bird song’ before and after a spring storm

II. Largo e pianissimo sempre— slow, to be played softly and sustained throughout … the sleeping goatherd and the murmur of nature marry nicely

III. Danza pastorale. Allegro—ending in fast, bright dance of nature … with visions of nymphs( = the spirit of nature as a young maiden) and shepherds in festive mood

We rarely read the words before listening to the music. I think they are well reflected in the musical composition. Below are Youtube links to each of the above components for comparison.

I. Allegro
II. Largo e pianissimo sempre
III. Danza pastorale

Animal Accident – A personal encounter

Following on from my last Post here is a personal poem in relation to a Kangaroo … not a pleasant experience …

Animal Accident

Empty night road
stars with the moon off centre.
Talking of people met, then
bigger than a Qantas tail plane
highlighted by car light
it was before the windscreen.

Inevitable as judgement day
Tony shouting ‘kangaroo’
the brake screech
rubber hot into the road
and thud!

Shocked stillness.

Dark paddocks alongside
the parked car steaming
and we on centre stage
enter the evening chill.

Inspect the damaged bonnet,
radiator intact and car driveable.

The roo lying in right hand lane
motionless except for a watery eye
alive to our movement.

Dragging the broken body
clearing the road for traffic
streaking her wet internals.

Our car disappears.
The countryside reclaims the night.

The grass verge cradles a dying animal.

There will be no flowers.

© Richard Scutter

This poem was writen several years ago. Thanks to my friend Tony for help in dealing with the situation.

Qantas – Australian airline

Accidents involving kangaroos are common in rural areas of Australia. An organisation called WIRES (Wildlife Injury Rescue Emergency Service) exists to help injured animals.

I saw the beauty go – Mary Gilmore – Analysis

I saw the beauty go

I saw the beauty go,
The beauty that, in a stream,
Flowed through the breadth of the land
Like the fenceless foot of a dream.

There went the kangaroos, that, in hosts,
For their bedding-down grouped at even,
Only the sound of the nibbling lips
Making the sunset steven.

Then as they stilled, and the moon
With her white cloths mantled the trees,
From the shadows beneath the mopoke called,
And the curlew made her pleas.

I saw the beauty go,
The beauty that could not be tamed;
But before it went it looked at me
With the eyes of the maimed.

Dame Mary Gilmore (1865 – 1962)

There are four stanzas each a sentence with the second and fourth line rhyming.

We tend to think of environmental concern as something new. In this poem Mary Gilmore clearly demonstrates her concern for the changing face of nature at a time when Australia was very much being tamed. It appears to me to be her concern for the killing of kangaroos.

S1 … Beauty disappearing ‘like the fenceless foot of a dream’– the land was being fenced for rural development and the kangaroo a pest.

S2 … steven = enhancing
The beautiful picture of kangaroos at sunset totally at peace with nature.

S3 … mopoke = spotted brown owl, curlew = wading bird with a hooked beak
As they stilled the curlew made her pleas … a warning of imminent danger … MG does not declare what might be about to happen leaving it to the reader to fill in the tradegy.

S4 … If ever you experience the accidental road death of a kangaroo, or for whatever reason, that maimed look from their brown eyes is heart wrenching … ‘with the eyes of the maimed’. Something very beautiful is dead.

It would have been unusual in her time to be supportive of the lives of kangaroos.

Mary Gilmore had strong political views and was a voice beyond her time.

Mary Gilmore on Wikipedia … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Gilmore

Places, Loved Ones – Philip Larkin – Analysis

Places, Loved Ones

No, I have never found
The place where I could say
This is my proper ground,
Here I shall stay;
Nor met that special one
Who has an instant claim
On everything I own
Down to my name;

To find such seems to prove
You want no choice in where
To build, or whom to love;
You ask them to bear
You off irrevocably,
So that it’s not your fault
Should the town turn dreary,
The girl a dolt.

Yet, having missed them, you’re
Bound, none the less, to act
As if what you settled for
Mashed you, in fact;
And wiser to keep away
From thinking you still might trace
Uncalled-for to this day
Your person, your place.

Philip Larkin 1922 – 1985

This poem, written in 1954, consists of three stanzas each a sentence broken in two parts by a semicolon. The second part a reflective extension to the first. Each stanza has rhyming scheme ‘ababcdcd’.

A typical Larkin ignoble poetic reportage on institutional life and the establishment, in this case the poem centres on the construct of marriage and how it restricts individuals by tying them down to one person. Larkin regarded himself as a poet of dullness and deprivation. And there is certainly a dull veil covering his thoughts on marriage in this poem.

In his day it was difficult to divorce it being an irrevocable affair. So it may happen that a dolt (stupid person) is your lot and the place where you live turns dreary. He suggests perhaps that marriage may cause such tendencies due to lack of freedom.

PL was never quite content with place or partner, and he wanted to keep relationships open. He was engaged at one time but he never married. He had several relationships. He lived in Hull for thirty years while Librarian at Hull University. He regarded Hull as a fringe city and he too was on the fringe of the poetic establishment of his time. When the Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, died in 1984 he was offered that position but declined. It has been said that he was the defacto Poet Laureate.

The poem ends stating that while not being satisfied with the status quo it is best to make the most of it anyway. Making the most of being mashed, marriage mashes the individual – and the potato is no longer a potato. On the positive side he could have been stronger in his wording and used ‘Smash’! And the last part of the concluding sentence gives advise – it is wise not to think of looking for something better.

So make the most of your day whatever the circumstances.

Philip Larkin on Wikipedia

And here is a link to a positive ending from Philip Larkin in his poem Arundel Tomb.

Humour and Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash and Humour

Humour is an important ingredient in any text. In the main it offers lightness and the ability to create a smile in the reader. This is not always the case of course – ‘black humour’ can invoke negative emotions as well as humour – especially if humour is at the expense of something or somebody. In such cases it can be quite damaging and if acceptable perhaps only acceptable at a cost and always at the discernment of the reader. Ogden Nash is always of an acceptable nature.

From Wikipedia … Nash’s poetry was often a playful twist of an old saying or poem. For one example, he expressed this playfulness in what is perhaps his most famous rhyme, a twist on Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” (1913).

Song of the Open Road

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.

Selecting more of his work …

The Turtle lives’ twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.

There was an old man of Calcutta,
Who coated his tonsils with butta,
Thus converting his snore
From a thunderous roar
To a soft, oleaginous mutta.

The Middle

When I remember bygone days
I think how evening follows morn;
So many I loved were not yet dead,
So many I love were not yet born
.
Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971)

from Wikipedia …

Frederic Ogden Nash … was an American poet well known for his light verse. At the time of his death in 1971, The New York Times said his “droll verse with its unconventional rhymes made him the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry”.

On Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash is a humour-US poet I admire
His rhymes are often quite exemplar
For, if a word he cannot take
A new one he soon doth make
Yes, Ogden Nash is a poet quite unique-lar!

Richard Scutter