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)

A right to be heard – Zelda Quakawoot – Comments

A right to be heard

A right to be heard
Not censored of word
A voice that is true
Not a momentary view
A word that is said
It remains in our heads
Of value that’s true
In both me and you
It signals the start
From deep in our hearts
A sentence recalls
From the big to the small
It flows like a stream …
“I have a dream…”

Zelda Quakawoot

A fourteen line sonnet style … rhyming (and half rhyming) aa, bb … and the second line of each rhyming pair complements the first line of each pair. Akin to the way Psalms are constructed.

This is a poem by the Torres Strait Islander Zelda Quakawoot. Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are the indigenous inhabitants of Australia and often seek the ‘right to to be heard’ from the rest of the community. A common situation in many countries with indigenous minorities.

We should all have an on-going dream in life … a positive thought to carry us forward in hope … in hope of better times … for recovery from illness … for repair in a relationship … and for appropriate recognition of the Torres Strait Island culture.

More of her work can be found on this site … https://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A111526?mainTabTemplate=agentWorksBy

Sea-Fever – John Masefield – Comments

Sea-Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

John Masefield (1878 – 1967)

From SALT-WATER POEMS AND BALLADS, by John Masefield, published by the Maxmillan Co., NY, © 1913, p. 55; the poem was first published in SALT-WATER BALLADS, © 1902.

Well the sea is repetitive … the sea is repeated in line 1 … and there are many lines with repetitions to enhance the rhythmic structure of the poem. Incidentally I always thought the first line was – I must go down to the sea but this is not the case for it is seas. This phrase is repeated at the start of each stanza.

Equally there is plenty of alliteration for instance in the last stanza – To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife.

It is all about the lure of the sea and the joy of sailing and appreciating sea, sky and wind first hand. This is very much an atmospheric poem with plenty of word action. And many enjoy the experience of wind and sea on skin as invoked in the second stanza. At the same time there is some element of control and purpose as the sailing ship ploughs through the waves.

It is a poem with much imperative the want to follow your heart’s desire and follow your life joy.

The last line may be difficult to understand – I think there is an ask for a restful quiet sleep after a stint of duty for a ‘trick’ is also a sailing term and refers to a watch at sea of four hours.

This is a well-known poem, perhaps one reason is that it is suitable for children to recite and I am sure I first heard it at primary school.

John Masefield was Poet laureate from 1930 till his death in 1967 … a Wikipedia Link.

Never again would birds’ songs be the same – Robert Frost

Never again would birds’ songs be the same

He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added to their own an oversound,
Her tone of meaning but without the words.
Admittedly an eloquence so soft
Could only have had an influence on birds
When call or laughter carried it aloft.
Be that as may be, she was in their song.
Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed
Had now persisted in the woods so long
That probably it never would be lost.
Never again would birds’ song be the same.
And to do that to birds was why she came.

Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)

A rhyming sonnet with a break in thought after line eight.

He = Adam – I guess this would be assumed by must readers – a welcome to Eve who combats the loneliness of Adam …as shown by this text – an eloquence so soft could only have an influence on birds.

For contemplation – What did the voice of Eve bring to nature? How did Adam now view nature? Did nature actually change?

This poem gives contrast to the way Robert Frost explores loneliness in his poem ‘The Most of It’ … see my previous post for comments on this poem.

Robert Frost on Wikipedia

At the Blind Bend

At the blind bend

It had been a hard journey –
a great flood, the odd earthquake
not to mention a few volcanos –
but reaching this blind bend
with the sky continually clouded
and the children coughing, I
thought the danger quite obvious
and a time to stop and think.

There had been many crossings
but this was different – a greater
understanding – and I was somewhat
nervous. The children held tight
for they too sensed that all was
not well – they have that intuitive
understanding in the blood – while
behind the masses murmured.

Then this person next to me said
‘everything will be OK – don’t worry’
a laid-back sort of fellow – you know
the type – and added ‘God willing
we’ll be right’. Another called out
‘Yes’, he said, ‘God will look after us’.
Then, impatiently, one by one they
started to cross in front of us.

Well I thought I’m dreaming –
this can’t be real – perhaps they
just closed their eyes to the
the danger – well it was quite
a mess I can tell you! Of course
we all went to help at once, to
try and clean up things – and the
children were crying.

Richard Scutter July 2018

It has been one of the driest Autumn-Winter periods on record in Australia and in England likewise one of the driest summers ever and in Tokyo extreme heat has been responsible for over a dozen deaths while in Sweden, Finland and the Arctic Circle unprecedented wild fires have caused extensive damage to the local natural environment. And while writing this post fires have been rampaging parts of Greece causing many deaths and three days of national mourning.

It seems our planet is getting a little warmer with extreme weather common; and not a time to ignore climate change or be complacent!

And of course it is always inappropriate to appropriate God in order to justify unthinking action.

One Art – Elizabeth Bishop – Analysis

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911 – 1979)

This poem is a villanelle consisting of five tercets rhyming ‘aba’ and a quatrain of rhyming ‘abaa’ Traditionally the lines are iambic pentameter.

The title One Art.

The title cannot be understood until reading the poem. If the way life to be lived is defined as the ‘The Art of Living’ and if this can be subdivided into countless components such as ‘The Art of Working’, ‘The Art of Communication’, etc. then perhaps one such component could be defined by ‘The Art of Losing’ and this is what life is all about and so too this poem – ‘One Art’ one very important art!

Looking at each stanza –

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Life can be regarded as a continual disappearance game as we lose things all the time – so this must be expected – it’s life! A villanelle as many repetitive lines so very appropriate to the nature of loss.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

We mislay things often and find then quickly hopefully and quite often these are things we use all the time like keys. Annoying and time consuming events that are just part of everyday life and not hard to master!

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

You meet many people visit many places and you lose them as they fade from current life. The question is – are they still latent in your life story. Perhaps of more importance to your thoughts are the places and people you have always been meaning to visit. This is a far different kind of loss because it engenders failure.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

No we start talking of those things of great value to who we are. Items of personal significance and places that have been are home through the years. We lose them as we move on but do not forget their significance or do we.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Then geography and countries and cities are condemned to loss. More so of course as you age and are confined to place after many years of experiencing travel and life in different countries. Elizabeth Bishop lived in Brazil for 15 years before her return to Massachusetts. Maybe not a disaster in that happy memories instils warmth to current life.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Here we end with the greatest loss perhaps – that of a close loved one; whether a partner or family member. And (Write it!) says with such emphatic voice that ‘losing’ is so hard.

This poem is the ‘Art of Losing’ and quite different from ‘The Art of forgetting’.

Elizabeth Bishop on Wikipedia

And an excellent analysis of this poem is on this Site

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.

God’s Education – Thomas Hardy – Comments

God’s Education

That haunted in her eye:
I saw him steal the light away
It went so gently none could say
More than that it was there one day
And missing by-and-by.

I watched her longer, and he stole
Her lily tincts and rose;
All her young sprightliness of soul
Next fell beneath his cold control,
And disappeared like those.

I asked: “Why do you serve her so?
Do you, for some glad day,
Hoard these her sweets–?” He said, “O no,
They charm not me; I bid Time throw
Them carelessly away.”

Said I: “We call that cruelty –
We, your poor mortal kind.”
He mused. “The thought is new to me.
Forsooth, though I men’s master be,
Theirs is the teaching mind!”

Thomas Hardy

This is a poem about grief combined with contemplating the here-after. There are four five line stanzas with questions and responses in the last two. The rhyming varies – ‘abbba, cdccd, ebeeb, fgffg’.

God and time steal beauty, people and life and Hardy regards God as a thief –‘I saw him steal the light away’. And Hardy has lost someone precious and not only that to someone that does not care! – ‘fell beneath his cold control’ and in response to his question ‘why do you serve her so’ there is a throw-away response to the beauty of life from an uncaring God – ‘They charm not me; I bid Time throw / Them carelessly away’.

These words are words of grief. Hardy has loved and known this person intimately and the thought that this person will disappear forgotten into the nothingness of time is just not his way of doing things! He instructs God accordingly reversing the teacher-role. Hardy is not the first person to argue with God and this is very healthy in that he uses his God-given intellect in such a way as to engender his own spiritual growth.

For those that do believe in a here-after. What form does it take? What form would you like it to take? I think an endless nothing is a sad reflection; surely we can use our imagination for a better outcome! A bit pertinent to tell God what to do but Thomas Hardy is quite happy to give education to our creator! And according to the last line of the last stanza God is appreciative of the advice – ‘theirs is the teaching mind!’

There are of course alternative positive poetic responses on the nature of God compared to those given by a grief stricken TH.

Thomas Hardy on Wikipedia.