"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sad September

Badminton House & Landscape Garden
Gloucestershire, England


Dryham Park

two of the houses used as filming locations for the movie
The Remains of the Day

" 'I was so fond of that view from the second-floor bedrooms overlooking the lawn with the downs visible in the distance. Is it still like that? On summer evenings there was a sort of magical quality to that view and I will confess to you now I used to waste many precious minutes standing at one of those windows just enchanted by it' "

Miss Kenton writing to Mr. Stevens
in The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro (b. 1954)

If you're searching for a house where all is "accustomed, ceremonious," there is surely no place more so than fictional Darlington Hall as portrayed in this bittersweet novel -- as well as the beautiful film version produced by Merchant Ivory (I recommend both).

Stevens, the butler, and his father, the elder Mr. Stevens, are "indeed the embodiment of 'dignity' " (34), while the housekeeper, Miss Kenton, exemplifies order and decorum in all that she does. It may not be an entirely happy household, but it is unquestionably a well - ordered one. From their youth, Stevens and Miss Kenton have devoted the better part of their lives to the flawless execution of their duties, to the exclusion of all other interests and connections. Now middle - aged, they allow themselves the brief luxury of examining whether or not the years of rigid service have been spent wisely; of awkwardly questioning what the future -- the remains of the day -- might hold besides "emptiness":

"But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently? One could presumable drive oneself to distraction in this way. In any case, while it is all very well to talk of 'turning points' one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect. Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never - ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable" (179).

And speaking of the sinking realization "that a dream can die," here are a couple of sad September poems by two of my favorite poets, Sara Teasdale and Edna St. Vincent Millay, both of whom I often quote (see last September). In these poems, each narrator has built a house for love but reaped only disappointment for her effort. Millay responds with bitterness, Teasdale with resignation.

That was August . . . this is September . . .

Sonnet #9
Here is a wound that never will heal, I know,
Being wrought not of a dearness and a death,
But of a love turned ashes and the breath
Gone out of beauty; never again will grow
The grass on that scarred acre, though I sow
Young seed there yearly and the sky bequeath
Its friendly weathers down, far underneath
Shall be such bitterness of an old woe.
That April should be shattered by a gust,
That August should be levelled by a rain,
I can endure, and that the lifted dust
Of man should settle to the earth again;
But that a dream can die, will be a thrust
Between my ribs forever of hot pain.

by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 - 1901)
from The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems, 1923

That was noonday . . . this is midnight . . .

At Midnight
Now at last I have
come to see what life is,

Nothing is ever ended,
everything only begun,

And the brave victories
that seem so splendid

Are never really won.

Even love that I built
my spirit's house for,

Comes like a brooding
and a baffled guest,

And music and men's praise
and even laughter

Are not so good as rest.

by Sara Teasdale (1884 - 1933)
from Flame and Shadow, 1920

And in closing, a couple of sad September songs:

1. Crescent Noon, also mentioned on my daily blog a few months ago


2. September Morn, thanks to a timely reminder from a facebook friend.

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, October 14, 2011

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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