"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

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Heart That Watches and Receives

WHERE ALL'S ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
Woman Reading
Robert James Gordon, 1845 - 1932
[still trying to learn more about this artist]

Tomorrow is the first day of March! It may not be the first mild day of March, but whether the weather be lion or lamb the first of March is here, a day often associated with the New Year and new beginnings. As keen romantic William Wordsworth says in his poem "To My Sister," we have before us a day of "blessing," an "hour of feeling." I like the way that he feels free to discount January and February as not quite living up to his expectations:

No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living calendar:
We from to-day, my Friend, will date
The opening of the year.

For Wordsworth, it is the long - awaited month of March that captures "the spirit of the season" and sets the true course for the remainder of the year. He doesn't want his sister, or anyone else, to miss out on his sense of urgency and certainty that "One moment now may give us more / Than years of toiling reason":

Some silent laws our hearts will make,
Which they shall long obey:
We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.

The poem is an impulsive celebration of nature, and such an earnest combination of wise passiveness and brotherly love that I can hardly read it without feeling convinced:

To My Sister
It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field.

My sister! ('tis a wish of mine)
Now that our morning meal is done,
Make haste, your morning task resign;
Come forth and feel the sun.

Edward will come with you;--and, pray,
Put on with speed your woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We'll give to idleness.

No joyless forms shall regulate
Our living calendar:
We from to-day, my Friend, will date
The opening of the year.

Love, now a universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth:
--It is the hour of feeling.

One moment now may give us more
Than years of toiling reason:
Our minds shall drink at every pore
The spirit of the season.

Some silent laws our hearts will make,
Which they shall long obey:
We for the year to come may take
Our temper from to-day.

And from the blessed power that rolls
About, below, above,
We'll frame the measure of our souls:
They shall be tuned to love.

Then come, my Sister! come, I pray,
With speed put on your woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We'll give to idleness.


It always amuses me that he makes mention of breakfast (something hearty, I trust!) and then instructs his sister to don her "woodland dress." I love to imagine this garment! What might Dorothy have chosen to wear that day? Perhaps it was something similar to the fashions in this painting by Harold Knight or the one above by Robert Gordon. If these portraits are any indication, it would seem that the perfect accessory for a woodland dress is always, surely a book! No matter what Wordsworth might say!

Girl Stands in a Field Reading Her Book
Harold Knight, 1874 - 1961

Even when planning a day of idleness and joy, Wordsworth hopes to impose an agenda: no tasks, no books! He is romantic but also didactic. In this next poem, he seems almost to be joking, but not quite. His message is sincere: Fall in love with Nature! Open your heart! And his closing image -- "a heart that watches and receives" -- is one of his most beautiful.

The Tables Turned: An Evening Scene on the Same Subject
Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.


both poems written in 1798
by William Wordsworth , 1770 – 1850
Major English Romantic Poet

A Heart That Watches and Receives

For me, these two poems by Wordsworth -- "To My Sister" and "The Tables Turned" -- remain forever connected with that lush and hazy song from the 70s -- "The Air That I Breathe." Remember? My friend Marilyn used to say, "What? No books to read? That can't be right!"

Whenever we happened to hear it on the radio, Marilyn would always express her dismay. She was torn; she wanted to like it; but why No books to read? What kind of paradise would that be?" No sleep -- okay. Nothing to eat -- okay. But no books? Not okay!"

Although it is still a favorite, I never hear it without the memory of Marilyn's wise words!

The Air That I Breathe
[click to listen]
If I could make a wish, I think I'd pass
Can't think of anything I need
No cigarettes, no sleep, no light, no sound
Nothing to eat, no books to read

Making love with you
Has left me peaceful, warm and tired
What more could I ask
There's nothing left, to be desired

Peace came upon me
And it leaves me weak
So sleep, silent angel
Go to sleep

Sometimes
All I need is the air
That I breathe
And to love you

All I need is the air
That I breathe

Just to love you
All I need is the air
That I breathe . . .


sung by The Hollies
written by Albert Louis Hammond / Mike Hazlewood
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing
Copyright: Imagem Songs Ltd.

Photo from last year ~ March 1, 2013
Thanks George Sfedu

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, March 14th

Between now and then, read
THE QUOTIDIAN KIT
my shorter, almost daily blog posts
www.dailykitticarriker.blogspot.com


Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST
my running list of recent reading
www.kittislist.blogspot.com

No comments:

Post a Comment