"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

Friday, February 14, 2014

Inordinately Realistic

ACCUSTOMED, CEREMONIOUS
A HAPPY SNOWY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Plow & Hearth Birdseed Wands

Not to be too cynical on Valentine's Day, but while driving along in the car one day last summer with the radio on, the irony of these lines from the ABBA song "Angel Eyes" caught my attention:

"And it hurts to remember all the good times
When I thought I could never live without him"

For months, my brain has been circling around these lyrics, and now seems a good time to take a closer look at the irony. The singer's fondest thoughts are of a time in her relationship when she "thought she could never live without him." I usually just sing along, but this time, I started to wonder, How good of a relationship was that? Or how bad? Bad enough to make me rethink the nostalgia that I have for some of my good / bad old days. What am I recalling with such fondness? The years when I thought that my heart would break in two? Well, if those were the good times, maybe they weren't so good after all despite the hazy romantic edges of memory. Perhaps the narrator is saying that it hurts now because those times were so great and now they are gone for good. More likely, I suspect she's recalling a time that may have seemed good enough but was also hurtful -- and that's why it hurts to remember.

Good times shouldn't hurt, yet sometimes from the very beginning, a relationship consists primarily of the kind of good times that it hurts to remember. Come to think of it, it can even hurt to have some of those good times in the first place. Kind of like -- in my chick flick choice for Valentine's Day this year -- Georgy Girl's relationship with Jos.

As Georgy learns, those are the kind of good times that you have to stay away from. Learn what you can and move on. I was pretty pleased with myself twenty - five years ago, when Gerry and I completed some personality profile questionnaires to help us understand our relational issues, compatibility levels, and marital readiness. When I scored in the range of "Inordinately Realistic," I was convinced that I had used all of my bad relationships wisely!

In honor of Valentine's Day, here are a few inordinately realistic proverbs that have spoken to my heart in troubled times:

"A long time ago I was desperately in love.
In fact, you could leave out the 'love'
and still get a pretty good picture."

from "True Romances #2"
in True Stories
by Margaret Atwood

" 'Love,' says Squire Allworthy, 'however much we may corrupt and pervert its meaning . . . remains a rational passion.' "
from Tom Jones

by Henry Fielding

"It is overdoing the thing to die of love."
~ French Proverb ~


After awhile you begin to realize that lots of people have had
previous marriages that just never come up in conversation.
Especially if there are no children, then it's really nothing
more than a bad date, a long bad date."

~ A Wise Friend ~


"I can't believe we once threw dishes at each other, but we did.
I can remember which plates, which cups, which glasses,
and which ones broke."

~ Margaret Atwood / same story as above ~

"What can be broken, can be fixed, he thought.
What can be broken, can be fixed.
There was a dimension to all of this he had to ignore,
a reality, if you will.
But a balance wheel can be reattached,
a shaft can be machined, from scratch if necessary.
Still, it would be too late for him.
The normal, or maybe
not the normal,
part of the doll still worked perfectly.
The other could be fixed.
But not for him, never for him, fixed or not,
that was gone forever."

from "Moriya"
in By The Light of the Jukebox
by Dean Paschal

Inordinately realistic or not, I still adore a sentimental Valentine!
~ like this collage of vintage favorites from my friends Diane & Vickie ~

SEE YOU IN TWO WEEKS FOR MY
Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, February 28th

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