"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, January 28, 2015

Bruges ~ Frozen in Time

The Meebrug in Bruges Covered With Snow
by Flori Van Acker, 1858 - 1940

Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.
~ Sigmund Freud ~

After watching the movie In Bruges a couple of years ago, Gerry and I became fixated on the idea of visiting this medieval city. We watched the film a few more times for its wit and character development, and for the mesmerizing scenes of Bruges in snowy December. Yes, it's true, I had to avert my eyes during the more violent subplots; but the town center, parks, side streets, and canals all appeared so enchanting that we decided to travel there as a 25th Wedding Anniversary* trip and see for ouselves the city frozen in time for half a millennium.

Freud was right, many poets had preceded us. Here are two:

The Belfry of Bruges

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
found in The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems, 1845

In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;
Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town.

As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood,
And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.

Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapors gray,
Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay.

At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys, here and there,
Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air.

Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour,
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower.

From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and high;
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.

Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times,
With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes,

Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns sing in the choir;
And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.

Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain;
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;

All the Foresters of Flanders,--mighty Baldwin Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy Philip, Guy de Dampierre.

I beheld the pageants splendid that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece of Gold

Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.

I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground;
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound;

And her lighted bridal-chamber, where a duke slept with the queen,
And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed between.

I beheld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers bold,
Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold;

Saw the light at Minnewater, saw the White Hoods moving west,
Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon's nest.

And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote;
And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsin's throat;

Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
"I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!"

Then the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened city's roar
Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once more.

Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware,
Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.

On Leaving Bruges

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The city's steeple-towers remove away,
Each singly; as each vain infatuate Faith
Leaves God in heaven, and passes. A mere breath
Each soon appears, so far. Yet that which lay
The first is now scarce further or more grey
Than the last is. Now all are wholly gone.
The sunless sky has not once had the sun
Since the first weak beginning of the day.

The air falls back as the wind finishes,
And the clouds stagnate. On the water's face
The current breathes along, but is not stirred.
There is no branch that thrills with any bird.
Winter is to possess the earth a space,
And have its will upon the extreme seas.


Kitti & Gerry ~ 25 / 26 Years

Incognito ~ In Bruges

* Gerry and I had to complicate things, having our civil wedding on 3 February 1989, and our religious ceremony seven months later on 2 September 1989. We try to celebrate both dates in some small way each year, usually tying Anniversary #1 in with Valentine's Day and Anniversary #2 in with Labor Day. Coincidentally, our belated 25th Anniversary #2 trip to Bruges, that we started planning in September 2014, fell on the eve of our 26th Anniversary #1. So Happy Both to Us!

Next Fortnightly Post
Saturday, February 14th

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

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Time for a Night Walk

"Past three o'clock,
And a cold frosty morning,
Past three o'clock;
Good morrow, masters all!"

~ chant of the medieval musical night watchmen ~
~ also called The Waits ~

Connections for the week:
~ three poems about staying up past 3 A.M. ~

1. I recently came across this poem on facebook and found it the perfect herald for the New Year. Whereas "Wait" opened the season as an Advent poem, this one provides not only a sense of closure to the festivities but hope for new beginnings:

Night Walk
The all-night convenience store’s empty
and no one is behind the counter.
You open and shut the glass door a few times
causing a bell to go off,
but no one appears. You only came
to buy a pack of cigarettes, maybe
a copy of yesterday’s newspaper —
finally you take one and leave
thirty-five cents in its place.
It is freezing, but it is a good thing
to step outside again:
you can feel less alone in the night,
with lights on here and there
between the dark buildings and trees.
Your own among them, somewhere.
There must be thousands of people
in this city who are dying
to welcome you into their small bolted rooms,
to sit you down and tell you
what has happened to their lives.
And the night smells like snow.
Walking home for a moment
you almost believe you could start again.
And an intense love rushes to your heart,
and hope. It’s unendurable, unendurable.

by Franz Wright, in God's Silence: Poems

2. The newly discovered "Night Walk," brings to mind this older favorite from Donald Justice, a poem to remind us of highschool and college, of pre - dawn risings and midnight drives across the Midwest:

Poem to be Read at 3 A.M.
Excepting the diner
On the outskirts
The town of Ladora
At 3 A.M.
Was dark but
For my headlights
And up in
One second-story room
A single light
Where someone
Was sick or
Perhaps reading
As I drove past
At seventy
Not thinking
This poem
Is for whoever
Had the light on

by Donald Justice, in New and Selected Poems

3. Going back to even earlier days is this poem from childhood that invariably echoes through my mind whenever I stay up very late, which seems to be more and more often these days. I might be glancing up at the moon, wondering at an unusual nighttime noise, closing the basement door on the cats before tiptoeing uptairs, switching off the Christmas tree or, better yet, deciding to leave it lit for the last few hours before dawn -- and I'll suddenly think of the furnace man. Despite the fact that I was born way beyond the time of furnace men, and even though all I have to do is look out my window to know that I'm not the only one awake (because the traffic never really stops -- where are those drivers going at 3 A.M.?), I still like the thought that maybe no one is awake except for "God, the furnace man and me":

The Furnace Man
God has a house three streets away,
And every Sunday, rain or shine,
My nurse goes there her prayers to say:
She's told me of the candles fine
That burning all night long they keep
Because God never goes to sleep,
Then there's a steeple of bells;
All through the dark the time it tells,
I like to hear it in the night
And think about those candles bright --
I wonder if God stays awake
For kindness, like the furnace man
Who comes before it's day, to make
Our house as pleasant as he can --
I like to watch the sky grow blue
And think perhaps, the whole world through
No one's awake but just us three --
God, and the furnace man and me.

by Amelia J. Burr, in The American Album of Poetry

Click here to read some
previously posted poems
with a similar message.

Next Fortnightly Post
Wednesday, January 28th

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

Looking for a good book? Try
KITTI'S LIST, currently featuring
"The Girl Who Just Loved Christmas"