Poem of the Week

Summer Images

By John Clare

Now swarthy Summer, by rude health embrowned,
Precedence takes of rosy fingered Spring;
And laughing Joy, with wild flowers prank’d, and crown’d,
A wild and giddy thing,
And Health robust, from every care unbound,
Come on the zephyr’s wing,
And cheer the toiling clown.

Happy as holiday-enjoying face,
Loud tongued, and “merry as a marriage bell,”
Thy lightsome step sheds joy in every place;
And where the troubled dwell,
Thy witching charms wean them of half their cares;
And from thy sunny spell,
They greet joy unawares.

Then with thy sultry locks all loose and rude,
And mantle laced with gems of garish light,
Come as of wont; for I would fain intrude,
And in the world’s despite,
Share the rude wealth that thy own heart beguiles;
If haply so I might
Win pleasure from thy smiles.

Me not the noise of brawling pleasure cheers,
In nightly revels or in city streets;
But joys which soothe, and not distract the ears,
That one at leisure meets
In the green woods, and meadows summer-shorn,
Or fields, where bee-fly greets
The ear with mellow horn.

The green-swathed grasshopper, on treble pipe,
Sings there, and dances, in mad-hearted pranks;
There bees go courting every flower that’s ripe,
On baulks and sunny banks;
And droning dragon-fly, on rude bassoon,
Attempts to give God thanks
In no discordant tune.

The speckled thrush, by self-delight embued,
There sings unto himself for joy’s amends,
And drinks the honey dew of solitude.
There Happiness attends
With inbred Joy until the heart o’erflow,
Of which the world’s rude friends,
Nought heeding, nothing know.

There the gay river, laughing as it goes,
Plashes with easy wave its flaggy sides,
And to the calm of heart, in calmness shows
What pleasure there abides,
To trace its sedgy banks, from trouble free:
Spots Solitude provides
To muse, and happy be.

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Poem of the Week

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The More Loving One

by W. H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Leave it to Psmith

Leave-It-to-Psmith

I just finished another hilarious audio book narrated by Jonathon Cecil. Wodehouse’s Leave it to Psmith is a complicated frolic involving Freddie, a rich foolish young man, who tries to get his uncle out of a fix and to get a hefty sum so he can get enough money to buy into a booking scheme. If he only could become a bookie, he can marry his dream girl. All he needs is 1000 pounds. His uncle would help but his parsimonious aunt keeps a careful eye on all the family finances.

Eureka!

Freddie will get someone to steal his aunt’s insured necklace, hand it off to the uncle who’ll in turn submit a claim for the necklace, sell off the real one and give some money to Freddie, some to his needy niece and have some freedom for himself.

Who will take on this ridiculous endeavor?

Enter Psmith. A gentleman who’s fled a dull job for his uncle and has advertised to take on any work. Soon Psmith is posing as an erudite poet and entering the uncle’s country home to figure out how to get the necklace.

The story is great fun and wonderfully read by Cecil.

From Mills’ “On Liberty”

Quote

“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

The Old Wives’ Tale

a3fba127a3076a6465b57e6895a575ef“. . . humanity walks ever on a thin crust over terrific abysses.”

I’d never heard of Arnold Bennett or his novel The Old Wives’ Tale till my friend chose it for us to read and discuss. The Old Wives’ Tale focuses on two sisters in Northern England in the fictional “Five Towns” area. The oldest Constance is a practical, predictable yet strong woman, while Sophia is a vivacious beauty who pushes all the boundaries.

Their mother is much like Constance and faithful to conventions. Their father is bedridden, which means the family’s welfare depends on the mother running the business, a drapery store.

The story starts with the girls in their teens. Despite their different personalities, they get along for the most part. Sophia yearns for romance and excitement, while Constance is satisfied with working in the family store and living a standard middle class life. When their father dies and Sophia runs off with a dapper traveling salesman, the story takes off.

A keen observer, Bennett fills the novel with insights that make readers think, “Yes, people are like that, even today.” Although there are many stories of bourgeois life or of the prodigal who runs off, Bennett’s characters experience surprises till the bitter end. His characters, even minor ones, are alive and worthy of respect and sympathy. I’m happy to say I’ve found another author I’ll read more of.

Poem of the Week, I

A Broken Appointment

By Thomas Hardy
You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb,—
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.
You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
–I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?