Tweets from my book bag

Featured image: Tulips, a welcome sign of spring.


Cogitation 14 Saturday 7 April 2018   Some people read poetry. Many people read prose. Other people, though, it appears, read sparingly or nothing at all.

This signboard stands outside St Ives Library. I owe loads to my parents’ interest in reading, especially my mother. My dad read newspapers, church papers, and at breakfast a devotional from the Book of Common Prayer. Our modest home library included the Encyclopedia Britannica and for a good number of years its annual supplements.

A peek at poetry

Someone has described poetry as the “chiseled marble of language.” Even though poetry is more than just words that rhyme, it is not easy to define.

English poet John Keats asserted, “They will explain themselves–as all poems should do without any comment.”

Oh my, I do need comment on poems I read or hear. I do take Keats’ point, though, that engaging a poem without commentary does “explain itself” in surprising and satisfying ways.

The same is true of letting a painting “explain itself” through feeling rather than just a linear, rational, “what does it mean?” response. In biblical studies that would be called the Inductive Method, letting the text speak for itself before resorting to a commentary.

We chatted with Artist Stuart Peters in St Ives on Friday. He has moved from representational to abstract work that springs from the heart, he said. The spaghetti-like lines of this watercolour print, “Love It,”  were painted with string.

Keats was born in 1795 and died in 1821, age 25. His literary career spanned less than four years. “Keats’ works occupy a place among the finest examples of English lyric poetry,” notes the back cover blurb of a (large print) book of his poems I’ve just read and returned to the St Ives Library.

I remember seeing a Keats plaque at the base of the Spanish Steps in Rome, indicating he had lived and died in a villa there. He was ill with tuberculosis and his doctors thought Italy’s warmer climate would improve his health. The same illness had taken his mother and brother. He is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.

John Keats was part of the Romantic poets movement. One characteristic of romantic expression is that personal emotions, intense feelings, are told in the first person. Keats’ poems have a lyrical quality, You can imagine singing them. His five odes are ranked among the greatest short poems in the English language. The odes are Psyche, Nightingale, Grecian Urn, Melancholy, and Autumn.

Two of Keats poems are long. Endymion: A Poetic Romance is shy of 5000 lines long. Hyperion is almost 1000 lines long.  I love what he said–I think it’s Keats speaking–about these two lyric poems in an advertisement:

“if any apology be thought necessary for the appearance of the unfinished poem of HYPERION,  the publishers beg to state that they alone are responsible, as it was printed at their particular request, and contrary to the wish of the author. The poem was intended to have been of equal length with ENDYMION, but the reception given to that work discouraged the author from proceeding.” Fleet-Street, 26 June, 1820

Three quotes from Keats

“The problems of the world cannot possible be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men [women] who can dream of things that never were.”

“The excellency of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeable evaporate.”

“There is a budding morrow in midnight.”

A posy has power to stop you in your tracks and work out a magical wonder of wonders in your soul.


Notes from the realm of prose

My reading of prose outstrips that of poetry.

Cats. In the last while I’ve read three books–all about cats–by Derek Tangye, written in the 1960s, Derek and Jeannie Tangye left high profile Fleet Street life in London to operate a daffodil farm in Cornwall, complete with a simple cottage with a ground floor and no running water or electricity.

Tangye’s Minack Series books feature a discovery of idyllic rural life overlooking the English Channel near Lamorna. They raised daffodils, potatoes, and tomatoes. Life on their small acreage is blessed with wildlife, a Muscovy duck, donkeys, hard work, steady visitors, satisfactions gained far superior to riches, engagement with farm neighbours, life enlivened by a succession of four cats.

Jeannie Tangye died in 1986; Derek 10 years later in 1996.

One of the neighbouring farmers with whom the Tangye’s bartered tomatoes and other garden produce for milk was Jack Cockram. Jack was an evacuee from London during WW II. Here he learned farming skills and eventually operated his own dairy farm. We enjoy chatting with Jack at church and on walks with the West Cornwall Footpaths Preservation Society.

A few years ago Jack took us on an emotion-rich walk from Lamorna through the Tangye acreage that is now preserved as the Minack Chronicles Trust, and out the lane to his former farm. We made it just in time for a welcome lunch at the Lamorna Wink Inn. The Trust today offers a place for solitude and the preservation of natural life.

Water. I’m slogging through Tristian Gooley’s How to Read Water. Chapter 2 gets off to a marvelous start. “Our journey will begin, like so many great explorers before us, in the kitchen.”

So water in a glass shows a meniscus curve, that is water is being pulled by the glass, sticking to the edges. What’s the use of knowing that, he asks. “On its own, perhaps not very much. But by drawing a few pieces together it can become a stepping-stone to helping us understand why a river will flood.”

The book offers seriously fascinating stuff, subtitle, “Clues & Patterns from Puddles to the Sea.”
It makes you stop, look and listen to a stream, smile as you wash your boots in a puddle, or watch a child splash in one, and takes your mind to muse on the global movement of tides.

Carbis Water tumbling through Carbis Valley.

Islands. I’ve finished An Island Parish: A Summer on Scilly, by Nigel Farrell. Later this month we’ll spend three nights on the Isles of Scilly, roughly 30 miles west of Penzance. If one is drawn to islands, then the Scilly sojourn promises to be an encounter shared with 2000 dreamers who call England’s most remote parish home.


Wayside sights from a midweek walk

Not only have we met up with mud on our walks, on this one we later covered a quarter-mile long stream of shallow water coursing over stones—boots well-washed. Such are walks to chalk up memories of bird song, fresh air, signs of spring flowering, gratitude not only for the joy of being out and about, but of, so far, staying on our feet.
Part of the footpath on our return from the Halsetown Inn. I have yet to find out how and why this line of massive rocks was placed next to a bramble-covered drystone wall. Small fields lie on both sides of the path.


Easter at St Anta and All Saints Church

“He opened his arms of love upon the cross and made for all the perfect sacrifice for sin.” That may have been part of a hymn we sang on Sunday, a quote from the sermon, or maybe I wrote it from the order of service booklet. The sentence, with resounding Hallelujahs, sums up Easter. Christ is Risen!

The church fulfills its role when it creates a loving space to welcome, listen, and respond to people from within and outside the church. Jesus, head of the church, said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12

St Anta and All Saints Church, Carbis Bay. The church is dedicated to St Anta who came as a missionary from Ireland. With her siblings, St Anta in the fifth century set up mission points in this part of Cornwall. “St Anta may well have set up a chapel at Black Rock, ‘Chapel Aingar’, the rocky point at the mouth of the River Hayle, and her light served as a warning to local mariners as they approached the river and estuary mouth,” said Nigel Marns, author of the guidebook and handbook, A Cornish Celtic Way, a new 125 mile route through Cornwall from St Germans to St Michael’s Mount.


No explanation needed

Sleeping or waking, poetry or prose, still or in motion, our lives, to borrow a phrase from John Keats, “will  explain themselves.” He further said, “Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced–even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it.”

Illustrate it!



Company coming

Today we look forward to the arrival of Dean and Gwen Preheim-Bartel, who have spent a few days in London and now will spend a week at a B&B up the street from us. It will be such a pleasure to welcome them to County Cornwall, a land of ancient and modern coastline,  countryside, and Carbis Bay/St Ives.




8 thoughts on “Tweets from my book bag

  1. Thanks, John, for asllowing me to tag along the interesting paths you explore. This has been an interesting hike, Do you need help to pay for that new camera? A good choice for one who has a creative eye. MKM


    1. Tag along anytime, Mary. The sun is shining today and we hope the combination of sun and wind will dry out the paths. It’s finally warm enough to open the windows, Best!


  2. Hi John,

    Reading your latest blog reminds me of my own reading experience as a child. Here is what I wrote in my book.

    Looking back, it seems as if it never rained and I spent my whole childhood outdoors, but of course it must have done. My parents and my granddad had taught me to read before I went to school and when I wasn’t playing out I often had my nose in a book. As soon as I could, I joined the library and it opened up a whole new world for me. This was before we had a TV, so my knowledge of the world came from radio and books. My Mum and Dad were library members as well and they sometimes got me to choose books for them while I was there. I knew some of the authors they each liked and had a rough idea what to get them. I loved looking at the adult section for them and wished I was old enough to get adult books out for myself. Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t. I don’t even know if there was any rule against it, but even if there was I could have got an extra book on Mum’s or Dad’s ticket. It just didn’t occur to me. Books are much cheaper nowadays, and also I sometimes pick them up for a few pence at charity shops or car boot sales, but nevertheless after all these years I still love going to the library.

    If you want to read any more, you can read my book on line. Here is a link to it.

    Look forward to seeing you and Marty at the next walk.


    Dennis. []

    WWBW electronic.pdf



    1. Thanks, Dennis. Rich memories indeed, of being read to and learning to read and keeping it up.

      It will be good to catch up again on an upcoming walk, but for next week we have guests and so will miss that St Erth walk. Hope to make it to the Hayle circular on 16 April.

      Thanks for the heads up on where to find your book, in the library of cyberspace. Best!


  3. I can’t imagine a world without something to read. As a child I loved the old magazines of Look and Star Weekly that uncle Orie used to bring. As a child I learned about the Kennedys. Mom belonged to a book order reading club and I remember when some of those selections came in the mail. There is nothing nicer than opening a brand new book for the first time smelling the newness of the pages eager to embark on a new adventure. One that captivated me at a young age was the fictional character Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Imagine that; mom ordering that novel!
    We had snow again yesterday and below freezing temperatures. Every week I appreciate the flower pictures. I even look forward to seeing dandelions when the grass turns green. Walt Whitman must have thought the same as he wrote in his style free verse;

    Simple and fresh and fair from einter’s close emerging
    As if no artiface of fashion, business, politics, have ever been,
    Forth from it’s sunny nook of shelter’d grass—innocent, golden,calm as the dawn,
    The spring’s first dandelion shows its trustful face.

    I’m looking forward to the day when I can open my windows too,


    1. Thanks for your comment on books. And how else would I have known that mom read Gone With the Wind? Had no idea. I think she read everything in the Cassel Church library–where she was also the librarian. And lots in the public libraries, too. Opened a lot of windows, didn’t it? We’re seeing plenty of dandelions among the wild flowers here. Walt Whitman must have blown lots of dandelion seed across the pond. The big issue here is the presence of Japanese Knotweed. If weeds were all we had to deal with, we’d stay busy and happy, eh? Enough question/assertions for today. Best!


  4. Enjoyed reading your post today, John. Your many photos of flowers would indicate that spring is finally coming to Cornwall. It has been very slow coming to many parts of the United States! Thanks for your appreciation of poetry, in particular, John Keats. Too bad his life was cut short at 25!

    Enjoy the visit with Dean and Gwen. Tomorrow is Orthodox Easter!

    Monty & Ginger



  5. Thanks, Monty. An elderly lady working in her flower bed said you can get people to mow the lawn, but nobody to dig and weed the flower beds. She thought my advice to take the task in stride was worth minding.


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