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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
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.”
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.