Sunday, 27 November 2016

ROBERT FROST: A PRAYER IN SPRING

2016-48  Robert Frost: A Prayer in Spring






Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

- Robert Frost

Robert Frost [1874-1963]



Introduction

The little poem, "A Prayer in Spring," is spoken in four stanzas, each composed of two rimed couplets. As the speaker prays to the Divine Beloved, he is also inviting his audience to become as delighted in "the springing of the year” as they do in the later harvest which happens in autumn—two seasons away from spring.

First Stanza: "Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day"

The speaker is addressing the All-Mighty Lord, requesting that the speaker and his fellow neighbors be afforded the foresight and the ability to appreciate the current season's qualities.
The speaker requests that they all might be able to take "pleasure in the flowers to-day." Additionally, he suggests that they refrain from putting their thoughts only on the coming "uncertain harvest."
As the farmers begin their spring planting and cultivation, they would naturally be looking forward to the ripe results with its benefits of food and money. The speaker, however, is urging them to contemplate with enjoyment the season dedicated to planting and tending.
After all, it is the season of new birth, a time when they begin their valuable work, and then continue that work of cultivation that later will result in the fine, necessary, and, hopefully, abundant harvest.
By calling the harvest "uncertain," the speaker lays his emphasis on the very much needed ability to live in the moment, instead of  looking to the future for enjoyment.
Constantly looking ahead to future possibilities, the human being loses the beauty of the current activities, and then there is the possibility of being disappointed in the future if the harvest does not result in all that quality produce.

Second Stanza: "Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white"

The speaker then dramatizes the qualities of spring that usually supply enjoyment as they happen: "the orchard white" refers to the budding flowers that will later provide the ripe fruit they will gather in fall.
However, the speaker wishes that his audience of fellow farmer will appreciate the beauty of those blooms now so they may take pleasure in them, even during the night time when they appear like "ghosts."
The speaker also requests from the Lord that the speaker and his fellow farmers be able to experience happiness with "the happy bees" that perform the important task of buzzing the blooms of the orchards, spreading the pollen that fosters the continued grow of fruit.
The speaker seeks from the Creator that the Divine may endow his fellows with these appreciative attitudes with powers of observation, which likely he seldom experiences seeing in them.

Third Stanza: "And make us happy in the darting bird"

The speaker prays for them all to be "happy in the darting bird": a humming bird that seems to move like a "meteor" as it "thrusts in with needle bill, / And off a blossom in mid air stands still."
Because he speaker has felt such delight in observing those sights, he now he is seeking assistance from the Lord to encourage his compatriots of relatives, neighbors, and friends to have to ability to discern joy and experience pleasure that those natural spring time delights offer.

Fourth Stanza: "For this is love and nothing else is love"

Finally, the speaker puts forth his reason for requesting of the Divine that He tap the minds and even the hearts of his fellows: this speaker firmly believes that "this is love and nothing else is love."
The speaker feels strongly that there are many aspects of life that are not understood well by the human heart and mind, which means they simply have to be left only to God. However, the simple pleasures of spring are completely understandable and free for everyone to experience.
Those pleasures of each season cost nothing and are given freely to everyone. They offer much enjoyment to each human observer, and this speaker wants to urge his fellows to feel the same joy and love he has experienced as he has observed those seasonal qualities.



YouTube Video: Robert Frost "A Prayer in Spring" [Click Here]









Sunday, 20 November 2016

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: LINES WRITTEN IN EARLY SPRING

2016-47  William Wordsworth: Lines Written in Early Spring


William Wordsworth
Lines Written in Early Spring is a landscape poem that is largely concerned with nature. In it, the poet lounges underneath a tree in the wilderness, and contemplates the changes that society has undergone around him. As the poet sits there and muses on nature, its beauty, and its seamless existence, his thoughts turn briefly to the misery of man, and to the miseries that men have wrought on one another. 
Stunned by the cruelty and the callousness of the French Revolution, Wordsworth and other Romantic Poets wrote primarily to try and take back the world from the brink that it had been pushed to during the so-called age of enlightenment. Lines Written in Early Spring was one such poem.





Lines Written in Early Spring

Related Poem Content Details

   
 I heard a thousand blended notes, 
     While in a grove I sate reclined, 
     In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts 
     Bring sad thoughts to the mind. 




To her fair works did Nature link 
The human soul that through me ran; 
And much it grieved my heart to think 
What man has made of man. 

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower, 
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; 
And ’tis my faith that every flower 
Enjoys the air it breathes. 

The birds around me hopped and played, 
Their thoughts I cannot measure:— 
But the least motion which they made 
It seemed a thrill of pleasure. 

The budding twigs spread out their fan, 
To catch the breezy air; 
And I must think, do all I can, 
That there was pleasure there. 

     If this belief from heaven be sent, 
     If such be Nature’s holy plan, 
     Have I not reason to lament 
     What man has made of man?



Lines Written in Early Spring  Analysis

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

Wordsworth has a renowned reputation as the poet of nature. In his body of work, Nature assumes a personality, an almost divine spirit that permeates all objects. To be close to nature, Wordsworth philosophized, was to be close to God; and while there were other poems of nature that were prevalent throughout the Romantic era, it is Wordsworth whom springs most readily to mind.
In the first quatrain, the divinity of Nature occurs in the phrase ‘a thousand blended notes’, implying an almost-pervasive presence of the natural, something that is akin to the omnipotence shown by God.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

The second quatrain moves briefly away from Nature to reminisce on the misery that other humans have caused each other since time immemorial. The poet, however, takes a moment to state that Nature is linked to humanity through the very idea of a soul; that Nature’s soul is not that different from humanity, and that, although it has been forgotten by the rest of the world, it is man’s natural state to be close to Nature. This was one of Wordsworth’s principle philosophies: that it was man’s innate state to be close to nature.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

In this quatrain, the presence of nature as a living thing strikes again, this time in the movement verbs used – ‘trailed’, for the periwinkle; ‘breathes’ for the flowers. Throughout Lines Written in Early Spring, Wordsworth does his best to create the idea of a living, breathing world that is only a fraction removed from humanity.


The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

Once more, the presence of movement draws stark contrast with the immobile poet – it is nature that draws the reader’s attention, so much has been said about it that it renders the speaker-poet nearly a non-entity. He has no presence in the poem; no thoughts, no personality, no ideas. His world is subsumed by the stronger one of nature.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Wordsworth ends the poem with the same lament: Have I not reason to lament what man has made of man?’ Throughout the poem, there was the attempt by Nature to heal the injured soul of the poet-speaker; near the end, despite the best efforts of Nature herself, the poet-speaker’s spirits are still melancholy and low thus negating the healing effect that Wordsworth claimed nature possessed. It ends on a somber; the world of nature, untouched by the miseries of humanity, continues on while the human soul, bound in its rigid cage of mortality and reason, is left behind to experience the misery of the human world.




                              


Sunday, 13 November 2016

JOHN WYNDHAM: WILD FLOWER

2016-46  John Wyndham: Wild Flower from The Seeds of Time


John Wyndam [1903-1969]
John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris [1903 –1969] was an English science fiction writer who usually used the pen name John Wyndham. Many of his works were set in post-apocalyptic landscapes.

Post-apocalyptic fiction is a subgenre of science fiction in which the Earth's technological civilization has collapsed. The apocalypse event may be climatic, such as runaway climate change; or man-made, such as nuclear warfare; or medical, such as a plague or virus.


The story may involve attempts to prevent an apocalypse event, deal with the impact and consequences of the event itself, or it may be post-apocalyptic, set after the event, taking place in a non-technological future world. 

What follows is one of his best short stories -- 

"Wild Flower" taken from "The Seeds of Time" [1956] 

...There was plenty of time. Enough to take the field-path way to school, and not to hurry over it. The sun was climbing, a medallion pinned on a deepening blue cloak.The day was fresh, with a touch like a cool, white-fingered hand. Refractile gems still trembled on the leaves and stalks.

A thrush sang in the spinney beyond the hedge. Felicity Fray paused to listen. Unguent, sweet notes. She walked on, becoming aware again of the silk-fringed zephyrs on her cheeks, the sun on her arms, the dew on her feet.

As Felicity opened the door, the hive-murmur beyond sank into silence. The rows of pink-cheeked faces were all turned towards her. The bright eyes were all fixed on her face.


"Good Morning, Miss Fray," they all said, in unison, and silence fell as completely as before. She could feel the suppressed expectation in the air as they watched her. Her glance went round the familiar room till it reached her desk. There it stopped, where a small glass vase held a single flower.


It was something she had never seen before. There was just a suggestion of orchis about it, perhaps, but it was no kind of orchis she had ever seen, alive or pictured. She caught the scent of it. A little sweetness, a little sharpness, a little earthiness, blended with a subtlety to make a perfumer's art vulgar and banal.


She breathed in the scent again, and looked into the flower hypnotized, unable to take her eyes from it, loving it in its brave delicacy with a sweet, longing compassion. She had forgotten the room, the eyes that watched her, everything but the flower itself.


"Thank you. It's a beautiful flower. Who brought it?" A small, golden-headed child in the middle of the second row pinked a little. "I did, Miss Fray." "I thought it was pretty, and I thought you would like it." Felicity looked back to the flower again. "I do like it, Marrielle.  It's lovely. It was very kind of you to think of bringing it for me."



"One day, I'll read you some William Blake -- 'To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower...' But now we must get on. I want you to copy out what I write on the board, in your best handwriting; and she wrote: "Their colours and forms were then to me an appetitie; a feeling and a love.."

"Where was the flower found?" asked Fray. "In the very top corner of the big field where the aeroplane crashed," said the child. 



"Where the aeroplane crashed." That had been almost a year ago--on a summer's evening when all the world was quietening and settling down for the night. Then the aeroplane appeared as a silver-moth up in the sky. She watched it turn; then suddenly, amid the silver there had been a flash of rose-red fire, and the silver moth ceased to exist. Pieces of glittering foil were spreading apart and falling. Then came the crash and the shrieking of metal.

Felicity saw the silver body less than a hundred yards away, and in that moment petals of flame blossomed round it. Something blew up; bits of metal whirred like pheasants over her, and plopped around. The wreck was a cone of flame with black smoke above.


"Oh God," she prayed, "won't You stop them? It isn't their world to do as they like with. It's Your world that they are destroying. Please, God, while there is still time -- You destroyed their presumption at Babel, won't You do it again, before it''s too late?" Felicity remembered the prayer as she sat at her desk, looking at the beautiful flower.


They had put a fence round the place where the aeroplane had crashed, as a mark to indicate the piece of ground that was not to be ploughed. The ground had been left free to grow what it would. And out of the noise, destruction, the fire, the deadly radiations had sprung the lovely flower.


Felicity asked Marielle to come with her on Saturday and show her whee the flowers grew. ...Felicity looked up at the ground. There were five or six small clumps of the flowers growing in the weeds. Felicity and Marielle gathered little bunches.  They still looked delicately beautiful and still had their poignant scent.


At the stile Marielle stopped and stood looking sadly at her little bunch. "They're so lovely," she said mournfully, with tears in her eyes. Felicity put her arms round her. "They're very lovely -- and they've gone. But the important thing is they came. That's the wonderful thing. There'll be some more -- some day -- somewhere..."



A jet came shrieking suddenly, close over the hill-top. Marielle put her hands over her ears. Felicity stood watching the machine shrink among the scream and rumble of protesting air. She held up her little posy of flowers to the blast.

"This is your answer," she said. "This. You bullies, with your vast clubs of smoke -- this is greater than all of you." "I hate them -- I hate them," said Marielle, her eyes on the vanishing speck. "I hate them, too," agreed Felicity. "But now I'm not afraid of them any more. I have found a remedy, an elixer:

      
                                      "It is a wine of virtuous powers;
                                       My mother made it of wild flowers."












Sunday, 6 November 2016

JOHN COWPER POWYS: CULTURE AND NATURE

2016-45  John Cowper Powys: Culture and Nature


John Cowper Powys [1872-1963]
JohnCowper Powys [1872-1963] was a British novelist, lecturer, philosopher, literary critic, and poet.

Powys's first published works were poetry: Odes and Other Poems (1896), Poems (1899), collections which have "echoes of Tennyson, Arnold, Swinburne, among contemporaries, and of John Milton and Wordsworth and Keats". 

While he was a famous lecturer and published a variety of both fiction and non-fiction regularly from 1915, it was not until he was in his early fifties, with the publication of Wolf Solent in 1929, that he achieved critical and financial success as a novelist.

He was influenced by many writers, but he has been particularly seen as a successor to Thomas Hardy. Wolf Solent, A Glastonbury Romance, Weymouth Sands and Maiden Castle are often referred to as his Wessex novels. As with Hardy's novels, the landscape plays a major role in Powys's works, and an elemental philosophy is important in the lives of his characters. 


From CULTURE AND NATURE 
by John Cowper Powys















No refining of one's taste in matters of art or literature, no sharpening of one's powers of insight in matters of science and psychology, can ever take the place of one's sensitiveness to the life of the earth.  This is the beginning and end of a person's true education
The cultivation in one's innermost being of a thrilling sensitiveness to Nature is a slow and very gradual process. 

The difference between cultured people and uncultured people in regard to their response to Nature is that the former make a lot of a little, whereas the latter make a little of a lot. By this I mean that the less cultured you are the more you require from Nature before you can be aroused to receprocity.

Uncultured people require blazing sunsets, awe-inspiring mountains, astonishining waterfalls, masses of gorgeous flowers, portentous signs in the heavens, exceptional weather on earth, before their sensibility is stirred to a response.

Cultured people are thrilled through and through by the shadow of a few waving grass blades upon a little flat stone, or by a single dock leaf, growing under the railings of some city square. 

To a cultured mind no scenery is ordinary, and such a mind will always prefer solitude in an unassuming landscape to crowds of people at some famous "inspirational" resort.

...The whole essence of this great Nature-cult is to store up and lay by thousands and thousands of impressions. The memory can hold much more than most people give it credit for; and the quickened awareness of our days depends upon our memory.

The feelings that can be roused in us by innumerable little physical impressions, coming and going upon the wind, lost in the air, are feelings that bind our years together in a deep secretive piety.

Who knows? Who can tell? It may well be that Nature herself - or at least our own planetary Earth - depends upon such subtle ecstasies in her offspring for her own indescribable self-realization.

The feelings that move us at many moments when we are alone with Nature, with "thoughts that are too deep for tears," seem to bring their own justification. They associate themselves inevitably with generous human emotions, with indulgence towards all creatures, with pity for all creatures.

A life deliberately given up, in the secret levels of its being, to such a cult as this is not a wasted life; it is a triumphant life. It fulfills some absolute purpose in things that are outside and beyond the troubled fevers of the world.