July, Keats and some facts.

Last week I was wondering which poetry book to choose for July but then something happened which helped me decide. I received some lovely mail from one of the sweetest friends on instagram and it included this lovely postcard. It has some lines written  by the passionate Keats, with an illustration from Averil Burleigh; she is one of my top favourite illustrators of the Pre-Raphaelites era times along with Edmund Dulac. I love it, thank you. ❤

The lines on this postcard are from the 14 line sonnet called ‘To sleep’ which actually refers to death. Keats, who died at age 25, knew he was terminally ill (TB) and in this sonnet/prayer he was wondering whether God would take his soul whilst writing this or after he receives the priest’s blessings.

“O soft embalmer of the still midnight,

Shutting, with careful fingers and benign, 

Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,

Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:

O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close, 

In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,

Or wait the “Amen,” ere thy poppy throws, 

Around my bed its lulling charities.

Then save me, or the passed day will shine

Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,

Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords

Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;

Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,

And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.”

📖 During the last days Keats’s doctor refused to give him opium to ease some of the excruciating pain because he thought Keats wanted to commit suicide so Keats was in constant agony. His nurse, Severn, later wrote that Keats used to wake up crying on finding himself still alive. He wanted a tomb with no name or date, only the words ‘Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water’.
📖 What they actually wrote: “This Grave contains all that was Mortal of a Young English Poet Who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart at the Malicious Power of his Enemies Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone: Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water. 24 February 1821″….

I will write more about him during this month. Wishing you a lovely day 💞

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Whitman, sunset and a song.

“Splendor of ended day, floating and filling me!

Hour prophetic—hour resuming the past! 

Inflating my throat—you, divine average! 

You, Earth and Life, till the last ray gleams, I sing. 

Open mouth of my Soul, uttering gladness, 

Eyes of my Soul, seeing perfection, 

Natural life of me, faithfully praising things; 

Corroborating forever the triumph of things…”

Beautiful lines from Whitman’s Song at Sunset (1860). Hope you are all having a blessed Sunday.

Wadsworth Longfellow, the seaside and the secret.

“Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams, come back to me.
Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,
Such as gleam in ancient lore;
And the singing of the sailors,
And the answer from the shore!
Most of all, the Spanish ballad
Haunts me oft, and tarries long,
Of the noble Count Arnaldos
And the sailor’s mystic song.
Like the long waves on a sea-beach,
Where the sand as silver shines,
With a soft, monotonous cadence,
Flow its unrhymed lyric lines;– Telling how the Count Arnaldos,
With his hawk upon his hand,
Saw a fair and stately galley,
Steering onward to the land;– How he heard the ancient helmsman
Chant a song so wild and clear,
That the sailing sea-bird slowly
Poised upon the mast to hear,
Till his soul was full of longing,
And he cried, with impulse strong,–
“Helmsman! for the love of heaven,
Teach me, too, that wondrous song!” “Wouldst thou,” so the helmsman answered,
“Learn the secret of the sea?
Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery!” In each sail that skims the horizon,
In each landward-blowing breeze,
I behold that stately galley,
Hear those mournful melodies;
Till my soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.”

Word for word he wrote my feelings. The most favourite poem by one of the Masters of lyrical poetry. By the Seaside: The Secret of the Sea by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(1807-1882). He stole my heart with this one. Apart from teaching and writing poetry, he spent years translating Dante’s Divine Comedy and the poetry of Michaelangelo.

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June, modern poets and Pollock.

This month, after a month of lovely romantic 19th century poetry, I am going to read some modern poetry form Geoffrey Grigson, Edwin Muir & Adrian Stokes. Grigson was born in 1905, literary editor, worked for BBC and in publishing. He also wrote many books including Notes from an Odd Country and a study on flowers and plants in The Englishman’s Flora. 📚 Muir was a famous Scottish poet born in 1887.  He worked for the British Council in Edinburgh, then in Prague and later in Rome. Later he also taught at Harvard, but writing poetry was always a constant thing. 📚 Stokes was born in London in 1902 , he was a painter and writer and lived in Italy for a while and then back in the UK.  Most famous for his books about art, including The Quattro Cento (the four hundred)… The cover of this book made me think of a very wild but great artist whom I admire for his staying true to himself no matter what others thought; and that was Jackson Pollock. His art was negatively received in the beginning but he refused to follow trends and finally he became famous for his own true expressions. Not only that but thanks to him other doors were opened when it came to freedom in art. He struggled with alcoholism and died in car accident at age 44. His art goes really well with the writings of these passionate poets who also changed the way people looked at poetry.

“Since I emerged that day from the labyrinth,

Dazed with the tall and echoing passages,

The swift recoils, so many I almost feared

I’d meet myself returning at some smooth corner,

Myself or my ghost, for all there was unreal

After the straw ceased rustling and the bull

Lay dead upon the straw and I remained,

Blood-splashed, if dead or alive I could not tell

In the twilight nothingness (I might have been

A spirit seeking his body through the roads

Of intricate Hades) – ever since I came out

To the world, the still fields swift with flowers, the trees

All bright with blossom, the little green hills, the sea,

The sky and all in movement under it,

Shepherds and flocks and birds and the young and old,

(I stared in wonder at the young and the old,

For in the maze time had not been with me;

I had strayed, it seemed, past sun and season and change,

Past rest and motion, for I could not tell

At last if I moved or stayed; the maze itself

Revolved around me on its hidden axis

And swept me smoothly to its enemy,

The lovely world) – since I came out that day,

There have been times when I have heard my footsteps

Still echoing in the maze, and all the roads

That run through the noisy world, deceiving streets

That meet and part and meet, and rooms that open

Into each other – and never a final room –

Stairways and corridors and antechambers

That vacantly wait for some great audience,

That smooth sea-tracks that open and close again,

Tracks undiscoverable, undecipherable,

Paths on the earth and tunnels underground,

And bird-tracks in the air – all seemed apart

Of the great labyrinth. And then I’d stumble

In sudden blindness, hasten, almost run,

As if the maze itself were after me.

And soon must catch me up. But taking thought,

I’d tell to myself, ʻYou need not hurry. This

Is the firm good earth. All roads lie free before you’.

But my bad spirit would sneer, ʻNo, do not hurry.

No need to hurry. Haste and delay are equal

In this one world, for there’s no exit, none,

No place to come to, and you’ll end where you are,

Deep in the centre of the endless maze’.

 I could not live if this were not illusion.

It is a world, perhaps; but there’s another.

For once in a dream or trance I saw the gods

Each sitting on the top of his mountain-isle,

While down below the little ships sailed by,

Toy multitudes swarmed in the harbours, shepherds drove

Their tiny flocks to the pastures, marriage feasts

Went on below, small birthdays and holidays,

Ploughing and harvesting and life and death,

And all permissible, all acceptable,

Clear and secure as in a limpid dream.

But they, the gods, as large and bright as clouds,

Conversed across the sounds in tranquil voices

High in the sky above the untroubled sea,

And their eternal dialogue was peace

Where all these things were woven, and this our life

Was a chord deep in that dialogue,

As easy utterance of harmonious words,

Spontaneous syllables bodying forth a world.

That was the real world; I have touched it once,

And now shall know it always. But the lie,

The maze, the wild-wood waste of falsehood, roads

That run and run and never reach an end,

Embowered in error – I’d be prisoned there

But that my soul has bird wings to fly free.

 

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.

Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,

And woke far on. I did not know the place.
The Labyrinth – Muir.

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Oliver, the ocean and the love.

I am in love with Ocean
lifting her thousands of white hats
in the chop of the storm,
or lying smooth and blue, the
loveliest bed in the world.
In the personal life, there is
always grief more than enough,
a heart load for each of us
on the dusty road. I suppose
there is a reason for this, so I will be
patient, acquiescent. But I will live
nowhere except here, by Ocean, trusting
equally in all blast and welcome
of her sorrowless, salt self.

– Ocean by Mary Oliver

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