Monday, 30 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: Loneliness by Sophie M. Hensley


(from The Heart of a Woman: 1906)

Dear, I am lonely, for the bay is still
     As any hill-girt lake; the long brown beach
     Lies bare and wet. As far as eye can reach
  There is no motion. Even on the hill
     Where the breeze loves to wander I can see
     No stir of leaves, nor any waving tree.

There is a great red cliff that fronts my view
     A bare, unsightly thing; it angers me
     With its unswerving-grim monotony.
  The mackerel weir, with branching boughs askew
     Stands like a fire-swept forest, while the sea
     Laps it, with soothing sighs, continually.

There are no tempests in this sheltered bay,
     The stillness frets me, and I long to be
     Where winds sweep strong and blow tempestuously,
  To stand upon some hill-top far away
     And face a gathering gale, and let the stress
     Of Nature's mood subdue my restlessness.

An impulse seizes me, a mad desire
     To tear away that red-browed cliff, to sweep
     Its crest of trees and huts into the deep;
  To force a gap by axe, or storm, or fire,
     And let rush in with motion glad and free
     The rolling waves of the wild wondrous sea.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the child
     Of calm, law-loving parents, or a stray
     From some wild gypsy camp. I cannot stay
  Quiet among my fellows; when this wild
     Longing for freedom takes me I must fly
     To my dear woods and know my liberty.

It is this cringing to a social law
     That I despise, these changing, senseless forms
     Of fashion! And until a thousand storms
  Of God's impatience shall reveal the flaw
     In man's pet system, he will weave the spell
     About his heart and dream that all is well.

Ah! Life is hard, Dear Heart, for I am left
     To battle with my old-time fears alone
     I must live calmly on, and make no moan
  Though of my hoped-for happiness bereft.
     Thou wilt not come, and still the red cliff lies
     Hiding my ocean from these longing eyes.

Sophie Margaretta Almon Hensley (1866-1946)
Canadian writer and educator

Monday, 23 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: Spring by Gerard Manley Hopkins


(from Robert Bridges (ed.). Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins: 1918)

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
     When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
     Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
     The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
     The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

     What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
     In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
     Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
English poet and Jesuit priest

Friday, 20 March 2020

Bookish Déjà-Vu: Puffball by Fay Weldon

Many dream of a secluded life in the country although it certainly isn’t right for everybody. Those who are used to the permanent commotion of city life may find it not just a big change, but also a challenge to have just a few neighbours to talk to all day long and only a handful of places to go to for meeting people. At this difficult time that requires social distancing – or rather physical distancing –, most of us have become painfully aware of how important social interaction actually is for us human beings. Introverts like me will find it less hard to stay at home than extraverted people whose mental well-being depends to a considerable extent on the personal exchange with numerous others. The loneliness that the female protagonist of Puffball by Fay Weldon feels having moved from London to a country cottage with her husband makes her fall victim to false friends…

Read my review »

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Back Reviews Reel: March 2017

My reads of three years ago were diverse as ever and comprised three contemporary and two classical works of literature from the pens of female and male writers from Europe and the Americas. The first two were The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey and The Pope’s Daughter by en-Nobel-ed writer Dario Fo, namely biographical novels bringing to life Austrian fin-de-siècle painter Gustav Klimt and the much defamed beauty Lucrezia Borgia from Renaissance Italy respectively. The short-story collection The Country Road by forgotten writer Regina Ullmann took me on a trip across rural Switzerland of the 1920s, while The Roots of Heaven by Romain Gary, an award-winning French classic from the 1950s set in Africa, advocated the protection of wild life and more generally of the environment. Finally, I got absorbed in a fictitious Brazilian painter’s arbitrary train of thoughts running through the pages of non-narrative Água Viva by Clarice Lispector.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: The Idea by Agnes Mary F. Robinson

The Idea

(from Songs, Ballads and a Garden Play: 1888)

Beneath this worlcj of stars and flowers
     That rolls in visible deity,
I dream another world is ours
     And is the soul of all we see.

It hath no form, it hath no spirit;
     It is perchance the Eternal mind;
Beyond the sense that we inherit
     I feel it dim and undefined.

How far below the depth of being,
     How wide beyond the starry bound;
It rolls unconscious and unseeing,
     And is as Number or as Sound.

And through the vast fantastic visions
     Of all this actual universe,
It moves unswerved by our decisions
     And is the play that we rehearse.

Agnes Mary Frances Robinson (1857-1944)
English poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, and translator

Monday, 9 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: The Sparrow by Albert Durrant Watson

The Sparrow

(from Heart of the Hills: 1917)

A little meal of frozen cake,
A little drink of snow,
And when the sun is setting,
A broad-eaved bungalow.

A little hopping in the sun
Throughout the wintry day,
A little chirping blithely
Till March drifts into May:

A little sparrow’s simple life,
And Love, that life to keep,
That careth for the sparrow
Even when it falls asleep.

Albert Durrant Watson (1859-1926)
Canadian poet and physician

Monday, 2 March 2020

Poetry Revisited: Spring by Lesbia Harford


(from The Poems of Lesbia Harford: 1941)

The hot winds wake to life in the sweet daytime
My weary limbs,
And tear through all the moonlit darkness shouting
Tremendous hymns.

My body keeps earth’s law and goes exulting.
Poor slavish thing!
The soul that knows you dead rejects in silence
This riotous spring.

Lesbia Harford (1891-1927)
Australian poet, novelist and political activist