Friday, March 19, 2010


I am fond of the word "repose."  I trace this fondness back to the following poem by R. S. Thomas:


It was a time when wise men
Were not silent, but stifled
By vast noise.  They took refuge
In books that were not read.

Two counsellors had the ear
Of the public.  One cried 'Buy'
Day and night, and the other,
More plausibly, 'Sell your repose.'

R. S. Thomas, Collected Poems: 1945-1990 (1993).

"Sell your repose" has been rattling around inside me for years (together with the entire poem - it is one of those poems you automatically have by heart the second or third time that you read it.)

Then, recently, I read this poem by James Reeves (one of my "neglected poets"):


Repose is in simplicities.
Perhaps the mind has leaves like trees,
Luxuriant in the sensual sun
And tossed by wind's intricacies,
And finds repose is more than grief
When failing light and falling leaf
Denote that winter has begun.

James Reeves, Collected Poems (1974).

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "repose" as "the state of being quietly inactive or relaxed, or of being free from care, anxiety, or other disturbances; ease, serenity."  (Sense 2.a.)  But perhaps I prefer Sense 2.b, which the OED designates as "obsolete":  "peace of mind."   

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