Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No Escape, Part Five: "Some Unhaunted Desert"

For this visit to the realm of the ideal place, a place that always comes up against the "wherever you go, there you are" problem, I wish to consider a poem written by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex (1565-1601).  Caught up in the wars and court intrigues of Elizabethan times, Devereux had ample reason to long for a simpler, less dangerous life and land.

Happy were he could finish forth his fate
   In some unhaunted desert, most obscure
From all societies, from love and hate
   Of worldly folk; then might he sleep secure;
Then wake again, and give God ever praise,
   Content with hips and haws and bramble-berry;
In contemplation spending all his days,
   And change of holy thoughts to make him merry;
Where, when he dies, his tomb may be a bush,
Where harmless robin dwells with gentle thrush.

"Some unhaunted desert":  that phrase alone is worth a lifetime of writing, as far as I am concerned.  (But perhaps I am easily pleased -- "or else I'm getting soft," to quote Bob Dylan.)

Alas, Devereux's wish was not to be fulfilled:  he was beheaded on February 25, 1601, for his alleged involvement in a plot against Elizabeth.  His fate certainly adds poignancy to the poem, especially to: "then might he sleep secure."


Michael Gilleland said...

"Some unhaunted desert" is indeed excellent, but I also like "Content with hips and haws and bramble-berry."

Stephen Pentz said...

Michael: Thank you very much for visiting, and for your comment. I agree with you -- in fact, the poem has so many nice lines that it is one of those that you automatically memorize after you've read it a few times. (Although this phenomenon is fading with age!) Thanks again.

Hydriotaphia said...

'Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft' was the full original quote I believe from Dylan's 'Blood on the Tracks'.

Stephen Pentz said...

Hydriotaphia: Thank you very much for visiting and for commenting. Yes, indeed: as you know, the line comes from "If You See Her, Say Hello" -- my favorite song on a wonderful album. (Do we still call them "albums"? Well, it was an "album" way back when I bought it.) Thank you again.

Isabelle (Devereux historian) said...

I would like to see a published collection of the sonnets of Robert Devereux (156-1601) 2nd Earl of Essex.
Given the tens or hundreds of thousands around the world who carry this illustrious isurname, and the continuing worldwide interest in his tragic life, (encouraged in recent years by historians Paul Hammer and Roy Strong) a neat printed hardback book of the "The Collected Sonnets of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex" would be a longterm profitable enterprise.

Stephen Pentz said...

Isabelle: Thank you very much for visiting, and for your comment. I agree with your thought about a new edition of his poems: it is an excellent idea.

Thanks again.