Thursday, August 26, 2010

Euphrasy: "The Land Of Life To Look At And Explore"

I had never seen the word "euphrasy" until I came across it in this poem by Siegfried Sassoon:


The large untidy February skies --
Some cheerful starlings screeling on a tree --
West wind and low-shot sunlight in my eyes --
   Is this decline for me?

The feel of winter finishing once more --
Sense of the present as a tale half told --
The land of life to look at and explore --
   Is this, then, to grow old?

Common Chords (1950).  Sassoon wrote the poem in 1949, at the age of 63.

                                      Stanley Roy Badmin, "February"

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "euphrasy" is "a plant, Euphrasia officinalis, formerly held in high repute for its medicinal virtues in the treatment of diseases of the eye."  "Eye-bright" is "the popular name of the plant."  The OED states that "euphrasy" may be used figuratively, and provides an example from Frederick Faber's Bethlehem (1865):  "Eyes which have been touched with the special euphrasy of heaven."  A few years after encountering Sassoon's poem, I discovered that Walter de la Mare, who was a friend of Sassoon's, also wrote a poem titled "Euphrasy."  It appears in de la Mare's 1938 collection, Memory and Other Poems.



red dirt girl said...

i found your blog when i googled philip larkin's "there is an evening coming in". beautiful blog both words and images. as an inveterate bloggery thief, i'll be returning to plunder your treasure of poems.... and staying to bask in the images.


Stephen Pentz said...

Red dirt girl: Thank you very much for visiting, and for your kind words. As a result of seeing your name, I've got Emmylou Harris's wonderful song in my head.

red dirt girl said...

Emmylou! I'm drawn to storytellers. I'm busy reading your labeled poets. Some are old favs, but many are new to me - how exciting!

Euphrasy now THAT'S a word.

Here are a few more I think you might like:

All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.

~William Cullen Bryant

WCB can be a bit burdensome to read (in my rdg opinion) but there are gems, like the above, hidden in his work.


William A. Sigler said...

I got your link from today's Anecdotal Evidence. Transcendent poem, amazing site. This is a place I need to visit every day. "A million silk bandannas" to you, for now.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you again, red dirt girl. And thank you for the lines from William Cullen Bryant, which I had not seen before. I need to explore his poetry further.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Sigler: Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind words. As I said in my comment to Patrick's post today, he and Anecdotal Evidence are the inspiration for my own tiny efforts. I am pleased that you found your way here through his generosity. Thank you again.

And thank you for the Emmylou!