Thursday, September 30, 2010

"What Says He? -- 'Caw!'"

I wish that I was competent to distinguish between crows, ravens, rooks, and jackdaws.  I do know that the largest and most ominous specimens that I have encountered frequent the graveyards of Japan.  Loud, demanding, and huge-beaked they were.  I liked to think of them as ravens.  But who knows?

Jackdaws seem less ominous, more comical -- but still clever.  The following poem by William Cowper is a translation of the Latin original by Vincent Bourne.  As I mentioned in a recent post ("Herodotus And William Cowper: On Certain Customs Of Thrace"), Bourne was a teacher of Cowper's at Westminster School, and Cowper translated a number of his Latin poems. 

               The Jackdaw

There is a bird, who by his coat,
And by the hoarseness of his note,
   Might be supposed a crow;
A great frequenter of the church,
Where, bishop-like, he finds a perch,
   And dormitory too.

Above the steeple shines a plate,
That turns and turns, to indicate
   From what point blows the weather.
Look up -- your brains begin to swim,
'Tis in the clouds -- that pleases him,
   He chooses it the rather.

Fond of the speculative height,
Thither he wings his airy flight,
   And thence securely sees
The bustle and the raree-show,
That occupy mankind below,
   Secure and at his ease.

You think, no doubt, he sits and muses
On future broken bones and bruises,
   If he should chance to fall;
No; not a single thought like that
Employs his philosophic pate,
   Or troubles it at all.

He sees that this great roundabout,
The world, with all its motley rout,
   Church, army, physic, law,
Its customs and its businesses,
Is no concern at all of his,
   And says -- what says he? -- "Caw!"

Thrice happy bird!  I too have seen
Much of the vanities of men;
   And sick of having seen 'em,
Would cheerfully these limbs resign
For such a pair of wings as thine,
   And such a head between 'em.

                         James McIntosh Patrick, "Stobo Kirk" (1936)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Samuel Johnson Climbs A Tree

I have previously noted Samuel Johnson's antic side, suggesting that we should not forget this often-neglected aspect of his personality.  Thus far, we have seen that Johnson was a runner of foot-races, as well as a man who was wont to roll sideways down a tempting hill.  ("Samuel Johnson Runs A Foot-Race": June 10, 2010; "Ludwig Wittgenstein Pretends To Be The Moon. Samuel Johnson Rolls Down A Hill": May 8, 2010.)  But Johnson did not confine himself to those two activities: 

One day, as he was walking in Gunisbury Park (or Paddock) with some gentlemen and ladies, who were admiring the extraordinary size of some of the trees, one of the gentlemen said that, when he was a boy, he made nothing of climbing (swarming, I think, was the phrase) the largest there.  'Why, I can swarm it now,' replied Dr. Johnson, which excited a hearty laugh -- (he was then, I believe, between fifty and sixty); on which he ran to the tree, clung round the trunk, and ascended to the branches, and, I believe, would have gone in amongst them, had he not been very earnestly entreated to descend; and down he came with a triumphant air, seeming to make nothing of it.

"Recollections of Dr. Johnson by Miss Reynolds," Johnsonian Miscellanies, Volume II (edited by George Birkbeck Hill) (1897).

              Harry Epworth Allen (1894-1958), "Linlithgow, Sheffield"

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life Explained, Part Seven: "Does The Road Wind Up-Hill All The Way?"

There is a tinge of melancholy in much of  the poetry of Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).  However, given the fact that she wrote more than 1,000 poems, it would be unfair to characterize her solely as a poet of melancholy.  She may be best known for "In the Bleak Midwinter," which was set to music by Gustav Holst (and others) after her death.  She also wrote a book of poetry for children (Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book) which contains ditties about burying a dead thrush in the snow, a "fatherless, motherless" baby, linnets mourning over their eggs ("crushed" by "cruel boys"), and "a baby's grave where autumn leaves drop sere." 

All of which leads to the following poem, which does not exactly provide us with a sunny Explanation of Life.  


Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
   Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
   From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting place?
   A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
   You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
   Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
   They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
   Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
   Yea, beds for all who come.

                        John Everett Millais, "A Vale of Rest" (1858)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Moonlit Apples Of Dreams. Moon-Washed Apples Of Wonder.

As you amble through the series of Georgian Poetry anthologies compiled by Edward Marsh from 1912 to 1922, you soon realize that you are not strolling through the "modernist" land of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound.  Here, rather, you come across the likes of Walter de la Mare, W. H. Davies, a young Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, John Masefield, and Siegfried Sassoon.  Alas, not an Imagist or a Symbolist or a Free-Versifier in sight.

                                           Gilbert Spencer (1892-1979)
                                                   "Bedroom Window"

And, occasionally, you will encounter someone who is all but unknown today.  Someone who once may have written a small gem of a poem.  John Drinkwater, for instance.

                           Moonlit Apples

At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deep-sea apples of green.  There goes
   A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.

A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then
There is no sound at the top of the house of men
Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again
   Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.

They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams;
On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams
Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams,
   And quiet is the steep stair under.

In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep.
And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep
Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep
   On moon-washed apples of wonder.

Georgian Poetry: 1918-1919 (1920).

                             Gilbert Spencer, "From My Studio" (1959)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Herodotus And William Cowper: On Certain Customs Of Thrace

Herodotus relates the following anecdote about the Trausi, who were one of the tribes of Thrace:

"The Trausi in all else resemble the other Thracians, but have customs at births and deaths which I will now describe.  When a child is born all its kindred sit round about it in a circle and weep for the woes it will have to undergo now that it is come into the world, making mention of every ill that falls to the lot of human kind; when, on the other hand, a man has died, they bury him with laughter and rejoicings, and say that now he is free from a host of sufferings, and enjoys the completest happiness."

Herodotus, The Histories, Book V, Chapter 4 (translated by George Rawlinson) (1859).  When I came across this passage, I realized that the Trausi may have anticipated the gloomy conclusion arrived at centuries later by Arthur Schopenhauer and Giacomo Leopardi:  that humans would be better off if they had never been born.  (As I said, gloomy.)

                                               Caspar David Friedrich
                                        "Graveyard under Snow" (1826)

I had not thought about the passage for a while, but recently I came across a poem titled "The Thracian." The poem is a translation by William Cowper of the Latin original, which was written by Vincent Bourne.  Bourne (1695-1747) was an Englishman who wrote poetry in Latin.  Cowper was a pupil of Bourne's at Westminster School.  Later in his life, Cowper translated a number of Bourne's poems.

               The Thracian

Thracian parents, at his birth,
   Mourn their babe with many a tear,
But with undissembled mirth
   Place him breathless on his bier.

Greece and Rome with equal scorn,
   "O the savages!" exclaim,
"Whether they rejoice or mourn,
   "Well entitled to the name!"

But the cause of this concern,
   And this pleasure, would they trace,
Even they might somewhat learn
   From the savages of Thrace.

                                                  Frans Francken
                   "Death Invites the Old Man for a Last Dance" (1635)

Monday, September 20, 2010

"On The Hurry Of This Time"

Recently, I have seen a spate of articles about the adverse impact that technology (e.g., the Internet, PDAs, etc.) may be having upon us.  In particular, there has been much talk of the impact of these things upon our attention spans and our reading habits.  Because I am a Luddite by temperament, I tend to sympathize with these sorts of concerns.  (Given the fact that I am writing these words on a blog, I realize that charges of hypocrisy may be in order.)

However, part of me realizes that we need to put these concerns into perspective.  Not in the sense that they may not have some validity, but in the sense that each "modern" generation (or at least a portion of that generation) believes that things are moving too fast and that the world is undergoing a unique technological transformation that will permanently change (for the worse) humanity.  In other words, a portion of each "modern" generation feels that the world is going to Hell in the proverbial handbasket.

                             George Mackley, "The House by the Lake"

Poets often feel this way.  In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth writes:

[A] multitude of causes, unknown to former times, are now acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor.  The most effective of these causes are the great national events which are daily taking place, and the increasing accumulation of men in cities, where the uniformity of their occupations produces a craving for extraordinary incident, which the rapid communication of intelligence hourly gratifies.

William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads (1800).  Sound familiar?

                                         George Mackley, "Drawbridge"

Here, on a smaller scale, is a poem from the Victorian era by Austin Dobson (1840-1921):

       On the Hurry of This Time

With slower pen men used to write,
Of old, when "letters" were "polite";
   In Anna's, or in George's days,
   They could afford to turn a phrase,
Or trim a straggling theme aright.

They knew not steam; electric light
Not yet had dazed their calmer sight; --
   They meted out both blame and praise
          With slower pen.

Too swiftly now the Hours take flight!
What's read at morn is dead at night:
   Scant space have we for Art's delays,
   Whose breathless thought so briefly stays,
We may not work -- ah! would we might! --
          With slower pen.

Vignettes in Rhyme and Other Verses (1880).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"The Lattermath Will Be A Fine One": Edward Thomas

"Lattermath" is, I think, a lovely word.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as follows:  "The 'latter' mowing; the aftermath.  Also, the crops then reaped."  Edward Thomas fashioned a beautiful sonnet around the word.  The poem is untitled.

It was upon a July evening.
At a stile I stood, looking along a path
Over the country by a second Spring
Drenched perfect green again.  'The lattermath
Will be a fine one.'  So the stranger said,
A wandering man.  Albeit I stood at rest,
Flushed with desire I was.  The earth outspread,
Like meadows of the future, I possessed.

And as an unaccomplished prophecy
The stranger's words, after the interval
Of a score years, when those fields are by me
Never to be recrossed, now I recall,
This July eve, and question, wondering,
What of the lattermath to this hoar Spring?

                                         Howard Phipps, "Eggardon"

Thomas wrote the poem in the summer of 1916, after he had enlisted in the army, but before he was posted to France, where he died in April of 1917 at Arras.  Given these facts, there may be an understandable tendency for us -- who know the "lattermath" that actually awaited him -- to bring some sentimentality to the poem.  (Something that I readily confess to.)  However, the poem stands fully on its own as a beautiful meditation on the pasts, presents, and futures that we all ponder, regret, and hope for.  Thomas is indeed "wondering" about his own "lattermath," but, like any timeless poet, he speaks for us all.

                                  Howard Phipps, "Malacombe Bottom"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Trains In The Distance At Night: Siegfried Sassoon, Marcel Proust, And Emmylou Harris

I hold romantic notions about the sound of distant trains in the countryside at night.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am a city dweller.  Or perhaps it has something to do with country music -- Emmylou Harris singing "Tulsa Queen," for instance.

Siegfried Sassoon wrote the following poem near the beginning of the Second World War:

                    A Local Train of Thought

Alone, in silence, at a certain time of night,
Listening, and looking up from what I'm trying to write,
I hear a local train along the Valley.  And "There
Goes the one-fifty," think I to myself; aware
That somehow its habitual travelling comforts me,
Making my world seem safer, homelier, sure to be
The same to-morrow; and the same, one hopes, next year.
"There's peacetime in that train."  One hears it disappear
With needless warning whistle and rail-resounding wheels.
"That train's quite like an old familiar friend," one feels.

Siegfried Sassoon, Rhymed Ruminations (1940).

                                 Claughton Pellew, "The Train" (1920)

I would ask myself what time it could be; I could hear the whistling of trains, which, now nearer and now further off, punctuating the distance like the note of a bird in the forest, showed me in perspective the deserted countryside through which a traveller is hurrying towards the nearby station; and the path he is taking will be engraved in his memory by the excitement induced by strange surroundings, by unaccustomed activities, by the conversation he has had and the farewells exchanged beneath an unfamiliar lamp that still echo in his ears amid the silence of the night, and by the happy prospect of being home again.

Marcel Proust, Swann's Way (translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin; translation revised by D. J. Enright) (1913).

                               Eric Ravilious, "Train Landscape" (1939)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Stationary Clouds": John Ruskin And Homer

John Ruskin could be a bit obsessive, as well as a bit prickly.  Take, for instance, the subject of "stationary clouds":

When, in the close of my lecture on landscape last year at Oxford, I spoke of stationary clouds as distinguished from passing ones, some blockheads wrote to the papers to say that clouds never were stationary. . . . Those foolish letters were so far useful in causing a friend to write me the pretty one I am about to read to you, quoting a passage about clouds in Homer which I had myself never noticed, though perhaps the most beautiful of its kind in the Iliad.  In the fifth book, after the truce is broken, and the aggressor Trojans are rushing to the onset in a tumult of clamour and charge, Homer says that the Greeks, abiding them, "stood like clouds."

The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, Volume XXXIV, pages 11 and 12.

                    Aelbert Cuyp, "The Maas at Dordrecht" (c. 1650)

Ruskin then silences his critics by quoting his friend's letter:

"Sir, -- Last winter when I was at Ajaccio, I was one day reading Homer by the open window, and came upon the lines -- 'But they stood, like the clouds which the Son of Kronos establishes in calm upon the mountains, motionless, when the rage of the North and of all the fiery winds is asleep.'  As I finished these lines, I raised my eyes, and looking across the gulf, saw a long line of clouds resting on the top of its hills.  The day was windless, and there they stayed, hour after hour, without any stir or motion.  I remember how I was delighted at the time, and have often since that day thought on the beauty and the truthfulness of Homer's simile.  Perhaps this little fact may interest you, at a time when you are attacked for your description of clouds.  I am, sir, yours faithfully, G. B. Hill."

Ibid, page 12.  Thus ends the dispute over whether clouds can indeed be stationary!  (An aside: "G. B. Hill," the letter-writer, is none other than George Birkbeck Hill, the Samuel Johnson scholar who edited numerous excellent editions of Johnson's works during the 19th century.)

                     Aelbert Cuyp, "The Valkhof at Nijmegen" (c. 1650)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life Explained, Part Six: "He Beholds The Sordid Assemblage Just As It Is"

A year prior to providing an Explanation of Life in "Madam Life's a piece in bloom" (which appears in my post for July 18, 2010), William Ernest Henley offered a less scandalous Explanation involving a Child, a Nurse, and a Fair.  The poem is untitled.  Henley dedicated it to his friend Robert Louis Stevenson.  Alas, the figure of Death again makes an appearance, but in a different guise.

                             Stanley Spencer, "The Roundabout" (1923)

A Child,
Curious and innocent,
Slips from his Nurse, and rejoicing
Loses himself in the Fair.

Thro' the jostle and din
Wandering, he revels,
Dreaming, desiring, possessing;
Till, of a sudden
Tired and afraid, he beholds
The sordid assemblage
Just as it is; and he runs
With a sob to his Nurse
(Lighting at last on him),
And in her motherly bosom
Cries him to sleep.

Thus thro' the World,
Seeing and feeling and knowing,
Goes Man: till at last,
Tired of experience, he turns
To the friendly and comforting breast
Of the old nurse, Death.

The Works of W. E. Henley, Poems: Volume I (1908).  The poem was written in 1876.

                                                       Stanley Spencer
                             "Helter Skelter, Hampstead Heath" (1937)

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Dirge In Woods": George Meredith And Po Chu-i

Charles Whitehead's sonnet "A type of human life this forest old" ("Life Explained, Part Five": September 2, 2010) reminds me of a poem by George Meredith (1828-1909) that shares, I think, a similar feeling:

            Dirge in Woods

A wind sways the pines,
               And below
Not a breath of wild air;
Still as the mosses that glow
On the flooring and over the lines
Of the roots here and there.
The pine-tree drops its dead;
They are quiet, as under the sea.
Overhead, overhead
Rushes life in a race,
As the clouds the clouds chase;
               And we go,
And we drop like the fruits of the tree,
               Even we,
               Even so.

George Meredith, A Reading of Earth (1888).

                                                  Howard Phipps
                                "Edge of the Wood, Broadchalke"

Meredith's poem in turn reminds me of certain Chinese poems from the Tang Dynasty (618-907).  I am thinking of the writing of poets such as Wang Wei, Po Chu-i, Li Po, and Tu Fu.  The following poem is by Po Chu-i (772-846), and is translated by Arthur Waley (1889-1966).

The western wind has blown but a few days;
Yet the first leaf already flies from the bough.
On the drying paths I walk in my thin shoes;
In the first cold I have donned my quilted coat.
Through shallow ditches the floods are clearing away;
Through sparse bamboos trickles a slanting light.
In the early dusk, down an alley of green moss,
The garden boy is leading the cranes home.

                                  Howard Phipps, "The Clarendon Way"                

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

By The Sea: Stanley Spencer And Philip Larkin At Southwold

In a previous post ("Clothes-Lines": August 12, 2010), I included Stanley Spencer's 1937 painting "Southwold":

Recently, I read an interview with Philip Larkin in which he talked about the origins of his poem "To the Sea":  "My father died when my mother was sixty-one, and she lived to be ninety-one.  We used to take a week's holiday in the summer.  That poem came when we were in Southwold, when I realized that I hadn't had a 'seaside holiday' for years, and remembered all the ones when I was young."  Philip Larkin, "An Interview with John Haffenden", Further Requirements (Faber and Faber 2001).

Here is the first stanza of  "To the Sea":

To step over the low wall that divides
Road from concrete walk above the shore
Brings sharply back something known long before --
The miniature gaiety of seasides.
Everything crowds under the low horizon:
Steep beach, blue water, towels, red bathing caps,
The small hushed waves' repeated fresh collapse
Up the warm yellow sand, and further off
A white steamer stuck in the afternoon.

                                                   Frederick Baldwin
                     "Walberswick and Southwold from Dunwich" (1953)

The poem concludes:

The white steamer has gone.  Like breathed-on glass
The sunlight has turned milky.  If the worst
Of flawless weather is our falling short,
It may be that through habit these do best,
Coming to water clumsily undressed
Yearly; teaching their children by a sort
Of clowning; helping the old, too, as they ought.

Philip Larkin, High Windows (Faber and Faber 1974).

                         Frederick Baldwin, "Southwold Beach" (1950)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Saul Bellow: Erie, Pennsylvania

Please do not impute any philosophical, theological, political (Heaven forbid!), or sociological (you must be joking!) motives into my decision to post the following passage from The Adventures of Augie March.  I post the passage simply because, when I read it, I smiled and shook my head in delight at the evergreen wondrousness of Saul Bellow.  I am aware that some "literary critics" believe that these sorts of Bellovian apostrophes sound too much like Bellow himself and thus break the so-called "fictive" spell.  Oh well. 

"However, as I felt on entering Erie, Pennsylvania, there is a darkness.  It is for everyone.  You don't, as perhaps some imagine, try it, one foot into it like a barbershop 'September Morn.'  Nor are lowered into it with visitor's curiosity, as the old Eastern monarch was let down into the weeds inside a glass ball to observe the fishes.  Nor are lifted straight out after an unlucky tumble, like a Napoleon from the mud of the Arcole where he had been standing up to his thoughtful nose while the Hungarian bullets broke the clay off the bank.  Only some Greeks and admirers of theirs, in their liquid noon, where the friendship of beauty to human beings was perfect, thought they were clearly divided from this darkness.  And these Greeks too were in it.  But still they are the admiration of the rest of the mud-sprung, famine-knifed, street-pounding, war-rattled, difficult, painstaking, kicked in the belly, grief and cartilage mankind, the multitude, some under a coal-sucking Vesuvius of chaos smoke, some inside a heaving Calcutta midnight, who very well know where they are."

Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March (Viking 1953).

An aside: the "September Morn" referred to by Bellow is a painting by Paul Emile Chabas (who was, naturellement, from Paris) that caused a scandal when it was first displayed in the U.S. in 1913.  It was subsequently reproduced in large quantities for display in, among other places, barbershops.

                                                      Paul Emile Chabas
                                               "September Morn" (1912)

A second aside:  needless to say (but I will say it anyway), I harbor no ill will whatsoever against Erie, Pennsylvania, or its inhabitants.  I have never been to Erie, but I am sure that it is a wonderful place.  To borrow the title of a prose piece by Philip Larkin about his home town, Coventry:  "not the place's fault."

                                            Joseph Wright of Derby
                                     "Vesuvius from Portici" (c. 1774)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"The Blue Vault Of The Air": Andrew Young And John Clare

Because I had not read it in quite some time, I had forgotten that one of John Clare's best-known poems shares an image with one of my favorite poems by Andrew Young.  Here is Young's poem (which I previously posted on March 17 of this year):

               A Dead Mole

Strong-shouldered mole,
That so much lived below the ground,
Dug, fought and loved, hunted and fed,
For you to raise a mound
Was as for us to make a hole;
What wonder now that being dead
Your body lies here stout and square
Buried within the blue vault of the air?

                                              Johan Thomas Lundbye
                                         "Landscape at Arreso" (1838)

And here is Clare's poem, which was written during his latter days in an asylum:

I am -- yet what I am, none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost: --
I am the self-consumer of my woes; --
They rise and vanish in oblivion's host,
Like shadows in love's frenzied stifled throes: --
And yet I am, and live -- like vapours tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, --
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest, that I love the best
Are strange -- nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes, where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God;
And sleep as I in childhood, sweetly slept,
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below -- above the vaulted sky.

                                                Georg Emil Libert
           "View of the Sound from Langelinie, Near Copenhagen" (1839)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Life Explained, Part Five: "A Type Of Human Life This Forest Old"

Charles Whitehead (1804-1862) had some early literary success in London, where one of his friends was a young Charles Dickens.  When Whitehead was asked by the publishing firm of Chapman & Hall to provide the text for sketches produced by the illustrator Robert Seymour, Whitehead declined the offer, but suggested that the firm use Dickens.  The result of this recommendation was The Pickwick Papers.

According to his discreet Victorian biographer, Whitehead was "a man of singularly nervous temperament" whose "career [was] irreparably marred by one fatal propensity -- a propensity which he acquired early in life, perchance at the Grotto tavern."  H. T. Mackenzie Bell, A Forgotten Genius: Charles Whitehead (1884).  The Grotto was "much frequented by young literary men, artists, and some few actors," and Whitehead was "the leading spirit of the place, being there every night."  Due to his "one pernicious habit, the influence of which he could never throw off," Whitehead migrated to Australia, where he hoped to make a fresh start.  Unfortunately, he died in Melbourne from (according to hospital records) "the effects of destitution."

Given this biographical background, one might well expect that a sonnet by Whitehead providing an Explanation of Life would not be, say, cheery.  And one would be right.  That being said, I think that it is a fine poem.  It sounds almost Elizabethan -- like something that could have been written by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, or Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, as they awaited their beheadings.

A type of human life this forest old;
All leafy, wither'd, blooming, teeming, blasted;
Bloom that the reign of summer hath outlasted,
And early sere, and blight that flaunts in gold;
And grass, like sorrow, springing from the mould,
Choking the wholesome tree; and verdure wasted,
Like peace; and berries, like our bliss, untasted;
And thorns, like adverse chances, uncontroll'd.
These flowers are joy that ne'er shall form a wreath;
These lilies are unsure affection crown'd
Above neglect, the water; underneath,
Reeds, which are hope, still sadly standing, drown'd.
This hoary sedge is age of noteless years,
This pool, epitome of human tears!

                     Laurits Andersen Ring, "Trunks of Alders" (1893)