Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Like Noiseless Snow, Or As The Dew Of Night"

The idea that we have been put on Earth in order to find "happiness" is a quaint notion.  I think that a state of equanimity, mixed with mild contentment, combined with a lively curiosity, is the best that one can hope for.  But how does one arrive there?  Good question.  Perhaps chance (or, better, putting oneself in the way of chance) has something to do with it.

            The Coming of Good Luck

So good luck came, and on my roof did light,
Like noiseless snow, or as the dew of night:
Not all at once, but gently, as the trees
Are by the sunbeams tickled by degrees.

Robert Herrick, Hesperides (1648).

                    Laura Knight, "Changing Weather, Southport" (1949)

Herrick also cautions us:

               Few Fortunate

Many we are, and yet but few possess
Those fields of everlasting happiness.

Robert Herrick, Ibid.

                                    Laura Knight, "Wheatfield" (c. 1953)

On the subject of good luck, I had a small bit of it yesterday.  I went to a teriyaki restaurant to have lunch.  As I paid for my meal, I noticed a plastic tray on the counter on which various condiments had been placed.  The tray was white, and was decorated with painted roses.  I noticed some writing in its upper right-hand corner.  I leaned over, and read this:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today,
   Tomorrow will be dying.

Wouldn't Robert Herrick be pleased to know that his poetry can still be found (in a teriyaki shop in Seattle, in the State of Washington, in the United States of America!) 363 years later?

                                   Laura Knight, "Cornfield" (c. 1953)


Fred said...


One way might be to avoid thinking that happiness depends solely upon having material goods that one really doesn't need.

I tend to go along with the Eastern philosophers here.

I can't remember who said this but --"Happiness is good health and a bad memory."

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

Ha! There's happiness for you. Robert deserves no less. And much more~

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: thank you for the wise advice. Although poets (and wise men) like Ryokan and Han Shan (for example) sometimes complain about being lonely or sick or hungry, they have an underlying balance and contentment that goes beyond their material circumstances, don't they?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Stephen Pentz said...

That's a nice thought, Julie -- whenever I return to Herrick's poetry, I am reminded of what a wonderful character he is. He (the old bachelor) and his maid Prue and his spaniel Tracy living harmoniously in Devon! You're exactly right: he deserved no less.

As always, thanks for visiting.

Fred said...


Yes, it is wise advice, and I wish I was wise enough to practice it.

That's something that attracts me to Ryokan or Han-shan or many other Eastern writers--their humanity. I always feel that I'm in touch with a real human, and not an authorial mask.

Stephen Pentz said...

I agree, Fred. The sense that they are addressing you, one person to another, is remarkable, as is their common-sense, no-nonsense approach to life. You very rarely detect affectation or pretense in them.