Saturday, March 17, 2012

Helpless

When I was a child I longed to be an adult.  This longing was based upon two presumptions:  first, that adults were free to do what they wanted to do (within the limits of law and morality, of course), and, second, that they knew exactly how to do these things (i.e., that they acted with complete self-assurance).  I have since learned (speaking solely for myself) that those two presumptions were a bit optimistic.

The following poem by Frances Cornford (1886-1960) examines this state of affairs from a different angle, but it perhaps expresses part of what I am trying to get at.

                  Stanley Spencer, "The Ferry Hotel Lawn, Cookham" (1936)

                         Childhood

I used to think that grown-up people chose
To have stiff backs and wrinkles round their nose,
And veins like small fat snakes on either hand,
On purpose to be grand.
Till through the banisters I watched one day
My great-aunt Etty's friend who was going away,
And how her onyx beads had come unstrung.
I saw her grope to find them as they rolled;
And then I knew that she was helplessly old,
As I was helplessly young.

Frances Cornford, Collected Poems (1954).

                                     Gilbert Spencer, "The Terrace" (1927)

4 comments:

acornmoon said...

I love the painting you have selected by Stanley Spencer, "The Ferry Hotel Lawn, Cookham". How lovely it would be to rest a while there, young or old.

Lincoln Hunter said...

"through the banisters I watched one day"
That phrase brough a swift sharp pinch to my breath. Every child of my generation has witnessed memories in just that setting. And banister is not a word much spoken anymore. Perhaps I have lived in one-story homes for too long.
Also, I want to say that I look forward to your posts. I enjoy them always. The amount of work required to select a poem(s), make appropriate comments and find illustrations to accompany same is impressive. I don't know how you do it.

Stephen Pentz said...

acornmoon: thank you for visiting again. Yes, I think that it is one of the most inviting scenes that I have ever come across -- fine material for daydreaming.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Hunter: thank you very much for visiting, and for your kind words. Fortunately, coming up with a post every other day has never felt like a chore -- perhaps when my memory starts to desert me, I may feel otherwise! I greatly appreciate your loyalty, and I hope you will keep returning.

You make a wonderful point about "banisters" -- now that you mention it, it brings me back to my grandparents' house when I was young. And you are correct: it is a word that you don't hear much anymore, do you? Thank you for that connection.

Thanks for stopping by again.