Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Proper Place, Part One: "I Like It As It Is"

In a series of posts titled "No Escape" I have looked at the well-known phenomenon of "wherever you go, there you are."  To wit:  we imagine that everything in our life will fall magically into place if we can simply find the Ideal Place that, until now, has eluded us.  It comes as no surprise that this is a delusion, a delusion that has been remarked upon by Montaigne, Johnson, and a host of others.

However, although the Ideal Place may be a chimera, a case may be made that a Proper Place can be found.  I realize that this may seem like a distinction without a difference.  But I see the distinction (somewhat fuzzily) as this:  finding one's Proper Place does not guarantee "happiness" (whatever that is) or provide Big Answers (to allude to Elizabeth Jennings's poem "Answers"); however, a Proper Place may provide equanimity and content ("content" as in A. E. Housman's "that is the land of lost content/I see it shining plain").

The following poem by Neil Powell provides an example of what I am (inadequately) trying to articulate.

                             Charles Ginner, "Flask Walk, Skyline" (1934)


In my dream they said:  "You must go to Covehithe."
I crossed over the causeway between two blue lakes
And I found myself on a long forest path
With a few wooden shacks and a glimpse of the sea.
I thought after all it was a place that might suit me.
But they said:  "You must learn from your mistakes."

So, I have come to Covehithe.  Low winter sun
Scans fields of pigs, dead skeletal trees,
Collapsing cliffs.  There are ships on the horizon.
The great church, wrecked by civil war, not storm,
Now shields a smaller church from further harm.
And they were wrong:  I like it as it is.

Neil Powell, The Times Literary Supplement, February 7, 2003.

             Charles Ginner, "Lancaster from Castle Hill Terrace" (c. 1947)


Jeff said...

Thanks for this. I liked it so much that I just tracked down A Halfway House, the collection it's from. There's a sensibility here that suits me.

Stephen Pentz said...

Jeff: I'm glad that you like the poem. And thanks for the reminder -- I've been meaning to buy a copy of A Halfway House as well.

Thank you for stopping by again.

ethel mertz said...

I have nothing pithy to say; I just love your website.

Stephen Pentz said...

ethel mertz: it is nice to hear from you again. I greatly appreciate your kind words -- I have been very fortunate to find loyal readers such as you. Thank you very much!