Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How To Live, Part Fifteen: "A Just Sense Of How Not To Fly"

I am ignorant when it comes to the identity of butterflies.  Don't get me wrong: I think that butterflies are lovely.  But I don't know their names. Today, while out for a walk, I nearly collided with a creamy white-yellow one that was being blown about in the wind.  Was it perhaps a cabbage-white?  I wouldn't know.  But I like to think it was.

            Flying Crooked

The butterfly, a cabbage-white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has -- who knows so well as I? --
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

Robert Graves, Poems 1926-1930 (1931).

                              Paul Nash, "Oxenbridge Pond" (1927-1928)

Butterflies are tricky to watch, aren't they?  All that flitting and fluttering, all those sudden turns and reversals, are enough to make you dizzy.  But Graves is right:  flying crooked is a gift (within a destiny).

                                      Paul Nash, "Mimosa Wood" (1926)


Mary F. C. Pratt said...

Ah--one of my very favorites. The cabbage whites are already lurching around here, looking for places to inflict with their voracious little babies.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary F. C. Pratt: thank you for visiting again.

Well, I guess I've proved my point about my ignorance of butterflies. Here I was extolling the loveliness of cabbage whites, without knowing their dark side! But the poem -- and their flying -- are nice.

As ever, thanks for your thoughts.

anjali krishna said...

just to say i find your blog an utterly delightful place to spend my time, a place where i stumble upon treasures that gladden my heart and resonate with who i am. i feel i have never seen such beautiful paintings as those on your blog. where do you find them?

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms Krishna: thank you very much for your kind words. I'm pleased that you enjoy the blog, including the paintings.

As for where I find them: over the years I have stumbled upon artists that I like -- for example, Paul Nash, his brother John, Stanley Spencer, John Aldridge, et cetera -- and, from there, one artist just sort of leads to another. And, of course, the Internet now makes it easier to explore these connections. I think that there is a great deal of 20th century art that has been neglected because of the focus upon so-called "modernism" and the so-called "avant-garde." There is much to be discovered.

Thank you again, and I hope that you will return.

Mathias Richter said...

Dear Stephen,

I was delighted to find this poem here at your blog. Though I love poetry I am in no way an expert.
Therefore nearly every poem I meet here is new to me - and a great delight, too! But this was a rare exception: the English composer Ian Venables has set it to music in 1998. Ian is a romantic at heart but his refined songs have met with great favour in recent years. You can listen to an excert at his website if you like:

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Richter: thank you very much for visiting, and for your kind words.

Thank you also for the link to the work by Ian Venables -- very nice! I see that he has also composed settings of poems by Thomas Hardy and Harold Monro. I was not aware of Mr Venables's work, so I greatly appreciate your pointing him out. He seems to be following the traditions of Ivor Gurney and others (in his own way), which is gratifying to see.

Please stop by again.