Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Blue

As a lover of autumn, I am guilty of attributing powers to the season that it probably does not possess.  For instance, it seems to me that colors are more vivid this time of year.  I ascribe this (with absolutely no scientific evidence to support my view) to the slanting yellow sunlight and the cool, atmosphere-cleansing winds of this time of year.

Thus, on a clear, breezy day, the waters of Puget Sound seem the bluest of all blues:  azure, cerulean, cobalt, lapis lazuli, and ultramarine rolled into one.  With a few white-caps, sails, and seagulls for contrast.

                           Henry Moore, "Catspaws Off The Land" (1885)

              L'Oiseau Bleu

The lake lay blue below the hill.
     O'er it, as I looked, there flew
Across the waters, cold and still,
     A bird whose wings were palest blue.

The sky above was blue at last,
     The sky beneath me blue in blue.
A moment, ere the bird had passed,
     It caught his image as he flew.

Theresa Whistler (editor), The Collected Poems of Mary Coleridge (Rupert Hart-Davis 1954).  My high school and college French at last comes in handy:  "l'oiseau" is "the bird"; "bleu" is "blue."

For another fine evocation of blue, I recommend Andrew Young's "The Nest," which has appeared here previously.

                      James Dickson Innes, "Arenig, North Wales" (1913)

13 comments:

William A. Sigler said...

After Reading Shakspeare
By Charles Edwin Markham (1852–1940)

BLITHE Fancy lightly builds with airy hands
Or on the edges of the darkness peers,
Breathless and frightened at the voice she hears:
Imagination (lo! the sky expands)
Travels the blue arch and Cimmerian sands,—
Homeless on earth, the pilgrim of the spheres,
The rush of light before the hurrying years,
The Voice that cries in unfamiliar lands.

Men weigh the moons that flood with eerie light
The dusky vales of Saturn—wood and stream;
But who shall follow on the awful sweep
Of Neptune thro’ the dim and dreadful deep?
Onward he wanders in the unknown night,
And we are shadows moving in a dream.

William A. Sigler said...

Hi, I sent that Markham poem accidentally. My point was to say I appreciate the association of blue with autumn, as it magnifies all manner of poetic feelings (Markham as example).

I really like that "Nest" poem, and can relate to that human urge to consume, hoard or otherwise inhabit something beautiful, but, as the speaker notes, in letting it be, one can find it other places, it magnifies what is.

Bruce Floyd said...

Sir,

You are no more guilty of attributing too much to the wonders of autumn than was John Keats, whose beautiful "Ode To Autumn," in its serenity and sweet stillness, that moment when ripenness and a throbbling fecundity holds its perfection for a transcendent moment, an imaginative statis, answers those vexing questions either asked or implied in the three great odes that precede "To Autumn": "Ode To A Nightingale," "Ode On A Grecian Urn," and "Ode On Melancholy."

"To Autumn" is thought to have been composed on September 19, 1819. Your adoration of autumn, the mystery and wonder, it's bitter sweet legerdemain, the agony and the beauty of the human predicament implicit in every word, yes, your adoration of autumn is in good company with poets like John Keats.

More power to you!

Bruce Floyd

Fred said...

Stephen,

I always attributed that clarity to the reduced humidity that follows the end of summer.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

All very evocotive, except you forgot Prussian Blue (the sea)
and did I hear someone say indigo??

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Sigler: thank you very much for the poem by Markham -- I hadn't heard of him before, so it is nice to be introduced to him.

I'm glad that you liked "The Nest" -- it is perhaps my favorite poem by Young. I like your angle on it: leaving things alone is probably a good approach in general.

As ever, thank you for your thoughts, and for dropping by.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Floyd: thank you very much for bringing Keats up. It gives me incentive to return to the odes: "To Autumn" is a wonderful place to start.

Thank you for visiting again, and for the kind words.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: I know what you mean, especially when I think back to my childhood years in Minnesota: after the humid summers, autumns were a proverbial breath of fresh, clear air.

When it comes to clarity, I remember in particular "Indian summer" (oops! that phrase is probably now banned for being politically incorrect): things used to shine/glow (or so it seemed, or seems).

As always, thank you for stopping by.

Stephen Pentz said...

Julie: it is good to hear from you again.

Actually, "Prussian blue" did cross my mind, but I thought that the list was getting lengthy! It is a hue that captures the depths, isn't it? Indigo I missed. I defer to you as the artist!

As always, thank you for visiting.

Eamonn said...

Hello Stephen,

I'm enjoying catching up with your posts having just returned from a short break ...

Do you know the setting of this poem by the British composer Charles Villiers Stanford? Here's a lovely performance by the Cambridge Singers on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJcad_kowuI

A glorious autumn day in London today; found myself kicking conkers down the road in the warm golden afternoon sunshine ... memories of many autumns doing the same from childhood ... (conkers - do you know that word? the fruiting body of the Horse Chestnut tree, a European native - perhaps you have them in Washington State?).

All good wishes

Eamonn

Stephen Pentz said...

Eamonn: it is nice to hear from you again.

The setting by Villiers Stanford is wonderful! Thank you very much -- I wasn't aware of it. With the help of you, and others, I am discovering that there is a whole world of musical settings of English poems of which I am woefully ignorant. I am pleased to be getting an education.

"Conkers" is a new word to me, but we do have a few chestnut trees here. My best memories of chestnuts come from a year that I lived in Japan -- the memories are not so much of the trees (which were lovely) but of the smell of chestnuts being roasted outside in winter by street vendors. Of course, you can see this in the UK and Ireland and the US, but it is quite a tradition over there.

Sorry for the diversion: I envy you being able to walk the lanes beneath the chestnuts, kicking conkers!

As always, thank you for dropping by.

Eamonn said...

Glad you enjoyed the Stanford setting Stephen (hard not to like!).

Re: conkers - the edible chestnut is castanea sativa but the horse chestnut fruit (aesculus hippocastanum) is inedible. They are two different species, but often confused.

Children play a game here by threading the horse chestnut conker and taking turns to smash their opponent's conker (hard to imagine if you don't see the game in action!).

I love roast chestnuts - a real winter treat!

More anon ...

Eamonn

Stephen Pentz said...

Eamonn: thank you for the follow up comments.

I hadn't heard of that game -- over here, we simply used to throw them at each other!

I agree with you on the roasted chestnuts. Also, when I lived in Japan long ago, I was introduced to marron glaces -- they are quite fond of European sweets and pastries over there, which can be found in the wonderful food halls in the basement floors of the department stores.