Hubert Wellington, "The Lawyer's House, Walton, Staffordshire" (1915)
A Privileged Moment
Released from hospital, only half alive still,
Cautiously feeling the way back into himself,
Propped up in bed like a guy, he presently ventured
A glance at the ornaments on his mantelshelf.
White, Wedgwood blue, dark lilac coloured or ruby --
Things, you could say, which had known their place and price,
Gleamed out at him with the urgency of angels
Eager for him to see through their disguise.
Slowly he turned his head. By gust-flung snatches
A shower announced itself on the windowpane:
He saw unquestioning, not even astonished,
Handfuls of diamonds sprung from a dazzling chain.
Gently at last the angels settled back now
Into mere ornaments, the unearthly sheen
And spill of diamond into familiar raindrops.
It was enough. He'd seen what he had seen.
C. Day Lewis, The Whispering Roots (1970).
Hubert Wellington, "Summer Day, Frampton Mansell" (1915)
Lately I have had Wordsworth on the brain, and the thought of the luminosity of familiar things leads back to "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," which begins:
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
In the Ode, Wordsworth laments the disappearance of "the glory and the freshness" as we age. The loss is inevitable, of course: like the puppy who chases the wind-blown leaf, our capacity for innocent wonder wanes. But, as "Night" and "A Privileged Moment" suggest, something of the capacity always remains. The Ode closes with these lines:
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Hubert Wellington, "Overhanging Tree, Frampton Mansell" (1915)