Sunday, February 21, 2016

Wonder

I like to listen to the robins and the sparrows twittering and clucking in the backyard.  An ornithologist could no doubt explain to me what each sound means in bird-language.  But I am not interested in explanations.  The World is reticent, circumspect.  It is best to just listen.

                        The Tomtit

Twilight had fallen, austere and grey,
The ashes of a wasted day,
When, tapping at the window-pane,
My visitor had come again,
To peck late supper at his ease --
A morsel of suspended cheese.

What ancient code, what Morse knew he --
This eager little mystery --
That, as I watched, from lamp-lit room,
Called on some inmate of my heart to come
Out of its shadows -- filled me then
With love, delight, grief, pining, pain,
Scarce less than had he angel been?

Suppose, such countenance as that,
Inhuman, deathless, delicate,
Had gazed this winter moment in --
Eyes of an ardour and beauty no
Star, no Sirius could show!

Well, it were best for such as I
To shun direct divinity;
Yet not stay heedless when I heard
The tip-tap nothings of a tiny bird.

Walter de la Mare, The Burning-Glass and Other Poems (Faber and Faber 1945).

Vincent Lines, "The Tithe Barn, Cherhill" (1943)

Birds and insects appear often in Walter de la Mare's poetry.  He sometimes uses them as metaphors for human quiddities, but not often.  Instead, as in "The Tomtit," he sees them as messengers who remind us of how little we know about the mysteries that accompany our existence.  What is the tomtit trying to tell us with its tip-tapping?  And what does the clucking and twittering of the robins and the sparrows in the backyard betoken?

                                             The Dove

How often, these hours, have I heard the monotonous crool of a dove --
Voice, low, insistent, obscure, since its nest it has hid in a grove --
Flowers of the linden wherethrough the hosts of the honeybees rove.

And I have been busily idle:  no problems; nothing to prove;
No urgent foreboding; but only life's shallow habitual groove:
Then why, if I pause to listen, should the languageless note of a dove
So dark with disquietude seem?  And what is it sorrowing of?

Walter de la Mare, Memory and Other Poems (Constable 1938).

Vincent Lines, "Church Row, Tonbridge" (1942)

In this context, an observation made by W. H. Auden, who greatly admired de la Mare's poetry, is illuminating:

"[I]mplicit in all his poetry are certain notions of what constitutes the Good Life.  Goodness, they seem to say, is rooted in wonder, awe, and reverence for the beauty and strangeness of creation.  Wonder itself is not goodness -- de la Mare is not an aesthete -- but it is the only, or the most favourable, soil in which goodness can grow.  Those who lose the capacity for wonder may become clever but not intelligent, they may lead moral lives themselves, but they will become insensitive and moralistic towards others."

W. H. Auden, "Introduction to A Choice of de la Mare's Verse," in W. H. Auden, Prose, Volume IV: 1956-1962 (edited by Edward Mendelson) (Princeton University Press 2010), page 403.

Taking into account Auden's penchant (both in his poetry and his prose) for making sweeping cultural-psychological pronouncements, I do think that his comment gets to the heart of the appeal of de la Mare's poetry. Commentators tend to focus upon the "supernatural,""childlike," or "dreamlike" quality of many of de la Mare's poems (which in turn often leads to a devaluation of his work), but Auden is correct to place "wonder" and "goodness" at the center of de la Mare's view of the world.

                    The Moth

Isled in the midnight air,
Musked with the dark's faint bloom,
Out into glooming and secret haunts
          The flame cries, "Come!"

Lovely in dye and fan,
A-tremble in shimmering grace,
A moth from her winter swoon
          Uplifts her face:

Stares from her glamorous eyes;
Wafts her on plumes like mist;
In ecstasy swirls and sways
          To her strange tryst.

Walter de la Mare, The Veil and Other Poems (Constable 1921).

Vincent Lines, "Mending the Thatch: A Cottage at Little Avebury" (1942)

Some may find it odd to speak of poetry in terms of its "goodness."  Not I. One of de la Mare's poems comes to mind:

                           Rarities

Beauty, and grace, and wit are rare;
     And even intelligence:
But lovelier than hawthorn seen in May,
Or mistletoe berries on Innocent's Day
The face that, open as heaven, doth wear --
With kindness for its sunshine there --
     Good nature and good sense.

Walter de la Mare, Inward Companion and Other Poems (Faber and Faber 1950).

"Good nature and good sense" are hard to come by both in life and in art. De la Mare was too self-effacing to ascribe those qualities to himself, but he was aware of their scarcity.  None of us are in a position to claim to have them.  But, if any poet can be said to have both "good nature and good sense," it is Walter de la Mare.

However, he is no Pangloss or Pollyanna.  Having a sense of wonder and aspiring to goodness does not mean that one is not fully aware of the facts of life.  Hence, an abiding awareness of our transience is present in nearly every poem that de la Mare wrote.  There is no shortage of deaths, graveyards, epitaphs, abandoned churches, empty echoing houses, and ghosts in his poetry.

But his "wonder, awe, and reverence for the beauty and strangeness of creation" places the fact of our mortality squarely at the heart of that "beauty and strangeness."  This is, marvelously, attended by a sense of peaceful acceptance.  This is where "good nature and good sense" come in. We find no despair in his poetry.  Nor do we find bitter and self-regarding irony, that characteristic disease of the modern age.  His essential message (as set forth in what are probably his best-known lines) is:  "Look thy last on all things lovely,/Every hour."

                    Unwitting

This evening to my manuscript
Flitted a tiny fly;
At the wet ink sedately sipped,
Then seemed to put the matter by,
Mindless of him who wrote it, and
His scrutinizing eye --
That any consciousness indeed
Its actions could descry! . . .

Silence; and wavering candlelight;
Night; and a starless sky.

Walter de la Mare, Ibid.  The ellipses are in the original.

Vincent Lines, "Church Porch and Manor, Avebury" (1942)

34 comments:

Bruce Floyd said...

A wonderful post on de la Mare. He is much underappreciated. He has a worthy champion in you.

Reading his poem about birds, your comments about them, I, knowing how fond Dickinson was of birds, wondered how many poems she wrote about birds. A cursory count reveals at least over 160, probably more since I moved my eyes over titles with celerity. She wrote, after all, almost 1800 poems. Some of her poems about birds are profound--that line, for instance, about hope being the thing with feathers that sits in the soul. Some are humorous, such as "A Bird Came Down the Walk," With its superb closing. Some of them, though, are merely brilliant, witness to her genius and talent. The below little poem, nothing but metaphor, describes a humming bird. How delightful it is, the first four lines nothing short of brilliant.

A Route of Evanescence,

With a revolving Wheel –

A Resonance of Emerald

A Rush of Cochineal –

And every Blossom on the Bush

Adjusts it’s tumbled Head –

The Mail from Tunis – probably,

An easy Morning’s Ride –

Fred said...

Stephen,

Strange as it may seem, I never thought of de la Mare as a poet. I know of him primarily as a short story writer, and even then, I never really took a close look at him. What stories I've read by him are ones I came across by accident, in anthologies or text books. I should probably, based on the poems you've published, take a closer look at him, OOTD.

Is there a collection that would give a good sampling of his works? I wonder if there's a Viking Portable collection of his prose and poetry.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Floyd: Thank you very much for the kind words about the post. I harbor no illusions, but if I am able to encourage one or two people to further explore his poetry by posts such as this, I will be happy. I wouldn't want him to be forgotten. He has brought me a great deal of peace and pleasure over the years. It is the least I can do.

And thank you as well for the connection to Dickinson, and, of course, for her poem. I'm not surprised that she wrote a large number of poems about birds -- kindred spirits, I think. (Although she was capable of finding spiritual kinship with most things in the World, wasn't she?) As for the poem, I love "A Route of Evanescence," together with its slight echo in "A Resonance of Emerald."

Thank you for stopping by again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: I am not aware of any "omnibus" volume (along the lines of the Viking Portable series) combining his poetry and prose. As for the poetry, I recommend The Collected Poems published by Faber and Faber in 1979, which has been reprinted a number of times in softcover, and is still readily available. Please note that it is to be distinguished from Collected Rhymes and Verses, which was published by Faber and Faber in 1978, and which contains his children's verse. Of course, I highly recommend both volumes: his "children's verse" is, like the best "children's verse," meant for adults as well -- he reminds me of Christina Rossetti in this regard.

If you are interested in his short stories, I recommend Short Stories: 1895-1926 (1996) and Short Stories: 1927-1956 (2001), published by Giles de la Mare Publishing. They are the definitive volumes.

Happy exploring! Thank you very much for visiting again. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

thelma said...

Thank you for introducing me to the artist Vincent Lines, I spied the Cherhill Barn on another blog and recognised it. Though I no longer live anywhere near Avebury collecting bits and pieces from the surrounding countryside is still close to my heart.
So in return this poem from America, written by Mary Cope on Awbury/Avebury, as she returns to the home of her ancestors in the nineteenth century.

http://thelmawilcox.blogspot.co.uk/2008/09/awbury.html

Graham Guest said...

What a truly wonderful blog, Stephen, with beautiful poetry, exquisite paintings (I have visited many of the places shown), and your own words of wisdom. I came across First Known When Lost via A Clerk of Oxford. Wonder reminds me of the poem by Thomas Traherne, whom you have mentioned, and its setting to music by Gerald Finzi in his Dies Natalis.

Kitty said...

Thank you for another beautiful illuminating and gentle meditation. It is greatly appreciated and, as always, so beautifully partnered with artwork.

Fred said...

Stephen,

Thanks for the recommendations. I shall add them to my search list.

R.T. (Tim) Davis said...

Oh, I very much like this posting and the comments. I am reminded that poets do their best for me when they remind me to stop, look, and listen; I have been too neglectful of the world around me lately, and two poets who I now will turn to for needed reminders of my neglect are Frost and Dickinson (i.e., these two American poets are my favorite "stop, look, and listen" poets). So, Stephen, thanks for the posting. As so often happens, your posting has arrived at a perfect time.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thelma: I'm pleased you like the paintings by Vincent Lines. They are lovely, aren't they? And thank you for the link to the poem by Mary Cope, together with the information in your post about the Cope family's emigration to America -- it provides a wonderful context for the poem.

Thank you very much for visiting.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Guest: Thank you very much for your kind words about the post. I'm pleased you found your way here -- A Clerk of Oxford is a wonderful blog, isn't it? I'm pleased you like the paintings. I'm always envious of those of you in England who have seen in person the places that appear in the paintings I post here!

And thank you as well for the reference to Traherne's "Wonder." It fits perfectly in this context. Whenever I read it I am reminded of Wordsworth's Immortality Ode. I wasn't aware that it had been set by Gerald Finzi -- I appreciate your pointing that out.

Thank you very much for visiting, and for sharing your thoughts.

Stephen Pentz said...

Kitty: Thank you very much. That's very nice of you to say. As I said in my response to Mr. Floyd's comment above, de la Mare's poems have brought me a great deal of peace and pleasure over the years, and I thought the paintings by Vincent Lines fit naturally with his poems.

Thank you again. I hope that you'll return soon.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: You're welcome. After I posted my previous response to you, I remembered another book by de la Mare that I think you would enjoy: Desert Islands. It starts off as a consideration of Robinson Crusoe, but then goes on to become a meditation/anthology on castaways, solitude, and nearly everything else under the sun. It is a marvelous book.

Thank you for the follow-up comment.

Fred said...

Stephen,

One more.

By the way, I just ran across a reference to Barry Lopez's _Arctic Dreams_. Do you know anything about it. It seems as though it might be an Arctic version of _Desert Islands_.

Stephen Pentz said...

Tim: Thank you very much for your kind words, which I greatly appreciate. Poetry does the same thing for me: it encourages me to slow down and pay attention. I agree that Frost and Dickinson are fine poets to turn to for this sort of inspiration. (I am still mostly ignorant of Dickinson's work, but Mr. Floyd has kindly been providing me with an education on her poetry over the years, for which I am grateful.)

As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by.

Graham Guest said...

Maybe you know, Stephen, that Finzi also set Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality.

Seamus Sweeney said...

I found this a wonderful post. thank you. I have reblogged most of it (I have been trying to extract it but even suspect what extracting I have done to be mere butchery) at my own blog https://seamussweeney.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/dabbler-no-more/ - in the course of mourning the end of The Dabbler!

You (invoking de la Mare) have, I think, hit on something about the falsity of modern nature writing - I would be curious to know your thoughts on the contemporary nature writing scene some thoughts on which I wrote here: https://seamussweeney.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/robert-macfarlanes-landmarks/

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: I am aware of Lopez, but I have never read anything by him. I just looked at excerpts from Arctic Dreams on Amazon, and it seems to fall within the "nature writing" category mentioned by Mr. Sweeney above. I do know that Lopez's work (both fiction and non-fiction) has been highly praised. I would characterize Desert Islands as more of a literary/poetic/philosophical meditation (but with a lot of out-of-the way facts as well). Thanks for the follow-up.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Guest: I was not aware that Finzi had set "Intimations of Immortality" as well. I will track both of the works down on the Internet. Thank you for the follow-up information.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Sweeney: Thank you very much for your kind words about the post (both here and on your own blog). And thank you as well for re-posting it. I share your sadness about The Dabbler being on hiatus.

Thank you also for linking to your post on nature writing, which I enjoyed reading, together with the articles by Dominic Green and Mark Cocker. I don't feel qualified to weigh in on the matter, given that I haven't read any of the "new nature writing" books yet -- I have been intending to read something by Robert Macfarlane and Richard Mabey for quite some time, but I have never gotten around to it. (I'm not sure if Mabey is considered "new.") I'm afraid my reading of "nature writing" is old-fashioned: Edward Thomas, Ronald Blythe (although I'm not certain if he is classified as a "nature writer"), and others of earlier generations.

The point that you made in your comment on The Dabbler is an excellent one: "I do find that there is something missing in this oft-held view that nature and wildness are things we only learnt to recognise, let alone appreciate, in late modernity." As you know from reading First Known When Lost, smug assumptions that we moderns "know it all" are a particular bee in my bonnet.

I think your thoughts mesh well with de la Mare's poetry and Auden's thoughts on "wonder": the recognition of "otherness" (to borrow a word from you) is essential. I particularly like this from you piece: "one of the greatest Others of human existence is the Other of the natural world, and in particular the consciousness of the other living things around us." As I mentioned above in my response to Tim's comment, this is where poetry comes in: it encourages us to pay attention. Which is why I value de la Mare's poetry as highly as I do.

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts: they have encouraged me to think more deeply into this subject.

Graham Guest said...

Stephen: Please call me Graham.

Musing on wonder and good nature, I was reminded of the description of Walt Whitman by R M Bucke, quoted by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience:

"His favorite occupation," writes his disciple, Dr. Bucke "seemed to be strolling or sauntering about outdoors by himself, looking at the grass, the trees, the flowers, the vistas of light, the varying aspects of the sky, and listening to the birds, the crickets, the tree frogs, and all the hundreds of natural sounds.

"It was evident that these things gave him a pleasure far beyond what they give to ordinary people. Until I knew the man," continues Dr. Bucke, "it had not occurred to me that any one could derive so much absolute happiness from these things as he did. He was very fond of flowers, either wild or cultivated; liked all sorts. I think he admired lilacs and sunflowers just as much as roses. Perhaps, indeed, no man who ever lived liked so many things and disliked so few as Walt Whitman. All natural objects seemed to have a charm for him. All sights and sounds seemed to please him. He appeared to like (and I believe he did like) all the men, women, and children he saw (though I never knew him to say that he liked any one), but each who knew him felt that he liked him or her, and that he liked others also. I never knew him to argue or dispute, and he never spoke about money. He always justified, sometimes playfully, sometimes quite seriously, those who spoke harshly of himself or his writings, and I often thought he even took pleasure in the opposition of enemies. When I first knew [him], I used to think that he watched himself, and would not allow his tongue to give expression to fretfulness, antipathy, complaint, and remonstrance. It did not occur to me as possible that these mental states could be absent in him. After long observation, however, I satisfied myself that such absence or unconsciousness was entirely real. He never spoke deprecatingly of any nationality or class of men, or time in the world's history, or against any trades or occupations--not even against any animals, insects, or inanimate things, nor any of the laws of nature, nor any of the results of those laws, such as illness, deformity, and death. He never complained or grumbled either at the weather, pain, illness, or anything else. He never swore. He could not very well, since he never spoke in anger and apparently never was angry. He never exhibited fear, and I do not believe he ever felt it."

Fred said...

Stephen,

Thanks for the commentary. I guess I should take a look at both Lopez and de la Mare.

Stephen Pentz said...

Graham: Thank you very much for that marvelous passage, which is perfect in the context of this discussion. I confess that I have only dipped into Whitman's poetry over the years, but this makes me want to explore it further.

Your posting this prompted me to take down my copy of The Varieties of Religious Experience in order to find out the context in which James used the passage. I see that it appears in the Lectures titled "The Religion of Healthy-Mindedness." I like James's introductory sentence to the passage from Bucke: "The supreme contemporary example of such an inability to feel evil is of course Walt Whitman."

Reading Bucke's passage, and James's remarks upon Whitman, I was reminded of the wonderful book The Sacrificial Years: A Chronicle of Walt Whitman's Experiences in the Civil War (Godine 1999). It is edited by John Harmon McElroy, and consists of a chronological selection of Whitman's prose writings about the War, and, in particular, his experiences serving as a volunteer nurse for soldiers wounded in battle. The sources are mainly diary entries and letters. Whitman's writings are extremely moving. I highly recommend the book (which you may already be aware of).

I also found it apt to our discussion that James quotes Whitman's poem that begins: "I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained,/I stand and look at them long and long;/They do not sweat and whine about their condition. . . ."

Again, thank you very much for sharing this. And, as a further happy result, I have now realized that it has been far too long since I last spent time with The Varieties of Religious Experience, and now intend to revisit it! Thank you for that as well.

Stephen Pentz said...

Fred: You are welcome. Perhaps I'll see you post something about one or both of them in the future. In any case, happy reading!

Graham Guest said...

I hadn't heard of The Sacrificial Years, Stephen, but have just ordered a copy; thank you for recommending it. The lines that you quote about living with the animals are among my favourite. I also like “I hear and behold God in every object, yet I understand God not in the least,/Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself” and “The earth does not argue,/Is not pathetic, has no arrangements, …”

Whitman came to mind while I was listening to all the news reports about the recent discovery of gravitational waves:

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

Stephen Pentz said...

Graham: Thank you for those lines from Whitman, and for "When I heard the learn'd astronomer." I am ashamed of my ignorance of Whitman's poetry, but the latter is well-known to me, and one of my favorite poems.

I'm pleased to hear that you will be getting The Sacrificial Years. I suspect that, based upon your knowledge of Whitman, many of the passages will be familiar to you. However, having them all together in one place is very nice, I think. Of course, the most affecting part of the book is his descriptions of the wounded soldiers. But please be on the look-out for a few nice mentions of Abraham Lincoln. The U. S. was a much more intimate place in those days, and Whitman recounts how he would often see Lincoln out riding his horse in the streets of Washington, D. C. For example: "I see very plainly Abraham Lincoln's dark brown face, with the deep-cut lines, the eyes, always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression. We have got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones." (Page 57.) Imagine that! Whitman and Lincoln nodding to one another as they pass in the street.

After Lincoln's death, Whitman writes this, prefiguring "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd": "[At the time of Lincoln's death] there were many lilacs in full bloom. By one of those caprices that enter and give tinge to events without being at all part of them, I find myself . . . reminded of the great tragedy of that day by the sight and odor of these blossoms." (Page 129.)

Thank you very much for your follow-up thoughts.

Wurmbrand said...

Stephen, before I act on your recommendation of the 1979 Faber edition of the Collected Poems, I wanted to see if you were aware that the earlier poems were as originally published in book form, or revised later. Because I'm interested in de la Mare as a poet of much interest to the young C. S. Lewis, as well as being interested in de la Mare in his own right, I would prefer to read the versions Lewis would have seen, if there are significant differences between those and possible later versions.

Stephen Pentz said...

Wurmbrand: First, a caution: I don't claim to be an expert on textual matters relating to de la Mare's poems. Subject to that proviso, the critical writings that I have read on de la Mare's poetry do not suggest that he revised his early poems for later collected editions -- i.e., he was not like, say, W. H. Auden, John Crowe Ransom, or Derek Mahon, who are notorious for tinkering with their poems (not all, but many) in later editions. You might want to have a look around the Walter de la Mare Society website for further information on this.

In addition, most of his early volumes are available for viewing on the Internet Archive, including the two-volume Collected Poems that was published in 1920 and the volumes prior to that. Thus, you can probably view the editions that C. S. Lewis would have been reading in his younger years.

By the way, thank you for the tidbit about Lewis's interest in de la Mare's poetry. I wasn't aware of that.

Thank you very much for visiting again.

Wurmbrand said...

Oh yes, C. S. Lewis was a lifelong reader of de la Mare. Many years ago I wrote a paper on Lewis's interest in weird fiction, with this passage:

.....the supernatural stories and poems of Walter de la Mare eschew the doctrines of spiritualism, theosophy, East-West “metaphysical” blends, etc. Lewis mentioned de la Mare even over the air, in a 1949 radio broadcast on the novels of his late friend, Charles Williams (OS). Probably unknowingly echoing M. R. James, Lewis said that in “the classical ghost story,” the ordinariness of the setting and characters is artistically essential. De la Mare “pours his bottomless misgivings over the very world we all know.” In “On Stories” (1947), Lewis numbers de la Mare among those authors who succeed in catching “something else,” some “state or quality,” in their plots. De la Mare, Lewis says, never really lays his cards on the table. (No doubt his sophistication accounts for the fact that so few admirers of the blatant in horror fiction have a fondness for de la Mare.)

He praised the novel Memoirs of a Midget.* An acquaintance of Lewis’s said that The Return – de la Mare’s novel of the supernatural -- “produced exactly the atmosphere of flu.” Lewis agreed, by which he probably meant that the book evokes a sensation of enervation and unreality. The book was worth reading, he wrote in a 1922 diary entry, for this one sentence: “We are all like children playing knuckle bones in a giant’s scullery” (AMR). One wishes his opinion of such supernatural stories as “Seaton’s Aunt” and “Crewe” was on record. He especially approved the poetry: in 1927 de la Mare was Lewis’s favorite modern poet, even over Yeats. However, by 1930 he wondered if de la Mare hadn’t become something of a dilettante associating with the “silly London literary sets” (TST). Probably Lewis loved the weird poem “The Listeners.” His 1949 radio address on Charles Williams mentions de la Mare: “His achievement is to awake ‘thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls’, to bring home to us the precariousness of our common-sense world, and to share with us his own disquieting consciousness of that which, on his view, it conceals.” His is a world “of half-lights and silence and distances.”

[*This seems to have been a mistake. After the article was published, I realized I could not verify that Lewis had read Memoirs of a Midget. I had no doubt of it when I wrote the paper.]

I've ordered the Collected Poems. I can check online versions of early editions if I need to be sure of a contemporary text. Thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Wurmbrand: Thank you very much for your follow-up thoughts, and, especially, for the excerpt from your paper, which is very enlightening. Your description of de la Mare's approach to the supernatural accords with my impressions (although my knowledge of his fiction is limited). I don't know if you like the word, but the "uncanny" is the word that comes to mind when I think of de la Mare's supernatural fiction and poems. The phrase you quote from Lewis captures perfectly my feelings about de la Mare: a world "of half-lights and silence and distances."

For some reason, the following poem (with which you are no doubt familiar) now comes to mind:

The House

'Mother, it's such a lonely house,'
The child cried; and the wind sighed.
'A narrow but a lovely house,'
The mother replied.

'Child, it is such a narrow house,'
The ghost cried; and the wind sighed.
'A narrow and a lonely house,'
The withering grass replied.

Walter de la Mare, The Fleeting and Other Poems (1933). On the other hand, perhaps this poem is more direct than de la Mare's usual approach (what with its mention of a ghost), but I think the effects are what I had in mind.

Thank you again for sharing the passages from your paper on Lewis and de la Mare, which I greatly appreciate.

Nige said...

A lovely post, Stephen - and always good to see De La Mare appreciated. He wrote too much and could be something of a Georgian windbag, but golly, at his best he really was something very special, as you demonstrate so well.

Stephen Pentz said...

Nige: Thank you very much for your kind words about the post.

As you know, I have a soft spot for de la Mare -- no doubt due in large part to his "good nature and good sense." In addition, Auden perceptively observes that de la Mare's main poetic influences were probably Christina Rossetti, Mary Coleridge, and Hardy, all of whom I am fond of as well. There is something to be said for the continuation of that honorable tradition of English verse. As you say, "at his best he really was something very special."

As always, it is a pleasure to hear from you. From following your activities on Nigeness, it appears that retirement is suiting you well. Thank you very much for visiting again.

Deb said...

I think sometimes that we are all seeking our "others", those who see the world through similar eyes to ourselves. With hindsight I think I recognised at a very early age that Walter de la Mare was one of those for me.

And just a note on the sadness of the dove and the meaning of the tip tappings of a tiny bird - maybe the wonder and blessing consist in that these things create such a deep reaction in ourselves. We are truly alive and connected if this sort of thing can bring about a response in our own hearts.

BTW, his Collected Poems is a great volume, but surely no fan should be without the Complete Poems? Wonderful tome of delight that it is.

Lovely post, thank you :-)

Stephen Pentz said...

Deb: Thank you very much for your kind words about the post, and for your thoughts. I agree with you about the search for "others" who, to use your words, "see the world through similar eyes to ourselves." You are fortunate to have discovered de la Mare when you were young -- to see the world through his eyes, and with him, is, I think, a marvelous thing.

And thank you as well for your thoughts about the source, nature, and consequences of our reactions to the messages we receive from the World: a lovely and eloquent observation.

Yes, I agree with you about The Complete Poems: it is nice to have everything in one place.

As ever, it is a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for visiting again.