Friday, July 13, 2018


This past week I spent an afternoon idyll in the emergency room of a local hospital, where I became acquainted with atrial fibrillation (also known, more familiarly, as "AFib").  New encounters of this sort are always salutary:  we should never take anything for granted.  One emerges from these episodes with a  freshened sense of gratitude.

How much time we have on our hands!  How little time we have on our hands!

The previous weekend I had read the following mysterious and wondrous poem.

     The Song of the Mad Prince

Who said, 'Peacock Pie'?
     The old King to the sparrow:
Who said, 'Crops are ripe'?
     Rust to the harrow:
Who said, 'Where sleeps she now?
     Where rests she now her head,
Bathed in eve's loveliness'? --
     That's what I said.

Who said, 'Ay, mum's the word'?
     Sexton to willow:
Who said, 'Green dusk for dreams,
     Moss for a pillow'?
Who said, 'All Time's delight
     Hath she for narrow bed;
Life's troubled bubble broken'? --
     That's what I said.

Walter de la Mare, Peacock Pie: A Book of Rhymes (Constable 1913).

Ah, well:  each of us a fluttering heart, a flickering soul.

David Murray (1849-1933), "Crofts on the Island of Lewis" (1921)

Later in the week, something floated up out of my past.  I hadn't thought of it for years.  I beg your forbearance for its presence here.  I offer it, not as poetry, but as an instance of how we meander our way through life, of how things vanish and then return.


And then -- never a doubt -- that day shall come.
You think -- wrongly -- that you can "handle" it.
(As if all before has been "handled" well.)
But it will be the last thing you expect.

Oblique and aslant shall be its approach:
Without stealth, and with utter certainty.

How little we know!  It leaves you breathless.

sip (March, 2004).

Alex Kirk (1872-1950)
"Cranborne Chase, Dorset, a View towards Horton Tower" (1935)


Sam Vega said...

I hope you are fully recovered. Please do look after yourself.

The little poem is excellent; it sits very well alongside a lot of what you have reproduced here. More, please!

Deborah Vass said...

Do hope you will soon be feeling compleltely well again. I too love De La Mare and his strange and elusive verses. I though t you might be interested to read this.

Jane the Booklady said...

I was very concerned to hear of your brush with death. I do hope you have recovered and will continue to be healthy and happy for many years yet.
I have to admit that this is a very selfish wish, as I love to read your blog posts. So for the sake of all of us who look to your words and pictures, please keep well!
Jane x

Mudpuddle said...

lovely and trenchant poems... sorry to hear about the erratic pump... i have a similar problem: i found a pill that works fairly well: "Heart Calm"; it controls most of my palpitations...

Bruce Post said...

How little we know, indeed. Best wishes and good health!!

Stephen Pentz said...

Sam Vega: Thank you very much for your thoughts. That episode has passed; now further tests will begin. But I am no longer "breathless," and feel much better.

Thank you also for your kind words about the poem. That's very nice of you to say. I have a binder of them, although I'm wary of inflicting them on others. But, of course, I am greatly pleased that you liked it.

Thank you again. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms. Vass: I greatly appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

And thank you also for the link to the article on de la Mare, which I hadn't seen before. It provides a fine introduction to de la Mare and his work. "Strange and elusive" is an apt phrase to describe his poetry, both his "adult" poems and his "children's" "rhymes and verses." (Although, as you know, his "children's" poems are (like "The Song of the Mad Prince") never merely "children's" poems. Adults will miss a great deal if they pass them over). I grow fonder and fonder of his poetry with each passing year, and I am always happy when I discover that he means a great deal to others as well. We need to keep his work alive.

Thank you again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Jane: Thank you very much for your kind thoughts, which mean a great deal to me. As I noted above in my reply to Sam Vega's comment, I am feeling much better. I am just glad that I found out about this condition now, rather than later.

As ever, it is good to hear from you. Thank you again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mudpuddle: Thank you for your thoughts. And I'm pleased you liked the poems.

I appreciate your recommendation of "Heart Calm." In looking into it, I was interested to see that magnesium is one of its key components: I started taking a magnesium supplement a few years ago for general health purposes. I'll see what the cardiologist puts me on, but this looks like a good idea as well.

Thank you for stopping by again, and for your thoughts.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Post: Thank you very much for your kind thoughts. Yes, "how little we know." But these sorts of proverbial wake-up calls can be a good thing.

Thank you again. It's nice to hear from you.

Maggie Emm said...

Hope it is all manageable Stephen - I think maybe only you could call a stay in hospital an 'idyll' !

Stephen Pentz said...

Maggie Emm: Thank you for your thoughts. Well, perhaps it was an "idyll" mostly in retrospect: there were a few thought-provoking moments, together with an IV line and beeping monitors. But things are now under control.

Thank you again. I appreciate your concern.