Monday, October 7, 2019

Here

It's funny how a poem will return out of the blue, for no apparent reason.  Not the whole poem (my memory is too feeble for that), but an image from it, or the feeling it evokes.  Early last week, this floated up unaccountably:

                     The Fountains

Suddenly all the fountains in the park
Opened smoothly their umbrellas of water,
Yet there was none but me to miss or mark
Their peacock show, and so I moved away
Uneasily, like one who at a play
Finds himself all alone, and will not stay.

W. R. Rodgers, Awake! and Other Poems (Secker & Warburg 1941).

The poem struck me when I first came across it years ago, and it has stayed with me ever since.  I have no desire to pick it apart in order to come to a conclusion as to what it "means."  It is simply (but not so simply) a lovely thing, best left alone.

When out walking -- in any place, under any sky, at any time of day or night, in any season -- have you ever had the feeling that the World is too beautiful to bear?

John Quinton Pringle (1864-1925), "Springtime, Ardersier" (1923)

A few days after I visited "The Fountains," this appeared:

     Just being here,
I am here,
     And the snow falls.

Issa (1763-1827) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, A History of Haiku, Volume 1 (Hokuseido Press 1963), page 359.

On a recent grey afternoon, a strong wind blew steadily when I took my afternoon walk beneath the trees.  The boughs (still leafy, still mostly green, but not for long) tossed and roared overhead.  It seemed as though some sort of denouement was close at hand.  But I immediately realized I was mistaken.  As I often do, I reminded myself to stop thinking.  The World.  There it is.

John Quinton Pringle, "The Window" (1924)

14 comments:

Deborah Vass said...

Such a moving post. Thank you for introducing me to this poem, it spoke to me in the way the best poetry does.

Maggie Emm said...

I often think that some people don't see the beauty of the world - and wonder how they can get through their lives without it...

Shanti Cross said...

Thank you for the beautiful poems, commentary, and art.
--Shanti Cross

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms. Vass: Thank you very much for your kind words. I'm pleased you liked "The Fountains." It is a small, but lovely, poem, isn't it? I agree with your thought that poems such as this do indeed speak to us. It's marvelous when one comes across them, for they are likely to stay with us throughout our life. Stepping stones, talismans.

It's good to hear from you again. Thank you very much for visiting.

Stephen Pentz said...

Maggie Emm: Perhaps the culture around us is not conducive to the appreciation of beauty. Too many distractions, too many false gods. (I am only qualified to speak of American culture.) Perceiving the beauty of the World requires attention and gratitude, and this in turn requires constant effort. I fail every day to pay sufficient attention, to be sufficiently grateful. I like to think most of us do our best to find beauty, for, as you suggest, a life without it would be empty. This is where poetry, and art in general, come in: they shake us to attention, they remind us to be grateful.

As always, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts, and for stopping by.

Stephen Pentz said...

Shanti Cross: Thank you very much -- that's nice of you to say. Thank you for visiting, and I hope you will return soon.

Unknown said...

I would just like you to know how much I appreciate your posts. I wait to open them until I have a quiet moment. Such a lovely little treat. Thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Unknown: Thank you very much for your kind words. As I have said here before, I simply act as the messenger for the poets and the painters, and I am always delighted and gratified to hear that their art resonates with others as well as with me. Thank you for being a regular visitor, which I greatly appreciate.

Richard Coffey said...

Too beautiful to bear. Yes, that’s it. Clouds do it for me: I sometimes look at them and marvel it’s FREE to just look at them, their beauty enhanced by the fact that they are ungraspable and, in a way, illusory.

Don Wentworth said...

Lovely ... absolutely. All the best, Don

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr. Coffey: Well said. I completely agree with you about the beauty and the allure of clouds. "Ungraspable" and "in a way, illusory" are fine ways to describe them: stand still and wait a moment, or walk and turn a corner, and they have changed. Evanescence is at the heart of their beauty, and sends a message to us. Coincidentally, this morning I read the following haiku by Bashō (translated by R. H. Blyth):

This autumn,
How old I am getting:
Ah, the clouds, the birds!

(R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 3: Summer-Autumn (1952), page 334.)

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

Stephen Pentz said...

Don: Thank you very much for your kind words. As always, it's good to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by again.

Bruce said...

In his poem "Crude Foyer" Wallace Stevens once again insists that all the beauty in the world is present through out senses. One cannot think oneself out of the quotidian. There is no "foyer of the spirit" where mere thinking can transcend the physical world. If one cannot find beauty in the ephemeral and shape-shifting clouds and the afternoon autumn wind in the trees, one will not find beauty. In the last line of the poem Stevens echos was you say in your post: "content, / At last, there, when it turns out to be here."

Thought is false happiness: the idea
That merely by thinking one can,
Or may, penetrate, not may,
But can, that one is sure to be able—

That there lies at the end of thought
A foyer of the spirit in a landscape
Of the mind, in which we sit
And wear humanity's bleak crown;

In which we read the critique of paradise
And say it is the work
Of a comedian, this critique;
In which we sit and breathe
― 409 ―

An innocence of an absolute,
False happiness, since we know that we use
Only the eye as faculty, that the mind
Is the eye, and that this landscape of the mind

Is a landscape only of the eyes; and that
We are ignorant men incapable
Of the least, minor, vital metaphor, content,
At last, there, when it turns out to be here.

Stephen Pentz said...

Bruce: Thank you very much for sharing Stevens' poem, and for your thoughts accompanying it. They fit well here. And, although this is a poem for all seasons, we cannot pass through autumn without Stevens, can we? (Now you've put me in the mood to dive back into him!)

It is a moving poem, isn't it? As you point out, the closing thought is the key: "content,/At last, there, when it turns out to be here." This is a precursor of where Stevens arrived in his beautiful late poems, don't you think? As I'm sure you know, he revisited "foyer" in one of his last poems (published posthumously in the year of his death): "Local Objects." The first stanza: "He knew that he was a spirit without a foyer/And that, in this knowledge, local objects become/More precious than the most precious objects of home." It ends: "These were that serene he had always been approaching/As toward an absolute foyer beyond romance." (Compare these lines from "Crude Foyer": "In which we sit and breathe/An innocence of an absolute.") Is "Local Objects" a sequel to, or a commentary upon, "Crude Foyer"? That's beyond my ken, since there are parts of both poems that leave me confounded. (As is the case with many of his poems. But the beauty outweighs my slow wittedness.)

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, and Stevens' poem. And, as ever, thank you for visiting.