An August Midnight
A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter -- winged, horned, and spined --
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands. . . .
Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
-- My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
'God's humblest, they!' I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.
Thomas Hardy, Poems of the Past and the Present (1901).
Gerald Gardiner (1902-1959), "Norfolk Brick Kiln"
The thoughts expressed by Hardy at the close of the poem bring to mind this poem by Michael Longley.
Do they ever meet out there,
The dolphins I counted,
The otter I wait for?
I should have spent my life
Listening to the waves.
Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid (Jonathan Cape 1995).
I do not believe that Hardy and Longley are sentimentalizing our fellow creatures, but simply pointing out the possibility of unknown affinities that we ought to attend to. This may be accompanied by a dose of humility, which is never a bad thing.
John Haswell (1855-1925), "Whitnash Church"
Perhaps we do not inhabit wholly different worlds after all. Whether one is a strict evolutionist or a strict creationist, a scientist or a theologian, it matters not: I'd venture to say that a vital current, a common thread, wends its way through all these worlds. Which is not always an unmixed blessing, some might argue.
Important insects clamber to the top
Of stalks; look round with uninquiring eyes
And find the world incomprehensible;
Then totter back to earth and circumscribe
Irregular territories pointlessly.
Some insects narcissistically assume
Patterns of spots or stripes or burnished sheen
For purposes of sex or camouflage,
Some tweet or rasp, though most are without speech
Except a low, subliminal, mindless chatter.
Take heart: those scientists are wrong who find
Elements of the human in their systems,
Despite their busy, devious trafficking
Important insects simply do not matter.
James Reeves, The Questioning Tiger (Heinemann 1964).
I. E. Shaw, "Rhuddlan Castle, Denbighshire" (1988)
The World is reticent, as are the inhabitants of all the worlds that surround us. But bear in mind that this talking business is overrated. (Do not get me started on modern devices of "communication.") To be reticent is not to be inarticulate.
Be the keeper of the grave-yard,
When I die.
Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) (translated by R. H. Blyth), in R. H. Blyth, Haiku, Volume 4: Autumn-Winter (Hokuseido 1952), page xxvi.
Thomas Sheard (1866-1921), "After the Service"