Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Beginning

When I looked out the front window on Saturday morning, I saw a few dozen sailboats out on Puget Sound.  The spring racing season has begun.  The sails, spread across the water from north to south, were a lovely, spirit-lifting sight.  Another version of Wordsworth's daffodils:  "a crowd, a host . . . fluttering and dancing in the breeze."

An annual confirmation of renewal, of beginning anew.  One feels that a page has been turned.


The kind of rain we knew is a thing of the past --
deep-delving, dark, deliberate you would say,
browsing on spire and bogland; but today
our sky-blue slates are steaming in the sun,
our yachts tinkling and dancing in the bay
like racehorses.  We contemplate at last
shining windows, a future forbidden to no one.

Derek Mahon, Antarctica (The Gallery Press 1985).

Henry Moore (1831-1895), "Catspaws Off the Land" (1885)

To the west, beyond the water and the sails, the peaks of the Olympic Mountains towered and gleamed, covered with a winter's worth of snow, their slopes mottled with shifting cloud shadows.  Everything was in its place.  A spring day can give one the feeling of having arrived safely home.  To begin again.

     The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush

Before the first visitor comes the spring
Softening the sharp air of the coast
In time for the first seasonal 'invasion.'
Today the place is as it might have been,
Gentle and almost hospitable.  A girl
Strides past the Northern Counties Hotel,
Light-footed, swinging a book-bag,
And the doors that were shut all winter
Against the north wind and the sea-mist
Lie open to the street, where one
By one the gulls go window-shopping
And an old wolfhound dozes in the sun.

While I sit with my paper and prawn chow-mein
Under a framed photograph of Hong Kong
The proprietor of the Chinese restaurant
Stands at the door as if the world were young,
Watching the first yacht hoist a sail
-- An ideogram on sea-cloud -- and the light
Of heaven upon the hills of Donegal;
And whistles a little tune, dreaming of home.

Derek Mahon, Collected Poems (The Gallery Press 1999).

John Anthony Park (1880-1962), "The Harbour, Polperro, Cornwall"


Bruce Floyd said...

Last evening, as dusk prepared to move across the land, my wife and I walked our dogs. It was a clear, mild evening. My wife said, "This seems like a spring evening. Up till now the sky has had a winter tint to it. The sky just looks different." I had to agree: it seemed the first real evening of spring, the announcement that nature is still faithful, the pronouncement etched in something inexplicable on the sky, something written in the heart, something stored away and kept till that fated day in March arrives. As we walked, the dusk arrived and then the twilight crept in, and, as always happens, the day died and night came.

Emily Dickinson speaks of a light in spring, the oriflamme in the vanguard of what is to come. As she says in another poem, once against is the mystery explained to Nicodemus.

A light exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period.
When March is scarcely here

A color stands abroad
On solitary hills
That science cannot overtake,
But human nature feels.

It waits upon the lawn;
It shows the furthest tree
Upon the furthest slope we know;
It almost speaks to me.

Then, as horizons step,
Or noons report away,
Without the formula of sound,
It passes, and we stay:

A quality of loss
Affecting our content,
As trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a sacrament.

Stephen Pentz said...

Bruce: Thank you very much for your (and your wife's) lovely meditation on the light of spring evenings.

And thank you as well for the poem by Dickinson, which is new to me: you are always able to provide a perfect Dickinson poem to deepen, and expand upon, the subject at hand. I wish I had your knowledge of her poetry. The poem is wonderful. I hesitate to pull anything out of place, but I am particularly taken with this stanza: "A color stands abroad/On solitary hills/That science cannot overtake,/But human nature feels." This is absolutely beautiful and true.

Your, your wife's, and Dickinson's thoughts on spring light bring to mind this haiku by Issa (translated by R. H. Blyth):

Spring has come
In all simplicity:
A light yellow sky.

As always, it is pleasure to hear from you. Thank you very much for stopping by again.