Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving


           for Rick


Think of my gratitude the granite
In the rock - the sparkle, the streak
Made visible by the clear cut
We speed past. For most, missed,
But you notice not only the bright
Patterns it makes but also guess
The deeper dimensions, how it bends
And curves among the layers beneath
The surface, evidence of long past
Pressures that civilizing force
Brings to light. Most or much
Is still invisibly beneath the paths we walk,
The fields and forests we speed past,
Incorporated into the geology
And the ecology of our every day

by Jaye Freyer



Many thanks this Thanksgiving for the warm and loving support of so many friends through the difficult loss and challenges of my recent months.  Though I wrote this for Rick, it reflects how deeply I have appreciated the many kinds of help, support and good wishes from you.  Thanks ~  Jaye

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ironic Points of Light ~ Individual poetic lines take on a life of their own


Poems over time become beveled by a person's inner need and nature, much as the mountains and hills are worn down by wind and sand - leaving behind the hardest most durable parts on the landscape.  My memory of W. H. Auden's poem, September 1, 1939, has been carved down over time to a firm few lines that stand up my thoughts during troubled times ~ so often recently (see both my memory's version and the original below).


 One of the unique wonders of good poems is the way they find places in our metaphysical landscapes and are available - sometimes literally leaping out to offer assistance - when we need just the right words to convey an impression.  There is something of the sacred in it - anchoring our insights to the bedrock of human nature.

Taube or Dove, WWI war plane
Throughout the recent financial crisis, I've noticed both this poem by Auden and Yeats' The Second Coming, being frequently remembered, mentioned, blogged.  Many folks I notice in conversation can't recall more than the first few lines of The Second Coming - but these few lines capture something critical in our comprehension of the individual's relationship with the leader - be that government, God or nature - and the fear when things spin out of control.  


Edvard Munch's The Scream



Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold




This in response to the economy, to global warming, to a distance grown too big for even the most cleaver falcons among us to hear the falconer.  Both poems were written on the thresholds of war - Auden opens on the moment WWII becomes a reality, emerging from a decade that strained people and environments to a breaking point by dwindling resources, and Yeats stands at the backdoor of WWI, surveying the damaged communities and societies left in the wake of the 'War to end all Wars'. 

When I first read them both in college, I was both closer in time and further away in ability to really 'hear' them.  I couldn't begin to imagine how the world had spun so completely out of control twice in one century.  It's a little easier to understand now, unfortunately.  


(My Memory of) September 1, 1939 by W.H.Auden



Norman Cornish Bar Scene
I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 

and darkened lands of the earth, 
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.


I know what all schoolchildren learn, 
Those to whom evil is done
War Declared 1939
Do evil in return.
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
Lest we should see where we are,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work...

Defenseless under the night

Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same

Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.






Read the full, original poem below

September 1st, 1939  (Original) by W.H. Auden



New York Times September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;

The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.


Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offense
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim

The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire

To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.





Notes on the Images:  The beautiful Taube (or 'Dove'), designed by Igo Etrich, was Imperial Germany's first mass-produced aircraft and was used as a war plane in the beginning years of WWI.

Edvard Munch's The Scream (or Skrik in Norwegian) is one of the iconic paintings of the 20th Century.  Recently selling for $120 million, was stolen and recovered in 2004, and has been reproduced countless times.


The journal entry at the top is from a lovely blog by Rufina called 300DayJourney that includes images from her Grandmother's wartime diary (also the image at left).

The bar scene is a evocative charcoal and crayon art work by Norman Cornish, an English artist who was a coal miner for thirty years before beginning to sell his work. Visit his website here and learn more about his remarkable life and significant talent.   

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adrienne Rich ~ Dream of a Common Language

Adrienne Rich, 1929-2012
Diving Into the Wreck

                 by Adrienne Rich


First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.



The first book of poetry I bought was Adrienne Rich's Dream of a Common Language.  It was hard at the time to grasp how much of an impact she had, and was having, on the world I was coming of age in but looking back I am grateful for her strength of mind and character, as well as for her amazing poetry.  She had a beautiful courage.

The New York Times this morning opened her tribute, A Poet of Unswerving Vision at the Forefront of Feminism, wrote:
Adrienne Rich, a poet of towering reputation and towering rage, whose work — distinguished by an unswerving progressive vision and a dazzling, empathic ferocity — brought the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse and kept it there for nearly a half-century. 
NPR's tribute, written by David Orr,  includes this recent poem entitled Turbulence

There'll be turbulence. You'll drop
your book to hold your
water bottle steady. Your
mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall
may who ne'er hung there let him
watch the movie. The plane's
supposed to shudder, shoulder on
like this. It's built to do that. You're
designed to tremble too. Else break
Higher you climb, trouble in mind
lungs labor, heights hurl vistas
Oxygen hangs ready
overhead. In the event put on
the child's mask first. Breathe normally

This wonderful quote, and the photograph above of Adrienne Rich with the trees, comes from the Wordveins blog.

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you…it means that you do not treat your body as a commodity with which to purchase superficial intimacy or economic security; for our bodies to be treated as objects, our minds are in mortal danger. It means insisting that those to whom you give your friendship and love are able to respect your mind.”
~Adrienne Rich

Read her biography at Poets.org ~ Adrienne Rich Biography. 

The poem, Diving into the Wreck, is from Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972 by Adrienne Rich. Copyright © 1973 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the author and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright 1973 by Adrienne Rich.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

In Memoriam ~ Wislawa Szymborska

Wislawa Szymborska
One of my favorite poets passed away this week ~ Wislawa Szymborska. Read about her here in the New York Times by clicking this link ~ Wislawa Szymborska, a gentle and reclusive Polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, died on Wednesday in Krakow, Poland. She was 88.

Lot's Wife

by Wislawa Szymborska


They say I looked back out of curiosity,

but I could have had other reasons.

I looked back mourning my silver bowl.

Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.

So I wouldn’t have to keep staring at the righteous nape

Of my husband Lot’s neck.

From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead

He wouldn’t so much as hesitate.

From the disobedience of the meek.

Checking for pursuers.

Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.


Read three other poems from last March on East West Poetry:  Lost and Found, Birthday, and, one of my favorites, Under A Certain Star.

Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Clean Practically Anything


by Jennifer O'Grady


Yes, housework can be a chore

               A day, a day rinsed free of night

everyone enjoys a clean and orderly home

               a table wiped clear of crumbs and spills

the best way to do the maximum amount
of work, without becoming overwhelmed

               floor swept, dustpan emptied into plastic
               bags which are placed inside sealed metal cans

is to perform it in a systematic fashion

               dishwasher emptied, opaque and stainless

blot the stain, wipe away any residue

               whites now sorted, his socks, his shirts
               old egg-yolk yellow under the arms

try these to ensure results
reward your efforts:

               his underwear, the boxers faded and frayed
               repeating their pattern of angular hearts

be sure to remove any hooks or weights

               their scattered and miniature x's and o's
               openings measured for admission or exit

don't overload the machine, and remember

               his colors tangling in a tossed-off pile
               of mostly darks, mostly black and blues

fabric becomes much heavier when wet

               while here and there a spring green
               a tremulous yellow

protect from strong sunlight
and abrasive objects

               a newborn pink, streak
               of surprisingly deep red

warning: damages may not be covered

               like fresh blood, a raw and unsutured cut

try a product that claims to hide
surface scratches

               to be rinsed and wrung, dried and folded and piled
               into the thing we call a long marriage

if the marks have darkened
use a sharp knife

               these daily removals, these many attempts
               to wipe clean the counter the table the slate

if the burn is deep use filler
smoothing it to match the surface

               the windows now free of fingerprints and smears
               as if there were no glass no barrier no space

work carefully to avoid
damaging the paint

               in which to revisit your own faint reflection

this coating should last for years



Reading this poem snapped me back to the early years of motherhood - perhaps because I studied a similar book by Alma Chesnut Moore in trying to gain some skill in the art of keeping house. I wasn't alone in feeling confounded by domesticity - I was surrounded by creative, educated women who were suddenly home with children, laundry, surfaces to clean, furniture to fix, order to find in the daily waves of chaos that seems to follow new parents around.  To do this and anything else required a mental version of ambidexterity that I didn't possess - one mind focused on the physical and the other on the metaphysical.  I was always getting the two mixed up. This is what Jennifer O'Grady captures so perfectly here - the the waves of poetic thought lapping at the shore of the endless list of domestic to-dos and how-to-dos.  This poem appears in Poetry Daily and was originally published in Southwest Review.  If you are reading this without having read Moths, visit that page by clicking the link to find out more about Jennifer's work and read another terrific poem.   (Reprinted with permission of the author)

Images ~ Baby in the basket is by Devinf (visit to see more incredibly cute photos of baby Rune and really amazing yarn  work),  I found it first on Taylor Flannery's blog.  How To Clean Everything, one of the many editions by Alma Chesnut Moore, now available on Google Books.  The French Laundry advertisement can be found here.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Journey of the Magi

Earliest Image of the Journey of the Magi
Journey of the Magi

 by T.S. Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.





Here's another favorite, on the occasion of Three Kings Day, or Epiphany.  I discovered while googling around that the first five lines of the poem were borrowed by Eliot from Bishop Andrewes' Christmas Day Sermon of 1622.

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes in his Christmas Day Sermon of 1622 said this of the journey of the Wise Men:

T.S. Eliot as a young man
Lancelot Andrewes
"This was nothing pleasant, for through deserts, all the way waste and desolate. Nor secondly, easy neither; for over the rocks and crags of both Arabias, specially Petra, their journey lay. Yet if safe, but it was not, but exceeding dangerous, as lying through the midst of the black tents of Kedar, a nation of thieves and cut-throats; to pass over the hills of robbers, infamous then, and infamous to this day. No passing without great troop or convoy. Last we consider the time of their coming, the season of the year. It was no summer progress. A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, in solsitio brumali, the very dead of winter.”

- compelling words, surprisingly fresh for having been written almost four hundred years ago ~ and far more familiar to us by being quoted by T.S.Eliot at the beginning of his poem, The Journey of the Magi.

The image at top is taken from a fascinating website called History Hunters International, an archeological website exploring the layers of history and appearance of divine men through archaeological evidence.






Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Thomas Merton Reader

In his book, The Seven Storey Mountain,  Merton tells us of the writing of the following poem:
While I was sitting on the terrace of the hotel, eating lunch, La Caridad del Cobra had a word to say to me.  She handed me an idea for a poem that formed so easily and smoothly and spontaneously in my mind that all I had to do was finish eating and go up to my room and type it out, almost without correction. 

So the poem turned out to be both what she had to say to me and what I had to say to her.  It was a song for La Caridad del Cobre, and it was, as far as I was concerned, something new, and the first real poem I had ever written, or anyway the one I liked best.  It pointed the way to many other poems:  it opened the gate, and set me traveling on a certain direct track that was to last me several years.
The poem said:

The white girls lift their heads like trees,
The black girls go
Reflected like Flamingoes in the street.

The white girls sing as shrill as water,
The black girls talk as quiet as clay.

The white girls open their arms like clouds,
The black girls close their eyes like wings:
Angels bow down like bells,
Angles look up like toys,

Because the heavenly stars
Stand in a ring:
And all the pieces of the mosaic, earth,
Get up and fly away like birds.



FOR MY BROTHER: REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION, 1943

Sweet brother, if I do not sleep
My eyes are flowers for your tomb;
And if I cannot eat my bread,
My fasts shall live like willows where you died.
If in the heat I find no water for my thirst,
My thirst shall turn to springs for you, poor traveller.

Where, in what desolate and smokey country,
Lies your poor body, lost and dead?
And in what landscape of disaster
Has your unhappy spirit lost its road?

Come, in my labor find a resting place
And in my sorrows lay your head,
Or rather take my life and blood
And buy yourself a better bed --
Or take my breath and take my death
And buy yourself a better rest.

When all the men of war are shot
And flags have fallen into dust,
Your cross and mine shall tell men still
Christ died on each, for both of us.

For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,
And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring;
The money of Whose tears shall fall
Into your weak and friendless hand,
And buy you back to your own land:

The silence of Whose tears shall fall
Like bells upon your alien tomb.
Hear them and come: they call you home.



These two poems have been long favorites of mine and opened a door for me when I was in college to take chances with poetry, and to assure the heart a place at each poem's core.  In the first poem, which I don't think has a name but might be called La Caridad del Cobra, he captures so something of the joy and freedom in the truth-telling nature of poetry, a way of telling by not telling, like a Zen kōan.  This is a poem you have to let follow you around for a while.  The second poem always makes me feel intensely vulnerable.  I grew up in a family deeply touched by one war and feel for the many families today who suffer with grief that has no words.  Here Merton's poem is a gift to help give voice to the grief in the loss of a loved one.  It is so filled with heart that that the images shimmer on the edge of the poem like the skin of a bubble, buoyant with love and grief, irresistibly translucent.  He captures the life of grief in a way I've never found so well expressed.  These are borrowed from Google Books, A Thomas Merton Reader by Thomas P. McDonnell. 

See too the sensitive work of Sister Thérèse Lentfoehr in Words and Silence, on the Poetry of Thomas Merton, a book I've carried since my college days. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Earthbound and Transcendental - 2 poems by Chŏng Chi-yong

Nostalgia



      by Chŏng Chi-yong




The place where a rill, babbling old tales,   Meanders on eastward toward the end       of a broad plain   And a mottled bull ox lows   In dusk's plaintive tones       of golden indolence  
Could it ever be forgotten, even in one's dreams?  
The place where ashes grow cold in a clay brazier   While over empty fields the sound of the night wind       drives the horses   And our aged father, overcome with drowsiness,   Props his straw pillow  
Could it ever be forgotten, even in one's dreams?  
The place where I got drenched       in the rank weeds' dew,   Searching for an arrow recklessly shot   In the yearning of my earth-bred heart   For the sky's lustrous blue  
Could it ever be forgotten, even in one's dreams?  
The place where little sister, dark earlocks   Flying like night waves dancing in a fairy-tale sea,  
And my wife, not pretty but passable       and all the year barefoot,   Bent their backs to the sun's tingling rays and       gleaned ears of grain  
Could it ever be forgotten, even in one's dreams?  
The place where sprinkled stars       wend their way in the sky   Toward sand castles just beyond our ken,   while beneath drab roofs,       hoary crows cawing past,   People sit, softly murmuring,       round the faint firelight  
Could it ever be forgotten, even in one's dreams?  


     (Translated by Daniel Kister)



Window, I

    by Chŏng Chi-yong


Something cold and sad haunts the window.
I dim the pane with my feverless steam.

It flaps its frozen wings, as if tamed,
I wipe the glass, wipe again—

Only black night ebbs, then dashes against it,
Moist stars etched like glittering jewels.

Polishing the window at night
Is a lonely, spellbinding affair.

With your lovely veins broken in the lung,
You flew away like a mountain bird!

                                     (Translated by Peter H. Lee)



I have drifted back to these poems many times since discovering them and would like to share them here.  I have sought permission last fall but have not yet heard back from either the translators, the institutes or their universities. 

Daniel Kister, the translator and a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Sogang University, Seoul, Korea, wrote, "Modern Korean poetry owes much to the pioneering body of work left by Chŏng Chi-yong who expanded the poetic possibilities of the Korean language through ingenuities of expressions and disciplined incorporation of musicality. He remained wary of sentimental effusion; from his early “imagist” works to his late “transcendental” meditations, restraint and sophistication remained signature characteristics of Chŏng’s poetic language.


The natural landscape in this poem is described in "the most lasting idiom" of language which is so plain and common that it almost sounds primitive. The emotional opulence is almost overflowing, yet immaculately controled. It presents the typically Korean pastoral scenery inspired with rural naivety and humbleness.   
The peculiarly Korean landscape composed of local images deconstructs all oppressive powers and generates a poetic space that is more liberating and simple, and where the most essential and permanent part of our mind is touched. So the poem leaves an indelible impression in our mind and stirs a sea of emotion from the deepest.

Read more of Chong Chi-yong's work and Prof. Kister's sensitive and thorough essay here ~ Korean Literature Today, Vol 1, No. 2, Autumn 1996, a work that includes many contemporary Korean poets.

The poem Windows 1, is aided by biographical information. Chŏng Chi-yong had a son who died early from a lung disease; it is likely that the one who “flew away like a mountain bird” with his “lovely veins broken in the lung” is his son, though nothing in the poem identifies him explicitly. Thus the poem can be seen as a song of sorrow sung by a grieving father. The poem shuns direct exposure of the speaker’s emotional state, but intimates it instead through the useless activity of “polishing the window at night.” The depth of sorrow the father feels is suggested by the fact that he remains awake in the still of the night, and the sudden flooding of memory in the last stanza, delicately accentuated with the exclamatory tone and the apposite use of the adjective “lovely,” is equal to the task of expressing the gravity of his loss. The language is tempered and the sensory experience regulated; Chŏng Chi-yong’s spirit of moderation is almost classical. (Editorial note by translator Peter Lee)

I will share more, through added links, soon.  Thanks!  

Tintern Abbey


The banks of my own Wye

LINES

WRITTEN A FEW MILES ABOVE

TINTERN ABBEY,

ON REVISITING

THE BANKS OF THE WYE

DURING

A TOUR,

July 13, 1798.

by William Wordsworth

=====


Five years have past; five summers, with the length    
Of five long winters! and again I hear    
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs    
With a sweet inland murmur.  Once again    
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,    
Which on a wild secluded scene impress    
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect    
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.    
The day is come when I again repose    
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view    
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,    
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,    
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,    
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb    
The wild green landscape. Once again I see    
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines    
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,    
Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke    
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,    
With some uncertain notice, as might seem,    
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,    
Or of some hermit's cave, where by his fire    
The hermit sits alone.

 
                                     Though absent long,    
These forms of beauty have not been to me,    
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:    
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din    
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,    
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,    
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,    
And passing even into my purer mind    
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too    
Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,    
As may have had no trivial influence    
On that best portion of a good man's life;    
His little, nameless, unremembered acts    
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,    
To them I may have owed another gift,    
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,    
In which the burthen of the mystery,    
In which the heavy and the weary weight    
Of all this unintelligible world    
Is lighten'd:—that serene and blessed mood,    
In which the affections gently lead us on,    
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,    
And even the motion of our human blood    
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep    
In body, and become a living soul:    
While with an eye made quiet by the power    
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,    
We see into the life of things.

   
                                                If this    
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,    
In darkness, and amid the many shapes    
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir    
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,    
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,    
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee    
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the wood    
How often has my spirit turned to thee!

   
And now, with gleams of half-extinguish'd though[t,]    
With many recognitions dim and faint,    
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,    
The picture of the mind revives again:    
While here I stand, not only with the sense    
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts    
That in this moment there is life and food    
For future years. And so I dare to hope    
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first    
I came among these hills; when like a roe    
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides    
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,    
Wherever nature led; more like a man    
Flying from something that he dreads, than one    
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then    
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,    
And their glad animal movements all gone by,)    
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint    
What then I was. The sounding cataract    
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,    
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,    
Their colours and their forms, were then to me    
An appetite: a feeling and a love,    
That had no need of a remoter charm,    
By thought supplied, or any interest    
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,    
And all its aching joys are now no more,    
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this    
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts    
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,    
Abundant recompence. For I have learned    
To look on nature, not as in the hour    
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes    
The still, sad music of humanity,    
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power    
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt    
A presence that disturbs me with the joy    
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime    
Of something far more deeply interfused,    
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,    
And the round ocean, and the living air,    
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,    
A motion and a spirit, that impels    
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,    
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still    
A lover of the meadows and the woods,    
And mountains; and of all that we behold    
From this green earth; of all the mighty world    
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,*    
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize    
In nature and the language of the sense,    
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,    
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul    
Of all my moral being.

   
                                     Nor, perchance,    
If I were not thus taught, should I the more    
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:    
For thou art with me, here, upon the banks    
Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,    
Sunset near my house
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch    
The language of my former heart, and read    
My former pleasures in the shooting lights    
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while    
May I behold in thee what I was once,    
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,    
Knowing that Nature never did betray    
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,    
Through all the years of this our life, to lead    
From joy to joy: for she can so inform    
The mind that is within us, so impress    
With quietness and beauty, and so feed    
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,    
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,    
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all    
The dreary intercourse of daily life,    
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb    
Our chearful faith that all which we behold    
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon    
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;    
And let the misty mountain winds be free    
To blow against thee: and in after years,    
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured    
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind    
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,    
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place    
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,    
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,    
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts    
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,    
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,    
If I should be, where I no more can hear    
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams    
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget    
That on the banks of this delightful stream    
We stood together; and that I, so long    
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,    
Unwearied in that service: rather say    
With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal    
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,    
That after many wanderings, many years    
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,    
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me    
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake.    

I've come back to this poem so many times in my life, after my first foray into a troubled world, and seemingly after every foray since.  I am very much like Wordsworth in my need for and love of nature, I take solace in the quiet energy.  This poem offers me a staircase into a place of peace.  Though I've never seen Tintern Abbey, nor the English countryside, I believe we each have our own nature, our own most beautiful place, to find refuge in.  From time to time I am fortunate to glimpse this bright former nature in some young people not yet bruised or burdened, and shed my trouble like a heavy coat.

This next poem, too, by William Wordsworth cuts a smooth curve along a contemporary truth - perhaps a timeless one - and for something written two hundred years ago, feels to me a very fresh and urgent nudge to put away our blackberries and iPhones and walk a little deeper in the world we live in.

The World is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon

                by William Wordsworth

          THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
          Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
          Little we see in Nature that is ours;
          We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
          The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
          The winds that will be howling at all hours,
          And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
          For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
          It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
          A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;                   
          So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
          Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
          Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
          Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
                                                              1806.