We took a road trip recently to Cambridge , England. While there we did a chauffeured punt down the River with local company Scudamore’s Punting: https://www.scudamores.com/punting-quayside. As we sailed the river past the university colleges, listening to our very knowledgable chauffeur, I was reminded of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth’s ‘Composed upon Westminster Bridge September 3, 1802…’ :
Earth has not any thing to show more fair: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by A sight so touching in its majesty: This City now doth, like a garment, wear The beauty of the morning; silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky; All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. Never did sun more beautifully steep In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill; Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep! The river glideth at his own sweet will: Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; And all that mighty heart is lying still!
The poem was about the river Thames, not the River Cam, however Wordsworth did study at St. John’s College Cambridge, so I felt my connection was valid.
Goblin Market (published in 1862) is a narrative poem which tells the story of Laura and Lizzie who are tempted with fruit by goblin merchants. It is one of my favourite poems generally and my favourite Rossetti poem in particular.
Evening by evening Among the brookside rushes, Laura bow’d her head to hear, Lizzie veil’d her blushes: Crouching close together In the cooling weather, With clasping arms and cautioning lips, With tingling cheeks and finger tips. “Lie close,” Laura said, Pricking up her golden head: “We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits: Who knows upon what soil they fed Their hungry thirsty roots?” “Come buy,” call the goblins Hobbling down the glen.
“Oh,” cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura, You should not peep at goblin men.” Lizzie cover’d up her eyes, Cover’d close lest they should look; Laura rear’d her glossy head, And whisper’d like the restless brook: “Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie, Down the glen tramp little men. One hauls a basket, One bears a plate, One lugs a golden dish Of many pounds weight. How fair the vine must grow Whose grapes are so luscious; How warm the wind must blow Through those fruit bushes.” “No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no; Their offers should not charm us, Their evil gifts would harm us.” She thrust a dimpled finger In each ear, shut eyes and ran: Curious Laura chose to linger Wondering at each merchant man. One had a cat’s face, One whisk’d a tail, One tramp’d at a rat’s pace, One crawl’d like a snail, One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry, One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry. She heard a voice like voice of doves Cooing all together: They sounded kind and full of loves In the pleasant weather.
It’s a fairytale world of temptation and mystery, exploring themes of temptation, sacrifice and salvation.
Ancient themes magically visited in beautiful lyrical language.
A large and conspicuous waterbird, the cormorant has an almost primitive appearance with its long neck making it appear reptilian. It is often seen standing with its wings held out to dry. Regarded by some as black, sinister and greedy, cormorants are supreme fishers which can bring them into conflict with anglers and they have been persecuted in the past. The UK holds internationally important wintering numbers.
The Common Cormorant or shag Lays eggs inside a paper bag. The reason you will see no doubt It is to keep the lightning out. But what these unobservant birds Have never noticed is that herds Of wandering bears may come with buns And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.
There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night— Ten to make and the match to win— A bumping pitch and a blinding light, An hour to play and the last man in. And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat, Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame, But his captain’s hand on his shoulder smote ‘Play up! play up! and play the game! ‘
The sand of the desert is sodden red,— Red with the wreck of a square that broke; — The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead, And the regiment blind with dust and smoke. The river of death has brimmed his banks, And England’s far, and Honour a name, But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks: ‘Play up! play up! and play the game! ‘
This is the word that year by year, While in her place the school is set, Every one of her sons must hear, And none that hears it dare forget. This they all with a joyful mind Bear through life like a torch in flame, And falling fling to the host behind— ‘Play up! play up! and play the game!
“We had seen an advertisement of her, and we reached her down an enlarged rabbit-hole of a lane. At very first sight the Committee of Ways and Means [Mrs Kipling and himself]said ‘That’s her! The only She! Make an honest woman of her – quick!’. We entered and felt her Spirit – her Feng Shui – to be good. We went through every room and found no shadow of ancient regrets, stifled miseries, nor any menace though the ‘new’ end of her was three hundred years old…”
Rudyard Kipling on discovering Batemans, his future home.
Today sees the start of the Guinness Six Nations 2020. This will be the 21st Six Nations Championship, the annual rugby union competition contested by the national teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. As Wales meets Italy in the first match of the Championship I am reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’:
by Rudyard Kipling
IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, ‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
Although I can see him still. The freckled man who goes To a grey place on a hill In grey Connemara clothes At dawn to cast his flies, It’s long since I began To call up to the eyes This wise and simple man. All day I’d looked in the face What I had hoped ‘twould be To write for my own race And the reality; The living men that I hate, The dead man that I loved, The craven man in his seat, The insolent unreproved, And no knave brought to book Who has won a drunken cheer, The witty man and his joke Aimed at the commonest ear, The clever man who cries The catch-cries of the clown, The beating down of the wise And great Art beaten down.
Maybe a twelvemonth since Suddenly I began, In scorn of this audience, Imagining a man, And his sun-freckled face, And grey Connemara cloth, Climbing up to a place Where stone is dark under froth, And the down-turn of his wrist When the flies drop in the stream; A man who does not exist, A man who is but a dream; And cried, ‘Before I am old I shall have written him one poem maybe as cold And passionate as the dawn.’
“The Fisherman”, published in 1916, depicts Yeats’ considerations into the loss of Irish tradition through the persona of a fisherman.
This image, caught on my Eastbourne seafront run last Sunday morning, made me think of The Fisherman by W. B Yeats.