“To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience… a gap in the hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow, the stream at the junction of four small fields – these are as much as a man can fully experience.”
Patrick Kavanaugh, “The Parish and the Universe”, as quoted in the frontispiece of “Common Ground“, by Rob Cowen
What’s the use
Of being found?
You can lose yourself
In some good ground
In the weeds hiding
Down the river right next door
There’s no frame around your picture
Just a view through my back door
Beck, Country Down
From LRB, an old piece about Coleridge, and how it might have been better had he died young:
He knew not what to do – something, he felt, must be done – he rose, drew his writing-desk before him – sate down, took the pen – – found that he knew not what to do.
After the first glorious days of his friendship with Wordsworth, Coleridge set about – or perhaps only resumed – a course of procrastination and ruin from which it seemed decent to avert one’s eyes. His life grew complicated and his poetry sparse, and his achievement took forms that required sometimes unreasonable effort to value.
In December he recognised that ‘I never had the essentials of poetic Genius, – that I mistook a strong desire for original power.’ By March 1801, Coleridge had decided it was all over: ‘The Poet is dead in me.’
Dorothy ... the life of the party!
Excellent article over at LRB about Wordsworth’s amazing poem, “The Prelude”, which includes this rather scathing assessment of Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy:
Coleridge … considered Wordsworth’s intellectual life hampered anyway by his unclubbable manners and the presence of Dorothy. ‘You have two things against you,’ he wrote, ‘your not loving smoke; and your sister.’
Whenas the rye reach to the chin,
And chopcherry, chopcherry ripe within,
Strawberries swimming in the cream,
And schoolboys playing in the stream;
Then, O, then, O, then, O, my true love said,
Till that time come again,
She could not live a maid.
George Peele (1558-1598)
Some days were running legs
Some days were running legs and joy
and old men telling tomorrow would be
a fine day surely: for sky was red
at setting of sun between the hills.
Some nights were parting at the gates
with day’s companions: and dew falling
on heads clear of ambition except light
returning and throwing stones at sticks.
Some days were rain flooding forever the green
pasture: and horses turning to the wind
bare smooth backs. The toothed rocks rising
sharp and grey out of the ancient sea.
Some nights were shawling mirrors lest the lightning
strike with eel’s speed out of the storm.
Black the roman rooks came from the left squawking
and the evening flowed back around their wings.
Iain Crichton Smith from ‘The Long River’ 1955
A Scottish poem I used to teach, and had almost forgotten about, resurfaced yesterday, and here it is, in all its old glory.