Monthly Archives: April 2016

Y- Yeats On Life…Letters To Dead Poets

For the last six weeks, I’ve been working on a series of Letters to Dead Poets, which have been inspired by my own experiences of reading these poems, being inspired by the poets as well as the happenings in my own life.  I’ve re-read poems, discovered new poets, as my footsteps have forged ahead through virgin soil. Yet, there has also been this other force, which writers through the ages have called “the muse”. Yet, who or what is it really? Could it be the spirits of poets past posting ideas into my head like letters into a mail box? Is it my subconscious mind or even God?

Irish poet William Butler Yeats had a strong belief in the supernatural, which is reflected in his response.

 …………….

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

Dear Rowena,

“Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”
― W.B. Yeats

At last, I finally received your letter. I’ve repeatedly tried reaching you throughout the last month, watching as you’ve plucked out but a select few of my colleagues to receive your letters. It’s been an agonising wait, not knowing whether I would be chosen. Thank you. Your letter means the world to me. I am most honoured…and relieved!

By the way, if I ever come back on a more permanent basis, I’m going to change my name to Aardvark. I spent most of my life waiting, waiting…A,B, C,L,M,Q…! Even after death, it’s taken an eternity to get to “Y”!

Getting back to your letter, my dear, you asked so many questions. Too many, for me to respond to each one individually and give each their due. Besides, I am but a poet and “what can be explained is not poetry”.

yeats1.jpg

However, before I offer a few over-arching observations, please know that “I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe is enough to make a bad man show him at his best, or even a good man swings his lantern higher.”

Yeats By Rohan Gillespie Stephen St Sligo

Wisdom – WB Yeats:

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”

“People who lean on logic and philosophy and rational exposition end by starving the best part of the mind.”

“This melancholy London – I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.”

“Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing.”

“You know what the Englishman’s idea of compromise is? He says, Some people say there is a God. Some people say there is no God. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two statements.”

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

“Why should we honour those that die upon the field of battle? A man may show as reckless a courage in entering into the abyss of himself.”

“Every conquering temptation represents a new fund of moral energy. Every trial endured and weathered in the right spirit makes a soul nobler and stronger than it was before.”

“All empty souls tend toward extreme opinions.”

“We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.”

Knowing how you’re a romantic at heart, here are a few thoughts about love:

 “Never give all the heart, for love
Will hardly seem worth thinking of
To passionate women if it seem
Certain, and they never dream
That it fades out from kiss to kiss;
For everything that’s lovely is
But a brief, dreamy, kind delight.
O Never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
And who could play it well enough
If deaf and dumb and blind with love?
He that made this knows all the cost,
For he gave all his heart and lost.”
― W.B. Yeats, In the Seven Woods: Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age

“WINE comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and sigh.”
― W.B. Yeats

Of course, being an Irishman, love is also touched by tragedy…

 “A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him up for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.”
― W.B. Yeats

By the way, the questions haven’t stopped since I reach Byzantium. Indeed, my journey has barely begun. Eternity awaits!

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

Yours,

WB Yeats

Y-Sailing To Byzantium, William Butler Yeats: #atozchallenge.

Sailing To Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

Byzantium

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

William Butler Yeats

Through the use of various poetic techniques, Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” describes the metaphorical journey of a man pursuing his own vision of eternal life as well as his conception of paradise.

Written in 1926 (when Yeats was 60 or 61), “Sailing to Byzantium” is Yeats’ definitive statement about the agony of old age and the imaginative and spiritual work required to remain a vital individual even when the heart is “fastened to a dying animal” (the body). Yeats’s solution is to leave the country of the young and travel to Byzantium, where the sages in the city’s famous gold mosaics could become the “singing-masters” of his soul. He hopes the sages will appear in fire and take him away from his body into an existence outside time, where, like a great work of art, he could exist in “the artifice of eternity.” In the final stanza of the poem, he declares that once he is out of his body he will never again appear in the form of a natural thing; rather, he will become a golden bird, sitting on a golden tree, singing of the past (“what is past”), the present (that which is “passing”), and the future (that which is “to come”).

Interpretation

Yeats wrote in a draft script for a 1931 BBC broadcast:

I am trying to write about the state of my soul, for it is right for an old man to make his soul, and some of my thoughts about that subject I have put into a poem called ‘Sailing to Byzantium’. When Irishmen were illuminating the Book of Kells, and making the jeweled croziers in the National Museum, Byzantium was the centre of European civilization and the source of its spiritual philosophy, so I symbolize the search for the spiritual life by a journey to that city.[1]”

Wikipaedia

Y- William Butler Yeats: A letter to Dead Poets

Gratitude To The Unknown Instructors

WHAT they undertook to do
They brought to pass;
All things hang like a drop of dew
Upon a blade of grass.

William Butler Yeats

 Dear Mr Yeats,

How are you? No doubt, it’s been quite a surprise to regain human form and return from Byzantium. I assure you that this isn’t some kind of belated April Fool’s Day prank. Rather, I am writing a series of Letters to Dead Poets from A-Z and you are my second last stop. I know you’re probably sick of almost always coming last. This is unless there was a “Z”. I’m sure that you and “Z” would have been the best of friends!

So, being “Y”, I had to ask you: WHY????

This journey from A-Z has become quite a philosophical journey, exploring a plethora of seemingly rhetorical questions like what it means to be a man?  Why do some people suffer so much and what is the point of suffering? What’s more, when things in our own lives go devastatingly wrong, how do we survive? How do we go on, when we want to let go? What is love and how can it last a lifetime and overcome its many challenges and hurdles? What does it mean to be happy and how do we find happiness? Why do so many creative people struggle with depression and mental health issues? Is it wise to become a poet or should we get a “real job”? Why did Hemingway shoot himself and John Lennon get shot? Why was Shelley out sailing in a violent storm and when he was cremated, why didn’t his heart burn? Indeed, why did his wife, Mary, wrap his heart up in the manuscript from Adonais and keep it in her desk until she died? You weren’t even all that close. I’m not even going to ask what happened to Shakespeare’s head. That said, I might ask if that’s really you in “your grave” in Ireland? Of course, conspiracy theories prevail!

That will keep you busy for awhile!

I must admit that I find writing to you rather intimidating, although you would think I’d be used to it by now. In 1923, you were the first Irishman awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature  for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”. However, you are one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize. Indeed, TS Eliot called you “one of those few whose history is the history of their own time, who are a part of the consciousness of an age which cannot be understood without them”. Indeed, I’ll defer to WH Auden’s eulogy:

Yeats By Rohan Gillespie Stephen St Sligo

Statue of Yeats by Rohan Gillespie

In Memory Of W.B. Yeats

I

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
The snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

II

You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.

III

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

[Auden later deleted the next three stanzas.]

Time that is intolerant
Of the brave and the innocent,
And indifferent in a week
To a beautiful physique,

Worships language and forgives
Everyone by whom it lives;
Pardons cowardice, conceit,
Lays its honours at their feet.

Time that with this strange excuse
Pardoned Kipling and his views,
And will pardon Paul Claudel,
Pardons him for writing well.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice.

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress.

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountains start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

WH Auden

However, it seems you understand what it’s like to have a dream which is still a work in progress:

Aedh Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats

I have read your poem: Easter 1916.

Having Irish heritage myself, of course, I had to mention Ireland. While in so many ways our family are Heinz Variety Australians, a good number of our ancestors came from Ireland and brought something of Ireland with them which keeps being passed down from parent to child, in our souls as well as in our genes. My husband’s great something grandfather, Daniel Burke, helped Irish revolutionary John Mitchell escape Tasmania bound for America by lending him his horse…a role which earned him a mention in Mitchell’s Jail Journal. My ancestors somehow survived the Great Famine and came to Sydney. These Irish people were tough. After surviving the famine, their beloved St Mary’s Cathedral burned down in and they raised the money to rebuild through donations brick-by-brick. There was no falling on their sword crying “Woe is me”. No talk of how they’ve survived the famine only to have the cathedral burn down. No, they immediately started fundraising the next day and when that fledgling structure was also burned down, they started over. Indeed, John and Bridget Curtin lost three children and yet they battled on in the overcrowded hardship of Sydney’s Surry Hills and Paddington. Yet, they never gave up. That said, they might have drunk a bit too much…

I have never been to Ireland and am quite curious to see whether I feel a sense of home there or not. Just how Irish am I?

Humph! Despite raising poets from the dead, I still can’t quite click my fingers and travel over to Ireland in an instant. So, I am back to searching for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to fund my trip.

So, this leaves me sitting about to board the train to meet up with my very last poet…Z.

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

Notes

Aedh was a Celtic God of Death, one of the children of Lir.Yeats seems to have used this character in some of his stories along with Ahearne and Michael Robartes and describes him as fire reflected in water.

Y- Yeats: Easter, 1916 #atozchallenge.

Easter 1916

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale or a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

Being certain that they and I

But lived where motley is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent

In ignorant good-will,

Her nights in argument

Until her voice grew shrill.

What voice more sweet than hers

When, young and beautiful,

She rode to harriers?

This man had kept a school

And rode our wingèd horse;

This other his helper and friend

Was coming into his force;

He might have won fame in the end,

So sensitive his nature seemed,

So daring and sweet his thought.

This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vainglorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song;

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone

Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road,

The rider, the birds that range

From cloud to tumbling cloud,

Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream

Changes minute by minute;

A horse-hoof slides on the brim,

And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-hens dive,

And hens to moor-cocks call;

Minute by minute they live:

The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven’s part, our part

To murmur name upon name,

As a mother names her child

When sleep at last has come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;

And what if excess of love

Bewildered them till they died?

I write it out in a verse—

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and Pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

William Butler Yeats

September 25, 1916

Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)

Although Yeats didn’t consider himself “political”, he wrote this poem about the Easter Rising (or Easter Rebellion of 1916) of around a thousand Irish Republicans who wanted to secede from Great Britain and establish an independent Ireland. The insurrection was put down less than a week later, and many of its leaders were swiftly executed by firing squad. Although the original rebellion did not enjoy wide support among the general populace, the ruthlessness of the British response unnerved the Irish and led to the growth of the ultranationalist group Sinn Féin.  “I had no idea that any public event could so deeply move me,” Yeats said, months later. In the wake of the courts-martial and executions of May 1916, he wrote to Lady Gregory that he was “trying to write a poem.” His simultaneous awe of and ambivalence toward the event are clearly coded in the both title and refrain. The Easter Rising is a double entendre on the holiday; the “terrible beauty” was “born” during Holy Week, which marks the occasion of Christ’s sacrifice. Hence, the Easter Rising is simultaneously crucifixion and resurrection, reality and archetype.

Source: Wikipaedia.

Do you have a favourite poem by William Butler Yeats?

xx Rowena

 

U-John Updike On Dogs #atozchallenge

Dear Rowena,

Thank you very much for your letter and I apologise for my delayed response.

As you might appreciate, there was quite a backlog of books for me to review and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book again. Not that I wasn’t thrilled to receive your letter.

Knowing how I shun attention on the golf course, I appreciate your reservations about writing to a book critic. I commend you on your courage. However, there’s no red pen here!

In your letter, you asked me why dogs don’t live anywhere near as long as humans. After much research, I have turned to Scottish poet, author and amateur dog breeder, Sir Walter Scott,

“I have sometimes thought of the final cause of dogs having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?”

Sir Walter Scott

320px-Sir_Walter_Scott_statue_at_Scott_Monument.jpg

The Sir Walter Scott statue designed by John Steell, located inside the Scott Monument

By the way, Sir Walter Scott’s most famous and favourite dog was a deerhound, Maida (1816-1824 Named after the Battle of Maida, which took place in 1806, he was a gift from Alexander Macdonell of Glengarry, a friend of Scott, and whose brother led the 78th Highlanders in the battle, a victory for the British against the French in the Napoleonic Wars.

Scott wrote to his son Charles that “Old Maida died suddenly in his straw last week, after a good supper, which, considering his weak state, was rather a deliverance; he is buried below his monument, on which the following epitaph is engraved in Latin [Maidae marmorea dormis sub imagine Maida / Ante fores domini sit tibi terra levis],[3]thus Englished by an eminent hand : –

‘Beneath the sculptured form which late you bore,

Sleep soundly Maida at your master’s door.'”

The monument mentioned is a statue of the dog at the hall door of Scott’s home, Abbotsford House.

Thought you’d appreciate a bit of dog trivia, especially as you are building up quite a dossier about poet’s dogs.

By the way, you might let your father know I’m free for a round of golf. Rather rusty but death is perhaps the ultimate assault on your handicap.

 

unknown artist; Wordsworth's Dog, Pepper

unknown artist; Wordsworth’s Dog, Pepper; The Wordsworth Trust; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/wordsworths-dog-pepper-143085

Thought you’d appreciate a bit of dog trivia.

By the way, you might let your father know I’m free for golf. Rather rusty but death is perhaps the ultimate handicap.

Kind regards,

John Updike.

Source

Wikipaedia

X- Native Indian Poem #atozchallenge

X is dedicated to the anonymous, unknown poet whose words have somehow gained a life all of their own, flying so far beyond the nest that they’ve never found their way home.

Even though I’m middle-aged, I still remember giggling at reading “anonymouse” at the end of poems when we were kids. It doesn’t seem so funny now!

Virginia Woolf has suggested in A Room of One’s Own, that much of these anonymous poems could well have been written by women, whose writing was suppressed through social stigma.

I don’t know.

However, I decided to share a Native American poem, which continues on the theme of life being a journey and the importance of coming together as a community.

~TO WALK THE RED ROAD~

Long road winding began in the stars,
spilled onto the mountain tops,
was carried in the snow to the streams,
to the rivers, to the ocean…
It covers Canada, Alaska, America,
Mexico to Guatemala,
and keeps winding around the indigenous.

The Red Road is a circle of people
standing hand in hand,
people in this world, people between
people in the Spirit world.
star people, animal people, stone people,
river people, tree people…
The Sacred Hoop.

To walk the Red Road
is to know sacrifice, suffering.
It is to understand humility.
It is the ability to stand naked before God
in all things for your wrong doings,
for your lack of strength,
for your uncompassionate way,
for your arrogance – because to walk
the Red Road, you always know
you can do better. And you know,
when you do good things,
it is through the Creator, and you are grateful.

To walk the Red Road
is to know you stand on equal ground
with all living things. It is to know that
because you were born human,
it gives you superiority over nothing.
It is to know that every creation carries a Spirit,
and the river knows more than you do,
the mountains know more than you do,
the stone people know more than you do,
the trees know more than you do,
the wind is wiser than you are,
and animal people carry wisdom.
You can learn from every one of them,
because they have something you don’t:
They are void of evil thoughts.
They wish vengeance on no one, they seek Justice.

To Walk the Red Road,
you have God given rights,
you have the right to pray,
you have the right to dance,
you have the right to think,
you have the right to protect,
you have the right to know Mother,
you have the right to dream,
you have the right to vision,
you have the right to teach,
you have the right to learn,
you have a right to grieve,
you have a right to happiness,
you have the right to fix the wrongs,
you have the right to truth,
you have a right to the Spirit World.

To Walk the Red Road
is to know your Ancestors,
to call to them for assistance…
It is to know that there is good medicine,
and there is bad medicine…
It is to know that Evil exists,
but is cowardly as it is often in disguise.
It is to know there are evil spirits
who are in constant watch
for a way to gain strength for themselves
at the expense of you.

To Walk the Red Road,
you have less fear of being wrong,
because you know that life is a journey,
a continuous circle, a sacred hoop.
Mistakes will be made,
and mistakes can be corrected
if you will be humble,
for if you cannot be humble,
you will never know
when you have made a mistake.

If you walk the Red Road,
you know that every sorrow
leads to a better understanding,
every horror cannot be explained,
but can offer growth.

To Walk the Red Road
is to look for beauty in all things.

To Walk the Red Road
is to know you will one day
cross to the Spirit World,
and you will not be afraid…

Native American Wisdom

xx Rowena

 

W-A Letter to William Wordsworth

Dear Mr Wordsworth,

How are you? I hope you don’t mind being beamed into the 21st Century. Knowing how much hated industrialization, you might want to go straight back. I doubt you’ll feel that things have changed for the better.

Still, the world is still so full of beauty. Such joy!

After all these years, I wanted to let you know how much I have always loved your poem: I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud.

I must confess that I’m writing this letter late at night while my husband is asleep. If he found out I was writing to you as the latest in my series of Letters to Dead Poets, he’d be chasing you with his lawn mower.

Daffodils

You see, while the rest of the known universe marvels at your endless sea of blooming daffodils, he wants to mow straight over the top of them.

“Daffodils do not belong in lawns. They should be in garden beds.”

As far as he’s concerned, planting daffodils in the lawn is akin to anarchy…even treason! Indeed, if he had his way, it’s either plant them in a garden bed or it’s: “off with their heads!”

Naturally, we don’t have ANY daffodils in our lawn and he doesn’t even need to stick up a sign: NO DAFFODILS ALLOWED or DAFFODILS PARK HERE!

Believe me, I KNOW!!

So, this Spring, I am finally going to see my fields of daffodils. We’re going to visit the village of Rydal in the Blue Mountains about 2 hours West of Sydney, which was named as a tribute to your home town. Every year, they hold Daffodils at  Rydal on the second and third weekends in September. I am finally going to have my field of Wordworth’s daffodils!

As much as I might have portrayed my husband mower-mania sounds like a scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, I’m actually surprised my husband even knows what a lawn mower is. As soon as our son was old enough to walk, it became his job. Such a pity that plastic mower couldn’t cut the grass!

Mind you, I can’t talk. I’ve never used a mower in my life and don’t plan to start mowing now either. I still remember my mother deriding our dreadful neighbour who “let his wife mow the lawn”. That’s not why I don’t mow the lawn but once you start, you can’t stop. Ignorance is best!

By the way, speaking of Monty Python, my father has always been a doppelganger for comedian John Cleese. People used to come up to us and say: “Nudge! Nudge! Wink! Wink! Say no more!” However, as far as backyard mower maniacs were concerned, my Dad passed straight under the radar. He was brewing.

Meanwhile, the neighbour across the road, a backyard Adonais, mowed the lawn in his Speedos. Considering we lived in the country at least 2 hours drive from the nearest beach, even as a 10 year old it seemed peculiar. Yet, as Skyhooks belted out:  We’re Living in the 70’s! I don’t want to shock your sensibilities entirely but in hindsight, we should be thankful he wore anything at all. That was also the 70s!

nla.map-rm1224-v

Meanwhile, my husband was growing up in rural Tasmania, which you’d probably know better as “Van Dieman’s Land”. Fortunately, transportation ended so instead of being a convict retreat, tourists now pay to visit the “Apple Isle” instead.

geoff-6 and terry-22 feb 73.jpg

Geoff grew up on a ten acre farm on the outskirts of Scottsdale in North-eastern Tasmania where they supplemented the family income milking cows and selling milk. Being a lot younger than his siblings, Geoff missed out on the joys of milking, but NOT on the pleasure of mowing.

w800-h600-2012260381_18_pi_151208_104537

 

Inspired by your poem, my mother-in-law had planted daffodils bulbs throughout the lawn, which inevitably sprouted and flowered each Spring, along with the familiar rant: “Geoffrey! Don’t mow over the daffodils!!”

My husband still can’t love daffodils. Through her great love, she ultimately destroyed his.

Farmer Newton

Our son in Tasmania in 2005, Aged 18 months.

While, my husband was going into battle with his mother and hiding all those poor decapitated “daffs”, I was misty-eyed learning your poem at school. I was a pimply-faced teenager thinking about meeting up with boys at the station after school and what was going to happen on the weekend, while still regurgitating the happenings of the previous weekend. Yet, I read in awe.  In a sense your daffodils were only flowers, and yet they weren’t. You magically brought them to life as their heads bobbed up and down in the sun, chatting about their own weekends, no doubt!

However, I not only loved your fields of daffodils, I also wandered lonely as a cloud…not all the time but often enough.

Strangely as much as it’s a thrill to be young, it can also be a difficult and perplexing time where we’re struggling to find our own feet. Indeed, going through huge growth spurts and hormone infusions, we’re probably more likely to fall over both feet, landing in a screaming heap. That is, rather than stepping straight onto our own Yellow Brick Road…an expressway straight to Happiness and the perfect life. (Of course, as teenagers we didn’t know all that was a myth…the Australian or American Dream. Instead, we assumed it was our birthright and complained when the dream went sour.)

dog in the storm

Alone in the Storm- Rowena Newton.

Mr Wordsworth, thank you for translating those dark, nebulous feelings into such a stark, graphic image which we lost sheep can immediately understand, grasp and adopt as our own. Moreover, knowing that you had also “wandered lonely as a cloud”, we knew we weren’t alone. In hindsight,  this is possibly the very first step to feeling better. We’re not such a victim anymore. After all, we’re no longer “the only one”.

Naturally, like so many other young people, I also found myself wandering as lonely as a cloud…misunderstood, under-appreciated and ALONE. You gave this inner loneliness a voice. You knew that weird sense of loneliness and difference, which you can experience even in the midst of a crowd. That sense of beating to a different drum, even when you’re in your group or hanging out with your mates. You knew what it was like to be that lone cloud drifting over that expanse of daffodils, knowing a different voice is calling you. Naturally, it helps us knowing that you found your way, becoming Poet Laureate. We just need to persevere. Keep walking.  Never give up!

That said, it isn’t easy when the tears start falling, especially in a field of glorious daffodils when everybody else is smiling.

That might not have been what you meant by your poem. Maybe, it was. However, ultimately the writer lets go and hands it over to the reader. Not a blank canvas but a printed page with those lines in between to allow our  own interpretation.

wordsworth daffodils text

Ideas can be like stepping stones. You keep bouncing from thought to thought to thought and can ultimately end up at a very different place to where you started out. That’s not to say that your interpretation is wrong. That’s simply what happens when you let your mind off its leash. Let it wander free range without restraints. After all, we were never meant to have “Battery Brains” and were designed to be free range!

Thankfully, I no longer wander lonely as a cloud. While for some people, your school days can be the best time in your life, for so many of us, leaving school is the beginning. We discover that we’re not alone and find the world is filled with kindred spirits. That you don’t have to go with the flow. Indeed, you can even swim against the flow and belong to an alternative school of thought and no one’s going to shout out: “Off with your head!”. Unfortunately, so many people never know that freedom, even when it’s waiting right on their very own doorstep, while others heroically die in the fight.

Don River Trains R&J4

Anyway, I’d better keep moving. I know you’re not big on trains and industrialisation but it’s getting me from A-Z and my journey’s about to come to an end.

Don River Trains J3

You could say that train left a long time ago but I had to put it in.

It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet you.

Yours sincerely,

Rowena