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Category: Philip Larkin

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers

Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through
And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.
So, in the like name of that love of ours,
Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,
And which on warm and cold days I withdrew
From my heart’s ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers
Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue,
And wait thy weeding; yet here’s eglantine,
Here’s ivy! – take them, as I used to do
Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine.
Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true,
And tell thy soul, their roots are left in mine.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

________________________

let me, much as Elizabeth is doing here,
submit these comments which I’ve been
sending you, all 44 of them specifically
on these sonnets, their very entirety,
not to mention other opinions I’ve
delivered on several other topics, they
are what I can return of what the world
has given me, the world has “brought
me many flowers”

“these thoughts which here unfolded
[for me] too,” while all of this was
happening, “And which on warm and
cold days I withdrew / From my heart’s
ground.”,
through “bitter [even] weeds
and rue”
sometimes indeed also,
despite, unreasonably perhaps, the
abundance of flowers, for I succumb
easily also, as poets often do, to
crushing despair – who’d o’ thunk it –
and can be categorically unforgiving
at times of an ungorgiving God

see Philip Larkin for instance on this one
before seeing even Nietzsche, and I could
name, of course, several others

“yet here’s eglantine, / Here’s ivy!”, I’ve
also found, and have concluded that
their example is the one to follow

be splendid, it is the only honourable
answer, I’ve devised, which God could
not easily dishonour

these verses have been as my flowers,
“take them, ….. / …. , and keep them
where they shall not pine. / Instruct
thine eyes to keep their colours true,
/ And tell thy soul, their roots are left
in mine.”

yours ever truly

Richard

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“Aubade” – Philip Larkin‏

if I said about To be, or not to be that it
had never been equalled with respect to its
broodingly existential substance, this next
poem comes pretty close to doing that

note the link to Hamlet in the word
“indecision”, a consequence of the
“standing chill / That slows each
impulse down”

note also, incidentally, that the metre is
entirely Shakespearean, read “Aubade“
out loud

any further comment I’ll cede with
gratitude and delight to moonbeamtickseed,
a promise of shrewd insight I recently
discovered on the Internet, reciprocally,
as it happened, after moonbeamtickseed,
serendipitously supposedly, had discovered,
having happened on some of my Elizabeth
Barrett Browning
and alerted me to it, me,
not at all adverse, of course, to being
discovered

___________

Aubade

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin

“COMMENTARY: Martin Heidegger says somewhere–I can’t seem to find the
quote online–that’s it only in solitude that people face the angst of
death and fully understand what it means to be temporary. When we have
company the logical awareness of death doesn’t produce an emotional
response because, in those self-forgetful moments, the “I” that dies
is taken over by the “we” that doesn’t. Something like that. Notice,
as the poem progresses, how Larkin switches from ‘I’ to ‘we’–as a
means of comfort? as a way of letting philosophical rhetoric displace
fear? And also notice how he ends the poem with a bitter but also
freeing description of the outside world–the world of offices and
phone-calls and correspondences–banal, clay-white, and sunless as it
may be–is also mankind’s medicine, the means of deflecting these
critical fears. Postmen are doctors in that they bring contact and
correspondence (a suggestion here of language and poetry) into the
solitude of the house.

The language in “[Aubade]” is a little uneven, but there are some
moments of dead-on description. “Arid interrogation,” “furnace fear,”
“uncaring, intricate rented world” and several dark maxims:
“religion….that vast moth-eaten musical brocade/ invented to pretend
we never die” and “being brave/ let’s no one off the grave/ death is
no different whined at than withstood.” The rhymes (set in a 10 line
pattern that has a name I can’t think of) are natural and unforced and
add to the solitary desire to “link” as he says in the second stanza.

I should say, as a sort of afterthought that it’s interesting to
compare this poem with Donne’s aubade “[The Sun Rising]“.
I think they may have more in common that the genre,
though I’m hard pressed at the moment to say what it is.
I should say, as a second afterthought,that, aptly
but unfortunately, this was the last great poem Larkin
wrote. After its publication in 1977, he had 7 years ahead
of him in which he wrote little.”

moonbeamtickseed

go, moonbeamtickseed

Richard