Lines Written in Early Spring, William Wordsworth (1798) (Link)
There’s that strange and surreal place between dreaming and waking where the two merge into each other. The other night (or rather early morning) I awoke with a rather odd poem going around my head, about a tree…
It had all started the previous week when my better half and I were enjoying a pleasant walk along the beach at Long Strand. We came across the tree in the photo above and well I thought it interesting enough to take a picture of. Clearly my subconscious thought it interesting too, interesting enough to come up with a strange poem about a strange dream about a strange tree! How did I remember the words? Well, I happened to have my mobile phone nearby and just typed it in, all in one go…
Please take this poem about as seriously as you would read My lovely horse ;-)
Strange tree where have you come from,
What story do you have to tell?
Were you borne here on stormy seas, a refugee from fire or spell?
Oh what would you tell me if only you could say,
perhaps the hopes and dreams caught in your branches reflect the light from whence you came?
Strange tree what do you carry
What a load you have to bear?
Bottles, Tin cans, shoes and netting, things now beyond all care.
Oh what would you tell me if only you could say,
the hopes and dreams caught in your branches are so much more than things that were thrown away?
Strange tree where will you go to
When it comes your time again?
Will you roll upon the open seas to distant shores or mountain glen?
Oh the only thing I can tell you, all that I can say,
is that the hopes and dreams caught in your branches will live on in memories beyond this sunlit day.
(Hope I made you laugh!)
The poem of this name was one we had to learn in school. The horrors of the first world war put to rest any ridiculous romantic notion of it being “Sweet and right to die for one’s country.” (Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.)
We will remember them…
Dulce et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!---An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,---
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
(See link for more on this poem).
“Nature, red in tooth and claw.” I don’t know how I feel when our cat does this sort of thing. I wish he would just kill the mouse quickly and eat it, the whole playing with it first and teasing it and then letting it escape to run after it some more is to me a little too cruel…
But then that’s life and that’s nature in this fallen world in which we live. The Bible shows us that this was neither how it was in the beginning nor how it will be at the end:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Yes there’s probably a healthy dose of metaphor in those words but the clearer meaning is the most obvious one i.e. that when God makes a ‘new heaven and earth’ there will be a return to how things were meant to be before the fall….
Panasonic LX 1, 1/1600 sec, f8, -0.66 EV, ISO 80, 45mm equivalent, (Click to enlarge)
January is such a loooooonnnng month. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dark, the bank balance is the wrong side of zero – but apart from that it’s doable! We’re nearly there, we’ve made it, just two and a half days to go – and there are small signs of new life in the Garden with the hope of Spring not too far away…
Here’s a wonderful poem I found by a chap called Francis Duggan. (Duhallow is in North Cork, near Kanturk):
In January In Duhallow
The cold winds of January from the north east does blow
And the weather is cold quite cold enough for to snow
And the hungry birds silent on the naked hedgerow
In the flat and rushy fields where the Blackwater flow.
January in Duhallow from here far away
In the chill of the morning the frost bound fields gray
In the farmyard sheds cattle bellow for silage or hay
Where the sun seldom shines on a January day.
The distinctive harsh caws of the silver backed crow
In the Season where grass does refuse for to grow
And few cars on the roadway that leads to the town
Near where the river flows bank high in flood waters of brown.
In January in Duhallow the old fields looking bare
With the harsh chill of Winter in the cold Morning air
And at least eight long weeks till the first breath of Spring
When Nature will bloom and her wild birds will sing.
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”
“All Flesh Is Grass”by Christina Rossetti
So brief a life, and then an endless life
Or endless death;
So brief a life, then endless peace or
How man but like a flower
Or shoot of grass
Blooms an hour,
Well may sigh “Alas!”
So brief a life, and then an endless grief
Or endless joy;
So brief a life, then ruin or relief:
What solace, what annoy
Of Time needs dwelling on?
It is, it was,
It is done,
While we sigh “Alas!”
Yet saints are singing in a happy hope
Bright eyes of faith enlarging all their
Saints love beyond Time’s measure:
Where love is, there is bliss
That will not pass;
Where love is,
Dies away “Alas!”
One of the joys of winter is being able to find a beach and have the whole place to yourself. The blissful solitude of such a walk is the perfect antidote to the busyness and hurry of the workplace.
I suppose some might call it “connecting with nature”, but when for example walking on the above beach a couple of weeks ago, to me at least there was a strong sense of God’s presence. It was like being absorbed into a work of art, the stunning low winter light, the breathtaking wind like the ruach of God’s Spirit and the gentle, almost hypnotic sound of the waves all combining to bring peace and soothing to the soul. God’s Creation, God’s handiwork, I think He loves us to enjoy it, like a parent giving a gift to a child not because they have been good, but because they are loved…
I thought of the famous “Footprints poem” – having done a Google search for this, I was surprised to discover that there are three versions of it (though all pretty similar) and a rather poignant Leona Lewis song of the same name.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.
This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.
The LORD replied, my precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.
Carolyn Carty, 1963