Sunday 19 June 2016

Poetry is honey for the soul (13) - Camille

         Poetry is honey for the soul

Today is Sunday and I have chosen the poem of the day.
It was mentioned once in a blog,
I looked for it and found it.
It is, for me, as a foreigner, something very English,
not British, English.
Something I would find with Anthony Trollope, with John Donne,
with John Keats, with Mrs Gaskell, with Barbara Pym.
Something Victorian and Edwardian,
a nostalgia for a past Empire today.
But was it ever idyllic and pastoral,
or is it a nostalgia for something dreamt that never was?
We have the same "faux souvenirs" in France...

by: A.T. Quiller-Couch

 PASTORAL heart of England! like a psalm
Of green days telling with a quiet beat--
O wave into the sunset flowing calm!
O tirèd lark descending on the wheat!
Lies it all peace beyond the western fold
Where now the lingering shepherd sees his star
Rise upon Malvern? Paints an Age of Gold
Yon cloud with prophecies of linkèd ease--
Lulling this Land, with hills drawn up like knees,
To drowse beside her implements of war?

Man shall outlast his battles. They have swept
Avon from Naseby Field to Savern Ham;
And Evesham's dedicated stones have stepp'd
Down to the dust with Montfort's oriflamme.
Nor the red tear nor the reflected tower
Abides; but yet these elegant grooves remain,
Worn in the sandstone parapet hour by hour
By labouring bargemen where they shifted ropes;
E'en so shall men turn back from violent hopes
To Adam's cheer, and toil with spade again.

Ay, and his mother Nature, to whose lap
Like a repentant child at length he hies,
Nor in the whirlwind or the thunder-clap
Proclaims her more tremendous mysteries:
But when in winter's grave, bereft of light,
With still, small voice divinelier whispering
--Lifting the green head of the aconite,
Feeding with sap of hope the hazel-shoot--
She feels God's finger active at the root,
Turns in her sleep, and murmurs of the Spring.


  1. "Faux souvenirs" are probably a Europe-wide problem.

    For a given value of "Europe".

    The late historian [1942-2010] Tony Judt writes about this very kitsch and commercialised Europe which has come out of mass tourism.

    And there is another Europe or idea of Europe we may have access to through art.

    1. The Europeans, at least the British and the French (I cannot speak for other countries as easily) have lost the supremacy they had over a great part of the world since the Renaissance. This supremacy culminated for the English during Victorian times, although they had lost the United States. I think (but this is only my opinion) that they re-create this past now but they embellish it at the same time. They are happy with Downton Abbey or Dr Thorne or other costume dramas, they re-publish "forgotten" or "neglected" novels, they seek their independence from the EU. The French have an idyllic past but there were traumas with the Algeria war and the independence of "the colonies". They are more focused upon their hate of the refugee, the "other" because of his colour, his "race". There is not the same delusion of grandeur. But the 19th century was full of chaos for the French, it was not an idyllic time.
      "Europe", its idea is new. We were too engrossed in the idea and the facts of nationalism before. There has never been a true effort from the government and from the European authorities to go further economy and defence. They forgot that a common "imaginaire" is important to create an entity.
      But, perhaps, there has been an idea of Europe that was sold to tourists. It was not ours. We made not ours. We kept to our countries and divisions.
      The idea of Europe through art is one part of the cultural Europe we should have developed as European to achieve a political, economic, Europe entity. While doing this series about poems, I see how difficult it may be to arouse an interest into something not Anglo-Saxon and not British into my Anglo-Saxon readers - even if all is translated in English to be understood.