Insights into pain and joy

18740472_928664223940123_5809860896380774728_n“One thinks of Isaiah — ”Thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling” — and of Psalm 137: ”By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept as we thought of Zion.” The great poems remind us that grief cannot be avoided, nor forgotten, but can be incorporated into a deeper understanding of the human condition, as in Emily Dickinson’s ”After great pain, a formal feeling comes”:

This is the Hour of Lead —

Remembered, if outlived,

As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow —

First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go —

It is that union of experience, insight and the simple beauty of language that helps us to give our own grief a name, that gives us a kind of company, that extends a wise hand. Many experiencing intense, even unbearable personal loss have found redemptive meaning in the famous poem Ben Jonson wrote in 1603 at the death of his son, the one in which he declares, ”My sin was too much hope of thee, loved boy.” There is no full consolation for a parent who loses a child, and indeed Jonson does not offer consolation. But he at least gives a form to what most of us only dimly understand: that the source of grief is the intensity of the hopes that have been lost, and that without the possibility of grief there would have been no joy.”


The faculty divine

Photo by Mike Flemming,_Insight,_Genius,_Faith


“But if Milton had used the word “impassioned,” his meaning would be plainer to the vulgar Passion and Imagination.apprehension. Poetic passion is intensity of emotion. Absolute sincerity banishes artifice, ensures earnest and natural expression; then beauty comes without effort, and the imaginative note is heard. We have the increased stress of breath, the tone, and volume, that sway the listener. You cannot fire his imagination, you cannot rouse your own, in quite cold blood. Profound emotion seems, also, to find the aptest word, the strongest utterance,—not the most voluble or spasmodic,—and to be content with it. Wordsworth speaks of “thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears,” while Mill says that “the poetry of a poet is Feeling itself, using thought only as a means of expression.” The truth is that passion uses the imagination to supply conceptions for its language. On the other hand, the poet, imagining situations and experiences, becomes excited through dwelling on them. But whether passion or imagination be first aroused, they speed together like the wind-sired horses of Achilles.

The mere artisan in verse, however adroit, will do Emotion must be unaffected and ideal.well to keep within his liberties. Sometimes you find one affecting the impassioned tone. It is a dangerous test. His wings usually melt in the heat of the flame he would approach. Passion has a finer art than that of the æsthete with whom beauty is the sole end. Sappho illustrated this, even among the Greeks, with whom art and passion were one. Keats felt that “the excellence of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from their being in close relations with beauty and truth.” Passion rises above the sensuous, certainly above the merely sensual, or it has no staying power. I heard a wit say of a certain painting that it was “repulsive equally to the artist, the moralist, and the voluptuary.” Even in love there must be something ideal, or it is soon outlawed of art. A few of Swinburne’s early lyrics, usually classed as erotic, with all their rhythmic beauty, are not impassioned. His true genius, his sacred rage, break forth in measures burning with devotion to art, to knowledge, or to liberty. There is more real passion in one of the resonant “Songs before Sunrise” than in all the studiously erotic verse of the period, his own included.”

Strange events

In the 1960s we took on a Labrador-type mongrel which kept going missing. This time it had been about five days.

I pushed baby #3 in a pram into town with small brother and sister. In those days you left babe and pram outside the shop. I took the two older children into the shop, upstairs where fabrics were displayed. I was intent on choosing material to make dresses for the babe and her sister.

I was tapped on the shoulder. And I turned around to find the dog behind me on two legs attracting my attention. I have never been able to explain that one. The journey home wasn’t easy with pram, two children, and clutching collar of dog for two miles!

Submitted by Anne Brown on Facebook.