Wednesday, October 03, 2012


fires for the cold

Over time I have come to recognize that I am one of those readers who wishes to identify with what I am reading.  Not one of those readers who wishes to be surprised and shocked by what I am reading.  Warmth and happiness drift through my being when I read a passage and feel connected to the writer, and the world, by what I have just read.  Truly great writers put into words what we all feel wordlessly, in my opinion.  That's why they are great (how's that for oversimplification). 

Byron is no exception and though he does write about the full range of human experience, from repulsive to exquisite and back again, Canto IV of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is full of imagery to identify with, for this romantic nature lover, at least.  I read it in one sitting a few nights ago, and kept having to stop to take notes.  Here is stanza CLXXVIII:

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal."

This begs to be read aloud, the Spenserian stanza rhyme pattern is so addictive and satisfying in its musical repetition (ababbcbcc).  For more reasons to read old-dead-white-person-poetry-which-rhymes, I recommend looking into A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver (Mariner 1994) to see how it all works.  The book is filled with her evocative prose (p.122):

"...poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry."

And she explains poetical forms and the traditions and writers they spring from in a way that makes me want to read, READ.

But not today, I am closing the books and heading outside myself, into the pathless woods, down to the lonely shore, to enjoy the warmth of this mild fall afternoon.  I hope the same for you, even if you can only travel to these places for a moment, in your mind.  Perhaps through the alchemy of a poem.

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