Making precious memories: Thomas Hardy’s poems

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violin

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Thomas Hardy  has always tended to be better known for his novels than for his poems, but among the hundreds of poems he wrote on a wide range of subjects, there are some very memorable ones. This has always been one of my favourites:

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,

Footworn and hollowed and thin,

Here was the former door

Where the dead feet walked in.

 

She sat here in her chair,

Smiling into the fire;

He who played stood there,

Bowing it higher and higher.

 

Childlike, I danced in a dream;

Blessings emblazoned that day;

Everything glowed with a gleam;

Yet we were looking away!

Hardy here is describing a scene from his childhood: it’s a family occasion with his father playing his violin as the young Thomas dances and twirls and his mother looks on smiling. The last two lines are the most poignant since they carry the message that this family time was a very precious moment  but, sadly, they had not appreciated this at the time. Continue reading

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The Autobiography of a Supertramp

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W H DaviesI first became interested in W.H. Davies (1871-1940), the author of The Autobiography of a Supertramp, when I was writing a blog entry on his poem which begins, “What is this life if, full of care,we have no time to stand and stare?”. You can read this most relaxed of poems and the blog entry here.

While scratching around to find some information about the man behind the poem, I was interested enough by what I read of his personality and life to want to read his autobiography. Even the title of it sounds quite modern and inviting to a twenty-first century reader, despite being written in the very early years of the twentieth century. Interestingly, much of the book also reads like something written more recently.

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What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

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Now the better weather’s here, there should hopefully be some time for at least most of us to take a break and relax a little. As spring is gathering momentum, it’s a good time to get outdoors and – well – do nothing. Just have a look and enjoy  the natural world around you.

Technically, this poem by  W.H. Davies may not be the greatest, but I’ve always appreciated the sentiment expressed in it and the poem is certainly eminently memorable and quotable. Over the years, the opening two lines have often popped into my head at times when I know I need to slow down and get some perspective in my busy life.

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Can I Lose Weight without Trying?

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I am an expert dieter. You can tell this by looking at my bookshelves: I’ve got just about every book on dieting you could think of as well as a number of others that you might not know about. Over my many years of dieting I’ve always found it’s a lot easier to buy a book about dieting than to make radical changes to my eating and exercise regimes.

The diet books I especially like are those which give you advice on losing weight without focusing solely on what goes in your mouth. Of course l know that the best way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than I eat. That means I need to do more exercise and be very careful about what I swallow. Unfortunately, though, none of that addresses my weighty issues of human weakness in lacking both motivation and the strength to resist temptation.

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How to enjoy reading Charles Dickens

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First of all, why bother to read Dickens at all?

Because he was one of the greatest novelists who ever lived. His novels feature really ingenious plotting; a vast range of exceptionally colourful and memorable characters of all kinds – many of them eccentric and humorous (although there are some great villains too); interesting insights into life and human nature; many funny episodes; a breath-taking prose style; memorable expressions and witty comments.

Traditionally, Dickens is not seen as an easy read, and in some ways he isn’t. Unfortunately, though, many people have been introduced to Dickens at school when they were too young to understand his prose style and this has had the effect of turning them off Dickens for life. Because children are quite familiar with simplified versions of stories such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, there is a mistaken perception that these books were written for children, but they remain very much adult novels. The original full-length versions are far too dificult for children yet, if you return to Dickens’s books as an adult, you’ll find them much more readable than they were when you were fourteen!

Nevertheless, it’s worth bearing in mind that in the twenty-first century we’re saturated with instant messages and easy readability, but Dickens does have to be worked at a bit – not something we’re used to. But if you’ve never managed to enjoy Dickens before but you’re prepared to make the effort now, he more than repays the toil you put in .

Seven Steps to Getting the Best from Dickens

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World War One in Literature

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With all the interest in World War One at the moment, I thought it was an opportune moment to review some of the great writing about this war. Although consulting factual sources and documentaries will give us the facts, it is reading well-written personal accounts, novels and poetry which helps us see into the hearts and minds of those who had first-hand experience of this terrible conflict.
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How’s that for a coincidence!

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Sometimes it’s peculiar how small random things in life line up and coincide. They may have no special significance but just leave you thinking, “Hm, that’s strange.” Today was a bit like that – and what’s more, I ended up knowing a lot more about Earl Grey than I did before. Continue reading