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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What’s changed in the last 20 years?

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Technology

Last week it was the twentieth anniversary of the day my dad died: inevitably a time for looking back, but also for pondering on what’s happened between then and now. So much has gone on in the family – the kids have grown up and married; a grandchild has been born – but it also struck me just how much in my daily life involves things Dad would know nothing about. Here are just a few:

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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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Do you know your proverbs?

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In days gone by, people loved wise old sayings. It seemed like a point was never made simply and directly if it could be dressed up in an illustrative metaphor or catchy phrase.

My mother and her mother could have whole conversations in proverbs. It would go something like this:

Mum: Old Arthur’s sailing close to the wind.

Gran: Yes, he’ll need to look before he leaps.

Mum: But he’d better strike while the iron’s hot.

Gran: Well, fortune rewards the brave. It’s an ill wind, after all.

Mum: Hm,but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Gran: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Though there’s many a slip!

Rough translation:

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When in Rome do as the Romans do

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So there I was in Rome. The eternal city; the city of echoes; the city of illusions; the city of yearning; the city overwhelmed by its own greatness. Hm, a lot of people have said a lot of stuff about Rome.
But what should I be doing while I was there? Ah, of course: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”
I simply had to find out what the Romans do, then copy it. Clearly there was a need for some close observation of the Romans. During my three-day stay I reached some obvious conclusions about what Romans do, then gave careful consideration as to whether I would be able to do this do too – or, indeed, whether I would want to.
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Six ways to stop worrying

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It can be difficult when the same pointless thoughts keep coursing through your mind. Perhaps you’re worrying about what someone at work said to you and trying to decide exactly what they meant by it. Maybe you’re worried about a task you’ve been given and you’re wondering whether you’re up to it. Or maybe you’re unsettled about a problem that one of your close family is facing. Continue reading