Rambling Woman

For one thing, I’m a terribly practical person when you get down to it.  I don’t say “totes” or “adorbs” or “fave” or “legit”.  I’m not sure how often I use the word totally.  When this faithful MacBook hits rock bottom and decides it will no longer serve me, it will be my last computer for a long time. I’ll get a type-writer instead, to write my books on.  I like the ideas of the old world—not just something you think about, but something you live.  I want to live that way.

I’m not caught up in politics or what’s going to happen with the war.  In some ways I’m irresponsible.

But I am quiet in my soul, and the quiet radiates out of me and into my life, and I desire to live simply, as much in the physical company of those near to me as possible, and not so much over superficial places on the internet.

I have a mind to do something purposeful. Not just part-time-jobbing my twenties away, but really doing something that means something to me.  I don’t believe that the earth was made to give to us.  I believe that whatever it gives counts as blessings from God, for the righteous and the unrighteous.  I believe that we were put on this earth to tend it.

Yes, I like to mess around with style and fashion.  It’s enjoyable to pick out a crazy outfit and go somewhere.  But lately it’s felt like more of a strain.  It’s so difficult each morning to decide what to wear, and to know it has to be nice and different.  And then you see all these girls, and they’re all wearing the same type of thing—”what’s in” I guess you call it.  Lately I’ve simply been wearing whatever comes into my hands first.  My priorities are to be clean and presentable, and whatever clothes me should flow with that general idea.

But where I am most at home is outdoors, and above all, with animals.  I like the fresh, cutting smell of pine and wet wood in the fall.  I love the serenity of the woods and the fields under quiet snow.  I like the warmth of a horse’s breath on your cold hand in the early morning, when he’s stamping for his food. I like taking care of things, things that are living, things that are dependent on you for their well-being.

I’m just about ten days from my nineteenth birthday.  The years seem to be going fast.  I’m young and a vigorous blood flows in my veins.  I am ready now to perform these things, to start living out and following a God-given dream I believe I was meant to realize.  To start establishing myself, not independently, but purposefully, as fits a young woman.

In these Wendell Berry books, young people decide that they love each other and they get married and settle down to live life.  They don’t go through this whole ordeal of trying to decide whether or not the girl or boy in question is ready for marriage.  They go ahead and do it, live life, learn from their mistakes.  Now it seems like there are so many inhibitions to marriage.  So much doubt about whether or not “he/she’s the right one! what if he/she isn’t?” And it doesn’t have to be that complicated, because honestly it’s never something that can be answered with logic.  But my point is that our lives nowadays complicate so much, even marriage.  College, career, lifestyles, etc.  So much divides us nowadays.

In those books and in those times women weren’t defined as writers or lawyers or artists or musicians.  They were measured and judged by their character qualities—by their sweetness, obedience, honesty, contentment.  They were admired, and while their husbands worked in the fields and with the animals they cooked and cleaned, fed the chickens and milked the cows, took care of the children, prepared the food for winter, canned, pickled.  She may have had artistic qualities—for instance she may have been a writer.  But her goal as a writer was not publicity.  She would write for herself, and for those around her.  She wasn’t always alone in her work, and neither were the men in their work.  There were always people who stopped by to talk, always people who stopped by to help out.  Even work was a type of community, for both women and men.

The point is this.  I want to be that kind of a woman.  I am strong in both mind and spirit and body, and I know I am capable.  I want to be admired for those qualities, and I want to be known as capable of cooking and cleaning, of being responsible, of being hard-working.

“She had come into her beauty.  This was not the beauty of her youth and freshness, of which she had had a plenty.  The beauty that I am speaking of now was that of a woman who has come into knowledge and into strength and who, knowing her hardships, trusts her strength and goes about her work even with a kind of happiness, serene somehow, and secure.  It was that beauty she would always have.  Her eyes had not changed.  They still seemed to exert a power, as if whatever she looked at was brightened.” (Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry)

God created the woman as a capable help-meet to Adam.  He created her a marvelous thing, as marvelous as man, but in a different way.  How can we expect to be the same?  He created her a beautiful thing, strong and intelligent and above all, with purpose.  We are not as strong as men, but we have our strength.  Our arms are strong for our tasks.  We are created with strength for what we are purposed to do.

And I think it’s noble.

I am old-fashioned. I don’t understand things about these days, or else I do but I disagree with them.  And I live so much in the old world that coming into the new world is like a jolt, a shock.

I am happy.  I have a purpose, and I want to work with the land.  I know from experience it is a satisfying kind of work.  A hard work, but satisfying.

After all, I’m not entirely a bookworm.  If I’m practical in my speech, I make up for it in imagination.  I get that from books.  And in my imagination and in my entire being a dream is born, and I don’t discard it just because it is a dream.  I take it up carefully, tenderly in my hands.  I grow it and I grow it until it is big and strong and ready to be fulfilled.  It’s not just any foolhardy dream.  There are some dreams you can tell are futile.  But then there are others… you feel it to the core of your being, and you can’t explain how or why, but you are led.  And God gives you grace, and grace feeds it, and God gives you opportunity and means, and then, in the end, you realize it.

I realize it.

RH

Morsels

A month, more or less, since I’ve posted.  And here is not anything original with me—not any thought or idea that has come.  Life has been busy, and I have been working in it.  But this is something which has given me sudden comfort.  Like the person who continues drudgery, the mundane, and suddenly finds hope in it, a certain satisfaction and justification.  Let any one who suffers, any one who is in grief, any one who is simply having a down day or a frustrating mood read this.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. – 1 Peter 4:19

Oh the implications.  It brings to mind a quote by C.S. Lewis, on my sidebar, I believe.

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.

Our grief, our misery, our sorrow, deep as it may seem, too unfathomable to render precisely—it is all present, and passing, interminable as it may seem.  We have a faithful Creator. We suffer according to God’s will.  And we suffer so that we will not forget him.  The life of our Saviour was one of great suffering on our behalf.  This world we live in is a torment and a grief to me—but can’t I live in deep joy in spite of it?  And it is not about ourselves.  We must be doing good—always.  Being kind, being attentive, sympathetic, loving, tender.  And what are we at heart? Warriors—and sufferers.  But our comfort is great, the end eternal and wonderful.  Don’t give up.  Press on, and hold fast.

It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

‘Sorrow Drips Into Your Heart’

Early in the morning, before you can quite see the sun, but when there is enough light to see the growing sky and the branches of trees, an autumnal wind usually blows scurrying leaves across the pavement and a feeling of life into your soul.  If I listen very intently, I can feel the energy in the atmosphere around me, the beating of my own heart, the urge to stride through the slight mist.  These times, in the early morning, are the easiest times for me to pray.  If I listen I hear nature’s chirps and calls, the wind in the trees, and I feel the air, see the sky growing golden and light blue.  I feel closest to God, for I am reveling in the cycle of Life that he has created.

But this time is also dangerous to me, for it makes me want to be alone, to make myself solitary so I can think.  It makes me want to grasp the early morning, to make it stay.  Once, not very long ago, I hoped that perhaps God would make the sun still in the sky somewhere far away, so I could keep this early light to myself.

So easily we taint our God-given pleasures.  We turn them into things that must stay, that must be present with us always.  Our blessings become our gods, and we give, as I heard in a book the other night, our “living affection to dying things.”  Things like nature serve a purpose, not only for the earth and the ecosystems they’re placed in—not only for the cycle of life but to enhance our appreciation of God and his masterful and intelligent design.  It is not the things we enjoy that demand our love and our undivided worship, it is God.

We waste so much of our sorrow on these passing things because they’re passing.  If our love and our faith and our entire being were implanted and embedded in God, then we would not have any sorrow to waste on passing things.  Rather, we would see nature and all the other gifts and pleasures in life through the eyes of righteousness, and they become what they are: blessings.  Enjoy your youth.  Don’t lament because it’s passing (this is my biggest problem) but embrace the whole cycle of growing up.  Enjoy your motherhood or fatherhood, your singleness or your married life, your old age.  Embrace it and come to terms with it.  Don’t weep because a time of your life you loved has passed, but keep on living with the assurance that you enjoyed it, and lived to the best of your ability, and now there is another adventure ahead of you.  Even we are passing, these bodies we have now, and there’s nothing we can do about it.  But our soul, the essence of our being, is eternal, and when we die, it will not linger on this earth to lament about lost pleasures.  It will haste on its way, called to stand before God and give an account of that life it just left.

The only reason we have for rejoicing is that there is a God in the heavens who has loved his people enough to give his own life for them, in order that they might live.  It’s because of this that we can laugh and sing and dance, that we can rejoice and be glad, that we can find joy in the blessings he has given us, and joy in him because of the assurance that we will one day be called into his presence.  Don’t let the world shape your view of God, but let your belief in God and your faith shape your view of the world.  For the world changes with its fashions and its phases, but God never changes, and that should be our greatest comfort: he is steadfast.

The Life Worth Living

I wonder sometimes why people don’t think life is worth living.  As a Christian, I see it worth living because of its great end, because of the afterlife.  I see it worth living because I’m fighting for something, and I know in advance that the battle is as good as done.  But that’s me.  And to an extent, I’m wrapped up in my own Christian worldview, and have a difficulty understanding the world views of others when I come into one on one contact with them.  It’s easy enough to define a worldview, or to name a worldview and list all the things that people believe, but people are themselves are much more complex than that.  Sometimes you find them to be a whole mix of things.

The point is, I never expect to hear from people that life isn’t worth living, unless they tell me right up front they’re an Atheist.  In my mind, the question is always “Why isn’t life worth living?” and the answer is: “Because you have nothing to live for, nothing lasting.” It’s nothing personal against Atheists, it would just make much more sense for them to say it than for a Christian.

But now here’s the point.  If you feel that life isn’t worth living, find the life that is.  There is only one, because the life worth living is the one that takes everything away and then gives you something back after the end.  It’s the Life that deprives you even of your clothes and your body, your personal belongings, your family, the people you’ve loved, leaving your bare, shivering soul that is laying its eyes on this Life, and embracing it, and finally living it to the full. O, yes, I am an idealist, and this all sounds very idealistic, because it’s true idealism.  The grimier life gets, the harder it gets, the bloodier, the more painful, that makes this Life more worth living than ever before. It gives you hope, and hope has never been like a beacon, or a light, in my experience.  It has always been a desperate prayer, and faith that the prayer will be answered.  Because in my darkest moments, there is only one way to look, and that is forwards, and forwards has always been black.  There never was any light.  Hope was desperate clinging, but knowledge and faith that there was something to cling to.  We know when we live a nightmare of a life at times, that that life is not lasting, but the Life worth living is what we fight for, and it will come later, and last forever, and never give us the blackness or pain.

The Life worth living has love, and righteous anger, and hope, and faith, and self-sacrifice, and virtue. It is peaceful, and does not seek a quarrel, yet it is a war-filled life, battling against the forces that seek to push it down to the ground.  But it will come out victorious.

But there have been those times, in the physical life, where you may have gotten up early in the morning and walked in your bare feet, and felt the cold dew on the grass sink into your skin.  Or you may have stayed up late, and listened to the humming of nature, or heard that one bird that sang clearly and wouldn’t let your mind rest, its song was so beautiful.  There may have been someone you loved, someone who loved you back who made your work seem light just because of the thought of them.  There may have been a day where it rained and ruined your plans, so you sat with a cup of coffee, and felt the pulsing, trembling life pass around the world. And if you have experienced anything like this at all, hasn’t it made you feel like perhaps there is something, something in this life that has given you grace to be alive and enjoy it all?

Be like Henry David Thoreau, and suck out all the marrow of life.  Find out what it is really is, and live it.  Don’t waste your time.  You’re alive now, and you might as well find out why you are so.

The Way of Living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the things around you
maybe the swelling rain
that makes you blink in the dark,
and inhale the wet air,

or maybe the expectation
that tells you something perfect will happen,
if you only believe.

Watch the flowers, and see how the honey-crisp
bee plots and sticks his feet on the petals,
probing further and further;
watch him gather the honey, and fly away,
watch the flowers grow till they droop to the earth.

Listen to the wind, in its circuit across the lake
catch with your eyes the flip of the water’s surface;
hold in your hand a slimy earth-worm, and feel it writhe
or, if it’s too gross for you, a moth, holding it cleverly
between the cages of your fingers,
delicate.

Think about the things that matter,
the robin chewing up food for its young,
the eternal beat of our steps on the earth,
or the poem that told you: “live.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What I Called Mine

My youth was what I called mine.  And more and more, I realize it never was.  As I grow older, I see it was only a part of me; something that defined me; but it never belonged to me, nor I to it.  It was something fleeting, something that gave me a glimpse of everything I would wish to be, and then threw me headlong into something like grief, and I saw it was gone. And suddenly I faced something much darker, and there were more shadows than before, but behind me was that bright light, and sometimes I looked over my shoulder at it, and reached out towards it.  But we never go back, because there is no going back. There is only forwards, and that’s the best we can do, just the next thing.

And O, I wish that I wasn’t quite so old.  Today in the store I saw an old friend of my family.  She worked at the hospital where I was born.  She asked me how old I was, and when I told her, she said: “Oh my, I never thought you would get that old.” “Well I certainly didn’t think I would either,” I said.  And we laughed, but my heart broke.

Even now my memory is fading, and with a kind of desperation I try to cling to something that loses itself, and I feel a dull kind of ache in place of it.

I’m still young, I’m still young.  There is still so much to learn, and ahead are years packed with new memories. But I am so hesitant to let go, so unwilling to part with something I always associated with truth and light and goodness and purity, so unwilling to walk steadily into the unknown.

Eyes wide open, full of images.  Ears filled with many sounds, and a heart so full I think it will break, mind open, thirsting for learning.  Soul reaching out with love, receiving love, binding itself to my Savior.  And from that perspective, I am blessed.  I might go mad, I might forget everything.  But how can I ever forget the essence of my life, the Redeemer of my soul? I can’t ever, and that is the important thing.  I am eternally bound.

Love Revolution

Youth is the time for ideals.  Adulthood is the time to achieve those ideals.  It’s what the stages of life are about, it’s what we live for, these ideals.  Each person changes the world, because the world cannot stay the same. We can’t help having ideals, we can only guide them.

One of the greatest ideals is love.  Real love, the love that everyone seeks for and few find because they look for it in the wrong places.  What kind of love is the ideal? Divine love or earthly love?

Unlike divine love, earthly love does not have the power, the knowledge, or the will to achieve what it longs for. (Wendell Berry)

What we long for is the love that can achieve what it longs for: the love that will satisfy, divine love.  Though we don’t often know it, we are consumed by a desire to be completed, and this desire, some find too late, does not come from our physical being but from our soul.

The sober person lives deeply. His pleasures are not primarily those of the senses, like the pleasures of the drunkard, for instance, but those of the soul. He is by no means a stoic, on the contrary, with a full measure of joyful anticipation he looks forward to the return of the Lord but he doesn’t run away from his task. – William Hendrickson

Imagine a love that is founded in respect, that contains gratitude and humility, that takes its chief delight in sacrifice in order to serve.

Maybe I always saw the past as beautiful because it was fleeting.  As the future met me, it passed, and became the past, and was beautiful.  I had an aversion to change, and it seemed like everyone was changing, breaking out and flying away.  I didn’t see myself as changing, but others must have thought so, because I was caught up in the change of those closest to me, and it was their change that changed me.

The only changeful thing I did was to get married, and even that had been predicted.  Clyde was sick, had been crippled from birth.  I had known him since I was born, and when I was a girl I used to go and read to him, or amuse him.  He liked that, though he was six years older, and I liked to make him laugh.  He became a natural part of my life, and I never wanted anything more than to take care of him.

When we were still children, he asked me if I would up and leave the town someday. I told him no, because then he couldn’t come with me.  Later when I promised to marry him, he was hesitant to tie me down.  I told him I would make the same commitment if he was well or sick, but I liked it best when I could take care of him.

We live quietly, others come and go.  My heart aches with all this change, because it doesn’t happen quietly.  They are caught up in an external change.  They don’t know what it is to care for someone so as to sacrifice your life to their service, they don’t know what it is to do so joyfully.  They missed the inner change in their rush, the quiet, the sublime.

The above was a story I wrote when I was thinking deeply about this idea of real love.   I thought about how it is founded in sacrifice, I thought about how my heart beats and how my life is sustained by the breath of life, but how my soul is saved and redeemed by a sacrifice, and so, by love.

If we could have this love!  If we could only love each other in the way love was meant to be demonstrated!  We cheapen it, we make it less than it’s worth, and you see it rampant in the culture and even, sadly, in the Church.  It is more than a feeling; love is your soul, your existence.

Why is it that the hero who gives up his life or himself for love inspires us?  We admire those Sydney Cartons and those Cyrano de Bergeracs, and yet we throw our love away, or we throw away the feeling that might have, with effort and work, deepened into an actual reality.

Love cannot be restored.  How can it be restored if it can never be taken away? It is fixed—real love is.  If you stopped loving someone you never truly loved them.  Love never ends, it is always there, always present, always with us, in us, around us.  It is either our failure to see, or our misuse of love that makes us believe it is a sham.  The word sham reminds me of a quote.

Sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed. – Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton)

Chesterton also says that because love desires personality it desires division.

It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say “little children love one another” rather than to tell one large person to love himself.

Love was meant to be given away, not with-held.  But there is a difference between emotional love and soul-love, just as there is a difference between sibling love and marital love, though the parallel is different.  Soul-love, the real love, cannot be hurt or offended in the way emotional love can be.  It is constant, and cannot be quenched.  It can only be given, like a sacrifice.  It delights in returned love, but does not require it.  Emotional love that is rejected, whether by just any person or by a prospect for marriage, will always tear the heart down. I’m not saying emotional love is bad.  The emotions must be contained within soul-love, but emotional love should not exist as its own entity.

Do you know how the Christian old-maid can be perfectly content?  Because she is already loved with real love, and she is preparing for the day when she can return that love perfectly.  She will go through phases of discontent, but will always find her tranquility and peace in something deeper.  For when the mind and soul are truly committed, the senses can be controlled.

I admire such a woman, and I would be like her if I could.  Even if I get married, I want to be like this before marriage, for I would learn how to love the true Object, Christ, and be fulfilled.  1 Corinthians 13 is a wonderful passage, but isn’t paid attention to as it ought to be.  It describes love as the essence of life, basically.   It describes it as being patient, self-sacrificial, never-ending, able to endure the stormiest weather.   Love can bear all things, yet it is tender, it is strong, yet kind, it is not arrogant or rude, but it is truthful, desires truth, and rejoices with the truth.

Death and love are seldom thought of together in a proper sense.  I have two friends, the first friend told me: “You get annoyed with love and fascinated by death.”  And it’s true.  I get annoyed with the meaningless expression and feeling that people call love.  The second friend told me: “The funny thing is that death and love are intertwined.  Without love, death is hopeless.”  They are so connected with each other, because love pushes for death that it might attain the perfect love, that it might finally reach its object.  Also, because the ultimate death occurred by and through love.  Christ died for us because he loved us, was willing to suffer infinite humiliation and death because he cares for us.

I imagine the dead waking, dazed, into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed. It is Hell until it is Heaven.  Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light’s awful clarity, in seeing themselves within it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled.  In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be. – A World Lost (Wendell Berry)

The love described there was the kind of love that achieved what it longed for.  It was a love not created by us but developed in us, and realized by death and rebirth.

If the purpose of marriage was love (not real love) then the divorce rate would be 99.9%.  The .1% is for the couples who actually stayed “in love” for the whole of their married lives.  Thankfully, marriage is not about love.  It is a commitment with divine sanctioning, that aims at deeper ends than for the participants to be near each other for the rest of their lives.  I realize I’ve never been married and have no right to speak in depth about this, but I have to say this.  There is work in marriage I think, hard work, and if it is the right kind it results in satisfaction.  If we could try to pursue real love then we would find that we could really be satisfied.  For to me, marriage is partly a joint-effort, not to find love for each other, but to pursue real love and to reach the Object of that real love.

It is a zeal tempered with prudence, softened with meekness, soberly aiming at great ends by the gradual operation of well adapted means, supported by a courage which no danger can intimidate, and a quiet constancy which no hardships can exhaust. – A Practical View of Christianity (William Wilberforce)

This is a description of the Christian’s zeal in the Church.  I imagine that love is the exact same.  Yet listen to what he says about the Affections within a Christian.

Of the two most celebrated systems of philosophy, the one expressly confirmed the usurpation of the passions; while the other, despairing of being able to regulate, saw nothing left but to extinguish them. The former acted like a weak government, which gives independence to a rebellious province, which it cannot reduce.  The latter formed its bloated scheme merely upon the plan of that barbarous policy, which composes the troubles of a turbulent land by the extermination of its inhabitants.  This is the calm, not of order, but of inaction; it is not the tranquillity, but the stillness of death. (To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and call it a peace. – Tacitus.) – A Practical View of Christianity  (William Wilberforce)

I’m not proposing stoicism at all.  I think that passion is an important part of love, but I believe most fervently that it is not love.  It can be its own entity, but when separated from Love, it becomes a beast, and makes animals of us all.

Love does not concern itself with advantages.  It is not competitive.  It allows us to confront in kindness, but it has nothing to do with self-pride.  It allows us to live in humility.

We need a love revolution.  And a revolution takes work.  When looking for a husband or wife, the first person to catch your eye is not always the right one.  (“Less vividly is the mind stirred by what finds entrance through the ears than by what is brought before the trusty eyes. . . ” – Horace)  Don’t listen to your heart, which is and has proved to be deceitful above all things, but listen to the principles that are firmly grounded within you.  Why should we forsake all our work?  The woman preparing to be a spinster loses nothing in all her work when she unexpectedly gets a husband.  She has someone to work alongside now, a further encouragement, another object for the love she’s seeking to imitate.

I have been convicted about love.  Adulthood is the time to carry out and pursue ideals, and I am entering on that stage.  This is the one pursuit that will not disappoint.  How can it, when it is founded in Christ?  It is done for him, and for him alone.  He is the only Object.  He has brought me into the world in his providence, he will take me out, he will greet me in death, he is sanctifying and will finally perfect me.  He is the solid foundation, the aim I’m working towards.  He is love, and I pray for his love to flow through me, so that I become wrapped in it, enamored with it, so that it is in me and through me, so that it becomes my very being.

Our Biggest Fear

I’m deathly afraid of centipedes. I have been ever since I was little.  I still have nightmares about them crawling over my bare skin.

One day I wondered: “What if our house was inside an invisible centipede? Or what if Cleveland Heights was?  What if the sky was really the inside of him? What if the whole world was a centipede?”

What is your biggest fear?  And what if you couldn’t escape your biggest fear no matter where you went? Would you shiver and sweat until you’re dead?  What if it was more gigantic and dangerous than you ever dreamed?

And what if your biggest fear was the only thing that could save you from everything terrifying about it?

What would you do?

Ethereality

Sometimes there are those wonderful poems that take us away from the reality and darkness of this world and bind us to beauty and peace.  I feel like this poem is one of them.  I know it is a little long, but it is worth the read.

Sleeping Beauty, by Maxfield Parrish


Alfred, Lord Tennyson


THE DAY-DREAM

Prologue

O Lady Flora, let me speak:

A pleasant hour has passed away

While, dreaming on your damask cheek,

The dewy sister-eyelids lay.

As by the lattice you reclined,

I went thro’ many wayward moods

To see you dreaming—and, behind,

A summer crisp with shining woods.

And I too dream’d, until at last

Across my fancy, brooding warm,

The reflex of a legend past,

And loosely settled into form.

And would you have the thought I had,

And see the vision that I saw,

Then take the broidery-frame and add

A crimson to the quaint Macaw,

And I will tell it. Turn your face,

Nor look with that too-earnest eye—

The rhymes are dazzled from their place

And order’d words asunder fly.

 

 

The Sleeping Palace

I.

The varying year with blade and sheaf

Clothes and reclothes the happy plains,

Here rests the sap within the leaf,

Here stays the blood along the veins.

Faint shadows, vapours lightly curl’d,

Faint murmurs from the meadows come,

Like hints and echoes of the world

To spirits folded in the womb.

 

II.

Soft lustre bathes the range of urns

On every slanting terrace-lawn.

The fountain to his place returns

Deep in the garden lake withdrawn.

Here droops the banner on the tower,

On the hall-heaths the festal fires,

The peacock in his laurel bower,

The parrot in his gilded wires.

 

III.

Roof-haunting martins warm their eggs:

In these, in those the life is stay’d.

The mantles from the golden pegs

Droop sleepily: no sound is made,

Not even of a gnat that sings.

More like a pictures seemeth all

Than those old portraits of old kings,

That watch the sleepers from the wall.

 

IV.

Here sits the Butler with a flask

Between his knees, half-drain’d; and there

The wrinkled steward at his task,

The maid-of-honour blooming fair;

The page has caught her hand in his:

Her lips are sever’d as to speak:

His own are pouted to a kiss:

THe blush is fix’d upon her cheek.

 

V.

Till all the hundred summers pass,

The beams, that thro’ the Oriel shine,

Make prisms in every carven glass,

And beaker brimm’d with noble wine.

Each baron at the banquet sleeps,

Grave faces gather’d in a ring.

His state the king reposing keeps.

He must have been a jovial king.

 

VI.

All round a hedge upshoots, and shows

At distance like a little wood;

Thorns ivies, woodbine, mistletoes,

And grapes with bunches red as blood;

All creeping plants, a wall of green

Close-matted, bur and brake and briar,

And glimpsing over these, just seen,

High up, the topmost palace spire.

 

VII.

When will the hundred summers die,

And thought and time be born again,

And newer knowledge, drawing nigh,

Bring truth that sways the soul of men?

Here all things in their place remain,

As all were order’d, ages since.

Com, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain,

And bring the fated fairy Prince.

 

The Sleeping Beauty

I.

Year after year unto her feet,

She lying on her couch alone,

Across the purple coverlet,

The maiden’s jet-black hair has grown,

On either side her tranced form

Forth streaming from a braid of pearl:

The slumbrous light is rich and warm

And moves not on the rounded curl.

 

II.

The silk star-broider’d coverlid

Unto her limbs itself doth mould

Languidly ever; and, amid

Her full black ringlets downward roll’d,

Glows forth each softly-shadow’d arm

With bracelets of the diamond bright:

Her constant beauty doth inform

Stillness with love, and day with light.

 

III.

She sleeps: her breathings are not heard

In palace chambers far apart.

The fragrant tresses are not stirr’d

That lie upon her charmed heart.

She sleeps: on either hand upswells

The gold-fringed pillow lightly prest:

She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells

A perfect form in perfect rest.

 

The Arrival

I.

All precious things, discover’d late,

To those that seek them issue foth;

For love in sequel works with fate,

And draws the veil from hidden worth.

He travels far from other skies—

His mantle glitters on the rocks—

A fairy Prince, with joyful eyes,

And lighter-footed than the fox.

 

II.

The bodies and the bones of those

That strove in other days to pass,

Are wither’d in the thorny close,

Or scatter’d blanching on the grass.

He gazes on the silent dead:

‘They perish’d in their daring deeds.’

This proverb flashes thro’ his head,

‘The many fail: the one succeeds.’

 

III.

He comes, scarce knowing what he seeks:

He breaks the hedge: he enters there:

The colour flies into his cheeks:

He trusts to light on something fair;

For all his life the charm did talk

About his path, and hover near

With words of promise in his walk,

And whisper’d voices at his ear.

 

IV.

More close and close his footsteps wind:

The Magic Music in his heart

Beats quick and quicker, till he find

The quiet chamber far apart.

His spirit flutters like a lark,

He stoops—to kiss her—on his knee.

‘Love, if thy tresses be so dark,

How dark those hidden eyes must be!’

 

The Rivival

I.

A touch, a kiss! the charm was snapt.

There rose a noise of striking clocks,

And feet that ran, and doors that clapt,

And barking dogs, and crowing cocks;

A fuller light illumined all,

A breeze thro’ all the garden swept,

A sudden hubbub shook the hall,

And sixty feet the fountain leapt.

 

II.

The hedge broke in, the banner blew,

The butler drank, the steward scrawl’d,

The fire shot up, the martin flew,

The parrot scream’d, the peacock squall’d,

The maid and page renew’d their strife,

The palace ban’d, and buzz’d and clackt,

And all the long-pent stream of life

Dash’d downward in a cataract.

 

III.

And last with these the king awoke,

And in his chair himself uprear’d,

ANd yawn’d, and rubb’d his face, and spok,

‘By holy rood, a royal beard!

How say you? we have slept, my lords.

My beard has grown into my lap.’

The barons swore, with many words,

‘Twas but an after-dinner’s nap.

 

IV.

‘Pardy,’ return’d the king, ‘but still

My joints are somewhat stiff or so.

My lord, and shall we pass the bill

I mention’d half an hour ago?’

The chancellor, sedate and vain,

In courteous words return’d reply:

But dallied with his golden chain,

And, smiling, put the question by.

 

The Departure

I.

And on her lover’s arm she leant,

And round her waist she felt it fold,

And far across the hills they went

In that new world which is the old:

Across the hills, and far away

Beyond their utmost purple rim,

And deep into the dying day

The happy princess follow’d him.

 

II.

‘I’d sleep another hundred years,

O love, for such another kiss,’

‘O wake for ever, love,’ she hears,

‘O love, ’twas such as this and this.’

And o’er them many a sliding star,

And many a merry wind was borne,

And, stream’d thro’ many a golden bar,

The twilight melted into morn.

 

III.

‘O eyes long laid in happy sleep!’

‘O happy sleep, that lightly fled!’

‘O happy kiss, that woke thy sleep!’

‘O love, thy kiss would wake the dead!’

And o’er them many a flowing range

Of vapour buoy’d the crescent-bark,

And, rapt, thro’ many a rosy change,

The twilight died into the dark.

 

IV.

‘And hundred summers! can it be?

And whither goest thou, tell me where?’

‘O seek my father’s court with me,

For there are greater wonders there.’

And o’er the hills, and fary away

Beyond their utmost purple rim,

Beyond the night, across the day,

Thro’ all the world she follow’d him.

 

Moral

I.

So, Lady Flora, take my lay,

And if you find no moral there,

Go look in any glass and say,

What moral is in being fair.

Oh, to what uses shall we put

The wildweed-flower that simply blows?

And is there any moral shut

Within the bosom of the rose?

 

II.

But any man that walks the mead,

In bud or blade, or bloom, may find,

According as his humours lead,

A meaning suited to his mind.

And liberal applications lie

In Art like Nature, dearest friend;

So ’twere to cramp its use, if I

Should hook it to some useful end.

 

L’envoi

I.

you shake your head. A random string

Your finer female sense offends.

Well—were it not a pleasant thing

To fall asleep with all one’s friends;

To pass with all our social ties

To silence from the paths of men;

And every hundred years to rise

And learn the world, and sleep again;

To sleep thro’ terms of mighty wars,

And wake on science grown to more,

On secrets of the brain, the stars,

As wild as aught of fairy lore;

And all that else the years will show,

The Poet-forms of stronger hours,

The vast Republics that may grow,

The Federations and the Powers;

Titanic forces taking birth

In divers seasons, divers climes;

For we are Ancients of the earth,

And in the morning of the times.

 

II.

So sleeping, so aroused from sleep

Thro’ sunny decades new and strange,

Or gay quinquenniads would we reap

The flower and quintessence of change.

 

III.

Ah, yet would I—and would I might!

So much your eyes my fancy take–

Be still the first to leap to light

That I might kiss those eyes awake!

For, am I right, or am I wrong,

To choose your own you did not care;

You’d have my moral from the song,

And I will take my pleasure there:

And, am I right or am I wrong,

My fancy, ranging thro’ and thro’,

To search a meaning for the song,

Perforce will still revert to you;

Nor finds a closer truth than this

All-graceful head, so richly curl’d,

ANd evermore a costly kiss

The prelude to some brighter world.

 

IV.

For since the time when Adam first

Embraced his Eve in happy hour,

And every bird of Eden burst

In carol, every bud to flower,

What eyes, like thine, have waken’d hopes,

What lips, like thine, so sweetly join’d?

Where on the double rosebud droops

The fulness of the pensive mind;

Which all too dearly self-involved,

Yet sleeps a dreamless sleep to me;

A sleep by kisses undissolved,

That lets thee neither hear nor see:

But break it. IN the name of wife,

And in the rights that name may give,

Are clasp’d the moral of they life,

And that for which I care to live.

 

Epilogue

So, Lady Flora, take my lay,

And, if you find a meaning there,

O whisper to your glass, and say,

‘What wonder, if he thinks me fair?’

What wonder I was all unwise,

To shape the song for your delight

Like long tail’d birds of Paradise

That float thro’ Heaven, and cannot light?

Or old-world trains, upheld at court

By Cupid-boys of blooming hue—

But take it—earnest wed with sport,

And either sacred unto you.

 

Tea With Lewis and Chesterton… and Alice

I can just picture it.  Lewis and Chesterton are having tea, talking about the impossibility of the reality the world is talking about, and the probability of greater morals existing in other worlds.  They both turn, Chesterton has a marmelade roll Lewis has brought with him halfway to his mouth.  Lewis’s teacup is suspended three inches above the saucer.  Both of them smile at the little blonde-haired girl next to them.  “What do you think, Alice? Do you think everything in Wonderland is impossible?”  And Alice probably said no, she didn’t.

And Chesterton would smile approvingly and continue complimenting Lewis on the “excellent marmelade,” and Lewis would nod and smile and begin observing how the world would be much better off if all little children were like Alice.

Reality.  The word used to hit me in the face.  I used to think of something covering up or tinting my passion for beauty.  When I thought of the stars, or flowers, or mountains, or love I got excited… My imagination felt alive.  I felt alive.  But then the word came—reality—and I felt guilty for thinking of those things.  It seemed as though reality was something that covered up the stars… something that made love seem “idealistic”… unreal…  Impossible—something people only dreamed of.  To me, reality seemed like finishing highschool at seventeen or eighteen. Going to college for 4+ years. Pursuing a career.  Maybe getting married between 27 and 35.  Maybe have a kid.  Maybe two.

Then I had a realization.  I suppose that means I came to terms with reality.  Reality is now my friend.  Facts and reality coincide… to an extent.  I see the flowers.  I can touch them, feel them, smell them.  There are flowers—that, in fact, is reality.  Reality isn’t something blurring the stars… it is the stars.  As for love, it’s the most realistic thing I can think of.  I was quite wrong in thinking there is no beauty in reality.  You could say that reality is beautiful, or that Beauty is reality, for there is a God.  Or it might be better to say that God is.  That is reality, because that is a fact. I was reading C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity and I was struck by something he said towards the beginning.  Before now, I had never really thought about the existence of God being a fact. I thought that because not everyone believes in God, it couldn’t be a fact.  If I had thought seriously about this, I would have slapped myself very hard for that philosophy.  If I didn’t believe in God—why, my life would be the unrealistic one.

“If the universe was really without meaning, we should have never found that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should have never known it was dark. Darkwould be a word without meaning.” Further back he says: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got the idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be a part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?” [Mere Christianity, book 2 chapter 1.]

It is so interesting to read how Lewis himself sees and describes how, when he was an Atheist, in the very act of proving that there is no God, he was proving that there is a God.  (I love reading Lewis—Mere Christianity is brilliant, and he’s really a fantastic writer.  When I read his fiction, I feel like I’m sitting right next to him, and he’s telling the story.  When I read his apologetics, I feel as though I am standing right there, arguing in a friendly way with him.)

Is reality, in fact, something cold and hard that you land on when you’re head is in the clouds?  Is the logician right when he says Wonderland is irrational and senseless?  It’s not just wonderland.  When I use this word, I am referring to any fantasie. (As opposed to fantasy—spelled with a y.)

Fantasie means more than Twilight or Harry Potter. (Sorry to any fans out there.)  It refers the beauty of mind and soul… the world in our subconscious, all things beautiful and imagined.  Things are only impossible when they cannot be imagined.  All possibility is contained within imagination.

If a child actually wondered if the moon were made of cheese, is it really impossible?  Perhaps the logician would say: “Yes, it is; cheese is made from curds.  It goes through a certain process, and it is impossible that there could be enough cows even in the world to make enough cheese to fill a moon.”  But the child has already had the idea.  The idea has become a possibility.  There is a certain amount of logic that must be combined in the imagination.  For instance, as soon as the possibility has been birthed with the idea, one must find out if the possibility is real.  For all we know, God might have made the moon out of cheese.  And he still could.  And once you admit that, you denounce the word “impossible.”

I have never seen a blue talking and smoking caterpillar.  I have never seen the Jabberwocky.  But because I have never seen them I can’t say that they don’t exist.  It simply hasn’t been proved to me that they don’t.

If there is a law that pick-pockets shall go to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince.  As ideas, the egg and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears.  Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we should regard them in the philosophic manner of fairy tales, not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the “Laws of Nature.” When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn, we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o’clock. We must answer that it is magic. It is not a “law,” for we do not understand its general formula.  It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen… We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world-destroying comet.  We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, “law,” “necessity,” “order,” “tendency,” and so on, are really untinellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.” They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery. A tree grows fruit because it is a magic tree. Water runs downhill because it is bewitched.  The sun shines because it is bewitched. – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter IV

I had to try very hard not to type out the whole book just now. I think he has a point.  In his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton cleverly combines logic and fantasie in a wonderful way.  He makes fantasie a reality, and reality a fantasie.  Is there anything blasphemous about saying a tree grows because it is magic?  No, there is not.  Because a tree does not grow by any law or power of our own.  It grows by a supernatural power, something altogether outside of our understanding.

So why should the world of dreams and imagination and idealism be praised?

There is a flow to history and culture. This flow is rooted and has its wellspring in the thoughts of people. People are unique in the inner life of the mind —what they are in their thought world determines how they act.  This is true of their value systems and it is true of their creativity. It is true of their corporate actions, such as political decisions, and it is true of their personal lives. The results of their thought world flow through their fingers or from their tongues into the external world. This is true of Michelangelo’s chisel, and it is true of a dictator’s sword. – Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? Chapter I.

Because it determines how we live.  It is not only the imaginative person who has a thought world.  Even the mathematician (I am very unjust towards mathematicians) has a thought world.  Even in his logical mind there are thoughts that determine his actions.  I’m sure even he has had dreams at night about yellow rabbits eating chinese takeouts. (Sorry – bit tired here.) But at any rate, think of what the world would be like if everybody was a logician.  We would all be the same.  Where’s the fun in that?  What if everybody was an idealist? Everybody would be the same – still no fun.  And note – idealist here does not mean Sir-Thomas-More-Utopia-Idealism.  Or Avatar, for that matter.

Napoleon Bonaparte had dreams.  Most people would have called him idealistic, but he almost succeeded in becoming the emperor of the world. He almost made his dream a reality.  The world was thrown into chaos because of one man.  His dreams, his thoughts, his idealism helped shape the world.

Fairy tales might be the most realistic thing on earth. Why? Because a true fairy tale always has a knight-in-shining-armor, always a damsel in distress, always a dragon or evil witch or king of some sort.  Why is this realistic?  Because Christ is the knight-in-shining armor, the Church is the damsel in distress, and the dragon is the devil.  The consequence of the dragon is the judgement that’s inevitable unless a savior comes to save her from the thing she cannot save herself from.  That is why fairy tales are realistic. And if they are, reality is no longer a stone wall you walk into when you think you’re walking on clouds.

Makes me think of love.  Is love idealistic? Yes, because it ought to be.  Idealistic because true love is perfect.  The love on this earth that is exchanged between people is warped and shadowed by sin.  Yet, in marriage vows you will hear the phrase: “Love her as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Perhaps our view on love is a bit irrational.  Love itself is not a fraud; it is the idea that depraved humans came up with and accompany love with that is a fraud.   If you read Ezekiel 16 you will see that love is not about obsessing over someone, or even saying: “I love you.”  It’s a sacrifice.  It’s a sacrifice of life, on the part of a perfect person, for a person who’s wronged again and again.  Love is a covenant.  And a covenant is more holy and sacred and beautiful than any kiss in the moonlight.

Lots of rabbit trails here.  Where were we?

If J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were such great thinkers, then why did they write fantasie?  If G.K. Chesterton was such a great writer and thinker, why did he uphold fairy tales?  Because fantasie reflects the world we live in today.  There might not be a Jabberwocky, but there is a president Obama. (Okay, sorry.)  You might not find someone by the name of Sauron here but you will find someone very, very similar.  That great Being who created middle-earth and spun melodies out of the stars, Iluvatar, might not be found by that name here, but you will find Him, certainly, if you search for him.

Idealism is not something to be scorned.  It is something to be admired.  The pursuit of perfection exists, though perhaps that pursuit ends in heaven, when we are fully sanctified.  Reality is beautiful, and idealism is beautiful.  But you cannot have one without the other in order for them to be beautiful. Idealism, as we understand it, becomes foppish and empty.  Realism, the logician’s world, without idealism, because hard and empty.  There must be a perfect blend.

To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits. – Orthodoxy, chapter II.

Belief must come without explanation.  If Christianity could be understood, there would be no reason to believe.  The whole point of belief is that you must put your faith in something you are absolutely certain of, but that is not fully explained.  Because Christianity isn’t.  There is a degree of mystery, a depth of understanding that is beyond our human comprehension.  If I understood that, they would have to add a fourth person to the Trinity.

That is why it is a hundred times easier for a child—who still maintains the child-like imagination and simple faith— to believe that God created the earth out of nothing than for the scientist.  Yet how beautiful it is when the scientist, logician, and mathematician all lay aside their stuff about laws and impossibilities and believe with the same child-like faith this truth.

So why do I like Alice in Wonderland? Book and movie? Because the idea of something different – of oversized mushrooms and flowers with faces, of smoking caterpillars and mad March hares and a mad hatter – appeals to me.

Even in the physical appearance of the story, the colors and shapes provide such an artistic picture that’s different from things you see in this earth.  It astonishes me, yet it’s not surprising.  I love it, and who can say it’s impossible? I saw it – just the other night.  And I’ve read about it numerous times.  I can’t really get in my car and go there, but I can draw up mental images.  In my thought world I have already made friends with the March Hare (who is one of my favorite characters.) And our relationship is one of the quirkiest, oddest things you’ve ever seen.

I also maintain that dead people are the most interesting ones to talk to.  I would also say that while people alive on this earth are walking around and doing things, dead people understand everything and have a greater level of brilliance because they are dead.  I am jealous of them, because they have seen, as soon as they are dead, the whole value of living.  They know where they are right, and where they are wrong.

I wonder – would Chesterton, now that he is dead, still hold to everything he said in Orthodoxy?  Would Lewis wish The Chronicles of Narnia unpublished?  Would J.R.R. Tolkien still think about Lord of the Rings as though that world actually existed in some form?  Well, I would hope that they would, because I think that they’re absolutely right.