Monday, January 3, 2011

First new post of a new school week:
Insomnia, followed by a 5:30 alarm and strong coffee. Boys up and out, almost eagerly. Tom unloading a laundry basket, cleaning ashes out of the woodstove, brewing the strong coffee, listening sardonically to NPR, and now quietly cutting photo mats. Me: reading the poems of Milly Jourdain; resulting mood-ring-like response: hopelessness punctuated by positive thinking. As Melville says: "Well, boys, here's the ark!"

Today's activities include drinking more coffee; hauling a few 50-pound bags of feed out of the car, heaving them onto my shoulders, and lugging them gingerly over black ice to their destinations; copying out some of Wordsworth's Prelude because I'm dutiful; copying out several as-yet-unchosen Plath poems because I lay awake on the couch last night thinking about her dramatic control of the lyric; reading Moby-Dick because I'm actually in the mood for it; writing a few words of my Milton lecture; waiting for paying work to arrive in the mail; feeling guilty because it hasn't arrived even though I have no reason to feel guilty; watering houseplants; laundering sheets; writing a poem.

Here's today's Milly Jourdain poem, which is not at all like the poem I plan to write:

The Blackbird's Song

Milly Jourdain

Among the mists of dawn the blackbird sings
Of rivers running through the fields
And all the fresh young smell of growing things.

He tells of primroses in copses bare
Or clustered on the lonely banks
Breathing a finer fragrance in the air;

Of lilac blossom falling on the ground,
Of little winds and heavenly rain,
And summer nights whose breathing is a sound.

And when the light is spreading down below
He flies away from listeners,
Whose hearts he touched with what they do not know.

I plan to write a poem more like this one:

from The Pleasant Life in Newfoundland (1628)

Robert Hayman

To a worthy Friend, who often objects [to] the coldnesse of the Winter in Newfound-Land, and may serve for all those who have the like conceit.

You say that you would live in Newfound-land,
Did not this one thing your conceit withstand;
You feare the Winters cold, sharp, piercing ayre.
They love it best, that have once wintered there.
Winter is there, short, wholesome, constant, cleare,
Not thicke, unwholesome, shuffling, as 'tis here.

One of my favorite things about this poem is the variety of spellings of Newfoundland: in other sections it appears as "New-found-land" and, best of all, "Newfoundland-land." And if you follow the link to Hayman's biography, you can also read his "Reasons for the taking of Tobacco," which is an odd little discussion about the fine upstanding people who "drinke" it.

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