A short essay on yearning
‘Bring me the sunset in a cup,
Reckon the morning’s flagons up
And say how many Dew,
Tell me how far the morning leaps—
Tell me what time the weaver sleeps
Who spun the breadth of blue!
… Who built this little Alban House
And shut the windows down so close
My spirit cannot see?
Who’ll let me out some gala day
With implements to fly away,
Problems, Emily Dickinson.
There are many things in life that it seems we can never quite reach – that excite an unexplained yearning for something – and we cannot quite decide what it is that we want. Usually, it is small things that make us feel this way – at least, things that are small in our life, but outside our life, immensely large. Dawns, limestone rivers, very tall trees, moss, huge leaves, summer skies, Christmas lights, frozen lakes, Monet’s waterlilies, the sea. All these things give me a feeling of something I want – like an urge to be in them – not just looking at them, but in them, part of them. The feeling is perfectly captured in the first line of the poem above – ‘Bring me the sunset in a cup!’. It is a major part of our lives, this subtle feeling – above all, a major part of beauty. Whatever is really beautiful, really great and powerful, is like subtle torture to a human mind. We cannot get enough of it, we cannot grasp it properly and hold it forever. We are used to things, objects we can hold and keep – pretty plates, clothes, money – we cannot bear the elusiveness, the powerful vagueness, of nature.
But it is when one of these yearnings is unexpectedly fulfilled that a magical moment of our lives is created – a moment we will always remember. Like the time I went moonlight bathing – the time I climbed a young beech to the very top and swayed with it in the wind – and the time I wrote this poem about:
I saw the river, waiting for me,
And every mossed-rock with a smiling face,
And all and everything under a spell
The golden spell of the sun’s last rays,
Like the yellow resin from out of a tree
That catches the bugs that into it fly
And keeps them safe for all the years
Thus it catches my soul as my soul flies by
With its airy wings newly sprouted from joy
And holds that joy in its memory
The river it holds the memory also,
Let it flow with that memory, on forever,
With a rush and a sparkle over the pebbles,
And the silken weeds like mermaids hair,
And the moss-cushioned rocks, and mingle,
Its sound with the sound of the wind passing by
High over the mountains from whence it came
And on to the sea, that endless sea;
And there let it crash with the waves on the beach
And foam on the rocks as the tide draws out –
And finally, here’s another poem, about the same concept as my essay:
Let me have it
Let me have it, that something I never can reach –
Let me dance in those poppies that scatter the sky!
Let me drift on those wisps of velvety peach!
Let me slide down those beams of dusty sunshine!
Let me sit on that pale arching curve of a moon!
Let me gather those stars, behind prickling pine –
And wear them on a necklace that forever I’ll keep.
And, for a pendant, what most I should like,
Is one of those bright embers, when the fire falls asleep.
Why always so high, so far out of reach –
You taunting great velvety dome of a sky?
If closer you came, I might crawl through that breach,
That fiery crack in the pearly enamel
When the hot sun sinks over a silvery sea.
And what should I find, pass’d through that red channel?
Might I slip out of the atmosphere, and down
The cold milky-way go soaring at ease?
Let me go with the wind to rustle the tree’s green gown.
Why, Nature, so allusive, so flitting and shy,
Like the soft butterfly, who flees as I near?
On some big water-lily pad let me lie
And down the quiet stream go a-floating far.
Make the clouds my kingdom, hedge, tree and all,
With a palace, all shimmering with light from the stars.
On the crest of a wave let me ride away!
Forever let me lie on a bed of rich moss,
Let me dress in the sky at the dawn of the day,
And at Nature’s bosom I ever will stay.