Sweet In Her Green Dell the Flower of Beauty Slumbers

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Song

‘Sweet in her green dell the flower of beauty slumbers,
   Lull’d by the faint breezes sighing through her hair;
Sleeps she and hears not the melancholy numbers
   Breathed to my sad lute ’mid the lonely air.
Down from the high cliffs the rivulet is teeming
   To wind round the willow banks that lure him from above:
O that in tears, from my rocky prison streaming,
   I too could glide to the bower of my love!
Ah! where the woodbines with sleepy arms have wound her,
   Opes she her eyelids at the dream of my lay,
Listening, like the dove, while the fountains echo round her,
   To her lost mate’s call in the forests far away.
Come then, my bird! For the peace thou ever bearest,
   Still Heaven’s messenger of comfort to me—
Come—this fond bosom, O faithfullest and fairest,
   Bleeds with its death-wound, its wound of love for thee!’ 

Darley

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I have, in my garden, a certain ‘green dell’ (though as to whether I am the ‘flower of beauty’ I don’t know). Down at the bottom of the lawn, the ground falls, leaving a wide ditch between the grass and the fence. This place we have transformed from a muddy nettle ditch edged with scrabby leylandii (I realise scrabby is not a real word and would not use it in any book, but it is the best I can think of to describe them), to a paradise of fruit trees and foliage.

I found myself a little clearing, edged on one side with an arch of raspberries, and placing a chair therein, sat down to read some poetry.

A blossom fell from a bough above and alighted on my book, pure white with with a gentle cheek-pink leaking into it, and fluff-pollen yellow in the centre.

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The Smell of Woodbine

She reclined, conscious of nothing but the springy turf under her, the golden sunlight as it streamed through the glowing green foliage and fell dappled about – the molten gold joy of the fairies. She had watched them arise each morning, clad in the pale skirts of the dew b’pearled primrose, with wings like the Chrysopa perla and scatter it, the happiness, the content.

She could smell – or at least she knew the smell was there, and was conscious of it as much as she was conscious of anything – the heavy, dream scent of the woodbine, and feel how its sleepy arms had wound her, wrapping her round with the feel and the smell of it like a blanket round a child. And she lay, lull’d by the sound of the faint breezes sighing through her hair. 

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And then she thought something came to her, breaking through the soft muffle of scents and sounds; pulling it aside, as the blanket might, when morning came, be pulled off the child, so that it lay exposed to the chill air of morning; a sound, or a feeling, she could not quite tell, for in this place two were as mingled as sunlight and shade, and blurry as dusk sky. And she remembered something, something which she ought not to have remembered; it was coming back to her, as a dream comes back to a waker, though here dream and waking were reversed, flashes of memory appearing for a minute in her lulled mind, and disappearing before she could identify them.

But she was dimly conscious, through the woodbine smell, that she was not so happy as she had thought she had been; that Life lay behind her, like a forgotten path through the wood newly uncovered; that there was one walking down it who longed for her to turn and re-trace her steps to join him. Would she? Could she?

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That which I just wrote made me feel rather odd. I am happy I can enjoy sitting under the arching boughs without ‘Life’ behind me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It Is the First Mild Day of March

Yesterday, was ‘the first mild day of March’ i.e, the first warm day of that season, which we always celebrate by reading aloud Wordsworth’s poem, which goes

‘It is the first mild day of March, 

Each moment sweeter than before, 

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door. 

There is a blessing in the air, 

That seems a sense of joy to yield, 

The the bare trees and mountains bare, 

And the grass in the green field.

And so on. I know there are some people who would claim that Spring does not begin until near the end of March, but every novel, piece of poetry, or garden, for that matter, is against these people – and I am too. At least –  I am against them in the sense that I do not believe early March is never Spring, nor do I believe it is always so. I believe that when green bulbs are shooting up from the ground – when the sky is blue without a cloud, when the bare trees are budding and primroses grow round our feet, it is Spring. It is this which defines when that lovely season comes – not any number on the calendar. The poem which brought us onto this topic itself argues this, and clearly with the disputed right March has to be often called the first month of Spring in mind –

‘No joyless forms shall regulate

Our living calendar:

We from to-day, my friend, will date

The opening of the year’

Let me continue – we had a lovely day. Mum and Granny brought out some little plastic cases for plants with parcels of compost that puff up when you put warm water on them inside, and we put planted some vegetable seeds in in them. I made some labels to stick on the top of the plastic lids so we knew which plants were which. It is so exiting to think it will soon be Summer again, with the garden as lush and green as Paradise, or the Elysian Fields.

I will take this opportunity of copying in a part of A Macclesfield Maiden (a semi-autobiography I am writing) that describes the garden in the months of May and June, for I think it is necessary for the readers of my blog to get some idea of what it looks like.

It was apring, and the garden was leafy, green and blooming. The white paint of the old Georgian house was radiant amid its leafy trimming, and the large bay-windows glinted in the morning sun. The rose shrubs were dotted over with blooms of every shade of pink, and glossy leaves shone in harmony with the polished windows. The mossy lawn was all sprinkled with daises and speedwell, and little clover. The buttercups looked like tiny golden cups of radiant sunlight. Above the lawn was a patch of grass which would later in the year blossom into a wild meadow, white with oxeye daisies and dotted with the pink of ragged robin and red champion. Then the whole thing would be a tangle of bright, loose, flowing flowers and grasses. Now, before the stage of flowery glory, it had a softer beauty; one could see the deferent shapes of the leaves; ferny vetch, bitter salad burnet, common clover, and the tiny, delicate little leaves of the honey-golden birds foot trefoil. And here and there among the delicate leaves you might find a little treasure; a small flower, burning with brightest colours. The meadow in its early days looked very much like a detail of grass around the feet of the three graces in the Primavera. The painting shows with so much detail the grace of the ferny leaves and long-stemmed tiny flowers that grow amongst them. 

At the top of this flowery patch of ground was a wide cobbled place. If you turned off this area to the left, you were in a parterre hedged with box and rosemary, with gravel paths, and a monument edged with time and topped with a grecian stone vase. If you continued straight a head, you entered into another garden, walled by somewhat crumbling yorkshire stone, and slightly shaded by the overhanging branches of the elm trees. The sun shone through the green elm leaves so that they looked like pale stained glass in a church window. Two beds edged this garden, both full of rich soil, and full of many plants. At the top of the garden was a small stone area with fruit trees growing along the wall at the back of it. But now we must travel back down the garden, and turn our faces once more to the green lawn, for it is there that we will find our heroine. Do you see the bright lawn once more, with its rose bushes and herbs, and the great white house behind it?

On a little grassy hill, with her head just under a branch of one of the taller rose bushes, a little girl sat, quietly reading. She had crisply curling shoulder-length hair of deep brown, the colour of fresh, rich garden soil, and the sun was shining upon it so brightly that it gave it a bright sheen like polished copper. Her eyes were of a clear sky blue; they looked just like the sky. She lowered her book, and looked around her and bright, shining garden.

Now, can you all picture the garden round my house?

Hear are some photos of yesterday

And

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That low wall in front of the grassy hill is where the girl in the story (me) was sitting. Notice the rose bushes.

Is not that crocus exquisitely lovely? Look at the delicate stripes up the petals – a bit like leaf skeletons, or like the topmost branches of the copper beech when they seem to net together.  That crocus, and another one which is shown in the ‘featured image’, are actually as old as the copper beech. I mean, of course they haven’t had flowers on them all through those many winters, but their bulbs are as old as the copper beech. There used to be lots and then someone dumped a load of earth on top to make the ground flatter, and only these have managed to grow through. It is astonishing how much people these days seem to like covering up beautiful things. I didn’t mention it in the post, but Steve and Julie told us that the beautiful old oak door which I described in ‘Bronte Country’ used to be covered in chip-board, and they had to scrape it all off. Can you believe that! And when we first came to our house, people had put tarmac all over the old cobbles, and gravel over the paving stones. I do not think it is fair to the people who lived long ago to cover up all their work – or to nature to cover up her work.

I do not wish to end this entry with complaining, so I will make one more description of the loveliness of our day.

It  is truly incredible in how bright a mood a bright day can put me – the sunlight in the air seems to flow inside and light my very soul. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful garden, however much people may have tried to ruin it with tarmac and gravel. How lovely it is to roam about it, looking at the primroses and the daffodils and snowdrops and crocuses, and to sit upon the soft, spongey moss that grows amongst the grass.

Note for those who are impatient to hear more about Bronte Country: I have not completely neglected the story of our trip to Ponden Hall – I am actually writing another entry about it. But I will not be posting much of anything for a few days, because I am trying to get the second half of the art essay done for my art course. When I do, I will publish that on here.

Poetry and Photographs

Today I’m posting a poem I’ve written about this time of year, with some photos of the garden to go with it. Here it is:

The air is crisp and frosty, with sharp edge,

The sunlight shines full golden on the ground,

It melts the frost, and bares a greener hue.

The atmosphere is bright and brilliant blue;

Nestling among the grass, a million water drops,

Like little diamonds glisten, shine, and flash.

And not one snowy cloud does blot the sun,

By bite of cold the day is not undone.

 

 Spring comes, she melts a path though ice and sleet,

Upon the ground she scatters flowers and light,

Though through the trees the harsh cold wind does blow,  

Still, up from stark bare ground, the snowdrops grow

So pure, so fair, with silver needle leaves.

Then straight stand daffodils, with yellow dresses bright,

And crocus-cups, filled up with slanting sunlight show,

And in the breeze they wave, they dance; they blow.

Now  for the photos:

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‘And crocus cups, filled up with slanting sunlight show’

IMG_7885Still, up from stark bare ground, the snowdrops grow

So pure, so fair, with silver needle leaves.

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‘Then straight stand daffodils, with yellow dresses bright’

 

 

Nestling among the grass, a million water drops,

Like little diamonds glisten, shine, and flash.

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‘Upon the ground she scatters flowers and light’

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These dew drops are not on grass, so are not actually related to the poem, but they are so pretty I decided to put them in anyway

 

 

 

Aphrodite

IMG_3660This is a fairly random post about the greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. She is generally depicted with golden hair, blue eyes and red lips, and her symbol is a dove and a heart. I once wrote a description of her in one of my stories – “beautiful Aphrodite, with her golden locks, blood red lips, sea blue eyes, and white dove”. Some more things I have written about her are below.

I did a thing like this about each god and goddess at the beginning of a book of greek myths I wrote:

Aphrodite 

Goddess of: Love and beauty

Married to: Hephaestus

 Daughter of: Born from the blood of Coronus  falling in the waves, or in other versions, simply the sea.

Represented with: A dove, a heart, a rose

Appearance: very beautiful, long golden hair, pink cheeks, pale skin, and red lips.

Character: Gentle, but very jealous, and sometimes angry

 I also wrote a piece of poetry about her birth; it’s not really proper poetry because though it does rhyme and sound pretty it doesn’t pay hardly any attention to syllables. I’m not really any Tennyson!

‘When morning sun rise up above the waves,

And paint the white sea-froth pink and red-gold,

And sea-nymphs fair-of-face  sing in their caves,

Soft gentle voices rising, luring mermen bold,

Gentle blue waves unto her pearly limbs themselved did mould.

 

Round her soft white milk throat a necklace hung

Of reddest coral beaded with clear water drops

Like jewels, sparkling, shining, glistening among

The coral, red and smooth. How sweetly then she sung!

 

Her hair like a golden mantle round her floated;

And soft lapping waves gentled her white feet,

That with the frothy white sea foam blended,

And she in a shining white shell made her seat

While on the shore the maidens waited, her to greet

 

Sea-blue and rose-pink silk was in their hands,

So fine a colour, fine a silk, so intricately patterned,

Flowers, seashells, pearls embroidered, golden bands,

Sweeping, trailing on the ground in soft golden sands”

 

And now,  this is a story I wrote about her birth:

 

Who saw Aphrodite’s birth? The rocks did, and roaring tide. Who saw the golden-haired goddess rise from the waves? I did. The rocks did. The sea did. And Botticelli did, for if he had did not how could he have painted such an accurate picture? Well, whether he did or not, whether the tide saw it or not, whether the rocks saw it or not, I did. I did, and I am going to tell you about what I saw.

It was a dark, stormy night, with sea as black as the sky above, and I, Artemis, virgin goddess of the moon and hunting, was driving my silver chariot across the dark sky; for it is my duty to give the poor mortals a beam of shimmering light on a dark night as this was.

All night I drove the chariot, and those who saw me said my dark hair was lost, camouflaged in the dark of the night, my white, silvery skin shimmered in the light of my own moon, and my beautiful, strange, wild dark eyes filled with the terrors of the forest glimmered with moon light.

It was true too, especially the part about my eyes. They were my pride and joy, and before Aphrodite came along, I was the most beautiful of all the gods.

Yes, I was there all night, driving my chariot back and forth, to light the way of a poor old couple I saw on earth. But it was when I was driving it back to Olympus, to make way for the sun god to rule the sky, that I saw her. The waters had calmed now, but they were still the colour of the sky, though now both sky and water had changed to a beautiful shimmering pale blue. White foam was dotted in the water, and the waves rolled on the sand, whispering, whispering, whispering; whispering words, and if only mortals would have listened, they could have learnt much from the waves.

It was then that it happened. A drop of reddest blood from Cronus, Zeus’s murdered father fell and polluted the water, turning it an ugly purplish red. But it soon cleared again, and was back to normal – except the one spot where the blood had fallen. That, though it was a pretty colour again, had started to fizz and buzz and cough up foam, and all of a sudden the waters parted, and there rose out of the water a naked lady. A lady so divine that the gods turned to gaze at her, and love her. Her skin was as pale as the foam of the sea she had come out of, her lips as red as the drop of blood that had caused her birth, and her hair was simmering and golden, and the very end of it was blue, so that you could not tell which was her hair and which was the water, so combined were the two. Then she stepped into a beautiful pinkish shell, and twelve beautiful dark-haired maidens dressed her in a pale pink robe with a gold pattern of waves around the edges. And Hera, wife of Zeus saw her, and brought her up to mount Olympus, saying that as she was as beautiful as a goddess, and was born from Cronus’s blood, she could share Mount Olympus with them.

Comparing two lovely pieces of spring poetry

My two favourite spring poems are, I believe, ‘To my sister’ by Wordsworth, and ‘Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere’ by Alfred Tennyson. My favourite parts of both are the first few verses;

 

‘It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,

Which seems a sense of joy to yield

To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.’

 

 

And,

 

Like souls that balance joy and pain,

With tears and smiles from heaven again

The maiden Spring upon the plain

Came in a sunlit fall of rain.

In crystal vapor everywhere

Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between,

And far, in forest-deeps unseen,

The topmost elm-tree gather’d green

From draughts of balmy air.

 

Sometimes the linnet piped his song;

Sometimes the throstle whistled strong;

Sometimes the sparhawk, wheel’d along,

Hush’d all the groves from fear of wrong;

By grassy capes with fuller sound

In curves the yellowing river ran,

And drooping chestnut-buds began

To spread into the perfect fan,

Above the teeming ground.’

 

There is, however a great different between these two lovely poems. Take the first few lines of each, for instance. Compare

 

‘It is the first mild day of March:

Each minute sweeter than before

The redbreast sings from the tall larch

That stands beside our door. ‘

 

 

With

 

‘Like souls that balance joy and pain,

With tears and smiles from heaven again

The maiden Spring upon the plain

Came in a sunlit fall of rain.’

 

The first has a simple, natural sound, it depicts the plain, unsophisticated charm of nature. It sounds fresh, pure, and real. The second is full of similes, metaphors, and sophisticated language, difficult to read and to understand, but intricate as carving in the gold of a palace wall, or as silken embroidered hangings. It has not nearly so fresh and pure a sound, therefore it is perhaps less suited to describing spring, which is naturally a pure and unsophisticated season. However, there is a charm also in the more sophisticated and difficult language of Tennyson; he finds a lovely description for everything, especially in the beautiful lines

 

‘In crystal vapor everywhere

Blue isles of heaven laugh’d between’

 

To Wordsworth it would seem that there was enough beauty in the sky as it really was without having to depict it as ‘blue isles of heaven’. He would probably think it gilding the lily to describe it in that manner. I think however that it is a lovely description, in a different way. Yet to single out another lovely line of spring poetry, Wordsworth this time,

‘To the bare trees, and mountains bare,

And grass in the green field.’

it does seem that the joyful simplicity of ‘To my sister,’ suits the season better.

 

Somebody comment and tell me which they prefer.