Faded Silk

She rose up, and walked, with a tear-stained face toward the cabinet. She lent against it, closing her eyes and letting out long, quavering breaths. Then she ceased to lean, and stood, trembling, while she pulled out a drawer of the cabinet. She reached in, and drew it out, springs of thyme and other herbs falling away as she did so. It was a dress – long and silken, of colours that had clearly once been bright and shimmering – changing in the different lights from green to turquoise to blue – but now it was very faded. She smoothed the folds of silk and felt the gown, reverently, against her cheek. Then she took off her white nightgown, and, as though indulging in a great pleasure, slipped into the faded gown. It was of a soft silk balmy on the skin, and it fitted her perfectly – or almost perfectly – it was perhaps a shade small. The sleeves made her slender arms and waist seem slenderer still, and it hung down in graceful waves from the latter.

She took the band off her soft dark hair so it fell about her, and stepped out into the light of the early morning. The air was cool and dewy, and balmy as the silk of the gown, and her misery was soothed a little by its calmness.

The dew was still upon the shrubs – and she shook some drops onto her hand – dipped a finger in it and spread it, sparingly, upon her face as though it was some rich perfume. She thought of the countless mornings when, as a child, she had risen at about this time or earlier, and come into the garden to bathe her face in the dew and gain beauty for the coming year. She considered how little beauty would do for her now – and thought her child-self foolish in wanting to attain it. Beauty was a poisonous thing – she knew that now. Again she sighed – and little stronger than she had done earlier. Perhaps she would not do what she had come out to do – or not yet.

 

This entry was inspired by the Tennyson poem, Enid – especially the lines;

‘Then she bethought her of a faded silk,

A faded mantle and a faded veil,

And moving toward cedarn cabinet,

Wherein she kept them folded reverently,

With springs of Summer laid between the folds,

She took them, and array’d herself therein,

Remembering when first he came on her,

Dress in that dress, and how he loved her in it … ‘

 

– and also a detail of a picture in my copy of the book.

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Breakfasting in the company of Spring

While I am working on the present posts, I thought I would publish this one, written a while ago, which I forgot about.  

Here is another entry with raptures on the garden in it!

When I drew up the blinds yesterday morning, I looked out upon a garden bright with Spring and bathed in sunshine. It made the garden look glowing and green, and it shone upon the rough bare trunk of my friend the Copper Beech.

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Mum suggested that Tassy and I take some snacks out into the garden and breakfast outside. She made us some toast spread with peppery tasting cheese, some little packs of nuts, fruit, seeds and sweets, and a large jar of hot rooibos. To celebrate the warm wether, I wore one of two summer dresses made out of a thin, silky materiel covered with a flowery print, and very pretty, which I had got for christmas.

The morning air was cool and fresh. It smelt of deep, rich, damp soil, of fresh green things, of shade and sunlight, of the early morning – and of something else, too, something more difficult to describe – it smelt, almost, of memory. At least, it brought back memories; memories of a hundred other days, other springs. My dress fluttered in the wind as I ran down the path to the lawn, and sudden splash of golden sunlight would fall sometimes upon me, for the path was in dappled shade. There was a light and joyous feeling in me as I stepped off the half-shaded path into the bright light that shone upon the happy lawn – I feel I will remember that moment for ever after. Tassy came skipping along behind like a mischievous little pixie.

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I chose our picnic spot carefully, settling at last upon a dry, springy patch of moss in one corner of the lawn, in full view of some beautiful golden daffodils nodding their heads in the soft breeze, and backed by a rhododendron bush. There is a certain trick of the light that happens sometimes when you stand in the right place looking at a patch of moss in bright sun – it seems almost to glow. This had happened with the patch I chose, and I took it as a sign from Spring that is was there we should eat our breakfast. Tass thoroughly approved, though he did say he would rather it a little nearer the daffodils. I persuaded him we could see them very well from here, and we sat down and began the feast.

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We then scoured the garden for herbs, and laid out on the cheese a selection of hawthorn, salad burnet, garlic, sweet cicely, lovage, and sorrel.

When we were about half-way through, I suggested that we lay on our backs and just listened and dreamed, and enjoyed ourselves. So we lay down side-by-side and did just that, though Tassy was too restless to do it for long, and after a moment he was after some more dried fruit from the packs.

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As I lay upon the warm moss, I could hear the wind as it rustled in the branches of the great beech above me, and the songs of the birds about me. The sunlight flowed in through my half closed lids, giving the impression of a waterfall of shining light. It made me think of the lines from Margaret ‘What lit your eyes with tearful power, like moonlight on a falling shower?……. A tearful grace, as though you stood between the rainbow and the sun.’ And of another Tennyson line too,’The maiden spring upon the plain, came in a sunlit fall of rain’. The feeling of the sunlight rushing down onto my face, and the gentle wind sweeping past me, gave me such a feeling of unutterable delight, that I felt as if I might have been lying in the Elysian Fields. I could almost imagine the sweet singing of the birds turned to the playing of a harp – and I felt, at that moment, that this was the happiest moment of my life, for it was then, I felt, that I felt the touch of nature in all her loveliness. And I pity all those, who, sitting in a darkened room watching their televisions, while Spring calls to them in vain outside, may never feel that joy. And in this world of computers and cities, there are too many who will not.

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.