A Lovely Day and Some Worries

grandson no's 1+2 creating
Grandsons nos 1&2 working on something 

A number of problems about writing each day are becoming clear.

First, there’s a  problem about copyright which restricts my daily reading and writing. The question, dear readers, is: would you mind if I simply offered a link to a poem which  you can find elsewhere ? I’d read it and think about it, and quote from it but I would not reprint it…so you wouldn’t quite have it in front of you as you read. Does that matter or not? I think it probably does.

Second, there’s the problem of long poems. I’m not suggesting a reading The Divine Comedy or The Prelude here (yet) but I’m not sure if readers got sick of, bored with my reading of  Intimations of Immortality, which was spread over about two weeks.

I’d like to read some contemporary poems, and I’d like to read some long poems. So tell me what you think, please!

Meanwhile I’m going to jump the gun a little by starting a longish poem. As well as old favourites, long, short, ancient and modern, I also want to read poems that are new to me. So here is one, which I found while browsing in Palgrave’s Golden Treasury.

My third problem concerns the length of these posts. Some days I am very constrained by time but I try to have an hour for reading and writing.  If that includes choosing, too, then I am definitely short on time. But I am more bothered about when I’ve got longer. I don’t want these posts to be long. I want to keep them under 1000 words. Going to try to stick to that, which will mean stopping short some days. Today probably.

So, to the poem.

I’m sorry to admit I’ve never found a clear way through to Edmund Spenser, though my great literary mentor, Brian Nellist, has always been vocal in his love for everything Spenserian. I struggled with The Faerie Queene at University and don’t think I’ve ever read it since.  Brian also loves Sir Walter Scott and I’ve never happily read Scott either, so it may be that these are things particularly appealing to Brian’s personality and anti my own. But I wanted to give it another go.

I don’t know much about Spenser, and I’m interested to see if it is necessary to ‘know’.  I mainly don’t want to ‘know’ things about poets or their  worlds, I want to read the stuff itself, not about the stuff. For me it is a practical art and I want it to work practically, moving or enlightening or astounding me. So I’m not going to look up any facts about Spenser or the poem. I’m going to just going to read, ignorantly or  innocently, a bit at a time, and see what happens. (Reserving the right to stop, or even to look up some facts if things get desperate).


CALM was the day, and through the trembling air
Sweet-breathing Zephyrus did softly play—
A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
Hot Titan’s beams, which then did glister fair;
When I, (whom sullen care,                                                                 5
Through discontent of my long fruitless stay
In princes’ court, and expectation vain
Of idle hopes, which still do fly away
Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain,)
Walk’d forth to ease my pain                                                             10
Along the shore of silver-streaming Thames,
Whose rutty bank, the which his river hems,
Was painted all with variable flowers,
And all the meads adorn’d with dainty gems
Fit to deck maidens’ bowers,                                                              15
And crown their paramours
Against the bridal day, which is not long:
Sweet Thames! run softly, till I end my song.

I have read Spenser’s poem about his marriage (Epithalamion) and remember  that ‘epithalamion’ means something like marriage, so quickly glanced at the dictionary to see what the difference is (epi is written specifically for the bride, pro simply in celebration of a marriage). There! I am quickly past the off-putting title and into the first stanza. All’s well.

CALM was the day, and through the trembling air
Sweet-breathing Zephyrus did softly play—
A gentle spirit, that lightly did delay
Hot Titan’s beams, which then did glister fair;

If you are not a confident reader you might want to look up words that are strange to you, for security, as I did  the title above. In which case, look up ‘Zephyrus’. I  didn’t look that one – it’s something  Greek-god-ish to do with wind, gently blowing (I assure myself and carry on) and Titan is (from the lines here) the sun, and I remember-ish from my (oh so long ago, so forgotten) study of the Classics, that the Titans were the children of the Gods.

I tell you all this so you can see I am no expert, and am just using the ragbag of stuff  I’ve got in my mind already to get through the opening of the poem. I believe this is the best way to read. Get the gist, then look more closely at some of the words.

The gist here is, it is a lovely, lovely day. And our hero, Edmund Spenser, of whom we know virtually nothing, walks into view:

When I, (whom sullen care,                                                                 5
Through discontent of my long fruitless stay
In princes’ court, and expectation vain
Of idle hopes, which still do fly away
Like empty shadows, did afflict my brain,)
Walk’d forth to ease my pain

We don’t get a full stop anywhere here. I look up at the stanza, yes, it is one long sentence.  But it breaks down into what in music, and on a larger scale, would be called movements.   This second movement brings human discontent and mental affliction into direct confrontation with the lovely day. Spenser is still suffering whatever  has been the matter, though it is hard to tell what is being referred to by ‘which’. It could be any or all of  ‘sullen care’, ‘discontent’, ‘long fruitless stay’,’expectation vain’, ‘idle hopes’  – any or all of these, perhaps, but whatever it is/they are, they ‘still do fly away/like empty shadows’.

Bad feeling, that feeling of flickering discontent, things getting away from you.

My word count has got away from me – time to stop for today.

7 thoughts on “A Lovely Day and Some Worries

  1. loubyjo April 24, 2017 / 7:07 pm

    BEEN debating wether to reply for awhile as wondering wether to be really kind and say i read every
    you write cos that would not be 100 %accurate !!! as being maybe being a btt brutal i skim read the poem or miss it out all togethjer and take more interest in the other bits , although do say to my self i will come back to the poem at a later date which sorry tends not to happen but this is prob just me being a pain !!! sos !!!! ITS yr blog so do what makes u happy and what u like to read sorry you did ask for opinions did you not !!!!!! ( going to worry about upseting u but just being honest !!! enough apologies

      • loubyjo April 25, 2017 / 6:13 pm

        just a 2nd thought which has been brewing all day i would prob at times look at the link if put in if felt like having a relaxing thoughtful read !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. marea April 24, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    You did read Spenser since leaving University, you did it in with one of our groups I think on Friday afternoons, or was it a all day Saturday session?
    It was one of the few times I never really got to grips with the poetry but then you also had trouble inspiring me in a class on Dante, ashamed as I am to admit it.
    Great to see you on Saturday, pity about the result. When you said you parked at the school, did you mean Granton Road, my old alma mater?

    • drjanedavis April 29, 2017 / 7:38 am

      Thanks Marea! great to be reading with you again after all these years. Yes, now you say it I think we tried reading some or all of The Faerie Queene. Maybe a Saturday day school.
      As for the Dante, my dear! Let’s do it again! You’ve got to get past the religion.

      As for LFC – the result was gutting. Let’s believe we can do better…
      I don’t know Granton Road – we park at the North Liverpool Academy and walk down…

  3. Lydia Moore April 24, 2017 / 9:56 pm

    I don’t mind at all – it will be no hardship to look up the poem. I thoroughly enjoyed The Ode, and wouldn’t mind more long poems. To be honest, it’s great to have your daily posts, and every poem has been a revelation. Doing that every day is a huge undertaking, so you must do what pleases you!

  4. drjanedavis April 29, 2017 / 7:40 am

    thanks Lydia – and to others who have emailed…. will add in modern poems when I can find a link, and will do some more old ones and longer too. Thanks for reading… as with Marea, great to be back in touch with you via this medium.

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