CBT in the C18: a poem by Ann Finch

astrantia.JPG
Buckler fern and Astrantia (and couch grass, naturally), front garden, 11 August

Thanks to Dave Kelly, via Chris Lines, at Liverpool Parks, who tells me the unrecognised shrub of yesterday  is Clerodendrum Bungei, a deciduous shrub ‘with unpleasantly-scented leaves and sweet-scented flowers’…  Thanks Chris, and thanks Dave. I did think the smell was strangely mixed! Will go back to the Old English Garden for another sniff today.

But back to Ann Finch and ‘Hope’ which I started yesterday.

Hope

The Tree of Knowledge we in Eden prov’d;
The Tree of Life was thence to Heav’n remov’d:
Hope is the growth of Earth, the only Plant,
Which either Heav’n, or Paradise cou’d want.

Hell knows it not, to Us alone confin’d,
And Cordial only to the Human Mind.
Receive it then, t’expel these mortal Cares,
Nor wave a Med’cine, which thy God prepares.

Orientikate commented yesterday,

Reading the verse again it feels to me as if the 2 Trees are kind of done and dusted, like – OK, we’ve been told about those – we chose (for better, for worse?) knowledge over life.

Yes, I agree the information about the two trees does seem done and dusted – that happened. Now here we are. Kate also suggested we might read ‘earth’ in line three as the plant of heaven, the only plant…  yes… look at lines three and four again:

Hope is the growth of Earth, the only Plant,
Which either Heav’n, or Paradise cou’d want.

If we read it that way we’d have a meaning which was something like: earth (where hope grows) is the only plant Heav’n (God) or Paradise ( or the initial creative act ) could want (need).  Hope then becomes a kind of power of earth directly linking life on earth to  life in heaven – it – could you go so far as to say – almost remakes paradise anew.

Thank you Kate!

Let’s go on into stanza two, which amplifies  Ann Finch’s thinking about ‘hope’ ;

Hell knows it not, to Us alone confin’d,
And Cordial only to the Human Mind.
Receive it then, t’expel these mortal Cares,
Nor wave a Med’cine, which thy God prepares.

The idea that came out of Kate’s reading, that hope is a kind of link between Earth and Heaven, is picked up here in ‘hell knows it not’.  For Christians  of  the seventeenth century, Hell is a third place in the cosmos (which is made of  Heaven, Earth, Hell and at least as far as Milton, which is where I get my information from,  is concerned,  there’s also Chaos or Void). But for us, reading now (and also for Ann Finch and others, at other times, I’d imagine)  ‘hell’ is also those times in life when we have no hope.

Hope is ‘to us alone confin’d’, and cannot be in Hell.  We seem to have moved back into a geo-cosmoligical  level  – the very nature of the universe doesn’t allow it to be there  – it is ‘confin’d’ to us.

The verb ‘confin’d is about keeping within limits, borders.  This is beginning to make me think about what can be where and how some places /states  have atmospheres or the ability to let things grow.

With hell within him, ( ‘where I am is hell’) Satan can never experience hope, as hell is a place  where ‘hope never comes, that comes to all’

No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv’d onely to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace [ 65 ]
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed
With ever-burning Sulphur unconsum’d:

Paradise Lost, Book 1

If hope is ‘confin’d’ to us  – to humans, if it sits within a natural border here within us, available only to us – not to  those who are forever in hell, then it is a sign of our possible movement – towards Heaven. It’s a special thing, given to, or held by us as part of that heavenly connection.

Now,  let’s think about cordial.

Hell knows it not, to Us alone confin’d,
And Cordial only to the Human Mind.

Online Etymological dictionary gives us:

late 14c., “of the heart,” from Middle French cordial, from Medieval Latin cordialis “of or for the heart,” from Latin cor (genitive cordis) “heart,” from PIE root *kerd- “heart.” Meaning “heartfelt, from the heart” is mid-15c. The noun is late 14c., originally “medicine, food, or drink that stimulates the heart.” Related: Cordiality.

So yes, let’s think of it as something that stimulates the heart. But Finch actually writes ‘mind’. What are you thinking when you are depressed, low, brought down, when things are hellish? Your heart may be sick but you need different thoughts. The medicine is hope.  Yet how to get yourself to take it?

I was thinking about the ‘only’  (cordial only to the human mind) and thinking at first of  other minds – animals, dogs, horses.  Do they not experience ‘hope’? But  on second or third reading I wondered if that distinction of ‘only the human mind’ was  more about the set up of the universe, the thing Kate called in her comment, the cosmology.  In all the universe, in the whole shebang,  hope is only found , like a rare and precious metal, in one place. In us.

Shall we  reread the whole poem now?

Hope

The Tree of Knowledge we in Eden prov’d;
The Tree of Life was thence to Heav’n remov’d:
Hope is the growth of Earth, the only Plant,
Which either Heav’n, or Paradise cou’d want.

Hell knows it not, to Us alone confin’d,
And Cordial only to the Human Mind.
Receive it then, t’expel these mortal Cares,
Nor wave a Med’cine, which thy God prepares.

I like that ‘hope’ is a  plant rather than my analogy of a precious metal – it’s a natural cordial, like a herb, which eases the heart. It grows on earth, in us, and is antipathetic to hell. Making me think of magnetic attraction and reulsion: if hell, no hope. If hope, no hell.

Having established these clearly set out thoughts, Ann speaks directly to the person to whom she writes ( herself, perhaps):

Receive it then, t’expel these mortal Cares,
Nor wave a Med’cine, which thy God prepares.

Now I see the poem has arisen from a particular place and a sort of argument, which has been ongoing. She (or the  person to whom she writes) has been denying hope, has not received it. This person is suffering ‘mortal Cares’ –  a double-edged word: these cares are human and they may be actually killing her, they are mortal to her. How do we know she has been actively denying this help?  The last line ‘ nor wave a med’cine’, where ‘wave’ is both wave as in the hand gesture (waving you and your medicine away) but also I think waive as in abandon, give up on.

We’ve got this amazing, rare, precious, transporting thing – use it!

Of course, if you are  badly depressed, no matter how hard you tell yourself, or someone else urges,  you can’t make yourself feel hope.

I read in Wikipedia that Ann Finch suffered depression.

I wonder if the poem’s language and thought pattern is a kind of home-made CBT. It is a set of thoughts, laid down in  a pattern. As your mind reads, it follows the pattern. If you put the word, and larger than that, the concept of ‘hope’ into a mind, there it is in some form, wher before it wasn’t. Psychologists have done many experiments which show that planting words in a mind affects the way it thinks.

Setting hope in this huge context adds perspective – it’s not just little you, an individual with an individual problem. It is a universal problem and there is a structural answer to it.  Read the poem again.

More poems by Ann Finch can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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