Barely any of the hundreds of poems Emily Dickinson wrote were published during her lifetime, and indeed, while she was alive, she was far better known as a gardener than a poet. ‘New feet within my garden go’, which is about new generations setting foot in her garden while the seasons continue to roll on and roll round, reminds us of the link between mankind’s toil (working in the garden) and the vast and eternal cycle of nature which makes our achievements seem so small by comparison.
New feet within my garden go –
New fingers stir the sod –
A Troubadour upon the Elm
Betrays the solitude.
New children play upon the green –
New Weary sleep below –
And still the pensive Spring returns –
And still the punctual snow! Read the rest of this entry
On a well-known fairy tale
‘The Princess and the Pea’ is one of the shortest of the classic fairy tales. It also manages to be simultaneously one of the most straightforward and one of the most baffling. It’s straightforward because its plot is so simple, but it’s almost too simple. What are we to make of this tale of royal oversensitivity to bed-dwelling vegetables? Does the fairy tale (if it even is strictly a fairy tale at all) have any discernible moral?
It is easy to summarise ‘The Princess and the Pea’: a prince wishes to marry a princess, but he wants to make sure she is a real princess, rather than one of the dozens of royal pretenders who appear to inhabit the realm. He goes on an extensive search to find his royal bride, but he cannot be completely sure that any of the women he meets are bona fide princesses. This pickiness when it comes to courting looks set to end in perpetual bachelorhood, until one day, on a dark and stormy night, a young woman arrives at his castle, asking to take shelter inside until the storm has passed. The woman claims to be a princess, so the prince’s mother takes a pea and places it under twenty mattresses in the bed where the princess is to spend the night. Read the rest of this entry
Edward Thomas has been labelled a ‘Georgian poet’ and a ‘war poet’, and he was really a little of both of these, and yet not quite either of them. In a brief flurry of poetic creativity between late 1914 and his death in the Great War in 1917, Edward Thomas produced some of the finest poems of the early twentieth century. ‘Aspens’ is one of his best.
All day and night, save winter, every weather,
Above the inn, the smithy, and the shop,
The aspens at the cross-roads talk together
Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.
Out of the blacksmith’s cavern comes the ringing
Of hammer, shoe, and anvil; out of the inn
The clink, the hum, the roar, the random singing –
The sounds that for these fifty years have been.
The whisper of the aspens is not drowned,
And over lightless pane and footless road, Read the rest of this entry