A mournful rustling in the dark.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It is often said, some memories are too sweet to be forgotten. Memories are what make our life worth living. Memories are like the light shining in the otherwise dark corridors of life. They are a nice reminder of the good things of life. ‘All good things come to an end’ but it is through memories that they are kept alive. And we cling to them to have a whiff of fresh and fragrant air. We tend to lean back on our memories to save ourselves from the onslaught of the life ahead. Memories are those moments, which once past may not cross our path ever again. Yet they are our lifeline.
“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened”
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."
The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!
(James Leigh Hunt)
It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be
Or standing long as an oak, three hundred years
To fall a log at last, dry, bald and sere.
A Lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauty see
And in short measures life may perfect be.
A short but a very meaningful poem! It gives us the essence of a happy life. We should not live life by years; it is the moments by which we should live to lead a blissful and fruitful life. We cannot make a year wonderful but at least we can create memorable moments for ourselves and others to cherish. This is the real beauty of a life well lived.
What makes our lives tragic is that we often stretch the possibility of an upcoming problem that it overshadows our present too. Let life take its own course, may be if we had waited the problem might never have reached us. ‘Enjoy the present and leave the rest’ is the policy to be followed. Enjoy what you have in the hands; don’t spoil it with undue fears and anxieties.
Life is indeed ‘perfect in short measures’. We don’t remember a year as a whole; we are nostalgic about particular occasions, a moment, a kind gesture or even the heartfelt words spoken to us. These are the ‘short measures’ of life, which are in themselves invaluable as they are the most valuable things.
“Why do we search for our destiny in the lines of our hands
When even those have destiny who don’t have hands.”
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below–above the vaulted sky.
(JOHN CLARE – 'I AM')
What beautiful thought have been presented in these lines! They have been one of my long treasured poetic stanzas. The lines have a picturesque beauty – “the scene where man has never trod”. The phrase brings to mind a place that has, hitherto, not been polluted by human existence. There does not exist the eternal trouble maker, that is, sorrow nor is there anything to make you smile. There is a perfectly balanced living. The other interpretation can be linked to the first line itself, simply talking about the loneliness of the place, a place that has not witnessed the coming of a woman (to suggest human being only, he mentions both man and woman).
A longing to stay as undisturbed as in childhood has been expressed by the poet. In addition to this the poet mentions the words – ‘untroubling’ and ‘untroubled’ – to suggest that the child neither troubles anyone nor is himself troubled by the innumerable sorrows and tensions of life. A picture perfect scene has been presented through the line “the grass below – above the vaulted sky”. A heavenly place to be in!
The other interpretation of these lines can be taken to mean the reference to the heaven where man goes after his death. Neither sorrow nor happiness affects him anymore. Man can enjoy as he did in childhood, ‘untroubling and untroubled.’
The message we should derive from these lines is that of saving our environment, an environment that has man has been continuously polluting. Things have come to such a pass that a reversal is not possible. Let us make efforts to control the present situation from worsening at the most. Remember every drop counts. Let’s begin right now! Let’s make every place on this Earth a heavenly place to live in!
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Sweet memories, especially those of childhood, never forsake us. Only diamonds are forever, but childhood memories too are. The latter contribute towards letting us stay a kid at heart for the whole of our life. The nostalgic aura of the cherubic childhood adds a touch of blitheness to the otherwise lacklustre and monotonous adulthood in this mechanical modern world. The modern day loneliness is gone with the wind as one reminisces the days 'when God was in his heaven and all was well with the world' (Robert Browning).
It is in the childhood that the foundations of a future are laid. We have to construct the palaces of our dreams on these very foundations, so they have to be really solid. Moreover, the base of anything cannot be separated from the real thing. No matter how high a building we might construct, we can’t detach it from its root foundations. So always carry the child within you, no matter where you go, no matter how old you are. He will always come to your rescue – will save you from lots of tensions and worries. Being childish and carrying a tinge of your childhood with you are two entirely different things. Being mature doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the little pleasures of life, you cannot laugh your heart out when you feel like; it does not entail leading a monotonous, dull and a drab life.
Even otherwise, the child in you controls the speed with which you move in the process of aging. How wonderfully has Tom Stoppard has remarked, “If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older.” A real, natural and a more effective formula than all the wrinkle control cosmetics! Isn’t it worth trying?
Another important aspect is the freedom of speech, which is often misused. This freedom doesn’t license the user to speak anything he likes, which is often taken to be its meaning. The exercise of the freedom of speech should liberate the person himself as well as his listener. But often it happens that the freedom of one person becomes a heart-rending volley of words for the other. This is not what is called freedom. It is rather that the freedom of thought and speech go hand in hand – think before you say something. What we do instead is, as Søren Kierkegaard has rightly put it, “People hardly ever make use of the freedom they have. For example, the freedom of thought. Instead they demand freedom of speech as a compensation.” The other side of this fact is that when we have the freedom of speech, we don’t use it at the right moment. The hurdle there is the universal “Who will bell the cat?” And this marks the end of the freedom.
We don’t use our freedom for the right cause; probably this is true in the case of those who have always been free, because as Pearl S. Buck says, “None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.”
The flight of a bird, the young child roaming here and there, the bubbling waters of a stream, the vast expanse of the oceans, the clouds on a roaming spree…these have all been considered symbolic of the perfect kind of a freedom, the one that we all would want to enjoy at one point of time or the other. But time has to change. Things won’t remain the same always. This is the freedom of life itself – changes its hues and we have to match ourselves with the ever changing tones of life. But we would all pray to enjoy the moment that John Clare wanted to cherish (as mentioned in ‘I Am’):
I long for scenes where man has never trod,
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Words are like beads that drop out of the necklace of thoughts. They are placed in the carvings on the golden pages of time. And you have a ‘stone-studded life’! Words are an expression of your thoughts, emotions, feelings, views, ideas and what not. They are a concrete manifestation of abstract ideas. It is an art to use the right word at the right place. Words are not just letters put together. They carry a world with themselves; you never know what effect a particular word will have in a particular situation. Even a single word can work wonders for you. As George Bernard Shaw has rightly put it, “Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap”. Words can join two hearts or they can break one into two. Words can help you to make people laugh or they can make so deep a wound that even a lifetime won’t be able heal it. Words are the bridges, but if misused they can themselves act as barriers.
Another important quality is using the right quantity of words – don’t waste them you might need them later and don’t be a miser either. If you won’t say it out people won’t see it. There are very few who can understand your silence. But at the same time don’t over use them, nobody has the time. Try to inculcate as much as you can in as less as possible. Remember Shakespeare said, “When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain”. So make the most of what you have in hand, howsoever less it is.
We have often heard, ‘Pen is mightier than sword’. But you have to have that fire in your words to turn them into swords. Otherwise, they will only fall on deaf ears. A word is a two-edged sword, if you won’t use it in the most effective way; they will be lost in the humdrum of the world gone astray.
Watch your words, or you might have to chew them later, much to your embarrassment and to everyone else’s amusement. Also remember, say it before it is too late. Expression is what makes the words a living entity – it is the meanings which they carry otherwise they will be as lifeless as stones.
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The first sorrow of autumn
Is the slow goodbye
Of the garden who stands so long in the evening-
A brown poppy head,
The stalk of a lily,
And still cannot go.
The second sorrow
Is the empty feet
Of a pheasant who hangs from a hook with his brothers.
The woodland of gold
Is folded in feathers
With its head in a bag.
And the third sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the sun who has gathered the birds and who gathers
The minutes of evening,
The golden and holy
Ground of the picture.
The fourth sorrow
Is the pond gone black
Ruined and sunken the city of water-
The beetle's palace,
Of the dragonfly.
And the fifth sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the woodland that quietly breaks up its camp.
One day it's gone.
It has only left litter-
And the sixth sorrow
Is the fox's sorrow
The joy of the huntsman, the joy of the hounds,
The hooves that pound
Till earth closes her ear
To the fox's prayer.
And the seventh sorrow
Is the slow goodbye
Of the face with its wrinkles that looks through the window
As the year packs up
Like a tatty fairground
That came for the children.
Regarding the sun, I am reminded of the following lines from Wordsworth’s Ode ‘Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’ in which the poet while describing the scene of the evening refers to the immortality and mortality of man:
The same is the case here. The sun does not signify death, rather it is the minutes of the evening that symbolically refer to the last stage of life, the last few moments “when the year packs up” (to put it into the words of Ted Hughes himself).
In the sixth stanza, the poet refers to a fact that we find just as true as any universal truth in our daily lives: ‘the sorrow of the fox is the joy of the huntsman and the joy of the hounds’. This is as true of life also – “when you cry, you cry alone”. Moreover, people are not concerned about others.
The last stanza mentions the sorrow of the old age – the wrinkled face looking out of the window, probably searching for the last moments of joy, the joy that evaded them for the whole of the their lives, which they spent not living for themselves. Life is short and their time fled away breathing in life for their offspring.