'God's Footprints' by Ken Brown

It has been very long since I first read this poem 'God's Footprints' by Ken Brown. But I have never been able to forget it ever since. So I wanted to share it with my readers.

'God's Footprints'
By Ken Brown

One night in deepest sleep, I dreamed,

Upon the beach I walked.

The Lord was by my side each step

As quietly we talked.

Then on the sky my life appeared;

Each chapter was serene.

Two sets of footprints in the sand

I saw in every scene.

And then I noticed in some parts

Of discontent and strife,

Just a single pair of footprints

In the worst times of my life.

"Lord, you said you'd walk by me

In good times and in bad.

Why then weren't you with me

When you knew my life was sad?"

"My dearest child," God whispered,

"When you suffered then, I knew;

The single pair of footprints

Were those times I carried you."


image src: http://www.successandhappiness.net/images/success_and_happiness.jpg

"It is so simple to be happy, but so difficult to be simple."

When I heard this line I couldn't help marvel at the depth of the meaning of this line. Often in our life we tend to ignore the simple and momentary happiness, the moments that give us immense joy. Probably we assume that happiness is something that might last a few months or years at a stretch. But the truth is that the secret of happiness is contained in the simple and unassuming things that our eyes often spot but our mind tends to ignore the call. It is difficult to locate and understand the import of things and search for the happiness within. We need to have a sensitive mind - a mind that is sensitive towards others, sensitive towards the ramblings from within, sensitive towards its own talk and last but not the least sensitive towards life.
Happiness is I suppose even subjective to some extent. Like the case is with optimists and pessimists. Some people might pick up the threads of happiness from a situation they confront in life while others might go on grumbling for the part not achieved or for the thing not attained. It is just like looking at the glass as half-filled or half-empty. The quest for happiness is not something full of complexities, rather the key to happiness is simplicity - in your approach, attitude towards life in general.
It is in your hands to make your life memorable or just the average kind.

'Ode to the West Wind' by Percy Bysshe Shelley

'Ode to the West Wind', published in 1820, is one of the most powerful odes in english literature. It is remarkable and inspiring in its excellent structure and imagery that is full of passion.
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The wing├ęd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odors plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear!

In the opening stanza of the poem the poet presents the West Wind as the preserver and destroyer. It drives away the dead leaves after making the trees shed their leaves. These leaves run before it like ghosts before a magician. It destroys whole crowds of pale, black and sick leaves. Secondly, it carries the seeds to dark pits in the Earth. These seeds lie hidden inside the pits all through the winter and then begin to grow in the spring season. The poet addresses the West Wind and asks it to listen to him.
Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aery surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Of vapors, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear!

In the second stanza the poet elaborates the work carried out by the West Wind in the sky. It drives away the clouds like dry leaves on the Earth. It calls the clouds the "angels of rain and lightning". The sky is overcast with clouds. They look like the bright hair lifted from the head of Maenad (semi-divine priestess of Bacchus). The night turnes into a large grave filled with vapours and it bursts into rain, lightening and thunder. The poet here calls the West Wind as the "dirge of the dying year".
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear!

In the third stanza, the poet describes the effect of the West Wind on the sea especially mentioning the Mediterranean Sea. The stream beside the Pumice (the island of volcanoes) seems to sing for the sea and the sea seems to fall asleep that is, stays inactive in summer season. The West Wind creates a stir in the sleeping sea. The sea had been dreaming of the palaces and towers that stood on the island before the volcanoes destroyed them. There is only blue-green moss and flowers that have now grown over the remains. The West Wind awakens the sea from its dream and breaks up its even surface and forms deep troughs. The sea plants shed their leaves on hearing the voice of the West Wind (when the wind moves over the sea, the sea-plants feel the pulse of the wind).
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

In the fourth stanza, the poet becomes lyrical. He makes a comparison between himself and the wind. He requests the West Wind to lift him as it lifts a cloud, a wave or leaf. The poet feels a lack of freedom for himself and therefore wishes to be free like a dead leaf, a cloud or a wave carried away by the wind. The poet wants to be a companion of the West Wind in its wanderings over the sky.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

In the fifth stanza of the poem the poet requests the West Wind to give him a part of its energy. He wants the West Wind to inspire him and pleads it to use him as a lyre and produce the music of his ideas. He wishes the rushing wind to carry and scatter his ideas all over the world. Then the magic of his poetry will transform the world. The West Wind should announce the prophetic ideas of the poet with the blow of a trumpet. His words will act as a hopeful message to the people. The message given by the poet is that suffering is followed by happiness just as winter is followed by Spring. The poet often sinks into despair but rises out of it with supreme energy and exhorts his fellow beings to fight for human freedom. The lines, "If Winter comes can Spring be far behind?" portrays the poet's untiring optimism.

'London' by William Blake

I wandered through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
A mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
In every cry of every man,
In every infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear:
How the chimney-sweeper's cry
Every blackening church appals,
And the hapless soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down palace-walls.
But most, through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage-hearse.

The poetry of William Blake is remarkable for its use of brilliant imagery and the force of its rhythm. Critics hail him as the greatest precursor of the Romantic revival in English literature.
‘London’, one of the finest lyrics composed by Blake, is simple and forceful. The poet not only presents a picture of London but appeals to the emotions. The poet is highly critical of the social evils prevalent in London of his times.
In this picture of London the infant, the chimney sweeper, the harlot and others have a tale to tell. The poem points to the misery of the depressed and distressed. Blake becomes the champion of the poor and miserable. He criticizes the cruelty of the church and the government.
The poem runs into four stanzas it gives us a realistic picture of life. In the first stanza the poet talks of his walking through the streets controlled by corporation, the streets where the Thames River flows. The poet sees signs of sufferings and sadness on the face of every person he meets. The repetition of the words “mark..marks…marks…” emphasizes the seriousness of the poem.
In the second stanza the poet talks about the rules, which are like chains that imprison the poor. The poet hears these chains made by man to deny freedom to his fellowmen. He hears them in each and every cry uttered by man and in the infant’s cry of fear.
In the third stanza the poet moves from general to particular. The poet points out to the miserable life led by the chimney sweeper. These small boys clean the chimneys which are full of soot. It is a dangerous job. Their cries appeal to the heart of the poet. Blake calls the church blackening. The church is expected to be helpful to the poor. But it is a friend of the rich and suppresses the poor. As a result the chimney sweepers suffer and cry.
In the last stanza the poet throws light on the social evil of prostitution. At midnight the curses and cries of young prostitutes are heard in the streets of London. Many young girls in London neither have money nor any source of livelihood. They turn into harlots – they themselves suffer and then in turn curse the tradition of marriage and married people. They do not want children to be born either to themselves or to others.
The poem is a masterpiece of development, ending with an explosive phrase – “the marriage hearse”. This phrase gives to the poem the most powerful closing line of any song by Blake.
Thus, the poem is a realization of the tragedy of human life itself. Blake displays indignation for the ruling class and sympathy for the poor. Blake had a tragic realization of the restrictions which imprison and kill the living spirit of man, which he shows in this poem.

Preface to the 'Lyrical Ballads' - Wordsworth

In the ‘Preface to the Lyrical Ballads’, William Wordsworth has revolted against the poetic principles of the eighteenth century saying that the life of a poor man can serve as a fit material for the poetry. The diction should be drawn from everyday speech and he wants to through a colouring of imagination over the simple material chosen for treatment in poetry. His poems like ‘Michael’, ‘The Solitary Reaper’, and ‘To a Highland Girl’ – to name only a few have been written keeping this in mind. Wordsworth has remarked that “all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. It takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility.”
If we consider this statement divorcing it from the part that precedes it, it would mean that a poet writes a poem as an immediate reaction to some experience. He expresses this through powerful feelings. A poem would be spontaneous if it comes directly from the pen of the poet without any pre-medication as a song comes from the throat of a bird. But Wordsworth qualifies his statement. He goes on to say that poems can be produced only by a man who has also thought long. Thus, it means that Wordsworth does not rule out contemplation or meditation. According to Wordsworth, our feelings are modified and directed by our thoughts which are indeed the representatives of our past feelings. He himself admits that he has “always looked steadily at his subject.” According to him, the poet is a man of great sensibility whose mentality has been already shaped.
The emotion is contemplated till tranquility gradually disappears and an emotion similar to the one already existed, is gradually produced in mind. At this time, successful poetic composition takes place:

For oft when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude.
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

Further he says that the process of writing poems has four stages, that is, recollection, contemplation, recrudescence and composition. This is one of the reasons that he has revised, ‘The Prelude’. Actually his emphasis on emotion is a reaction to the eighteenth century poetry, which was intellectual, devoid of any feelings and it had its appeal to the head.
Again, Wordsworth insists that the immediate object of the poet is to give pleasure. The poet’s mind is in a state of enjoyment and the poet’s description of passions ensures an over-balance of pleasure in the mind of the reader. The music of harmonious metrical language, the sense of difficulty, which the poet has received from the works of similar construction and perception of the received language – produce a complex feeling of delight.
The poet has unusual capacity to perceive and feel. To be a great poet, according to Wordsworth, he must have thought long deeply. Thus, he differs from his fellowmen only in degree and not in kind. The poet can feel, think, perceive and imagine. Besides these, he has the capacity to express himself in verse. In ‘Tradition and Individual Talent’ T.S. Eliot has criticized Wordsworth’s theory of poetry and has said “Poetry is neither emotion, nor recollection nor tranquility, nor spontaneity”. It is something like “concentration” or what is called “a deliberate process”.
Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far off things
And battles long ago.

Coming to his view on poetic style (diction), Wordsworth has adopted the language of common people to communicate his ideas. For this purpose, he has chosen the incidents and situations from humble and rustic life. He thinks that the people from rural area convey the feelings in a simple way because they are not under the influence of social vanity of city dwellers. Such language is permanent and philosophic. He criticized the poets who have separated themselves from them. According to him, his very purpose is to imitate and adopt the very language of men. He goes on to say that “there neither is nor can be any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.” The language of a large portion of every good poem differs from good prose except with reference to metre.
Criticizing this theory, Coleridge maintains that there are certain modes of expression, a construction, and an order of sentences which are in their fit and natural place in a serious prose composition but would be inappropriate to metrical poetry. He goes on to say that in the language of a serious poem, these may be an arrangement of words and sentences; and the use of figure of speech would be inappropriate. He says that when a poet writes in metre, he means to differ from prose. Poetry implies passion. Moreover, Coleridge does not accept Wordsworth’s comment on Gray’s sonnet.
When we come to wordsworth’s own poetic practice, he differs from his own theory of poetic style/diction. His poem like ‘Tintern Abbey’ and ‘Ode to the Intimations of Immortality’ are and illustration in po8int. regarding the poet’s use of metre, he says that metre has its own charm and it adds to the pleasure of poetry. Wordsworth fails to emphasize on the use of metre as metre is the integral part of poetry. Even in free v erse, here is some kind of rhythm though not recognizable.
Even Wordsworth expresses his view on “poets and poetry”. Shelley calls the poets as “unacknowledged legislators of the mankind”; whereas Carlyle refers to poet as a ‘prophet’ and a ‘hero’. According to Wordworth, the poet is “a rock of defence” for human nature. He binds together the vast empire of human society, which is spread over the whole earth and overall time. Wordsworth emphasizes his democratic view and the poet differs from other men not only in kind but only in degree.
In the end we can say that Wordsworth has revolted against the eighteenth century poetic theory and the poetic style, which was prevalent at that time. Besides this, his views on the nature of poetry, role of poet and the choice of subject matter have their own significance. He has tried to practice his views in his poetry and brought his poetry near to life. That is why he is called a literary revolutionary – his ‘Preface to the Lyrical Ballads’ shows his revolutionary ideas in the literary field. The Preface embodies the poetic manifesto of Romanticism.

Wordsworth - Coleridge Collaboration

Wordsworth and Coleridge were the founders of the Romantic School of Poetry. They collaborated to compose poetry in accordance with their definition of poetry and with ideas to enrich it, by adding strangeness to beauty. They were disgusted with the artificial poetic composition of the poets of the Neo-Classical School of poetry. They added emotion and imagination to the poetry, while the poetry of the Neo-Classical poets was dominated by reason and intellect.
According to Wordsworth, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings that takes its origins from emotions recollected in tranquility.” It is the poetry of these poets that brought back in to literature the element of Romanticism and Reality that was the mainstay of Elizabethan Poetry. This was the Romantic Revival of Poetry.
By the touch of imagination, Wordsworth has made the common look uncommon. He wrapped even the most ordinary things in celestial light as in ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’. He had rendered the solitary reaper girl, a common wench in the rural area, an extraordinary figure by giving certain features not found in others. She has a voice more melodious than that of a nightingale and even that reputed bird could not have charmed the travelers in the desert area as she could. The readers are left to wonder what was there in her song that made it so melodious.
“Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts”, says Shelley.

John Milton's 'On His Twenty-Third Birthday'

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth
That I to manhood am arriv'd so near;
And inward ripeness doth much less appear,
That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure ev'n
To that same lot, however mean or high,
Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heav'n:
All is, if I have grace to use it so
As ever in my great Task-Master's eye

This sonnet – ‘On His Twenty-Third Birthday’ was written by John Milton when he was still a student at Cambridge. The sonnet shows a sense of dedication to a great mission, and the spirit of resignation to the Will of God. His life’s great ‘task’ requires inward ripeness. This is the passion of a great soul for noble achievement.
The poet says that time like a clever thief has very quickly and quietly taken away twenty three years of his life. The poet feels that time is fleeting but he still does not have to his credit some work of achievement as a poet.
In the next stanza, the poet says that his outward appearance might appear deceptive and go against the truth. He says that he has almost reached his manhood and has a mature look outwardly but has too little maturity of mind. The inner maturity of mind is more important for a poet than the physical one. That is why the poet envies his friends whose spiritual and physical developments go hand in hand.
The poet seems to be reconciling himself to the situation. He says that the inner maturity, in less or more quantity will surely come to him one day may be sooner or later. This would happen by the will of God. He shows his belief in God who decides all things for the best. The poet decides that when he acquires his intellect fully, he would use it for the service of God by composing religious poetry. This shows that the poet has high seriousness of purpose.

George Carlin's View on Aging

I am presenting here an e-mail I received with the views expressed on aging by George Carlin, a Grammy-Award winning American actor, comedian and an author. It has been said that these are those expressed by Carlin but anyway, I hope you enjoy reading these well-worded lines. Every statement is worth reading:
Do you realize that the only time in our lives when we like to get old is when we're kids? If you're less than 10 years old, you’re so excited about aging that you think in fractions.

"How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You’re never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five! That's the key.

You get into your teens, now they can't hold you back. You jump to the next number, or even a few ahead.

"How old are you?" "I'm gonna be 16!" You could be 13, but hey, you're gonna be 16! And then the greatest day of your life . . . You become 21. Even the words sound like a ceremony. YOU BECOME 21. YESSSS!!!

But then you turn 30. Oooohh, what happened there? Makes you sound like bad milk! He TURNED; we had to throw him out. There's no fun now, you're Just a sour-dumpling. What's wrong? What's changed?

You BECOME 21, you TURN 30, then you're PUSHING 40. Whoa! Put on the brakes, it's all slipping away.

Before you know it, you REACH 50

And your dreams are gone.

But wait!!! You MAKE it to 60. You didn't think you would!

So you BECOME 21, TURN 30, PUSH 40, REACH 50 and MAKE it to 60. You've built up so much speed that you HIT 70! After that it's a day-by-day thing; you HIT Wednesday!

You get into your 80's and every day is a complete cycle; you HIT lunch; you TURN 4:30; you REACH bedtime. And it doesn't end there. Into the 90's, you start going backwards; "I Was JUST 92."

Then a strange thing happens. If you make it over 100, you become a little kid again. "I'm 100 and a half!"

May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!!

Freedom at Last!!!

The freedom after examinations is such that I could almost say, later on like Wordsworth 'bliss it is in this dawn to be alive'. You feel as if your breathing has come back to normal, your head is a lot lighter; the Damocles’ sword dangling over your head has just vanished. That’s because the tougher task is over, the one that remains is the declaration of results. But that is not something to be worried after one has put in his best efforts. As goes the English proverb, ‘Do your best and leave the rest’. So we have to make our best efforts and fruit of labour will land into our hands all by itself.
Thomas Paine has said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
After all, God helps those who help themselves. I received an SMS recently, that I would like to share with my readers:

Ques: Why do we have so many religious places of worship if God is everywhere?
Ans: Air is everywhere but we need a fan to feel it.

So the moral is, just try making some efforts and results will be for all to see. Not even a single effort goes waste and unaccounted for.

The Last Day

Once again it's December 31. It has been a ritual to have a seemingly long, improbable and a questionable list of resolutions fo...