Sunday, October 9, 2016

Poems I Journey With 23

Who amongst us does not at times wish to return to the more innocent and carefree world of childhood as we remember it, if only to escape the monotony of our daily lives or indeed its many troubles? In other words, nostalgia is no bad thing once it does not become an obsession that prevents us from dealing with problems that must be dealt with in our lives. One dictionary definition of nostalgia describes it as a wistful desire to return in thought or in feeling to a former time in one’s life, and in this sense it is mostly sentimental in thrust.  But we are allowed to be nostalgic and sentimental sometimes surely?

As I sit here writing these thoughts, I am travelling back precisely forty-seven years to the autumn days of 1969 when I was in fourth class primary school. We had a wonderful teacher called Seán Ó Sé (John O’Shea) who was an erudite teacher in most subjects, but who loved poetry and gave all of us an appreciation for its form, metre, rhythm and rhyme. I remember well his beating out the rhythm of any poem, whether in Irish or English, with his “bata mór” or “big stick” which he actually rarely used as he was essentially a kind and caring teacher. He would beat his “bata mór” on his old wooden desk.

Portrait of Thomas Hood
After this brief introduction, let me offer the reader a poem called “I remember, I remember” from the pen of Thomas Hood. For me this poem brings me back into that old classroom when I was just a sensitive little boy of eleven years of age. So, I am unapologetically indulging in nostalgia and sentimentality now, and sure why not!  Thomas Hood(1799 – 1845) was an English poet, author and humourist, best known for poems such as "The Bridge of Sighs" and "The Song of the Shirt". Hood wrote regularly for The London Magazine, the Athenaeum, and Punch. He later published a magazine largely consisting of his own works. Hood, never robust, lapsed into invalidism by the age of 41 and died at the age of 45. Other poets that were his contemporaries were the likes of Wordsworth and Coleridge and the many other lesser Romantic poets. Obviously Hood would not have been as famous, yet his work was indeed very popular. The poem “I remember, I remember” needs little or no commentary. It is enough to read it and reflect upon it meditatively and if it is sentimental superficially, I believe that it contains a certain deeper truth worth hanging on to. Enjoy, even for the briefest of moments. 

I Remember, I Remember

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon
Nor brought too long a day;
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away.

I remember, I remember
The roses red and white,
The violets and the lily cups--
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then
That is so heavy now,
The summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow.

I remember, I remember
The fir-trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from Heaven
Than when I was a boy. 

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