developments or information to report on my medical problem. I had to cancel my appointment with the gastro-enterologist at the last minute and reschedule it for tomorrow. Since then I have been spending the day lying around relaxing or trying to relax.
* * *
It’s not easy to relax. The simplest things agitate me. This evening I have on my bed two undemanding novels, Mary Renault’s The Bull From the Sea
and Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables
, both of which were favorites in my teens and which I thought would be distracting and restful to read in my present state. But reading more than a couple of pages agitates my mind and feelings, and so agitates my insides, and makes my symptoms and discomforts worse. The only thing that works for me is lying very quietly on my back, eyes closed, head raised on pillows, and so letting my gut quiet down, and then there is an end of active suffering for a while.
The only literary experience compatible with relaxation is reciting the poetry of Yeats, of which I know a great deal by heart. Why Yeats has this effect on me I don’t know, but I think it is because his poems are so beautifully formed and composed that there is a satisfaction and peacefulness in reciting them.
The Bible—not possible. Far too intense. All I can handle of a religious nature are short, simple prayers, like the Hail Mary.
* * *
An example of the poetry that quiets me is Yeats’s “The Wild Swans at Coole.” Coole is Coole Park in Gort, the estate of Lady Augusta Gregory, Yeats’s friend, colleague, and benefactor, where he lived much of the time working before he married and established his own home in an old Norman tower a few miles away. The house is long since burned down, but the grounds are now a park, and you can walk around it stand at the lake which is the subject of this poem.
THE WILD SWANS AT COOLE
- end of initial entry -
THE TREES are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.
The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?
Reading a little further in Les Misérables, I realize that it is obviously not a book one picks up in order to find calm and relaxation. It is all extreme emotions, light and dark, good and evil, the fate of the soul trembling on every sentence.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 03, 2013 05:34 PM | Send