Thursday, February 3, 2011

T.H. White: Pity and Reverence #PoetryFriday

"Yet he wanted not to be lonely."
Sometimes I lose poems--especially those floating around on little scraps of paper. I recently found this one. It was written during a winter visit to Wild Horse Island a few years less than 40 years ago.

     On my knees, I watched the unsteady advance of ice
     between the stones; somewhere, further out, between
     the fog and the lake were two geese. I could have
     walked over the water and touched them; it was so solid
     The strange and serious love of the geese.

The moment in the poem is embedded in terrible loneliness and The Once and Future King, but I am the only reader who would ever know.

It has become a custom of late, to write letters to our younger selves. I haven't done, because I really don't know where to begin with that girl. But I think it was rather generous of her to write these letters that she thought were poems.

This is part of a poem that T.H. White wrote to his other, younger self. It's extraordinary, his faith in the child he was.

 TO MY SELF,
   FORTY YEARS AGO

Little child
Who was me once,
My pity on you —
And reverence.
. . .
For oh! we were all brimming once
With the sun-sparkled dew.
One heart could have loved this hulk —
The ignorant heart of you.

You can find the poem entire here. 
And you might find this abstract of a paper by Marie Nelson astonishing. I did.  

"One of T.H. White's answers to the question of how to deal with the pain of his own early life (one particularly vivid memory cited by his biographer, Sylvia Townsend Warner, involves a vision of his father and mother standing on either side of his crib while his father threatens to shoot him in the head, while another whole set of memories relates to his difficult public school experience) seems to have come from a recognition that giving that pain form through skillful use of words could assert a measure of control. One of his strategies seems to have been to use words in ways partly determined by conscious, or unconscious, adherence to convention. By means of this strategy, White developed an imaginative capability that could transcend the limitations of human experience and learned to go beyond the limitations of present human experience, to look deep into the past, or in other words, as Merlyn put it, 'to learn something.'"


Today the host of Poetry Friday is    
Dori Reads
     Please visit there for more poetry.
     As for me, I feel some guilt about 
     neglecting the poets as I've done,
     and so beg their forgiveness. 
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