Il Dolce Far Niente

‘Il Dolce Far Niente’ translates as ‘Sweet Idleness’, ‘The sweetness of doing nothing’, or perhaps the feeling that doing nothing can be a positive rather than a negative ‘activity’.  The concept is Italian and appears to derive its meaning from the languor of life in those countries which enjoy a Mediterranean climate.

In view of the demands made upon us all in our modern world of hectic activity, where, for many, Facebook and Twitter command more attention than making face-to-face conversation, it seems appropriate for us all on occasion to take time out, to halt life’s frantic pace, to pause every now and again to enjoy our surroundings and our fellow human beings.

The concept matches well with the thoughts of W.H.Davies expressed in his famous poem   ‘Leisure’  (q.v.).   The idea has also long been a favourite subject of both poets and pictorial artists, particularly during the 19th Century.

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‘Dolce Far Niente’ by John Singer Sargent – 1907 (Brooklyn Museum, New York)

IL DOLCE FAR NIENTE

how mellow is the stillness
of a moment’s rest
the tranquility of a pause
to catch one’s breath

 merely to sit
and let life’s gladness in
to squander time
bask in the quietude
embrace serenity
and savour solitude

such dulcet times
are gifted to us
as blessings
to counter
life’s feverish pace
how pleasant to give in
let the world go 
without a fight
relax and let time pass
submit to lethargy
such rest is
cathartic
curative

in the moment
seek stillness
let life lapse
take time out from caring
to sit and look
relax and watch
unbend
allow the strain
to become becalmed

be still
in the silence of the day
give thoughts
the space to bloom
and eyes the time
to gaze

empower the present
and let it be enjoyed
for what it is
not for what will follow
for in the present
the past is severed
and be sure
the future
will have its day

look to the now
the sun, the moon
the stars, the sea
the wind, the rain
the warmth, the chill
ponder upon them
and upon life

or ponder not
just accept them
be glad
and be still

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 ‘Dolce Far Niente’ by John William Waterhouse – … 1880  (Kirkcaldy Galleries)

ETHEREE

ETHEREE

Today I am ‘having a go’ at the Etheree poetic form.  It is somewhat similar to the Cinquain and the Rictameter, both of which I have tackled previously.   The Etheree is a ten line form ascending in syllable count for ten unrhymed lines, and it should focus on a single idea or subject.    Thus the syllable count is in the form:  1.2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 
This can be altered to give a Reverse Etheree:  10.9.8.7.6.5.4.3.2.1.

The form is attributed to an American poet, Etheree Taylor Armstrong of Arkansas (1918 – 1994).  Little seems to be known of her life except the poetic form she devised.

Notes adapted from ‘The Poets’ Garret’ et al.  

I have attempted both forms below – on the subjects of ‘Idleness’  and  ‘Life’ …

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IDLENESS – A Reverse Etheree

Today I vow to spend in idleness,
to do no more than listen keenly,
allow the world to speak to me,
while I, in turn, consider
which way my life now  leads,
trying to find peace
within my mind
that will see
my life
through.

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LIFE – A Regular Etheree

Life,
in truth,
defeats me.
Midst storm and stress
I struggle to keep
that equilibrium
which holds me in its stillness,
waiting with some trepidation
for that final push to reach the stars
where my disquietude will cease to be.

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Verses and sketch by:  Roland (WHB)

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Larkin – ‘Love Songs In Age’

(Poem No.36 of my favourite short poems)

Chant d'Amour

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones … ‘Chant d’Amour’ Oil on canvas – 1868-87

LOVE SONGS IN AGE

She kept her songs, they kept so little space,
      The covers pleased her:
One bleached from lying in a sunny place,
One marked in circles by a vase of water,
One mended, when a tidy fit had seized her,
       And coloured, by her daughter –
So they had waited, till, in widowhood
She found them, looking for something else, and stood 

Relearning how each frank submissive chord
      Had ushered in
Word after sprawling hyphenated word,
And the unfailing sense of being young
Spread out like a spring-woken tree, wherein
      That hidden freshness sung,
That certainty of time laid up in store
As when she played them first. But, even more,

The glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love,
      Broke out, to show
Its bright incipience sailing above,
Still promising to solve, and satisfy,
And set unchangeably in order. So
      To pile them back, to cry,
Was hard, without lamely admitting how
It had not done so then, and could not now.

By Philip Larkin

Re-printed from:  ‘Everyman’s Poetry’

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A Sign Too Far . . . TAKE 2

I have previously (See my blog entry of  February 16th 2017, …   ‘A Sign Too Far’  ) dealt with the modern day scourge which the multitude of signs and advertisements are to the pedestrian and to side-walks and pavements.  At that time I used my own photograph which I use again below to illustrate this different take on the same subject . . .

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A SIGN TOO FAR   . . .  TAKE 2

So often have I been
attacked by signs
Throughout the day
Plethora
Of signals
Face me as I walk
Innocuous one by one
But fearsome in phalanx
Threatening my advance
Discouraging my progress
Terrorising travel
Note to myself –
Beware
Be wary

A sign
Is a sign
Is a sign
I need to tell you that
I need to let you know
To say it loud and clear
Please notice me
Notice my notice
If I say it often enough
You are bound to notice
Allow me to grab
Your attention
And your money
Let me
tell you about myself
I’m not shy
Passer by
I’ll tell you why
Just shout it out
And cry
To the sky
Saying by the by
Please notice me
Please don’t go
You need to know
I’ve much to say
In every way
All through the day

Too much
Too far
I say
Just clear the way
And let me pass
Your sinister intent
Not heaven sent
You need me more
Than I need you
So please take notice
I refuse
To take notice
Of your notice.

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Photographs … WHB – 2017

 

We Mourn With MANCHESTER

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William Morris/Burne-Jones …  ‘The Angel Of Sorrow’ – Stained Glass, Christchurch, Oxford

WE MOURN WITH MANCHESTER

So sad the sound
Of wailing
Searching

voices
Blooded by fate
Taut and tense
Exuding fear
Dread and anguish
In frantic response to
Vile and cowardly acts of
The deranged
Our response can only be
Love for life
For those distressed
And retribution
In whatever hereafter
For the perpetrators
Their hatred

Forever condemned

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No Blue Plaque

NO BLUE PLAQUE

No blue plaque here
but
in that house
in that room
I was conceived.
In the same house
in the same room
then I was born.

First child
Only child
Undistinguished house

undistinguished room
undistinguished birth.
But blessed with
the Conquering
Blood and Fire
General’s name.

It had to be that way.
Aren’t all births
distinguished only by their
unglamorous spectacle?
Not something I asked for
nor desired.

No regrets,
but there were
Consequences.
Oh, yes.
Eighty years
of consequences.
My history
My responsibility
My river’s ride
through childhood rapids
to maturity’s turmoil
and turbulence.
Becalmed now
in dispiriting dotage
its stillnesses
its infirmity and nostalgia.

What follows
eventually
as I merge
with the looming ocean

waiting
to receive me?
Memories fade for me
yet I know
some continuity remains
where these same images
 have been handed on

to those loved ones
who will remember.

But now
in moments of tranquility
my responsibility
for my past
presses hard,
until those times when
 my love surges
to outweigh my guilt,
and again
for good or ill
my scarred soul

returns to its past
and wonders.

… and time treads on
as I stare at the window,
blinds shielding its secrets
Now
just as they did then
So long ago.

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All 3 photographs … WHB – Yorkshire (2016) and Sussex (2009), UK

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HEARTBEATS

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‘Heartbeats’ … WHB – Pen & Wash: April 2017

HEARTBEATS

You stole a share of my heartbeats
That first time we walked on the hills.
I had thought that love would not happen,
I was done with excitement and thrills.

But you made me aware of my heartbeats,
Which I hardly had noticed before;
You brought to me new hope and passion,
A rebirth I could not ignore

So I now take heed of my heartbeats,
They race whenever you’re near,
They are a true measure of closeness,
They yearn for you till you appear.

Then in the fullness of time,
When my heart has run its full course,
I’ll know I’ve left you a portion of me,
My heartbeats’ still warm vital force.

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Easter, Love & Cricket

Three RICTAMETERS

A Rictameter is a fixed-syllabic poetry form, similar to the Haiku and the Cinquain   ( Click here See my own cinquain in an earlier blog.  ).  The rictameter starts with a two-syllable word as the first line.  Then the line length in syllables is consecutively increased by two, i.e. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10.  Then down again, from 8, 6, 4, 2.   The final of the 9 lines is required to be the same two syllable word as in the opening line.

The format was created in the early 1990s by two cousins, Jason Wilkins and Richard Lunsford, for a poetry contest that was held as a weekly practice of their self-invented order, ‘The Brotherhood of the Amarantos Mystery’, which was apparently inspired by the Robin Williams film ‘Dead Poet’s Society’.

I have attempted three versions of this format below . . .


cross

EASTER

Absolve
The human race
Release them from their sins
Forgive them their indiscretions
Instead torment me on that cruel cross
That I might thus remind them all
That God our father loves
And all our sins
Absolves.

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loveis2

LOVE

Love hurts
It burns the soul
From lust to jealousy
It does not let up from that pain
So put alongside with its times of bliss
The memories of anguished dread
When all seemed to be dead
All reason says
Love hurts.

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straight bat

CRICKET

Cricket
Keep a straight bat
All that they throw at you
Face up to it with fortitude
Don’t be average be an all-rounder
And when it’s time to pull up stumps
Try to carry your bat
Don’t declare, that’s
Cricket.

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The Patchwork Pachyderm

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‘The Patchwork Pachyderm’ … Photoshopped Collage:  WHB – 2017

Shiang

The PATCHWORK PACHYDERM

 Six blind old men went to a zoo
Which blind men do not often do.

They wished to find out more about
Their unknown world I have no doubt.

It was not easy so to do,
Especially at our London zoo.

They heard a creature give a bellow,
The trumpet call was hardly mellow.

They followed the sound until they came
To where were housed all the big game.

Determined to go where blind men go
They encountered a creature they did not know.

They ventured into the elephant’s lair,
Sensing this to be just where

They could discover just what it is
Makes this creature a walking quiz.

  *   *   *

 Tim fell against its side so tall,
Crying “This is a mighty wall”.

Jim touched its Tusk and gave a cry,
“It is a Spear I’ll not deny”.

Lim felt its trunk and began to quake,
“I’m pretty sure it is a snake”.

Dim touched a leg saying with glee,
“Well, this can only be a tree”.

Kim then reached up and touched an ear,
“This is a fan it is quite clear”.

Yim lifted the tail saying in hope,
“I’m almost sure this is a rope”.

*

They thought, each one, that they’d found out
Just what Jumbo was all about.

So I ask you please, whate’er you see,
You don’t need a first-class degree.

Just never get your logic mangled,
Make sure your view is multi-angled.

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BlindMonksExamineAnElephant

The story of the SIX BLIND MEN has its possible origins in India, but the same basic story has appeared with variations in many different cultures.  I first came across it in the Chinese version.  The story in essence tells of blind men who, never having been able to see an elephant, decided to use their sense of touch to discover what sort of a creature it was.  On doing so, each one pronounced on the basis of their own, very limited,view.  Because each man touched only one part of the elephant, and based their judgement on what they had found, each came up with a different version of what they considered the creature to be like. 

Shiang

(‘Shiang’ or ‘Xiang’ … the Chinese pictogram for ‘elephant’)

So,  In turn, each blind man created his own version of reality from that limited experience and perspective. In philosophy departments throughout the world, the Blind Men and the Elephant has become the exemplar of moral relativism and religious tolerance.

So this ancient parable is used today as a warning for people that promote absolute truth or exclusive religious claims. It demonstrates that our sensory perceptions and life experiences can, if we are not careful, lead to a very limited understanding and interpretation of the nature of something or someone else.  With only a limited understanding of truth we can only receive a constrained version of reality.

There are several versions in poetic form of this story, to which I have added my own above, with the title ‘The Patchwork Pachyderm’ !

elephant

Carved wooden elephant … Photo – WHB – 2017

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Acquainted with the night

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‘Acquainted With The Night’ … Pen and Wash – WHB . 2017

Acquainted with the night

I have been acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I  have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been acquainted with the night.

 

                        Robert Frost

(Poem No.30 of my Favourite short poems )

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