I call this idle history the ‘Berry of the Yew;
Because there’s nothing sweeter than its husk of scarlet glue,
And nothing half so bitter as its black core bitten through.
I loved, saw hope, and said so; learn’d that Laura loved again:
Why speak of joy then suffer’d? My head throbs, and I would fain
Find words to lay the spectre starting now before my brain.
She loved me: all things told it; eye to eye, and palm to palm:
As the pause upon the ceasing of a thousand-voiced psalm
Was the mighty satisfaction and the full eternal calm.
On her face, when she was laughing, was the seriousness within;
Her sweetest smiles, (and sweeter did a lover never win,)
In passing, grew so absent that they made her fair cheek thin.
On her face, when she was speaking, thoughts unworded used to live;
So that when she whisper’d to me, ‘Better joy Earth cannot give,’
Her following silence added, ‘But Earth’s joy is fugitive.’
For there a nameless something, though suppress’d, still spread around;
The same was on her eyelids, if she look’d towards the ground;
In her laughing, singing, talking, still the same was in the sound;—
A sweet dissatisfaction, which at no time went away,
But shadow’d on her spirit, even at its brightest play,
That her mirth was like the sunshine in the closing of the day.
Let none ask joy the highest, save those who would have it end
There’s weight in earthly blessings; they are earthy, and they tend,
By predetermin’d impulse, at their highest, to descend.
I still for a happy season, in the present, saw the past,
Mistaking one for the other, feeling sure my hold was fast
On that of which the symbols vanish’d daily: but, at last,
As when we watch bright cloud-banks round about the low sun ranged,
We suddenly remember some rich glory gone or changed,
All at once I comprehended that her love was grown estranged.
From this time, spectral glimpses of a darker fear came on:
They came; but, since I scorn’d them, were no sooner come than gone.—
At times, some gap in sequence frees the spirit, and, anon,
We remember states of living ended ere we left the womb,
And see a vague aurora flashing to us from the tomb,
The dreamy light of new states, dash’d tremendously with gloom.
We tremble for an instant, and a single instant more
Brings absolute oblivion, and we pass on as before!
Ev’n so those dreadful glimpses came, and startled, and were o’er.
One morning, one bright morning, Wortley met me. He and I,
As we rode across the country, met a friend of his. His eye
Caught Wortley’s, who rode past him. ‘What,’ said he, ‘pass old friends by?
So I’ve heard your game is grounded! Why your life’s one long romance
After your last French fashion. But, ah! ha! should Herbert chance—’
‘Nay, Herbert’s here,’ said he, and introduced me, with a glance
Of easy smiles, ignoring this embarrassment; and then
This pass’d off, and soon after I went home, and took a pen,
And wrote the signs here written, with much more, and where, and when;
And, having read them over once or twice, sat down to think,
From time to time beneath them writing more, till, link by link,
The evidence against her was fulfill’d: I did not shrink,
But I read them all together, and I found it was no dream.
What I felt I can’t remember; an oblivion which the gleam
Of light which oft comes through it shews for blessedness extreme.
At last I moved, exclaiming, ‘I will not believe, until
‘I’ve spoken once with Laura.’ Thereon all my heart grew still
For doubt and faith are active, and decisions of the will.
I found my Love. She started: I suppose that I was pale.
We talk’d; but words on both sides, seem’d to sicken, flag, and fail.
Then I gave her what I’d written, watching whether she would quail.
In and out flew sultry blushes: so, when red reflections rise
From conflagrations, filling the alarm’d heart with surmise,
They lighten now, now darken, up and down the gloomy skies.
She finish’d once; but fearing to look from it, read it o’er
Ten times at least. Poor Laura, had those readings been ten score,
That refuge from confusion had confused thee more and more!
I said, ‘You’re ill, sit Laura,’ and she sat down and was meek.
‘Ah tears! not lost to God then. But pray Laura, do not speak
I understand you better by the moisture on your cheek.’
She shook with sobs, in silence. I yet checking passion’s sway,
Said only, ‘Farewell Laura!’ then got up, and strode away;
For I felt that she would burst my heart asunder should I stay.
Oh, ghastly corpse of Love so slain! it makes the world its hearse;
Or, as the sun extinct and dead, after the doomsday curse,
It rolls, an unseen danger, through the darken’d universe.
I struggled to forget this; but, forgetfulness too sweet!
It startled with its sweetness, thus involv’d its own defeat;
And, every time this happen’d, aching memory would repeat
The shock of that discovery: so at length I learn’d by heart
And never, save when sleeping, suffer’d thenceforth to depart,
The feeling of my sorrow: and in time this sooth’d the smart.
Yet even now not seldom, in my leisure, in the thick
Of other thoughts, unchallenged, words and looks come crowding quick—
They do while I am writing, till the sunshine makes me sick.
– Coventry Patmore
lifted from the earth,
higher than my arms reach,
you have mounted.
higher than my arms reach
you front us with great mass;
no flower ever opened
so staunch a white leaf,
no flower ever parted silver
from such rare silver;
O white pear,
thick on the branch,
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.
– Hilda Doolittle
I saw the first pear
as it fell–
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
the yellow swarm
was not more fleet than I,
(spare us from loveliness)
and I fell prostrate
you have flayed us
with your blossoms,
spare us the beauty
the air thundered their song,
and I alone was prostrate.
O rough hewn
god of the orchard,
I bring you an offering–
do you, alone unbeautiful,
son of the god,
spare us from loveliness:
these fallen hazel-nuts,
stripped late of their green sheaths,
dripping with wine,
pomegranates already broken,
and shrunken figs
and quinces untouched,
I bring you as offering.
– Hilda Doolittle
‘You ought to have seen what I saw on my way To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day: Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum In the cavernous pail of the first one to come! And all ripe together, not some of them green And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen! ‘ ‘I don’t know what part of the pasture you mean.’ ‘You know where they cut off the woods—let me see— It was two years ago—or no! —can it be No longer than that? —and the following fall The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall.’ ‘Why, there hasn’t been time for the bushes to grow. That’s always the way with the blueberries, though: There may not have been the ghost of a sign Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine, But get the pine out of the way, you may burn The pasture all over until not a fern Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick, And presto, they’re up all around you as thick And hard to explain as a conjuror’s trick.’ ‘It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit. I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot. And after all really they’re ebony skinned: The blue’s but a mist from the breath of the wind, A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand, And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned.’ ‘Does Mortenson know what he has, do you think? ‘ ‘He may and not care and so leave the chewink To gather them for him—you know what he is. He won’t make the fact that they’re rightfully his An excuse for keeping us other folk out.’ ‘I wonder you didn’t see Loren about.’ ‘The best of it was that I did. Do you know, I was just getting through what the field had to show And over the wall and into the road, When who should come by, with a democrat-load Of all the young chattering Lorens alive, But Loren, the fatherly, out for a drive.’ ‘He saw you, then? What did he do? Did he frown? ‘ ‘He just kept nodding his head up and down. You know how politely he always goes by. But he thought a big thought—I could tell by his eye— Which being expressed, might be this in effect: ‘I have left those there berries, I shrewdly suspect, To ripen too long. I am greatly to blame.” ‘He’s a thriftier person than some I could name.’ ‘He seems to be thrifty; and hasn’t he need, With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed? He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say, Like birds. They store a great many away. They eat them the year round, and those they don’t eat They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet.’ ‘Who cares what they say? It’s a nice way to live, Just taking what Nature is willing to give, Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow.’ ‘I wish you had seen his perpetual bow— And the air of the youngsters! Not one of them turned, And they looked so solemn-absurdly concerned.’ ‘I wish I knew half what the flock of them know Of where all the berries and other things grow, Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop. I met them one day and each had a flower Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower; Some strange kind—they told me it hadn’t a name.’ ‘I’ve told you how once not long after we came, I almost provoked poor Loren to mirth By going to him of all people on earth To ask if he knew any fruit to be had For the picking. The rascal, he said he’d be glad To tell if he knew. But the year had been bad. There had been some berries—but those were all gone. He didn’t say where they had been. He went on: ‘I’m sure—I’m sure’—as polite as could be. He spoke to his wife in the door, ‘Let me see, Mame, we don’t know any good berrying place? ‘ It was all he could do to keep a straight face. ‘If he thinks all the fruit that grows wild is for him, He’ll find he’s mistaken. See here, for a whim, We’ll pick in the Mortensons’ pasture this year. We’ll go in the morning, that is, if it’s clear, And the sun shines out warm: the vines must be wet. It’s so long since I picked I almost forget How we used to pick berries: we took one look round, Then sank out of sight like trolls underground, And saw nothing more of each other, or heard, Unless when you said I was keeping a bird Away from its nest, and I said it was you. ‘Well, one of us is.’ For complaining it flew Around and around us. And then for a while We picked, till I feared you had wandered a mile, And I thought I had lost you. I lifted a shout Too loud for the distance you were, it turned out, For when you made answer, your voice was as low As talking—you stood up beside me, you know.’ ‘We sha’n’t have the place to ourselves to enjoy— Not likely, when all the young Lorens deploy. They’ll be there to-morrow, or even to-night. They won’t be too friendly—they may be polite— To people they look on as having no right To pick where they’re picking. But we won’t complain. You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain, The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves, Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves.’
– Robert Frost
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1491 Henry VIII (founder of the Church of England)
1914 Franz Ferdinand (Archduke of Austria – assassination the final spark igniting WW1)
On This Day:
1820 Tomatoes are proven not to be poisonous
Have a good Tuesday, 28th June