Happy birthday, Charlotte Brontë!

Happy birthday, Charlotte, what a long time ago since you were born – two hundred and one years to be precise! I know you are quite elderly, but you will be pleased to know you are very popular today, and not just because you are on some exam syllabus somewhere, but because people love and read and reread your books!

You were born in Thornton, in West Yorkshire, the third daughter of your father, Patrick  and mother Maria. Your big and oldest sister, Maria must have thought you were an early second birthday present for her – she was born on St George’s Day, and also Shakespeare’s birthday, 23rd April. Your other sister was Elizabeth, born between you and Maria.

Your family moved to the vicarage in Haworth, and what a busy place it must have been, because a year after your arrival, your brother Branwell was born, then the next year Emily, and last of all, in 1820, baby Anne arrived. After all the happiness and excitement of the safe arrival of you six children, tragically, your mother died when you were only five years old.

Your life had many very sad, heart-breakingly sad times; you were bereaved by all your sisters and your brother, and you yourself died before your time when you were just thirty-eight, leaving your father to mourn his family.

However, on your birthday, let’s celebrate your life and be thankful for your wonderful legacy, your poems and of course your novels, Jane EyreShirleyVillette and The Professor.


Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall ?

Rapidly, merrily,
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly !

What though Death at times steps in
And calls our Best away ?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway ?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair !

Charlotte Brontë



Mark these rounded slopes

Poetry month… one of my all time favourite poets, whose  work I loved before i knew anything at all about him, W. H. Auden. Apparently this was written in Italy in 1948.

In Praise Of Limestone

If it form the one landscape that we, the inconstant ones,
Are consistently homesick for, this is chiefly
Because it dissolves in water. Mark these rounded slopes
With their surface fragrance of thyme and, beneath,
A secret system of caves and conduits; hear the springs
That spurt out everywhere with a chuckle,
Each filling a private pool for its fish and carving
Its own little ravine whose cliffs entertain
The butterfly and the lizard; examine this region
Of short distances and definite places:
What could be more like Mother or a fitter background
For her son, the flirtatious male who lounges
Against a rock in the sunlight, never doubting
That for all his faults he is loved; whose works are but
Extensions of his power to charm? From weathered outcrop
To hill-top temple, from appearing waters to
Conspicuous fountains, from a wild to a formal vineyard,
Are ingenious but short steps that a child’s wish
To receive more attention than his brothers, whether
By pleasing or teasing, can easily take.

Maybe you will be interested in this:


The seasons beautys

April so far has been a lovely month, and although there is still a chill in the air, it’s lovely to walk round with bare arms and bare legs and in sandals and shorts. In our little village, the bluebell field is more glorious than ever, I can’t remember seeing it so blue, so very blue, with just a dappling of cowslips and late primroses. My featured photo is from last year, by the way!

It’s poetry month, so more from John Clare’s Shepherd’s Calendar:

The seasons beautys all are thine
That visit with the year
Beautys that poets think divine
And all delight to hear
Thy latter days a pleasure brings
That gladden every heart
Pleasures that come like lovley things
But like to shades depart

Thy opend leaves and ripend buds
The cuckoo makes his choice
And shepherds in thy greening woods
First hears the cheering voice
And to thy ripend blooming bowers
The nightingale belongs
And singing to thy parting hours
Keeps night awake with songs

With thee the swallow dares to come
And primes his sutty wings
And urgd to seek their yearly home
Thy suns the Martin brings
And lovley month be leisure mine
Thy yearly mate to be
Tho may day scenes may brighter shine
Their birth belongs to thee

Absent in the spring,

Poetry month, and I came across some suggestions for the ten best poems about spring:

  1. Spring – Gerard Manley Hopkins
  2. A Cold Spring – Elizabeth Bishop
  3. The Waste Land –  T.S. Eliot
  4. Today – Billy Collins
  5. The Trees – Philip Larkin
  6. O were my love yon lilac fair – Robert Burns
  7. Sonnet 98 – William Shakespeare
  8. In Perpetual Spring – Amy GerstlerI
  9. Young Lambs – John Clare
  10. The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer

I’m not familiar with all of them, but here is one I am familiar with:


From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.


Slip, slide, perish, decay

Here is another reminder that April is poetry month. I came across some words by T.S.Eliot recently, and thought to myself that I must go back and reread him. I have two little stories connected with Eliot…

… when I had finished my degree and was wondering what to do next, I applied to a teacher training college. In the interview one of the questions they asked was would I teach eleven year-olds The Four Quartets; I answered yes, yes I would – but I wouldn’t teach all of the cycle of poems, I would choose particular parts, and I actually quoted the parts I would teach. (Good grief, I surprise myself!) I was offered a place at the college, but it wasn’t until two years later that I decided I maybe would do a teaching certificate, and then I went somewhere else to qualify!

… when I went to visit my friend in the USA in the 1980’s, I met Bill, who had been a friend of Eliot’s; we got into conversation about Eliot, and for a little while couldn’t work out who the man meant by ‘Tom’… yes, sometimes I do surprise myself!

Here are some lines from Burnt Norton V:

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

I fly above the wind

I’m continuing to enjoy poetry month, and looking back at my thoughts on Thomas Wyatt’s sonnets. here is what I wrote a while ago:

I Find No Peace

I find no peace, and all my war is done.
I fear and hope. I burn and freeze like ice.
I fly above the wind, yet can I not arise;
And nought I have, and all the world I season.
That loseth nor locketh holdeth me in prison
And holdeth me not–yet can I scape no wise–
Nor letteth me live nor die at my device,
And yet of death it giveth me occasion.
Without eyen I see, and without tongue I plain.
I desire to perish, and yet I ask health.
I love another, and thus I hate myself.
I feed me in sorrow and laugh in all my pain;
Likewise displeaseth me both life and death,
And my delight is causer of this strife.

And all my war is done

I’m revisiting what I wrote about my favourite poet, Sir Thomas Wyatt; he was born in 1503 and crammed a huge amount of living into his thirty-nine years. He was very tall for a man of the time, well over six-foot, and as you can see from the picture below, stunningly handsome. As well as being a poet, a poet who changed English poetry fundamentally, but he was a courtier to Henry VIII and an ambassador to Rome. He may have had an affair with Ann Boleyn, may have, and was imprisoned on suspicion. He did not die there, and was released within a year. he died in 1542 of some illness.

This is what I wrote previously:

I am really enjoying discovering the sonnets of Sir Thomas Wyatt. I was first introduced to him by an inspirational lecturer I had when I was doing my degree, Anthony Easthope. He read several of Wyatt’s works, and the way he explained them and brought them alive, without spoiling the poetry of the verse is as vivid now as all those years ago when we sat in the smoky rooms at college. yes, we could smoke inside then, even in lectures we were all puffing away… how dreadful we must have smelled!

We only read a few poems by Thomas Wyatt, and recently I have been exploring, and loving more of his work. The meanings behind them are as true as when he wrote them, nothing new under the sun!

I find no peace, and all my war is done

I find no peace, and all my war is done;
I fear, and hope; I burn, and freeze like ice;
I fly above the wind, yet can I not arise;
And nought I have, and all the world I seize on;
That locketh nor loseth holdeth me in prison,
And holdeth me not, yet can I ‘scape nowise:
Nor letteth me live, nor die at my devise,
And yet of death it giveth me occasion.
Without eyen I see, and without tongue I ‘plain;
I desire to perish, and yet I ask health;
I love another, and thus I hate myself;
I feed me in sorrow, and laugh in all my pain.
Likewise displeaseth me both death and life,
And my delight is causer of this strife