Poetry Month – “Splendour In The Grass”

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William Wordsworth. 1770–1850

Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

THERE was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,

To me did seem

Apparell’d in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;—

Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The rainbow comes and goes,

And lovely is the rose;

The moon doth with delight

Look round her when the heavens are bare;

Waters on a starry night

Are beautiful and fair;

The sunshine is a glorious birth;

But yet I know, where’er I go,

That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,

And while the young lambs bound

As to the tabor’s sound,

To me alone there came a thought of grief:

A timely utterance gave that thought relief,

And I again am strong:

The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;

No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;

I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,

The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,

And all the earth is gay;

Land and sea

Give themselves up to jollity,

And with the heart of May

Doth every beast keep holiday;—

Thou Child of Joy,

Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy

Shepherd-boy!

Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call

Ye to each other make; I see

The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;

My heart is at your festival,

My head hath its coronal,

The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.

O evil day! if I were sullen

While Earth herself is adorning,

This sweet May-morning,

And the children are culling

On every side,

In a thousand valleys far and wide,

Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,

And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:—

I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!

—But there’s a tree, of many, one,

A single field which I have look’d upon,

Both of them speak of something that is gone:

The pansy at my feet

Doth the same tale repeat:

Whither is fled the visionary gleam?

Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,

And by the vision splendid

Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;

Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,

And, even with something of a mother’s mind,

And no unworthy aim,

The homely nurse doth all she can

To make her foster-child, her Inmate Man,

Forget the glories he hath known,

And that imperial palace whence he came.

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,

A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!

See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,

Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,

With light upon him from his father’s eyes!

See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,

Some fragment from his dream of human life,

Shaped by himself with newly-learnèd art;

A wedding or a festival,

A mourning or a funeral;

And this hath now his heart,

And unto this he frames his song:

Then will he fit his tongue

To dialogues of business, love, or strife;

But it will not be long

Ere this be thrown aside,

And with new joy and pride

The little actor cons another part;

Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’

With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,

That Life brings with her in her equipage;

As if his whole vocation

Were endless imitation.

Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie

Thy soul’s immensity;

Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep

Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,

That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,

Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,—

Mighty prophet! Seer blest!

On whom those truths do rest,

Which we are toiling all our lives to find,

In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;

Thou, over whom thy Immortality

Broods like the Day, a master o’er a slave,

A presence which is not to be put by;

To whom the grave

Is but a lonely bed without the sense or sight

Of day or the warm light,

A place of thought where we in waiting lie;

Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might

Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,

Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke

The years to bring the inevitable yoke,

Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?

Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,

And custom lie upon thee with a weight,

Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!

O joy! that in our embers

Is something that doth live,

That nature yet remembers

What was so fugitive!

The thought of our past years in me doth breed

Perpetual benediction: not indeed

For that which is most worthy to be blest—

Delight and liberty, the simple creed

Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,

With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—

Not for these I raise

The song of thanks and praise;

But for those obstinate questionings

Of sense and outward things,

Fallings from us, vanishings;

Blank misgivings of a Creature

Moving about in worlds not realized,

High instincts before which our mortal Nature

Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:

But for those first affections,

Those shadowy recollections,

Which, be they what they may,

Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,

Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;

Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make

Our noisy years seem moments in the being

Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,

To perish never:

Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,

Nor Man nor Boy,

Nor all that is at enmity with joy,

Can utterly abolish or destroy!

Hence in a season of calm weather

Though inland far we be,

Our souls have sight of that immortal sea

Which brought us hither,

Can in a moment travel thither,

And see the children sport upon the shore,

And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!

And let the young lambs bound

As to the tabor’s sound!

We in thought will join your throng,

Ye that pipe and ye that play,

Ye that through your hearts to-day

Feel the gladness of the May!

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;

In the primal sympathy

Which having been must ever be;

In the soothing thoughts that spring

Out of human suffering;

In the faith that looks through death,

In years that bring the philosophic mind.

And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,

Forebode not any severing of our loves!

Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;

I only have relinquish’d one delight

To live beneath your more habitual sway.

I love the brooks which down their channels fret,

Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;

The innocent brightness of a new-born Day

Is lovely yet;

The clouds that gather round the setting sun

Do take a sober colouring from an eye

That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;

Another race hath been, and other palms are won.

Thanks to the human heart by which we live,

Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,

To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Girl History Month – Deborah The Matriarch

Deborah the Matriarch

Deborah the Matriarch

Deborah was a prophetess, the fourth Judge of pre-monarchic Israel, and a famous military leader. She led the Israelites to victory over the Canaanites and brought forty years of peace to the land.

She is known as Deborah the Prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Deborah the Matriarch, and Deborah the Mother of Israel.

dore deborah

The Book of Judges chapter 5 tells the story of Deborah’s victory in poetic form. This passage  is called The Song of Deborah and is set forth below.  It is one of the earliest samples of Hebrew poetry and is unique in its portrayal of a woman military leader. It is thought to have been written by Deborah herself.

Deborah the Prophetess

Deborah the Prophetess

Not much is known about Deborah’s personal life. She was probably born in central Israel to the tribe of Ephraim and may have lived from 1200 B.C. to 1124 B.C.  This would would have made her about 36 years old at the time of her victory over the Canaanites, and 75 at the time of her death.

Icon of Deborah the Judge

Icon of Deborah the Judge

Deborah is the only woman judge mentioned in the Bible.  She rendered her judgments beneath a palm tree between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel in the land of Ephraim. (Judges 4:5)

Judging Under the Palm Tree

Judging Under the Palm Tree

In Hebrew, Deborah’s name, דְּבוֹרָה, translates as ” the bee”.

Deborah and the Bees

Deborah and the Bees

The Deborah number, a dimensionless number used to characterize the fluidity of materials, is named after her. It was originally proposed by Markus Reiner, a professor at Technion in Israel, who was inspired by the Song of Deborah:  “The mountains flowed before the Lord.”  The Deborah number is based on the premise that given enough time even the hardest material, like mountains, will flow.

Deborah is also a Saint. Her feast day is November 1st, All Saints Day.

Icon of St. Deborah

Icon of St. Deborah

Song of Deborah

Of chiefs who took the lead in Israel, of noble deeds by the people who bless the Lord,
Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes!
I to the Lord will sing my song,
my hymn to the Lord, the God of Israel.
O Lord, when you went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
The earth quaked and the heavens were shaken,
while the clouds sent down showers.
Mountains trembled
in the presence of the Lord, the One of Sinai,
in the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.
In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
in the days of slavery caravans ceased:
Those who traveled the roads
went by roundabout paths.
Gone was freedom beyond the walls,
gone indeed from Israel.
When I, Deborah, rose,
when I rose, a mother in Israel,
New gods were their choice;
then the war was at their gates.
Not a shield could be seen,
nor a lance, among forty thousand in Israel!
My heart is with the leaders of Israel,
nobles of the people who bless the Lord;
They who ride on white asses,
seated on saddlecloths as they go their way;
Sing of them to the strains of the harpers at the wells,
where men recount the just deeds of the Lord,
his just deeds that brought freedom to Israel.
Awake, awake, Deborah!
awake, awake, strike up a song.
Strength! arise, Barak,
make despoilers your spoil, son of Abinoam.
Then down came the fugitives with the mighty,
the people of the Lord came down for me as warriors.
From Ephraim, princes were in the valley;
behind you was Benjamin, among your troops.

From Machir came down commanders,
from Zebulun wielders of the marshal’s staff.
With Deborah were the princes of Issachar;
Barak, too, was in the valley, his course unchecked.
Among the clans of Reuben
great were the searchings of heart.
Why do you stay beside your hearths
listening to the lowing of the herds?
Among the clans of Reuben
great were the searchings of heart!
Gilead, beyond the Jordan, rests;
why does Dan spend his time in ships?
Asher, who dwells along the shore,
is resting in his coves.
Zebulun is the people defying death;
Naphtali, too, on the open heights!
The kings came and fought;
then they fought, those kings of Canaan,
At Taanach by the waters of Megiddo;
no silver booty did they take.
From the heavens the stars, too, fought;
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
The Wadi Kishon swept them away;
a wadi…, the Kishon.
Then the hoofs of the horses pounded,
with the dashing, dashing of his steeds.
“Curse Meroz,” says the Lord,
“hurl a curse at its inhabitants!
For they came not to my help,
as warriors to the help of the Lord.”

Blessed among women be Jael,
blessed among tent-dwelling women.
He asked for water, she gave him milk;
in a princely bowl she offered curds.
With her left hand she reached for the peg,
with her right, for the workman’s mallet.
She hammered Sisera, crushed his head;
she smashed, stove in his temple.
At her feet he sank down, fell, lay still;
down at her feet he sank and fell;
where he sank down, there he fell, slain.
From the window peered down and wailed
the mother of Sisera, from the lattice:
“Why is his chariot so long in coming?
why are the hoofbeats of his chariots delayed?”
The wisest of her princesses answers her,
and she, too, keeps answering herself:
“They must be dividing the spoil they took:
there must be a damsel or two for each man,
Spoils of dyed cloth as Sisera’s spoil,
an ornate shawl or two for me in the spoil.”
May all your enemies perish thus, O Lord!
but your friends be as the sun rising in its might!
And the land was at rest for forty years.

Apples And Honey On Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown tomorrow, September 16.  Like most Jewish holidays, there are food customs associated with it. One of the most popular and well-known food customs on Rosh Hashanah has to do with dipping apple slices into honey. This sweet combination stems from an age-old Jewish tradition of eating sweet foods to express our hope for a sweet new year.

In addition to symbolizing our hopes for a sweet new year, according to Jewish mysticism the apple represents the Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God). During Rosh Hashanah some Jews believe the Shekhinah is watching us and evaluating our behavior during the past year. Eating honey with apples represents our hope that the Shekhinah will judge us kindly and look down on us with sweetness.

There is also symbolism implicit in the apple. Solomon writes, referring to the romance between G-d and the Jewish people, (Song of Songs 8:5), “Beneath the apple tree I aroused you[r love].” On Rosh Hashanah we try to, once again, remind G-d of our mutual love.

According to Kabbalah,the apple is an allusion to the mystical level of “chakal tapuchin kadishin” (the Holy Apple Field).

When Jacob came to receive his father, Isaac’s, blessings, he had the scent of an apple orchard upon his clothing. This incident took place on Rosh Hashanah.

Also, when you cut an apple in half horizontally you will see ten little holes and a five pointed star. Ten is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter Yod, and five is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter Hey. Together they spell out G-d’s name. Those two letters are also an acronym for the words “Hand of G-d”. This reminds us that if we look closely and pay attention we will discover G-d’s hand in our life and the world around us.

According to the book of Exodus, when the Hebrews wandered the desert for 40 years they ate “manna,” which was like “honey wafers.” Israel itself, of course, is a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

The Blessing For Apple and Honey

Though apple and honey can be eaten throughout the holidays, they are almost always eaten together on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Jews dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet New Year. There are three steps to this ritual:

Say the first part of the prayer, which is a blessing thanking God for the apples: Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the tree. (Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, Borai p’ree ha’aitz.)

Take a bite of the apple slices dipped in honey.

Now say the second part of the prayer, which asks God to renew us during the New Year: May it be Your will, Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You renew for us a good and sweet year. (Y’hee ratzon mee-l’fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v’elohey avoteynu sh’tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um’tuqah.)

Jerusalem

I love both the hymn and William Blake’s lyrics…

Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land