Friday, May 21, 2010

Song (Christina Rossetti)

I am posting this along with "Bright Star," by Keats, because both poems reflect some of my own thoughts about mortality and the impermanence of life. I know that after I am gone, I will be completely forgotten within a few years; and while this used to trouble me, it does so no longer. I hope I will have done something constructive and noble with my life, but the world will not stop for me, nor would I wish it to do so.

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Bright Star (Keats)

I have had a very unsettled life, and as a result I crave a sense of permanence as perhaps few other people do. And yet, as I grow older and become increasingly aware of my own mortality, I ponder the contrast between my wish and the impermanent nature of life, of which change is the only true constant. Thus, this famous sonnet by John Keats has a special appeal to me. One of the greatest of English poets, he lived only to age 25 and succumbed to the ravages of tuberculosis.

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.