O fine, faff-free and labour-saving key That lets me lock and unlock, with one press, The car remotely and most easily For you my heart now fills with thankfulness Let’s say it’s raining and one stands With luggage in both hands It’s been a busy day and one is tired How glad one feels to then recall A single button press is all That is required!
Hephaestus for the gods with rarest skill Did many a shining bronze device design Some tool that leapt to action at their will Performing tasks befitting lives divine: Their gold cars pulled by brazen steed Through air at such a speed As lighting that precedes the thunder’s rumble We feel ourselves to be their kin When gracefully we enter in Without a fumble
So unimpeded in the car I climb And like a king upon a throne I sit And cruise the country lanes in state sublime Like Bacchus in his magic vine-filled ship And as my homeward way I wend I know at journey’s end There waits for me a happy circumstance: I’ll loose the safety belt and out I’ll get and walk away without A backwards glance.
O key ingredient of the harmony Of Spring, dear Songbird stay, we beg you, stay! The dead must feel an equal agony To hear you not, nor see the light of day Should silence fall within the woodland dells We’d mourn as if the Sun had left the sky Or all the flowers lost their honey smells As from their petals drained the coloured dye We love those trills that irrigate the mind With water from a laughing, babbling stream Your calls explore a secret sylvan space And by the echoes somehow is defined Within our human thought a painted scene Of all that’s filled with natural, verdant grace Sweet Songbird stay and ever, ever sing for once you’re gone it never could be Spring
We’ll take whatever course for you is best Ensure the fields from poisons are kept free Keep dogs instead of cats, to spare your nest And anywhere you need it plant a tree We’ll plant such bowery covert as you need We’ll plant so you can shelter, roost and call We’ll plant the plants that give you food to feed We’ll plant them if we value Spring at all We love each sound you sing, o darling bird All notes that issue from your quavering throat Each lilting warble, chirrup, cheep and coo By which the silent sleeping air is stirred These sounds now through my open window float To broach the Gates of Dawn, and bring the New! Sweet Songbird stay and ever, ever sing for once you’re gone it never could be Spring
When work is done, thoughts turn to home’s warm glow Behind me has now closed the office gate Bright images shine forth that lift me so Familiar smiles of little ones who wait And onward leaps my heart to say To them that I’m well on my way And echo back the joyous, radiant cheer Returning is a Treasured Thing That makes my Soul and Spirit sing For they to me are infinitely dear.
This love must be the fire that warms the tale Of he who journeyed far on leaving Troy And neither towering wave nor raging gale The will to reach his loved ones could destroy Nor could the lulling lotus flower With all its hedonistic power Obliterate the thoughts of wife and child Nor could the cyclops rude and strong Nor sirens with their luring song Prevent him reaching his beloved isle.
Our old savannah tribes would send a band Of huntsmen, ranging far in search of prey By reading clues laid down by hoof in sand To guide them on for days upon their way Until, at length, the prize attained, They yearn to see those who remained In camp, awaiting that long hoped for sign: When finally the band they spy Across the grassland wild and dry Their hearts explode for joy, and so does mine.
At dim-lit dawn on Platform 1 in sombre throng we stand forlorn in flat, sense-numb routine until from trackside trees bright breaks the redbreast song: clear, lucent water in a crystal stream We tend to think that we’ll not hear such music at this time of year yet chiffchaff, thrush and finch brave Winter’s squall Untensing, in my mental eye I spread my wings; I rise and fly upon the soothing sound set free, and then recall
how Branwen’s hope lay likewise in her feathered friend as she in miniature set down her news: ‘Come soon! I, Queen of Eire am by brute force detained Your sister, Bran, they torture and abuse’ She ring-wise rolls her chosen words and gently takes the docile bird’s frail form and round a tiny leg she ties the note. A kiss, to wish it well then through the window of her cell releases it and skyward, swift the starling flies
It lands, it sings, they read, they sail, but sail in vain: A fire claims her child – she can’t but grieve and though Bran’s fleet a wood had seemed upon the main Just queen and seven soldiers live to leave And these in shock, with aching hearts Then board their ship and disembark Across the sea in saddest state they sail When finally they reach their home She dies of grief with one last moan In sympathy the voices of the songbirds fail.
How heavy sat the sorrow of these seven men While songbird silence held the land in thrall They travelled on together through the gloom and then They came to Harlech with its feasting hall And here a wondrous sound they heard Of great Rhiannon’s mystic birds And suddenly sweet bliss displaced their pain And here for seven happy years This magic kept away their tears As I too am uplifted waiting for my train.
For aromatic oils in herbs and shrubs Let thanks rise to the gods, from whence they fell When one but holds the leaves and gently rubs There issues forth a mystic, fragrant smell The living plants will ornament A tended garden plot The plants will then provide yet further gifts For sprigs of these ingredients When added to the cooking pot The taste uplifts
Hellenic folk in golden ages old These perfumes of the plants sought to explain With stories down the generations told Of how such shrubs some pretty nymph contain How when Apollo yearned to kiss Sweet Daphne, she, forlorn With all speed did attempt to run away Then saving metamorphosis The pretty maiden did transform To odorous bay
O Sage! O Thyme! O Rosemary! I praise Your power to boost our health, our pain to ease Our memory to strengthen, moods to raise Our sense of sight and smell and taste to please It must have been when we first burnt Dry incense, or with mint We first less pleasant tastes and smells disguised That we, now that at last we’d learnt To add a subtle herbal hint Were civilised
O Effortless Discoverer! O Wine! Two-Things-at-Once! Dark Sunshine! Old-but-Young! Bestir to tripping dance the Muse of Rhyme Great Uninhibitor, loosen her tongue Send forth your shelt’ring leaves over my mind Embrace with dappled shade the grapes of thought Protect them from the light of Trying-to-Find Lest nude in Reason’s burning glare they’re caught For season after season we entrust This treasure to the cave of rustic stone As silently the ruby liquid dreams Long slumb’ring in the cellar’s dark and dust What secret mysteries to you were shown By under-dwelling nymphs of chthonic streams? O gen’rous partner in the poet’s art Now set the pen in flight, and help me start!
With the coronavirus on the loose, I don’t see this as a time for fasting. As I understand it, although your immune system can come back stronger after a fast, while fasting it can temporarily be lowered – not ideal at the current time.
It might therefore be thought that this wouldn’t be the best time to post a recording of my poetical magnum opus about Hungry Dawn Raving. However, it’s worth remembering how for Wordsworth poetry was ’emotion recollected in tranquility’. Poetry has the power to bring feelings back to mind, and so really a time when you aren’t able to do Hungry Dawn Raving is actually rather a good time to listen to a poem about it. Poetry with regular meter – a balanced pattern of syllables in the lines and a regular stanza structure – inevitably has a well-measured, calm sense to it, even when it deals with intense emotion, and this suits the context of a tranquil recollection. In this case: rapture remembered at rest. You can think back with a smile to past HDR sessions, and you can also look ahead to a time when you’ll be able to do it again.
Of course, Hungry Dawn Raving, for practical reasons, being something you do shortly after waking and before breakfast, is a form of exercise taken close to home, usually, for me, in the kitchen after my morning coffee, as captured in the recently added final part of the poem – A demigod danced in my kitchen today. This type of exercising in a domestic setting certainly is relevant at the current time (I’m writing this from Lockdown in the UK). Dawn Raving, without the Hungry.
O soft enchantress of the candle glow, With gentle, caring fingertips caress Our eyelids, with a stroke soothing and slow Dissolve our thoughts in sweet forgetfulness Thou angel of the cup, kind Chamomile, Thy golden tisane, warming, wets the lip We feel the face relax into a smile Then raise the cup and take another sip But how’s the mixture made? First fill the pot And heat the water till the bubbles roar Then add your spoon of flowers and let steep Until the liquid’s neither cool nor hot Now take your chosen cup and carefully pour The potion, and partake before you sleep. While drinking, say aloud or read this spell, Which calms you and by calming keeps you well.
A recurring theme in the Glory of Glad has been the way Odes can reframe things in a dignified manner. The idea I’ve been reiterating is that while you could just keep a basic gratitude journal to raise mood, if you really feel glad about something, why not show that it really matters to you by writing something far more dignified – a full blown Ode.?
But there will be draw back if this is all you do. Why? Because it’s likely to be consistently serious. The whole point of what we’re doing here is to raise mood by practicing gratitude. The self-image of the serious poet has become rather infused with the picture of the suffering artist, condemned by their nature to sink from time to time into the miserable, maudlin depths of gloom. To have an ongoing good mood, on the other hand, it is obviously vital to be able to lighten up, to see the funny side.
Yes, we want to harness the power of the heavenly ode; no, we don’t want to become po faced.
So I’ve come up with a solution, one that is a lot of fun and which will only expand your options for expressing gratitude. You see, one of the things that’s been found about keeping a gratitude journal is that it doesn’t matter hugely what you express gratitude for, as long as you express gratitude for something. It is the act of expressing gratitude that raises mood. Enter the Gratilude ( “gratitude” + “interlude”.) After a few serious odes, stick in a Gratilude to lighten things up. Gratiludes are short, and easy to compose, and give you the chance, therefore, to quickly bump up the number of things you’re expressing thanks for in your journal, while simultaneously lightening the mood after your more lofty odes. This really is the final ingredient that makes the whole recipe zing. Here’s one:-
To a Doily (A Gratilude)
What a marvellous thing is a doily! What a wonderful thing to possess! How divine to be able To fling on the table The essence of delicateness!
Gratiludes, therefore, are little, light-hearted poems, almost like limericks. They still express gratitude for something, but in a more frivolous way. They’ll tend to take a mere material object as their theme. They might be partly tongue in cheek – a bit of a parody of a proper ode. They don’t have to be side-splittingly hilarious, though, because comedy is not their sole purpose – they are still, at the end of the day, gratitude poems, they’re just not so weighty.
Here’s another example. Some more follow lower down.
To a Tea Cosy
O Tea Cosy! Tea Cosy! Tea Cosy! What endeavour could ever be finer Than, as if it did live, To most gallantly give A warm coat to your favourite china?
A lead here comes from the theatrical Dionysia festival of ancient Athens. Even before the Athenians began including full blown comedies as well as the tragedies in the Dionysia, already they had the satyr plays. Each playwright would put on one satyr play and three serious performances. These satyr plays provided comic relief, and were full of bawdy fun, satire and general merriment. The Gratilude is very much like the satyr play – a short interlude for light relief. If we go with the same 3 : 1 ratio as for the satyr plays, then with as few as, say, five short gratiludes, you have enough to cover a full fifteen lofty odes, and believe me a Gratilude doesn’t take long to write. Here’s another:
To a Bed
Oh how grand are clean duvets and sheets On a well-made and comfortable mattress! Yes it has to be said What a boon is a bed And big pillows all plumped up with fatness
Does this mean your journal will be pulling in two directions at once? Not at all. We’re not talking about undermining that sense of dignity we’ve been establishing with our odes; we’re just talking about introducing a lightness and fluidity and adding another string to the bow. The very act of dignifying ourselves reminds us that we deserve good things, and laughter itself truly is one of life’s good things. Here’s another Gratilude:
What ecstatical things are galoshes! (The name that we call’em, I mean) It’s half “gallop” / half “slosh”, Oh my word! Oh my gosh! The whole concept is just such a dream!