Thick, soft tresses of maidenly blossom cascade – scented surf in a heavenly flood, Pure white dress of the Hawthorn will one day become berry necklaces scarlet as blood At the sight off a-gathering filling my basket I’ll go for a plentiful store Of the berry that brews to a tea with the power to soothe and relax and restore Hawthorn tea you delight me You calm yet excite me When daytime to evening gives way A swift end to anxiety Drunken sobriety Perfect for closing the day
I feel I should probably write a second verse to that at some point, echoing the same stanza structure, but for the moment, there it is.
When I started the poem I was just writing about hawthorn blossom but then it came to be about the tea too. So it leaps from early Summer to Autumn with the line: “pure white dress of the Hawthorn will one day become berry necklaces scarlet as blood.”
The effect of the tea is a recognised one by the way – something to do with opioid receptors and vasodilation – a rush of blood to the head. Only thing I’ve ever found that is comparable to alcohol in it’s ability to take the edge off things at the end of the day, but a healthy alternative. Very effective at lowering blood pressure I understand and great for rounding off a day when you’ve been hitting the Java. Hence: “drunken sobriety” in the poem
The bit about gathering them is poetic license – I did do that a couple of autumns back but now I just buy pre-dried. I use about 50 berries, and I leave them boiling in a pan for about 12 mins, then I stand them for a further ten minutes in the water, steeping, having also added a chamomile teabag, then I sup away. I’ll then give those same berries a second boil but in less water and only for a couple minutes, for a second cup.
If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise as dozens of darling dinosaurs compete for their opera prize
A phrase from one may establish its rhythm, but then it’s lost as another phrase cuts blithely across it with all the informality of free verse, in rich cacophony
And then that rhythm you heard before will suddenly reappear in a moment of ordered harmony as if made for the human ear
Then it’s gone again, but the sounds still delight – heaven-storming chitterings pulsing scintillating emanations through the sap-irrigated matrix of the Chloromyriad
The Old Romantics oh!’d and ah!’d for they found it uplifting and freeing and now the science is backing them up: It bolters our mental well-being
So bathe in the forest and smell the earthy humus for even now the Star-lungs are warming up their vox-boxes in readiness – may we likewise prep our auro-tubules for sensitive apprecio-resonance with this ancient treasure of our planet!
If you’re on the road to Chitterfest you’d better keep moving fast for tomorrow’s the day the developers come so this chance may be your last
Sing on, sweet birds, sing on your spasmodic gutterations of brain-brightening liquid light! Star-lungs: stars are flowers; flowers is bird; bird is Spring…. No bird, no Spring
Should every bird that ever there was stare mute from under glass – just dozens of dry, dumb dodos – we’ll despair that this came to pass
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!
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!
That famous field where nodding poppies sway In sunlit grass, where Souls of all the good Spend sweet Eternity in dance and play And with the gods, take Beauty as their food Upon the isle across the sea That circles all the mortal world With misty waters like a castle moat – How like must that famed meadow be To these fair fields where late I’ve strolled These hills and lanes, these woods, this very spot!
Was it vain pomp or blind naïveté That made the folk of ancient Egypt style Their image of divine Eternity Upon their earthly land astride the Nile? Where they might hunt in starry creeks Beside the starry waterway Or find in starry gardens sweet, cool shade? Or likewise made the clan of Greeks Use Grecian fields where grasses sway As models for their paradisal glade?
But no, let neither supposition stand I say, that it was rather that they paid The greatest compliment to their dear land When seeing Beauty there, “Divine!” they said And so to English Summer Time Such compliment I wish to pay As will the praise of those old pagans match The heaven forming in my mind The isle to which I’ll cross one day Has village greens and homes with roofs of thatch.
What’s Freyja’s meadow Folkvang after all Where valkyries take half the great and best If not the field with rushes growing tall Where Hathor greets arrivals in the West? And what’s that place where Arthur dwells Where all of Nature’s fruitful gifts The generous soil untended freely yields – That apple isle, which by their spells Nine sisters shroud in faery mists – What’s Avalon if not the Elysian Fields?