‘Adieu, Meuse, endormeuse et douce à mon enfance
Qui demeures aux près, ou tu coules tout bas.
Meuse, adieu : j’ai déjà commencé ma partance
En des pays nouveaux ou tu ne coules pas.’ .’
Charles Péguy : Le Mystère de las Charité de Jeanne d’Arc
I have a wonderful French teacher! She has started to encourage me in my learning of French by using poems to focus the language and to provide a context for the dreaded French verbs. I can take a plus perfect present when it is cloaked in verse. Yesterday we read a section from the above poem – and I had a great tingle of excitement as the familiar name of the author and Le Mystere brought me to Geoffrey Hill and his poem ‘The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Peguy’. I read this poem when I received Broken Hierarchies as a gift – one that will last me for the rest of my life.
So this morning I re-read the Geoffrey Hill poem and as I read it opened up to me with its images of innocence and war, of life close to the earth and its rhythms. Recently I have woken up not to such illuminations and inspiration but to what Peguy wrote of as ‘….our world in which we do not know anything, where all is vain-glory and arrogance’. It’s a world of lies and false promises, self-aggrandisement and dangerous polarities. It’s a world in which I need poetry to take me deeper into the truths that still lie behind the lies. It is important now to find a place in ourselves where ‘Une grande philosophie n’est pas celle qui installe une vérité définitive, c’est celle qui introduit une inquiétude.’ So perhaps we should welcome the uncertainty – or as my dictionary has the translation ‘twitching in the legs’ – or perhaps the urge to kick someone?
We have had our own disquiet recently with anxieties raised by Brexit and its uncertainties, which has made us consider the size of our house and garden and its expenses and to consider moving. Slowly we are working towards the best solution so that we can continue to live a simple life, open to the sky and trees, the wonders of Nature in our part of the world, the hope for a philosophy that can embrace change and give us depth.
I recently went to England, first time in two years. I visited Morag in her new house, Woody home for Reading week from Warwick and Ari and Hannah in Falmouth. Such a happy and loving time. Then I went on to the Contemporary Poetry Festival in Falmouth. It was a very good experience, hearing and talking with poets that were new to me, meeting old and well-loved friends and having a chance to read some of my poems too.
I loved it all but I have returned home, to silence and weather, Phil and the cat, with renewed energy and great happiness. Being away makes me very aware of how good it is to be back again. Lots of new books to read, things to think about, poems to work on, pleasure in the simple domestic tasks of every day. Something like Penny Shuttle’s alternative universe??