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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

melancholy, and comfort

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Funeral Blues
(Song IX, from Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

- W. H. Auden (1907-1973)


Listen to John Hannah read Auden's poem in the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral."




Loss overpowers you, and the world as you have known it has ended. Annoyingly, the sun rises the next morning.

A sister is laid off after 25 years when retirement was just on the horizon; but the moon still waxes and wanes, the tides move in, and out.

Your high school best friend's husband is imprisoned for embezzling senior citizens out of their retirement savings, just when your friend's two younger daughters are in high school and the eldest begins college - yet the maples bud red after the long winter.

Another friend's entire family - his wife, children and parents - are killed in a single car crash. That night the Big Dipper shines in exactly the same formation, full to the brim with midnight blue.

When it feels like the world has stopped, what consolation is there? Truth is, your heart isn't open to comfort.

But then it comes suddenly in spite of yourself. Something ridiculous makes you laugh. A flower turns winter to spring. A piece of Art opens a vent in the fist of your heart. A color, or two colors juxtaposed, breathe life into you. Musical notes take you by surprise the way they are strung together, and their melody and rhythm defy time and space. They dance when you couldn't. A loved one's words of praise after a long silence soften the harshness around you. Or a stranger's words speak your mind and heart so precisely you find comfort that someone, sometime, has felt your anguish and was able to speak it for you to find one day.




I say to you and to myself: Receive it. The constancy of some constant thing. It is there, just as real as all the hardship. Don't deny either. Let them co-exist and mingle - then, like yin and yang, like death and life, let them create a new reality.



83 comments:

shicat said...

Great movie,love that poem. So perfect.

alice said...

Even translated in French, this poem is touching. And your own words, Ruth...

Barry said...

The is a wonderful post Ruth, deeply moving and perfectly stated.

Susan said...

Yes, that's how it is.

Delwyn said...

Nova ex veteris...The new is born out of the old...

CottageGirl said...

One must experience the garish gifts of anguish, sorrow, disappointment and despair in order to really appreciate love, friendship, nature and ... every second of life.

Once again, Ruth, your words touch my heart.

Thank you.

*jean* said...

good morning, ruth...your reflections here are so heartfelt and ring of the truth of our human condition...

your nibbled crocus pics are so beautiful...

i so enjoy popping in here and reading your thoughts...it's like a paging through a much turned to favorite book...

i also send well wishes to your loved ones that are hurting..

jean

Christina said...

thank you!
xo

Sally's World said...

very moving post xxxx

dutchbaby said...

Starting at age 24, I have had the great misfortune of loosing a disproportionate number of friends in my life. These words of grief express the sorrow and finality so beautifully. Thank you for sharing these.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Sometimes it feels like the sadness will never go away... but without the sadness we would not know the happiness... That is what I tell myself anyway ...it is a shame that is the way it has to be... it is those emotions that make us who we are..

Vicki Holdwick said...

An excellent post, Ruth.

I reminder to all of us in our nearly unbearable grief.

Thanks,

xoxo

♥ Kathy said...

Beautiful poem and beautiful pictures

Oliag said...

What words and pictures to wake to!... you have captured in the words of a short post thoughts on the fragile and contradictory nature of humanity so well...it will keep me thinking all day...I see the optimism in this post and will strive for it...

ds said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

Anna said...

Ruth this a very poetic post, beautiful pictures. In the poem 'My working week and my Sunday rest' - it is sad but not many make their Sunday a rest day! On the other hand, I do always try to make Sunday a rest day, or family day. Excellent post Ruth, a bit sad but it is nice and refreshing, Anna :)

Delphine said...

Auden's words are so poignant, and struck so many chords in me. One does get on and enjoy life again, but the deep sorrow never goes away and surfaces at the most unexpected moments!

photowannabe said...

Moving and so touching and absolutely true.
I have to find a poem I read a long time ago called Hyicenths for the Soul. I think it goes along with this post perfectly. We need those flowers in our soul when nothing else will bloom there.

Gwei Mui said...

You have such an eloquent way of writing Ruth another beautiful and thought provoking piece.
GM

CottageGirl said...

Ruth,
Thought about you all day ...
Hope things are OK with you...

Loring Wirbel said...

My wife says if I say one more time, "You should be able to make stupid jokes in a bomb shelter after a general global nuclear war," she's going to throttle me, but I sincerely mean it. You captured the sense exactly. The flip side of the song, "Why does the sun go on shining? Why do the stars shine above? Don't they know it's the end of the world? It ended when I lost your love." Except the world didn't end. The deer in my backyard don't care about AIG. The woodpecker on my house doesn't care that I can't find a job. Plan B means laugh.

Anet said...

Beautiful post Ruth, Thank you.
A darling friend of our family passed away yesterday. She was 94, a long and lovely life she had.
I love the last part in Auden's poem.

Dakota Bear said...

Touching poem, thank you.

I had the joy of seeing my first crocus(purple) blooming today.

SamaraZone said...

I love reading your writings. Living can be so hard.

Ruth said...

I think it's my favorite poem, Cathy.

Ruth said...

Thank you, dear Barry. You are much acquainted with grief.

Ruth said...

My dear Susan.

Ruth said...

Yes, Delwyn, the entire cycle is important, the death as well as the life.

Ruth said...

It's like art, I guess, CottageGirl. The contrasts create the beauty.

Ruth said...

Dear Jean, thank you very much. What kind words!

Ruth said...

Christina, you're welcome my dear.

Ruth said...

Thank you very much, Sally. You know of hardship and grief too well.

Ruth said...

Oh, I'm sorry, dear Dutchbaby.

Ruth said...

Gwen, I don't know how you bear a sadness like that, for so long. But I know you are right, it shapes a person.

Ruth said...

Thank you for those words, Vicki. I hope you will keep bearing it and that joy will come.

Peter said...

Thanks for letting us review this touching and so well filmed scene !

Yes, we are only here for a limited moment, longer or shorter! ... and we must try to do the best out of it! It can include as well laughs as tears, hopefully as many tears of joy as possible!

Wonderful post again!

Ruth said...

♥ Kathy, thank you. I can't improve on Auden and that crocus lavender.

Ruth said...

Thank you for seeing the optimism, Oliag. Sometimes our emotions prevent our seeing the whole cycle of death and life as valuable, especially when tragedy strikes.

Ruth said...

Thank you, DS.

Ruth said...

Oh yes, sweet Anna, Sunday is a precious day, something I treasure for its quiet, restorative space.

Ruth said...

Oh, Delphine, I've witnessed the incredible beauty you've created from the ashes of your sorrow! You testify like no one I know. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Sue, yes, when we need someone or something else to do it for us.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Gwei Mui.

Ruth said...

Sweet Alice, forgive me for jumping over you, your comment was first. And I intentionally came here this morning to respond to you.

I wish I could read the poem in French and understand it. Better yet, to hear you read it.

Ruth said...

You are thoughtful, CottageGirl! Thank you so much.

I am fine, I have no personal grief in my life. It is the stories of others that weighs on my heart. And this morning, as I read the comments of blog friends whose stories are almost unbearably sad and harsh, I wept and wept! We have seasons of grief sometimes. And some of us receive so much more than others. I don't understand it, but I don't really try to.

Ruth said...

Loring, heaven forbid we need a bomb shelter one day, but if we do, I pray you're in ours with us, and Carol and Abby too.

As I wrote this post I thought of you, admiring your outlook in light of losing your job. Keep sending out that joyful, peace-loving, crazy-head-pounding-music-loving energy!

Ruth said...

Oh, Anet! I'm so sorry.

Yes, Auden's final stanza makes me almost gasp every time I read or hear it.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Dakota Bear, your daffodils are beautiful. These are my first crocus this year too! Saw them Sunday.

Ruth said...

Thank you, SamaraZone, I don't know how some people go on while suffering so much.

Ruth said...

Hi, Peter, and thank you. It's easy to expect and hope for only happiness. Life can be hard. I hope I would bear up under grief the way I've witnessed others doing.

Barry said...

All to well acquainted with grief, Ruth. I conduct CISMs following industrial accidents and give workshops on the subject.

I just completed two workshops yesterday and used your line about the constancy of life being "..as real as all the hardship." and suggested people read your blog.

Hope you don't mind?

CottageGirl said...

Dear Ruth,

I admire your sensitivity and compassion.

Rose Kennedy said something after the death of her sons, John and Robert, when someone asked her how she could possibly feel as if she could go on with life after all she had been through.

Her few words spoke volumes about her outlook on life.

Her simple answer was this:

"Birds sing after a storm, why shouldn't we?"

rauf said...

Pain is eternal Ruth, we find bits and pieces of joy was we go along.

the song Loring mentioned brought back memories, Skeeter Davis sang it first i think then came Herman's hermits version.

i personally have no problems Ruth, but when i look around i see pain everywhere. i have to insulate myself or remain insensitive to be happy always. That is impossible.

Ruth said...

Barry, how that touches me! To think someone could find comfort here - of course!

Ruth said...

I'm so glad you shared that, CottageGirl. Simple and powerful. Our lessons from Nature are always there, if we just open up and let them in. Imagine the griefs of the Kennedy family!

Ruth said...

rauf Abi. Much of what I've learned about being a friend, I've learned from you, from how you model it. You are a constant shoulder for your many friends who pile on you with their sorrows and troubles.

I'll look for the Davis version on YouTube, I know it from Herman's Hermits.

I hope the wedding brings everyone joy today, like a spring shower in a hot Chennai!

D.K.Fisher said...

Ruth,

Thank you. You words are so true and heartfelt. I attended a military funeral in Arlington in May 2005 for my Uncle Malcolm Miller that died in Vietnam and was recovered after 38 years. That was one of the most beautiful ceremonies I had ever seen, especially the Flag folding. It was almost like watching a ballet and it does bring healing.

Alhioro said...

I like that film...Do the best. Wish you the best. Also i like info on www.jciyouth.org

carl h. sr. said...

I believe you have just summed up,very well,the story of everyone's life here on mother earth.
That we will have sorrows is a certainty.That we deal with them in the best way we are able,is up to each of us.That we find even one true friend to grieve along with us,is a treasure far beyond that of gold.
I don't want to 'go out' holed up in some dank shelter.Rather that I should leave this world enjoying the beauty and miracle of nature that is eternal with or without us.
Thank you for sharing your insights Ruth.You give me a joy similar to when I enjoy my wood,rocks,stars,and animal friends.

freefalling said...

You need to live life wholly, don't you?
Even if it sucks.
I've always quite liked this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fXlKfLNea8

C.M. Jackson said...

"He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong."

Ruth
I saw the movie when the man I loved was going through a terminal illness. I searched for the poem and held it close to my heart knowing I had found the right words to speak when he died. I am sorry for your loss and thank you for putting into words the process of loss and healing. Spring is an amazing time.

best- C

Ruth said...

Oh, D.K.Fisher, that describes it so well, a ballet. At Arlington it would be like seeing it at the Imperial Russian Ballet Theater.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Alhioro.

Ruth said...

Dear Carl, that's one of the best things anyone's ever said to me.

Ruth said...

Sweet Letty, could be, I don't really know, because I have not been put through what you've been through, that hell. My life has been easy, no misery, no anguish, except for those I love.

I tried loading the YouTube, but it wouldn't open.

Ruth said...

C.M., oh, I am sorry you needed this poem to express your agonizing sorrow. But I'm glad it was there for you. Imagine, Auden's grief, and his ability to create lines of beauty, continue to heal nearly 70 years later.

Sandy said...

This is beautifully written and your photos are so gorgeous. Don't have much to add except it is something I can relate to. I never thought I would get over my brother's death and the way it happened when he was a young age 40. But yes, the heart does open back up.

Bob Johnson said...

Poem was cool, but your words reached me the most.

Ruth said...

Aunty Sandy, thank you. It's those tragic ends that pain the most. I often wonder what my brother who died at 47 would do in situations, what he would think. It's hard, and it shapes us forever.

Ruth said...

That's kind, Bob, thank you.

Your last post addresses this from a different angle, I really appreciated the love of family you expressed.

freefalling said...

Try this one.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1h_hmdVJAc

California Girl said...

This touches me deeply.

shoreacres said...

Hello, Ruth,

This came to me as I read your words:

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned in life: It goes on."
-Robert Frost

I suspect you're one who's learned we need not wait for earth hours to let the silence teach us.

Ruth said...

Letty! You picked one of the best scenes in movie history. I adore "Parenthood," and this writing is brilliant. I absolutely love it, thank you for connecting it with my post. I love knowing you're there!

Ruth said...

Letty, I don't know how I'd missed "Parenthood" on my profile's list of favorites. I've added it now. And I'm adding it to my queue to watch again.

Ruth said...

I'm glad, California Girl. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Linda, it's kind of funny how long it took me to learn those three words. I know now that how I feel today won't likely be how I feel tomorrow. So the best thing is to keep plodding on. The "problem" for me is that I have more joy than anything else, so the days that are a little blue are not welcome. I am learning to accept them.

I am one who lives naturally in a state of feeling, and I have to strengthen my thinking skills, something I work on regularly now. We need both, but I was extreme.

Lluvia said...

A perfect post, Ruth. Everything is beautiful.

freefalling said...

Ruth, it's one of my all-time favourite movies, too.

I'm always here - lurking.

Ruth said...

Lluvia, thank you, Poet.

Ruth said...

Letty, I'm glad you're here/there.

Ginnie said...

And now I'm thinking of Kahlil Gibran's "a tear and a smile." This is absolutely beautiful, Ruth. It is the story of Winter and Spring, of Death and Resurrection.

Ruth said...

Boots, yes, those who experience grief experience depths in ways happiness doesn't reach. Joy is something else, I feel, and is also deep.