Thursday, June 03, 2010

Before

A few days ago I attended the funeral of a person who at a formative stage of my life offered me friendship and inspiration. He was older than me by sixteen years, wiser, and a poet. He didn't teach me how to see, but he taught me how to register what I see, how to make the experience of seeing a part of who I am.

At the funeral, his daughter read this poem by Thomas Hardy, written towards the end of the poet's life:
Afterwards

When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
"He was a man who used to notice such things"?

If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
"To him this must have been a familiar sight."

If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone."

If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"?

And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things"?
He didn't teach me how to see. Six years of scientific research had taught me that. What he did teach me is that nothing is fully seen in all of its shades and mysteries until it is artfully described.