Thursday, June 24, 2010

Green thoughts in a green shade

Two stanzas from Andrew Marvell's The Garden, surely among the loveliest lines in the English canon:
What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head ;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine ;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach ;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness :
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find ;
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas ;
Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade.
Ours is a somewhat scruffy garden, here on our windblown hillside in the west of Ireland. When we built the cottage thirty-something years ago there was nothing but low heather, gorse and mud. A few years later my wife had two hundred trees planted, tiny things, half of them willows, for a pound apiece. Now after years of struggling against the wind the survivors have reached a ragtag maturity. She also planted flowering bushes and shrubs, and I built steps and walls from native stone, so the place has a kind of down-at-heel gentility, not quite nectarine and peaches and luscious clusters on the vine, but enough beauty to make me fall into the grass and say, "What wondrous life is this I lead."

Meanwhile, the mind withdraws into its happiness, the two of us, early-seventies, blessed with good health, and nothing for me to do but let the mind drift into other worlds and other seas, those oceans where each kind does its own resemblance find. And to those of you who for whatever reason follow these daily driftings, thank you and welcome.