Sunday, February 05, 2012

doodle life smart

Posted by Picasa Two more or less circular areas of water colour paint on a postcard-sized rectangle of  white water colour board, rather poorly photographed so that the lower part of the card appears darker than the upper part. You could say that all this was done on purpose. In fact very little of it was. Perhaps better than something planned.

The first thing that I see this morning in the snow-covered Grove is the presiding crow. He is sitting on a branch, black as a black hole. When he is waddling  on the grass full of self-importance, he is at his least elegant, but today in a white-etched world, he is sleek; he is smart;  he is the black ace of hearts. He opens his mouth and says: "Kaargh!"

When I was at school it was in the context of a poem by Kathleen Raine that I first encountered these words attributed to an ealdorman in the account by the eighth century historian of England, The Venerable Bede. The refer to the conversion of Eadwine King of Northumberland. Today, as I re-read Kathleen's poems I come across the words again at the head of her series of poems entitled Northumbrian Sequence. "
 "So seems the life of  man. O King, as a sparrow's flight through the hall when you are sitting at meat in winter-tide, the fire on the hearth, the icy rainstorm without.
  The sparrow flies in at one door and tarries for a moment in the light and heat of the hearth fire, then flies forth into the darkness whence it came."
I found the words moving at the time and even more so, sixty years later, on this icy Winter afternoon.


The Crow said...

I would like to use the passage which begins, "So seems the life of man..." in a tribute to a recently deceased man I greatly admired. Did Raine write those words or did she quote from another's work?

Would you mind if I attribute your post as my source, or would you rather I take the passage from another source?

CC said...

Love your presiding Crow.
We used to have a pair in Washington Sq. Park, who often kept up a running commentary from the roof of the old Farm Journal building in the SW corner of the park.

Enjoyed the Venerable Bede quote as well.

Unknown said...

Bede died in 735 AD. The words come, I think, from his History of England "Historia Eccelsiastica Gentis Anglorum", which is an important source of English History up to 731 AD. It was written in Latin. King Alfred the Great translated it into Anglo Saxon. Kathleen Raine merely quotes the words and there is no reason why you or I should not feel free to do the same. Martha, you don't have to attribute the quote to any source except that of the writer who came to be known as the Venerable Bede.