Coffee at-the-ready, I reached over to the end table beside the bed and picked up a poetry book that I had bought at a garage sale in Sedona. I don’t remember what I paid for it, because I had a number of items in my arms and the woman at the cash register, said, “How about a dollar.” A bargain indeed.
The book I bought was Time’s River: the Voyage of Life in Art and Poetry, a collection selected by Kate Farrell who was inspired by Thomas Cole’s four-part allegorical paintings, The Voyage of Life.
The poetry and paintings illuminate the four stages of life. In the introduction, Farrell wrote: “Echoing a premise of Cole’s Voyage of Life paintings, many poems link outer loss and physical ageing with inner renewal and transformation, a theme summed up by saying that the spirit grows younger as the body grows older.”
Farrell’s selection of poems underscores this line of thought. As I read the poems, their beauty fills my soul. I feel uplifted and renewed: my glass is more than half full. My glass threatens to swell over the rim.
It’s a lovely respite from life outside the poetic. Listening to “Morning Edition” or “BBC World,” I can feel all that beauty seeping… leaking. My soul is a sieve. I can fill it up, but it oozes out, and I before I know it, my glass is half empty.
- Do you believe that the spirit grows younger as the body grows older?
- On what observations or personal experience do you base your answer?
- How do you fill your glass when it is half empty?
- Sometimes it is useful to count your blessings. Go to the Poetry Library and pull up “Otherwise” by Jane Kenyon. Write an imitative poem. The entire poem is wonderful, but if you are in a rush, Kenyon’s poem begins: “I got out of bed / on two strong legs. / It might have been / otherwise. I ate / cereal, sweet / milk, ripe, flawless / peach. It might / have been otherwise.”
Some think of life in four stages. Shakespeare, writing As You Like It, thought of life as seven. He begins: All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players, / They have their exits and entrances, / And one man in his time plays many parts, / His acts being seven stages.
To Shakespeare’s eyes, those stages aren’t pretty. I give you snippets scissored from the text: “the infant, mewling and puking; the whining school boy; the lover sighing like furnace; a soldier quick in quarrel; the justice full of wise saws; the lean and slippered – a world too wide for his shrunk shank; and second childishness sans teeth, san eyes, sans everything.”
If you were to divide your life into seven segments, what would those segments be? Did you go willingly from chapter to chapter or did you cling to the past?
Sculpture by Richard Kindersley