Shards, Sweepings, Stealings, Sayings, Secrets

Month: November, 2009

Psalms Of The Kisses Of Love

Daffyd ap Gwilym was the greatest poet of medieval Wales. The story goes that he fell for a nun and tried to get her to break out of her cloister. He cajoled: ‘God is not so cruel as the old men say … better a woodland than a nun’s calling. Thy religion, lovely maid, is treason to love.’ And he wrote this poem:

“I shall make if I am met/psalms of the kisses of love/seven kisses from a girl/seven birch trees over the grave/seven vespers seven masses/seven sermons of the thrush/seven litanies under the leaves/seven nightingales seven rods/seven accents of free delight/seven diadems seven odes/seven odes to slim Morfudd/sprightly of body and seventy more/thus she’ll no more lock up/the rent that’s due to love.”

(Quoted in John Hillaby‘s book Journey Through Britain.)

The Soul Of A Journey

“The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty to think, feel, do just as one pleases. We go on a journey chiefly to be free of all impediments and of all inconveniences; to leave ourselves behind, much more to get rid of others. It is because I want a little breathing place to muse on indifferent matters … that I absent myself from the town for a while… Give me the clear blue sky over my head, and the green turf beneath my feet, a winding road before me, and three hours’ march to dinner – and then to thinking… I laugh, I run, I leap, I sing for joy.” William Hazlitt

(Quoted by Morris Marples in his book Shanks’s Pony and by John Hillaby in his book Journey Through Britain.)

Night Walking

Like his contemporaries William Wordsworth, William Hazlitt and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the author and intellectual Thomas de Quincey was also a keen walker. He didn’t walk some of the phenomenal distances of the other 3; it suited him to cover between 70 and 100 miles a week. Wandering  this way he found “… upon actual experiment, and for week after week… the most delightful of lives… Happier life I cannot imagine than this vagrancy if the weather were but tolerable, through endless successions of changing beauty…”

According to Morris Marples in his book Shanks’s Pony, much of De Quincey’s walking was done after dark – a habit his neighbours thought most peculiar. “‘I took the very greatest delight in these nocturnal walks through the silent valleys of Cumberland and Westmorland,’ he wrote. It was his habit, as he walked, to follow the passage of time in the incidents of the night – first, in the early evening, blazing fires seen through windows and the sounds of household mirth; then, later, people going to bed; finally, silence, ‘the drowsy reign of cricket,’ broken only by the chiming of the church clocks and the ringing of the little chapel bell. ‘Such,’ he goes on, ‘was the sort of pleasure which I reaped in my nightly walks – of which, however, considering the suspicions of lunacy which it has sometimes awoken, the less I say, perhaps, the better.'”

The “Yes” Moment

“… knowledge of the beautiful is an affirmation. Something in the soul suddenly rises up and ejaculates “Yes” to some outside phenomenon, and then he is aware that he is looking at Beauty. As he gazes he knows himself in communion with what he sees – and sometimes that communion is a great joy and sometimes a great sadness. Thus, looking at the opening of dawn he is filled with gladness, his spirits rising with the sun; he wishes to shout and sing. He is one with the birds that have begun singing and with all the wild Nature waking refreshed after the night. But looking out at evening of the same day over the grey sea he is filled with unutterable sorrow.” From A Tramp’s Sketches by Stephen Graham

The World Is Too Much With Us

 The world is too much with us; late and soon,
 Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
 Little we see in Nature that is ours;
 We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
 The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
 The winds that will be howling at all hours,
 And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
 For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
 It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
 A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;                         
 So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
 Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
 Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
 Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. William Wordsworth

The Art Of Going Slowly

“I listen with pained reluctance to those who claim to have walked forty or fifty miles a day. But it is a pleasure to meet the man who has learned the art of going slowly, the man who disdained not to linger in the happy morning hours, to listen, to watch, to exist. Life is like a road; you hurry and the end of it is grave. There is no grand crescendo from hour to hour, day to day, year to year; life’s quality is in moments, not in distance run.” From The Gentle Art Of Tramping by Stephen Graham

Global Warming: The Human Impact

“Climate change is causing 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300 million people, according to the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming. The study projects that increasingly severe heatwaves, floods, storms and forest fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030, making it the greatest humanitarian challenge the world faces. If carbon emissions are not brought under control within 25 years, the report states that:

  • 310 million more people will suffer adverse health consequences related to temperature increases.
  • 20 million more will fall into poverty.
  • 75 million more will be displaced.

Nearly 98% of people seriously affected, 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters and 90% of the total economic losses are borne by developing countries. The populations most at risk are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, south Asia and small Pacific islands. But of the 12 countries considered least at risk, including Britain, all but one are industrially developed. Together they have made nearly $72 bn available to adapt themselves to climate change but have pledged only $400m to help poor countries. ‘This is less than one state in Germany is spending on improving its flood defences,’ says the report.” From The Guardian, Saturday 30 May 2009

The Outsider

“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.” From A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

The Marvellous World Of Possibility



I look across the table and think

(fiery with love)

Ask me, go on, ask me

to do something impossible,

something freakishly useless,

something unimaginable and inimitable


like making a finger break into blossom

or walking for half an hour in twenty minutes

or remembering tomorrow.


I will you to ask it.

But all you say is

Will you give me a cigarette, please?

And I smile and,

returning to the marvellous world

of possibility,

I give you one

with a hand that trembles

with a human trembling. Norman MacCaig

The Unfailing Hospitality Of The Five Senses

In my main blog, The Solitary Walker, I’ve been considering the work of the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig over the past few months.


A Man I Agreed With


He knew better than to admire a chair

and say What does it mean?


He loved everything that accepted

the unfailing hospitality of his five senses.

He would say Hello, caterpillar or

So long, Loch Fewin.


He wanted to know

how they came to be what they are:

But he never insulted them by saying,

Caterpillar, Loch Fewin, what do you mean?


In this respect he was like God,

though he was godless. – He knew the difference

between What does it mean to me?

and What does it mean?


That’s why he said, half smiling,

Of course, God, like me,

is an atheist. Norman MacCaig


“Atheist he may be, but Norman MacCaig speaks for the holiness of the everyday world in every one of his poems. He seizes the fleeting moment in his verse in order to transform it, or to reveal it, in an affirmative act of praise and endless celebration. The celebration is endless because the poet’s art lives on, long after what inspired it has changed or passed away. And the celebration is endless because ordinary life goes on, and there is always delight to be found there, if only we have eyes to see.” From The Poetry Of Norman MacCaig by Roderick Watson