Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In The Early World

There is always a first time for everything. A first born child, a first new tooth, a first few steps, a first day at school, a first wobbly ride on a bicycle, a first sail, a first remembered Christmas, a first kiss.
For every human experience that you can think of there is always a first time that this experience occurs. There are first experiences that are related to every stage of our lives - first job, first love, first overseas travel and for many older people there is the first realisation that good health may not be forever which leads to first intimations of ones mortality.
When I look back on my first experiences, the firsts that happened in my childhood had a certain incandescent freshness and vibrancy about them, a luminosity of feeling and image that shone so very brightly. It was a clarity unencumbered by reflection, meditation or analysis. It was the joyful feasting on the treasures of an early world, a world of expanding consciousness and experience. It was a time of mindfulness, of being in the moment.
It is difficult, but not impossible in adult first experiences to have the same luminosity of these early first experiences. I think that this is because we bring to adult first experiences a certain lack of naivety and innocence that was alive in our younger years. We are more ready to spring to judgement rather than suspend belief, more wont to analyse rather than let ourselves be taken by the experience. But if we are really, really, really lucky we may have unexpected first experiences in our older decades which approach the shining freshness of those that we enjoyed in that early world.
This well known and much loved poem by Dylan Thomas is a celebration of that early world. It is a poem that shines brightly with the fresh, vibrant newness of a young world explored with a lack of inhibitedness and with abandon. It is one of my very favourite poems. It is long but it is worth the read.

FERN HILL - By Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.
All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the night jars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.
And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.
And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.


Janice said...

I forget, from time to time, how words can evoke beautiful scenes, and feelings, and pull out old memories, or create new ones. The ache at the back of my throat reminds me anew. Thank you, Alden, you are a man of many parts!

Alden said...

Yes words are evocative aren't they - and it is an kind of linguistic alchemy that certain combinations of words are so very evocative of all sorts of things! -thats poetry for you - profound, potent and evocative.

Alden said...

Janice, I saw a fridge magnet yesterday that reminded me of our talk about Tequila - it was along the lines of the childrens team choosing game 'one potatoe, two potatoes, three potatoes, four .... etc

The magnet said, " One Tequila, two Tequila, three Tequila... floor" - with the appropriate picture. :-) :-)

Janice said...

Well, Alden, in my case that would be apporopriate - unless, of course, they were spaced out over 5 or 6 hours! I'm still game, though.

I keep thinking about your post about a sense of place, as my husband and I prepare to move to a place on Vancouver Island called Comox on, we hope, July 1. We have decided that we can leave the hustle-bustle of the big city behind, for the slower, friendlier confines of a small town. We have some very good friends there, and it is right on the ocean, so there will be lots to see and do there; it is beautiful in the way that New Zealand appears to be beautiful from the pictures I've seen, and there'll be lots of ferry rides (almost as good as sailing, I expect!). The only things we'll really miss about the city will be our children, and our wonderful church, where we both sing in the choir, and Brock is the associate priest. It is the one place where we feel we really belong, and it will be interesting to see if we can find that sense in Comox. I am hoping to connect with the First Nations community there, as I am quarter Dene myself, and feel the pull to the native community wherever I am. I have a First Nations friend who, when I expressed doubt about being accepted in the native community because of my very Caucasian looks, said "First Nations people know each other spiritually, Janice, they will recognize you", and I hope this will be true in this new place. For one reason and another, I have never had a strong sense of where I belonged, unless it was by the sea, wherever I was. Your words about small-time life, and about the Maori people, have strengthened my resolve about this move, so I thank you!