Wednesday, 17 December 2008

METAPHYSICAL POETRY, S.A.D, WILD HUNTING



















This may be a bit of a mish-mash blog, perhaps because it's one o'clock in the morning! But as we approach the shortest day (much to my relief and that of my fellow S.A.D.-ers), my sleep patterns are now just nonsense.

One of my favourite poems in the entire language is John Donne's poem about St Lucie's Day, 13 December: the shortest day of the year in the old calendar. I just started looking some little things about St Lucy on Wikipedia, which is completely fascinating: a day very much still celebrated in Scandinavian countries with lots of little girls in white and candles, hence the picture.

















But in fact Donne's poem is a bit more physical, earthly, even garden-ish, than these little girls might suggest. His "sap is sunk" and "life is shrunk", he says; "I am every dead thing". The world awaits renewal, Donne tells us, in the most fabulous seventeenth century poetry known to humanity. We are on the very brink of turning back towards the sun, he says, towards lust, sun and festival, from a dead, absent darkness. 

This wilder side of this time of year I found reflected in another Wikipedia article, entitled quite wonderfully "Wild Hunt". Had you ever heard of the Devil and his Dandy Dogs? Man, I really want to see them? (Or do I?)

(Most bizarrely of all, as we were nattering about Schoenberg earlier in the week, I just found out that there's a bit of his massive oratorio Gurrelieder that's based on a wild hunt. Cor, you never heard of something before and suddenly it's all over the place.)

Anyway I am going to go and try and calm my brain for sleep now, but check out Donne's beautiful poem when you have a quiet moment and a cup of tea. Tis the year's midnight, you know, and we now have only four days to go till the Solstice, which has a kind of wonder to it.


10 comments:

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Thanks for the poem Emma, I enjoyed reading it, a very nice start of my day. I've read some Donne before but only a few, English poetry can be a bit taxing for a non-Brit. ;-)

While reading this poem it crossed my mind that perhaps Donne was suffering from SAD too, but that could be projection I suppose. ;-)

Not long to go now before the days start to get longer again.

emmat said...

Ah that's nice! I would have thought Donne is about as taxing as it could get - lots of swapping the subject of the sentence so that one minute the poem is about him, the next minute, about the sun! Difficult even for an English speaker.

I just can't imagine how people got through the winter in the olden days of total darkness and mutton fat candles for months on end. !!!

patientgardener said...

Hi Emma - I've been very down the last week or so and was wondering if it was a form of SAD as I cant think of any other reason. However, I am sleeping like a log so maybe not

emmat said...

Well some people end up almost hibernating, not able to wake up as easily as possible, so it could be. But it's also been the nearest full moon for 15 years, which made a lot of people feel a bit peculiar.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/7779294.stm

Alex said...

I like the bit about America in the Elegy (can't remember which one) To His Mistress Going to Bed. Warning: explicit lyric content

emmat said...

Alex you are such a sauce bucket

patientgardener said...

Arh - maybe the full moon explains my depression over the weekend. I burst into tears when the TV went off in the middle of Strictly - how ridiculous is that!! However, I am still feeling down - maybe I just need my Xmas hols.

colleen said...

St Lucy, by the way, is the patron saint of eye diseases and she is often depicted with a plate with two eyes on it. Did you not notice in the Wiki article the similarity between those little cakes and eyeballs?

Ah me, the benefits of a catholic girlhood.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

The joys of synchronicity! I find it amusing that St. Lucy's day is celebrated in Sweden, yet the most famous song relating to her is a Neapolitan fisherman's song.

emmat said...

eye diseases, neapolitan fishing songs, you guys are better than Wikipedia!