“Man is in love, and loves what vanishes.’ Putting aside the arguments over the word ‘man’, this quotation from Yeats sums up my romanticism. My good friend Colin James represents the alternative approach – the classical, scientific, 18th century. We have ding-dong arguments over my continued use of the word ‘heart’. He sees it as a muscle essential for the body’s life. I accept that but I also use it in a wider sense as a metaphor for feeling and a sensibility. Technically he’s correct.
But words like ‘heart’ and ‘soul’ are part and parcel of my world-view. To me that use is valid. This is why I like Ron Mason’s sonnet A Spark’s Farewell To Its Clay.
Well clay it’s strange at last we’ve come to it:
after much merriment we must give up
our ancient friendship, :no more shall we sup
in pleasant quiet places wanly-lit
nor wander through the falling rain, sharp-smit
and buffeted you, while I within snug-shut:
no longer taste the mingled bitter-sweet cup
of life the one inscrutable has thought fit
To give us: no longer know the strife
that we from old have each with each maintained :
now our companionship has certain end
end without end: at last of this our life
you surely have gained blank earth walls my friend
and I? God only knows what I have gained.
I first read it when a student as I was struggling with the concept of the resurrection of the body. What happened to the soul? The answer Mason supplied is what I sensed then and accept now. Heaven knows. But I appreciate the sentiment of the enjoyed partnership along the way. It’s valid.
Scientists tell us that in time the sun will cool and that life as we know it on Earth will no longer be possible. It seems unbelievable that not only will humanity cease to exist but giraffe, lion, kea, sooty shearwater, potato, kauri, moss and rose will also vanish. All I can say is that for over 70 years my spark and clay, meat and mind, body and soul have co-existed. The heart and head have endured their conflicts. There have been good days and bad days. But I give thanks for the combination.
Words - Douglas McLennan
1 hour ago