Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nocturne upon St Lucy's Day

'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

In John Donne's time, this, the 13th December, St Lucy's Day, was understood to be the shortest day, the darkest time of the year. Annihilated by grief and despair at the death of his wife, the spark of his intellect confounded and nearly extinguished in conceits that go nowhere, tortuous attempts to express the inexpressible, the fire of his lust for her alien and distant to him, he saw the Day as encapsulating the utter darkness in his spirit.

I think my mother knew I was born on the eve of St Lucy's and it was in her mind when I was named. When I first encountered Donne's Nocturne, it was at a period in my young life when the darkness and the fear of it threatened to overwhelm me, at the midwinter point of my birth and the times leading up to it most of all. I liked the poem because it had my name on it, and because it looked the darkness in the face.

Now I live in a way and a place where the darkness is held at bay. The cold may be yet to come, but the days will soon lengthen, the light increase. The solstice days are short, but a few leaves still speckle the trees with colour, and where they have left, the twigs can be seen already to hold the buds for the spring's new leaves.

The winter wheat throws a haze and a striping of luminous gold-green over the shape of the land.

Donne's despair is not mine. Darkness, horror, despair, lurk beyond the threshold, but the door is closed to them. I'll cringe in the shadows no longer, but carry my light for as long as it will burn.

'The night goes great and mute.
Now one hears its wings in every silent room murmuring as if from wings.
Look at our threshold.
There she stands white-clad with lights in her hair Saint Lucia, Saint Lucia'

(Translated from a Swedish song to St Lucy, her feast day being much celebrated there)


Jonathan Wonham said...

St Lucy's Day

(for Lucy)

Just on the threshold of sight
stands the one who knows the way
whenever the light of a hundred days
is ground in the crucible of one night.

meggie said...

Wonderful post.
Those photographs are wonderful too!
Many Happy Returns.

marja-leena said...

How wonderfully significant St Lucy or Lucia is for you! I love the poems, the photos and your own connection to the day! I've added the link to this to my own Lucia post.

Marly Youmans said...

Ah, but he can be so light-footed and light, as in "Busy old fool / Unruly sun." Liked these, words and pictures.

jzr said...

Gorgeous post!!

robinstarfish said...

pebble in pocket
wears a hole through blue denim
germinating seed

Lucy said...

I am impressed, moved and a little overwhelmed by such lovely responses. Thank you. I'm glad I hurried to get the post finished last night!
The pictures I took on a long walk on the afternoon of the 12th; yesterday was even more beautiful but I had less time to enjoy it.
I look forward to the link ML, but now there will be a frost on the car and the road and I must mind how I go.

vicki johnson said...

my Mother's birthday it was/is
but she stayed Lucille all her life
but i believe there was a Lucy and Lucia in her
without doubt

Anonymous said...

i hit the key too soon:
so here is a second message to say
Happy Birthday dear Lucy!
beautiful photographs and words...such a gift you give us in every way

Rosie said...

That's lovely Lucy. The darkness is just a little further from my door

stitchwort said...

Light goes with darkness
As the sequence does of steps in walking

from Sandokai, a daily scripture.

Jan said...

Happy Birthday Lucy.
Seize all the days, enjoy the light, but find peace sometimes in darkness.
Have a wonderful year.

Lucy said...

Darkness as a metaphor in this way is, of course, not necessarily a good one; I love darkness as a time of peace and gentleness. But I think one of the ways of living I have finally succeeded in is too accept and allow melancholy and take it in healthy doses, and no longer to fear it, and so enjoy the peace of it.

Catalyst said...

Ah, Sweet Lucy, you bring brightness to many a dark day!

Shine on!

Lucy said...

Catalyst, I've said it before and I'll say it again, yer a darling!

Miranda Bell said...

Was very interested to see your posting on my birthday... we have a lovely black Lab called Lucy too!! I love your photos - the weather recently has been fabulous for photo taking - we live up in the N. of Brittany...
Bon courage - Miranda

Pam said...

Very touching post - happy belated birthday from me too.

Lee said...

I think we in blog-land have much to be thankful to St Lucy and those associated with her. A lovely post.

Sheila said...

These scenes are absolutely breath-taking. I want to be there.

Most of my favorite poets are my favorites because they understood darkness. I never thought of that till now, but that is what drew me to them. Over time I have learned that I'm in good company, which is a consolation.

Somewhat related, have you heard Morten Loridsen's "Lux Aeterna?" If not, you must.

Bob's Blog said...

wonderful photos. I am going to link to you.