I have nothing for today. Come back tomorrow when I hope inspiration will strike.
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Peter A. Gilbert’s Look at Life through the Humanities
December 24, 2007
Simple holiday wreaths made of evergreen branches make me think of a wonderful poem: “A Wreath” by George Herbert. Herbert was an Anglican priest who lived in England about the same time as Shakespeare. He wrote metaphysical poetry, poetry that emphasized wit cleverness or startling similes, rather than comparisons and images that seem natural—like love and roses, purity and fresh snow.
In high school, you may have read a poem by John Donne, another seventeenth-century Anglican clergyman, in which a man tries to seduce a woman by comparing their potential encounter to a flea that has bitten them both. It’s hard to imagine a less romantic object or argument to make his case—and that’s the poem’s charm.
Donne wrote another poem that compares two lovers saying goodbye to each other to a compass, the kind of compass with which you draw a circle. Although the lovers must part temporarily, they continue to act in sync: as the man travels around, the woman stays put at home, but leans toward the circling man. And its the woman’s standing firmly at home that causes the man’s circle of travel to stay true and not wander. These two poems are classic metaphysical poems built on an idea, a conceit, a clever and startling comparison.
Now to Herbert’s poem “A Wreath.” The poem’s wit rests in the fact that each of the poem’s twelve lines overlaps with the next line, just as the evergreen branches in a wreath overlap one another to form a circle. You’ll hear how the end of one line kind of repeats at the beginning of the next line. And the end of the poem, you guessed it, brings you back to the beginning—like a circle, a wreath, or a garland that crowns a hero.
It’s a religious poem, but one doesn’t have to be Christian to be struck by the poem’s beauty and technique. Here’s George Herbert’s “A Wreath”:
A Wreathed garland of deserved praise,
Of praise deserved, unto Thee I give,
I give to Thee, who knowest all my ways,
My crooked winding ways, wherein I live, —
Wherein I die, not live; for life is straight,
Straight as a line, and ever tends to Thee,
To Thee, who art more far above deceit,
Than deceit seems above simplicity.
Give me simplicity, that I may live,
So live and like, that I may know Thy ways,
Know them and practice them: then shall I give
For this poor wreath, give Thee a crown of praise.
So, because of its structure or style, the poem itself literally becomes, as the last line says, a wreath, and that wreath-poem becomes, in turn, a garland—a crown of praise. Clever indeed.
This article first aired as a commentary on Vermont Public Radio.
Thank you all for your well wishes on my birthday. Last night to celebrate, I had some sushi and a bottle of prosecco. Both were delicious. Then I went to bed early. I’m taking tomorrow off as my birthday holiday, so today is my last day at work this week. I hope all of you have had a wonderful week.
Today is my birthday, but it’s not a particularly joyous one. First I’m up here all alone with no one to celebrate with. It’s also been a tough year. Last year on this day, I found out that one of my dearest friends had died in a car wreck the night before. It’s been a year of depression and anxiety. Just when I thought I was doing better, my last grandparent, Granny, died. It’s certainly been a year of heartache.
I do not know what this year brings. I have hope that it will bring a good companion into my life. I have hope that it will be a year of less depression and anxiety. I have hope that I will be able to lose some weight. I have hope that I can get my life back onto a track of happiness. A year ago, I was on that track of happiness and i got severely derailed, but things are looking up. I have hope that they will continue to look up.
By the way, I turn 39 today. This is my last year in my 30s. What will the future hold?
Today, of course, is Black Friday. It means a lot of people are shopping today. I will not be one of them. First of all, I hate crowds. I don’t mind shopping, but I hate the crowds of people shopping on Black Friday. I plan to spend the day inside watching movies or tv shows on Netflix. Then I will watch some football. Will you be shopping today? What will you be doing?
Thanksgiving Day is usually filled with family and food. There are many LGBT out there who are without their families because of the hate and bigotry that exists in this world. I hope those who cannot be with their families, for whatever reasons, have wonderful friends with whom to share this day of Thanksgiving, and I hope they feel the love that I send their way.
I wanted this post to be about all that I am thankful for this year. In many ways, it’s been a year of loses, with the passing of my grandmother recently and the passing of my beloved friend who I lost nearly a year ago. There have been some bright spots though. With my birthday, (it’s next week), I will begin a new year of my life with hope and promise for a wonderful future. I am so thankful for my family. They may drive me crazy at times, but I love them and they love me. I am thankful for the love and companionship provided by my dear kitten Isabella, who will never replace HRH, but she is a wonderful and joyous companions. I am thankful for the wonderful people with whom I have the pleasure to work. I am thankful to be alive and in a happy point in my life. Most of all, I am thankful for my many friends in my life. Some of them are people I’ve never met in person, but have formed a connection with through my blog. For them, I want to say, you are as important to me and as loved by me as if you were a friend I saw everyday. I love you all! Thank you for being my friends.
One thing I never particularly liked about Halloween is the pumpkins. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice, or any pumpkin recipe, I find gross. I also never particularly like jack-o’-lantern. Yes, some can be very cool to look at, but making them always grossed me out. I hated scooping out the insides, and then of course the jack-o’-lantern eventually rots. It’s just gross all around. I don’t like pumpkins. However, these pictures might make me change my mind.