Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When Pleasure is a Duty

Post 90

If May were yet to burn away
In flower flame, both fain and fill,
I would stand here still and say,
--It stood a day. And what a day.
May it almost scary in its beauty. Sometimes it feels as if its beauty could overrun my capacity to bear it. I guess that is somewhat what Edmund Burke meant when he referred to the sublime. Some people take the sublime to mean scary as in creepy; I think it has more to do with, not scary exactly, but awesome, amazing, rapturous.
 The garden took some hits this winter that have lessened its spring blooms and will cost it this summer. Yet  it still contains more than enough plenitude to dazzle my senses, and I find I'm not really morning the loss of wallflower, yarrow, verbascum and hydrangea bloom. What is, is enough.

Leigh Hunt wrote some light verse about May where he refers to it as the "month when pleasure is a duty."

"May's the blooming Hawthorne bough;
May's the month that's blooming now
I no sooner write the word,
That it seems as if it heard,
And looks up, and laughs at me."
"There is May in books for ever;
May will part with Spenser never;
May's in Milton, May's in Prior,
May's in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer:"
"May's in all the Italian books;
She has old and modern nooks,
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves
In happy places they call shelves,"
"And will rise , and dress your rooms
With a drapery thick with blooms."
"Come ye rains then, if you will,
May's at home and with me still:
But come rather, thou, good weather
And find us in the fields together."

It can be hard to write of beauty without lapsing into petty prettiness, hence Hunt's wisdom in keeping his tone whimsical. The sweet sublime may be one of the hardest things to put into words or images. And to top it all off, May is not just a month of beauteous views, it is also the month of fascinating smells: lily of the valley, lilacs, tree peony. Smells that deliver the sweet sublime in elusive packets that fade as they radiate, intensify as they recede..
.I doubt I am the only one who finds great beauty a little scary, a little other, a disruption of the ordinary even though there are few things more ordinary than spring.
Is this why, by the Church Year, this is not Ordinary Time? I doubt it with my understanding, but it makes sense to the rest of me.

No comments: