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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Robert Herrick: Memorials of the Obscure


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Image, Source: digital file from original

Grave on the high plains, Dawson County, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, March 1940



Upon a Child. An Epitaph

But borne, and like a short Delight,

I glided by my Parents sight.
That done, the harder Fates deny'd
My longer stay, and so I dy'd.


Upon a child


Here a pretty Baby lies
Sung asleep with Lullabies:
Pray be silent, and not stirre
Th'easie earth that covers her.


Upon Prew his Maid


In this little urne is laid
Prewdence Baldwin (once my maid)
From whose happy spark here let
Spring the purple Violet.





Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film
 
Grave and headstone in mountain cemetery.  Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, June 1940
 
Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film
 
Grave and headstone in mountain cemetery.  Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, June 1940
 
Image, Source: digital file from original
 
Newly-dug grave, Rochester, Pennsylvania: photo by John Vachon, January 1941
 
Image, Source: digital file from original

Grave, Kempton, West Virginia. The cemetery is on the top of a hill behind the town photo by John Vachon, May 1939
 
Image, Source: digital file from original
 
Old grave near Cruger, Mississippi: photo by Russell Lee, September 1938
 
Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film
 
Decoration of grave in Spanish-American cemetery, Penasco, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, July 1940
 
Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film
   
Mexican grave, near Santon, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: intermediary roll film
 
Spanish-American grave in rural section of Bernalillo County, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, April 1940
 
Image, Source: digital file from original
 
Grave in the cemetery at Santa Rita, New Mexico. Santa Rita is a copper mining town, inhabitants mostly Mexican: photo by Russell Lee, April 1940
 
Image, Source: digital file from original
   
Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: digital file from original
   
Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: digital file from original
   
Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: intermediary roll film of original neg.  
 
Mexican graves, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: intermediary roll film
 
Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: intermediary roll film
  
Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: intermediary roll film
  
Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: intermediary roll film
 
New Mexican graves in cemetery, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939
 
Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film  
 
Decoration of graves at New Roads, Louisiana on All Saints' Day: photo by Russell Lee, November 1938
 
Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film
 
Decorated graves in cemetery at New Roads, Louisiana on All Saints' Day, with chickens eating the flowers: photo by Russell Lee, November 1938

Robert Herrick 1591-1674): Upon a Child. An Epitaph; Upon a Child; Upon Prew his Maid, from Hesperides, 1648

Photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

23 comments:

Sandra said...

love that happy acceptance of death...

Hazen said...

Life, as someone in a moment of utter candor has observed, is a disease with a fatal prognosis. Nobody gets out alive. 



‘Only against death shall he call for aid in vain; but from baffling maladies he hath devised escapes.’ — Sophocles. 



So many maladies. So few escapes. One way or another, we work to redress that imbalance.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

All that's left of the green thought now.
I will never accept the green thought.

This is where I sit forever.
Trying to make sense of the inscriptions.
The place itself, a disappointment but oh, the view!

Nice location if you can afford it.
Give me this surreal feeling. I will catalog it.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I'm glad of the light bulb
decorating my grave
the chicken
the lei
someone left
it wasn't me
the fence was not
my idea
but theirs
to keep me in
my spirit
and to keep
animals out
like buffalo
like bears
there
on the High Plains
or way down
in old Mexico

Susan Kay Anderson said...

My water pitcher, my shell.
Marble the Mustang
so precious to me
now that I am dead

I can abuse my things
no more
crack them against
the wall
of tired rest
my bones in the dust
the Polynesian Triangle
up above far away

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The forest is a memory
of life
the graveyard remembers
death with little chairs
where we
are supposed to sit
and chat among other
dead things like
stone squirrels
dried trees their branches
abandoned snakes
bricked-in like Poe's
horror or freshly dug
under the snow

larry white said...

Much fine company --
little comfort is
better than none.

Bristol (UK) poet Deborah Harvey
has written in her book Communion
some memorials I'd love to quote but they're better viewed (if possible) on her excellent blog:
http://deborahharvey.blogspot.com/


Wooden Boy said...

"Pray be silent, and not stirre
Th'easie earth that covers her"

There's a quiet plainness in Herrick; here you feel it and it hurts. No great show of tears, just a finger placed to the lips with a soft insistence. Grief, still - a weight of it.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

It looks like
some of the graves
need watering

what would
sprout there
if this
were true?

Hazen said...

"This is where I sit forever.
Trying to make sense of the inscriptions.
The place itself, a disappointment but oh, the view!"
Susan, I like this. A fine poem.

TC said...

A Damon Runyon character sagely suggests that the odds on life are 6-5 against.

Ah, how unkind the fates, whisking away the green thought from one instant to the next, tracking you down, knocking you over, and all that's left is the yawning black hole in the ground.

The heartbreakingly sad little material displays, the lightbulbs baby dolls toys and kickshaws would presumably mime, in innocent, unknowing caricature, the security-blanket function once served by the substantial booty-duties cargo'd into the next world by the great, the pharaohs & kings & their great consorts.

But for the obscure (the great mass of us) there are no such high-end-commodity obsequies to be expected. The obscure go into the next world unburdened by wealth, nor even by a name. And those must be seen as mercies.

(The poor have ways of retaining dignity that seem closed off to the better-off; a while back I saw an article about the increasing number of people who insist on having their cell phones buried with them; after all, you'd hate to miss that once-in-a-lifetime power-shot call from your broker.)

There are so many heavyweight memorial poems for the world's oh-so-many heavy hitters (but where are they now), still that tradition always includes a certain danger of seeming compulsory, perfunctory -- the job aspect.

But with this special poet it's quite different. No weeping, bowing, scraping, no floods of crocodile tears. Only that simplicity and plainness, the lightness of touch, the graceful, gentle, unimposing delicacy of the respect -- captured in the characteristically brilliant Robin Herrick moments ("glided by", "and so I dy'd":; "Th'easie earth"; "let/Spring") that are so very beautiful.

Sometimes only a fine subtle vessel will do as proper receptacle for the truth of feeling.

Sandra said...

"Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality."

Emily Dickinson

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

"In this little urne is laid" . . .

(Herrick has never been seen in such company as these. . .)

8.24

light coming into fog against invisible
top of ridge, motion of shadowed branch
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

“possibly reproduce,” while
one “turned out quite”

defined by that which is in
this, here, happening

grey white of fog reflected in channel,
cormorant flapping across toward point

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Thanks to Herrick and your collection of photographs, clearly obscure no more, or more correctly, less obscure than before.

larry white said...

Sublime comments on sublime Herrick.

The narrowed scarcely sacred grove
a flat ring of concrete cul-de-sac
patrolled by cars, cats and vultures.
Now dozens rise to fan us twice with shadows
heralding cooler days perhaps
or praying put out more scraps.

On the crowded side where trash comes first
a gravelled alley butt midden for careless motorists.
I face the beauty side through a wide bay window,
kinder neighbors, garden grass surrounds,
the usual companions known as weeds,
redbuds, peach trees, walnuts, rabbit
romps, the banker's neat brick ranch,
then the buried grove itself,
four acres belonging to several neighbors,
a strip left wild along the upper hollow
made hollower by encircling pavements. Since
farming ceased in town all pasture gone,
a barbed enclosure fit for screening.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

My bones emerged from the ground
they are these words
I listen to them
held at arm's length
kickshaws decorate
my throat
around my waist bottles
turned dull in the sun

Dance with me
dance here we will
enjoy the song
familiar but unlike
any other green

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Thanks, Hazen.
Vielen Dank.

Wooden Boy, how is it that you know everything?

larry white said...

Mary Butts, from the story "Green":

They took him out, a tramp across green, from green to green, entertained him with birds' nests set deep in thorned twigs and split light. There had been tea and toast and chess, an evening to get through and a night. He stood between them at evening at the door of the house. Now in the sky there was a bar of the green that has no name. He was standing on grass darkening beside dark green. She had said, "It is all Hermes, all Aphrodite."

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Upon a Teacher. An Epitaph
He spoke, at times sharply
Melted butter with his chords
vocal & such
Strummed them, charismatic.

Upon thinking of a Teacher
Don't waste your time
It said in other words
other worlds too.

Upon Ed Dorn her Teacher
There are orbits
I sighted his path
it was rogue, solitary
something to keep
In mind. They now say
Cook wasn't eaten
just Cooked.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Grave on the high plains, Dawson County, photo by Russell Lee, March 1940

What was I doing there?
This is written in a lanugage
I will never comprehend.


Grave and headstone in mountain cemetery. Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, June 1940

These shadows are clear
their meaning not. I thought
everything would be bigger
larger than life.




Grave and headstone in mountain cemetery. Pie Town, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, June 1940

We had to guard the grave
of Russell Lee, despite his protests.
He was not freshly dead
or even nearly, you see.



Newly-dug grave, Rochester, Pennsylvania: photo by John Vachon, January 1941

Lots of times the numbers seem backwards
but this time they are not
because of the horizon line
curved and holding my bones
(Sincerely, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark).


Grave, Kempton, West Virginia. The cemetery is on the top of a hill behind the town photo by John Vachon, May 1939

Well, they said to build a castle
and we got a start on one
but gave up after the gate
to keep out the pigs was finally finished.
There was a crest attached at one point of a black eagle and (real) castle. The old one had a bear.


Old grave near Cruger, Mississippi: photo by Russell Lee, September 1938

I was a baker
of almond crescents
those cookies for dipping
into hot drinks. My toes
pointed to the next town
ten miles away,
a day's walk and I'm glad
to be in the orchard under a small moon
a small feather.


Decoration of grave in Spanish-American cemetery, Penasco, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, July 1940

A plywood mirror doth maketh the (dead) man.



Mexican grave, near Santon, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

I've said enough, previously.


Spanish-American grave in rural section of Bernalillo County, New Mexico: photo by Russell Lee, April 1940

I requested that they please
plant some corn.

Grave in the cemetery at Santa Rita, New Mexico. Santa Rita is a copper mining town, inhabitants mostly Mexican: photo by Russell Lee, April 1940

I always liked the wind,
all the different kinds
with their different names--
I loved to listen to
their whistles.


Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

The idea of balance in life has never been so lovingly recreated.
I've already written about this and it might have seemed like I had the chairs all figured out and such, but, in truth, I haven't. This might be one for the Wooden Boy.


Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

It is a little too late.



Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

I will need lots of garlic where I am going.


Mexican graves, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

Damn that frost! Damn those petrified forest branches!

Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

The wind has not forgotten me.

Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

The playground
is never
this interesting.



Mexican grave, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

I always loved art.


New Mexican graves in cemetery, Raymondville, Texas: photo by Russell Lee, February 1939

It will be quite noticable if
somebody walks around. Lightbulbs will break.

Decoration of graves at New Roads, Louisiana on All Saints' Day: photo by Russell Lee, November 1938

I know things are covered up and all...


Decorated graves in cemetery at New Roads, Louisiana on All Saints' Day, with chickens eating the flowers: photo by Russell Lee, November 1938

The road was not that new to them--just the crossing seemed strange.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Tom:

So very beautiful, these Herrick lyrical epitaphs.

The use, the weight, of the single word "But" in the first poem is so, so heavy, truly a stone about the neck. It sticks, too, in my throat every time I read it - the thud, thud of "But borne ...".

And the transcendent "Upon Prew his Maid". The violet as spark, life in death.

The circle complete.

Don

TC said...

Don,

That delicately brilliant capture of an all-too-brief beginning, "But borne," with the built-in (and crucial to the meaning) long pause between words -- "born" of a craftsman's intimacy with the micro-measured stretched-out timing between the closing and opening consonants in those two adjacent stressed syllables -- is always a reminder to me (as is the trip from "let" across the chasm of that last line-break to "Spring") of how much a great poet can do in a very small space.

That's your area of expertise of course!

So glad you picked up on these.

Sandra said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9VRAOf9VKk