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Sunday, 26 January 2014

John Donne: A Lecture upon the Shadow


Family  Portrait, Lower Darnley, Prince Edward Island, Canada: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 24 January 2014

Stand still, and I will read to thee
A Lecture, Love, in loves philosophy.
    These three houres that we have spent,
    Walking here, Two shadowes went
Along with us, which we our selves produc'd;
But, now the Sunne is just above our head,
    We doe those shadowes tread;
    And to brave clearnesse all things are reduc'd.
So whilst our infant loves did grow,
Disguises did, and shadowes, flow,
From us, and our cares; but, now 'tis not so.

That love hath not attain'd the high'st degree,
Which is still diligent lest others see.

Except our loves at this noone stay,
We shall new shadowes make the other way.
    As the first were made to blinde
    Others; these which come behinde
Will worke upon our selves, and blind our eyes.
If our loves faint, and westwardly decline;
    To me thou, falsely, thine,
    And I to thee mine actions shall disguise.
The morning shadowes weare away,
But these grow longer all the day,
But oh, loves day is short, if love decay.

Love is a growing, or full constant light;
And his first minute, after noone, is night.

John Donne (1572-1631): A Lecture upon the Shadow, from Songs and Sonets (1633)

Stairway #2. Lower Darnley, Prince Edward Island, Canada: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 15 October 2009

Stairway #1. Crane Estate, Ipswich, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 14 October 2012

Dune Shadow Sunset Self Portrait: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 23 September 2010

Where Fantasy Is Fact: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 3 April 2011

This Ocean Shoreline (Rockport, Massachusetts): photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 24 February 2013

Modern Architecture with Shadow: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 12 May 2013

In the Bramble. Dogtown, Gloucester, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 6 January 2013

In the Bramble #3. Dogtown, Gloucester, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 7 February 2013

In the Bramble #6. Dogtown, Gloucester, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 27 February 2013

Black Hole (and) Sun. Horn Pond, Woburn, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 25 November 2009

Dog Walk, Early Morning, Middlesex Fells, Stoneham, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 15 December 2013

Nelson Island #5 -- Entrance. Rowley, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 15 January 2014

Nelson Island #16, Rowley, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 15 January 2014

Great Marsh in Winter #11, Rowley, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan (LowerDarnley), 22 January 2014


Nin Andrews said...

Love the photo essay. Love its many shadows or with its many shadow, or just two shadows growing and making those new little shadows . . .

Yes, lovely flowing shadows . . .

ACravan said...

I woke up to this and then, after reading up a bit on the poem, went back to bed for a while thinking about it and the collaboration of images, language and ideas, and about how crazy or brave the photographer was for walking on the Atlantic shoreline during this cold weather. It's a wonderful gift, this. And for me the dog is the governor and wise and compassionate judge of all the behavior on display. I assume he's quite accustomed to seeing his companion photographing his shadow and I expect he chalks it up to a harmless eccentricity of someone he cares about a great deal. Curtis

TC said...

Marvelous photos aren't they Nin. Jim Rohan is a master of the shadow autoportrait. Brilliantly atmospheric, suggestive and playful and sombre all at once -- perhaps his work captures something of the "metaphysical".

It may be the shadowplay conceit had more than abstruse scholasic interest for Donne. Keeping one's loves discreetly in the shadows was, in the court environment of his early aspiring years, never a bad idea; indeed he did just that for a time, until caught out in love with the underage ward of his court patron and boss.

He had to quit the court over that incident (thus ruining his career before it had started); he married her, and produced with her "a mast of children".

Her name was More... and he had always wanted More.

To go against the grain was his persistent rhetorical objective, and that's a sort of thing that often makes for interesting art.

It's hard to form one's mind around the idea of a latter-day Donne.

But...Ian Curtis?

Joy Division: Shadowplay (Live TV, 1978)

"In the shadowplay, acting out your own death, knowing no more...

"I did everything, everything I wanted to,
I let them use you for their own ends..."

Though Donne had at least done better than that, to give credit.

TC said...

Curtis, sorry I'd missed that.

Probably a little of each -- brave, crazy.

But the pictures are worth his trouble. And unlike Scott, he didn't have to eat the dogs.

The photos are captures of something ephemeral, which, thanks to the artist's eye, we get to not only see along with him, but keep.

(These are the sort of images that seem to me very close to certain experiences of remembering and dreaming.)

I thought the inveterate walkers of dogs out there might espy a dog partially concealed in the lowest Dogtown bramble shot (In the Bramble #6).

ACravan said...

I know what you mean about remembering and dreaming and the images are resonant with both these experiences and sensations. That's a funny and spooky partially concealed dog. Yesterday we finally figured out that our super-large fox is a coyote. Apparently, coyotes have lived in Valley Forge State Park, which isn't far from here, for some time, but this one's the first we've seen in Berwyn. Where we live was part of the Valley Forge encampment during the American Revolution, so I guess our coyote's arrival shouldn't come as a surprise, but I could be happier, I must say. I love the poem, which will stay with me through my forthcoming drive to Philly and all day, I'm sure. Curtis

Be the BQE said...

Tom, I love looking at these Jim Rohan photographs and thinking about whether the shadows imply a "westwardly decline" or its opposite--whatever that might be. Beautiful pairing.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Yes, the photos are marvelous, but the poem, the poem - really amazing how very contemporary is Donne, at least in sensibility and tone (I don't believe, however, that runs counter it being hard to imagine a contemporary Donne).

Or perhaps I'm off the mark and, like Father Walt, I contradict myself.

I happen to be reading one of those neat little collections by Peter Pauper Press of the Donne love poems, so this is, for this reader, a delightful bit of synchronicity. I'm reading one a day, either at first rising or just before falling off to sleep and, not surprisingly, I am seduced.

Peter Pauper Press.


Mose23 said...

We doe those shadowes tread;
And to brave clearnesse all things are reduc'd.

The further we go - the accumulated failures - and the picture gets sharper, denser. A lot more could be said about the proximity of the words "brave clearnesse" and "reduc'd".

Donne gets the game and his weariness shows.

TC said...

Friends David, Don, Duncan, I'd like to think that both John Donne and Jim Rohan would appreciate these generous comments very much.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Tom. and then there's Vivian Maier's Chicago shadows photos. Thanks, ever, Donna