Friday, March 13, 2009

of these my fill

Silence, loneliness, darkness —
       These, and of these my fill.
While God in the rush of the Maytide
       Without is working His will.

Without are the wind and the wall-flowers.
       The leaves and the nests and the rain.
And in all of them God is making
       His beautiful purpose plain.

But I wait in a horror of strangeness —
       A tool on His workshop floor.
Worn to the butt, and banished
       His hand for evermore.
This is verse XLIX from "Hawthorn and Lavender" by W.E. Henley's Hawthorn and Lavender, with other Verses (London, 1901). It is the 11th poem that Lawrence wrote out in Minorities, his pocket book of blank pages.

The verses of this poem take the reader through the course of the year, season by season, as a metaphor for the passage of life from birth to death. This stanza comes near the end. The one just before begins:
Gray hills, gray skies, gray lights,
And still, gray sea —
O fond, O fair,
The Mays that were,
When the wild days and wilder nights
Made it like heaven to be!
And the one after it:
So let me hence as one
Whose part in the world has been dreamed out and done
Henley was popular in his time but his work is rarely now antholigized. He was a quotable poet whose verses have an innocent religiosity that now seems trite. He shows up in anthologies of quotations for his overwrought patriotism and Victorian individualist fervor. Examples: "What have I done for you, England, my England? What is there I would not do, England, my own?" "It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." "Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul."

{Mr. William Ernest Henley, Nov. 26, 1892, from "The National Observer"; source: a rare prints site}

Some sources:

Minorities, by T E Lawrence; ed. by Jeremy Wilson (London, Cape, 1971).

Hawthorn and lavender, with other verses, by William Ernest Henley (London, David Nutt, 1901)

Hawthorn and Lavender with Other Verses, by William Ernest Henley (London, David Nutt, 1901)

William Ernest Henley

W. E. Henley, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21); Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One; VI. Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century.

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