“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind
I HAD for my winter evening walk
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.
Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o’clock of a winter eve.
Today I thought I’d share some images taken at Dunstanburgh Castle on Northumberland’s beautiful Heritage Coast. The castle is the largest in Northumberland. In 1313, Earl Thomas of Lancaster, cousin of Edward II of England began construction and John of Gaunt added to it later in the century.
During the Wars of the Roses, the castle was badly damaged and it slowly fell into decay. The castle is now owned by the National Trust and in the care of English Heritage. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building.
This beautiful and evocative ruin can hardly fail to inspire, perched on a rocky outcrop above the coast and the plain below. Some great painters have immortalised it, including Turner and, one of my favourite contemporary artists, Michael Morgan.
Lilburn Tower, the most intact of the castle buildings, seems to demand a moody black and white treatment. Can you imagine a knight riding along that path, perhaps to rescue a princess from the tower? I kept thinking instead of Macbeth, riding to meet the three weird sisters, perhaps because Roman Polanski’s film, Macbeth was shot in the area.
I chased down a rainbow there on our visit, only just managing one hasty exposure before the colours faded, from which I made this, rather more painterly than usual, image with a little help from Topaz Simplify:
For all that I enjoyed the, admittedly rather over the top, colours of the last two images, it remains, for me, the black and white images that suit this location more. If you get the chance to visit this atmospheric ruin, I thoroughly recommend it.
With perseverance the snail reached the ark.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The year’s at the spring
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his heaven –
All’s right with the world!
What is Death?
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you,
for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just around the corner.
All is well.
~ Henry Scott Holland
Please note, I have not recently suffered a bereavement. I admire this poem and wanted to take an image to fit it.
“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
“‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”
“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, ” Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome — will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind Sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”
“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I’ve a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”
The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
“Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple — there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”
Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue –
Thinking only of her crested head – poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour – but she ne’er came out again!
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
Mary Howitt, ‘The Spider and the Fly’ (1829)
This is a view of the Grand Canyon from the Watchtower at Desert View.
The Watchtower, impressively perched on the edge of the mighty canyon, was completed in 1932. It is one of several buildings in the Grand Canyon area designed by American architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter.
Inside, the tower is decorated with murals by Fred Kabotie, a Hopi from second Mesa.
Vien dietro a me, e lascia dir le genti:
Sta come torre ferma, che non crolla
Gia mai la cima per soffiar di’ venti.
Follow me and leave the world to chatter:
Be steady as a tower that never bows its head,
However hard the winds may blow.
Dante Alighieri, Divina Commedia (1307), ‘Purgatorio’, Canto 5
The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude […] The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.
Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)
I took this shot on Chesterman Beach, near Tofino on Vancouver Island. The Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island can be serene, as on the day I took the photograph, or mysterious when (as it often is in Summer) cloaked in fog, or wild (local hotels offer storm watching breaks in the winter months).
Chopin is one of many writers who have described the sea’s strangely magnetic force. Shores are evocative, liminal places that invite contemplation, as Chopin so acutely, and beautifully describes.
Another writer interested in shores whose work I have recently read is H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). Here is one of the most famous poems from her typically enigmatic volume, Sea Garden:
THE HARD sand breaks,
And the grains of it
Are clear as wine.
Far off over the leagues of it,
Playing on the wide shore,
Piles little ridges,
And the great waves
Break over it.
But more than the many-foamed ways
Of the sea,
I know him
Of the triple path-ways,
Facing three ways,
He whom the sea-orchard
Shelters from the west,
From the east
Fronts the great dunes.
Over the dunes,
And the coarse, salt-crusted grass
It whips round my ankles!
This white stream,
Flowing below ground
From the poplar-shaded hill,
But the water is sweet.
Apples on the small trees
Too late ripened
By a desperate sun
That struggles through sea-mist.
The boughs of the trees
By many bafflings;
The small-leafed boughs.
But the shadow of them
Is not the shadow of the mast head
Nor of the torn sails.
The great sea foamed,
Gnashed its teeth about me;
But you have waited,
Where sea-grass tangles with
H.D., ‘Hermes of the ways’ (1917)
For me, this poem evokes both vulnerability and exhilaration, the beauty of things that by necessity must grow tough living on the edge, whether they be apple trees or people.
Do you have a favourite poem of the shore?
Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the beauteous land.
And the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity …
Julia Carney, ‘Little Things’ (1845)
Photo taken on the beautiful coast of Northumberland, England, with Lindisfarne Castle in the distance.