Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Poem of the day, looking for calm in stormy weather

My poem for the day is by Matthew Arnold (1822-1888). I have given you poems by him in previous posts . Just to refresh our memories he is the one who was the son of the famous headmaster of Rugby school. He wanted to marry and so got a job as a school inspector and travelled widely on the newly built railways. The verse for today is about calm. It is difficult to describe calm, but the verse seems to be in praise of quietness. There have been lots of thunderstorms in the last few days, in Italy and Britain. They can cause a lot of damage. Whole vineyards and crops destroyed, flash flooding making travelling hazardous and ruining people's homes. The first time I experienced an Italian thunderstorm I thought it was quite exciting, I hadn't seen many in Britain. We were on holiday, my dad and mum my brother and me. We had stopped for the night in the middle of nowhere. My dad went down to the bar to share a drink with the local men. You know how much he liked doing that. He was able to carry on a long conversation using a handful of words, Wonderful, momento, salute, cin cin. All that was needed was his broad friendly smile and his evident goodwill and he had made friends with them all. So there we were up in the room on our own. The Summer storm was raging outside. An extremely loud clap of thunder caused all the lights to go out. We then watched from the window as the lightning lit up the surrounding countryside. It was highwaymen weather. We were very excited, being about nine and eleven, it was an adventure. We opened the door of our room so that some of the candlelight from below filtered up the stairs. An eerie glow appeared coming along the corridor accompanied by a low, moaning noise and someone calling urgently, ?Eeee noooo'. My brother and I screamed, well I did, he might not like me saying that. We ran in and jumped on the bed. Our mum, ever cool, calm and collected, went to greet the newcomer. She put her arms around her to comfort her and all four of us sat huddled on the bed until the men came up the stairs. It is probably an exaggeration to say it was the highlight of out holiday, but we talked and laughed about it for a long time.
Back to the poem and calm through the storms. There is also the song the Liverpool supporters sing, Walk on, and the hymn that goes

Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire
Oh still small voice of calm
Oh still small voice of calm.

Matthew Arnold

Ah, quiet, all things feel thy balm!
Those blue hills too, this river's flow,
Were restless once, but long ago.
Tamed is their turbulent youthful glow;
their joy is in their calm.


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