Monday, October 18, 2010

“Tears, idle tears*

It had been a typical Fall morning, the fog slowly thinning to mist, the trees and buildings steaming as the sun burned through to bring a blue sky and a fresh breeze. The car window I was working beside was coated with tiny drops of moisture and it was a simple, mindless thing to stick out my finger and begin to draw a round face. As I drew in the little comma-like eyes the drops formed drips that ran down the window. Quickly I drew, not a happy face but a down-turned mouth to match the tears. Then I ran for my camera and recorded this transient image.

So transient, like the thought that drifted up from my unconscious and united with the developing face on the glass. My usual mind begins to doodle a happy face, and my deeper self, working with the image, expresses tears.

*Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather in the eyes,
In looking on the happy Autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
from‘Tears, idle Tears’ by Tennyson.

The title for this piece came to me immediately, even though it is by a Victorian poet and not a well known poem of his either. It is such a dramatic way of expressing regrets for what might have been. How often what I create has a feeling from music or poetry that is its twin in another medium. All of us creators are drawing from the same well.

Yes, those ‘days that are no more’ are surely behind me, but I are not dead yet and much remains to venture. Nostalgia, the looking back on one`s life, reminds me of the old West Coast method of navigating on foggy days. On setting out from land to cross a strait, a long line would be trailed behind the canoe. The crew could not see the destination ahead but by constantly lining up the canoe with the trailing cord behind and keeping the angle constant between cord and the dominant wave pattern they could maintain a course. So, while we cannot know our future, we do know our past, and a careful understanding of that is the best way of finding the path ahead. We do need to cast off and keep moving because we get, not what we deserve, but what we risk, what we dare, but neither should we never look back. Tennyson finds the mood in ‘Ulysses’ that is the next stage to the backward glance to the past, a resolve to keep developing, ‘to strive, to find, and not to yield’.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to find, and not to yield.
from‘Ulysses’ by Tennyson.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Moods and their uses.

Ernst asked if I was feeling melancholic because of the subject matter in ‘Tears, idle tears’. We live in a society where anything other than happy is suspect and in need of medication and yet much of the great works of music for example were written by composers who were able to access a wider range of emotion, sadness for example, and use it as the power behind their creative work. Northern Europeans, perhaps because of their long winters and lack of sunshine have made this their specialty and created a culture with a great potential depth of feeling. It is when we reject emotions and do not allow them to act out creatively in our lives that we run into problems.

My point in the ‘Tears’ posting was to indicate that nostalgia is useful as a guide to the future and that actively moving into our future is essential. Seize the day!