I love our Cornish lanes with gnarled old trees which form a tunnel over the lane.
For many years we have had a small wooden cat, bought when we no longer had our cats having given them to our daughter so that they could live in the countryside and we, just retired, could go on holidays without having to find cat-sitters. He has been sitting in our hall since we came back to Cornwall almost ten years ago. Last week, one of our dear friends had to say goodbye to her much-loved cat, Bussie, and wondered if anyone had a small cat ornament that she would put in her rather special beach garden. We both felt that it was time for our lovely wooden cat to be passed on to Sue who is absolutely delighted and has painted him in Bussie’s colouring already and he now sits in the beach garden. It has been lovely for us to do something so simple to make our friend so happy.
For some reason that I cannot fathom, thinking about cats put me in mind of John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn, another poem, one verse of which we had to learn by heart many years ago. In groups then and in unison, we had to recite our verse and others recited the other verses. It was not a favourite then but maybe the last two lines lodged in my brain all those years ago.
Ode on a Grecian Urn
Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,Sylvan historian, who canst thus expressA flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shapeOf deities or mortals, or of both,In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheardAre sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leaveThy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shedYour leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;And, happy melodist, unwearied,For ever piping songs for ever new;More happy love! more happy, happy love!For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,For ever panting, and for ever young;All breathing human passion far above,That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.Who are these coming to the sacrifice?To what green altar, O mysterious priest,Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?What little town by river or sea shore,Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?And, little town, thy streets for evermoreWill silent be; and not a soul to tellWhy thou art desolate, can e’er return.O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with bredeOf marble men and maidens overwrought,With forest branches and the trodden weed;Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thoughtAs doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!When old age shall this generation waste,Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woeThan ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is allYe know on earth, and all ye need to know.”