Cornish Lane, Wooden Cat and John Keats

01 Oct

I love our Cornish lanes with gnarled old trees which form a tunnel over the lane.

Cornish 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.

Bussie, the wooden replica, from us to Sue

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 express 
       A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape 
       Of 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 unheard 
       Are 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 leave 
       Thy 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 shed 
         Your 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 evermore 
         Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
                Why thou art desolate, can e’er return. 
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede 
         Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
         Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 
         When old age shall this generation waste, 
                Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, 
         “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

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8 responses to “Cornish Lane, Wooden Cat and John Keats

  1. mybeautfulthings

    October 2, 2017 at 7:07 am

    From our friend, Sue:
    Well I am more touched and delighted than I can say! My heart gives a little skip whenever I see him xx.

  2. nrhatch

    October 1, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    What a great way to pass on the tradition of having a sitter-less cat sitting around.
    Love the lane . . .

  3. commonprose

    October 1, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Your Bussie was such a sweet gift to your heartbroken friend.

  4. commonprose

    October 1, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Miss the Cornish lanes and the sessile oaks.

    • mybeautfulthings

      October 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      I was thinking of you as I wrote about the tunnels of trees! Xx🙂

  5. Arkenaten

    October 1, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Bussie looks quite at home! And a wonderful gesture.

    I have never been one to appreciate poetry – the Neanderthal in me, I suspect.
    However, I have always appreciated cats, and at one time we had 23. Gives the term living in a Cat-house a whole new perspective! ( We are now down to five )
    When I was around 19 I played in a garage band. The drummer’s wife , Fiona was a Stevie Nicks type woman who was also a serious cat fan. Though her love extended to only one real one and the rest were stone.
    She collected large pebbles from beaches in North Wales – mostly Rhyl and painted cats on them, which she used to sell.
    I used to have a large one that we used as a door stop while I lived at home. My folks still have it I believe.
    I lost contact with Fiona and her husband after I moved to South Africa but on a visit home one year my wife and I ventured into a craft shop in Chester and among all the bric-a-brac and touristy type trinkets I came across a solitary cat painted on a small pebble.
    I inquired after the artist but the person in the shop could not help me. But I just knew it was painted by Fiona.
    I asked if I could have a look, and on closer inspection noticed there were two tiny initials painted on the underside fm ( Fiona Massey). I bought it.
    I never found out what became of Fiona – It turns out not everyone is on Facebook!
    But I still have the cat!

    • mybeautfulthings

      October 2, 2017 at 11:05 am

      Thank you for your story – I love it and that you still have the painted stone. Shame you can’t track Fiona down. I shall be watching out for cat painted stones in all the likely shops and markets that I visit! 🙂

      • Arkenaten

        October 2, 2017 at 11:15 am

        You never know, right?


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