Monday, March 30, 2020

'Nuns Fret Not'

We often hear voices from glowing screens saying that we're 'trapped at home' during this period of coronavirus lockdown.
Joseph DeCamp (1858-1923) The Seamstress
(1916), Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington
This sonnet by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) expresses a different view of such limitations. His sonnet speaks to thriving within a self-imposed confinement. 

'Nuns fret not at their Convent’s narrow room;
And Hermits are contented with their Cells;
And Students with their pensive Citadels;
Maids at the Wheel, the Weaver at his Loom
Sit blithe and happy; Bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-Fells,
Will murmur by the hour in Foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.'


Steve Gilzow said...

Thanks for the introduction to this Wordsworth sonnet. Brings to mind the famous quotation from Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” That was published in 1654.

Three hundred and sixty years later, in 2014, researchers at University of Virginia published the results of a study (in the journal Science) in which participants could choose sitting quietly with their thoughts for 20 minutes or self-inflicting a painful electrical shock to end the session sooner. About 70% of the men and 25% of the women pressed the button to deliver the shock — even though, in preparation for the 20 minutes of solitude, when given a sample of the shock, they affirmed it was painful enough to “pay money” to avoid it.

Roberto Quintana said...

Thanx James.
Here’s another reflection. -RQ

Kitty O'Meara's prose poem inspired by the coronavirus pandemic:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Lou said...

Thanks guys, both bits of insight were interesting. Touching base with friends (hmm, perhaps a bad choice of metaphor) via phone-email-text, the conversation comes around to being asked what am I doing to avoid boredom, restlessness, impatience. I tell them I'm fortunate to be an artist. This time each year I'm always in my studio, days upon days, painting from plein air studies or making woodblock prints from ideas mulled over the previous year. I certainly look forward to getting out when the time comes (that's usually painting or fishing weather) but the present situation has made me appreciate more how fortunate I am to have these "distractions."

CerverGirl said...

A perfect time to venture the mind in imagination, meditation and appreciation.

Hildegard Khelfa said...

Those are beautiful lines, thank you very much for sharing them.
My son (16) and I are fine, living at home. It is only a tiny home, but we call it our nest. With books and colours, pencils, my sewing machine, wool to knit and crotchet, there is plenty of time to finally do, what I love to do extensively. Also handlettering...

Of course I pity all those poor people, those who mourn and dies, and I hope the best for all, but besides, this time gives us exactly this: the value of time and the awareness of it. Life is more silent now, just some daily strides with our dog. The birds sing louder now, nature is less disturbed. Of course, the losses are nothing to praise and I don't want to sound cynical, yet I cannot help thinking that our planet gets a little rest from us, and that may not be the worst. Plus: in the middle of all the sad things, there is place for positive, when people start to help each other, go shopping for the older ones, take care, be more sensitive.

My son enjoys learning from at home. I think, we always have the choice to complain or to make the best out of every moment in our lives.

I wish you, your family, friends and all your followers health and that this time with all its hardships will pass, while I wish and hope for all of you, to use it wisely and to find some joy in spite of all.

Greetings from Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. (P.S.: I just got your two books about light and imaginative realism. So, enough to learn and study. And that definitely feels very good.)

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everybody for your thoughtful comments. Hilde, yes, this period of confinement is a challenge to all of us, and I look forward to the time when we can with confidence seek out the company of strangers. If we keep a memory of this time of quieter living I hope it is to find joys closer to home, with less frenetic travel and consumption.