Friday, 18 June 2010

Time Glides Away

I am currently immersed in work for my dissertation, a collection of poems in response to Ovid's Metamorphoses. The work, six hundred lines of verse, plus a five thousand word critical introduction, is due in at the beginning of September, which really should give me plenty of time to edit the five hundred reasonable lines I have already and to create another couple of hundred; so that I have enough strong material to select and submit. However, time is galloping.

Today I had my last class at Sussex. The M.A is almost over. Everyone in the class took it in turn to read from and talk about our dissertations and while I was listening to the others, I doodled the frog above, upisde-down on an early draft of my dissertation proposal.

Monday is the summer solstice. I'll be getting up before the sun rises at 4.45 am, meeting Rebecca at her parents' house and walking with her, up the hill of our village and down again on the other side to Johnny's cottage, for a day of Four Quarters merriment. It only seems a few days ago that we were prowling Parsons Wood in the snow on the winter solstice.

Next month, I am presenting a paper on my Ovid work at the University of Aberystwyth's Recycling Myths, Inventing Nations conference. I am all nerves and excitement about it, as I'll be exploring somewhere entirely new (and travelling there by train, of all wonders), but I have only three weeks left to write my paper.

While I was reading George Sandys's gorgeous 1632 translation of Metamorphoses (pictured below) one morning earlier this week, I came upon the following couplet in the story of Venus and Adonis:

Time glides away with undiscovered hast;
And mocks our hopes: no wings can fly so fast.

That same morning I went into my garden and wrote in my notebook that the buttercups were now blooming in my lawn because the grass needed cutting again; that the comfrey was already past its best, but was still humming with bees; and that my favourite orange oriental poppies were in full bloom. Since I wrote that, I've cut the grass, the comfrey's finished flowering and the poppies' petals have fallen. I love this time of year, but it saddens me too. I want to hold on to it, to stop it moving, just for another few weeks.

I found a poem, on the brilliant Poetry in Translation website, by Anna de Noailles:

The Trace I Wish to Leave

I aim to thrust myself against this life so hard,
And clasp it to me fiercely, leaving such a trace,
That when the sweetness of these days I must discard
The world will keep awhile the warmth of my embrace.

The sea, spread out across the globe so lavishly,
On stormy days my fitful memory will sustain,
And in its myriad, random motions ceaselessly
Preserve the acrid, salty, savour of my pain.

What will be left of me in heath and windswept coomb?
My blazing eyes will set the yellow gorse on fire,
And the cicada perched upon a sprig of broom
Will sound the depth and poignancy of my desire.

My joy and restless passion will not die with me,
Nature will breathe me in, making of me a part
Of all that lives, while sorrowing humanity
Will hold the individual profile of my heart.

It chimed with me. I adore de Noailles's love of life, of nature and her desire to 'clasp it... fiercely'. She seems so determined to fuse with the world, so that it becomes a little bit her, even after her death. My own feelings towards time and the changing seasons feel more tense, more anxious, less Nietzschean. I want to hold the ground to stop it changing. I want to fix the petals back on to the poppies. I don't want the solstice to come because afterwards, the nights will draw in again and winter will soon come icily fast.

I don't want to leave Sussex either. The two years of my MA have gone so fast. I like being a student: I like using the library and strolling around campus. I feel at home there.

I don't know what I will do next. For the moment, September still seems far enough away that I don't really feel the need to think about it. In the meantime, there are a thousand things to do, many poems to write, much to reflect upon and many (I hope not quite so breathy) posts to publish here.


  1. Breathy but also lovely and palpable. I am right beside you, trying to sit on early summer, stop her from leaving her seat and wandering out into the foyer! Woke at four this morning and lay in my already light-filled room listening to birdsong. Why is it that the more fleeting something is the more deeply we yearn for it? See you on Monday morning...X

  2. As I am not one for many words, I was going to attached a photo instead, hoping to some up the early summer but I don't seem to be able to do that. Which now means I have to write, psssh!! I have a feeling that your student days are not over yet, keep writing my lovely, your a natural. Caz xx

  3. Thanks, girls. Perhaps if we record every moment, we can make time move more slowly. Hmmm....

    S x

  4. Hope you enjoy your dissertation. I really enjoyed doing mine for my Masters Degree. There was something brilliantly indulgent about choosing my own subject, then having the time and structures to look into it with such depth.