Richard Burton: Absent In The Spring*
The Leaden Echo and The Golden Echo
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Ann: Hi Richard, there seems to be a lot of disconnection in the air, and I notice that I, like many others, have been feeling a little "absent in the spring"* this year.
Richard Burton: So you have, love. Sometimes the beauty of spring contrasts so strongly with the uncertainty in our hearts that it makes our heads hurt. Then we burrow into our little holes, try to shut the world out, and hope thus to defeat our sorrows. We turn to mundane tasks long ignored as if they carry the secret of the universe in their accomplishment. But we cannot long stay absent, for the passing of time and its harbingers are not to be denied.
We can set aside these concerns for the moment, yes, so that the moment can have its day, its time in the sun, but always that time is fleeting, and no distraction - or celebration - will keep the grim reaper at bay.
So it is glad I am that you have come here today. We each have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but then, carrying those burdens, we can come to spirit with our hearts wide open, even broken sometimes when aging, illness and death weigh us down.
What we then receive, however, is miraculous. It was described most eloquently in a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It is not an easy poem to follow at first, but if you persevere, you will be rewarded in spades. It is called The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo.** Hopkins takes us through the inevitable downfalls of age and illness and then releases us into glory. I wanted to teach that poem at Oxford. It says everything to us that we need to know.
Ann: It took me awhile to follow it, but when I listened to you reading it several times, I began to hear, not a poem, but a song on which I was lifted on the tide that carries everything away. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhQwFf6Qb9U
What a gift you gave us, Richard, with your unsparing sight and beautiful voice, reading for us about what matters, what those who came before us discovered, that you then rediscovered, and then added a pedal tone of understanding not available to the rest of us. You are the gift, Richard, many times over.
Richard: Yes, well, let’s not get maudlin about it. We die, yes. We become ill and ugly, yes. But we do not lose that precious and beautiful part that is our essence, for it is held for us, yonder. Witness, as Exhibit One, the irremediable journey into hell that was my life and, behold, I still live, as handsome and erudite as ever - as your insightful friend Lena commented.
You must begin to expand your vision, love, for then you will begin to see both truths at once, the leaden and the golden echoes that culminate in the whole of a life which is then added to its other efforts and then those to the whole on this wheel over time.
Watch with love, see your world as both golden and leaden, both now, both then, and eternally so with the Great Spirit that resides within the magnificent heart of each one of you. Keep the whole picture within your sight, in your remembrance, and at the front of your mind.
This is part of the journey and the many blessings it offers, blessings that I was never able to tolerate in my life which is why I encourage each of you to proceed on a different track, understanding that light and dark move in tandem but always come back more fully formed into the light.
Though you may run away, if you can bring yourself to come back, we will be here to welcome you home.
May 29, 2021
*Sonnet 98: From you have I been absent in the spring, by William Shakespeare
**The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo
(Maidens' song from St. Winefred's Well)
The Leaden Echo
How to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty,... from vanishing away? Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankèd rinkles deep, Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey? No there's none, there's none, O no there's none, Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair, Do what you may do, what, do what you may, And wisdom is early to despair: Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done To keep at bay Age and age's evils, hoar hair, Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death's worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay; So be beginning, be beginning to despair. O there's none; no no no there's none: Be beginning to despair, to despair, Despair, despair, despair, despair.
The Golden Echo
Spare! There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!); Only not within seeing of the sun, Not within the singeing of the strong sun, Tall sun's tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth's air. Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one, Ońe. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place, Where whatever's prized and passes of us, everything that's fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone, Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face, The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet, Never fleets móre, fastened with the tendered truth To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an ever-lastingness of, O it is an all youth! Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace, Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace— Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath, And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty's self and beauty's giver. See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair Is, hair of the head, numbered. Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept, This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold What while we, while we slumbered. O then, weary then whý should we tread? why are we so haggard at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged, so fashed, so cogged, so cumbered, When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care, Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.— Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder, Yonder.
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