Tuesday, September 04, 2012

`Sorrows Do Require Some Respitt Unto the Sences'

As we age the calendar grows crowded with the anniversaries of deaths celebrated and obscure. This week we lose Mother Ann Lee, Ivan Turgenev, Louis MacNeice, Max Kaminsky, Oscar Pettiford and the eleven Israeli athletes murdered by terrorists in Munich.  Later in the month I’ll remember a friend. Remembrance is an act of devotion, a moral obligation, one the late Donald Justice reenacted throughout his life as a poet. The elegiac instinct came to him as naturally as breath. From his first book, The Summer Anniversaries (1960): 

“We shall not ever meet them bearded in heaven,
 Nor sunning themselves among the bald of hell;
 If anywhere, in the deserted schoolyard at twilight,
 Forming a ring, perhaps, or joining hands
 In games whose very names we have forgotten.
 Come, memory, let us seek them there in the shadows.”
Donald Justice dedicated his Selected Poems (1979) “To the memory of my mother and father,” and added these unattributed words: 

“But ceasse worthy shepheard, nowe ceasse we to weery the hearers
With monefull melodies, for enough our greefes be revealed,
If by the parties ment our meanings rightly be marked,
And sorrows do require some respitt unto the sences.” 

The author is Sir Philip Sidney and the lines are from “The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.” Remembering, yes, but not obsessive and histrionic mourning, a self-indulgent vice: “And sorrows do require some respitt unto the sences.”

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