Thursday, October 10, 2013

thy warning finger, prest

Death is the solution that occurs to Caroline Leakey in Lyra Australis, even when she has recovered from her hip fever and moved to Boa Vista with the family of the Bishop. Death comes to her when she thinks about babies (Cui Bono?) and when she thinks about flowers (Early Snowdrop). Death is always coming, or guilt is coming, she writes a poem about the end of transportation to Tasmania, she worries that the island (too excited and pleased, these festivities make her uneasy; in another poem she squashes them with a line she gives to a child) will not be able to control itself: "oh, task most hard!" -- her job is to warn --

And let thy lips in heartfelt murmurs break
On festal voice around, with words inspired
By Him who spoke as never man yet spake,—
"Where much is given, there much will be required."

The baby son in Cui bono? will develop loose morals if its mother doesn't watch it closely as it is growing up.

Is it a time of good or ill?
Choose, mother, choose -- which shall it be?
Thy God hath left the choice to thee

The Broad Arrow overseer who "Just out of spite" let Bradley loose on Pragg is the mother's failure: he is the conduit of the arbitrary.

Everybody needs an eye kept on them, even the poet needs that keeping eye; her sorrow will be the eye that keeps on her and probed by its eye she will be mindful.

My soul, to erring prone,
Dares not, O Sorrow, walk through life's dark road alone,
She may forgetful prove.
No more upraised thy warning finger, prest
To check the murmuring sigh or thought ere yet exprest,
I may not heed thy love.
O, then, till death abide;
Then we must part, for thence beyond, my faithful guide,
No step of thine may stray:
Back to my God me brought, will be thy mission o'er.
For He hath said, from that bright land, that sinless shore, Sorrow shall flee away.

She might have read Cowper (like him, she enjoys the notion of a pathway followed by the word "alone"):

The path of sorrow and that path alone
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.

(from An Epistle To An Afflicted Protestant Lady In France)

And bedridden in Tasmania would have come across these lines:

Thy tender sorrows and thy plaintive strain
Flow in a foreign land, but not in vain

Her depression or sadness or misery has a story that she has attached to it; it is her life-assistant, it reminds her to feel guilty, which she believes is necessary for a worthwhile religious existence, not only for herself but for others, for sons and for the mothers of sons, and for people who will not give alms in Thou Art Thy Brother's Keeper: "Shall the blood of Abel crying, | Awake to call on you." It is not awareness of original sin merely but awareness of being watched, and of watching and addressing. She writes "O!" and "Oh!"* and "Alas!," she summons attention to her before she delivers her message, she has her hwæt.

Why does she keep reminding things that she exists? Why is she anxious? I think this is the unanswered question in all of Caroline Leakey's work.

The way to lead a good life is to open yourself to vigilant unprivate interventions, or, in summary, privacy is the door to damnation.

* "Oh, soon will end this weary life" (Sonnet II); "She died of grief, they say; and oh! to me" (Blanche); Oh, many-tonèd voice of man; "Oh, crowning mercy of all blessings poured" (Thankfulness); "Oh! tell me, is the night come up? -- mine eye is darkened now" (XXVII); "Oh, what are these hidden feelings" (XVI); "But, oh! I love the willow best, still bent | To weeping" (Pale Oleander of the South); "But, oh, how oft | The thankful mother creeps to watch her boy" (Rest); "While there are those -- oh, mark them as they stand, | The blasting curse, pollutions of our land!" (Dora); "Oh! sweet complain of disappointed love" ("They Have Taken Away My Lord"); "Oh! ere Death's heavy bolt be drawn" (The Prisoner's Hospital, Van Diemen's Land); “O joy, the thunder-storm to see!" (A Tale of Conscience); "Oh! fraught within thy tiny sphere" (To a Very Early Snowdrop); "Oh! day most sacred" (My Father's Birthday); "Oh! sought of all, but rarely found" (Ode to Pleasure); "Oh! flee thee there, my trembling dove, -- | Oh! flee thee there and rest!" (The Young Mother to her Infant); "Oh! let it sleep, disturb it not" (Cui Bono?); "Oh! that grave was very small" (XXV); "Oh! brother, faint not" (And Art Thou Weary with the Strife?); "Oh, happy child! I envy thee" (The Child, that 'neath the Summer Tree); "Oh! how the moments lag" (A New Light on Illumination); "Oh! so strange a thing is love, and so wayward is the heart" (Poor Nannie's Return); "Oh, faithful bud, what power was thine!" (The Silent Rebuke); "Oh! I have strung a chain so bright" (Morning and Evening); "Oh! who may tell?" (VI); "Oh! how he came I cannot tell, I heard no footstep fall" (XXVII); "Oh! be not this thy curse" (On Tasmania's Receiving the Writ of Freedom); Oh! Paradox Most Rare; "Oh! there are thoughts, when loving forms are missed" (XXVIII); "Oh! sure these gentle beings are | A voice that calleth from afar" (Little Children) and there are more.

No comments:

Post a Comment