SUNLIGHT ON THE GARDEN: A Review

I love Booksale! I don’t mind if I look like some street dog scavenging for food to feed a growling tummy.  Books satisfy a growing hunger for something to read on weekends.  These aren’t new ones; not as free as other hand-me-downs either. But, the store is always on rummage sale. It sells books cheapest.  I could find something that’s harder to find in other bookstores, and, If luck approved, I’d get myself some priceless treasures— Poetry! I don’t pick up just anything like it. I flick through the pages to read a couple of poems, and if interest is stirred, it’s considered sold— to me.  Whether or not a modern poet’s work, I don’t mind at all, though it would be bliss to find something written by any one on my list.

In my previous “hunting”, not the last one, I found something I consider a classic find: The Voice of Poetry (1930-1950), edited by Herman Peshmann. While everything else is published in paperback, what I’ve got is a hard cover selection of Poetry released after its first publication in 1950. This one was reprinted 2 years after that. I snooped around online and this cost around $11.00— average. This cost me less than a quarter! A great find at a much lesser price! Rusty and dusty but legible. Works of W.H Auden , Louis MacNeice and some others, whom, like those two mentioned, are not huge favorites, but these men were, no doubt, prolific poets.  I’m not done reading it all, but one poem created such an impact as strong as that of a lightning strike to human.  Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it’s just as powerful.

Here’s another review. This is entitled—

       SUNLIGHT ON THE GARDEN
       Louis MacNeice

      The sunlight on the garden
      Hardens and grows cold,
      We cannot cage the minute
      Within its nets of gold,
      When all is told
      We cannot beg for pardon.

The first stanza is like an appetizer in a meal.  This is packed with so much pathos and clear images which could be like a film with conflicts rising on the first scene .  It’s sad, yes. But it is also beautiful and exciting! I feel the warmth and the cold— each complements the other. The contrast makes a perfect pair, like how opposite always attracts. “Sunlight on the Garden” signifies life and love—A lively and colorful world. Turning to the second line, though, the perfect image freezes, making each passing moment too brittle for breaking . Red turns to grey.  Good times have come and then gone—forever.

      Our freedom as free lances
      Advances towards its end;
      The earth compels, upon it
      Sonnets and birds descend;
      And soon, my friend,
      We shall have no time for dances.

      The sky was good for flying
      Defying the church bells
      And every evil iron
      Siren and what it tells:
      The earth compels,
      We are dying, Egypt, dying

The downfall (of a relationship) continues. Everything else slopes down to an end. Anything sweetened has turned sour. “We are dying, Egypt, dying” is Antony’s line to Cleopatra  when he was dying in Shakespeare’s play, Antony and Cleopatra. Antony’s strong affection for her caused him to take his own life when he heard of her death, which, of course, was a ruse to stop him from killing her himself for her deceit. This insight enlightens what the poem conveys.

      And not expecting pardon,
      Hardened in heart anew,
      But glad to have sat under
      Thunder and rain with you,
      And grateful too
      For sunlight on the garden

Regardless of how the “romance” gets gloomier, the persona remains grateful for those days when the sun shone brightest on what they once had. The ending is much sadder, only because of how he values the past.  I can only imagine how much this predicament breaks his heart, and in knowing how his acceptance goes, it doubles the pain. A beautiful piece, indeed! I love it from beginning to end. I don’t think I’ll get tired re-reading it.

Based on what I’ve learned through research, MacNeice wrote this for his wife, who left him for another man. Just as tragic as Antony’s case, I suppose.

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