April 23rd is a day which marks the deaths of four outstanding poets:
William Shakespeare ~ 1616
Henry Vaughan ~ 1695
William Wordsworth ~ 1850
Rupert Brooke ~ 1915
The works of all these men have been highly significant in my life from childhood onwards and I can’t but think today of my mother drawing on Shakespeare to advise with these oft quoted words:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
(From Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3)
On starry nights, I am propelled back to learning poetry in school and these lines from Henry Vaughan come flowing back as if I was still sitting in the classroom overlooking the Boyne River in Drogheda, Co. Louth:
If thou canst get but thither,
There grows the flow’r of peace,
The rose that cannot wither,
Thy fortress, and thy ease.
(from Peace by Henry Vaughan)
William Wordsworth, more than any of the poets, has permeated my entire life and his poem The Daffodils stands out from my rendition of in an elocution competition when I was eight or nine, to visiting Dove Cottage in the Lake District with my sister in my teens, to reading the poem to my late father in his last months. I doubt these precious lines will ever leave me:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
(from The Daffodils by William Wordsworth)
Rupert Brooke brings me back to Mother’s love of poetry and her wonderful way of using extracts from poems to soothe. These particular lines remind me of nights of childhood illness when Mother would lie down beside me and lull me to sleep with her gentle, calming voice:
And through the dreadful hours
The trees and waters and the hills have kept
The sacred vigil while you slept,
And lay a way of dew and flowers
Where your feet, your morning feet, shall tread.
(from The Charm by Rupert Brooke).