This workshop looks at three very different poems which deal with the theme of change.
Change can be positive or negative: an antidote to a humdrum routine; a sign of growth and development; something to be welcomed or to be feared. Changes in the world around us can be disorientating. Changes in ourselves or in our loved ones can be hard to fathom. And yet change is also a sort of constant – everything changes, and acceptance of change is an important mantra for at least some of today’s poets.
This morning we will:
Hear some poems talking about change and metamorphosis.
Discuss how the authors express their ideas and feelings.
Talk reflectively together, share our perspectives and favourites, and how these poems can give us a new insight.
1. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Change Upon Change
Five months ago the stream did flow,
The lilies bloomed within the sedge,
And we were lingering to and fro,
Where none will track thee in this snow,
Along the stream, beside the hedge.
Ah, Sweet, be free to love and go!
For if I do not hear thy foot,
The frozen river is as mute,
The flowers have dried down to the root:
And why, since these be changed since May,
Shouldst thou change less than they.
And slow, slow as the winter snow
The tears have drifted to mine eyes;
And my poor cheeks, five months ago
Set blushing at thy praises so,
Put paleness on for a disguise.
Ah, Sweet, be free to praise and go!
For if my face is turned too pale,
It was thine oath that first did fail, —
It was thy love proved false and frail, —
And why, since these be changed enow,
Should I change less than thou.
2. William Cowper, The Poplar Field
The Poplars are fell’d, farewell to the shade
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade,
The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.
Twelve years have elapsed since I last took a view
Of my favourite field and the bank where they grew,
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade.
The black-bird has fled to another retreat
Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat,
And the scene where his melody charm’d me before,
Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.
My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must e’er long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast and a stone at my head
E’er another such grove shall arise in its stead.
’Tis a sight to engage me if any thing can
To muse on the perishing pleasures of Man;
Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see,
Have a Being less durable even than he.
3. Rainer Maria Rilke, extract from Sonnets to Orpheus, Part II ‘Want the Change’
Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.
What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.
Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.
Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not think it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.
You may like to have a look at Words for our selection of poetry and prose on the theme of death and dying.
We’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and learn from your insights and experiences. Feel free to speak to the nursing team or get in touch with us directly firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: 31st January 2023