POEM: AU VIEUX JARDIN

by contemplativeinquiry

I have sat here happy in the gardens,

Watching the still pool and the reeds

And the dark clouds

Which the wind of the upper air

Tore like the green leafy boughs

Of the divers-hued trees of late summer;

But though I greatly delight

In these and the water lilies,

That which sets me nighest to weeping

Is the rose and white colour of the smooth flag-stones

And the pale yellow grasses

Among them.

Richard Aldington in Imagist Poetry edited by Peter Jones London: Penguin, 1972 (Modern Penguin Classics)

The Imagists were a short-lived yet influential movement in early 20th century poetry in the English language. Whilst an organized and at that time mostly young group, they were based in London and included both British and expatriate American members. The Imagist collections of the 1914-17 period include the work of: Ezra Pound; Richard Aldington; H.D. (Hilda Doolittle); Amy Lowell; D.H. Lawrence; William Carlos Williams; Ford Maddox Ford; T.E. Hulme; James Joyce; Marianne Craig Moore; E.E. Cummings; John Gould Fletcher. Years later, T.S. Eliot paid tribute to the Imagists as a formative influence.

The Imagists had three rules, designed to encourage freshness and clarity in observation and precision in expression. For me this gives them contemplative interest. Ezra Pound in particular was fascinated by Chinese and Japanese poetry, then beginning to become available in the West.

  1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’, whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

In the poem above, I was particularly moved by the way in which freshness, clarity and precision allowed the poet to both feel and contain strong emotion. For me, contemplative spaces embrace such feelings, whilst also providing a clear space around them.

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