Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Not what Berkeley meant at all

I have a weakness for well-put-together poems with Bishop Berkeley in them:

The Fountain

Feathers up fast, and steeples; then in clods
Thuds into its first basin; thence as surf
Smokes up and hangs; irregularly slops
Into its second, tattered like a shawl;
There, chill as rain, stipples a danker green,
Where urgent tritons lob their heavy jets.

For Berkeley this was human thought, that mounts
From bland assumptions to inquiring skies,
There glints with wit, fumes into fancies, plays
With its negations, and at last descends,
As by a law of nature to its bowl
Of thus enlightened but still common sense.

We who have no such confidence must gaze
With all the more affection on these forms,
These spires, these plumes, these calm reflections, these
Similitudes of surf and turf and shawl,
Graceful returns upon acceptances.
We ask of fountains only that they play,
Though that was not what Berkeley meant at all.

The phrase "graceful returns upon acceptances" in particular is worth keeping in mind.

1 comment:

zbs said...

Pretty, but I do deplore the last line of the first stanza