Editor, The Times:
In the midst of this COVID-19 crisis with stay at home orders and social distancing requirements, among other problems, some are comparing our new circumstance to imprisonment, and are venting anger and frustration at these restrictions.
On the CBC program “Sunday Morning” a commentator reflected on her new imprisonment, and compared her circumstance to those others in society who have been long imprisoned by our various social strictures. Some of her comments caused me to reflect on poetry studied in Mr. Cassidy’s English 91 class nearly sixty years ago.
One was Richard Lovelace’s “To Althea from Prison,” where the last stanza reads:
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.”
This is a short poem worth thinking on, so look the rest of it up online.
The second is a much longer poem by Lord Byron, “The Prisoner of Chillon”. At one point Byron has the prisoner Bonnivard say:
“I made a footing in the wall,
It was not there from to escape.…
But I was curious to ascend
To my barred windows, and to bend
Once more, upon the mountains high,
The quiet of a loving eye.
I saw them, and they were the same,
They were not changed like me in frame;
I saw their thousand years old snow
On high – their wide long lake below ….”
In other words, let’s not allow ourselves to wallow in melancholic misery, hiding in violent video games, seeking wild conspiracy theories on the internet, or other self-destructive modes. Figuratively get out and enjoy the Saskatoon blossoms and the warbler’s song.
Do something positive. My neighbour writes poetry, my sister makes masks, there is a young adolescent in this town who plays his fiddle outside the grocery store. There are others who knit for grandchildren. Learn something new, garden, take on a task for which they have not yet had time, paint, or just smell the roses. The poets are telling us to make some lemonade out of our contemporary lemon.