Small Trifles

Stanley Spencer, "Lilac and Clematis at Englefield" (1954

Stanley Spencer, “Lilac and Clematis at Englefield” (1954)

Meaning in life can be found in the small details that we too often miss…

I would not describe William Wordsworth as a succinct poet.  He usually needs space to make his point.  However, there are exceptions.  For instance, there are the eight beautiful lines of “A slumber did my spirit seal.”  And there is the following four-line poem:

To a Child
Written in Her Album

Small service is true service while it lasts:
Of humblest Friends, bright Creature! scorn not one:
The Daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
Protects the lingering dew-drop from the Sun.

William Wordsworth, Poems (1845).

In commenting on the poem, Wordsworth stated:  “This quatrain was extempore on observing this image, as I had often done, on the lawn of Rydal Mount.”

Stanley Spencer, "Landscape, Cookham Dean" (c. 1939)

Stanley Spencer, “Landscape, Cookham Dean” (c. 1939)

Wordsworth’s poem is instructive:  we all ought to be on the look-out for dew-drops in the shadows of daisies.  Ivor Gurney offers similar advice.

The Escape

I believe in the increasing of life whatever
Leads to the seeing of small trifles . . . . .
Real, beautiful, is good, and an act never
Is worthier than in freeing spirit that stifles
Under ingratitude’s weight; nor is anything done
Wiselier than the moving or breaking to sight
Of a thing hidden under by custom; revealed
Fulfilled, used, (sound-fashioned) any way out to delight.
.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .
Trefoil . . . . hedge sparrow . . . the stars on the edge of night.

Ivor Gurney, Selected Poems (edited by George Walter) (J. M. Dent 1996). The ellipses in lines 2 and 9, and between lines 8 and 9, are in the original.

It is difficult to be as attentive to the world around us as William Wordsworth and Ivor Gurney were.  But Gurney is right:  we must be careful not to find ourselves “under ingratitude’s weight,” lest we miss a great deal. Trefoil.  Hedge sparrow.  The stars on the edge of night.

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About Author Profile: Stephen Pentz

Stephen Pentz curates poems and pictures at the First Known When Lost blog.