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Saturday, June 25, 2016

A blessing in the air

“I wanted to communicate what I had seen, so that others could see it, too.” Laurie Lee

Born on this date, Laurence Edward Alan "Laurie" Lee (1914-1997) was an English poet, novelist and screenwriter, and while he was best known for his novels and screenplays, he loved poetry best.  While several of his poems written in the early 1940s reflect the atmosphere of World War II, he also wrote many that captured the beauty of the English countryside.  

I first “heard” his work when I attended a concert by The St. Olaf Choir and they performed his "Twelfth Night" from his My Many-coated Man.  That marvelous poem was first set for unaccompanied mixed choir by American composer Samuel Barber, with a later (and even better, I think) version by St. Olaf professor and conductor Robert Scholz.   In either case, Lee’s words combined with this beautiful music makes for a fabulous “listening” experience.

Lee wrote beautiful poems and stories for every season.  Here for Saturday’s Poem is the one he chose to grace his own tombstone.  

April Rise

If ever I saw blessing in the air
I see it now in this still early day
Where lemon-green the vaporous morning drips
Wet sunlight on the powder of my eye.

Blown bubble-film of blue, the sky wraps round
Weeds of warm light whose every root and rod
Splutters with soapy green, and all the world
Sweats with the bead of summer in its bud.

If ever I heard blessing it is there
Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are
Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ears their crests of throbbing air.

Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates,
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans.

Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.

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