Monday, June 20, 2011

The Orange Tree - John Shaw Neilson

The young girl stood beside me.  I 
Saw not what her young eyes could see:
 A light, she said, not of the sky
    Lives somewhere in the Orange Tree.

The young girls starts the conversation ... perhaps so moved by her sense of seeing something within the orange tree that she just has to share.

Is it, I said, of east or west?
  The heartbeat of a luminous boy
Who with his faltering flute confessed
  Only the edges of his joy?

Was he, I said, born to the blue
  In a mad escapade of Spring
Ere he could make a fond adieu
  To his love in the blossoming?

Two stanzas of questioning takes the focus away from the tree on to the girl for an understanding of what she is experiencing. The bystander is trying to discover the nature of her experience in terms of his own thoughts.

Listen! the young girl said.  There calls
  No voice, no music beats on me;
But it is almost sound: it falls
  This evening on the Orange Tree.

The young girls says 'listen' ... she has been interrupted in her own listening ... listening is important ... but she has the grace to share saying there is something ... an almost sound ... a sense of something in the tree.

Does he, I said, so fear the Spring
  Ere the white sap too far can climb?
See in the full gold evening
  All happenings of the olden time?

Is he so goaded by the green?
  Does the compulsion of the dew
Make him unknowable but keen
  Asking with beauty of the blue?

Another two stanzas of similar questioning ... quite clearly there has been no listening, and no attempt to understand what is happening to the girl. The responder wrapped in their own thoughts.

Listen! the young girl said.  For all
  Your hapless talk you fail to see
There is a light, a step, a call,
  This evening on the Orange Tree.

Again the young girl asks for the person to listen ... and divert attention to the tree ... and she again emphatically states there is something communicating with her ... (call - a key word)

Is it, I said, a waste of love
  Imperishably old in pain,
Moving as an affrighted dove
  Under the sunlight or the rain?

Is it a fluttering heart that gave
  Too willingly and was reviled?
Is it the stammering at a grave,
  The last word of a little child?

Unfortunately her requests to listen have fallen on deaf ears ... the person wanting to extract the experience from the girl by analysis rather than any attempt at sharing in the moment.

Silence! the young girl said.  Oh why,
  Why will you talk to weary me?
Plague me no longer now, for I
  Am listening like the Orange Tree.

The young girl has had enough of the weary talk ... the communication with the bystander has ended ... she is now at one with the orange tree sharing totally with the tree ... perhaps at one with the natural environment.

John Shaw Neilson 1919

The most known and perhaps one of JSN's most important poems. Every poet, writer and especially those steeped in analysis should read these words.

Analysing experience detracts from the experiencing ... and may, as in the case above detract from the experience of another. I hope that my analysis has not stopped enjoyment of the poem!

I have a friend who twenty years ago stopped taking photographs on his journeys away. 

Where is the 'correct focus' of our attention? ... and do we live to write or write to live?

I must go and put the dog out, enjoy your day, really enjoy the day ... and no feedback necessary.

No comments:

Post a Comment