Haarlem, The Netherlands, 2021

Street art

One of the various newsletters and digests I read most days is “The Free Press” on Substack. I like it well enough to pay a voluntary subscription fee. Articles most days are from a variety of individuals and viewpoints, usually informative even when I don’t agree, but my favorite two days are regular features–on Friday Nellie Bowles does a recap of the week’s articles, with just the right (to me) balance between humor, snark, and just flat out calling BS sometimes, and on Sunday Douglas Murray does “Things Worth Remembering,” about poetry.

Today’s (Sunday 5/7/2023) poem “The Truly Great” was from Stephen Spender, about whom Murray says, “If his own poetry has any life after him, it will probably be this single poem. Which is fine. One poem is more than most people will leave behind. Perhaps it is appropriate that a poem about great poets should come from someone who must have known he was not among their number.”

It reminds me of my admiration for artists of all media who resist the efforts the world throws at them to make them normal, whatever that means to them, whatever it costs them.

I think continually of those who were truly great.

Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history

Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,

Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition

Was that their lips, still touched with fire,

Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.

And who hoarded from the Spring branches

The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious, is never to forget

The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs

Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.

Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light

Nor its grave evening demand for love.

Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother

With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,

See how these names are fêted by the waving grass

And by the streamers of white cloud

And whispers of wind in the listening sky.

The names of those who in their lives fought for life,

Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.

Born of the sun, they traveled a short while toward the sun

And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

For more photographs, go to https://www.billdurrence.com/index