Arcady (11)

The next day, Joan's thoughts return to the future, seeing in Mary some of the emotions she feels in herself. She hopes Mary will be brave "even if she settles for the small way, a quiet married life." Then she adds: "So many quiet lives are lived in a truly gallant manner."

In 2002, gallant seems an old fashioned word. It conveys an attitude, a readiness to be valiant if called upon, coupled with an expectation that the call will come, will be bravely met - and nobody will notice. It happens every day.

The poem is "October" by Humbert Wolfe. The first lines are often quoted in gardening circles as an ode to autumn. In some of Joan's notes (written I don't know when - she seldom dated these things) she said, "I like the imagery of the air wild with leaves." So she too enjoyed the pure music of the words, but she recognized more by adding: "- also shutting our minds to the sea."

I shared her sense of recognition, remembered reading the poem together late at night in bed. I think the line she finds familiar would have to be: "where the ships of youth are running, close hauled on the edge of the wind," because it shimmers in the mind's eye, and because - coupled with the last line - it's what the poem is about.
Did I verify this when I got home? I can't remember.

Last night I read the poem in bed - out loud.

Joan with "Uncle Sammy"
(my brother-in-law)

Easter, 1969


Arcady Letters


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