Friday, 1 February 2013

Power of poetry

Heureux qui comme Ulysse
Yesterday, in my excitement, I forgot to explain my own personal reason for celebrating the poem 'Heureux qui comme Ulysse' in my garden - pictured above. I learned the poem at school from a much loved teacher of French, Madame Quinche who had been an undergraduate at Cambridge with Georgette (Regency romances) Heyer. Madame Quinche was married to a Swiss (it was a school in Switzerland) and she had the gift of passing on memorable things. One was the story of an Englishwoman in Paris trying to hire a hansom cab : 'Cochon! Cochon! Etes-vous fiance? Si non, prenez-moi'. Anyway, we learned 'Heureux' by heart. Forty years later, I was walking in the company of the homeless and others from St Martin in the Fields in London to Canterbury, covering a distance of 17 or 18 miles a day. My feet were very blistered and painful but I wanted to finish the pilgrimage not surrender and complete the journey in the van. I found myself reciting the first verse of the du Bellay poem over and over to help me, which it did. The meaning of the poem is particularly apt because of my circumstances, having come after wanderings to join my family in Moffat, whose emblem is the ram - hence the golden fleece motif picked out in the pavement in my garden at the centre, and repeated in the visitors book in the gallery:

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