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'Tears from the depth of some divine despair'

On Friday, my aunt gave me a book rescued from my grandmother's collection. It was a volume which had belonged to my great-grandfather's sister, Clara Pyle. The book was Tennyson's Poems, with Clara Pyle's name written in the flyleaf. By her 99-year-old niece, Clara was remembered as an upright, unmarried woman who addressed her with Margaret, how are thee? I wish I knew which of Tennyson's poems spoke to Clara, and to my grandmother. Holding the old book with its thin, broken pages, four lines suddenly spoke to me.

I had spent Thanksgiving at a table crowded with adults and children, a younger generation unaware of the older, vanished ones. When I looked across the room I saw the empty chairs of the men and women who once had been with us, but were no longer, who had been vividly alive, but were now silent. This is natural, but still:

Tears from the depth of some divine despair

Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,

In looking on the happy autumn-fields,

And thinking of the days that are no more. . . (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, song from The Princess)

James Dickey wrote that in poetry words come together into some kind of magical conjunction that will make the reader enter into a real experience of his own. . .

And help the reader know the experience, survive and bless it.

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