Nightingales in Brest

I have been working in Brest in the art college since September. I’m like a tourist, I come here for a couple of days and then go home. The sea air, the changeable weather, remind me even more of my first home : Dublin.

One of the first things I noticed was the sound of the seagulls. Then when I had more time in the city, I noticed how calm it was compared to Paris and how I could hear the other birds.

This evening in Brest, a cool spring evening, with a beautiful long stretch in the evening, the birds were pouring forth their song. As I sat there drinking in this beautiful moment the poem by Keats that I have been trying to learn for a long time came to mind. I listened and then I read it out. I still do not know it by heart.

So here it is an imperfect version because it is not yet in my heart. I find it a difficult poem to learn because of its length and also because it is as if there is something so beautiful inside it, that I am almost wary to take apart these delicate words. The words roll over you, roll out of your mouth, feeling to me like dewy wet fronds, that you push aside to fly on the blind wings of poetry to stand in the song filled glade…

I hope you enjoy this moment. Filmed on my phone so sorry for the image quality.

Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
         My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
         One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
         But being too happy in thine happiness,—
                That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
                        In some melodious plot
         Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
                Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
         Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
         Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
         Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
                        And purple-stained mouth;
         That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
                And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
         What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
         Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
         Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
                Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
                        And leaden-eyed despairs,
         Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
                Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
         Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
         Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
         And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
                Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
                        But here there is no light,
         Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
                Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
         Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
         Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
         White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
                Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
                        And mid-May’s eldest child,
         The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
                The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
         I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
         To take into the air my quiet breath;
                Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
         To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
                While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
                        In such an ecstasy!
         Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
                   To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
         No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
         In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
         Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
                She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
                        The same that oft-times hath
         Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
                Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
         To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
         As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
         Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
                Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
                        In the next valley-glades:
         Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
                Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

John Keats by William Hilton
John Keats by William Hilton

Do You Remember?

doyourememberphotoDo you remember?

Do you spend time remembering? Or do you spend time dreaming about the future? In fear of the future and sad about your past? Or look to the future with happiness and remember the past fondly?

Little book of poetry

I picked up a little book of poems in a second hand store at the weekend. They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I fell for this book straight away. It has a pink cover, with a tissue satin like embossed cover and it would easily fit in your pocket.

The book contains poems of love. The poems date from 1360s in old French. Of course, love is actually quite a modern concept. And the French invented that, or at least contributed to the idea of gallant love. All the notions of chivalry and the troubadours that sang about it were first in France.

Some of the poems are very ribald. Which is also very amusing. Funny to see how people were so direct sometimes in their approaches together. Thinking of the changes that have occured in the way we live together, the way we desire one another. The summer suddenly upon us and everyone dressed in their best summer clothes… In France, in Paris we have been having a spectacularly bad spell of weather.

Birds singing thousands of years ago.

For a country that invented courtesy, it’s good to remember that France wasn’t even France before. It’s even hard to believe that the art of chivalry was born in France when you’ve had to contend with some of the French shopkeepers here…

I was sitting in the French countryside reading these poems, drinking red wine. There was at last a little bit of sunshine. It was a beautiful moment. Dinner was going to be ready soon. Couscous and merguez.

I always feel privilieged when reading old poems. Its like a ghost has come to you, they step up to you and you travel through time. You’re whisked away. Taken away from your concerns and you see that other times and places had other worries and concerns or even similar ones but with different forms.

It is magical, a voice, has sat, and waited for you inside a book. Your eyes scan the page and you can hear this voice. This voice inside your head.

The birds sang around me, much like they had hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Other news

Onze Onze black n white logo

We have just released, independently, the first EP by Onze Onze. In this group I take care of the lyrics and I play a little bit of trumpet. You can listen to the EP on the link above. When I listen to this music I hear my voice and the lyrics and I understand them differently with the passing of time.

Ghost words, future ghosts

Your words are ghosts of the way you were and sometimes they tell you the way you will be as well. The word takes you out of the now and through recording it, whether that be written down or recorded, the word becomes something else.

All I can do is collect words in my nets, and try to say them as honestly as possible.

Nets on the metro

I often write on the metro in Paris and it is like having antennas, listening to little bits of conversations. You have to try to listen to yourself as well. To hear what is coming. So, here with Onze Onze you have a collection of 5 tracks.

If you like Onze Onze, we are a totally independent organisation and we appreciate any help you can give us. That can mean listening and sharing, telling people about us. Giving us hugs. If you want to know more about the group here are lots of our links:

ONZE ONZE – 1st EP YELLOW OUT ON JUNE 23rd 2016
BANDCAMP : https://onzeonze.bandcamp.com
FACEBOOK : https://www.facebook.com/onzeonzemusic/
SOUNDCLOUD : https://soundcloud.com/11-11music-121438745
WEBSITE: https://onzeonzemusic.wordpress.com/

Zarboth back in the saddle.

http://zarboth.com/

That is it- these are our last two dates… for the summer! Here they are and please let people you know that are nearby…

1 July 2016 @ Festival La Ferme à Melrand, 56310 Melrand, France

2 July 2016 @ Chez Lulu, 2 rue du pont golhen, 56230 Larré, France

That will be it for the summer, but more news about Zarboth shortly!

Apart from that?

Playing trumpet in the sun. Playing trumpet as the boat sinks…

https://www.instagram.com/macdarasmith/

Have a great week!