Ephemeral Elaine

The Lady of Shalott by J. W Waterhouse

The poem “The Lady of Shalott” by Lord Tennyson (1832)

Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
       To many-tower’d Camelot;
The yellow-leaved waterlily
The green-sheathed daffodilly
Tremble in the water chilly
       Round about Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens shiver.
The sunbeam showers break and quiver
In the stream that runneth ever
By the island in the river
       Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
       The Lady of Shalott.

Underneath the bearded barley,
The reaper, reaping late and early,
Hears her ever chanting cheerly,
Like an angel, singing clearly,
       O’er the stream of Camelot.
Piling the sheaves in furrows airy,
Beneath the moon, the reaper weary
Listening whispers, ‘ ‘Tis the fairy,
       Lady of Shalott.’

The little isle is all inrail’d
With a rose-fence, and overtrail’d
With roses: by the marge unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken sail’d,
       Skimming down to Camelot.
A pearl garland winds her head:
She leaneth on a velvet bed,
Full royally apparelled,
       The Lady of Shalott.

Part II

No time hath she to sport and play:
A charmed web she weaves alway.
A curse is on her, if she stay
Her weaving, either night or day,
       To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be;
Therefore she weaveth steadily,
Therefore no other care hath she,
       The Lady of Shalott.

She lives with little joy or fear.
Over the water, running near,
The sheepbell tinkles in her ear.
Before her hangs a mirror clear,
       Reflecting tower’d Camelot.
And as the mazy web she whirls,
She sees the surly village churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls
       Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,
       Goes by to tower’d Camelot:
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
       The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
       And music, came from Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead
Came two young lovers lately wed;
‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said
       The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flam’d upon the brazen greaves
       Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
       Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
       As he rode down from Camelot:
And from his blazon’d baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
       Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
       Moves over green Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
       Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro’ the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
       The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
       Over tower’d Camelot;
Outside the isle a shallow boat
Beneath a willow lay afloat,
Below the carven stern she wrote,
The Lady of Shalott.

A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight,
All raimented in snowy white
That loosely flew (her zone in sight
Clasp’d with one blinding diamond bright)
       Her wide eyes fix’d on Camelot,
Though the squally east-wind keenly
Blew, with folded arms serenely
By the water stood the queenly
       Lady of Shalott.

With a steady stony glance—
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Beholding all his own mischance,
Mute, with a glassy countenance—
       She look’d down to Camelot.
It was the closing of the day:
She loos’d the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
       The Lady of Shalott.

As when to sailors while they roam,
By creeks and outfalls far from home,
Rising and dropping with the foam,
From dying swans wild warblings come,
       Blown shoreward; so to Camelot
Still as the boathead wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her chanting her deathsong,
       The Lady of Shalott.

A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy,
She chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her eyes were darken’d wholly,
And her smooth face sharpen’d slowly,
       Turn’d to tower’d Camelot:
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
       The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden wall and gallery,
A pale, pale corpse she floated by,
Deadcold, between the houses high,
       Dead into tower’d Camelot.
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
To the planked wharfage came:
Below the stern they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

They cross’d themselves, their stars they blest,
Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire, and guest.
There lay a parchment on her breast,
That puzzled more than all the rest,
       The wellfed wits at Camelot.
‘The web was woven curiously,
The charm is broken utterly,
Draw near and fear not,—this is I,
       The Lady of Shalott.’

The Lady of Shalott (1862), another depiction by J. W Waterhouse. This painting is an illustration of the poem by Tennyson.

This is a depiction of the character Elaine, who is dramatized in poetry and art. Elaine represents transience, and does not win her lover Lancelot. As such, she is scorned, and travels down the river under a tapestry to her eventual death. She is fleeting, short-lived, momentary . . . this is all also true of Generation X. Perhaps she is an archetype of this generation, and their unfulfilled dreams of romance and a life of “happily ever after,” all of which seemed to belong to the more prosperous Baby Boomers. Let’s discuss this idea further. Although her character seems to last only for a short time, in the history of art, she is a remarkable and memorable character, an illustration of death from a broken heart. Could Elaine be re-created as another character in modern times?

What does the gallery who owns this painting have to say?

Tennyson’s poem, first published in 1832, tells of a woman who suffers under an undisclosed curse. She lives isolated in a tower on an island called Shalott, on a river which flows down from King Arthur’s castle at Camelot. Not daring to look upon reality, she is allowed to see the outside world only through its reflection in a mirror. One day she glimpses the reflected image of the handsome knight Lancelot, and cannot resist looking at him directly. The mirror cracks from side to side, and she feels the curse come upon her. The punishment that follows results in her drifting in her boat downstream to Camelot ‘singing her last song’, but dying before she reaches there. Waterhouse shows her letting go the boat’s chain, while staring at a crucifix placed in front of three guttering candles. Tennyson was a popular subject for artists of this period, particularly the Pre-Raphaelites. Waterhouse’s biographer Anthony Hobson relates that the artist owned a copy of Tennyson’s collected works, and covered every blank page with pencil sketches for paintings.

The landscape setting is highly naturalistic; the painting was made during Waterhouse’s brief period of plein-air painting. The setting is not identified, although the Waterhouses frequently visited Somerset and Devon. The model is traditionally said to be the artist’s wife. Waterhouse’s sketchbook contains numerous pencil studies for this and the painting of the same title made six years later (1894, Leeds City Art Gallery). This second work shows the Lady at the moment she looks out of the window and the curse is fulfilled. Waterhouse also made sketches of the final scenes in which the boat bearing the Lady floats into Camelot.

Source: Tate Gallery Notes

Loreena McKennitt, (born February 17, 1957) is a Canadian composer, harpist, accordionist, and pianist who writes, records and performs world music with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. McKennitt is known for her refined and clear dramatic soprano vocals (Source: Wikipedia). She produced the song to the poem, called “The Lady of Shalott.” It was recorded, and released in 1991 as folk music.

Loreena McKennitt sings The Lady of Shalott

Her lyrics are the same as the more commonly read translation of the poem:

On either side of the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the world and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road run by
To many-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

Only reapers, reaping early,
In among the bearded barley
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly
Down to tower’d Camelot;
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “’tis the fairy
The Lady of Shalott.

“There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay,
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot;
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The Knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal Knight and true,
The Lady Of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot;
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed.
“I am half sick of shadows, ” said
The Lady Of Shalott.

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode back to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
he flashed into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra Lirra, ” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces taro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me, ” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over towered Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance –
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott..

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turn’d to towered Camelot.
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and Burgher, Lord and Dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? And what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the Knights at Camelot;
But Lancelot mused a little space
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”

Songwriters: Alfred Tennyson / Dan Smith / Rose Prince / Steve Smith / Tom Gilbert

The Lady of Shalott lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

The Lady of Shalott — John Atkinson Grimshaw

The Awakening Conscience

A further glimpse of archetypes and symbolic women is evidenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters. Here are some notes on a painting by William Holman Hunt presented by the Tate Gallery in London. The Tate Gallery also owns The Lady of Shalott by J. W. Waterhouse, the subject of our next post.

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The Awakening Conscience was conceived as the material counterpart to Hunt’s The Light of the World (1851-3, Warden and Fellows of Keble College, Oxford). Its inspiration was a verse from Proverbs: ‘As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart’. With his typical thoroughness, Hunt hired a room at Woodbine Villa, 7 Alpha Place, St John’s Wood, a ‘maison de convenance’, to use as the setting. A gentleman has installed his mistress (known to be such because of her absence of a wedding ring) in a house for their meetings. As they play and sing to Thomas Moore’s Oft in the Stilly Night, she has a sudden spiritual revelation. Rising from her lover’s lap, she gazes into the sunlit garden beyond, which is reflected in the mirror behind her. The mirror image represents the woman’s lost innocence, but redemption, indicated by the ray of light in the foreground, is still possible. Intended to be ‘read’, the painting is full of such symbolic elements. The cat toying with the broken-winged bird under the table symbolises the woman’s plight. A man’s discarded glove warns that the likely fate of a cast-off mistress was prostitution. A tangled skein of yarn on the floor symbolises the web in which the girl is entrapped. Indeed, as Ruskin wrote to the Times on 25 May 1854, ‘the very hem of the poor girl’s dress, at which the painter has laboured so closely, thread by thread, has story in it, if we think how soon its pure whiteness may be soiled with dust and rain, her outcast feet failing in the street’. The frame, designed by Hunt, also contains various symbolic emblems; the bells and marigolds stand for warning and sorrow, the star is a sign of spiritual revelation.

The Awakening Conscience 1853 William Holman Hunt 1827-1910 Presented by Sir Colin and Lady Anderson through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1976 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T02075

The underlying spiritual message was generally ignored by most critics, who concentrated instead on the more sensational aspects of the painting. 

Source:
Leslie Parris (ed.), The Pre-Raphaelites, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1984, reprinted 1994, pp.120-21, reproduced in colour.

Nurture Verses Comfort

I was binge-watching the romantic series When Calls The Heart over the long weekend. I never really read romance novels growing up, so this is good for me. I am more aware of what the conversation should sound like in the pioneer days. I watch movies to prove to myself that the alpha-dominant female, the heroine, gets the guy when it comes to romance, but you seldom see the wallflower being so bold. Wallflowers are more behind the scenes type of people, like playwrights or songwriters. When I was in Junior High School and went to school dances I could have held the wall up. I was in ballet–but not one to dance in public unless it was choreographed.

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The Little Match Girl is poverty incarnate, with a product that is supposed to support her, but does not. This is only too much like writing books of poetry. I do it mostly for altruistic reasons, and not for the pennies I make.

In Women Who Run With the Wolves, we see:

“the Match girl making some kind of trade-off, some kind of ill-conceived commerce in the story when the child sells her matches, the only thing she has that might keep her warm. When women are disconnected from the nurturing love of the wild mother, they are on the equivalent of a subsistence diet in the outer world. The ego is just eking out a life, just taking the barest of nourishment from without and returning each night from where she began, over and over. There she sleeps, exhausted. …

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“The difference between comfort and nurture is this: if you have a plant that is sick because you keep it in a dark closet, and you say soothing words to it, that is comfort. If you take the plant out of the closet and put it in the sun, give it something to drink, and then talk to it, that is nurture.

“A frozen woman without nurture is inclined to turn to incessant “what if” daydreams. But even if she is in this frozen condition, especially if she is in such a frozen condition, she must refuse the comforting fantasy. The comforting fantasy will kill us dead for certain. …

“…in the most negative sense, winter brings the kiss of death–that is, a coldness–to anything it touches. Coldness spells the end of a relationship. If you want to kill something, just be cold to it. As soon as one becomes frozen in feeling, thinking or action, relationship is not possible. When humans want to abandon something in themselves or leave someone else out in the cold, they ignore them, disinvite them, leave them out, go out of their way to have to even hear their voice or even lay eyes upon them. This is the situation in the psyche of the Little Match Girl.

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“The Match Girl wanders the streets and she begs strangers to buy matches from her. This scene shows one of the most disconcerting things about injured instinct in women, the giving of light for little price. … Here we have the Match Girl in great need, begging to be given to, offering in fact a thing of far greater value–a light–than value received in return–a penny.”

Well this fairy tale, and its touching archetype is a picture of something all consuming, fire. Yet in its minuscule, regulated way, there is only a match worth of warmth. The opposite would be a roaring inferno, or Dante’s Inferno, in literature. There is the light of illumination opposing an all-consuming fire of love (or hell).

I think I will write a play on this story. I will be using the archetypal theories of the book, and it will be for the end of my next collection of verse, From the Ashes of Plague. Stay tuned . . .

Maiden Flight

“Warmth is a mystery. It somehow heals and engenders us. It is the loosener of too-tight things, it enhances flow, the mysterious urge to be, the maiden flight of fresh ideas.” –Clarissa Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves.

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How do we grow up into what we are meant to be? There are more insights into the Little Match Girl archetype from the book:

Little Match Girl is tattered. Like the old folk song, she’s been down so long it looks like up to her. No one can thrive at her level. . . Without a move, we are back out on the street selling matches again.

I once wrote a song with these lyrics:

I want to see you grow into all you were meant to be

I want to watch you run with the wind—run to me

I see you smile and my day becomes more beautiful

I watch your laugh falling like a thousand stars

I can’t comprehend why it always

Makes me fall onto my knees

That I could be your father

I want to hold you close in my arms

Close to me

I want to tell you straight from the heart

What you mean to me.

When I see you smile my day becomes more beautiful

When I watch your laugh falling like a thousand stars

I can’t comprehend why it always

Makes me fall onto my knees

That I could be your father

I was thrown out of the church on two occasions. Once when I objected to them praying for the sick for money, and once for rehearsing this song with the worship team to play for a service. The church has a way of crying “heretic” and burning people at the stake when they are too paternal or too maternal, or even make claims on God.

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I had written The Imagination of God; it was a booklet as an accompaniment to Alpha, and the church was using it in a small group around 2003-4. The Imagination of God portrays our relationship with God, and uses both the He and She pronouns.

The Imagination of God

Covenant

Covenant is a very special and important process. It is the agreement between two persons that fully allows each person to become themselves, and realize their greatest potential. There is a lot of room in it to move around and a lot of room to breathe. It is a place of joy and rest.

This is what God would like to have with us. His son, Jesus, was his bridge to establish covenant with us if we should choose. Because of Jesus, we are able to be in a loving, growing relationship with God.

Entering this covenant is somewhat like entering a marriage: thrilling and exciting at times, and difficult and building at other times. It is a life process of being with, and allowing our life to be influenced and shaped by someone else—someone who cares for us very much.

At every given moment, he would like to hold our hand, to begin to walk with us toward this thing of covenant, and on into our destiny.

Unity

When we accept this covenant, we become in unity with Jesus Christ, and we are capable of intimacy with him. This allows us to be known by God and know God. This brings friendship into our loneliness and pain. This establishes security in the darkest places of our lives. We are always much better off with Jesus. And others who know him too feel welcome to be part of our inner circle, to comfort, reassure, and bless us. Prayer is the acknowledgement of this unity: this circle between God, us, and others who believe.

Leadership

Jesus is like a shepherd to us, leading us as he would a flock of gentle sheep. We are tuned to hear his kind voice as we travel with him through life’s ups and downs. We feel nurtured and protected by his tenderness. We are receiving and being received from, out of who we truly are. We don’t have to impress him or “do things right”.

This is the place of fulfillment, where life becomes easy and light instead of drudgery and pain. This is the place where we realize there is hope for us, no matter where we have been, no matter how we have failed. Jesus will be the one to take these things and bear their weight, while we live life free of concern, just letting him lead us one little step and a time.

Personhood

God loves uniqueness, and made us all with different gifts and abilities. God values this and isn’t into us having to conform to meet others’ agendas. Our unity with others in Jesus treats each person with dignity and value, allowing us to cooperate and share in a common purpose.

In fact, God wants to see us prosper in who we are, and is willing to empower us to do it. God isn’t stingy, but has tons to give away. God likes colour, creativity, fun, and playfulness. Every day, God would like to bring these qualities into your life to animate and energize you. With him, you can do what is in your heart.

Worship

Gratefulness is something we can’t help when we see God’s goodness. We can’t help but be moved or even changed inside. When we choose to acknowledge God as the source of this life flowing out of us, we are in worship. Worship can be expressed by singing, dancing, painting, writing, telling God how much we love him; by doing anything with a joyful and willing heart, by serving others, or just by having fun.

Worship is dynamic. It makes us glow with health and vibrance. It propels us forward out of hesitancy. It recreates us where we have been broken or hurt. It colours our world like a rainbow. It is a daily thing, as we get to know God more and more.

Simplicity

There is a simplicity in knowing Jesus Christ. The things that seemed so important before are trivial. Jesus breathes new life into everything we do, and uncomplicates things for us, lessening the stress. All we really need to know is how to love. Because of who Jesus is, we can learn that anywhere, with anyone, and practice it anywhere as well. Every day is a new experience to learn about God’s love. Every difficulty is a new chance to put it into practice.

We are all climbing and stumbling on this mountain of learning love, learning to open our hearts, learning to be healed in and by love; but we progress as we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting God to create beauty out of our failures. Our load is light when we function in simplicity. It reduces what is needed to be Christ to the outside world. All we need is Him.

Healing

The love of a mother soothes and heals, as does the love of a nurturing God. God is patient with our distress and brings us to laughter again by her warm smiles. Freedom from our pain flows from heaven like warm rays of sunlight, but we must risk coming out of the house of our soul to receive this blessing. The spirit must reach up.

Acceptance

God accepts us just as we are. He is not worried about whether we are clean or dirty: in fact he would rather we were real so he could get to know us without our feeling we have to be better on our own. Because we are his children, we can relax and know it’s okay to be dependent on her for everything we need. God sent His son, Jesus, to live a good life in place of ours. He already knew ahead of time that we would need someone to save us from our own failure. He died for us out of pure love. This means we are now like new, washed off gently by the cleansing water of Jesus love.

Redemption

We can now receive of the free blood of Jesus. This is for all the wrong things we have done, to cleanse us, but even more, for the wrong things people do to us. These become lodged in us like weapons to be used against ourselves and others. We do much harm by repeating the nature of the sins against us, even in ways we may not recognize. Someone who has been harmed physically, for example, may harm people emotionally or verbally, even while thinking they are helping the person. Their own unforgiveness blinds them to the danger of their bitterness wounding another. Forgiveness is letting the bitterness go, so we won’t be poisoned by it. A poisoned person is no fun. Cleaning out the poison lets us go free. Freedom allows us to change into the person we want to be.

Solace

When God’s comfort enters the place where we have been wounded, we feel met, and our wounds bound. Gentleness and tenderness are the way to the wound, not force and domination. Our kindness can lead the way for someone to accept God’s kindness. Her kindness cleanses the wound. Her kindness makes it safe for us to fell sorry for how we have responded to those who hurt us. And Her kindness lights the heart again to wholeness.

Newness

We are like a tree, and every tree needs to root and grow. Rooting down grabs nutrients to stabilize and fortify. Patience and dedication are needed in this. Growing up to the light requires faith and gratitude. We reach in proportion to our rootedness. We reach as we realize that God is god and has good things for us.

Stability and safety happen when we realize that people fail us, and yet God is trustworthy. In spite of their lack, She uses others to root and nourish us anyway. She can do this because of her ability to turn anything in our life into good, even the most horrible tragedies. She even gives us the grace to forgive those who have harmed us so she can create diamonds where tears have been.

Liberty

Jesus came to this world, died and rose again to give us freedom: freedom from the oppression of wrongdoing which contaminates our lives. This allows us not to have to worry if we do something wrong. We can trust that God will pick us up, dust us off, and continue to encourage us with new hope. It takes faith to believe this, if we are used to being punished or criticized. When we are no longer afraid of doing things wrong, we start to get things right. Now, with God helping us, everything gets easier. It isn’t so much work, it is more like an adventure.

Revelation

God wants to inspire us, and looks for ways to do so. He speaks to us in many different ways, usually in ways that are most geared to us as persons. We know that the Bible is there as a sure-fire way for us to know what God thinks and for us to receive messages from him. We may or may not understand the language used to communicate the Bible. That is why there are so many different translations. Each has some new perspective to offer. God will likely inspire you through one suited to who you are.

Empowerment: God’s heart for us

God loves to empower people: he does not need us, our time, our money or our stuff to empower him. He already has it all. He knows we need to learn how to give so that all these things can work for us, however. Generosity breeds abundance, and abundance is the overflow of resources that comes from being with God. God is for us. He is not here to take things away or give us a hard time, or demand we do better. Everything in God wants to build us up, so we are strong enough to do what is right.

Vision

God has the bird’s-eye view. He sees the big picture and wants to bring us along the path toward something called destiny. DESTINY gives us a sense of purpose and belonging. It means someone thought of you and knew you would do something special long before you ever got here. In fact, Jesus is waiting to walk with you hand in hand, toward that great purpose for your life. That gives us hope and clearer vision: things do matter, as they will either propel us towards our goal or away from it.

Living From the Heart

Destiny reawakens our spirits to live in connection with Christ and others. It allows us to believe, and this stretches our hearts for bigger things. As we walk down our life’s path we can see things the old way, or the new way. With Jesus, hand in hand, we are revitalized to keep thinking the new, colourful way. We want to sing and dance instead of complain. The world is yellow and green instead of grey and gray. Good things are coming: now we can see them with our hearts.

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The Little Match Girl

In the dark, a little girl in a cotton shawl
struck a match to keep warm.
It illumined the stone structure
of the Peace Tower she leaned against,
the gargoyles against the night sky.
Gothic architecture
reaching almost to heaven
stretched its lacy fingers,
blotting the stars with its handkerchief—
its rhetorical icons
simmering prayers in the shadows.

~
There was a patchwork quilt
of nations, that had grown faded
with the rain and snow,
of the many colours of skin
that made up the face of a country,
of the many films from the National Film Board.

~
A match box was ten cents;
a passerby gave her a dime
as she stood in the gutter,
and she collected them in her apron.

Emily Isaacson, Hallmark

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The Little Match Girl is a fairy tale by Danish poet Hans Christian Andersen and was published in 1845. The story, with themes of poverty and scarcity, touches on a dying child’s hopes and dreams.

The fairy tale is symbolic and uses imagery to convey a message. Her visions in her poverty are compelling and almost violent, including, “the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled along the floor with a knife and fork in its breast, right over to the little girl.” 

You can read the actual story in its entirety, translated by Jean Hersholt here: https://andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheLittleMatchGirl_e.html

This story serves a powerful message. It also describes an archetypal figure, but to what extent? We see a lot more on the Match Girl theme in the book Women Who Run With the Wolves, a powerful best-seller that goes into detail on archetypes affecting women.

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Some of the insights they have regarding this fable:

Being with real people who warm us, who endorse and exult our creativity, is essential to the flow of creative life. Otherwise we freeze. (The little wild child is freezing, all that is left of her is a person who goes about in a trance.) Nurture is a chorus of voices both from within and without that notices the state of a woman’s being, takes care to encourage it, and if necessary gives comfort as well. I’m not sure how many friends one needs, but definitely one or two who think your gift, whatever it may be is pan de cielo, the bread of heaven. . .

When women are out in the cold, they tend to live on fantasies instead of action. Fantasy of this sort is the great anesthetizer of women. I know women who have been gifted with beautiful voices. I know women who are natural storytellers; almost everything out of their mouths is freshly formed and finely wrought. But they are isolated, or feel disenfranchised in some way. They are shy, which is often the cover for a starving animus. They have difficulty gaining a sense that they are supported from within, or by friends, family, community.

To avoid being the Little Match Girl, there is one major action you must take. Anyone who does not support your art, your life, is not worth your time. Harsh but true. Otherwise one walks right in and dresses in the rags of the Match Girl and is compelled to live a quarterlife that freezes all thought, hope, gifts, writings, playings, designing and dancing.

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Warmth should be the major pursuit of the Little Match Girl. But in the story it is not. Instead she tries to sell off the matches, her sources of warmth. Doing so leaves the feminine no warmer, no richer, no wiser, and with no further development. . .

The Match Girl is not in an environment where she can thrive. There is no warmth, no kindling, no firewood. If we were in her place what would we do?

More on this and the response tomorrow . . .

Archetypes

 

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the days of summer come,

the heat stills,

  and sweats from the sidewalk.

There are people passing by,

  they walk to and fro wearing colourful

masks, and their words are cut off

  in a survivalist world of fear.

The beat of the drum lures them

  into minion obedience,

while the dames

  dare revolution songs.

Softly the song rises

  in the middle of the night:

“Kill the beast, spill his blood,  

slit his throat.”

–Lilith Street

An archetype is a figure in literature that is symbolic or representative of someone. For example a Christ figure is a common archetype. In the book Lord of the Flies by William Golding, we see an archetypal figure when someone is sacrificed for the rest of society.

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“Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat – !” – Jack (Chapter 5)

A group of boys is marooned on an island and must fend for themselves. The book deals with themes such as what rules society must have to keep order, and whether savagery will result if we are left to our own devices. It might be a commentary on original sin, or whether humankind is inherently evil. I wrote a paper on this novel in high school.

The boys eventually hunt a wild pig, which grows into a disturbing fantasy-like figure with huge proportions . . .

“However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick.” (Chapter 6)

The problem with their frenzied and wild hunt to kill the beast is that the end result is they kill a human being instead. My poem is based on the book, and relatively throws back to their chant, “Kill the pig.”

“They understood only too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought.” (Chapter 11) Does this not lead one to imagine the anonymity of a face behind a mask, in a culture where we all wear masks, symbolic of our distance from intimacy and each other. Does this actually make it easier for us to descend into an amoral state where there are no more rules, and society caves in on itself?

From the analysis of the book: “In a world where the beast is real, rules and morals become weak and utterly dispensable. The original democracy Ralph leads devolves into a cult-like totalitarianism, with Jack as a tyrant and the beast as both an enemy and a revered god.” (www.sparknotes.com)