The Divided Heart


A raccoon in a gum tree, or a bird migrating from northern to southern hemispheres: "going away she is also coming home..."

Year after year a speck on the map, divided
By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;
Season after season, sure and safely guided,
Going away she is also coming home.

And being home, memory becomes a passion
With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest
Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart's possession
And exiled love mourning within the breast.

The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;
The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;
Down the long architrave of temple or palace
Blows a cool air from moorland scarps of stone.

From A.D. Hope, "The Death of the Bird"


As our blood labors to beget
   Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
   That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers' souls descend
   T' affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
   Else a great prince in prison lies.

John Donne, The Extasie (Read the whole poem.)

Middle age. . .

The compensation of growing old, Peter Walsh thought, coming out of Regent's Park, and holding his hat in his hand, was simply this; that the passions remain as strong as ever, but one has gained--at last!--the power of taking hold of experience, of turning it round, slowly, in the light.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway

Salads and Sobriety, Or, The Virtues of Lettuce

John Evelyn, a diarist of the late seventeenth century, wrote of the many virtues of lettuce:

. . . it is indeed of nature more cold and moist than any [other vegetable]; yet less astringent, and so harmless that it may safely be eaten raw in fevers; for it allays heat, bridles choler, extinguishes thirst, excites appetite, kindly nourishes, and above all, represses vapours, conciliates sleep, mitigates pain; besides the effect it has upon morals, temperance and chastity.
Acetaria, 1699


Michael Best's Home Pages. Most recently updated January 2, 2005