Writer’s Lift Wednesday #38

My birthday is tomorrow, I decided to be a bit indulgent and make #38 a Birthday Edition, sharing with you a favorite poem, painting, and piece of literature that continue to influence me.

This is a writersliftwednesday blog, sharing the works of fellow writers, poets, artists (including photographers, painters, etc.) and persons random. All re-blogs will be linked appropriately to their authors and creators.

Writing is no easy calling and nothing easy was ever worth doing. Support each other by sharing, liking and commenting.

(1) “Warning,” a poem by Jenny Joseph. Purple has been, and remains, my favorite color, since childhood actually, but I never dared wear it. I was told purple was for royalty or for people who didn’t know better (as in, those who have ‘no taste’). As I’ve gotten older I started wearing purple more frequently (where the poem is concerned, purple is a metaphor, I just happen to have an example that literally involves the use of wearing purple). Age affords us the ability to care less, and I am grateful, but I can’t help but regret all those years I could have been looking fabulous in purple. I am making up for it though. As I’ve said, dare to be purple.

(2) Girl With A Pearl Earring, a painting by Johannes Vermeer. I adore Vermeer. A career focused entirely on studying light and how it plays out on everyday objects including the human form. A silhouette painting (where millions existed before and since), Girl stands out for the illusion of light on the pearl, the figure’s lips, and eyes. Startlingly. Bold. Balanced. Simple. Complicated. Exquisite. I have a full-sized framed print of, Girl. I still find inspiration in the image to this day.

(3) “Ignorance and Want,” an excerpt from, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I read this when I was a teenager. There’s a difference between seeing the multitude of film adaptations and reading the passage. [While I’m thinking about it, Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, is by far the best interpretation of A Christmas Carol (in my humble opinion) as it is funny, yes, but hits home harder when seen through a modern lens.] ‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. So much of my own worldview was forged by this passage.

Christina Schmidt, MA

1. “Warning,” (1961) a poem, by Jenny Joseph. As an aside, this poem is better well known as, “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple.”

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

2. Girl With A Pearl Earring (1665) by Johannes Vermeer

3. “Ignorance and Want,” (1843) an excerpt from The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said
Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe,’ but I see
something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding
from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was
the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children;
wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt
down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling,
wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where
graceful youth should have filled their features out, and
touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled
hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and
pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat
enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No
change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any
grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has
monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him
in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but
the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie
of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
And abide the end.’

‘Have they no refuge or resource.’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons.’ said the Spirit, turning on him
for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses.’