Now that I’ve received my second Covid shot (I had no reaction whatsoever, incidentally), I’m starting to imagine traveling again, something Julia and I haven’t done in over a year. For instance, we haven’t seen our four grandchildren in Buford, Georgia all that time, even though they are less than four hours away. That’s what makes this Christina Rossetti sonnet the perfect poem for this week.
My English professor son, their father, tweeted it out with the comment, “Rossetti throwing serious quarantine vibes.” Yes, most of us have been in various stages of quarantine for the past year. I suspect that most of us have been, at one time or another, “sick of where I am and where I am not.”
The poem is particularly applicable to those living in Sewanee, which is noted for its heavy fogs. I’m wondering if Rossetti’s fog is mental, however, since something is keeping her from venturing out to picturesque places (cliffs, cresting waves, a pebbly strand) which are “quite within my reach.” Maybe she is locked in a depression. “I am sick of self, and there is nothing new,” she laments.
But something external has reached in and “set me dreaming.” Out of this dreaming comes a beautiful poem.
How fares it, Friends, with you?
From Later Life
Something this foggy day, a something which
Is neither of this fog nor of today,
Has set me dreaming of the winds that play
Past certain cliffs, along one certain beach,
And turn the topmost edge of waves to spray:
Ah pleasant pebbly strand so far away,
So out of reach while quite within my reach,
As out of reach as India or Cathay!
I am sick of where I am and where I am not,
I am sick of foresight and of memory,
I am sick of all I have and all I see,
I am sick of self, and there is nothing new;
Oh weary impatient patience of my lot!—
Thus with myself: how fares it, Friends, with you?