Now for a little more classical literature….  I was thinking about photography and writing the other day, how it’s a process in both cases, a learning, a way of paying attention and noticing more about the world around you.  It feels like a calling, literally–some indefinable Thing that catches the eye and makes you pull out the camera; or an idea that won’t leave you alone until you put it down on paper.  Then just when you think, “AHA! I’ve got it! I know exactly what I want to say,” then it changes and slips through your fingers, hopefully leaving a gift or two as it goes.  No matter how well I feel I expressed something, or how well a photo turns out, there’s still something just out of reach.  I suppose that’s the point, that’s why we do our chosen art-forms.  Because there’s always more to discover and become.

And I remembered this poem by Tennyson that I had read years ago.  I loved it then, but I love it even more now.  This is what sends me out with my camera time and again to the same places that somehow still keep surprising me; what drags me sleepy-eyed from bed to scribble random phrases on scraps of paper while I’d rather be getting to sleep. That’s what I love about creativity in any form it comes.  It lets me follow the Gleam.

I know I will be following it, I hope for a long time to come.  And I hope you do too.

Merlin and the Gleam, by Alfred Lord Tennyson

from Demeter and Other Poems, published in 1889

I.

O YOUNG Mariner,
You from the haven
Under the sea-cliff,
You that are watching
The gray Magician
With eyes of wonder,
I am Merlin,
And I am dying,
I am Merlin
Who follow The Gleam.

II.

Mighty the Wizard
Who found me at sunrise
Sleeping, and woke me
And learn’d me Magic!
Great the Master,
And sweet the Magic,
When over the valley,
In early summers,
Over the mountain,
On human faces,
And all around me,
Moving to melody,
Floated The Gleam.

III.

Once at the croak of a Raven who crost it,
A barbarous people,
Blind to the magic,
And deaf to the melody,
Snarl’d at and cursed me.
A demon vext me,
The light retreated,
The landskip darken’d,
The melody deaden’d,
The Master whisper’d
“Follow The Gleam.”

IV.

Then to the melody,
Over a wilderness
Gliding, and glancing at
Elf of the woodland,
Gnome of the cavern,
Griffin and Giant,
And dancing of Fairies
In desolate hollows,
And wraiths of the mountain,
And rolling of dragons
By warble of water,
Or cataract music
Of falling torrents,
Flitted The Gleam.

V.

Down from the mountain
And over the level,
And streaming and shining on
Silent river,
Silvery willow,
Pasture and plowland,
Horses and oxen,
Innocent maidens,
Garrulous children,
Homestead and harvest,
Reaper and gleaner,
And rough-ruddy faces
Of lowly labour,
Slided The Gleam.–

VI.

Then, with a melody
Stronger and statelier,
Led me at length
To the city and palace
Of Arthur the king;
Touch’d at the golden
Cross of the churches,
Flash’d on the Tournament,
Flicker’d and bicker’d
From helmet to helmet,
And last on the forehead
Of Arthur the blameless
Rested The Gleam.

VII.

Clouds and darkness
Closed upon Camelot;
Arthur had vanish’d
I knew not whither,
The king who loved me,
And cannot die;
For out of the darkness
Silent and slowly
The Gleam, that had waned to a wintry glimmer
On icy fallow
And faded forest,
Drew to the valley
Named of the shadow,
And slowly brightening
Out of the glimmer,
And slowly moving again to a melody
Yearningly tender,
Fell on the shadow,
No longer a shadow,
But clothed with The Gleam.

VIII.

And broader and brighter
The Gleam flying onward,
Wed to the melody,
Sang thro’ the world;
And slower and fainter,
Old and weary,
But eager to follow,
I saw, whenever
In passing it glanced upon
Hamlet or city,
That under the Crosses
The dead man’s garden,
The mortal hillock,
Would break into blossom;
And so to the land’s
Last limit I came–
And can no longer,
But die rejoicing,
For thro’ the Magic
Of Him the Mighty,
Who taught me in childhood,
There on the border
Of boundless Ocean,
And all but in Heaven
Hovers The Gleam.

IX.

Not of the sunlight,
Not of the moonlight,
Not of the starlight!
O young Mariner,
Down to the haven,
Call your companions,
Launch your vessel,
And crowd your canvas,
And, ere it vanishes
Over the margin,
After it, follow it,
Follow The Gleam.

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3 thoughts on “Gleam

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