My treasure chest

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

I read a lot. And I mean it; a lot. In an average week I probably read about 5 – 10 books ( it depends on the length of the books and how much I like them; books I like I finish a lot faster). Sometimes I read 4 books in a day but, of course, that is generally during the weekend. What kind of book I read depends on my mood and the books available, for example I might read a YA dystopian novel and the next one is a romance and the next science fiction… you get the point. I also like reading poetry and non-fiction; newspapers and essays (and blogs 😉  ). Because I read so much,the books sometimes blend into one another. I read books I like more than once (sometimes more than ten times although I have to really love those) but, as you can imagine, I forget a lot of them. Since my budget is limited, I also borrow a lot of the books I read and when I give them back, I can’t look at them again.

But every now and then I find a phrase, a poem or just a line that speaks to me in a special way. This can be anything. I want to keep these little treasures, where I can look at them again and again and again, some I learn by heart, some I just like re-reading. Some I share with my friends. So, almost 10 years ago, I started a sort of “quotes diary”. I call it my treasure chest and I use it almost every day. Not to write in, that doesn’t happen all that often and the rather thin book is just about halfway full, leaving lots of space for future findings, but to read in. Whenever I feel I need a break from thinking or worrying, I open my treasure chest and leaf through it until I find something that catches my eye that particular day/moment/situation. The book itself is not very beautiful, a dark blue with a maritime themed picture in the middle and an anchor in the bottom right corner (my grandmother who is a little obsessed with that kind of thing gave it to me) but that doesn’t matter in the slightest. I love this book. Let me share some of its treasures with you. There are a lot of quotes from the Bible in there and I guess in keeping with my blog’s theme I should choose some of those, but I am sure they will come up later and so I have decided on the following two:

Victor Hugo:

Do you know what these piles of ordure are, collected at the corners of streets, those carts of mud carried off at night from streets, the frightful barrels of the nightman, and the fetid streams of subterranean mud which the pavement conceals from you? All this is a flowering field, it is green grass, it is mint, thyme, and sage; it is game, it is cattle, it is the satisfying lowing of heavy kine; at night it is perfumed hay, it is gilded wheat, it is bread on your table, it is warm blood in your veins, it is health, it is joy, it is life.

I don’t know from which text this is an excerpt. I found it in a chemistry book on the environmental impact of sewage (yes, I am serious). It is such a great acclamation of the different forms that life can take and that they are all interconnected, my spirit lifts whenever I read it. Thank you, Victor Hugo!

Forgetmenot Flowers

Keith Douglas (died 6th June 1944):
 
Vergissmeinnicht
 
Three weeks gone and the combatants gone
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.
 
 The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a clemon
 
Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl,
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.
 
We see him almost with content,
abased and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.
 
But she would weep to see today
How on his skin the swart flies move
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.
 
For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who has the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.
 

I find this poem amazing and touching because it brings home the horrors of war by humanising the enemy soldier and recognising, that killing the enemy is killing another human being. I think most soldiers very likely purposefully forget that because it is just too terrible to think about, and the fact that Keith Douglas was able to recognise it and feel it, makes me feel in awe of him. He must have been a great person, a good man and it is terrible that he had to die in a war, although at least this one was for a good cause. Every time I read this poem I am reminded that good people come in lots of shapes and disguises and that something beautiful (like this poem) can still be born from something terrible (the war).

I am always on the lookout for more so if you have a favourite poem, quote or other piece of writing, do share it with me.I am grateful that there are so many different ways of inspiration out there and every time I find something new, I am grateful again; for the unique ability of the human species to form beauty with simple words and the many. many  ingenious people in history who were able to use that ability to its highest.

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Filed under body and soul, Philosophy, Poetry

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