At last monthís Poetry for All Highlights Founders Workshop, Eileen Spinelli told us that a writer needs time to meander. So please bear with me Ė Iím meandering today!
Last weekend, I had the terrific good fortune to attend the SCBWI Southern Breeze summer retreat, ďShow Don't Tell: How Acting Techniques Improve WritingĒ led by Hester Bass. At first I thought Iíd find a poem celebrating acting for today, and then I wanted to celebrate hospitality Ė shown by Hester in her leadership, shown by Joan Broerman, our regionís founder, who along with hubby Neal welcomed all of us into their home for sessions and meals, and shown by co-RA Claudia Pearson, who graciously offered me her gorgeous guest room to bunk in for the weekend.
A search for poems on ďhospitalityĒ led to Ben Jonsonís 1616 poem, ďTo Penshurst.Ē Well, this poem led me to an old photo album. Jeff, myself and Morgan, age two at the time in 1994, made a trip to England for our 10th anniversary. We were covered up with hospitality and wonderful day trips by friends of Jeffís family Ė John and Pauline Harris, and their son Chris. Their home was in Sevenoaks, Kent, not far from the Penshurst estate, and off we went. John and Pauline are both gone now, but I will always remember their warmth and enthusiasm.
Iíll also always remember that trip to Penshurst Ė the medieval banquet hall and its chestnut beams and long, long tables transported us back to the fourteenth century! According to my notes, we stopped for a decadent cream tea in the Tea Room on the way out, where we were bid goodbye with double rainbows outside.
I figured since the poem was written by Ben Jonson, dramatist and contemporary of Shakespeare, it qualified as both acting-related and hospitality-related. Itís an ďestate poemĒ which looks at nature, culture and social relationships. Hereís a taste with the beginning and a bit from later on:
by Ben Jonson
Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show,
Of touch or marble; nor canst boast a row
Of polished pillars, or a roof of gold;
Thou hast no lantern, whereof tales are told,
Or stair, or courts; but standíst an ancient pile,
And, these grudged at, art reverenced the while.
Thou joyíst in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair.
But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that think they make
The better cheeses bring them, or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands, and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such? whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know;
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lordís own meat Ö
For the entire poem, click here.
Oh Ė and did you know Ben Jonson is the only person buried in an upright position in Westminster Abbey? (Click here for more. Told you I was meandering.)
Thanks for visiting, and meander on over to Mary Leeís A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday roundup!