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LOVE RENDERS US LOVELY/US, TOO, IT ENDEARS
September 23, 2004
 
Can we move the two stacks of CDs from on top of the old wooden icebox in the kitchen and keep some attractive bowls there instead? Probably.

Can we replace the 1960s white Formica kitchen countertop and backsplash sprinkled with little pale green and blue stars with something a little more, um, current? No, not yet. Need to get some other expenses out of the way first. Not sure when. I have convinced myself that people don't see the little stars right away, that you have to be up close to get the full effect. And the floor, vintage vinyl so battered you don't really know it was once dark red? The esthetic that once married the little green and blue stars on the countertop with the deep red Mediterranean pattern on the floor is lost, now, in the mists of time. I want a wood floor. But not yet, I guess.

Can we paint the living room before Thanksgiving? Its new Indian rug -- well, new three years ago -- is not as good a fit with its peach-colored walls as was the old Turkish one which is now in our bedroom. We settled on a pair of colors about a year ago. But frankly, it's not looking good for Thanksgiving. Maybe Christmas? Oh, right -- we'll paint the living room in those leisurely four weeks between the holidays. A little something to occupy our time.

All of these things so wrong, with a house that is nonetheless so beautiful. I suspect that its beauty is more in our eyes than it is objective truth, that it is like the beauty of longtime friends: visible to each other while hid from the world. I suspect that the house has long since been sanctified by use. Perhaps, eventually, we all are -- all wrong in all sorts of ways, but beautiful anyway.

What's that poem, I ask Q, that contains the line "Love renders us lovely?" A poem about the death of a man of low estate? Eighteenth century? This is usually more than enough information to elicit a prompt title and date from Q, but he can't remember it, either. An Internet search produces a swarm of dreadful love poetry and a number of earnest sermons, but not this poem.

Then Q gets up from his computer and walks to the nearest of his piles of books. The one he wants is right on top. It's nineteenth century, not eighteenth. And the line I remember is not "Love renders us lovely." I had it wrong. But finding it is beautiful anyway, like Q in his blue jeans and white tee shirt, like the bedroom ceiling with the faint crack in it. Not perfect. Lovely.


Felix Randal
by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1880

Felix Randal the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, til time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?

Sickness broke him. Inpatient he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!

This seeing the sick endears them to us; us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch has quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;

How far from the forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal.


(It might help, in understanding the poem, to know that a farrier is a blacksmith and that Hopkins was a priest -- the "sweet reprieve and ransom" Hopkins tended to Felix Randal was the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist.)
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