Poets seem to be able to capture the flash, the illuminating instant, the second when an emotion – in this case, joy – pierces the heart.

Walking yesterday to pop a note in a friends letterbox, I noticed blobs of white in the greenery along the fenceline of an empty block. I waded through the long grass to look. Turned out to be these single roses on a rampant climbing bush. And I was surprised by joy.

Not an original phrase. I looked it up – Wordsworth; “Surprised by Joy”; a poem telling of his impulse to turn to a beloved person to share something wonderful, only to be hit by the realisation that he can’t. They are dead.

Surprised by joy – impatient as the Wind
I turned to share the transport – Oh! with whom
But thee, long buried in the silent Tomb,
That spot which no vicissitude can find?

Not the right joy poem, then.
Joy and William Blake go together, right?

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy.
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.

Not quite. I am not clutching the moment, though I did photograph it with my mobile.

I turned to one of my notebooks. I used to scribble down little scraps of poetry, though sometimes I didn’t note the details. Like the name of this poem, from which I’d excerpted a few lines

….and still and still my sense of joy persists.

Yes. That’s it. My sense of joy persists. Still.

I did note the poet’s name, however. He is Vivian Smith, born in Tasmania in 1933, for many years a professor at the University of Sydney, author of many collections of poetry and books on literature.

…and intertwined with every rooted ‘why’ 
such tenderness, such joy exists.

At present, with a “rooted ‘why'” at every turn, there are so many reasons to despair or rage. Or just be incredibly grumpy and turn to chocolate.  So it astonishes me that I am still capable of being ambushed by this feeling I call joy. It’s usually small scale. Often, a response to looking at the plants or insects or stones I see on the ground. That goes back to my earliest memory. Three? Four? Squatting on my fat little legs to study bugs in the garden. My source of joy persists, too. I thank and bless the star sign or deity or genetic happenstance – whatever it was – which  implanted in me  this capacity for finding joy in small things. May it continue in its persistence.

Thank you, Vivian Smith, and I am sorry that I did not note the name of your beautiful and appropriate poem.


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