On the pleasures of mis-hearing a poem

Red_rose

Recently at a poetry reading someone read The Mystery – by Ralph Hodgson.

Because I had been much moved by a previous poem that was about the beauty of love a poet had for her husband I heard this poem in that context.

HE came and took me by the hand
 Up to a red rose tree,
He kept His meaning to Himself
 But gave a rose to me.
 
I did not pray Him to lay bare        
 The mystery to me,
Enough the rose was Heaven to smell,
 And His own face to see.

I heard it as a human loved one taking his/her lover to a red rose tree and how the act and the perfume and sight of the rose spoke volumes without the need for words and without breeching the mystery of the other.

Of course a long history of speaking of relationship with God has used human love as metaphor – notably the Sufi tradition.

Gesture can and does speak volumes.  

The most moving example I ever saw was the President of Ireland ascending half-way up the plane stairs to take the hand of Seamus Heaney to bring him back down to Irish soil, upon having collected his Nobel prize.  She could not have spoken so eloquently had she even his great gifts.

But in the end my mis-hearing added to the pleasure then – and now.

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