For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sweet Disorder

I don't know about you, but I'm not always the tidiest, the most organised, the squeaky-cleanest of people. Don't get me wrong - I return CDs to their cases, put books back in their correct place on the shelf, take a shower every morning. I try and turn up for appointments on time. I even reluctantly wash the car now and then (a metallic black 2007 VW Golf Plus 1.6 FSI SE incidentally - referring back ironically to my previous post).

But I'm hardly a punctilious perfectionist, always smoothing, sorting, cleaning and ordering. Indeed, I always think there's something a little suspicious about those who can't stand even one hair out of place. What are they trying to hide? Over-fastidiousness can all too easily tip over into pathological neurosis. What does it matter if the washing up is left for an hour or two, if you put on again that old jumper which really was due for a wash, if the garden's a bit of a wilderness instead of some sanitised, weed-free, pet-free, kids-free zone of artificial perfection replete with serried ranks of pest-free flowers and a beautifully manicured lawn? I've much better things to do, thank you, than dusting the house plants every few minutes or vacuuming the cat (War and Peace to finish, for a start ...)

In this delightful poem Robert Herrick stands up for all of us who aren't averse to a little wanton disorder. In fact it may even be sexy ...

Delight In Disorder

A sweet disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace which here and there
Enthralls the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving note)
In the tempestuous petticoat:
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me, than when art
Is too precise in every part.

ROBERT HERRICK (1591-1674)

10 comments:

Ruth said...

Amen, brother.

But don't get me off my intent to unclutter some rooms and closets . . . :)

That Robert Herrick had such a fetching way with words. I remember Upon Julia's Clothes . . .


WHENAS in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free ;
O how that glittering taketh me !

I raise my glass to Robert, Robert Herrick, winning waves . . . careless shoestrings and liquefication of clothes!

Bonnie said...

(raising my glass with Ruth) "Here, Here"!

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, both poems are perfect little gems I've always thought. 'The liquefaction of her clothes', 'A sweet disorder in the dress', 'tempestuous petticoat' - utterly delightful!

I'll let you make headway with the decluttering. (As long as you're not making lists, not wearing gloves, and are listening to some loud country-rock at the same time. Perhaps taking a nip or two of something as well. It wouldn't be right to be too scrupulous and methodical!)

The Solitary Walker said...

Cheers, Bonnie. That's a toast to a little wanton disorder in our lives, then!

Ruth said...

I'll tell you now, since you just perfectly described it, that I do the "ruthie" method when I do such things as decluttering. A little work, a little fun, a little work, a little sip, and music, or silence, along the way . . .

Actually, I always work like that ...

Bonnie said...

I love that: "...sweet, wanton disorder..." - how freeing for all we perfectionists in your following!

Dominic said...

Interesting to compare notes. John Cage -who had a fondness for using anecdotes in his writings- once wrote this (as I remember it):

One dirty American composer on an even dirtier American composer: "He had dirt between his fingers like most of us have between our toes".

Washing the car? I wash the car when I trade it in. Life's too short.

Alan Sloman said...

I have a beautiful framed print on my home office wall made by Charles Rennie Mackintosh which reads "There is hope in honest error None in the icy perfections of the mere stylist."

Friko said...

That was one of the first poems in English that I really enjoyed. I couldn't believe that an English poet would write as cheekily and freely and sweetly as this.

I have admired the classical English poets ever since I learned the language but with Herrick I could have fun.

As somebody who was brought up in an extremely, pathologically, tidy environment I have happily learned to adapt to more relaxed ways of living.

As you say there are books to read and poems too and friends' blogs to visit . . . . .

The Solitary Walker said...

Wonder who those composers were, Dominic? (Me, I'm quite careful to wash between my toes. I just have a thing about it.)

Alan - yes, that's a great quotation. I did a post centred around it a year or two ago.

Friko - cheeky, free and sweet. Yes, that's Herrick to a tee.

I suppose I like the ostensibly boring but, for me, completely agreeable 'middle way' - somewhere between anarchism and Annette Benning's rose-shearing scene in the film 'American Beauty'.