After murdering some 20-50 spiders, and cleaning the pedalo (a human-powered watercraft propelled by the action of pedals turning a paddle wheel), in France, Charlotte and I went out onto the lake. It was a glorious July day with temperatures up to 37 degrees. Being out there, floating in the windless afternoon, only the sounds of nature around us, the prefect blue sky – this was a scene of utter serenity and peace. Out of nowhere, Charlotte, as is often her wont, started citing Keats. Below is the poem she cited. It is short, but, as usual, unutterably beautiful. The theme and setting of the poem reflect the following words of John Milton in Paradise lost book IX.

As one who, long in populous city pent,

Where houses thik and sewers annoy the air,

Forth issuing on a summer’s morn,

to breathe Among the villagers and farms.

See Keats’ poem below:

To one who has been long in city pent,
         ‘Tis very sweet to look into the fair
         And open face of heaven,—to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
Who is more happy, when, with heart’s content,
         Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
         Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair
And gentle tale of love and languishment?
Returning home at evening, with an ear
         Catching the notes of Philomel,—an eye
Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,
         He mourns that day so soon has glided by:
E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
         That falls through the clear ether silently.
Keats is perhaps in poetry what Graham Greene is to me in literature. Both poet and author speak to my soul and touch me in a way few have been able to. I cannot tell you the effect this poem had as my beloved and I glided across the water slowly, looking up and the clear open face of heaven. The blue firmament (heaven) above us seemed to go on for eternity and was reflected in the tranquil water surrounding us. This was our pleasant lair. We walked along wavy grass (which was very dry in honesty) and did indeed read.
This poem talks about the joy of escaping one’s busy city life. As two people who live in the city centre of Birmingham, the escape to the middle of France was much needed and very rewarding. Although there is a sadder note to the poem, once the trip to the countryside is over. The day in the countryside which is the subject of the poem reflects that the day has passed by as quickly as the falling of the tear of an angel.
We, too, mourned that our beautiful holiday in the French countryside, away from light pollution, noise and busyness of our city lives. We long in city pent were most grateful for a golden afternoon on the water, which was over too soon.