Love of things dented and dropped.

Another poem about things. This poet exults in the intimacy of humans with their things, walking on them, dropping them, nearly wearing them out — but to him, all that improves their appearance and even makes the things happy.

Since first publishing this poem, I have been prompted by Jody’s comment to add the photograph below, from Elizabeth Goudge’s beloved Wells Cathedral, completed before 1500, the steps to its chapter house since that time well “trodden by many feet and ground down.”

OF ALL WORKS

Of all works I prefer
Those used and worn.
Copper vessels with dents and with flattened rims
Knives and forks whose wooden handles
Many hands have grooved: such shapes
Seemed the noblest to me. So too the flagstones around
Old houses, trodden by many feet and ground down,
With clumps of grass in the cracks, these too
Are happy works.

Absorbed into the use of many
Frequently changed, they improve their appearance, growing enjoyable
Because often enjoyed.
Even the remnants of broken sculptures
With lopped-off hands I love. They also
Lived with me. If they were dropped at least they must have been carried.
If men knocked them over they cannot have stood too high up.
Buildings half dilapidated
Revert to the look of buildings not yet completed
Generously designed: their fine proportions
Can already be guessed; yet they still make demands
On our understanding. At the same time
They have served already, indeed have been left behind. All this
Makes me glad.

-Bertolt Brecht

wells-cathedral-steps
Wells Cathedral, Chapter House stairs – photo by Pippin

12 thoughts on “Love of things dented and dropped.

  1. But now I have read the poem and I really love it….I fits with a sad but not tragic event that happened to me last week. I drove 30 miles to have lunch with a sil who lives there. With me were my son Andy and another sil who lives three miles from me. I was taking a cameo which originally belonged to a grandmother who was born in 1876 and lived in Manchester, England when she received it. It is a large deeply carved cameo with a surround of etched gold. Last time my sils and I had lunch together we were talking about cameos for a bit and they wanted to see this one. But when we arrived and were having lunch and wanted to take it out, it was not in my purse. We looked everywhere and asked at the desk, but it was nowhere. The next day, after more looking, I phoned the restaurant again, and someone had turned it in. Yesterday I drove up to get it (and my sil Susie and I had lunch together again.)

    A too long back story, I fear. So I have the cameo again, but it is clear that it was run over by a car. The gold edge is bent in a few places and there is a crack in the carving. It’s more apparent in the back. And it is quite dirty. I never wear this, but am going to take it to a jeweler and see what they can do to repair it. I treasure the connection to a woman who died when I was about thirteen years old, a woman I never knew terribly well but loved.

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    1. Kristi, what a fitting story to go with the poem – I’m glad you gave all the details. You’ve made me think more about some of my things that perhaps I devalued because they have been damaged… many of them dented and dropped, chipped and broken… but somehow the stories of their accidents add a richness to my memories. It seems to me that now your cameo also has added meaning connected to your sisters-in-law, and your attempt to use it to tie your stories together with your grandmother.

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  2. This one is my favorite (of your poem-posts, so far), hands down.* I’m revising my whole approach to old, well worn, or broken objects–including persons (e.g. myself). The comment about dropped objects (“at least they must have been carried”) really got through to me.

    *I just learned where this word comes from : It has its “roots in mid-19th century horseracing. When a horse jockey is nearing the finish line far ahead of the competition, “with victory certain”, he could drop his hands, relaxing his hold on the reins, and still win the race.” (wiktionary.org)

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    1. I keep thinking of a favorite Bob Dylan song, “Everything is Broken,” which I love because it admits the truth of our failures and the fallen state of the world; but it doesn’t go on to love and treasure all the broken things – and people – as the poet does. And as God does.

      Thank you for sharing the history of hands-down. I think that could apply to bicyclists, too.

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  3. A poem so telling of the truth of the human condition.

    ‘If they were dropped at least they must have been carried,’ a line that infers that these objects were once loved, held, appreciated, and dropped – most likely by mistake. Mistakes are made, after all, by people who have made an effort to accomplish something.

    This brings to mind the very wise words of one of my favourite artists, the brilliant Leonard Cohen, who so eloquently wrote, ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’

    Really enjoyed reading this poem. Although I studied Brecht’s plays in university, I was not aware that he was also a poet.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Poppy

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  4. I love this…all of it. Every time I’ve dented the staircase or done something to the house or farm that leaves a (my) mark, it pleases me. Dave would get upset when I’d tell him I dented the banister or…whatever. After a while I stopped telling him and we were both happier.

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