Hello dVersians! It was my intent to come up with a Halloween-themed prompt today, but as Frost says, “way leads on to way” and it didn’t happen. You still have a chance to write one and share it on Live Open Link Night on this Thursday, the 29th, hosted by Bjorn and Sanaa, which means you could choose to read it live. That said, on to the prompt!
Suave, mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis
e terra magnum alterius spectare laborem.
Tis pleasant, safely to behold from shore
The troubled sailor, and hear the tempests roar.
–inscription around Mussenden Temple
In architectural terms, a folly is a structure made for decoration rather than function. The term also defines foolish decisions; Mussenden Temple on the north-western coast of Ireland, happens to embody both meanings of the word.
The image clearly shows just how precariously the temple is perched. Although centuries of erosion have brought the cliff’s face ever closer to the structure, the Earl-Bishop originally had it built only about 30 feet from the edge. Since 1997, the National Trust has worked to stabilize the precipice.
Modeled after the ancient Temple of Vesta in Rome, Mussenden Temple is located on a 400-acre National Trust property that also includes Downhill Castle. Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, a.k.a. the Earl-Bishop, (b 1730 – d 1803) served as the Church of Ireland Lord Bishop of Derry from 1768 until 1803 and had both structures built. He’s an interesting character in history and worth taking a gander at if you get a chance.
Enter Frideswide Bruce, who was the sister of the Earl-Bishop’s cousin; she married an elderly banker with the last name Mussenden. To the Earl-Bishop, she was his “cher-cousin.”
Some say the Earl-Bishop and Frideswide were far too close – when the Bishop disagreed with his long-suffering wife, he often went to stay with Frideswide. As a gift to his cher-cousin, the Earl-Bishop built Mussenden Temple with the intention that it serve both as a library and as a guest house for her when she visited. It was completed in 1783, but the gossip about her and the Earl-Bishop was said to have affected Frideswide’s already delicate health. She passed on in 1785 at the early age of 22. The Temple, which was to have been her refuge, became her memorial.
The folly here is the building’s location and daring to say it was in honor of a much younger woman (he was 53 and she was 22) who was not his wife. There was never a confirmation that the connection between them was anything other than platonic. Was the Earl-Bishop a fool for building so close to the cliff? For having strong feelings for a woman other than his wife and publicly honoring her?
I was able to find some good poems on folly. I think Frederick and Frideswide would smile at this one:
Heights Of Folly
by Charles Simic
O crows circling over my head and cawing!
I admit to being, at times,
Suddenly, and without the slightest warning,
On a morning otherwise sunless,
Strolling arm in arm
Past some gallows-shaped trees
With my dear Helen,
Who is also a strange bird,
With a feeling of being summoned
Urgently, but by a most gracious invitation
To breakfast on slices of watermelon
In the company of naked gods and goddesses
On a patch of last night’s snow.
* * *
As I read the next one, I can’t help but think that as experience leading to wisdom grows as we age, so too does the unfettered joy of folly shrink. As our attachments grow, we have more to lose so we become more cautious. Yes, we keep our stuff, but what do we lose in the process?
by Joyce Kilmer
What distant mountains thrill and glow
Beneath our Lady Folly’s tread?
Why has she left us, wise in woe,
Shrewd, practical, uncomforted?
We cannot love or dream or sing,
We are too cynical to pray,
There is no joy in anything
Since Lady Folly went away.
Many a knight and gentle maid,
Whose glory shines from years gone by,
Through ignorance was unafraid
And as a fool knew how to die.
Saint Folly rode beside Jehanne
And broke the ranks of Hell with her,
And Folly’s smile shone brightly on
Christ’s plaything, Brother Juniper.
Our minds are troubled and defiled
By study in a weary school.
O for the folly of the child!
The ready courage of the fool!
Lord, crush our knowledge utterly
And make us humble, simple men;
And cleansed of wisdom, let us see
Our Lady Folly’s face again.
* * *
I love the wordplay in this last one.
The Folly Of Being Comforted
by William Butler Yeats
ONE that is ever kind said yesterday:
‘Your well-beloved’s hair has threads of grey,
And little shadows come about her eyes;
Time can but make it easier to be wise
Though now it seems impossible, and so
All that you need is patience.’
Heart cries, ‘No,
I have not a crumb of comfort, not a grain.
Time can but make her beauty over again:
Because of that great nobleness of hers
The fire that stirs about her, when she stirs,
Burns but more clearly. O she had not these ways
When all the wild Summer was in her gaze.’
Heart! O heart! if she’d but turn her head,
You’d know the folly of being comforted.
Here’s the challenge today. Write a poem using the word folly in it. It could be about a decorative structure not intended to have a function. It could be about the Ziegfield Follies. It could be an act of folly. It could be about the folly of youth and the fear of folly in older years. It could be about a hero or heroine of yours. You choose your fancy, but make sure you use the word folly in your poem.
If you are new to dVerse, here’s how to join in:
*Write a poem (in any form) in response to the challenge.
*You will find links to other poets and more will join, so check back later to read their poems.
*Read and comment on other poets’ work–we all come here to have our poems read.
*Please link back to dVerse from your site/blog.
Mussenden Temple found here.
About the Earl and Frideswide found here.
Heights of Folly found here.
Folly found here.
The Folly of Being Comforted found here.
Photo of Mussenden Temple and beach below courtesy of Sarah Connor (c)