Wednesday, October 5, 2011

no other end of the world

A Song on the End of the World

On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.

And those who expected lightning and thunder
Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.

Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.

Czeslaw Milosz
translated by Anthony Milosz

This particular Milosz piece brings to mind the rather humorous story of my fourth great-grandfather, Rev. Robert Goodloe Harper Hanna. "Harper" was one of the earliest clergy in Carroll County, Indiana. He belonged to a denomination known as the Primitive Methodists and preached the Millerite doctrine. If he believed this radical doctrine, personally, he certainly failed to impress the outside world with his sincerity.

Here's the account, according to the History of Carroll County, Indiana by Thomas Helms, Chicago: Kingman Brothers, 1882...

One morning in April, 1848, John Payton rode by Hanna's farm and saw him setting out an orchard. The inconsistency of his preceding at once struck Payton, who elected that a number of years must elapse, in any event, before he could expect any return of his labor, and if the final destruction of the world were so nearly at hand, was not his an unnecessary outlay of labor? 

With this in mind, Payton addressed him: 

"How is this, Brother Hanna? This is April, and if your account is correct, the end of the world will come in June next. It scarcely looks consistent to be doing such work so nearly the borders of eternity." 

"Oh well", replied Hanna, "we can't tell exactly; there may have been an error in the calculation."

my trusty '96 Land Rover at an abandoned farm
Dublin, Ohio
click to embiggen


  1. No point fretting over things we can't change,better to grow things, renew things and hope just a little that life will go on. Still enjoying the images and insights mate!

  2. Absolutely...mend nets...bind tomatoes...

  3. will come as a thief in the night
    how wonderful you have so much history available to you about your family

  4. If it is then paint the town red! As though there is no tomorrow!

    Now, now..wait for the big explosion! If it does happen we wouldn't be aware!
    Excellent food for thought, Tess!


  5. Yes, there is always room for error : )

  6. I so enjoy these stories of your much documented family. What a wonderful cast they all were :)

  7. Suz and Jeanette, I was heavily into genealogical research about ten years ago and uncovered a lot of fascinating family lore. It's also very fortunate that my paternal grandfather was diligent in keeping careful ancestral records.

  8. no one will know the day and the hour except the Father. wouldnt it be nice if God would make just one exception!!! i mean im dying to know...literally.

  9. Ah there's the just never know. Far better to live like there are many tomorrows then to live like there are none.

  10. i just found czeslaw recently while perusing ata many have pinpointed aday or tried...what is the point, if i chose just to live for today?

  11. The Milosz poem is haunting ... much food for thought today, tomatoes and all.

  12. I always love these post, so full of history....amazing as always dear friend :)

  13. A great Discovery. And if tomorrow didn't come, would we all be so upset? Anyway, I shall be like Mr Harper, as I plan to plant a large orchard in Spring 2012.

  14. Cro, an orchard! Oh, yes, you must stop scrumping and grow your own!

  15. It sounds like Rev. Hanna was a practical man :)

  16. Those darned miscalculations just keep messing up a good hypothesis.

  17. hahaaa! love your photos. And the poem.

  18. A refreshing way to look at when the world ends. Totally enjoyed…

  19. Tess,
    And if I'm wrong; I care not!

  20. As Yogi would remind us, "It ain't over til it's over."
    I think this barn still has some life in it, especially if someone would spend a little TLC on it.
    Or, a Bear could hibernate in there for the winter, perhaps.

  21. Love Mr. Milosz...thank you.
    "There may have been an error in the calculation."
    HA! Wonderful story.

  22. Fine story Tess. And, of course, it will come as no surprise at all to learn that my mothers' family were all Primitive Methodists - West Yorkshire was always a ..... I was going to say a "hot-bed" of Primitive Methodists, but somehow that description seems strangely inappropriate.

  23. Wonderful Milosz. It puts me in mind of a reflection by the sci-fi novelist John Christopher. I can only paraphrase it having lost the original source. Something to the effect that on the day of Hiroshima a childhood ended as an old dog died on the lawn. The singular and the universal.

  24. A Delight! Thanks for the post. Sometimes we do make mistakes?

  25. Alan...giggle...somehow hot-bed and Primitive Methodists just don't mesh...and no, it comes as no surprise, my friend...

  26. I do love your historical knowledge too :) ...and it always makes me roll my eyes to see people in such a frenzy when someone predicts a day for the end of the world...

  27. Dick, yes, the Milosz has a wonderful sci-fi quality. It pairs nicely with the strange, deserted feeling of my photo.

  28. Wonderful story Miss Tess. I dont think about end of the world. May it be in an hour, week, days or whatever. just like my bog sister Suz said, it will come like a thief in the night. I just live my live to the best I can, making myself happy and others too. and praying for those who are not as lucky as I am so that when truly the end of the world is coming, we are all gonna leave happy...


  29. Hahaha. You come from a family of truly colourful characters!

  30. I loved the powerful poetics,
    and it speaks volumes, embracing
    the moment, seizing it, making
    love to it, but mostly I did your
    image, for it puts me in mind
    of the hundreds of windows I
    have snapped pics of, windows
    of perception, windows of mystery.
    As a sad lad in the Navy in 1966,
    I used to walk alone on leave, and
    I found myself staring at many
    windows, hoping that within them,
    there were lives going on that did
    not, was not immersed in the chaos
    of Viet Nam, the pain of Nixon as
    president, or the death of their
    mother at 39--and I still am fascinated
    by windows, what they hide, what
    they promise.

  31. When I reposted this poem,
    I used Picasso's THE OLD
    GUITAR PLAYER to illustrate it.

  32. Glenn, Picasso's haunting "The Old Guitar Player" is the perfect image to accompany this Milosz poem.

  33. Sometimes I just want to reach out and pinch your cheeks. This is one of those times.

  34. It's a nice to think that you can enjoy the fruits of your apple, just before the end of the kind of takes you back to the beginning with Eve pulling a golden delicious.

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  36. Primitive Methodists, sometimes called camp fire Methodists or, by the high church, "ranter Methodists" because of their evangelical style, were prominent in the labour and trade-union movement, especially in Yorkshire and the North East. Whilst, I was brought up in the Zoar Baptist style of my West Country maternal side, I have a particular PM ancestors, a temperance preacher, that may well turn up at some time.

  37. Mike, it seems we have a common denominator in our ancestry.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)