Saturday, February 13, 2010

Household Motions

Press Here to View this beautiful Belgian Painting from the 1800's

She was a phantom of delight

When first she gleamed upon my sight;

A lovely Apparition, sent

To be a moment's ornament;

Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;

Like Twilight's, too, her dusky hair;

But all things else about her drawn

From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;

A dancing Shape, an Image gay,

To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
(my notes: This is like the first, surface impression, by the poet, based on the outward appearance of the woman.Note that the poem shows the layered technologies of the woman: he says that on a nearer view he sees the "pulse of the machine.") 
I saw her upon a nearer view,

A Spirit, yet a Woman too!

Her household motions light and free,

And steps of virgin liberty;

A countenance in which did meet

Sweet records, promises as sweet;

A Creature not too bright or good

For human nature's daily food;

For transient sorrows, simple wiles,

Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.
  (my notes:  Upon a second look, and upon closer acquaintance, the poet sees something always valued: the sympathy and understanding; the depth of her emotions. Now, she is more than just a pretty vision of delight. She is posesses the God-given human qualities of genuine sorrow and joy.)
And now I see with eye serene

The very pulse of the machine;

A Being breathing thoughtful breath,

A Traveler between life and death;

The reason firm, the temperate will,

Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;

A perfect Woman, nobly planned,

To warm, to comfort, and command;

And yet a Spirit still, and bright,

With something of angelic light.

William Wordsworth (18th Century Poet)

(my notes:   "A Traveller between life and death."  We dont belong here: heaven is our home, prepared for those who obey the gospel and live faithfully, but until then, we are on a journey where we make the best of things, let our light shine, and draw others to Christ by our joy and obedience.  Many poets of the past have recognized the temporal verses the eternal. This one line: a traveller between life and death, describes the woman on a  temporary mission designed for the eternal destiny.)

In this segment of the poem, he  sees the woman with much deeper and enduring talents: she has strength to guide and to warn. She has skills in the home and she is "nobly planned."  The poet goes from the first impressions to the deeper knowledge of the woman. I liked the "household motions" because it is such a good reminder to allow housekeeping to be a joy. Most jobs are drudge jobs, but the graceful way in which they can be done, make a huge difference in the atmosphere of the home.)

This poem shows the observation of a man in the 18th century, about a woman's movements about the home. He says that her household motions are "light and free," and that she steps about freely, with confidence to monitor the home. He recognizes her strengths of firm reasoning, endurance, foresight and skill. 

The poem is a good reminder to make household routines more like a serene walk than a resentful attack.Some women make people run to the far corners of the house because of their aggressive attack on housekeeping; others can do it in such a way that it becomes poetic. I had a friend in my early days that fascinated me by her approach to homemaking. Though she never appeared to "do" much, she was always moving about, picking up things and straightening, and never sat down until she had briefly gone through the room and put it aright.  She saved herself a lot of hard work by the "clean as you go" method, and yet no one was ever really aware of what she was doing, because she conversed and walked around her house as though she was walking in a garden, enjoying the vacation.  It would be nice to learn this kind of approach, which would increase the contentment and well being of everyone around us.


Anonymous said...

How beautiful a poem and what an ideal to live up to. I should like to keep this for my 9 year old daughter as she grows. Thank you for posting it.

Anonymous said...

Lydia: I've seen women who attack housework with an anger and resentment. It makes the family upset and it doesnt increase their fondness for her. I agree, it should be like a graceful walk through the house, and through life, guarding and guiding the society of the home.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason more women don't take the ideal approach to homemaking is that it is time consuming. A busy, harried homemaker trying to stuff too much activity into a day is not going to make anyone comfortable. But, women just want to get out of the house these days, and on to more "exciting" things. No wonder their homes are less than ideal havens.

Lydia said...

To the woman who commented about hurried homemaking: That really takes the joy out of being home when you are just trying to get everything done so you can do something more exciting away from home. But, that sort of thing doesnt work if you are snowed in, which we learned who lived in places like that. You did your housework so you could get out your sewing or crafts or books to read. Our mothers did not live for work. They worked for the pleasure of having a clean house and for getting time to do something creative. I am one that cannot create if there is no space to work in and if there is no organization to find all the things I need. Whatever situation you are in, whether deeply in a mess, due to construction, just moved, had a baby, been sick, or had company, or just had no time to clean up, you can start by getting dressed up and fixing yourself as though were were having important guests. Then, even if the house is falling apart around you, you dont feel so panicky and can tackle it reasonably without anxiousness. Dressing up makes you feel in charge. Thats why its good to have some feminine clothes just for the home, made of sturdy cottons with colors that inspire, and that are washable and comfortable. I like cotton a lot and find it feels so fresh each time you wear a clean, pressed outfit at home.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your notes to go with this poem. I envision a lovely scene of serene-ness which I wish to emulate.

C said...

I really enjoyed that. Right now I have a baby that is very demanding and takes up a lot of my time (plus a 4yr old) cleaning looks more like a running marathon. I'm not that graceful at times however I do enjoy cleaning when the baby isn't so cranky. I know once he gets a bit older I can be that graceful homemaker that just flows through the house peacefully. Very encouraging.

Anonymous said...

You wrote some time ago about the movement of Clarence Day who started the time studies on everything to help to help factories increase production. You can read or see some of it in the book or movie made about their family. Cheaper By the Dozen. You mentioned something like this stance of doing things out of robot thinking takes the joy out of it being for your family and such. You shjould not try to do it faster. Would you please add a comment if you wish about this as I can no longer remember how you wrote you felt about this and at the time it was a new thought to me and made a big impression. You have such an honest beauty to how you write things.

Anonymous said...

I read a book once where as the mother polished and cleaned each of her children's shoes she prayed for that child. That left an impression on me and so when ironing their clothes etc I do that. It puts a beautiful spin on the time I iron and I find I enjoy my work more. What we are doing we are not doing for ourselfs alone but our familys and our lives together. To be able to be there and do the chores needed in our homes is a real blessing when you come down to it. Be thankful as you work. Do it with joy in your heart.

Gail said...

I had the pleasure of touring Wordsworth's home, one of the most charming places in England. You could still feel the love and devotion of the family for each other and their home. The gardens were magnificent, and I almost missed my bus because I tarried there so long! I do believe I tried to smell every rose in Britain, and the poet's garden up on Rydall Mount was full of them. Interestingly, his descendants still occupy the third floor of the house, which is off-limits to visitors. I still managed to bump into one of them who was trying to unobtrusively exit the house!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Frank Gilbraith or Gilbrith is the name of the man who originally started motion study. Read the book, don't see the movie! Even the older version does not do justice to the intelligence of this man and their delightful marriage.

Anonymous said...

Princess Beatrice (Queen Victoria's youngest daughter), at the request of her mother, transcribed Victoria's journals, edited them, then destroyed the originals. I believe this was not uncommon to do when famous people died.

Lillibeth said...

There is an interesting article here, with excerpts from Queen Victoria's journals
(click on the "more" when you get there, it is a pdf)

Anonymous said...

Just saw some really cute looking cotton 1950's style house dresses at W*Mart. Button up the front, belt at the waist. They looked fuller in the skirt than most dresses today. I didn't inspect them to closely, as I am expecting, so they don't have a ghost of a chance of fitting, but very cute looking, and I housekeep so much better when I "look the part"!

Anonymous said...

Yes,.. Thankyou for correcting me. I had the story of Life with Father mixed up with Cheaper by The Dozen. I have read the Gilbrith's books and enjoyed them. Still the thought of hurrying up and making a time study of chores in the home is something I wlll try to look up in way back posts here. I do remember it being addresssed.

Lydia said...

I think it was a commenter who wrote about this idea of putting housework down to a minute science, taking the joy completely out of it. If women work outside the home, they tend to compartmentalize everything in order to get work done at home, or they do nothing at all. WOrking takes the fun and relaxation out of even the smallest movements and the routine tasks. I agree that making it all a matter of time slots and efficiency is really deadening. Our mothers and grandmothers seemed to have plenty of leisure time to knit and to read and write letters or garden, and were not always slaving away at housework, yet they watched the state of the house pretty carefully. They did have select days to do certain things and were not going at housework all the time. They didn't live to work, but worked for their leisure time.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Sherman, I have been meaning to go back to the beginning of this blog and read forward again. My wish would be that all the articles you have written would be bound in a book we could buy. The messages are priceless and would be well worth the cost I feel. Over the years they have ment so much to us all and inspired us to be our best. I noticed that your archives is not on your links now but found I could go back clicking at the end of each page to go back. It would have taken me forever his way to get back to the beginning. Yet I did manage to go back many pages to 2007 reading as I went. Again and again I was inspired anew. Someday I will try to get to the beginning. This site is a refuge and an inspiration for us Mrs Sherman and we thank you very much for your wisdom and the time you put into helping us.

Lydia said...

I have been trying to combine three articles into a small book such as the one you see on the side called A Matter of Good Housekeeping. I need to work on that. The smaller books do not cost so much to produce, and people can buy them little by little instead of it being a big one-time expense. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

I like your analysis of the poem, Mrs. Sherman.

My mother always used the "clean as you go" method. "Make your steps count!" she'd say. She did do deep cleaning as well, but her habit of daily picking up, & tidying things really saved her a lot of work.


Anonymous said...

Love it. BTW, I used to live in Korea, and the husband was referred to as "the outside person" and the wife as "the inside person." Running the home was a valued calling.

Anonymous said...

Just lovely, Miss Lydia! I was taught to use my head so I didn't have to use my feet! LOL!

Anonymous said...

I find your blog very encouraging but I'm having trouble understanding how to make this work for me. I want to sew and knit but I can run from morning to night picking up, cleaning, doing laundry, teaching the children and I never get enough done to feel like I can justify stopping to do those things. I have the children helping me and we have a dishwasher and all the standard appliances which our grandmothers didn't have. How did they get their work finished? Mine never is.

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to get to your archives? It seems most blogs have a little space in their side bar with the archives listed. I only ask, so I don't have to keep hitting older posts, my computer doesn't seem to like that.
My apologies if this has already been asked and answered somewhere.
I've been reading your blog for about 6 months, and I would LOVE to start at the beginning- it is so encouraging! Thank-you!

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for putting up the archives! I started reading last night, and I need a notebook for taking down all the great ideas!
I really need all the house keeping posts, I am expecting our 4th in September, which will also be when we start our first full year of homeschooling. The routines etc. that worked great with babies 1&2, are not working so well now with 3 little ones and trying to homeschool pre-k.
My goal is to find and implement a routine BEFORE this baby and school year. We shall see what happens.....

Kimberline said...


A friend posted this in a forum and I thought you might like to have it to use as a side bar article or link.

This is a breitbart article about Theodore Roosevelt regarding motherhood.



Kimberline said...

oops I am afraid I forgot the link Lydia and gave credit to the wrong news agency. This is a article.

So sorry!



Anonymous said...

I am sorry to bring this up but I see a comment that there is now an archive shown again. I cannot find it. Am I looking in the wrong area? I have never found in one place so many inspiring, encouraging and helpful articles. I also want to start from the beginning. We buy books on similar subjects but the articles here are so true to a women's heart. One after the other to lift spirits and share with us our true calling. Share with us advice and council in subjects we yearn to learn about from women who understand. Mrs Sherman,.. thanyou.

Anonymous said...

So often I 'speed read' blog posts, and so I missed the value of this poem until finally, just now, I savored it. How beautiful! Now I'm off to enjoy my work and the gentle rhythm of this wonderful day at home. As always, thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

A good reminder to live life in a poetic way, or a way that would inspire a poet. Home life can be very very uplifting, if one approaches it in a right attitude.

Anonymous said...

So beautiful. Thank you for this Lydia.

~ Ann

Elizabeth said...

Thoughts beautiful and true, all in praise of an image to which I aspire, but also which I have not yet fully obtained. Step by step.

Have a lovely day!