Friday, 31 August 2012

"...under the sun..."

Woman at a Window
Duncan Grant

The thing that hath been,
it is that which shall be;
and that which is done
is that which shall be done:
and there is no new thing
under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)


I stopped writing The Magpie Files in June 2008 because I had said all I wanted to say in that blog. The title had been essential for creating the references for my posts about family-life but my writing had moved on to include a wider range of topics. When I decided to start a new blog I took a little while to give it a title. Many blog names reference the writer but I didn't want that, I wanted the title to be less specific because I was not sure what it would become. In the end I chose "...the sight of morning..." as a gentle play on words because I intended to post regularly at 12:01am so that it would the first thing that people saw in the morning. I chose the ellipsis because I have a weakness for using this punctuation as an indication for 'trailing off into silence' and put one on either side because it looked attractive. So far, so good. After a previous experiment naming a blog I knew that I had to Google the proposed title to make sure that there were no other blogs of the same name. After I was satisfied that it was original and would be easy to find on Google I started writing and for the next three years thought no more of the title that I had created.

Last weekend I had to use Google again and I noticed the phrase "...I owe you the sight of morning." When I checked out the link I discovered that the Pulitzer prize winning author W.S. Merwin has written a poem which concludes with this line. The ellipsis in this case indicates that it is a quotation from the original poem "To the Surgeon Kevin Lin". The poem was first published in 2007 before I started writing this blog but I was not aware of it until this weekend. I was also not aware, to my shame, of the Pulitzer prize winning poet W.S. Merwin. It was a strange feeling to discover that my small piece of creative writing might have been original to me but was not unique even though "...I owe you the sight of morning." had not surfaced in Google in August 2009.

Some of you commented that my shopping list project has been done elsewhere. I am not surprised although I had not been aware of the other versions and was delighted to discover that there is even a lady who knits mittens and copies other peoples shopping lists onto them. I am not planning to knit mittens so the artistic integrity of that project is unchallenged. My post was a fun and oblique way to record my children's adult handwriting because they don't write letters to me and this is the only handwriting that I have apart from some book dedications and birthday cards. I am not sure that anyone has used shopping lists to do that but maybe somewhere, someone has.

It is ironic that the phrase that drew my attention is "...I owe you the sight of morning." because my contention is that I do not. I claim that in August 2009 my blog title was my own invention, a combination of words that I created without knowledge of the poem which had been written two years before. However, it is very difficult to prove this. I asked my friend the Professor what I should do and he advised me to write about it. So I have.


  1. In knitting we'd call that an unvention. You came up with the idea for the cast on/lace pattern/sweater shaping/whatever uninfluenced by anything you were aware of, but you accept that knitting is such an old craft you're unlikely to be the first to have thought of it.

    Re. ellipses ... me too :D

  2. Dear Alice, I have been reading your blog for some time, lurking in the background quietly being uplifted by the glimpses into your life. Your blog title is yours and yours alone whether a poet has used the same words or not. "I owe you the sight of morning...." has a completely different meaning to me, whereas "....the sight of morning....." will always belong to you and, in my mind, has a special resonance that is reflected in your writing. There, I have emerged from the shadows and made myself known!

  3. Birds.
    Birds are everywhere.
    Black birds, magpie birds, little birds, big birds.
    I haven't googled any illiterate French.
    I guess I'd better...

  4. Your 'sight of morning' invariably accompanies my breakfast cuppa before I launch into my day. Your 'sight of morning' is unique, uplifting and always entertaining. It seems pretty original to me.

  5. I think you have nothing whatsoever to worry about, Alice. Your blog name is yours, and a mighty fine one too. There truly is no new thing under the sun.

    And I'm so sorry if I caused you upset in referring to another shopping list project - it is only that I (and lots of your other readers) enjoyed the lists you shared so much, I thought it was worth mentioning, in case folks wanted more. They are fascinating social records and contain the potential for much humor.

    When I saw that picture at the top of you post, I thought for one heart-stopping moment that you were going to stop blogging here. Phew. Crisis averted. Mornings wouldn't be the same.

  6. Yours was the second blog I happened upon after discovering my cousin's blog. I have been reading it ever since, the phrase 'the sight of morning' gives me a mental image of a particular light, new things on the horizon, hopefulness - all things reflected in your wonderful blog. I would be hard pressed to think of a better title for your writing.

  7. Gosh! That four words can create such anguish. I'm sure the phrase has been used since the dawn of time (sorry, I just realised the awfulness of that 'pun', but it's exactly what I want to say so ...). I really don't see that you'll need to change your title. And I too had a heart-stopping moment when I thought this was going to end badly, with your announcement of stopping. Please don't. Along with all your other followers, I LOVE your blog. x

  8. I don't think you need worry. I discovered long after I started my blog that another dottycookie posts drawings on a site called deviant art. I have not dared click the google link. I suspect he/she is not drawing beaded pebbles and pictures of cakes.

  9. Gosh, I thought you were about to shut shop!

    Please don't do that... And don't worry... You are the sight of morning.

  10. I too had a moment of horror followed by relief.

    I am not the only Quince Tree. But I am the best Quince Tree :D

  11. At first it sounded like you were announcing a transition into another new blog, and I read on to see what theme you had chosen as a framework for AliceBlog 3.0 (so to speak; definitely not suggesting that as a blog name!).
    Are you concerned that the words you have chosen for this blogname are used in another context elsewhere, or are you concerned that readers may mistakenly think your blog is somehow related to, or inspired by, the poem? I wonder if there is any phrase so unique that such a situation could not possibly occur.

  12. personally I thought it was a rather cunning pun designed to appeal to a certain type of person who liked puns like me. I can now see it is a much more subtle construction aka site

  13. Liz in Missouri (USA)August 31, 2012

    It all leaves me wondering if someone has accused something? Threatened something? Been snotty and snarky about something? I feel myself wanting to rise to your defense and at the same time give hugs and comfort and say "There, there. Don't fret now."
    But - in the end, I'm sure you are fine. I love your blog and your quiet, literary, well traveled, funny, serious, artistic, gentle style of writing makes me very happy. Thank you for sharing with us your family and your thoughts.

  14. Dear Alice,
    you are my sight of morning (sometimes I've also checked you during the night, because I noticed you post @ 12.01, that's all I have to tell you)and will always be.

  15. You are integrity itself and should ignore all notions to the contrary. Yours is top of my "professional bloggistes" list and could win Blogitzer easily. I will not be googling tearful strawberries. Who knows what gloom might await?

  16. Alice...I have always loved your title
    "...the sight of morning..." It caught my eye from the first time I saw it. It has caused me to ponder the wonder of you seeing morning first, as I wait for it's light to arrive in my home town, eight hours later. Your writing is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.
    And remember, as my mother would quote: "Great minds think alike."

  17. I have often sat near midnight reading and thought that I really ought to be asleep and then decided I would just wait till gone midnight and see what Alice is up to. You never disappoint.

  18. You are true to yourself Alice. Nothing else matters.

  19. Gosh - I had always thought that the timer thingie on your blog was set wrong because you always posted at 00:01...seriously impressed that you stay up that late...or maybe you get up early?

    I love your blog name and have never heard of that poet or his poem...and I love ellipses....

  20. Don't fret dear Alice, your blog is as unique as you and like your other readers I would be adrift without a little peek into your world.

    Best wishes
    V x


Thank you! I love reading your comments and even though I don't always have time to reply I am really grateful to every one who joins in the conversation.