Category Archives: Mercier, Philipe

By Chivalries as tiny

A Young Girl Reading By Candlelight, 18th century, Philipe Mercier
Background Image: A Young Girl Reading By Candlelight, 18th century, Philipe Mercier

I imagine someone has given her a flower “or a book” and that kind gesture of gift giving brings a smile to her face when she is alone at night. This is a very sentimental poem, but it’s very personal since someone did something which meant a lot to her and that made her happy.

What’s interesting, however, is that she describes this happiness occurring “in the dark”, long after the gift was given. She does not write about the moment the gift was given to her and the joy it brought her when she was face to face with whomever gave it her (assuming it was given to her in person), rather she imbues the object with the memory of that event and with the sentiment of the thoughtfulness that went into giving her this “tiny” gift. And this might seem like a trivial point because of course people have memories attached to the gifts that have been given to them.

But I think this is worth exploring a little bit more because what Emily is writing about is how she creates her own reality. A book, or a flower, are just objects with no meaning in and of themselves. Most books and flowers spend their entire existence without any meaning given to them. Yet when someone comes along and picks a flower which they give to a lover or a friend, or when we go to a bookstore to buy a gift for someone special, the object becomes more than just a simple book or flower, a memory is attached to it and the two are linked forever. Our reality is altered because whenever we look at that book or flower, we don’t only think of the object, we also think of the person who gave it to us, the day we received it, possibly what the weather was like and what our feeling were about the gift giver. It is in these moments that we build our reality up one object and one memory at a time.

I know this might seem like a terribly obvious point to make because it’s something we all do all the time, but I do think it is important to consider how we see the world, especially when we find ourselves “in the dark” and can no longer see the objects which make up our life and can only rely on memory.

This theme of valuing something, even something simple, is one she has explored before in “I had a guinea golden” where she discusses how being careless about how we value something (or someone) can lead to a friend becoming a traitor.