Nostalgia nowadays  is thought of as a bittersweet emotion, associated with longing for times or places past. But originally it was thought to be a serious medical condition that afflicted the Swiss.

The term was coined by medical student, Johannes Hoffer in his dissertation of 1688 after observing Swiss mercenaries afflicted with home sickness to the point of becoming seriously ill.  With time both medical and cultural understanding of the phenomenon have changed completely, to the point that it is now considered to have potential mental health benefits.

There is a very short summation of the history of nostalgia here:

Writers have mined the poignancy of memory and its power to evoke emotion from well before the term was coined.  Take Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

The line “Remembrance of Things Past” is used for the title of Scott Moncrieff’s first English translation of Marcel Proust’s,  À la recherche du temps perdu, perhaps the most celebrated literary work to focus on memory. Shakespeare himself borrowed the line from, The Wisdom of Solomon, one of the apocryphal books of The Bible

While it is fair to say that, In Search of Lost Time (to give Proust’s work it’s literal translation) does have memory as a major theme it is a huge work that covers many other things in depth. To look at literature that is  more firmly fixed on memory and nostalgia, we are probably better off sticking with poetry.


I Remember, I Remember

By Thomas Hood

I remember, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi’lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,—
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now ’tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from heav’n
Than when I was a boy.

Thomas Hood was the son of a London bookseller who moved to Dundee where he had relatives due to ill health. In 1818 he returned to London , eventually becoming an editor and poet and part of the literary scene.

Philip Larkin expressly references Hood’s poem in his work of the same name, rather sourly contrasting his own lack of happy childhood memories. I think that he may also be referencing D.H. Lawrence’ Sons and Lovers. Certainly the “farm where I could be ‘really myself,’” doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Hood’s poem or life but suggests Lawrence’s friendship with the Chambers family of Haggs Farm (fictionalised as the Leivers in the book).

6 thoughts on “Nostalgia

  1. Nostalgia

    When looking back it seems quite clear,
    I seem to have forgotten all my fears,
    with a fondness in my heart
    its knowing where to start.

    As children growing up
    comes to mind,
    playing all our childhood games
    mostly with our feet
    and often in the street .

    Kick the can was the first,
    Kerbie was often the last,
    Kiss chase was always the one
    that seemed to be so much fun.
    Skipping with ropes and jumping in,
    It was not easy and it took time,
    to get good and learn the rhymes.

    five a side Football
    against the boys,
    and hide and seek
    so make no noise.
    we all had such a wonderful childhood
    in between reading Red Riding Hood,
    then you wake from your dream and remember
    that was fifty years ago this September.

    By Donna Keenan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nostalgia Jo Downes

    And then it happened
    Bang! I was happy
    I can pinpoint this moment
    I always can
    That moment of pride
    in the outcome of
    the tiny contribution in
    a moment of
    the Next Generation
    The powerful and overwhelming
    anticipation in the Crowd
    for the opening chords of an old Favourite
    The public words and thoughts
    of that one person
    who had decided to stand and speak,
    It’s thanks to them that Society’s lessons
    have been learnt
    And to them we owe our life
    That moment on the top of the Mountain
    We spoke our Hearts
    for there was no-one else to hear
    Feeling tiny underneath Stars
    Awestruck next to ancient Rock
    And as big as the World

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nostalgia

    Nostalgia longing and fond memories

    The Polish deportees after the second war
    Settled in Britain and elsewhere
    Were very nostalgic for their homeland
    They formed communities which helped
    Their longing for what they had known
    Churches schools choirs were established

    As children we visited a place called Belle View
    Going on the bus with our parents
    There was a zoo part and you could have a ride on an elephant
    And there was fun fair part
    But I didn’t go the big roller coaster
    But it was a good day out

    When I was older we visited family
    Went on a steam train to Colchester
    And to the seaside at Clackton-on-Sea Walton-on-Naze

    As a student at Bath University I had my freedom
    I could go out with friends
    Trips on the river rowing on a summer’s day
    Tree branches dipping into the sparkling water
    We made our own relaxation and enjoyment

    Going to concerts in the Abbey
    Visiting the Somerset countryside
    Seeing the Cheddar Gorge
    Later with our daughter visiting
    Many different places in England and Scotland
    Camping in tents or in a camper van

    I loved travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper
    London to Inverness then going south to London
    It felt exotic like going on the Orient Express
    Catching connecting trains to go home go Nottingham

    I have lots of memories seventy years’ worth
    And look back nostalgically at my favourite ones


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi spencer sorry I could not make the writers group I got my days mixed up, regards donna

    Sent from Mail for Windows



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