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On Poetry

I hope you all enjoyed this past year’s posts.  It all started when I realized that I was having difficulty finding a few quiet moments every day to just think, and I decided that a year’s devotional would be good for me. In addition to a little daily scripture, I decided I’d throw in some poetry to get my mind stretched back out.

Poetry does a good job of reminding me of things which ought to be remembered, and to show me that the problems we face now are not new.  When a poem written centuries ago speaks to the grind, the heartaches, or the rancor of your day, you understand that men and women through the ages lived through the same things as you.

Anyway, thanks for coming along with me on my daily mental calisthenics.

A Year of Poetry – Day 365

The harp at Nature’s advent strung
      Has never ceased to play;
The song the stars of morning sung
      Has never died away.
And prayer is made, and praise is given,
      By all things near and far;
The ocean looketh up to heaven,
      And mirrors every star.
Its waves are kneeling on the strand,
      As kneels the human knee,
Their white locks bowing to the sand,
      The priesthood of the sea!
They pour their glittering treasures forth,
      Their gifts of pearl they bring,
And all the listening hills of earth
      Take up the song they sing.
The green earth sends its incense up
      From many a mountain shrine;
From folded leaf and dewy cup
      She pours her sacred wine.
The mists above the morning rills
      Rise white as wings of prayer;
The altar-curtains of the hills
      Are sunset’s purple air.
The winds with hymns of praise are loud,
      Or low with sobs of pain,—
The thunder-organ of the cloud,
      The dropping tears of rain.
With drooping head and branches crossed
      The twilight forest grieves,
Or speaks with tongues of Pentecost
      From all its sunlit leaves.
The blue sky is the temple’s arch,
      Its transept earth and air,
The music of its starry march
      The chorus of a prayer.
So Nature keeps the reverent frame
      With which her years began,
And all her signs and voices shame
      The prayerless heart of man.
— James Greenleaf Whittier, The Worship of Nature

A Year of Poetry – Day 364

Down in a green and shady bed,
A modest violet grew;
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head
As if to hide from view.
And yet it was a lovely flower,
Its colour bright and fair;
It might have graced a rosy bower,
Instead of hiding there.

Yet thus it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there diffused a sweet perfume,
Within the silent shade.

Then let me to the valley go
This pretty flower to see;
That I may also learn to grow
In sweet humility.

— Jane Taylor, The Violet

A Year of Poetry – Day 363

The doubt of future foes exiles my present joy,
And wit me warns to shun such snares as threaten mine annoy;
For falsehood now doth flow, and subjects’ faith doth ebb,
Which should not be if reason ruled or wisdom weaved the web.
But clouds of joys untried do cloak aspiring minds,
Which turn to rain of late repent by changed course of winds.
The top of hope supposed the root upreared shall be,
And fruitless all their grafted guile, as shortly ye shall see.
The dazzled eyes with pride, which great ambition blinds,
Shall be unsealed by worthy wights whose foresight falsehood finds.
The daughter of debate that discord aye doth sow
Shall reap no gain where former rule still peace hath taught to know.
No foreign banished wight shall anchor in this port;
Our realm brooks not seditious sects, let them elsewhere resort.
My rusty sword through rest shall first his edge employ
To poll their tops that seek such change or gape for future joy.
— Queen Elizabeth I, The Doubt of Future Foes

A Year of Poetry – Day 362

Here bounds the gaudy, gilded chair,
Bedecked with fringe and tassels gay;
The melancholy mourner there
Pursues her sad and painful way.
Here, guarded by a motley train,
The pampered Countess glares along;
There, wrung by poverty and pain,
Pale Misery mingles with the throng.
Here, as the blazoned chariot rolls,
And prancing horses scare the crowd,
Great names, adorning little souls,
Announce the empty, vain and proud.
Here four tall lackeys slow precede
A painted dame in rich array;
There, the sad, shivering child of need
Steals barefoot o’er the flinty way.
‘Room, room! stand back!’ they loudly cry,
The wretched poor are driven around;
On every side they scattered fly,
And shrink before the threatening sound.
Here, amidst jewels, feathers, flowers,
The senseless Duchess sits demure,
Heedless of all the anxious hours
The sons of modest worth endure.
All silvered and embroidered o’er,
She neither knows nor pities pain;
The beggar freezing at her door
She overlooks with nice disdain.
The wretch whom poverty subdues
Scarce dares to raise his tearful eye;
Or if by chance the throng he views,
His loudest murmur is a sigh!
The poor wan mother, at whose breast
The pining infant craves relief,
In one thin tattered garment dressed,
Creeps forth to pour the plaint of grief.
But ah! how little heeded here
The faltering tongue reveals its woe;
For high-born fools, with frown austere,
Condemn the pangs they never know.
‘Take physic, Pomp!’ let Reason say:
‘What can avail thy trappings rare?
The tomb shall close thy glittering day,
The beggar prove thy equal there!’
— Mary Robinson, The Birth-day

A Year of Poetry – Day 361

          Take this kiss upon the brow!
          And, in parting from you now,
          Thus much let me avow-
          You are not wrong, who deem
          That my days have been a dream;
          Yet if hope has flown away
          In a night, or in a day,
          In a vision, or in none,
          Is it therefore the less gone?
          All that we see or seem
          Is but a dream within a dream.

          I stand amid the roar
          Of a surf-tormented shore,
          And I hold within my hand
          Grains of the golden sand-
          How few! yet how they creep
          Through my fingers to the deep,
          While I weep- while I weep!
          O God! can I not grasp
          Them with a tighter clasp?
          O God! can I not save
          One from the pitiless wave?
          Is all that we see or seem
          But a dream within a dream?

-- Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream Within A Dream

A Year of Poetry – Day 360

“What is the real good?’
I asked in musing mood.

Order, said the law court;
Knowledge, said the school;
Truth, said the wise man;
Pleasure, said the fool;
Love, said the maiden;
Beauty, said the page;
Freedom, said the dreamer;
Home, said the sage;
Fame, said the soldier;
Equity, the seer;—

Spake my heart full sadly:
‘The answer is not here.’

Then within my bosom
Softly this I heard:
‘Each heart holds the secret:
Kindness is the word.’

— John Boyle O’Reilly, What is Good

A Year of Poetry – Day 359

“Are you deaf, Father William!” the young man said,
“Did you hear what I told you just now?
“Excuse me for shouting! Don’t waggle your head
“Like a blundering, sleepy old cow!
“A little maid dwelling in Wallington Town,
“Is my friend, so I beg to remark:
“Do you think she’d be pleased if a book were sent down
“Entitled ‘The Hunt of the Snark?'”

“Pack it up in brown paper!” the old man cried,
“And seal it with olive-and-dove.
“I command you to do it!” he added with pride,
“Nor forget, my good fellow to send her beside
“Easter Greetings, and give her my love.”

— Lewis Carroll, Another Acrostic

A Year of Poetry – Day 358

MOST glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!

And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
–Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.

— Edmund Spenser, Easter

A Year of Poetry – Day 357

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.
— Walt Whitman, Oh Captain! My Captain!
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