My Garden

As the sun was getting low in the sky last night, Tom and I stopped by with a load of things for our new home. I went out alone to our fenced in garden and just stood there for a moment taking in how beautiful the sun was on the flowers. A poem by a 19th century Englishman that I first read probably 25 years ago came to mind in the cool night air.

A GARDEN is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Rose plot,
Fringed pool,
Fern’d grot—
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not—
Not God! in gardens! when the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure God walks in mine.

~ Thomas Edward Brown

We may not be able to change the world individually, but we can tend well to our own gardens that God has given us and make our lives and families a thing of beauty. Here’s my new garden! This is the portion behind the white fence and gate. We are grateful for the Lord’s provision.

garden

A Home Song

I read within a poet’s book
A word that starred the page:
“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage!”

Yes, that is true; and something more
You’ll find, where’er you roam,
That marble floors and gilded walls
Can never make a home.

But every house where Love abides,
And Friendship is a guest,
Is surely home, and home-sweet-home:
For there the heart can rest.

~ Henry Van Dyke

 

mothersday

Poems in April

poetryfixingPoetry is out of fashion these days. Nobody has time to muse about the feel of the wind on their face or write rhapsodic rhymes about a daffodil swaying in the tender spring air. Nonetheless, April is National Poetry Month.

I am glad to say that all poetry lovers have not yet departed this mortal coil. I have an Oxford Book of English Verse on my shelf as well as several other anthologies. It seems to me that we ought to still make room for poetic thoughts even in the age of Digital Doom.

There used to be an consensus among educators that every American student should know certain poems. Needless to say, those days are gone. Most of the Western canon of literature written by dead white guys has been jettisoned in favor of “literature” from places like the Coalition to Stop Bullying and Sexting in Schools. Such is the sad state of our culture. But even so, I read A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson to Emmy. Someone has to keep the candle lit for beautiful verse.

I personally still appreciate poetry, at least the kind that is comprehensible. Like this one, for example, by Longfellow, which actually describes the beauty of words fitly spoken on a rainy evening.

The Day is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of night
As a feather wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of the day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of time.

For, like the strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And tonight I long for rest.

Read from the humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Then read the treasured volume
The poem of my choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

 

I also like this poem by William Butler Yeats.

WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true;
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead,
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

 

And there’s this one.

Pictures Of Memory

by Alice Cary

Among the beautiful pictures
That hang on Memory’s wall,
Is one of a dim old forest,
That seemeth best of all:
Not for its gnarled oaks olden,
Dark with the mistletoe;
Not for the violets golden
That sprinkle the vale below;
Not for the milk-white lilies
That lean from the fragrant hedge,
Coqueting all day with the sunbeams,
And stealing their shining edge;
Not for the vines on the upland
Where the bright red berries be,
Nor the pinks, nor the pale, sweet cowslip,
It seemeth the best to me.

I once had a little brother,
With eyes that were dark and deep —
In the lap of that old dim forest
He lieth in peace asleep:
Light as the down of the thistle,
Free as the winds that blow,
We roved there the beautiful summers,
The summers of long ago;
But his feet on the hills grew weary,
And, one of the autumn eves,
I made for my little brother
A bed of the yellow leaves.

Sweetly his pale arms folded
My neck in a meek embrace,
As the light of immortal beauty
Silently covered his face:
And when the arrows of sunset
Lodged in the tree-tops bright,
He fell, in his saint-like beauty,
Asleep by the gates of light.
Therefore, of all the pictures
That hang on Memory’s wall,
The one of the old dim forest
Seemeth the best of all.

 

I also like this one by Robert Frost.

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

Someone once gave me a small booklet of some of the most popular poems. I page through it every once in a while. It was a lovely gift that I have treasured through the years and have shared with my children. In the ignorance and illiteracy of our present age, there is something wonderful about memorizing some of these beautiful poems that men and women labored over and gave to us. It’s almost a revolutionary thing to do, and you will find lines from poems striking you when you least expect it, a very satisfying thing.

So read a poem this month, or better yet, buy a small anthology of poems and give it to somebody. Dare them to read a few. Pass on the beauty.

Cherry-Blossoms

Lake Isle of Innisfree

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

~ William Butler Yeats

The Solitary Reaper

BEHOLD her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o’er the sickle bending;—
I listen’d, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

~ William Wordsworth

Fall in the Mountains

The leaves are turning
The leaves are turning
The color of fire
The color of gold
And the mountain sleeps
With a hoary head
At the coming of the cold

The wood the wood
The ancient wood
The scent of smoke
The frosty leas
See the leaves dance
To a silent tune and
The whisperings of trees

~ Samuel Guzman

A Salute to March

There is a poem by Wordsworth that is much quoted because it is much loved. I had one of my sons learn it when he was a young home school student, and he wrote it in nice script in his poetry journal along with a pencil sketch of a daffodil. A few months later, he accompanied my husband on a trip to France. It was March, and they drove through the countryside from Calais to Normandy. When Sam returned home, he told me, “Mom, you know that Wordsworth poem I learned? I saw fields of daffodils, just like he described…”  In light of my yearning for spring and in gratitude that March (however cold, it’s still March and not December) is finally here, I’m posting Wordsworth’s famous poem.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

–William Wordsworth

A Poetry Break

My friend, Margaret Been, has written poetry that I love. She manages to capture the feel of things so well in what she writes. I will share more of her poetry soon. Here is just one of my many favorites. In this poem, she aptly likens anxieties to cats.

Anxieties

Evenings
they go out
to forage wild things.

At dawn
crescendoed cries
come loping home
to wind about our feet
and trip our day.

Hungry cats…
we feed them
and they stay.

–Margaret Been