An Epic Poem

During National Poetry Month I’ve been thinking about various types of poems and the history of poetry in the English language. So many poets have enriched our world by their verses, and I’m trying to pay them a little tribute this month.

You may be familiar with the poem, Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!) who told the angel that he loved his fellow-men. The following poem, which also tells an interesting tale, was penned by the same writer. I’ve smoothed out a few spots to make it easier reading.

The Glove And The Lions
by English poet Leigh Hunt
1784 – 1859

King Francis was a hearty king and loved a royal sport,
and one day, as his lions fought, sat looking on the court.
The nobles filled the benches, with the ladies in their pride—
amongst them sat the Count de Lorge with one for whom he sighed—
and truly ’twas a gallant thing to see that crowning show:
valor and love, and a king above, and the royal beasts below.

Ramped and roared the lions, with horrid laughing jaws
they bit, they glared, gave blows like beams, a wind went with their paws.
With wallowing might and stifled roar they rolled on one another
’til all the pit with sand and mane was in a thunderous smother.
The bloody foam above the bars came whisking through the air;
said Francis then, “Faith, gentlemen, we’re better here than there.”

De Lorge’s love o’erheard the King, a beauteous lively dame
with smiling lips and sharp bright eyes, which always seemed the same.
She thought, The Count, my lover, is brave as brave can be;
he surely would do wondrous things to show his love of me.
King, ladies, lovers, all look on; the occasion is divine;
I’ll drop my glove, to prove his love; great glory will be mine.

She dropped her glove, to prove his love, then looked at him and smiled;
he bowed, and in a moment leaped among the lions wild.
The leap was quick, return was quick; he had regained his place,
then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady’s face.
“By heaven,” said Francis, “rightly done!” and rose from where he sat.
“No love,” quoth he, “but vanity, sets love a task like that.”

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Disclaimer: I deplore violent so-called sport, especially when it involves cruelty to animals. I found that part disgusting, but it couldn’t be omitted.

The Birch Tree

Tonight my contribution to National Poetry Month will be a verse by one of my favourite poets, Edgar Albert Guest. According to Wiki he was often referred to as “the People’s Poet” and penned some 11,000 verses in his time, most of them upbeat and inspirational.

He wrote lines the common people could understand; his subjects were about home & family,  everyday life, and old-fashioned virtues. He often encouraged readers to be thankful, quit grumbling, and do their best whatever the circumstances —as the following poem illustrates. If Mr Guest sounds overly moralistic at times, we must remember that he lived from 1881-1959, saw the country go through two World Wars as well as the Stock Market crash and the Great Depression. Not an era to wimp out.

The Birch Tree

Out of a jutting rock, wind blown,
a birch tree braves the world alone.
A crevice in the granite first
captured the seed; a wave immersed
that tiny embryo. The sun
warmed it — and thus was life begun.

Scant food the passing breezes give
and yet that tree contrives to live!
Cruel the clutch of granite gray,
yet the brave roots from day to day
into the great stone deeper creep,
a surer hold on life to keep.

Twisted and bent some limbs appear,
but still undaunted year by year
those roots in cheerless channels sunk
courageously support the trunk
and green against the lake and sky,
a birch tree catches every eye!

Man thinks he knows what nature wills.
But much he plants the winter kills,
while far away from human care
and on a cliff by storms swept bare,
denied the commonest of needs,
a birch tree silently succeeds!

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

 

Clean-Up Time

My contribution today to National Poetry Month, or NaPoWiMo.
Happy the family that can work together to make their home more attractive!

Clean-up Time

When it’s clean-up week in springtime
and the winter’s past and gone;
when the balmy air of evening
signals summer’s coming on;
it is then I love to wander
when my day’s work is complete
through our friendly little village
greeting those I chance to meet.

There are things that strike my fancy
as I move along the way.
The impressions gained in childhood
are still holding good today;
for I love to see the parents
with the children large and small
clearing rubbish that has gathered
’round their home since previous fall.

I love to watch the children
and to hear them run and shout,
gathering sticks and bits of paper
that the wind has blown about.
And the father, too, is busy;
I can here him sing and chant
as he’s spading up the garden
for the seed they’re going to plant.

But there’s one thing holds attraction,
I don’t need to tell you what:
it’s the smudge that’s gently burning
in the corner of the lot
as the children pile fresh armfuls
of the rubbish which they bring.
It makes their home more cheery
after clean-up time in spring.

Written by a fellow Saskatchewan poet, Roy Lobb, born around 1893
Taken from his book PLAIN FOLKS, the second edition of which was published 1961 by Modern Press, Saskatoon, SK.