The Children’s Hour

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1820) was a prolific poet who became famous during his lifetime, unlike many other poets.  One of his poems, “The Day Is Done,” I memorized twenty years back and still recite in my mind at night when I can’t fall asleep. I find poetry much more relaxing than counting sheep.

In his own autobiographical book, Clive Cussler relates an incident from Longfellow’s life. Delayed in New York by his editor, the poet rushed to to dock to catch the ship that would take him home. By the time he got to the pier, however, the boat was pulling away from the dock and a gap of several feet was between Longfellow and the deck of the ship. He almost could have jumped it, but didn’t.

That night the ship went down. (In his book Cussler explains what caused the disaster.) The next morning newspapers along the Eastern Seaboard carried the tragic story and when Longfellow’s family read it, they were grief-stricken. Henry himself was shocked and immediately sent his family a telegram to inform them he’d missed that fateful ride.

In my National Poetry Month verse for today, the poet shows in a unique way how he would always treasure his children.

The Children’s Hour

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

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

 

Oh, The Stress!

TIRED TO DEATH

by Mary J MacColl

An imaginary conversation between a young society belle and her friend, Grace, with off-side orders to her maid, Marie. The poet has skillfully portrayed the attitudes of the pampered daughter in a prosperous family, circa 1870.

Oh, Marie, come quickly and take off my shoes;
Now, bring my white peignoir and let down my hair;
I’m tired to death! Grace, you must excuse
me to Alice and Captain Bellair.

Not a moment of rest all this day have I had
since my coffee was brought me at ten
with the papers. Each item of interest I read—
by the way, I’m disgusted with men!
A second Maud Muller young Moneysworth’s wed,
when he might — but no matter — and then

an hour was spent dressing, a letter I wrote
to Bell Breeze — she’s a love of a girl!
Drove to Russell’s, was fitted,
then penned a sweet note
to Fred Fairleigh — that card case of pearl

he sent me — a bet on the races last week.
Yes archery is quite the rage;
a cute polo pony’s my very last freak —
I’ll never fall back of the age.

Had breakfast at one, then a short nap I took;
read Daniel Deronda till three;
I must say it’s tedious — not my style of a book —
George Eliot’s too solid for me.

Now, Southworth and Flemming are just to my taste,
and French novels are quite au fait
Kate Norris called next — oh, how tight she was laced! —
and I’m sure she was painted today.

While we talked, Clara Alden rushed in with a gush,
I thought she would strangle me quite.
Her brother is charming; you know, dear — don’t blush —
I saw that flirtation last night.

Next Mordant dropped in — he’s a donkey, but then
he’s worth a cool million or more!
Ma thinks him the nicest and wisest of men —
to me he’s a horrible bore.

But I don’t mean to snub him; his T-cart and drag
are the most stunning turn-outs I’ve seen;
While driving today we met Marion Flagg,
and with envy she fairly turned green.

One cannot well blame her, he is such a catch,
and the poor girl is growing passé.
How she has maneuvered to make a good match!
What! Grace, six o’clock did you say?

Why, I must be dressing; at seven we dine
at Delmonico’s. What shall I wear?
The German at Granger’s commences at nine —
shall I bang, frizz or scollop my hair?

How frightful to think I have not a new dresss;
I’m sure I’ve appeared at least twice
while at Newport, in each of the robes I possess.
My white mull —do you think that is nice?

Come Marie, make haste, you are always so slow —
I wish I had time to take breath.
Well, darling, good-bye, if you really must go

Thank goodness! I’m tired to death.

From the book, BIDE A WEE by Mary J MacColl,
published in 1880 by Peter Paul & Brother of Buffalo, NY.

I found this book in a sale somewhere and it’s still in fairly good shape. Gold trimmed edges and letters! And on the first page are endorsements of Miss MacColl’s poetry by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry W Longfellow, Joaquin Miller, and John G Whittier. She definitely hung out with the right crowd, back in her day!

I’m posting this in honour of National Poetry Month.

You Gotta Want It

Fandango’s challenge for today is HAPHAZARD

Which makes me think of a certain used bookstore I’ve been in a few times. The senior gentleman who runs it has thousands of books. He’s purchased an old commercial building and has it piled floor to ceiling (think 12 foot ceilings here) with books.

His aisles do not look like this:
Books

No, his aisles look very much like this:
Book stacks

With barely enough room to walk through the tunnels between the stacks, this is not the place to hang out if you suffer from claustrophobia. (Or from allergies.) You’ve got to really want that book!

I don’t know if he buys many new books, but he has many old, rare books, and he usually can tell you about which part of which aisle you’ll find the one you’re looking for. Or the author you want to read. Agnes Sligh Turnbull for example, or Ralph Connor.

So you go to that area he indicates and start perusing the shelves and stacks. Perchance you’ll see exactly the book you’re looking for.
Books in stack

My thanks to to the folks at Pixabay for all the free photos. 🙂

The word HAPHAZARD means “determined by accident rather than design.” It can be stretched to indicate possible danger to the person engaged in something haphazard. Such as a tower of books landing on your head. But our used book seller’s wares seemed to be stacked securely enough.

His merchandise does, however, suffer from the usual fate of many books crammed in a small, poorly ventilated place: they’re musty. And I’m really sensitive to must or mould, so I have to air my purchases outside for hours every day over several days, turning the pages every half-hour or so, before I can read the thing.

For those of us who appreciate books, his store is a real treasure trove of possibilities. someone doing historical research for the 1900s would be in their glory. Sad to say, though, there’s a limit to how useful out-of-date information is. He apparently has a mail-order business, yet I do wonder how many books he actually sells in a month.

Looking through a multitude of used books, or seeing the millions of e-books and print books available today, I recall the never-so-true words of Solomon — supposedly the writer of the Bible book of Ecclesiastes:

“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecc. 12:12

Books Galore!

WRITE-CLICK

I’ve decided on a new style, with a new heading, introducing my BOOKS-and-AUTHORS commentary. I’ve ready many books, and more are being offered to me every day. there are various sites offering free or super-cheap e-books on the basis of, “Here’s a low-cost book. The author REALLY wishes you’d read it and leave a review.”

In WRITE-CLICK I’m planning to share something about the books I’ve seen and/or read, and authors I think are really good.

Today one of the free books Reading Deals is offering sounds really interesting:
Jessie’s Song by Jeremy Williamson. I can’t vouch for it yet, but will put it on my Wish list.
“A powerful story of a childhood devastated by secrets and abuse. After years of wrestling with her true identity and running from her past, Jessie Jenkins runs headlong into her answer—a mysterious stranger who knows every detail of her life and offers the only thing she ever wanted—a love that can be trusted to heal and not harm.”
Click here for Amazon link.

Yesterday BookBub listed the freebie book Two Minutes to Noon by former Times correspondent Noel F Bush. (Amazon Link here.) Being interested in history and also natural disasters, this one caught my attention.
The Tokyo earthquake of 1923, with the huge fires and tidal waves that followed it, destroyed two of the largest cities in the world. Tokyo and Yokohama experienced a devastation that almost dwarfs the atomic damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Another site I’ve gotten a book from is Books2Read. Here’s my write-up about that book, to which I gave a five-star rating:

Loveday Brooke: Lady Detective
by Catherine Pirkis
© 2018 by Midwest Classics Press

Miss Brooke grew up in an upper class family in London, but hard times left her penniless. To support herself she went to work for Ebenezer Dyer, head of a detective agency on Fleet Street. Over time Mr Dyer developed a high regard for Loveday’s crime solving abilities and sends her off on various short assignments. This book is a collection of her adventures.
Her cases are not so much the murder and mayhem kind, rather something or someone has gone missing or was stolen. Ever prim and proper, plainly dressed and nondescript in appearance, she blends in with all classes and ferrets out the details of the crime. The deductive reasoning that brings her to a quick solution is much like that of fellow detective Sherlock Holmes.

British author Catherine Louisa Pirkis, 1841-1910, wrote numerous short stories and fourteen novels during the years 1887 to 1894. She’s best known for her lady detective, Loveday Brooke. Midwest Classics Press has republished Pirkis’ novel. See their website here.