An Old-Timer Speaks

For today’s tribute to National Poetry Month, I’m going to publish a verse by that multi-faceted poet, writer of umpteen dozen verses, Author Unknown. Born in the year 001, last I heard he — or she? — is still alive and kicking. Perhaps I should say THEY are,  just in case it’s a couple?

However, I’ve heard that the coming of Google Search — an invasive species if ever there was one! — is threatening the existence of the whole clan of Unknowns.

An Old-Timer Speaks

You laugh at us old-timers
and maybe youth has cause,
for when your hair gets gray and thin
you don’t expect applause.

Perhaps we’re not so handsome,
perhaps we’re not so spry
but when youth gets as old as us,
then youth won’t wonder why.

For we have fought the battles
and we have led the van,
and made this life an easier road
for many a younger man.

And he will do tomorrow
a lot of things that pay
because old-timers thought them out
and tried them yesterday.

We know the world is changing
the ways of trade are new;
men put new labels on their goods,
new roofs on houses, too.

But still the old foundation
that some old-timers laid
remains the cornerstone of all
the progress we have made.

The Crowded Street

Today’s contribution to National Poetry Month is a long verse by William Cullen Bryant, an American poet who lived from 1794-1878. I often have the same sort of thoughts as I watch humanity flow past me on the crowded street or in a mall.

The Crowded Street

by William Cullen Bryant

Let me move slowly through the street,
filled with an ever-shifting train,
amid the sound of steps that beat
the murmuring walks like autumn rain.

How fast the flitting figures come!
The mild, the fierce, the stony face —
some bright with thoughtless smiles, and some
where secret tears have left their trace.

They pass — to toil, to strife, to rest;
to halls in which the feast is spread;
to chambers where the funeral guest
in silence sits beside the dead.

And some to happy homes repair,
where children, pressing cheek to cheek,
with mute caresses shall declare
the tenderness they cannot speak.

And some, who walk in calmness here,
shall shudder as they reach the door
where one who made their dwelling dear,
its flower, its light, is seen no more.

Youth with pale cheek and slender frame,
and dreams of greatness in thine eye,
goest thou to build an early name
or early in the task to die?

Keen son of trade, with eager brow!
Who is now fluttering in thy snare?
Thy golden fortunes, tower they now,
or melt the glittering spires in air?

Who of this crowd tonight shall tread
the dance till daylight gleam again?
Who, sorrow o’er the untimely dead?
Who, writhe in throes of mortal pain?

Some famine-struck, shall think how long
the cold dark hours, how slow the light;
and some, who flaunt amid the throng,
shall hid in dens of shame tonight.

Each, where his tasks or pleasures call,
they pass, and heed each other not.
There is who heeds, who holds them all
in His large love and boundless thought.

These struggling tides of life, that seem
in wayward, aimless course to tend
are eddies of the mighty stream
that rolls to its appointed end.

He Signed His Name

By Michael D. Blythe

He signed His name in granite
as the mountains tall were formed;
He signed His name in sunlight
and the cold earth slowly warmed.

He signed His name in water
as He filled the seven seas;
He signed His name in fertile soil
where He placed the mighty trees.

He signed His name in clay made flesh
as He created man;
He signed His name on the earth He made
according to His plan.

He signed His name in wrath
as He destroyed the world by flood,
but to save us from our wicked ways,
He signed His name in blood.

Since we’re coming up to the Easter season I’ll post this verse as today’s contribution to National Novel Month. Sadly, Mr Google can’t tell me anything about the writer.

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!

Hope

Today, in honor of National Poetry Month, I’m posting a verse by American poet Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886. She was extremely prolific, penning almost 1800 mostly short but inspiring verses. However, less than a dozen were published during her short lifetime; the rest were discovered by her sister after she died.

Hope Is A Strange Invention

Hope is a strange invention —
A Patent of the Heart —
In unremitting action
Yet never wearing out —

Of this electric Adjunct
Not anything is known
But its unique momentum
Embellish all we own —

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.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.