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.

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 —

Yet A Little While

This shall be my contribution to National Poetry Month today:

Yet A Little While
by Mary J MacColl

Beyond the clouds smiles the clear blue sky,
and the sun will shine when the storm blows by.

In the frost-bound earth through the winter lay
the flowers that in beauty bloom today,

and soon from the buds on the bare brown trees
will banners of green be unfurled to the breeze.

Cloud, flower, and leaf, ye are teachers three
of the many my Father hath given to me.

The lesson ye teach I can understand;
to me ’tis as rain to the thirsty land.

I know that the sunlight will gild my sky,
in the sweet, mysterious “by-and-by”

and from chilly realms of dark despair
will spring Hope’s blossoms fresh and fair.

Then my heart will thrill like a wind-kissed leaf,
though it fainteth now ‘neath a weight of grief.

Oh, Thou who dost clothe the lilies aye,
in light or in shade may I feel Thee nigh.

May my faith burn bright and my love be strong,
though the tempest rage and the night be long.

Help me to work while ’tis yet today—
ere the twilight falleth cold and gray;

help me with careful hand to sow
good seed from whose germs no tares may grow.

May the Lord of the harvest upon me smile,
when He cometh to reap in “a little while.”

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, still in fairly good shape, with gold-trimmed cover edges and letters! And on the first page there are impressive endorsements of Miss MacColl’s poetry from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry W Longfellow, Joaquin Miller, and John G Whittier.

The Windows of Poetry

April is National Poetry Month and the League of Canadian Poets has adopted the theme, Celebrate nature with poetry. Which suits me just fine: I like to write about nature.

Imagine yourself walking down a long hall with a good friend. In this hallway there are a number of small windows, and as you pass each one, your friend points out some particular scene just outside that window. Something is happening out there that they want you to notice.

Like a painting, a good poem is a window on some scene in life and a book of poetry is like a line of windows. At each one you stop as your poet friend draws your attention to some detail outside. Some writers will make more comment what they’re pointing out, some less.

Poets of long ago gave readers the whole story and their take on what they are seeing. For example, Robert Burns’ To A Louse, is an eight-verse poem about a louse he saw crawling on a fine lady’s hat in church. Seven are saying, “This is what I see”:
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her—
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

And then the punch line, now famous around the world:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea’es us,
An ev’n devotion!

These words have resonated with readers of all ages, since we’ve all seen people with foolish notions of their own importance and wish they could see just how their behavior looks to us. Sometimes, on reading these lines, we may shake our heads as we think of situations in the past when we acted like a know-it-all, a snob or an airhead. We see it clearly now, and surely everyone around us saw back then how silly, selfish, or defensive our attitude was. It’s amazing, when we’re trying our best to put on a persona, how much of our real self sticks out.

In our day, poets tend to rather describe what they are seeing and let you draw your own conclusions. I appreciate both kinds of verses, the one that evokes a feeling as well as the one that delivers an understanding — actually a good poem should do both. I have a harder time appreciating verses where I haven’t a clue what the writer is trying to say. No matter what size or style, give me an accessible poem any day.

For National Poetry Month I’m going to try to post a verse a day, plus get my book of haiku & senryu published. I HAD it all prepared, but glitches arose… Today I’m going back to “Self-Pub U” and hope to learn how to insert images properly. Sigh…

Life is learning, and I have lots more to do. 😉

The Mind

by Edgar Guest

The mind is that mysterious thing
which makes the toiler and the king.
It is the realm of thought where dwells
the nursery rhymes the father tells.
It is the source of all that gives
high color to the life he lives.
It starts the smile or shapes the frown,
it lifts man up or holds him down.
It marks the happy singing lad,
it marks the neighbor kind and glad,
and world wide over this we find —
a man is fashioned by his mind.

How strange it is that what we see
and seem to cherish tenderly
is not the outward garb of clay,
for all are formed the self-same way.
Not in the hands and legs and cheeks,
not in the common voice which speaks,
lies man’s identity on earth—
all these come with the gift of birth.
But love and friendship and delight
lie in a world that’s hid from sight.
The mind of all is master still
to fashion them for good or ill.

So men and women here are wrought
by this strange hidden power of thought
and each becomes in life the thing
the mind has long been fashioning.
Man’s body moves and eats and drinks
and but reflects the thoughts he thinks.
His every action leaves behind
merely the prompting of his mind.
Bad men have arms and legs and eyes.
That which we cherish or despise
and shapes each individual soul
is wholly in the mind’s control.

From the Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

A Story in Slivers

Yesterday we attended an all-day writing workshop in the city, put on by a national Christian writing group based more-or-less in Alberta. We heard half a dozen different speakers, mostly motivational. A lot of thoughts on the need to write, and why we need to write.

A few minor things stuck in my mind, one of them being a comment one of our speakers made to an attender who’d just finished publishing his parents’ life story. Sheila Webster, the speaker, congratulated him, then reminded him & told us all about the nudge she’d given him when he wasn’t finding the time to write this. They’d done a quick calculation and figured that if he’d only write 47 words a day he could get the memoir done in such-and-such a time.

I’m not certain of the exact numbers, but the point was clear. A writer may wish for hours to write, with thousands of words whacked out every day. However, even writing in silvers — 10-15 minutes a day — you can actually get a book finished and edited. I don’t know about you, but if I have my scene thought out and sit down to write, I can easily do 500 words in 15 minutes.

This reminds me of another done-in-slivers project I heard about one day. An older woman who sews all her own dresses was advising some younger ones, busy moms, who claimed they couldn’t find time to sew. “If you sew just one seam every day, you can get a new dress made for yourself in a month.”

Marla Cilley has made her fortune as the FlyLady, telling people the same thing about house-cleaning. In her book, Sink Reflections, she writes that no matter how disabled or how depressed a person is, almost everyone can work at a task for 10-15 minutes.

Facing the immense task of rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem after it had been destroyed by the marauding army, the prophet Zechariah says, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Zech 4:10 A plan was made and the work was organized, each family given responsibility for a part of the wall.

Both Marla & Sheila do stress one point:
YOU NEED TO HAVE SOME SYSTEM. A ROUTINE IS YOUR FRIEND.

That’s what I need to work on. 🙂