Good Poem #12 – Daffodils

This is not my favorite poem but is the first one I learned.  Mrs.  Glenn – bless her – required me to memorize it in 6th grade at Longfellow School.  Memorizing any poem always has a payoff and I’ve especially enjoyed knowing this one this time of year, even if it is corny.

“And then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils.”

Daffodils

by William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Wordsworth

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.

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Good Poem #11 – The Loveliest of Trees

A favorite poem for spring and Easter.  Don’t forget that poems are written to be read aloud.

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

By A.E. Housman – 1896

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Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Good Poem #10 – The Vacation

Shame on any literate resident of Kentucky (or any other location) who doesn’t know and love the work of Wendell Berry – essays, stories, novels and poetry.  This poem describes beautifully what I was trying to say in my last blog: Textito ergo Sum.

The Vacation

By Wendell Berry

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Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it

Homegrown Poem #3 – For Robert Frost

For your consideration:

For Robert Frost

 ELG – April, 2014

I deem modern poets swell
And heaven knows I wish them well
Though many no longer have the time
To come up with a decent rhyme.
As for rhythm, they’re even worse
Writing all this grim free verse.
Many prefer a verse that’s blank
Which is like sailing a ship that’s sank.
So modern poets don’t be cross,
But I prefer old Robert Frost.

Textito, ergo Sum

I attended a wonderful John Prine concert recently. I certainly hope it won’t be my last, but since he’s about my age, well. . .

But that’s not why I asked you here.

During the concert there was an epidemic of taking i-phone pictures.  At least once during the performance, a third of the audience in front of me held their phones up so that everyone behind them caught the screens’ glare.  Not satisfied just to take a picture to prove to themselves that they were actually there, many videoed long swaths of songs.  So, in addition to distracting others, they were missing the performance itself. Of course, then they hunch over their phones so that they can send the picture off into the textosphere. All the while, the concert continues.

This got me thinking about how driven some people are to document their experiences rather than simply enjoy them.  What to make of this urge to mediate experience through social media?  

As, if i don’t post a picture of the concert, did I go?

If I don’t post a travel picture, was I really there?

If I don’t post a picture of my dinner, will I have eaten?

If I don’t post pictures of my dog, do I have one?

If I don’t post a selfie, do I exist?

Whence this desperation in which we cannot accept the existential reality of an experience without filtering it through electronic devices and social media? We photograph and post our surroundings, the food we’re eating, the sights we’re seeing, even as we hope to experience, eat and see.  Instead of just looking, seeing, greeting, eating, we need to photograph and post during the experience as if it’s not happening otherwise. Immediacy is everything. Where do contemplation and introspection come in?

As Descartes could put it, “Je blog, donc je suis.” – I blog; therefore, I am.

On this topic, watch for my Poetry Monday blog with Wendell Berry’s poem “The Vacation”

But I digress. . .

Digressing further, if you like songs and don’t know John Prine (who wrote “Paradise”, i.e. “Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County?” – do yourself a favor and check him out.  Here’s his performance of “Hello in There

Great Song #2 – Marie

Bob Dylan: A song is a dream and you try to make it come true.

I love songs that tell a story or capture a moment, especially when the music and lyrics fit perfectly, so I made up a list of songs that meet my requirements:

2.  Marie

Townes Van Zandt, now deceased, was the quintessential singer-songwriter. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite Townes Van Zandt song.  He wrote “Pancho and Lefty” which is pretty well known, so I’ll choose “Marie”, a vivid song about a homeless couple.  It has always amazed me how Van Zandt summoned up the imagination for these lyrics.  Listen up.

Good Poem #9 – Two Tramps in Mud Time

I lean heavily on Frost.  He strikes a chord with me.  I especially like this poem this time of year: “You know how it is with an April day. . .”

Two Tramps in Mud Time
By Robert Frost

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Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right–agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Grown Children

We were lucky to spend time with each of our three children in the last few days. Two live within an hour of our place, but the third lives in southern China 8,000 miles away. Each is engaged in a productive activity, generally happy, healthy and trying to make the world a better place.  I am still inclined to parent, but they need less of the hands-on kind, as in “You’ve already told me that three times!” Each of them is a strong adult with ideas, activities and plans independent of input from me. Each is making her/his way in the world with competence, enjoyment and aplomb. I’m proud of that.

Still, I’m reflecting on those now long ago times – so fresh in my mind – when the five of us were a tight interdependent group whose lives revolved around each other.  Plans were made together; what we did depended on all of us.  As parents we knew, or at least thought we knew, what they were all up to.  But those days are long gone.  While I might like to bring back the times I was there for bed time, when I could read to them and smell their clean hair after a bath, and hug them in their warm fleecy pajamas before they went to sleep, those days will not come again and I take comfort in the kind of people they’ve become.  I wouldn’t have it any other way, and yet –

But I digress. . .