sharing my love of books with you

Tag: Poems (Page 1 of 6)

Longfellow on Mocking-bird Songs

“Then from a neighboring thicket the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
Swinging aloft on a willow spray that hung o’er the water,
Shook from his little throat such floods of delirious music,
That the whole air and the woods and the waves seemed silent to listen.
Plaintive at first were the tones, and sad; then soaring to madness
Seemed they to follow or guide the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
Single notes were then heard, in sorrowful, low lamentation;
Till, having gathered them all, he hung them abroad in derision,
As when, after a storm, a gust of wind through the tree-tops
Shakes down the rattling rain in a crystal shower on the branches.”

Henry Waldsworth Longfellow, Evangeline

New Book: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Selected Poems

Last Christmas, I watched a movie called I Heard the Bells based on the story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the events that led up to his penning the beloved Christmas poem “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Until then, I hadn’t learned much of Longfellow and had read even less. I did know he wrote a lot of long poems, so I didn’t want to invest in a large, expensive volume ’til I knew if I liked his poetry. So I purchased this little paperback from Penguin Classics. Some of the poems included are “Evangeline”, “The Courtship of Miles Standish”, “A Psalm of Life”, and “The Village Blacksmith”.

The introduction is by Lawrence Buell. I’ve only read part of the introduction so far, but I learned so much about Longfellow that I can’t wait to read his poems. Did you know that he was a master of five languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German? And he could read in six more. He taught at Harvard until he decided to write poetry as his profession; he was the first American poet to do so. He lost two wives – the first after a miscarriage in Europe, the second in an accident when her dress caught fire. Longfellow knew deep love and deeper sorrow. I am really looking forward to reading these poems. Though, as with all poetry, I will have to read it slowly. Poetry, you see, should be read in small portions, both so you can take the whole meaning of a poem in to ponder and so you don’t get discouraged by misunderstanding.

Have you read any poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? I would love to know which ones you like so I can read them too.

A Little Ado About This And That, by Mary Oliver

If I walk out into the world in irritation or
self-centeredness, the birds scatter.

I would like people to remember of me, how 
inexhaustible was her mindfulness.

The hurricane may find us or it will not, that
will always be the way.

With Shelley, I feel the visceral experience 
of imagination.

Can you imagine anyone having a "casual" faith?

"This is what I know from years of being me," said 
a friend.

You will always love me.

About God, how could he give up his secrets and
still be God?

If you think you see a face in the clouds, why not
send a greeting?  It can't do any harm.

("A Little Ado About This And That", Mary Oliver, printed in Blue Horses, 2014)

Blueberries, by Mary Oliver

I'm living in a warm place now, where
you can purchase fresh blueberries all
year long.  Labor free.  From various
countries in South America.  They're 
as sweet as any, and compared with the 
berries I used to pick in the fields
outside of Provincetown, they're 
enormous.  But berries are berries.  They
don't speak any language I can't 
understand.  Neither do I find ticks or 
small spiders crawling among them.  So,
generally speaking, I'm very satisfied.

There are limits, however.  What they 
don't have is the field.  The field they 
belonged to and through the years I 
began to feel I belonged to.  Well,
there's life, and then there's later.
Maybe it's myself that I miss.  The
field, and the sparrow singing at the
edge of the woods.  And the doe that one 
morning came upon me unaware, all 
tense and gorgeous.  She stamped her hoof
as you would to any intruder.  Then gave
me a long look, as if to say, Okay, you 
stay in your patch, I'll stay in mine.  
Which is what we did.  Try packing that 
up, South America.

("Blueberries", Mary Oliver, printed in Blue Horses, 2014)

The Wasp, by Mary Oliver

Why the wasp was on my bed I didn't 
know.  Why I was in bed I did know.  Why 
there wasn't room for both of us I
didn't know.  I watched it idly.  Idleness
can be a form of dying, I did know that.

The wasp didn't communicate how it felt.
It did look confused on the white sheet,
as though it had landed somewhere in the 
Arctic.  And it did flick its wings when 
I raised my legs, causing an upheaval.

I didn't want to be lying there.  I didn't
want to be going in that direction.  And
so I say it was a gift when it rose into
the air and, as wasps do, expressed itself
in a sudden and well-aimed motion.

Almost delicious was its deep, inflexible

("The Wasp", Mary Oliver, printed in Blue Horses, 2014)

Good Morning, by Mary Oliver

"Hello, wren" is the first thing I say.
"Where did you come from appearing so
sudden and cheerful in the privet?  Which,
by the way, has decided to decorate itself
in so many white blossoms."
Paulus is coming to visit!  Paulus the
dancer, the potter.  Who is just beginning 
his eightieth decade, who walks without
shoes in the woods because his feet, he
says, ask to be in touch with the earth.
Paulus who when he says my poems sometimes
changes them a little, according to the
occasion or his own feelings.  Okay, I say.
Stay young, always, in the theater of your
Bless the notebook that I always carry in 
my pocket.
And the pen.
Bless the words with which I try to say 
what I see, think, or feel.
With gratitude for the grace of the earth.
The expected and the exception, both.
For all the hours I have been given to
be in this world.
The multiplicity of forms!  The hummingbird,
the fox, the raven, the sparrow hawk, the
otter, the dragonfly, the water lily!  And
on and on.  It must be a great disappointment 
to God if we are not dazzled at least ten
times a day.
Slowly the morning climbs toward the day.
As for the poem, not this poem but any
poem, do you feel its sting?  Do you feel
its hope, its entrance to a community?  Do
you feel its hand in your hand?
But perhaps you're still sleeping.  I
could wake you with a touch or a kiss.
But so could I shake the petals from 
the wild rose which blossoms so silently
and perfectly, and I do not.
("Good Morning", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses, 2014)

Stebbin’s Gulch, by Mary Oliver

by the randomness
of the way
the rocks tumbled
ages ago

the water pours
it pours
it pours
ever along the slant

of downgrade
dashing its silver thumbs
against the rocks
or pausing to carve

a sudden curled space
where the flashing fish
splash or drowse
while the kingfisher overhead

rattles and stares
and so it continues for miles
this bolt of light,
its only industry

to descend
and to be beautiful
while it does so;
as for purpose

there is none,
it is simply
one of those gorgeous things
that was made

to do what it does perfectly
and to last,
as almost nothing does,
almost forever.

("Stebbin's Gulch", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses, 2014)

What I Can Do, by Mary Oliver

The television has two instruments that control it.
I get confused.
The washer asks me, do you want regular or delicate?
Honestly, I just want clean.
Everything is like that.
I won't even mention cell phones.

I can turn on the light of the lamp beside my chair
where a book is waiting, but that's about it.

Oh yes, and I can strike a match and make a fire.

("What I Can Do", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses, 2014)

Franz Marc’s Blue Horses, by Mary Oliver

I step into the painting of the four blue horses.
I am not even surprised that I can do this.

One of the horses walks toward me. 
His blue nose noses me lightly.  I put my arm 
over his blue mane, not holding on, just
He allows me my pleasure.
Franz Marc died a young man, shrapnel in his brain.
I would rather die than try to explain to the blue horses
what war is.
They would either faint in horror, or simply
find it impossible to believe.
I do not know how to thank you, Franz Marc.
Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually.
Maybe the desire to make something beautiful
is the piece of God that is inside each of us.
Now all four horses have come closer,
are bending their faces toward me
as if they have secrets to tell.
I don't expect them to speak, and they don't.
If being so beautiful isn't enough, what
could they possible say?

("Franz Marc's Blue Horses", Mary Oliver, in Blue Horses 2014)

This is Franz Marc’s Tower of Blue Horses. It is the picture on the cover of Mary Oliver’s book, Blue Horses, so I believe it is the work that she wrote the poem about. I retrieved the image from I don’t know much about Franz Marc, but I think it would have made him happy to know Mary Oliver appreciated his work and wrote about it so that her readers could know about him too. How special, that she would pay such a great tribute to this artist who died so young in World War I.

Lament for the Poets: 1916, by Francis Ledwidge

I heard the Poor Old Woman say:
"At break of day the fowler came, 
And took my blackbirds from their songs
Who loved me well thro' shame and blame.

"No more from lovely distances
Their songs shall bless me mile by mile,
Nor to white Ashbourne call me down
To wear my crown another while.

"With bended flowers the angels mark
For the skylark the place they lie,
From there its little family
Shall dip their wings first in the sky.

"And when the first surprise of flight
Sweet songs excite, from the far dawn
Shall there come blackbirds loud with love,
Sweet echoes of the singers gone.

"But in the lonely hush of eve
Weeping I grieve the silent bills."
I heard the Poor Old Woman say
In Derry of the little hills.

("Lament for the Poets: 1916", by Francis Ledwidge, printed in Poems of the Irish People, 2016)
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