Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Poem of the Day: "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" by Emily Dickinson

"I'm Nobody!  Who are you?" by Emily Dickinson is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 30, 2014.  This poem is in the public domain and therefore legally reprinted here.  Miss Dickinson's poetry has been reviewed several times in Songs of Eretz.  A review that includes biographical information may be found here:  http://eretzsongs.blogspot.com/2013/12/review-of-its-all-i-have-to-bring-today.html.

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
by Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog – 
To tell one’s name – the livelong June – 
To an admiring Bog!

Emily Dickinson certainly practiced what she preached in "I'm Nobody."  She never married, hardly ever left her home, and composed hundreds of poems but did not allow a single one to be published during her lifetime.  Ironically, there is no doubt that Miss Dickinson was "somebody."  She did not proclaim her name "like a Frog," but achieved fame and even a measure of immortality nevertheless.  She certainly had disdain not only for the vociferously well-known, but for their admirers, whom she compared to a "bog."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Minot's Ledge Lighthouse" by Fitz James O'Brien

"Minot's Ledge Lighthouse" by Fitz James O'Brien is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 29, 2014.  It was first published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine in 1861 and is therefore in the public domain and legally reprinted here.

I came across this poem after a Friend of Eretz submitted a poem to the e-zine inspired by the story of Minot's Ledge Lighthouse.  The original lighthouse (pictured) was completed in 1850 and stood on cast iron supports off Cohasset, Massachusetts, a particularly violent part of the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1851, a newspaper reporter by the name of Gordon spent a stormy night in the lighthouse along with Keeper Bennett.  The Keeper confessed to Mr. Gordon that he was worried about the structural integrity of the lighthouse.  Days later, the lighthouse was swept away by the sea with the loss of two out of the three keepers who were manning it at the time.  Reference to this and additional historical information may be found here:  http://lighthouseantiques.net/Minot's%20Ledge%20LH.htm.

Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse
by Fitz James O'Brien
 
Like spectral hounds across the sky
   The white clouds scud before the storm,
And naked in the howling night
   The red-eyed light-house lifts its form.
The waves with slippery fingers clutch
   The massive tower, and climb and fall,
And, muttering, growl with baffled rage
   Their curses on the sturdy wall.

Up in the lonely tower he sits,
   The keeper of the crimson light-
Silent and awe-struck does he hear
   The imprecations of the night.
The white spray beats against the panes
   Like some wet ghost that down the air
Is hunted by a troop of fiends,
   And seeks a shelter any where.

He prays aloud - the lonely man-
   For every soul that night at sea,
But more than all for that brave boy
   Who used to gayly climb his knee.
Young Charley, with the chestnut hair
   And hazel eyes and laughing lip,
“May Heaven look down,” the old man cries,
   “Upon my son, and on his ship!”

While thus with pious heart he prays
   Far in the distance sounds a boom-
He pauses, and again there rings
   That sullen thunder through the room.
A ship upon the shoal to-night!
   She can not hold for one half hour-
But clear the ropes and grappling-hooks,
   And trust in the Almighty power!

On the drenched gallery he stands,
   Striving to pierce the solid night,
Across the sea the red eye throws
   A steady crimson wake of light,
And where it falls upon the waves
   He sees a human head float by,
With long, drenched curls of chestnut hair,
   And wild but fearless hazel eye.

Out with the hooks! One mighty fling!
   Adown the wind the long rope curls.
Oh! will it catch? Ah! dread suspense
   While the wild ocean wilder whirls.
A steady pull. - It tautens now!
   Oh, his old heart will burst with joy
As on the slippery rocks he pulls
   The breathing body of his boy.

Still sweep the spectres through the sky,
   Still scud the clouds before the storm,
Still naked in the howling night
   The red-eyed light-house lifts its form.
Without, the world is wild with rage,
   Unkenneled demons are abroad,
But with the father and the son
   Within, there is the peace of God.

Fitz James O'Brien (pictured) was born Michael O'brien in Ireland in 1828.  He emigrated to the United States in 1852 and began contributing poems and short stories to various serials.  He is most famous for his science fiction short stories which profoundly influenced not only the development of the short story form but the development of the science fiction genre as well.  He died in 1862 of a wound infection in the War Between the States.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/obrien_fitz-james.

The use of octets and iambic tetrameter are reminiscent of a ballad, but the rhyme scheme is much more rich and complex than the usual ababcdcd of the ballad form.  The poet adroitly employs alliteration, consonance, and sibilance to his advantage, creating sounds like that of a violent, stormy sea.  The lighthouse itself is brought to life as a kind of "red-eyed" cyclops; the sea is transformed into a horde of raging, clutching, howling demons.  

However, unlike the real-life fate of the lighthouse and its keepers, here the poet indulges in a happy ending, as the pious keeper is able to rescue his beloved son.  Would the poem have been more powerful if both keeper and son were claimed by the sea?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Poem of the Day: "A Nation's Strength" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

"A Nation's Strength" by Ralph Waldo Emerson is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 28, 2014.  It is in the public domain and reprinted here.

A Nation's Strength
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

What makes a nation's pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) (pictured) was the chief spokesman for the Transcendental Movement, a reaction against scientific rationalism.  The Transcendentalists believed that intuition, rather than observation, was the best way to understand the universe, and that the entire universe could be understood and appreciated by contemplating the smallest part of it.  Emerson is perhaps more famous for his essays than his poems.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/201.

"A Nation's Strength" is a ballad that I wish all of our elected representatives would be required to read.  Far too many of them believe that thoughtless expenditure of treasure, mindless military might, and false pride or nationalism for nationalism's sake are what make our nation strong.  And, sadly, far too many individual voters allow them free reign to indulge in their fallacious philosophy.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Poem of the Day: "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth

"The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day and the offering from Poet.org's Poem-A-Day for April 27, 2014.  The poem is in the public domain and reprinted here.

The World Is Too Much With Us
by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God!  I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.

William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850) (pictured) was a major poet in the English Romantic movement.  He traveled throughout Europe for almost his entire life, and his observations in his travels profoundly influenced him.  He was one of the first English poets to favor lyrical over epic poetry and the speech of the "common man" over the highly formal speech that was favored by the poets before his time.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/296.

Well, for a poet who favored the speech of the "common man," we have here a traditional, old-fashioned, Italian sonnet (8 line set-up and 6 line punchline in good old iambic pentameter), complete with references to antiquity.  However, it is certainly lyrical, and its message--that the beauty of Nature (with a capital N) is something worthy of the gods of old--is certainly a romantic one.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Beyond the Years" by Paul Laurence Dunbar

"Beyond the Years" by Paul Laurence Dunbar is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day and the offering from Poets.org's Poem-A-Day for April 26, 2014.  It was first published (posthumously) in 1913 and is, therefore, in the public domain and legally reprinted here.

Beyond the Years
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

I



Beyond the years the answer lies,

Beyond where brood the grieving skies
   
And Night drops tears.

Where Faith rod-chastened smiles to rise
   
And doff its fears,

And carping Sorrow pines and dies—
   
Beyond the years.



II



Beyond the years the prayer for rest

Shall beat no more within the breast;
   
The darkness clears,

And Morn perched on the mountain’s crest
   
Her form uprears—

The day that is to come is best,
   
Beyond the years.



III



Beyond the years the soul shall find

That endless peace for which it pined,
   
For light appears,

And to the eyes that still were blind
   
With blood and tears,

Their sight shall come all unconfined
 
Beyond the years.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 - 1906) (pictured) composed poems in standard English and Negro dialect.  At the turn of the last century, he was considered by critics to be the America's first great Negro poet, and it was his dialect poems that were the most popular and highly praised.  Today, one hundred years later, he is still considered to be America's first great Negro poet but on the strength of his standard English poems.  A controversial figure before and after his death from tuberculosis at the age of only thirty-three, he was derided by some as an exploiter of racism for personal material gain while hailed by others as a fierce opponent of and spokesman against the evils of racism.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/paul-laurence-dunbar.

"Beyond the Years" is obviously one of Dunbar's standard English poems; however, the theme is one commonly used in traditional Negro verse and song.  Dunbar employs a unique rhyme and refrain scheme in the three septets--a form reminiscent of but not the same as the many traditional septet forms (follow this link http://www.thepoetsgarret.com/septet.html for a summary of those forms).  The rhythm, in feet, is:  4-4-2-4-2-4-2, with the last line forming a refrain out of the first three words of the first line.  The rhyme scheme--aababab, ccbcbcb, ddbdbdb--uses the "b" rhyme to tie together the three numbered parts of the poem.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Poem of the Day: "The light of a candle" by Yosa Buson

"The light of a candle" by Yosa Buson is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 25, 2014.  An English version of the poem, translated from the original Japanese by Yuki Sawa and Edith Marcombe Shiffert, may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19523.

Yosa Buson (original surname Taniguchi) (1716 - 1784) (pictured) was a Japanese painter and poet.  His mastery of the haiku form is second only to Matsuo Basho.  He spent most of his life in Kyoto.  His poetry is known for its beautiful imagery which is thought to have been influenced by his painting.  Reference to this and other biographical information may be found here:  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/86315/Buson.

Yuki Sawa and Edith Marcombe Shiffert co-authored Anthology of Modern Japanese Poetry (Charles E. Tuttle Co, 1972).  Reference to this and additional information about the translators may be found here:  http://books.google.com/books?id=TFz2WpwXspAC&pg=PA198&lpg=PA198&dq=Yuki+Sawa+poet&source=bl&ots=mVKS3hA3i4&sig=5VZ-S9BX_1NFP4-ubTpwBy8lNXc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=w-haU-OGDrOK2QWzuoGgCw&ved=0CEUQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=Yuki%20Sawa%20poet&f=false.

It is interesting to note that the translators chose to use a title, capitalization, punctuation, and a non-standard line arrangement in their translation of this little gem by Buson--purists would frown upon such practices.  Other interesting choices are the total number of syllables per line (6-9-3 instead of the traditional 5-7-5) as well as the total number of syllables in the poem (18 instead of the traditional 17).  However, the basic haiku form is still recognizable with its balance of short line-longer line-short line and the subject-action-season sequence intact.  Most important, the third line synthesizes the first two in a novel way and produces a nice surprise--in this case visual and pleasant.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Once in the 40's" by William Stafford

"Once in the 40's" by William Stafford is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 24, 2014.  A link to the poem may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16507.

Kansas native William Stafford, Ph.D. (1914 - 1993) (pictured) was a teacher at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon.  He published his first book of poetry at the age of forty-eight (which gives me hope!), and followed that collection by sixty-four more between poetry and prose.  He served as the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1970, a position now known as Poet Laureate of the United States.  Reference to this and other biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/224.

"Once in the 40's" is a mystical, magical vignette about a moment of perfect contentment and the recognition of that moment for the treasure that it is.  Here we see the poet and his wife literally at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere on a long, dark road in Montana.  It's cold, but the stars are out and watching over them.  They are deeply in love.  They vow that no matter how rich and successful they become, that they will one day recapture the stillness and beauty of this moment, no matter the cost.  This poem of just eleven lines of free verse is a slice of time yet timeless.  I was in a reverie when I finished reading.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poem of the Day: "A Poison Tree" by William Blake

"A Poison Tree" by William Blake is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 23, 2014.  It is in the public domain and reprinted here.

A Poison Tree
by William Blake

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,--

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake (1757 - 1827) (pictured) was a poet, painter, engraver, classical scholar, and outspoken libertarian political radical.  He favored creativity over reason and poetry inspired by inner feelings rather than observation of nature.  He was considered a genius by some, insane by others.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/116.

"A Poison Tree"is a traditional ballad about revenge over one's enemy.  The conceit of the poison fruit is an old one (Snow White, Genesis, Persephone) but given a nice twist here.  The nicest thing about this poem is that there is no saccharine "moral lesson" about the effects of revenge on the seeker thereof.  On the contrary, the speaker reveals in the first stanza that he is capable of overcoming his anger in the case of a dispute with a friend but deliberately chooses not to exercise this ability concerning his enemy.  Bwa ha ha!



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Poem of the Day: "When They Die We Change Our Minds About Them" by Jennifer Michael Hecht

"When They Die We Change Our Minds About Them" by Jennifer Michael Hecht is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day and the offering from Poets.org's Poem-A-Day for April 22, 2014.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23957.

Poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht (b. 1965) (pictured) is a teacher at The New School.  Her credits include two award-winning poetry collections and several works of highly-praised non-fiction.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/jennifer-michael-hecht.

The poem is organized in four, free-verse stanzas following the pattern quintet, triplet, quintet, triplet.  The final two lines have such a strong assonance that they nearly rhyme.

The message or history lesson, summarized in the title, is interesting and thought-provoking.  As I read, I was reminded of President Gerald Ford's funeral.  While he lived, the media portrayed him as a bumbling fool.  The same media eulogized him as the right leader at the right time, star athlete (pictured--yes, that is a picture of Gerald Ford), and healer of the country in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  How much more could Ford have accomplished if were treated in life the way he was treated in death?  Sadly, we will never know.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Epitaph on a Tyrant" by W. H. Auden

"Epitaph on a Tyrant" by W. H. Auden is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for April 21, 2014.  A link to the poem may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15548.

With the publication of his second collection of poems in 1930, British-born Wystan Hugh Auden (1907 - 1973) (pictured) established himself in the opinion of many as "the leading voice of a new generation."  He is generally considered to be "the greatest English poet of the twentieth century."  He moved to the United States in 1939 and eventually became an American citizen.  He was a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1954 until his death in 1973.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/120.

"Epitaph on a Tyrant" is organized in six lines with four feet per line and a rhyme scheme of abbcac.  The message of the poem is both profound and simple.  It is applicable to any tyrant--from Alexander to Kim Jong Un to Barack O'bama.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Loveliest of Trees" by A. E. Housman

Editor's Note:  Easter is, of course, about the Resurrection, but it is also irrevocably connected with the transition from winter to spring--a resurrection of sorts.  I believe the following little ballad summarizes this feeling of renewal nicely.  Happy Easter to you and yours.
SWG

"Loveliest of Trees" by A. E. Housman is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014.  It originally appeared in 1896 as part of Housman's first published poetry collection, A Shropshire Lad.  It is, therefore, in the public domain and legally reprinted here.

Loveliest of Trees
by A. E. Housman

Loveliests 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.

Alfred Edward Housman (1859 - 1936) (pictured) was a Professor of Latin at Trinity College in Cambridge, England.  He lived a reclusive life, shunning the fame that the popularity of his poetry might have brought him.  Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/631.

Poem of the Day: "Rondeau" by Jessie Redmon Fauset

Editor's Note:  This post was supposed to have appeared yesterday.

"Rondeau" by Jessie Redmon Fauset is the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day and also Poets.org's Poem-A-Day for April 19, 2014.  The poem is in the public domain and therefore legally reprinted here.

Rondeau
by Jessie Redmon Fauset

When April's here and meadows wide
Once more with spring's sweet growths are pied
    I close each book, drop each pursuit,
    And past the brook, no longer mute,
I joyous roam the countryside.

Look, here the violets shy abide
And there the mating robins hide—
    How keen my sense, how acute,
      When April's here!

And list! down where the shimmering tide
Hard by that farthest hill doth glide,
    Rise faint strains from shepherd's flute,
    Pan's pipes and Berecyntian lute.
Each sight, each sound fresh joys provide

      When April's here.

According to Poets.org:  "The rondeau’s form is not difficult to recognize: as it is known and practiced today, it is composed of fifteen lines, eight to ten syllables each, divided stanzaically into a quintet, a quatrain, and a sestet. The rentrement consists of the first few words or the entire first line of the first stanza, and it recurs as the last line of both the second and third stanzas. Two rhymes guide the music of the rondeau, whose rhyme scheme is as follows (R representing the refrain): aabba aabR aabbaR."  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5789

Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882 - 1961) (pictured) was an influential figure during the Harlem Renaissance.  She was the editor of The Crisis--a magazine founded by W. E. B. DuBois--and a school teacher in Baltimore and Washington, DC.  Reference to this and other biographical information may be found here:  http://www.biography.com/people/jessie-fauset-9292341#early-life&awesm=~oC1bGZLpWzTs8d.

"Berecyntian" may refer to the "Berecythian Cybele," an obscure fertility goddess, but a Google search yielded nothing definitive.  The rest of the poem needs no explanation--just enjoy!