Music, Part IV by Henry Van Dyke

O lead me by the hand,
And let my heart have rest,
And bring me back to childhood land,
To find again the long-lost band
Of playmates blithe and blest.

Some quaint, old-fashioned air,
That all the children knew,
Shall run before us everywhere,
Like a little maid with flying hair,
To guide the merry crew.

Along the garden ways
We chase the light-foot tune,
And in and out the flowery maze,
With eager haste and fond delays,
In pleasant paths of June.

For us the fields are new,
For us the woods are rife
With fairy secrets, deep and true,
And heaven is but a tent of blue
Above the game of life.

The world is far away:
The fever and the fret,
And all that makes the heart grow gray,
Is out of sight and far away,
Dear Music, while I hear thee play
That olden, golden roundelay,
“Remember and forget!”

100 Poems by George Herbert

Such a lovely volume of poems by one of my favorite poets! George Herbert lived and wrote in the early seventeenth century, and he is “widely regarded as the greatest devotional poet in the English language.” In fact, for modern Christian readers, reading a poem a day from this book of one hundred of Herbert’s best and most famous poems would be a significant and useful devotional practice. And for non-religious poets and poetry fans, the study of of Herbert’s poetry is well worth the time and effort. Helen Wilcox, the university professor who wrote the introduction to this collection says, “Reading and re-reading Herbert’s poems is a process of self-discovery.”

This selection of Herbert’s poetry, published by Cambridge University Press, includes many of my favorites, such as:
Love III
Love Bade Me Welcome
The Pulley
Christmas
The Dawning
The Sonne
A Wreath
Easter Wings

Others of the 100 poems were new to me. I particularly liked Herbert’s version of the 23rd psalm which begins, “The God of love my shepherd is/And he that doth me feed:/While he is mine and I am his,/What can I want or need?”

Herbert is one of the so-called “metaphysical poets”, along with John Donne and Henry Vaughan. I find all three of these Christian metaphysical poets both bracing and comforting. C.S. Lewis named the poetry of George Herbert as one of the ten works that most influenced his philosophy of life. Richard Baxter, the famous Puritan thinker, said, “Herbert speaks to God like one that really believeth in God, and whose business in the world is most with God. Heart-work and heaven-work make up his books.” If you’re ready for some heart-work and/or heaven-work, I recommend the poetry of George Herbert. Prescription for a weary soul: Read aloud one poem each morning and meditate on it. Repeat each evening before bed.

Old Books by Margaret Widdemer

April is Poetry Month. Let’s celebrate by talking about poems.

Margaret Widdemer won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919 for her poetry collection The Old Road to Paradise. She shared her prize with Carl Sandburg for Cornhuskers. Nowadays, Sandburg is known and remembered; Widdemer is forgotten. Ms. Widdemer also wrote novels, and her memoir Golden Friends I Had recounts her friendships with eminent authors such as Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, Thornton Wilder, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

OLD BOOKS by Margaret Widdemer

The people up and down the world that talk and laugh and cry,
They’re pleasant when you’re young and gay, and life is all to try,
But when your heart is tired and dumb, your soul has need of ease,
There’s none like the quiet folk who wait in libraries–
The counselors who never change, the friends who never go,
The old books, the dear books that understand and know!

‘Why, this thing was over, child, and that deed was done,’
They say, ‘When Cleopatra died, two thousand years agone,
And this tale was spun for men and that jest was told
When Sappho was a singing-lass and Greece was very old,
And this thought you hide so close was sung along the wind
The day that young Orlando came a-courting Rosalind!’

The foolish thing that hurt you so your lips could never tell,
Your sister out of Babylon she knows its secret well,
The merriment you could not share with any on the earth
Your brother from King Francis’ court he leans to share your mirth,
For all the ways your feet must fare, the roads your heart must go,
The old books, the dear books, they understand and know!

You read your lover’s hid heart plain beneath some dead lad’s lace,
And in a glass from some Greek tomb you see your own wet face,
For they have stripped from out their souls the thing they could not speak
And strung it to a written song that you might come to seek,
And they have lifted out their hearts when they were beating new
And pinned them on a printed page and given them to you.

The people close behind you, all their hearts are dumb and young,
The kindest word they try to say it stumbles on the tongue,

Their hearts are only questing hearts, and though they strive and try,
Their softest touch may hurt you sore, their best word make you cry.
But still through all the years that come and all the dreams that go
The old books, the dear books, they understand and know!

C.S. Lewis said, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is especially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books…. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us.”

Perhaps the older we get, the more the “old books” recommend themselves to our attention. Of course, the oldest Book of all, the Christian scriptures, Old and New Testaments, is to be trusted most. Ms. Widdemer doesn’t mention the Bible in her poem, but I think even non-Christians could go to the Scriptures and find the kind of comfort and recognition of kindredness that the poem recognizes and enjoins.

What other old books “understand and know” you in a way that new books or your own friends and contemporaries cannot?

Poetry Friday: For Our Children

For Our Children by Amy Carmichael

Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying;
We are praying for our children.

Keep them from the powers of evil,
From the secret, hidden peril;
Father, hear us for our children.

From the whirlpool that would suck them,
From the treacherous quicksand, pluck them;
Father, hear us for our children.

From the worldling’s hollow gladness,
From the sting of faithless sadness,
Father, Father, keep our children.

Through life’s troubled waters steer them;
Through life’s bitter battle cheer them;
Father, Father, be Thou near them.

Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging,
Holy Father, for our children.

And wherever they may bide,
Lead them home at eventide.

Poetry Friday: Goblin Feet by JRR Tolkien

I am off down the road
Where the fairy lanterns glowed
And the little pretty flitter-mice are flying
A slender band of gray
It runs creepily away
And the hedges and the grasses are a-sighing.
The air is full of wings,
And of blundery beetle-things
That warn you with their whirring and their humming.
O! I hear the tiny horns
Of enchanted leprechauns
And the padded feet of many gnomes a-coming!
O! the lights! O! the gleams! O! the little twinkly sounds!
O! the rustle of their noiseless little robes!
O! the echo of their feet – of their happy little feet!
O! the swinging lamps in the starlit globes.

I must follow in their train
Down the crooked fairy lane
Where the coney-rabbits long ago have gone.
And where silvery they sing
In a moving moonlit ring
All a twinkle with the jewels they have on.
They are fading round the turn
Where the glow worms palely burn
And the echo of their padding feet is dying!
O! it’s knocking at my heart-

Let me go! let me start!
For the little magic hours are all a-flying.

O! the warmth! O! the hum! O! the colors in the dark!
O! the gauzy wings of golden honey-flies!
O! the music of their feet – of their dancing goblin feet!
O! the magic! O! the sorrow when it dies.

Tolkien himself said of this poem: “I wish the unhappy little thing, representing all that I came (so soon after) to fervently dislike, could be buried for ever.” However, I beg to differ, and I rather like the sweet, then melancholy, feel to this verse. I suppose Tolkien came to see and wanted to portray elves and goblins and faery-creatures differently, more seriously and nobly, after he wrote this poem and before he wrote The Hobbit and LOTR. But I think there’s room in the world for both visions. And I like the bittersweetness of “magic hours all a-flying” and “the sorrow when it dies.”

Weight of a Flame by Simonetta Carr

Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata by Simonetta Carr.

I received this book, from the author, for possible review a long time ago, started reading it, and then misplaced it. Then there was the fire, and I thought it had been lost. Then, I found it!

It is the somewhat fictionalized, but historically accurate, story of a 16th century Italian Reformation scholar and poet, Olympia Morata. The book is one of the series, Chosen Daughters, published by P & R (Presbyterian and Reformed) Publishing, whose mission is “to serve Christ and his church by producing clear, engaging, fresh, and insightful applications of Reformed theology to life.”

Weight of a Flame does serve that purpose with the story of an unusual Christian woman. I particularly liked this description of Olympia’s mother, Lucrezia: “Quiet and reserved by nature, she had learned the power of silence, leaving all matters to God.” I am trying to learn that lesson myself, but I don’t find it easy to “leave all matters to God” and remain silent in situations when I know that I should keep quiet. I sometimes have a tendency to rush in where angels fear to tread.

Olympia Morata was a classical scholar in an era when women often did not even learn to read. She was a Protestant Calvinist Christian in a largely Catholic country, Italy. She wrote poetry, essays, and letters in Greek and in Latin and translated many of the Psalms into metered poetic settings which her husband then put to music.

Some of Olympia Morata’s poetry (translated from the Greek that they were originally written in):

I, a woman, have dropped the symbols of my sex,
Yarn, shuttle, basket, thread.
I love but the flowered Parnassus with the choirs of joy.
Other women seek after what they choose.
These only are my pride and delight.
(Translator: Roland Bainton)

PSALM 23
The King of great Olympus and the bountiful earth,
He shepherds me. What shall I desire? For in a soft meadow
He lays me down, where beautiful living water flows
to refresh me whenever toil overwhelms me.
He himself leads me in righteousness to straight paths
for the sake of his own great compassion and mercy.
If through the dark glooms of monstrous Hades I go,
all the same my mind and heart shall be unmoved,
for always have you been an aid to
Your rod and staff help me when I fall.
A most beautifully prepared table you set before me,
a great strength empowering me, if I am overcome
with hostile hands in fierce battle.
You anoint my head richly with oil, and the cup
you give me overflows with honey-sweet wine.
Always is your heart merciful to me, in order that all the days
I might dwell within your high-vaulted, great and beautiful house.
(Translator: Chris Stevens, Westminster Seminary)

WEDDING PRAYER
Wide-ruling Lord, highest ruling of all,
Who has fashioned both male and female.
To the first man you gave a wife,
So that mankind would not fade away.
And the souls of mortals should be a bride to your Son,
And he should gladly die for the sake of his wife,
You give a united heart of happiness to husband and wife,
For the ordinance, the marriage couch, and the weddings are yours.
(Translator: Chris Stevens, Westminster Seminary)

The last poem seems particularly apropos for 2015. I would that its sentiments and assumptions were as uncontroversial now as they were in the 16th century.

Happy Birthday, HWL

“The student has his Rome, his Florence, his whole glowing Italy, within the four walls of his library. He has in his books the ruins of an antique world and the glories of a modern one.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

American Authors of the 19th Century - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, b. 1807.

It Is Not Always May:
“Maiden, that read’st this simple rhyme,
Enjoy thy youth, it will not stay ;
Enjoy the fragrance of thy prime,
For O ! it is not always May !”

Paul Revere’s Ride:
“In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

Evangeline, A Tale of Arcadie:
“Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers.
Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the way-side,
Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses!”

Travels by the Fireside:
“Let others traverse sea and land,
And toil through various climes,
I turn the world round with my hand
Reading these poets’ rhymes.”

The Children’s Hour:
“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.”
*Why is it that the Children’s Hour lasts all evening at my house?

Excelsior:
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell like a falling star,
Excelsior!

The Wreck of the Hesperus:
He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere:
“So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm, —
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!”

What The Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist:
“Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
and things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art; to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.”

A little inspiration from from Mr. Longfellow.

Poetry Friday and 5 Things

Five Things that Made Me Smile Today:
1. Z-baby, apropos of nothing: “You know, when I was little I used to get the large intestine and the small intestine mixed up with the Old Testament and the New Testament.”

2. Psalm 29: The Psalm of Seven Thunders. A Psalm of David
(My contribution to Poetry Friday, from the paraphrase version of the Bible, The Message)

Bravo, God, bravo!
Gods and all angels shout, “Encore!”
In awe before the glory,
in awe before God’s visible power.
Stand at attention!
Dress your best to honor him!
Thunderstorm over Chesapeake Bay from Flickr via Wylio

© 2005 802, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio


God thunders across the waters,
Brilliant, his voice and his face, streaming brightness—
God, across the flood waters.
God’s thunder tympanic,
God’s thunder symphonic.
God’s thunder smashes cedars,
God topples the northern cedars.
The mountain ranges skip like spring colts,
The high ridges jump like wild kid goats.
God’s thunder spits fire.
God thunders, the wilderness quakes;
He makes the desert of Kadesh shake.
God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing
A wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.
We fall to our knees—we call out, “Glory!”

Above the floodwaters is God’s throne
from which his power flows,
from which he rules the world.
God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace.

3. Making a list of upcoming and recent middle grade fiction and nonfiction to read for a project I’m working on. Any outstanding suggestions for middle grade books published between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015?

4. Thinking about making valentines to send to people we love.

5. Giving and receiving a hug with my grownup Artiste Daughter.

And what made you smile today?

Poetry Friday: October’s Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt Jackson

Novelist, poet, and activist Helen Hunt Jackson was born October 15, 1830. She wrote a nonfiction book titled A Century of Dishonor in which she exposed government mistreatment of the Native American peoples. “Jackson sent a copy to every member of Congress with a quote from Benjamin Franklin printed in red on the cover: ‘Look upon your hands: they are stained with the blood of your relations.'” (Wikipedia, Helen Hunt Jackson) She also wrote a novel, Ramona, in which she endeavored to dramatize the plight of Native Americans in the same manner as her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe had done for black slaves in her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Ms. Jackson’s poetry was much more light-hearted and celebratory than her prose.

O suns and skies and clouds of June,
And flowers of June together,
Ye cannot rival for one hour
October’s bright blue weather;

When loud the bumblebee makes haste,
Belated, thriftless vagrant,
And goldenrod is dying fast,
And lanes with grapes are fragrant;

When gentians roll their fingers tight
To save them for the morning,
And chestnuts fall from satin burrs
Without a sound of warning;

When on the ground red apples lie
In piles like jewels shining,
And redder still on old stone walls
Are leaves of woodbine twining;

When all the lovely wayside things
Their white-winged seeds are sowing,
And in the fields still green and fair,
Late aftermaths are growing;

When springs run low, and on the brooks,
In idle golden freighting,
Bright leaves sink noiseless in the hush
Of woods, for winter waiting;

When comrades seek sweet country haunts,
By twos and twos together,
And count like misers, hour by hour,
October’s bright blue weather.

O sun and skies and flowers of June,
Count all your boasts together,
Love loveth best of all the year
October’s bright blue weather.

Rejoice in God’s gift of a new October. Count the hours like a miser, and enjoy the bright blue weather in pairs or alone. That’s my plan.

Poetry Friday Is On! at the Miss Rumphius Effect.

Poetry Friday: September by Helen Hunt Jackson

September by Helen Hunt Jackson 1830-1885


The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.


By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

‘Tis a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

I am beyond fond of September–and October and November. Several special days and celebrations in September make it a significant month for our family: three birthdays, Hobbit Day, the beginning of autumn, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and National Punctuation Day. I do hope you’ve had a lovely September, with a day or a few days that you can never forget because you’ve made such thrilling memories with the ones you love.

Our hostess for today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids.