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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Seeking Solace in Old Poetry

August 17, 2017

Tags: Words or phrases to categorize this post for the tags section


Greetings, Friends. I had another idea brewing for today, but this week…

In times of trouble I often take comfort in words left behind by others, even centuries ago.
I dove into my studio stash of vintage poetry books, and thought I might find something in one for children – so I thumbed through THE YOUNG FOLKS’ SHELF OF BOOKS, THE JUNIOR CLASSICS 10 – Poetry, Reading Guide, Indexes, part of The Junior Classics Series by Collier.

It was published in 1938, the year my mother was born, and features everything from riddles and nursery rhymes to Shakespeare.

1938 – the year of Kristallnacht, “Night of Broken Glass.”

I was born in 1963 – the year a bomb ripped through 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four precious girls.

I suppose this past week has reminded me that we can’t just rest, settle, and assume the worst of all that is behind us in this country (or any country). In the mid-1980s, my husband and I, as a young married couple, joined most of a small town in North Carolina in a street-lined protest of marching KKK members. At first those marching thought the crowds had turned out to support them, but then their faces changed as they realized we were all standing calmly, singing I think?, to counter their message of hate that day. I wouldn’t have dreamed then that the headlines would be what they are today, late in the second decade of the 21st Century.

This poem by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) though likely about the journey of life and a spiritual journey particularly, spoke to me somehow in the midst of these heavy days.


UP-HILL

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
      Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
      From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
      A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
      You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
      Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
      They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
      Of labor you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
      Yea, beds for all who come.




I was heartened this week, when on a rare check of my Facebook feed, I saw two posts show up by friends who are also kidlit people, both in Georgia. The posts were back to back, and strangely both were about small acts of civility and warmth in grocery stores. The folks involved were black, Hispanic, white… looking out for the needs of others – strangers – and offering a cup of kindness.

This next poem reminded me of staying grounded in the midst of chaos. Four hundred years have passed since it was written, but the words still ring fresh to me. This one is by Thomas Campion (1567-1620).



INTEGER VITAE

The man of life
     Whose guiltless heart is free
From all dishonest deeds,
      Or thought of vanity;

The man whose silent days
      In harmless joys are spent,
Whom hopes cannot delude,
      Nor sorrow discontent;

That man needs neither towers
      Nor armor for defense,
Nor secret vaults to fly
      From thunder’s violence;

He only can behold
      With unaffrighted eyes
The horrors of the deep
      And terrors of the skies;

Thus, scorning all the cares
      That fate or fortune brings,
He makes the heaven his book,
      His wisdom heavenly things;

Good thoughts his only friends,
      His wealth a well-spent age,
The earth his sober inn
      And quiet pilgrimage.



Note: I didn't really absorb the similar "inn" symbolism in both poems until posting them here... I'll ponder and sleep on that.

{ Prayers for all who are oppressed or grieving this day, and prayers for peaceful days ahead. }

Many thanks to Kay at A Journey Through the Pages for Rounding Up today - her first time hosting! She, and I’m guessing many of us, are all on a similar path this week, seeking the solace and light of poetry.

Comments

  1. August 18, 2017 12:09 PM EDT
    Yes, many solace and light seekers this week. "Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? Those who have gone before." Interesting we should both look to old poetic treasures this week, and Christina Rossetti, as well! Peace! -- Christie @ https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/
    - Christie Wyman
  2. August 18, 2017 1:41 PM EDT
    Thanks for sharing these, Robyn. It's interesting how these poems speak to the reader in the light (or darkness) of recent events. Your cup of kindness always comes through.
    - Buffy Silverman
  3. August 18, 2017 2:30 PM EDT
    Thanks for coming by, Christie - and I loved reading all the selections you shared for today, too! Happy New School Year.

    Hi, Buffy - I guess that's the magic of poetry - neither one of these were written about the particular challenges I was wrestling with, and yet they both spoke to that part of my soul, hundreds of years later.
    [LOVE your post today, BTW!]
    - Robyn Black
  4. August 18, 2017 3:21 PM EDT
    Poetry is timeless. I was reading a poem about kindness written by a relative who recently passed. It seems like something that she may have written when she was young, but the message is still very relevant. Hope you and your boot are getting along. I'd like to break up with mine. : )
    - Linda
  5. August 18, 2017 3:52 PM EDT
    Beds for all who come! Yes, that, Robyn. You remind me that "The Welcome Table" has been going through my head this week ("All God's children gonna sit together, one of these days, one of these days"). xo
    - Tabatha
  6. August 18, 2017 4:12 PM EDT
    Ah, Robyn, I'm just getting home from work and turning on the computer to catch up with poetry friday....and these poems are indeed comforting. Thank you so much. What a week, huh? Hugs to you and yours.
    - Linda Mitchell
  7. August 18, 2017 7:14 PM EDT
    Robyn, thank you for sharing the poems that offered some comfort this week--and the stories about strangers offering cups of kindness. I hope and pray that many such lights of kindness will shine through these dark days.
    - Kay Jernigan McGriff
  8. August 18, 2017 11:26 PM EDT
    Hi, Linda - what a special story. Thank you for coming by and sharing. And, I KNOW re. these silly boots - argh! But one step at a time. Wishing you continued healing!

    Oh, Tabatha, what a lovely thing to share. One of these days. And, until then, we keep climbing the hill.... XO

    Hugs right back, Linda! Glad you enjoyed these, too. Hope you find some peaceful moments this weekend!

    Kay, thanks for coming by, and for shining your lovely light. Yes to those hopes; yes to those prayers.
    - Robyn Black
  9. August 19, 2017 12:08 AM EDT
    I do love all the nourishing words that people are posting this week. Thank you for these, Robyn!
    - Violet N.
  10. August 19, 2017 8:08 AM EDT
    Thank you for both of these poems. I, too, noticed the inns immediately and wondered about that symbolism, that connotation behind the denotation. (That will be a great word study for my 5th graders!)
    - Mary Lee Hahn
  11. August 19, 2017 12:48 PM EDT
    Hi, Violet - thanks for coming by! Always makes me smile to see your name and think of your kind spirit so many miles away.

    Mary Lee - your wonderful teacher's mind is always "on" - along with those sharp poetics sensibilities. Thanks for popping in.
    - Robyn Black
  12. August 19, 2017 1:26 PM EDT
    Alas, as a student of history I have learned that progress is less linear and more wavy and curvy with plenty of backs and forths and twists and turns. The road to a better world is never a clear or easy one, but it is the only path worth taking. I always remember the old saying that two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward, and it cheers me when the world seems to be falling apart.
    - Jane the Raincity Librarian
  13. August 19, 2017 2:24 PM EDT
    Jane - thanks for that solid reminder, which I'll borrow for my impatience with my healing Achilles injury as well as for our current cultural climate! ;0)
    Hope you have a lovely weekend.
    - Robyn Hood Black
  14. August 19, 2017 6:14 PM EDT
    Our journeys are often winding back over themselves, but if we can somehow navigate towards the road less traveled perhaps we will pick up more travelers along the rough terrain. Thanks for both of these moving, reflective poems Robyn, and for sharing some of your own journey. Enjoy the package!
    - Michelle Kogan
  15. August 20, 2017 8:45 AM EDT
    Robyn, it is right to pass a cup of kindness during these times. Your poems are ones that offer a pause for us to reflect upon. Thanks for sharing.
    - Carol Varsalona
  16. August 20, 2017 9:59 AM EDT
    Thanks so much, Michelle - & I'm saving your package to open this afternoon after church, when I can properly savor! (I was out all day yesterday.)

    Hi, Carol - thanks for bringing your generous spirit by. I need to go catch up on the beauty you always offer the world!

    - Robyn Black
  17. August 20, 2017 1:47 PM EDT
    Thanks for this post! Words from the past do bring comfort.
    - Ruth (thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com)
  18. August 20, 2017 6:20 PM EDT
    Hi, Ruth - thanks for dropping by. Wishing you and yours a happy new school year, with good things to write about in the present.
    - Robyn Black
  19. August 20, 2017 8:48 PM EDT
    Appreciations for these two poems of calm and reason.
    I didn't know about your North Carolina march counter-lineup but it doesn't surprise me knowing how kind & compassionate you are, nor does it surprise this jaded journalist that the early 60s prompted that sort of hate parade. What also isn't a surprise is that acts of kindness shine every day somewhere, without end. It helps so much to be reminded of that. Peace & love.
    - Bookseedsutido/Jan
  20. August 20, 2017 9:12 PM EDT
    Thanks for bringing your kindness over here, Jan! Good point - those Mother-Teresa-described "small acts" Ruth mentioned this week are what keep the world turning. XO
    - Robyn Black
  21. August 21, 2017 4:36 PM EDT
    Thanks for sharing these, Robyn. I'm a great fan of Christina Rossetti. Campion is new to me. Interesting about the "inn" connection between the two poems.
    - Carmela Martino
  22. August 21, 2017 7:05 PM EDT
    Thank you, Robyn, for both of these poems and for your loving spirit. The road is indeed uphill, and so many are weary. "beds for all who come" is beautiful.
    - Joyce Ray
  23. August 21, 2017 8:32 PM EDT
    I love Rossetti, too, Carmela - thanks for coming over!

    Thank you, Joyce - such a lovely comment. (That particular line is so welcoming, isn't it? And I love the rhythm of it.)
    - Robyn Black
  24. August 23, 2017 10:35 AM EDT
    We humans are always replaying our mistakes, down through the generations. Older poetry often seems apt for that reason. If only we could learn from our mistakes, but each generation has to learn them anew.
    - Brenda

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