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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - The Kindness of Strangers (& a Bit of Robert Browning)


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  May is well upon us.  In my corner, our flowers are blooming, the trees are leafy and full, and the first brood of baby bluebirds has fledged. And, storms have been rolling through.  [We've been fortunate; prayers for those who have lost so much this week.]


Are you familiar with those NPR/Public Radio "driveway moments?" You know, when you become entranced by a story and even though you've parked your car, you leave it running to listen until the end? Recently I had that experience with an episode of the "My Unsung Hero" series.  It has stuck with me. It was about the life-saving power of a very simple kindness - just a smile - extended by a stranger. Here's the link to the 3-minute recording, or you can quickly read the text. 


In looking for some poetic May morsels to share, I turned to my oft-mentioned copy of THE ILLUMINATED BOOK OF DAYS edited by Kay & Marshall Lee with illustrations by Kate Greenaway and Eugene Grasset (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1979.) There I stumbled onto the fact that May 7 was Robert Browning's birthday.  May 7 is also the birthday of our wonderful son-in-law, Matt! :0)


(Hang with me.  This all relates.) A romp through THE COLUMBIA GRANGER'S DICTIONARY OF POETRY QUOTATIONS (Columbia University Press, 1992) for a few inspirational Browning lines found me reading some familiar ones - but I must confess, I never knew the origin of the ones below!  They are from Pippa Passes, a four-part verse drama published in 1841. Here's the brief Encyclopedia Brittanica description: 


On New Year's morning, her only holiday for the entire year, Pippa, an impoverished young silk-winder, sings as she wanders aimlessly. In each section of the poem, people who are at critical points in their lives make significant and far-reaching decisions when they hear Pippa sing as she passes by.


Here's the excerpt from Robert Browning (1812-1889, British):


The year's at the spring,

And day's at the morn;

Morning's at seven;

The hillside's dew-pearled;

The lark's on the wing;

The snail's on the thorn:

God's in His Heaven --

All's right with the world!


I know it certainly doesn't feel like all's right with the world these days. 


I've just turned in some yearly freelance writing I do for a character education program, Core Essentials, and part of my contribution is choosing and writing about an animal to pair with each month's value.  For one of next spring's months, I picked the bluebird - a symbol of happiness but also of hope.  Last year, our pair of bluebirds built a nest, but babies never hatched.  (Perhaps a snake or some other mishap.) This year, I never actually saw the babies - but I heard their hearty high-pitched cries from the little nest box when I was outside.  Mom and Dad worked so hard feeding them, day after day after day.  I was afraid they might flege when I was out of town attending an SCBWI conference in Birmingham weekend before last, and evidently they did.  


I still think of them each time I take the dog out. Though I never laid eyes on them and the birdhouse is quiet now, I hope the young ones are making their way in the world to build their own nests some day.


Wishing you grace to receive a smile (or bluebird song) if you need one this week; appreciation if you're able to share with someone who does. 


Our gracious and mulit-talented Linda at A Word Edgewise has today's Roundup. She's sharing a fun tradition that makes poetic lemonade out of lemons!

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Poetry Friday - A Couple of Browning Lines & 35th Anniversary


Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be


Pretty sure my husband wooed me with that Browning couplet a time or two back in the day.  On Saturday, we celebrate our 35th anniversary! (We were babes of 21 when we got married.  My mother made my dress from scratch, with 2,000 seed pearls and no time to spare.  Seriously, a half hour before the ceremony, I was wearing a tee shirt and gym shorts. I come by my life-on-the-edge habits honestly.)


These are the opening lines to a long poem titled "Rabbi Ben Ezra."  Here's the first stanza:



Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!''



You can read the whole poem here


It's not a romantic poem, actually, but a poem told in the voice of a 12th century rabbi and scholar, about being molded throughout life by the hand of the divine Potter.  And it's a good read if you have a few decades under the soles of your shoes!


It was published in Browning's Dramatis Personae in 1864.  My old Norton Anthology of English Literature from college notes, "The speaker, Abraham Ibn Ezra (ca. 1092-1167), was an eminent Biblical scholar of Spain, but Browining makes little attempt to present him as a distinct individual or to relate him to the age in which he lived. Unlike the more characteristic monologues, Rabbi Ben Ezra is not dramatic but declamatory."


A little heady, no?  For a more breezy poetic welcome to summer, visit our wonderful Linda at A Word Edgewise for this week's Roundup!  Clunkers welcome... you'll see.  ;0)  (I'm a little late to the party this Friday; our internet was down all Thursday night. I will be away from the computer most of the weekend but look forward to catching up in snatches.)



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