Link to Hypothes.is Group Poetry & Poetics SP 2020
For a list of nineteenth-century American poets (over 200) go to the 19th Century American Poets Page
Sunday, 12 May 1833
The clouds are marshalling across the sky,
Leaving their deepest tints upon yon range
Of soul-alluring hills. The breeze comes softly,
Laden with tribute that a hundred orchards
Now in their fullest blossom send, in thanks
For this refreshing shower. The birds pour forth
In heightened melody the notes of praise
They had suspended while God’s voice was speaking,
And his eye flashing down upon his world.
I sigh, half-charmed, half-pained. My sense is living,
And, taking in this freshened beauty, tells
Its pleasure to the mind. The mind replies,
And strives to wake the heart in turn, repeating
Poetic sentiments from many a record
Which other souls have left, when stirred and satisfied
By scenes as fair, as fragrant. But the heart
Sends back a hollow echo to the call
Of outward things, — and its once bright companion,
Who erst would have been answered by a stream
Of life-fraught treasures, thankful to be summoned, —
Can now rouse nothing better than this echo;
Unmeaning voice, which mocks their softened accents.
Content thee, beautiful world! and hush, still busy mind!
My heart hath sealed its fountains. To the things
Of Time they shall be oped no more. Too long,
Too often were they poured forth: part have sunk
Into the desert; part profaned and swollen
By bitter waters, mixed by those who feigned
They asked them for refreshment, which, turned back,
Have broken and o’erflowed their former urns.
So when ye talk of pleasure, lonely world,
And busy mind, ye ne’er again shall move me
To answer ye, though still your calls have power
To jar me through, and cause dull aching here.
No so the voice which hailed me from the depths
Of yon dark-bosomed cloud, now vanishing
Before the sun ye greet. It touched my centre,
The voice of the Eternal, calling me
To feel his other worlds; to feel that if
I could deserve a home, I still might find it
In other spheres, — and bade me not despair,
Though ‘want of harmony’ and ‘aching void’
Are terms invented by the men of this,
Which I may not forget.
In former times
I loved to see the lightnings flash athwart
The stooping heavens; I loved to hear the thunder
Call to the seas and mountains; for I thought
‘Tis thus man’s flashing fancy doth enkidle
The firmament of mind; ‘tis thus his eloquence
Calls unto the soul’s depths and heights; and still
I defied the creature, nor remembered
The Creator in his works.
Ah now how different!
The proud delight of that keen sympathy
Is gone; no longer riding on the wave,
But whelmed beneath it: my own plans and works,
Or, as the Scriptures phrase it, my ’inventions’
No longer interpose ‘twist me and Heaven.
Today, for the first time, I felt the Deity,
And uttered prayer on hearing thunder. This
Must be thy will, — for finer, higher spirits
Have gone through this same process, — yet I think
There was religion in that strong delight,
Those sounds, those thoughts of power imparted. True,
I did not say, ‘He is the Lord thy God,’
But I had feeling of his essence. But
‘’Twas pride by which the angels fell.’ So be it!
But O, might I but see a little onward!
Father, I cannot be a spirit of power;
May I be active as a spirit of love,
Since thou hast ta’en me from that path which Nature
Seemed to appoint, O, deign to ope another,
Where I may walk with thought and hope assured;
‘Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!’
Had I but faith like that which fired Novalis,
I too could bear that the heart ‘fall in ashes,’
While the freed spirit rises from beneath them,
With heavenward-look, and Phoenix-plumes upsoaring!
Margaret Fuller, from She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. University of Iowa Press, 1997.
Death of an Infant
Death found strange beauty on that cherub brow,
And dash’d it out. – There was a tint of rose
O’er cheek and lip; – he touch’d the veins with ice,
And the rose faded. – Forth from those blue eyes
There spake a wistful tenderness, – a doubt
Whether to grieve or sleep, which Innocence
Alone can wear. – With ruthless haste he bound
The silken fringes of their curtaining lids
Forever. – There had been a murmuring sound
With which the babe would claim its mother’s ear,
Charming her even to tears. – The spoiler set
His seal of silence. – But there beam’d a smile,
So fix’d and holy from that marble brow, –
Death gazed and left it there; – he dared not steal
The signet-ring of Heaven.
Lydia Huntley Sigourney, from She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century. University of Iowa Press, 1997.
Thy mission is accomplished— painter— sage,
Look to thy crown of glory— for thy brow
Is circled with its radiant halo now.
No more earth’s turmoil will thy soul engage,
Its hopes unquiet, littleness, or rage.
With thine own voyager thou hast heard the sound
Of that vast ocean, waveless, rayless, dread,
Where time’s perpetual tribute, circling round,
Drops silent in, all passionless and dead.
When thine own voyage is o’er, and thou shalt near
The eternal wave, thus, thus above thy head
May opening glories shield thy heart from fear;
A child again, but strong in faith and prayer,
Thou shalt look meekly up-behold thy God is there!
Across the narrow beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I,
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
The scattered driftwood bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit, —
One little sandpiper and I.
Above our heads the sullen clouds
Scud black and swift across the sky;
Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
Stand out the white lighthouses high.
Almost as far as eye can reach
I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
As fast we flit along the beach, —
One little sandpiper and I.
I watch him as he skims along,
Uttering his sweet and mournful cry.
He starts not at my fitful song,
Or flash of fluttering drapery.
He has no thought of any wrong;
He scans me with a fearless eye.
Stanch friends are we, well tried and strong,
The little sandpiper and I.
Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night
When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
The tempest rushes through the sky:
For are we not God’s children both,
Thou, little sandpiper, and I?
The Eyes of my Regret
Always at dusk, the same tearless experience,
The same dragging of feet up the same well-worn path
To the same well-worn rock;
The same crimson or gold dropping away of the sun
The same tints, – rose, saffron, violet, lavender, grey
Meeting, mingling, mixing mistily;
Before me the same blue black cedar rising jaggedly to
Over it, the same slow unlidding of twin stars,
Two eyes, unfathomable, soul-searing,
Watching, watching, watching me;
The same two eyes that draw me forth, against my will
dusk after dusk;
The same two eyes that keep me sitting late into the
night, chin on knees
Keep me there lonely, rigid, tearless, numbly
The eyes of my Regret.
Learning to Read
Very soon the Yankee teachers
Came down and set up school;
But, oh! how the Rebs did hate it,—
It was agin’ their rule.
Our masters always tried to hide
Book learning from our eyes;
Knowledge did’nt agree with slavery—
’Twould make us all too wise.
But some of us would try to steal
A little from the book.
And put the words together,
And learn by hook or crook.
I remember Uncle Caldwell,
Who took pot liquor fat
And greased the pages of his book,
And hid it in his hat.
And had his master ever seen
The leaves upon his head,
He’d have thought them greasy papers,
But nothing to be read.
And there was Mr. Turner’s Ben,
Who heard the children spell,
And picked the words right up by heart,
And learned to read ’em well.
Well, the Northern folks kept sending
The Yankee teachers down;
And they stood right up and helped us,
Though Rebs did sneer and frown.
And I longed to read my Bible,
For precious words it said;
But when I begun to learn it,
Folks just shook their heads,
And said there is no use trying,
Oh! Chloe, you’re too late;
But as I was rising sixty,
I had no time to wait.
So I got a pair of glasses,
And straight to work I went,
And never stopped till I could read
The hymns and Testament.
Then I got a little cabin
A place to call my own—
And I felt independent
As the queen upon her throne.
Ships that Pass in the Night
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;
I look far out into the pregnant night,
Where I can hear a solemn booming gun
And catch the gleaming of a random light,
That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.
My tearful eyes my soul’s deep hurt are glassing;
For I would hail and check that ship of ships.
I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,
My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,
And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.
O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,
O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!
Is there no hope for me? Is there no way
That I may sight and check that speeding bark
Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?
Michael on Walt Whitman, On the Beach at Night
Ashes denote that Fire was —
Revere the Grayest Pile
For the Departed Creature’s sake
That hovered there awhile —
Fire exists the first in light
And then consolidates
Only the Chemist can disclose
Into what Carbonates.
He preached upon “Breadth” till it argued him narrow —
The Broad are too broad to define
And of “Truth” until it proclaimed him a Liar —
The Truth never flaunted a Sign —
Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence
As Gold the Pyrites would shun —
What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
To meet so enabled a Man!
(See Camille Dungy, Tell it Slant: How to Write a Wise Poem)
Editions of Poems at the Emily Dickinson Archive
Example 1 Alyssa
When the summer fields are mown,
When the birds are fledged and flown,
And the dry leaves strew the path;
With the falling of the snow,
With the cawing of the crow,
Once again the fields we mow
And gather in the aftermath.
Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mixed with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
In the silence and the gloom.
“Aftermath” was found first in the Atlantic Monthly. This poem metaphorically describes a new beginning. Using seasons from winter to summer to portray blossoming and dying to become new. Showing a cycle, bringing the poem full circle. As well as showing leaving certain aspects of life behind through these changes in seasons.
Summer is used to show the beautiful parts of life. Using imagery of greenery and nature giving the reader a sense of happiness and hope. Longfellow focuses on this to bring this part of the poem attentive to the reader. Showing contrast at the beginning of the transition to a more melancholy setting. Which was done smoothly and coherently. Winter was used for the sad parts of the poem. He does this by talking about how summer aspects are being affected by the Winter. Showing the changes in the poem as a whole.
Although this poem was short it was impactful. The length of the poem made the message more prominent. The length of the poem was able to show the sharp changes from season to season as well as the emotion provided along with it. Which shows overall how seasons can be shown through emotion.
Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life KSC/Main Collection PS2281 .C25 2004
John Hollander, Richard Wilbur Howard Nemerov, comment on poem. See Dark horses: poets on overlooked poems : an anthology (2007) PR1175 .D2714 2007
Laurence Buell mentions poem in The Environmental Imagination (1995) 109–10
Selected contemporary commentary and reviews
Collections Historical & Archaeological Relating to Montgomeryshire, Volume 7 (1874): page 121
London Quarterly Review (1873–84)
Review of book by William Dean Howells (mentions poem) , “Recent Literature: Aftermath” https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/1873nov/aftermath.htm
Robert. L. Gale, A Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Companion (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2003). Page 1
(The title poem in the 1873 collection Aftermath (Aftermath includes third section of Tales of a Wayside Inn, Longfellow’s three-part narrative poem (Wayside modeled on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, multiple narrators; also blank verse, ballad stnazas, dactylic hexameters, heroic couplet, iambic pentameter, octosyllabic lines, ottava rima.))
Tory “Musings” http://hillsidetreasures.kscopen.org/blog/
Example 2 Harris
The Cross of Snow
In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
A gentle face–the face of one long dead–
Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
Never through martyrdom of fire was led
To its repose; nor can in books be read
The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
And seasons, changeless since the day she died.
The Cross of Snow was published after Henry Longfellow’s death in the biography The Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1866), by the brother of Henry Longfellow, Samuel Longfellow. The Cross of Snow was written eighteen years (1879) after the death of Longfellow’s second wife Frances Appleton (1861). While Frances was working at her desk, her dress caught on fire. Frances suffered from her burns and died the following day. Longfellow was inspired after seeing a picture of a mountain harboring a cross of snow in its crevice.
The Cross of Snow follows the form of a sonnet. In a short fourteen lines, Longfellow gently shifts the poem in three places, breaking the poem up. Lines 1-8, the speaker laments over the death of their loved one (presumable the speaker’s wife). Line 9-12 shift the poem to a ravine in a mountain that harbors snow in the shape of a cross. The last lines, 13,14, ties together the first shift and the second shift with a metaphor, comparing their love for their loved one to the cross in the mountain: “changeless”. Longfellow uses imagery in an interesting when describing the face on the wall. While the reader and the speaker are both aware that there is not an actual face on the wall, Longfellow bring in the tangible halo from the lamp, tying the imaginary and the real.
While the poem was never published in Longfellow’s life, it is one of his most beloved as it examines the grief Longfellow held. The poem is usually interpreted to be the experience of Longfellow, as the poem refers to the loved one being a “martyr of fire.” Longfellow’s wife was brutally burned and died as a result of those burns.
What makes The Cross of Snow interesting is how private the poem is. Longfellow never published the poem himself and therefore kept this poem to himself. This is a poem that comes from a private moment in Longfellow’s life that was not intended for a reader.
Example 3 Jeremy
Torrent of light and river of the air,
Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen
Like gold and silver sands in some ravine
Where mountain streams have left their channels bare!
The Spaniard sees in thee the pathway, where
His patron saint descended in the sheen
Of his celestial armor, on serene
And quiet nights, when all the heavens were fair.
Not this I see, nor yet the ancient fable
Of Phaeton’s wild course, that scorched the skies
Where’er the hoofs of his hot coursers trod;
But the white drift of worlds o’er chasms of sable,
The star-dust that is whirled aloft and flies
From the invisible chariot-wheels of God.
Longfellow’s “The Galaxy” was first published in 1875 through the publication Masquerade of Pandora and Other Poems (A Book of Sonnets). The poem is in sonnet form, as it is composed of fourteen lines, including a couplet, and uses iambic pentameter.
The poet opens the sonnet with a simile comparing a riverbed to the galaxy above. He states, “torrent of light and river of the air, / Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen / Like gold and silver sands in some ravine” (1-3). Longfellow––though in an age of science and reason––uses old tales like that of a Spaniard, who sees his “patron saint descended in the sheen” (6), as a means of describing the galaxy. Here, Longfellow references the patron saint of Spain, Saint James, who was one of the first disciples of Jesus Christ. The poet also uses Greek mythology to describe the constellation of the milky way, saying “the ancient fable / Of Phaeton’s wild course, / that scorched the skies / Where’er the hoofs of his hot coursers” (10-12). Phaethon was the child of a water nymph, Clymene, and the sun god Helios. Phaethon was also referred to as the ‘shining one’ which Longfellow uses to describe the Milky Way’s radiant stars. However, the poet claims he fails to see the patron saint or the ancient myth. Instead, Longfellow claims to see “the white drift of worlds o’er chasms of sable, / The star-dust that is whirled aloft and flies / From the invisible chariot-wheels of God” (12-14).
“The Galaxy” showcases the author’s passion for the galaxy and universe, which was a growing interesting among the people of the era. Longfellow uses the tales of old to describe the unexplainable wonders above.
There is no way you cannot have a poetics
no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher
you do it in the consciousness of making
or not making yr world
—Dianne di Prima, “Rant”
“To ask a poet about poetry is like asking a bird about ornithology.
To ask a critic about poetry is like asking a dog about a hydrant.”
Readers of poetry are interested in different things. Some readers are interested in poems. Other readers are interested in poetics, ideas about the making of poems, as well as the discussion that poems generate and the myriad reasons for poems and poetry. One of my interests in exploring how poems come alive for me, and for others, and trying to share that experience with others who may be interested. This is difficult and ongoing work. Among the best ways to share poems is to read them aloud and then to model how to think through (and with) a poem. One hopes that with practice the thinking through (and with) the language of poems becomes a habit.
Below are a selection of statements, by poets and critics, about poems and poetry. Browse the selections to find examples that affirm what you already think about poems or that perhaps opens you up to a new way of thinking about poems and poetry.
“Any poem is an. . .inquiry into the resources of language it makes available to itself.”
“A Poem is a composition written for performance by the human voice.”
—the editors of the Norton anthology of Poetry
“Poetry is language at its most intense.”
—The editors of The Practical Imagination
“Poetry is the kind of thing poets write”
“A poem is a walk.”
“Poetry is anything said or put on paper in such a way as to invite a certain kind of attention.”
“What the poet is called upon to clarify is not answers but the existence and nature of questions; and his likelihood of so clarifying them for others is made possible only by dialogue with himself.”
“Poetry is the way we [the pronoun is gender specific here, “for women poetry is not a luxury. . .it is a vital necessity] help give names to the nameless so it can be thought.”
“Poetry is the skilled and inspired use of language.”
“Poetry is discovery and projection of the self.”
—Richard Wilbur (“It is myself that I remake,” W.B. Yeats)
“Poetry is a kind of saying.”
—Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks
“Poetry is an action that mediates and sustains the self in the world.”
I look for the way
things will turn
out spiralling from a center,
things will take to come forth in
so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:
I look for the forms
things want to come as
from what black wells of possibility,
how a thing will
not the shape on paper—though
that, too—but the
uninterfering means on paper:
not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
from the self not mine but ours.
Domain of One’s Own
- Creating an Integrated Domain
- Learner – Learning Environment – Network
- Building and Sharing
Integrated Domain (multiple courses, other college experiences, personal interests)
Kscopen > Documentation
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