In Honor of Poets and Poetry

I remember certain poems from childhood.

Their rhythms and rhymes soothed me like a lullaby, and I’ve found myself seeking them during troubled times as an adult. The glorious mental images they evoke likewise give me peace.

Through online searches and library books, I located some of my favorites so that I could offer a few samples here.

EagleFlight

While reading Tennyson’s The Eagle, I became that eagle—powerful and free. The poem itself is powerful–and short–with appealing alliteration.

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls. 

Daffodils group

I knew Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud as the title Daffodils, and it cheered me. Here are two excerpts:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. 

and

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

snowtrees

I’d memorized Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, and it came back to me almost in its entirety. But the ending is what always got me. It spoke of responsibilities.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep. 

birdhouse

I found The Builders by Longfellow as an adult but wished I’d read it as a child. We build a better world with honest deeds, no matter how small, and we prepare for the next. Here’s the beginning:

All are architects of Fate,


Working in these walls of Time;


Some with massive deeds and great,


Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;


Each thing in its place is best;


And what seems but idle show


Strengthens and supports the rest. 

I hope children and teens continue to be exposed to the work of these great poets and find comfort in them.

Two books of poetry for young people that I enjoyed lately are Poems to Remember, which inspired my most recent personal blog post, and The Children’s Treasury of Classic Poetry. I’m sure there are many other good ones.

Do you have a favorite poem? How does it speak to you?

cynthia-toney  Cynthia

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5 thoughts on “In Honor of Poets and Poetry

  1. I was never very into poetry though I did enjoy Frost when we read him in college. And I keep a notebook of my favorite little snippets, quotes and a few poems.
    I adore the Iambic tetrameter in the Lay of Leithian (Tolkien). I imitated it for one of my poems in Creative Writing and recall throwing my teacher for a loop. Not sure why it did but it did.
    Thinking about it, I guess I prefer certain alliterations and poems that aren’t too difficult to understand and that I relate to.

    One of my favorites is a snippet in Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald:
    My thoughts are like fire-flies, pulsing in moonlight;
    My heart like a silver cup, full of red wine;
    My soul a pale gleaming horizon, whence soon light
    Will flood the gold earth with a torrent divine.

    And this one by Herbert Edward Parker (which I like because of the message more than anything.)
    To get his goodnight kiss he stood
    Beside my chair one night
    And raised an eager face to me,
    A face with love alight.

    And as I gathered in my arms
    The son God gave to me,
    I thanked the lad for being good,
    And hoped he’d always be.

    His little arms crept ‘round my neck;
    And then I heard him say
    Four simple words I shan’t forget—
    Four words that made me pray.

    They turned a mirror on my soul
    On secrets no one knew.
    They startled me, I hear them yet;
    He said, “I’ll be like you.”

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  2. I didn’t appreciate poetry until I started to teach some famous poems to my fifth grade classes. My all time favorite: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Like you, once I thought of it again, almost all of it came back to me. The last stanza always makes me wistful:

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    My students and I would discuss how our life’s choices take us in certain directions, and we can’t really go back again to exactly where we were before.

    My favorite fun poem is James Whitcomb Riley’s “When the Frost is on the Punkin.” The rhythm just gets you going. It got my fifth-graders going too, especially with “the rooster’s hallylooyer!”

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    • Yes, it was hard to choose which of Robert Frost’s poems to choose for my post. I love The Road Not Taken too. I’ll have to look up James Whitcomb Riley’s When the Frost Is on the Punkin–can’t recall it, although it seems familiar, and I certainly remember his name.

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  3. I’ve always preferred books over poetry. I memorized “Little Orphan Annie” because James Whitcomb Riley was from Indiana and “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” because my family visited Alaska. I wish I knew more poetry. I have a poetry book my grandmother gave me called “Best Loved Poems of the American People”. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” more thought of as a song is another of my favorites.

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