Pleasure From Such Little Effort

old booksflat,550x550,075,fGladly I can point my finger at my high school English teacher for awakening my awareness to Victorian poetry. What began when I was fifteen has grown to become a treasured appreciation. I find solace in words as they dance off my tongue when I read evenly metered rhyming poems aloud (or mentally to myself); so much pleasure from such  little effort.

If love were what the rose is,
And I were like the leaf,
Our lives would grow together
In sad or singing weather,
Blown fields or flowerful closes,
Green pleasure or gray grief;
If love were what the rose is,
And I were like the leaf.

If I were what the words are,
And love were like the tune,
With double sound and single
Delight our lips would mingle,
With kisses glad as birds are
That get sweet rain at noon;
If I were what the words are,
And love were like the tune.

If you were life, my darling,
And I your love were death,
We’d shine and snow together
Ere March made sweet the weather
With daffodil and starling
And hours of fruitful breath;
If you were life, my darling,
And I your love were death.

If you were thrall to sorrow,
And I were page to joy,
We’d play for lives and seasons
With loving looks and treasons
And tears of night and morrow
And laughs of maid and boy;
If you were thrall to sorrow,
And I were page to joy.

If you were April’s lady,
And I were lord in May,
We’d throw with leaves for hours
And draw for days with flowers,
Till day like night were shady
And night were bright like day;
If you were April’s lady,
And I were lord in May.

If you were queen of pleasure,
And I were king of pain,
We’d hunt down love together,
Pluck out his flying-feather,
And teach his feet a measure,
And find his mouth a rein;
If you were queen of pleasure,
And I were king of pain.
A Match by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)

My high school English teacher was Miss Upchurch, who I have written about before – Her personal unrequited love story combined with what she taught created a permanent place in my mind and heart. I am grateful to have known her and for the love of poetry she caused to begin in me.

A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same
once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change
the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge
of himself and the world around him.
Dylan Thomas

Stuck Like Song Lyrics

It’s autumn’s first cool night,
And a chill rides upon the air;
The sort that wakens memories
Some sweet; Some old; some fair.
So come; come one, come all
And sit by the fire with me,
And listen closely with your heart
To Poe’s sad story of “Annabel Lee”.
James Browning

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.
Edgar Allan Poe

Stopping by a chain bookstore today I spent time browsing some editions of literature they carry that are beautifully and ornately hard-bound. One particularly striking book I purchased as an early start of my Christmas shopping (for my son). Another striking book I picked up, thumbed through and laid down. I picked it back up and laid it down three times. Each time “The Works of Edgar Allen Poe” opened to “Annabel Lee”. On the first two glances I read just a little, then thumbed to other pages. The third time I stopped and read the poem all the way through once then twice.

I am grateful his “ode to love” touches me as it does and makes my heart soar. A sad story for sure, but the bitter-sweet kind in just the correct measure to make one feel delight in its telling. Hours have passed but Poe’s words still sing in my head, stuck like song lyrics there.

Every heart sings a song, incomplete,
until another heart whispers back.
Those who wish to sing always find a song.
At the touch of a lover, everyone becomes a poet.

Your’s Is the Earth and Everything In It

John Keats wrote, Poetry should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.  So it is for me with the poem below.  Many years have passed since encountering the Kipling poem below.  Last time reading it I was still a young man. The meaning falls upon me with greater weight and deeper meaning now being near the end of my 5th decade and have a son dear to me. For my boy, who is now a man near thirty, I hope all of Kipling’s thoughts will ring true.  This entry is dedicated to my son.  

“If” by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

One of the most difficult yet wonderful gifts of my growth in recent years is the ability to feel deeply and openly. It seems every ounce of emotion and sentiment lies just a millimeter below my skin waiting to be brushed up against and set free. While weighty to bear sometimes, I am so very grateful for this heightened ability to feel that makes me more alive than ever before.

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
Robert Frost

 At the link below you can hear Kipling’s poem above read in a distinctive “British accent” as is appropriate since the poet was English.