SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO SUMMER POEMS

"England - English Summer Woods" courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t

“England – English Summer Woods” courtesy of Jacopo Werther via Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/1qRZ81t



LILY-BELL AND THISTLEDOWN SONG
By Louisa May Alcott

Awake! Awake! for the earliest gleam 

Of golden sunlight shines 

On the rippling waves, that brightly flow 

Beneath the flowering vines. 

Awake! Awake! for the low, sweet chant 

Of the wild-birds’ morning hymn
Comes floating by on the fragrant air, 

Through the forest cool and dim; 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.

Awake! Awake! for the summer wind 

Hath bidden the blossoms unclose, 

Hath opened the violet’s soft blue eye, 

And awakened the sleeping rose. 

And lightly they wave on their slender stems 

Fragrant, and fresh, and fair, 

Waiting for us, as we singing come 

To gather our honey-dew there. 

Then spread each wing, 

And work, and sing, 

Through the long, bright sunny hours; 

O’er the pleasant earth 

We journey forth, 

For a day among the flowers.


SUMMER RAIN
By Fannie Isabel Sherrick

Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain,
That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain?
And what is so fair as the flowers that lie
All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?

The blue of the heavens is dimmed by the rain
That wears away sorrow and washes out pain;
But we know that the flowers we cherish would die
Were it not for the tears of the cloud-laden sky.

The rose is the sweeter when kissed by the rain,
And hearts are the dearer where sorrow has lain;
The sky is the fairer that rain-clouds have swept,
And no eyes are so bright as the eyes that have wept.

Oh, they are so happy, these flowers that die,
They laugh in the sunshine, oh, why cannot I?
They droop in the shadow, they smile in the sun,
Yet they die in the winter when summer is done.

The lily is lovely, and fragrant her breath,
But the beauty she wears is the emblem of death;
The rain is so fair as it falls on the flowers,
But the clouds are the shadows of sunnier hours.

Why laugh in the sunshine, why smile in the rain?
The world is a shadow and life is a pain;
Why live in the summer, why dream in the sun,
To die in the winter, when summer is done?

Oh, there is the truth that each life underlies,
That baffles the poets and sages so wise;
Ah! there is the bitter that lies in the sweet
As we gather the roses that bloom at our feet.

Oh, flowers forgive me, I’m willful to-day,
Oh, take back the lesson you gave me I pray;
For I slept in the sunshine, I woke in the rain
And it banished forever my sorrow and pain.


(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)


Louisa May Alcott: (1832-1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868). Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of her day. (Annotated biography of Louisa May Alcott courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Fannie Isabel Sherrick: (Lived circa mid-to-late 19th c.) was a native of St. Louis. Much of her early life was spent in California and Colorado, where many of her best productions in verse were written. Her collected poems were published in 1888, in a volume entitled Star Dust. Poor health caused her–at least temporarily–to give up literary endeavors. (Annotated biography of Fannie Isabel Sherrick courtesy of Evenings with Colorado Poets: an Anthology of Colorado Verse, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Technically summer is not for another month yet, but here in New York the sun is shining, and Memorial Day weekend is the official start of our summer season, so “O’er the pleasant earth 
/ We journey forth, 
/ For a day among the flowers.” And, while summer rain was not a common occurrence in California–from whence I came–here in New York the sky opens up to quench the grasses, the flowers, the rivers and streams, all summer long: “Oh, what is so pure as the glad summer rain, / That falls on the grass where the sunlight has lain? / And what is so fair as the flowers that lie / All bathed in the tears of the soft summer sky?”

Want to read more summer poetry?
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: D.H. LAWRENCE ON SPRING

DH_Lawrence_1906
THE ENKINDLED SPRING
By D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


David Herbert Richards Lawrence (1885 – 1930) was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works, among other things, represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation. Although best known for his novels, Lawrence wrote almost 800 poems, most of them relatively short. His first poems were written in 1904 and two of his poems, “Dreams Old” and “Dreams Nascent,” were among his earliest published works in The English Review. His early works clearly place him in the school of Georgian poets, a group not only named after the reigning monarch but also to the romantic poets of the previous Georgian period whose work they were trying to emulate. (Annotated biography of Yehuda Amichai courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Lyric gyrations, thick alliteration, words and images like blossoms and wildfire. D.H. Lawrence helps us welcome spring while questioning the I amidst such a season.

Want to read more by and about D.H. Lawrence?
The world of DH Lawrence
Biography.com
Academy of American Poets

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: A WINTER POEM BY ALFRED AUSTIN

"Mit Reif vom Nebel belegte Rose." Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons

“Mit Reif vom Nebel belegte Rose.” Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons

MY WINTER ROSE
By Alfred Austin

Why did you come when the trees were bare?
Why did you come with the wintry air?
When the faint note dies in the robin’s throat,
And the gables drip and the white flakes float?

What a strange, strange season to choose to come,
When the heavens are blind and the earth is dumb:
When nought is left living to dirge the dead,
And even the snowdrop keeps its bed!

Could you not come when woods are green?
Could you not come when lambs are seen?
When the primrose laughs from its childlike sleep,
And the violets hide and the bluebells peep?

When the air as your breath is sweet, and skies
Have all but the soul of your limpid eyes,
And the year, growing confident day by day,
Weans lusty June from the breast of May?

Yet had you come then, the lark had lent
In vain his music, the thorn its scent,
In vain the woodbine budded, in vain
The rippling smile of the April rain.

Your voice would have silenced merle and thrush,
And the rose outbloomed would have blushed to blush,
And Summer, seeing you, paused, and known
That the glow of your beauty outshone its own.

So, timely you came, and well you chose,
You came when most needed, my winter rose.
From the snow I pluck you, and fondly press
Your leaves ‘twixt the leaves of my leaflessness.


Today poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Alfred Austin (1835 – 1913) was an English poet and journalist who succeeded Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as poet laureate. His acerbic criticism and jingoistic verse in the 1870s led Robert Browning to dismiss him as a “Banjo-Byron,” and his appointment to the laureateship in 1896 was much mocked. He also published a series of stiff verse dramas, some novels, and a good deal of lyrical but very minor nature poetry. A patriotic poet of the most confident phase of the British Empire, his work lacked the resonance of Rudyard Kipling’s. (Annotated biography courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica, with edits.)


Editor’s Note: I love the use of metaphor in today’s poem, and the playful way language is paired with it. Moments like “And the year, growing confident day by day, / Weans lusty June from the breast of May.” I am taken, as well, by the allusion to the beloved, depicted as a winter rose arriving at what appears to be an inopportune time. But the poet eventually realizes that love–as it inevitably does–arrived exactly when it was most needed, occupying a space that had been waiting for just such an arrival: “You came when most needed, my winter rose. / From the snow I pluck you, and fondly press / Your leaves ‘twixt the leaves of my leaflessness.”


Want to read more winter poetry?
The Academy of American Poets
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: FALL POEMS

By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Someone35 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


AFTER APPLE-PICKING
By Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.


AUTUMN: A DIRGE
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

The warm sun is falling, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the Year
On the earth is her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Is lying.
Come, Months, come away,
From November to May,
In your saddest array;
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.

The chill rain is falling, the nipped worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the Year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling.
Come, Months, come away;
Put on white, black and gray;
Let your light sisters play–
Ye, follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.


AUTUMN LEAVES
By Juliana Horatia Ewing

The Spring’s bright tints no more are seen,
And Summer’s ample robe of green
Is russet-gold and brown;
When flowers fall to every breeze
And, shed reluctant from the trees,
The leaves drop down.

A sadness steals about the heart,
–And is it thus from youth we part,
And life’s redundant prime?
Must friends like flowers fade away,
And life like Nature know decay,
And bow to time?

And yet such sadness meets rebuke,
From every copse in every nook
Where Autumn’s colours glow;
How bright the sky! How full the sheaves!
What mellow glories gild the leaves
Before they go.

Then let us sing the jocund praise,
In this bright air, of these bright days,
When years our friendships crown;
The love that’s loveliest when ’tis old–
When tender tints have turned to gold
And leaves drop down.


Today’s poems are in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Editor’s Note: Today we celebrate another change in seasons. As the leaves turn red, yellow, orange and gold, as they fall from the trees and blanket the ground, as Mother Earth sheds her summer splendor and Persephone prepares to go underground, may we bid farewell through poetry. And may we meet again in spring when life blooms anew.


Want to read more fall poetry?
Academy of American Poets
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EMMA LAZARUS


Emma_Lazarus


1492
By Emma Lazarus

Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,
Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,
The children of the prophets of the Lord,
Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.
Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,
The West refused them, and the East abhorred.
No anchorage the known world could afford,
Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.
Then smiling, thou unveil’dst, O two-faced year,
A virgin world where doors of sunset part,
Saying, “Ho, all who weary, enter here!
There falls each ancient barrier that the art
Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear
Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!”


Today poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Emma Lazarus (1849 – 1887): A descendant of Sephardic Jews who immigrated to the United States from Portugal around the time of the American Revolution, Emma Lazarus was born in New York City on July 22, 1849. Before Lazarus, the only Jewish poets published in the United States were humor and hymnal writers. Her book Songs of a Semite was the first collection of poetry to explore Jewish-American identity while struggling with the problems of modern poetics. (Annotated biography courtesy of The Academy of American Poets.)


Editor’s Note: I wanted to share with you today a poem for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of newness, ushered in by sweet wishes of the year to come. But we spend the days that follow in contemplation of those regrets we have from the year past, in asking for forgiveness, and in letting go. When I came across today’s poem I thought of the Syrian refugees, of how the plight of exile has plagued my own people in the past, and how others are suffering from it today.

5776, the Jewish year that begins at sundown on Sunday September 13th, will be a “two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate” for countless Syrian refugees. That fate that my own people have suffered in the past is today their reality: “The West refused them, and the East abhorred. / No anchorage the known world could afford, / Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.”

Emma Lazarus is most famous for penning the words that appear at the base of the Statue of Liberty, wherein the “Mother of Exiles” declares, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” As we celebrate a new year, may the words of the Mother of Exiles find their way into the hearts and minds of ports and borders across Europe and throughout the world, “Saying, ‘Ho, all who weary, enter here!'”


Want to read more by and about Emma Lazarus?
The Academy of American Poets
Jewish Women’s Archive
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MIRIAM’S SONG

Feuerbach_Mirjam_2

“Miriam the prophetess” by Anselm Feuerbach. Public Domain image.


“Miriam the prophetess… took the tambourine in her hand; and all the women followed her with tambourines and dances. And Miriam called to them: Sing…” (Exodus 15:20-21)




Editor’s Note: The most important thing that has happened to Passover this year is the Notorious RBG’s decree that when we remember the Exodus, we need to remember the women. First and foremost among them, for me, is Miriam. The unsung hero of what is usually thought of as “Moses’ story,” Miriam is responsible for everything from Moses’ birth to his survival to providing water for the Israelites throughout their forty-year-sovereign in the desert. The first person in the Bible to be called a prophet, Miriam was beloved by her people but less-loved by her creator, who struck her down with leprosy to teach her the consequences of a woman voicing her opinion.

Song is one of the oldest forms of poetry, and the poetry of the Bible is one of the oldest written records of poetry we have. Sadly, all that remains of Miriam’s song in the Bible is a call to action: “And Miriam called to them: Sing…”

We are lucky, therefore, that Debbie Friedman (1951-2011) picked up this mantle. In “Miriam’s Song” she joins her voice with a new generation of women to remember and celebrate the heroine of the Passover story, responding to the prophetess’ call to action: “Sing.” Beloved by women and men alike all the world over, Debbie Friedman and “Miriam’s Song” are the kinds of modern Passover traditions we need. Inclusive and powerful, shedding new light on ancient traditions. For, as Debbie Friedman reminds us, “The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions.”

Want more Miriam, Debbie Friedman, and Feminist Passover?
Read the lyrics to “Miriam’s Song” by Debbie Friedman on Ritualwell
Debbie Friedman via the Jewish Women’s Archive
Miriam via the Jewish Women’s Archive
Buy The Journey Continues: The Ma’yan Passover Haggadah on Amazon

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: SPRING!

photo 3Spring’s first flowers spotted this week in New York’s Jefferson Market Garden.


WITH A BUNCH OF SPRING FLOWERS
By Kate Seymour Maclean

In the spring-time, out of the dew,
      From my garden, sweet friend, I gather,
      A garland of verses, or rather
A poem of blossoms for you.

There are pansies, purple and white,
      That hold in their velvet splendour,
      Sweet thoughts as fragrant and tender,
And rarer than poets can write.

The Iris her pennon unfurls,
      My unspoken message to carry,
      A flower-poem writ by a fairy,
And Buttercups rounder than pearls.

And Snowdrops starry and sweet,
      Turn toward thee their pale pure faces
      And Crocus, and Cowslips, and Daisies
The song of the spring-time repeat.

So merry and full of cheer,
      With the warble of birds overflowing,
      The wind through the fresh grass blowing
And the blackbirds whistle so dear.

These songs without words are true,
      All sung in the April weather–
      Music and blossoms together–
I gather and weave them for you.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Kate Seymour Maclean (1829-1916): Born in Fulton, New York, seemingly as “Chloe Ann Seymour” and educated at the Falley Seminary, Kate Seymour moved to Canada a few years after her 1857 marriage to Allan MacLean of Ingersoll, Ontario. She was well known as a poet in her day, producing three volumes of verse and publishing frequently in Canadian and American magazines. Her first book, The Coming of the Princess, And Other Poems (1881), is prefaced by Graeme Mercer Adam, then editor of the Canadian Monthly. Loyal to her adopted country, MacLean became a strong advocate of the “Canada First” movement. She died in Toronto at the age of 86. (Biography courtesy of The Simon Fraser University Library.)

Editor’s Note: If you are an avid reader of this series, you have faithfully read along as I lamented this year’s winter and dared Mother Nature to bring on the spring. This week, spring has finally arrived. The cherry blossoms are bursting in all their glory in Washington D.C., and here in New York City there is warm weather and sunshine, the first cherry blossoms have been spotted on the trees, and spring flowers can finally be seen lining the streets and blooming in the parks.

If you read this series, you know how we on the East Coast have suffered this long winter, and you know how anxiously your faithful Editor has awaited spring. Today I am happy to report that SPRING IS HERE, and in its honor I offer you “A flower-poem writ by a fairy,” “sung in the April weather,” “Music and blossoms together.” To celebrate spring’s arrival, here is a poem in the form of a bouquet, “gather[ed] and weave[d] … for you.”

Want to see more by Kate Seymour Maclean?
All Poetry
Public Domain Poetry