A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Tracing Shadows

It is with some reluctance that I must finally close The Golden Treasury Of Poetry, the beacon-book of my childhood, and return it to the shelf. But not before quoting 3 last poems. The 1st is another sonnet by John Keats. This sonnet is particularly poignant when we remember that Keats died of tuberculosis at the very young age of 25. In this poem Keats senses he soon will die; and the poem ends with a quiet acceptance.

When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; - then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

There have been a few patches of winter fog lately - fog's more likely here on the alluvial plain of the Trent valley than the snow and deep frost they've been getting further 'up north' - so it seems apposite to include Carl Sandburg's delicate little poem Fog:


The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking

over harbour and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Last but not least here's Emily Dickinson again:


I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visted in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.

What a masterpiece of concision!

(I meditated on my very favourite Emily Dickinson poem here and here.)


The Weaver of Grass said...

Sorry you are closing the book, Robert - I have enjoyed the glimpses you have given us. Like the fog poem - perfect.

Dominic Rivron said...

An interesting ED poem I didn't know. Is that her original punctuation?

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, Weaver, that fog poem, I think, is perfect. As Louis Untermeyer himself comments: "The six short lines of the poem seem to be made out of the padded quiet of the atmosphere itself."

Almost certainly not, Dominic - but this was the punctuation exactly as published in "The Golden Treasury".

forest wisdom said...

I just want to say that I have quite enjoyed this tour of your selected highlights from The Golden Treasury of Poetry, and I have meditated for awhile on more than a few of these poems you have posted. Thanks, SW. :)

am said...

Thanks so much for this post. Was just going to stop by for minute or two, but followed your links and ended up reading the entire Wikipedia article on Emily Dickinson.

I found these:

"The Savior must have been / A docile Gentleman – / To come so far so cold a Day / For little Fellowmen / The Road to Bethlehem / Since He and I were Boys / Was leveled, but for that twould be / A rugged billion Miles –".

"We were never intimate ... while she was our Mother – but Mines in the same Ground meet by tunneling and when she became our Child, the Affection came."