I wanted to be a poet.
Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading to us from his collection of books. Verses, humorous and nonsensical, rhythmic and livening, melodic and moving. A lot of them were “moral verses” that poured lessons and inspiration into our young ears. Love. Bravery. Faith. Perseverance. Wonderment. And fun.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea.”
The light stuff prepared us for the more serious journeys later.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
Verses that rhymed and marched along to meter were going out of style long before I was taught to appreciate the stuff, with the result that my interest in modern poetry has been minimal at best; but I encountered 20th Century gems in the oddest places. Like fantasy literature.
Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows
The West Wind comes walking, and about the walls it goes.
“What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?
Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?”
“I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey.
I saw him walk in empty lands until he passed away
Into the shadows of the North, I saw him then no more.
The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.”
“O Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar
But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.”
(Note: I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, and the absence of even a few lines of the Lament of Boromir was one of my few true disappointments.)
I forgive Rudyard Kipling a lot because he created not just memorable and real characters but stirring verse. For one of the funniest poems of all time, I dare you to read A Code of Morals (but before you do, learn about how the British military used heliographs for signaling). MacDonough’s Song gets deadly serious, and The American Rebellion gets very thoughtful about war.
The snow lies thick on Valley Forge,
The ice on the Delaware,
But the poor dead soldiers of King George
They neither know nor care.
Not though the earliest primrose break
On the sunny side of the lane,
And scuffling rookeries awake
Their England’ s spring again.
They will not stir when the drifts are gone,
Or the ice melts out of the bay:
And the men that served with Washington
Lie all as still as they.
They will not stir though the mayflower blows
In the moist dark woods of pine,
And every rock-strewn pasture shows
Mullein and columbine.
Each for his land, in a fair fight,
Encountered, strove, and died,
And the kindly earth that knows no spite
Covers them side by side.
Do I get too serious? Fact: I rarely am for that long.
Jenny kiss’d me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I’m weary, say I’m sad,
Say that health and wealth have miss’d me,
Say I’m growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss’d me.
From here I could drift into some choice Shakespeare or Lewis Carroll, but I won’t. I wrote a few verses of my own back in high school and college, none of them good, most of them forgotten. In the Wearing the Cape books I not only can’t seem to refrain from dropping a few verses in as chapter-headers or references, I’ve even snuck some verses of my own in as in-setting lyrics and poetry.
Because I love beautiful words.
So, favorites? Does anyone have similar tastes? Or find their poetry elsewhere? (I’ll admit some song lyrics approach the beauty of poetry–some are poetry.) I’ll even read good blank verse. If it’s good.