“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —
And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —
–Emily Dickinson, Poem 254 in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1960), edited by Thomas H. Johnson; courtesy of Wikiquote.
Half of my life is gone, and I have letThe years slip from me and have not fulfilledThe aspiration of my youth, to buildSome tower of song with lofty parapet.Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fretOf restless passions that would not be stilled,But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;Though, half-way up the hill, I see the PastLying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—A city in the twilight dim and vast,With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—And hear above me on the autumnal blastThe cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.
I’ve posted this before, back on March 28th, 2014 as part of my “Daily Whitman” series; but it’s a great poem for the Fourth of July, non-jingoistic and speaking of what makes the American project truly great. May we continue to emulate it. Enjoy, and Happy Independence Day.
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Let nothing disturb thee;
Let nothing dismay thee:
All things pass;
God never changes.
All that it strives for.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
–“Poem IX”, in Complete Works St. Teresa of Avila (1963) edited by E. Allison Peers, Vol. 3, p. 288; courtesy of Wikiquote
Interea dulces pendent circum oscula nati,
Casta pudicitiam servat domus.
His cares are eased with intervals of bliss;
His little children, climbing for a kiss,
Welcome their father’s late return at night;
His faithful bed is crown’d with chaste delight.
–Virgil, Georgics (29 BC), Book II, lines 523-524 (translated by John Dryden); courtesy of Wikiquote
The bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious. Both errors tend to make him “personal.” Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
–T. S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent; courtesy of Wikiquote.
Appropriately, I begin this series with the patron of this blog, غیاث الدین ابوالفتح عمر بن ابراهیم خیام نیشابورﻯ, in proper Persian transcription, Ghiyāth ad-Din Abu’l-Fatḥ ‘Umar ibn Ibrāhīm al-Khayyām Nīshāpūrī. In the West, though, he’s most commonly known as Omar Khayyám (in the Victorian era, when Edward FitzGerald’s famous translation of Omar’s poetry became wildly popular, the custom for indicating long vowels in Persian transcription was to use the acute accent; nowadays, the macron is preferred; hence, “Khayyám” vs “Khayyām”).
Omar is best known in the west as the author of the Rubáʿiyát. This is the plural of rubáʿi, which simply means “quatrain” (a verse of four lines). The rubáʿi was a very popular genre of verse in Persia, and hundreds of rubáʿiyát are attributed to Omar. Beginning in 1859, the English poet Edward FitzGerald translated a number of the rubáʿiyát attributed to Omar, publishing them under the title The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (for keen-sighted readers, I’m not being inconsistent. The apostrophe, representing the glottal stop, should properly be between the first “a” and the “i” in rubáʿiyát–thus, it’s pronounced “roo-BAH-ee-yaht”, not “roo-BYE-yaht”. However, FitzGerald left it out, for whatever reason. Thus, when I print the title as he gave it, I’m following suit; but when discussing the genre as such, I’m leaving the glottal stop in). Over the remainder of his life, FitzGerald produced five editions of the Rubáiyát. This book became immensely popular in the Victorian age, and while less well-known now, it is still moderately popular, and has never been out of print.
The above may–may–be the only existing sound recording of Walt Whitman himself. The case is complicated, and you can read about it here. Whether or not it is Walt himself, enjoy!
Yesterday I completed publishing the entire Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It was a follow-up to my series publishing two different translations of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Back in November of last year I bogged down on blogging and temporarily abandoned daily updates of the blog. I let the Daily Whitman series lapse, as well as the Friday music and the Sunday “Quote for the Week”. Finally, a few weeks ago, I restarted everything. I was closer to the end than I realized, and it seems like saying goodbye to an old friend to have Daily Whitman finally come to an end.
I will keep posting music on Fridays and quotes on Sundays. I have a couple of possible contenders for daily poetry to post, but I haven’t made a decision yet. I think it salutary to take a few days off and decide what I want to do, and then go from there. In the meantime, I hope all of you who may be regular, semi-regular, or sporadic readers have enjoyed the Daily Whitman, and before it, the Rubá’í of the Day series. Keep checking this space for poetry to come!