Our Generation

Today’s poem was posted on twitter awhile ago, and absolutely floored the web. I have seen it everywhere, and for good reason. It was written by an 8th grader, and posted to the web by his brother, @DerekNichols0. The poem so accurately portrays people today, and it spread quickly on social media.

Our Generation

Our generation will be known for nothing.

Never will anybody say,

We were the peak of mankind.

That is wrong, the truth is

Our generation was a failure.

Thinking that

We actually succeeded

Is a waste. And we know

Living only for money and power

Is the way to go.

Being loving, respectful, and kind

Is a dumb thing to do.

Forgetting about that time,

Will not be easy, but we will try.

Changing our world for the better

Is something we never did,

Giving up

Was how we handled our problems,

Working hard

Was a joke.

We knew that

People thought we couldn’t come back

That might be true,

Unless we turn things around

(Read from bottom to top now)

–Jordan Nichols Grade 8

Paul Revere’s Ride

Today marks the 239th anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride. There were actually several riders involved in the warning ride in Massachusetts, but Longfellow’s poem helps us remember the night that the enemy knocked at our door.

Paul Revere’s Ride

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.’

Then he said, ‘Good-night!’ and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, ‘All is well!’
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,

And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and somber and still.
And lo! As he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard by the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock.
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed.
Who at the bridge would be the first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,–
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,–
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

 

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Tavern

This poem is dear to my heart because the hubby and I have a fantasy to open a bar someday. We even have a name picked out. We both love craft beer, and are always looking for “our place” to hang out. Our last “our place” closed down several months ago, and we were pretty upset about it. Since then, nothing has felt just right.

If we had a barkeep like the one in this poem, we might just call it “our place.” This guy gets it.

 

Tavern

 

I’ll keep a little tavern

Below the high hill’s crest

Wherein all grey-eyed people

May sit them down and rest.

 

There shall be plates a-plenty,

And mugs to melt the chill

Of all the grey-eyed people

Who happen up the hill.

 

There sound will sleep the traveller,

And dream his journey’s end,

But I will rouse at midnight

The falling fire to tend.

 

Aye, ’tis a curious fancy–

But all the good I know

Was taught me out of two grey eyes

A long time ago.

 

–Edna St. Vincent Millay, Collected Poems

 

If You Forget Me

Here is another sweet Pablo Neruda poem. They talk about Neruda in Anna and the French Kiss, so I thought it appropriate to do today. Plus, it’s just a lovely poem. Maybe a little finicky, but I love the last bit. And…aren’t all teenagers a little finicky?

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

–Pablo Neruda

 

The Silver Swan

Short poem today, but overwhelmingly beautiful, and one that doesn’t need much of an introduction.

 

The Silver Swan

The silver swan, who living had no note,

When death approached, unlocked her silent throat;

Leaning her breast against the ready shore,

Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more:

“Farewell, all joys; Oh death, come close mine eyes;

More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.”

–Anonymous

 

The Silver Swan

The silver swan, who living had no note,

When death approached, unlocked her silent throat;

Leaning her breast against the ready shore,

Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more:

“Farewell, all joys; Oh death, come close mine eyes;

More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.”

–Anonymous

The Morning Song of Senlin

The following poem was introduced to me by Sylvia Plath herself. I read her journals a few months ago, and she weeps while reading this. Aiken doesn’t make me weep, but he definitely points out the beauty in the routine of the morning.

I was just thinking last night about how in our last apartment, all we could hear was the busy road outside. We love the one we are living in now because we are surrounded by trees…they are bare right now, but they are still filled with birds. No more road noise, which is lovely. Our porch is much smaller, but we still have a place to sit outside and enjoy the quiet, and we have a lot of windows to open. All in all, it’s a very peaceful place to enjoy the morning song.

 

The Morning Song of Senlin

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
When the light drips through the shutters like the dew,
I arise, I face the sunrise,
And do the things my father learned to do.
Stars in the purple dusk above the rooftops
Pale in the saffron mist and seem to die
And I myself upon a swiftly tilting planet
Stand before a glass and tie my tie,

Vine leaves tap my window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones,
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And tie my tie once more. While waves far off in a pale rose twilight
Crash on a white sand shore. I stand by a mirror and comb my hair:
How small and white my face! —
The green earth tilts through a sphere of air
And bathes in a flame of space.
There are houses hanging above the stars
And stars hung under a sea…
And a sun far off in a shell of silence
Dapples my walls for me…

It is morning, Senlin says, and in the morning
Should I not pause in the light to remember god?
Upright and firm I stand on a star unstable,
He is immense and lonely as a cloud.
I will dedicate this moment before my mirror
To him alone, for him I will comb my hair.
Accept these humble offerings, cloud of silence!
I will think of you as I descend the stair.

Vine leaves tap my window,
The snail track shines on the stones.
Dew-drops flash from the chinaberry tree
Repeating two clear tones.

It is morning, I awake from a cloud of silence,
Shining I rise from the starless waters of sleep.
The walls are about me still as in the evening,
I am the same, and the same name still I keep.

The earth revolves around with me, yet makes no motion,
The stars pale silently in a coral sky.
In a whistling void I stand before my mirror,
Unconcerned, and tie my tie.

There are horses neighing on far-off hills
Tossing their long white manes,
And mountains flash in the rose-white dusk,
Their shoulders black with the rains…
It is morning. I stand by the mirror
And surprise my soul once more;
The blue air rushes above my ceiling,
There are suns beneath my floor…

…it is morning, Senlin says, I ascend from darkness
And depart on the winds of space for I know not where,
My watch is sound, a key is in my pocket,
And the sky is darkened as I descend the stair.
There are shadows across the windows, clouds in heaven,
And a god among the stars; and I will go
Thinking of him as I might think of daybreak
And humming a tune I know…

Vine-leaves tap at the window,
Dew-drops sing to the garden stones
The robin chirps in the chinaberry tree
Repeating three clear tones.

–Conrad Aiken

 

The Chairs That No One Sits In

We’ve had several beautiful days in a row now. Spring has FINALLY sprung in Indiana, after one of the longest winters we’ve had in awhile, so we are all very grateful for the sunshine. My husband and I sat out on the porch and listened to a baseball game last night and it got me thinking about this Billy Collins poem. How many people have chairs just waiting to be used? It’s sad that we so rarely take the time to sit and relax anymore.

 

The Chairs That No One Sits In

 

You see them on porches and on lawns

down by the lakeside,

usually arranged in pairs implying a couple

 

who might sit there and look out

at the water or the big shade trees.

The trouble is you never see anyone

 

sitting in these forlorn chairs

though at one time it must have seemed

a good place to stop and do nothing for a while.

 

Sometimes there is a little table

between the chairs where no one

is resting a glass or placing a book facedown.

 

It may not be any of my business,

but let us suppose one day

that everyone who placed those vacant chairs

 

on a veranda or a dock sat down in them

if only for the sake of remembering

what it was they thought deserved

 

to be viewed from two chairs,

side by side with a table in between.

The clouds are high and massive on that day.

 

The woman looks up from her book.

The man takes a sip of his drink.

Then there is only the sound of their looking,

 

the lapping of lake water, and a call of one bird

then another, cries of joy or warning–

it passes the time to wonder which.
–Billy Collins, Horoscopes for the Dead:  Poems

I Will Measure

Tyler Knott Gregson is another Pinterest find of mine, and he has quickly become a favorite. I love his Daily Haikus on Love that he posts on Tumblr every day, and his Typewriter Series is lovely. Check him out here.

 

I will measure
my success in this
life
and my worth
as a man
a friend
a lover
and most simply
as a
human being
by counting
the number
of laugh lines
on your
face
when old age
catches
up.

–Tyler Knott Gregson

Casey at the Bat

I’m in a baseball kind of mood today. The Indy Indians had their season opener and it was a PERFECT day for it. We had our first 70 degree day here, and it was a neck and neck game the whole way. Tied 3-3 in the 9th, and then Dickerson hit a beautiful RBI single to center to score that last run to win 4-3 against the Toledo Mudhens.

 

Now tonight, the Tampa Bay Rays are visiting the Cincy Reds (my team) at Great American Ballpark. I have a lot of friends in St Pete who are Rays fans, so it’ll strike up a lot of competition today. Plus, the Rays stole my absolute favorite player this year—Ryan Hannigan, the starting catcher for the Reds last year. So I’m excited to see him play.

 

In the spirit of the day, I figured that it’s a perfect day for the best known baseball poem out there. I’m sure you’ve all heard at least part of this one growing up. I love it because it shows every single emotion that makes my favorite sport so great…and terrible, all at the same time.

 

Casey at the Bat

 

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

 

A strangling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

The thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that—

We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

 

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,

And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;

So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,

For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

 

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,

And Blake, the much despise-ed, tore the cover off the ball;

And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,

There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

 

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;

It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,

For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

 

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;

There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,

No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

 

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;

Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.

Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,

Defiance gleamed hi Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

 

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,

And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-

“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

 

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.

“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;

And it’s likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

 

With a smile of a Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;

He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;

But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, Strike two.”

 

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered fraud;

But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles train,

And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

 

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;

He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go.

And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

 

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

 

–Ernest Lawrence Thayer

Huntsman, What Quarry?

I was raised on Disney princesses in the 90s. The ballgowns, princes, and you better believe I have every single song memorized. (Of course the villains were always my favorite…but I was a rebel. I mean, come on, can you get a better song than Be Prepared?)

There’s been a movement in the more recent years not to raise girls on princesses. And I get it–we don’t want our little girls to be reliant on a man, to believe in being whisked off our feet and that’s all it takes to be Happy Ever After. Because that’s not real life. That’s why Frozen is so popular, because the men aren’t the reason for strength. Sure there is a handsome prince, but he’s the villain in the end (spoiler alert…but come on…who HASN’T seen Frozen BY NOW), and even Kristoff doesn’t get true love’s kiss. Ugh. My love for Disney hurt after that one.

I got a kick out of this poem because Millay just GOT IT. She spat all over Happily Ever After. Men are just way too distracted creatures for all that.

Huntsman, What Quarry?

“Huntsman, what quarry
On the dry hill
Do your hounds harry?
When the red oak is bare
And the white oak still
Rattles its leaves
In the cold air:
What fox runs there?”
“Girl, gathering acorns
In the cold autumn,
I hunt the hot pads
That ever run before,
I hunt the pointed mask
That makes no reply,
I hunt the red brush
Of remembered joy.”
“To tame or to destroy?”
“To destroy.”
“Huntsman, hard by
In a wood of grey beeches
Whose leave are on the ground,
Is a house with a fire;
You can see the smoke from here.
There’s supper and a soft bed
And not a soul around.
Come with me there;
Bide there with me;
And let the fox run free.”
The horse that he rode on
Reached down its neck,
Blew upon the acorns,
Nuzzled them aside;
The sun was near setting;
He thought, “Shall I heed her?”
He thought, “Shall I take her
For a one-night’s bride?”
He smelled the sweet smoke,
He looked the lady over;
Her hand was on his knee;
But like a flame from cover
The red fox broke–
And “Hoick! Hoick!”cried he.
–Edna St. Vincent Millay