Today, while I was researching the life of Thomas Jefferson with a particular focus on his poetic appreciation I came across notes on his Literary Commonplace Book. Wow… how did I not know about this phenomenon?
Apparently, sometime during the Renaissance it became popular to collect favorite verses, thoughts, prayers, or even recipes in what amounted to be a scrapbook. Eventually, the well-educated were urged to do so during their college years. Thomas Jefferson began his at age fifteen and continued adding to it until age thirty. Other famous authors such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain kept various types of commonplace books. They could range from basically a journal of scribbled notes and ideas, like Twain’s, to a more familiar scrapbook of pasted newspaper articles, like Thomas Jefferson’s.
I’ve never been one to make use of a journal, even though I do think they are a great creative writing resource, but I can honestly say that seeing how the commonplace books were used throughout history has really inspired me. I’d love to hear if others are using commonplace books and how you got started.
Also, if you’re interested you can read my full article, Thomas Jefferson – President and Poet, by clicking Here.
If any of you have had an injury that kept you relatively immobile and generally stuck indoors, you’ll easily understand the following. I’m two and a half weeks into what will likely be a six-week hiatus from normal life. Not that it’s all been bad, but there’s definitely a pressure building, a need to escape… back to the real world beyond this house.
For today’s post, I’ve included a poem by Emily Dickinson which speaks of the scientifically unexplainable contentment that comes with Spring. As the days grow longer and the daily temperatures rise, I’m struck by how creatively perfect this poem is. One of the most pleasant aspects of my job is my morning drive in the Spring. The wisps of fog rising across the open fields, a hint of daybreak shining across the horizon, it all provides for a flawless morning of reflection and gratitude for the gifts in my life.
Also, notice that she capitalizes the word ‘Light’ in the first line, giving it an almost god-like quality. In doing so, she helps to increase the reverence justifiably felt for this most natural occurrence.
I truly can’t wait for Spring…
A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here
A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.
It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.
Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —
A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.
~ Emily Dickinson
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did and I look forward to your comments.
As I sit at home, handicapped by my broken ankle, it’s becoming easy to think of things that I wish I could do. Reading stories of travel and adventure help a little.
In one of my old books of poetry I came across this one from Rudyard Kipling. I found it intriguing even though it’s not the first time I’ve come across the concept. When we allow ourselves to enjoy the moment, to get lost in the moment, there are no differences between us. We’re only held back by how we define ourselves.
As always, I appreciate your comments.
Or ever the battered liners sank
With their passengers to the dark,
I was head of a Walworth Bank,
And you were a grocer’s clerk.
I was a dealer in stocks and shares,
And you in butters and teas;
And we both abandoned our own affairs
And took to the dreadful seas.
Wet and worry about our ways–
Panic, onset and flight–
Had us in charge for a thousand days
And thousand-year-long night.
We saw more than the nights could hide–
More than the waves could keep–
And–certain faces over the side
Which do not go from our sleep.
We were more tired than words can tell
While the pied craft fled by,
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
Hoisted us Heavens-high…
Now there is nothing — not even our rank–
To witness what we have been;
And I am returned to my Walworth Bank,
And you to your margarine!
Happy Hump Day Readers!
The poem I found for inspiration today is by an author who I don’t normally look to for this genre. However, the truth that lies within his humor is widely acclaimed.
The short of it is this… Sometimes you need to do what makes you happy, no one else. Let people judge, because you know what – they’d be judging you anyway!
Hope you enjoy… Cheers!
He Who’d Please All
Once on a Time it by Chance came to pass,
That a Man and his Son were leading an Ass.
Cries a Passenger, Neighbor, you’re shrewdly put to ‘t,
To lead an Ass empty, and trudge it on foot.
Nay, quoth the old Fellow, if Folk do so mind us
I’ll e’en climb the Ass, and Boy mount behind us:
But as they jogg’d on they were laugh’t and hisse’d,
What, two booby Lubbers on one sorry Beast!
This is such a Figure as never was known;
‘T is a sign that the Ass is none of your own.
Then down gets the Boy, and walks by the Side,
Till another cries, What, you old Fool must you ride?
When you see the poor Child that ‘s weakly and young
Forc’d thro’ thick and thin to trudge it along,
Then down gets the Father, and up gets the Son;
If this cannot please them we ne’er shall have done.
They had not gone far, but a Woman cries out,
O you young graceless Imp, you’ll be hang’d, no doubt!
Must you ride an Ass, and your Father that’s grey
E’en foot it, and pick out the best of his Way?
So now to please all they but one Trick lack,
And that was to carry the Ass a pick pack:
But when that was try’d, it appear’d such a Jest,
It occasioned more Laughter by half than the rest.
Thus he who ‘d please all, and their Good liking gain,
Shows a deal Good Nature, but labours in vain.
In an unexpected and unfortunate event, I broke my ankle in two places last week. The biggest lesson learned and learned quickly, pain pills are something to embrace in the early stages of recovery because Pain during recovery can be just as intense as Pain during injury.
Between the frequent periods of narcotic sleep, and with the thrum of my heartbeat felt in the tips of my toes I tried and tried to remember the author of a poem about Pain I had read in my childhood. After finally being cognizant of the world around me, I was able to pop open my laptop and finally found it.
For those of you who are willing, I’d love to hear your interpretation of the following poem or your own poetic interpretation of Pain. You’ll note that I give Pain the honor of capitalization throughout this post; after five days together I can only consider Pain part of my immediate family.
Hymn to Physical Pain
DREAD Mother of forgetfulness
Who, when Thy reign begins,
Wipest away the soul’s distress
And memory of her sins.
The trusty Worm that diest not –
The steadfast Fire also,
By thy contrivance are forgot
In a completer woe.
Thine are the lidless eyes of night
That stare upon our tears,
Through certain hours which in our sight
Exceed a thousand years.
Thine is the thickness of the Dark
That presses in our pain,
As Thine the Dawn that bids us mark
Life’s grinning face again.
And when thy tender mercies cease
And life unvexed is due,
Instant upon the false release
The Worm and Fire renew.
Wherefore we praise Thee in the deep,
And on our beds we pray
For Thy return, that Thou may’st keep
The Pains of Hell at bay !
~ Rudyard Kipling
Not in as much of a light-hearted mood tonight. I often wonder at the tormented souls of writers, previous. The daily toils and pressures I feel seem light in contrast.
One of my favorites… begun with one of my favorite stanzas.
The Horrors of Sleep
Sleep brings no joy to me,
Remembrance never dies,
My soul is given to mystery,
And lives in sighs.
Sleep brings no rest to me;
The shadows of the dead
My wakening eyes may never see
Surround my bed.
Sleep bring no hope to me,
In soundest sleep they come,
And with their doleful imag’ry
Deepen the gloom.
Sleep brings no strength to me,
No power renewed to brave
I only sail a wilder sea,
A darker wave.
Sleep brings be friend to me
To soothe and aid to bear;
They all gaze on, how scornfully,
And I despair.
Sleep brings no wish to fret
My harassed heart beneath;
My only wish is to forget
In endless sleep of death.
~ Emily Bronte