Friday, March 19, 2010

Those Sweet Archaic Songs

English poet James Flecker died of tuberculosis at just over thirty years of age. I discovered his poem To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence during a time in my life when I felt very alone. (No. It wasn't last Thursday! It was over twenty years ago.) I'd like to share a portion of this work with you.

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

I found this poem at the exact moment I needed comfort, and I did indeed feel as though Mr. Flecker had reached across time and space to communicate with me. Have you ever considered that your words might carry into the future and help someone after your life is over? Do you have a favorite story or poem that you read aloud to yourself in moments of need?

The Day Is Done by Longfellow is another of my favorite poems. Tell me if you see yourself in the writer he describes.

Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.

Beautiful, isn't it? It's encouraging to know that other writers have had their struggles, too. They worked hard and sometimes doubted themselves. Just like we do at times. My last little snippet comes from Ulysses by Tennyson.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

We all hope for heroic hearts as writers. As we return to our manuscripts and works-in-progress each day, I think we're getting there. Two years ago, I almost died, and a gifted surgeon saved my life. Today, I walked in the foothills of the mountains above my home and watched as the sun broke through the clouds to settle it's fiery light in a circle on the lake below. I could see the nearly blinding rays outline the ripples in the water, making them appear like liquid pleats spreading out into the grayness beyond. I'm so happy to be alive. I'm so happy to read beautiful words and to have the time to write them.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers.


  1. I do retreat to different books or authors at times of stress. Tolkein, LM Montgomery & McCaffrey are 3 of my faves, although I also revisit Shakespeare & surprisingly Star Trek novels when I need them as well. Depends on the mood and the need.

  2. This is beautiful Roxy. You've reminded me to find joy in life everyday. Thanks for the encouragement :)

  3. Thank you Roxy. It is such a pleasure to know a wonderful spirit like yours.

    I have poems, quotes, books, songs, etc that are there for me when I need them. Many times solace if found in the most unique passages. We discover ourselves over & over again in this life; each time facing a part of our soul that we failed to notice before. That moment, that second of recognition is so powerful. Lyrics can bring it forward along side a comforting melody while a story allows us to escape within its characters while never leaving the house.

    I understand your brush with death only by my own. I do not know details of yours, but I do know that fear - that understanding - that acceptance - that appreciation for all that we are blessed to see once the threat has been overcome. Every day is treasure, I hope that one day my words will be looked at one thousand years from now and someone will find comfort in a kindred spirit.

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime

  4. Really enjoyed reading these - thanks so much for sharing. Happy weekend.

    PS - I've an award for you over at my blog.

  5. and tho'
    We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

    Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I also have an award for you at my blog but they might be the same one. Have a great weekend.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this. The poetry is lovely; your story inspiring. I'm glad you're here to tell it.

  7. This was a most beautiful post. I found the cadence and lyrical nature of that last paragraph the loveliest of all.

    I'm so blessed that you are still with us...we all are.
    Mad props to that surgeon.

    Happy Weekend!

  8. "Or tears from the eyelids start" - me, today, after I read that first poem! Thanks for the lovely words. :)

  9. Thank you, Roxy! Sometimes we all need a little reminder of how special and precious life really is. : )

  10. I wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for modern medecine. My appendix almost burst last summer and I had to have it out. It made me think about life more, even though it was a small operation, for me it was BIG. I appreciative life more now.

  11. Thanks for the beauty of these words and a part of your story. I have a book called The Music Lover's Poetry Anthology. Many of those poems speak to me. I especially like "Rachmaninoff's Psychiatrist", about healing the spirit of a wounded artist.

  12. What a beautiful post today, Roxy. And I'm certainly glad the gifted surgeon kept you with us. :o)

    I hope to touch at least one life with the words I write, whether that happens now or long after I've moved into the next world. It doesn't really matter when so long as it happens at some point.

  13. Lovely poems and post! Thank you!

  14. Beautifully inspiring post. I think too often we (or I, at least) get caught up in the little day to day issues in life that we don't stop and think about things like this. I am so glad you are alive and well today, Roxy. Your words were clearly meant to reach far, and I'm glad to be one of those readers. :)

  15. I usually quote a few Shakespeare sonnets to myself when I'm feeling low. They always help me. I also listen to a playlist I created for just those times on my iPod, iChabod.

    I am very happy you are alive as well! I believe things happen for a reason and what you went through brought you hear in my life and for that I am grateful. :)

  16. Thanks for these. Poetry is often overlooked and under appreciated. I think we all hope our words might carry over into the future, if but a sentence or two to be treasured by someone we never knew. Now that's longevity. Your last paragraph is very touching. A match for the preceding quoted works.

  17. Oh, I just love that first poem. It's absolutely gorgeous. I'm saving that one. Thank you so much for sharing!

  18. Hi

    Thank you so much for easing me into my Monday morning with these beautiful, beautiful words and poetry. I've re-read this post many times over now and it just gets bette with each new read.

    Most of all I'm so inspired to read your last paragraph. Thank you for sharing.

    Take care

  19. What lovely poems. Longfellow and Tennyson are favorites of mine.

    I agree with a comment above, I think you are a sweet spirit. I too am glad your life was saved.

  20. I do have a favourite poem that moves me every time. It is by a poet called Frank McDonald and is called Ways We Might Have Gone. I think you'll like it!

    Lovely poems. The top poem makes me feel very comforted as well. I am glad you had a gifted surgeon two years ago, and I hope that today finds you very well and happy!