Saturday, August 18, 2007

For Joy by Florence Earle Coates

For Joy

For each and every joyful thing,
For twilight swallows on the wing,
For all that nest and all that sing,—

For fountains cool that laugh and leap,
For rivers running to the deep,
For happy, care-forgetting sleep,—

For stars that pierce the sombre dark,
For morn, awaking to the lark,
For life new-stirring ‘neath the bark,—

For sunshine and the blessed rain,
For budding grove and blossomy lane,
For the sweet silence of the plain,—

For beauty spring from the sod,
For every step by beauty trod,—
For each dear gift of joy, thank God!
--Florence Earle Coates

I found this poem, beautifully written out in illustrated calligraphy on a gift bag at the Dollar Store. I bought the bag, framed it, and hung it by my bed. I like to read this poem as I fall asleep or wake up. It reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, For the Beauty of the Earth.

This is also one of the poems that taste good in my mouth as I recite it. I don't know if it's clear what I mean when I say that. Let me try to explain. Some words are just nice to say. Take Mellifluous for example. It means a pleasant sound; it implies flowing sweetly off the tongue like honey. Say it and imagine it dripping out of your mouth, Mellifluous. Now try saying some of the alliterative lines in the poem like: Fountains cool that laugh and leap or For the sweet silence of the plain. It's more than just choosing words that sound the same, she has put just the right sounds around them for contrast -- like having just the right accent color in a mostly monochrome outfit. I especially like the combination of alliterative L's in the fountain line with R's in the next line about rivers.

Then there are the lines that just talk about the beautiful peaceful things I often long for when anxiety (a symptom of my depression) threatens to take over my life: For sunshine and the blessed rain or happy, care-forgetting sleep. I also like how two of the three lines in each stanza are obviously closely related, while the third, while not quite the same, takes on some of the character of the other two by association. Take the second stanza for instance, since I've focused on it so much already. The first two lines are about running water, and the third about sleep. In my mind at least, I imagine falling asleep to the calming sounds of water (a thunderstorm, a babbling brook, ocean waves, etc), and waking up cleansed with all my cares washed away.

So here's some homework to help you learn to appreciate and understand poetry better. Take a poem you like, it could be one I've posted or not, and decide what you like about it. Do you have a favorite line? If so, what's different or special about that line? The subject matter of the poem makes a difference, but think about whether you'd like it as much if it was written in prose (for this poem, would a simple list of things she liked be as powerful?). Think about it and reply.

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