Celebrating Poetry in April: 24. A Timid Grace, by Charles Lamb

Good evening, all 🙂

Today’s sonnet is by Charles Lamb, another romantic British poet who traveled in the same circle with Wordsworth, Coleridge, and others. His biographer, E.V. Lucas, even dubbed him the “most lovable figure in English literature.”

Today I share with you Lamb’s sonnet, “A Timid Grace Sits Trembling In Her Eye.”

A Timid Grace Sits Trembling In Her Eye by Charles Lamb

A timid grace sits trembling in her eye,
As loth to meet the rudeness of men’s sight,
Yet shedding a delicious lunar light
That steeps in kind oblivious ecstasy
The care-crazed mind, like some still melody:
Speaking most plain the thoughts which do possess
Her gentle sprite: peace, and meek quietness,
And innocent loves, and maiden purity:
A look whereof might heal the cruel smart
Of changed friends, or fortune’s wrongs unkind:
Might to sweet deeds of mercy move the heart
Of him who hates his brethren of mankind.
Turned are those lights from me, who fondly yet
Past joys, vain loves, and buried hopes regret.

Celebrating Poetry in April: 22. “Grasshopper and Cricket” by Mary Russell Mitford

Happy Earth Day, to all. I remember turning the earth 50 years ago with my 5-year-old classmates as we planted little saplings at our elementary school. Now, 50 years later, I look back and savor the many hours I have spent on trails and shores, appreciating the earth. So much of my writing is inspired by the Earth.

I selected today’s sonnet with our earth in mind. It’s a variation of our familiar Petrarchan form, and written by English and romantic author Mary Russell Mitford (1787-1855). The poem it titled, simply, “Grasshopper and Cricket.”

Grasshopper and Cricket, by Mary Russell Mitford

How oft, amid the heaped and bedded hay,
Under the oak’s broad shadow deep and strong,
Have we sat listening to the noon-day song
(If song it were), monotonously gay,
Which crept along the field, the summer lay
Of the grasshopper. Summer is come in pride
Of fruit and flower, garlanded as a bride,
And crowned with corn, and graced with length of day:

But cold is come with her.
We sit not now
Listening that merry music of the earth,
Like Arid beneath the blossomed bough;
But all for chillness round the social hearth
We cluster.–Hark! a sound of kindred mirth
Echoes! O wintry cricket, welcome thou!

Celebrating Poetry in April: 21. “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” by Wilfred Owen

Welcome back.

For today’s poem, I decided to dip into the 20th century with a sonnet by Wilfred Owen, a British poet and soldier who died in battle in World War I. Wilfred wrote poetry for just about a year and died a few months after penning this poem, ironically, and sadly, called, “Anthem for Doomed Youth.” I have to admit, that reading this poem was a bit tough, especially with all of the Covid-19-related deaths here and around the globe.

Peace to all of you; may you be safe and well.

Anthem for Doomed Youth, by Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,–
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Celebrating Poetry in April: 20. A Sonnet Upon Sonnets, by Robert Burns

Welcome to Day 20 of our daily sonnets celebrating National Poetry Month. Tonight, I am reading Robert Burns’ “A Sonnet Upon Sonnets,” which he wrote in the Shakespearean sonnet form.

Enjoy!

A Sonnet Upon Sonnets, by Robert Burns

Fourteen, a sonneteer thy praises sings;
What magic myst’ries in that number lie!
Your hen hath fourteen eggs beneath her wings
That fourteen chickens to the roost may fly.
Fourteen full pounds the jockey’s stone must be;
His age fourteen–a horse’s prime is past.
Fourteen long hours too oft the Bard must fast;
Fourteen bright bumpers–bliss he ne’er must see!
Before fourteen, a dozen yields the strife;
Before fourteen–e’en thirteen’s strength is vain.
Fourteen good years–a woman gives us life;
Fourteen good men–we lose that life again.
What lucubrations can be more upon it?
Fourteen good measur’d verses make a sonnet.

Celebrating Poetry in April: 19: Sonnet 30 by William Shakespeare

Good evening, and welcome to day 19 of celebrating National Poetry Month. Today is April 19, and in celebration of beginning Hamlet tomorrow with my seniors, I thought we’d read another Shakespeare sonnet.

Sonnet 30, “When to the Sessions of Sweet Silent Thought,” by William Shakespeare. 

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long-since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

Celebrating Poetry in April: 18. The Sonnet by Maggie Bruner

Good afternoon! For today’s sonnet, I’ve selected American poet Maggie Bruner, who was born in 1886 and died in 1971. This is, I believe, the only sonnet she published. It is a simple statement of love for cats and how that love transcends life on this earth.

Without further ado, “Sonnet,” by Maggie Bruner.

The Sonnet, by Maggie Bruner

There have been many cats I loved and lost,
And most of them were of the mongrel breed;
Stray felines have a mighty power to plead,
Especially when chilled by snow and frost.
No matter if by cares I am engrossed,
Somehow I feel that I should intercede,
They seem so much like human folk in need–
Like waifs by winds of hardship roughly tossed.

I think that I should not be satisfied
In heaven with harps and wings and streets of gold,
If I should hear by chance a noise outside
Like some lost kitten crying in the cold,–
How could Saint Peter think my act a sin
If I should tiptoe out and let it in?

Celebrating Poetry in April: 17. The Woods by Fanny Kemble

Good evening, all. It was absolutely wonderful to reconnect with my students this week. I am so glad that we are back in session as we venture to the end of the school year together.

Tonight’s sonnet is by the British poet and actress Fanny Kemble. It’s a love sonnet (of course), and it celebrates a love with nature that we all can appreciate.

Without further ado, “The Woods,” by Fanny Kemble.

The Woods

Cover me with your everlasting arms,–
Ye guardian giants of this solitude!–
From the ill-sight of men, and from the rude
Tumultuous din of yon wild world’s alarms!
Oh, knit your mighty limbs around, above,
And close me in for ever! let me dwell
With the wood spirits, in the darkest spell
That ever with your verdant locks ye wove.

The air is full of countless voices, joined
In one eternal hymn; the whispering wind,
The shuddering leaves, the hidden water springs,
The work-song of the bees, whose honeyed wings
Hang in the golden tresses of the lime,
Or buried lie in purple beds of thyme.