Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Christmas of 1888

New York Times

December 18, 1888

Whittier's Birthday. Quietly Celebrated at his Farmhouse at Oak Knoll

Danvers, Mass., 

Dec. 17. -- At the quiet farmhouse at Oak Knoll, on the outskirts of the town of Danvers, there was a pleasant family circle to-day, and one of the most beloved of New-England's famous sons received congratulations on his eighty-first birthday. 

Here, surrounded with the tender care of the Misses Johnson and Mrs. Woodman the poet, John G. Whittier is quietly passing the Winter. Today being the anniversary of his birth The Time's representative called to pay his respects. 

The poet was found in his library, his erect figure and bright but kindly eye and the warm pressure of the hand gave but little token that more than fourscore years had passed over his head. A slight defect in hearing and snow-white hair and beard are the outward symbols of his ripe years. . . . 

Whittier would write of The Christmas of 1888 as follows . . .

Low in the east, against a white, cold dawn,
The black-lined silhouette of the woods was drawn,
And on a wintry waste
Of frosted streams and hillsides bare and brown,
Through thin cloud-films a pallid ghost looked down,
The waning moon half-faced.
In that pale sky and sere, snow-waiting earth,
What sign was there of the immortal birth?
What herald of the One?
Lo! swift as thought the heavenly radiance came,
A rose-red splendor swept the sky like flame,
Up rolled the round, bright sun!

And all was changed. From a transfigured world
The moon's ghost fled, the smoke of home-hearths curled
Up to the still air unblown.
In Orient warmth and brightness, did that morn
O'er Nain and Nazereth, when the Christ was born,
Break fairer than our own?

The morning's promise noon and eve fulfilled
In warm, soft sky and landscape hazy-filled
And sunset fair as they;
A sweet reminder of His holiest time,
A summer-miracle in our winter clime,
God gave a perfect day.

The near was blended with the old and far,
And Bethlehem's hillside and the Magi's star
Seemed here, as there and then, --
Our homestead pine-tree was the Syrian palm,
Our heart's desire the angels' midnight psalm,
Peace, and good-will to men!

See also ::

A little smile, a word of cheer,
A bit of love
from someone near,
A little gift from one held dear,
Best wishes for the coming year...
These make a Merry Christmas!

John Greenleaf Whittier
17 December 1807 ~ 07 September 1892

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why Me?

Why me?
This is a tedious task,
much work.

Not a great tree,
my family,
Not any kind of tree,
A spindly twig....

A stunted sapling
of little importance,
No forest giant we.

A pause

Ethereal whispers
and still . . .

if you don't remember us,
Who will?"

Dot Stutter
Victoria, BC. Canada

Monday, October 13, 2014

Time's swift tide

When we shall have passed away, may some pilgrim linger near the spot where we are laid, perchance bestow a passing glance or smile of recognition on the name of him whose motives were unselfish, whose humble deeds live on making the very atmosphere heavy with the sweet perfume of goodness.

When beauty's face with youth no longer glows,
When Time's swift tide for us no longer flows.
May children's children read, some far off day,
The name above our long-forgotten clay.
And find a fragrant blossom o'er our dust,
Which breathes a benediction of the just.

Official Report of the American Tyler Family Reunion

Friday, August 1, 2014

Fear in a Handful of Dust

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
T.S. Eliot

That was what Dr. Adit Gadh said in response to Brennan’s inquiry about how no one missed the victim after she died . . . he continued with . . .

"We don't actually fear death;
we fear that no one will notice our absence."

Bones, Season 6, Episode 9

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Unvisited Tombs

And now having inscribed this brief record, I realize how difficult it is to write history.

A few names have been mentioned,
a few dates noted,
but how many threads must be dropped,
how many facts unwritten,
how many persons forgotten.

Faces vanish,
voices are hushed,
footsteps heard no more.

It may be events important in their results,
names potent for good or ill,
have found no place in this simple story . . .

And we deeply feel the truth of that beautiful saying of George Eliot:
The growing good of the world
is partly dependent on unhistoric acts;
and that things are not so ill
with you and me
as they might have been,
is half owing to the number
who lived faithfully a hidden life,
and rest in unvisited tombs.

Charles P. Kane (1850-1918)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sentimental Sunday :: Decoration Day

Memorial Day
From out our crowded calendar,
One day we pluck to give;
It is the day the Dying pause
To honor those who live.

Elaine McLandburgh Wilson

The Little Flag on Main Street

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Converse with the Fathers

Here, if anywhere, we can hold converse with the fathers, and feel that the names which we read were borne by men and women who were alive in our town when its inhabitants numbered but a score, and when the first grave was made of the thousands that have received the successive generations of citizens.

Sarah Loring Bailey
22 April 1834 ~ 08 September 1896
from her Historical Sketches of Andover


Monday, April 7, 2014

Willow and Wattle

Warm summer sun,
shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind,
blow softly here;
Green sod above,
lie light, lie light-
Good-night, dear heart,
good-night, good-night.

These lines, often attributed to Mark Twain, were actually adapted from an original poem by Robert Richardson. The original was found in a little book published in 1893, Willow and Wattle.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I bequeath myselt to the dirt

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) closes his Song of Myself (1881) as follows . . .

I bequeath myself 
to the dirt 
to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again 
look for me under your bootsoles.
You will hardly know 
who I am 
or what I mean,
But I shall be 
good health to you 
And filter and fibre your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first 
keep encouraged,
Missing me one place 
search another,
I stop some where 
waiting for you.

Friday, March 14, 2014

End of the Wilderness Road

All America lies at the end of the wilderness road,
and our past is not a dead past,
but still lives in us.

Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves,
the wild outside.

We live in the civilization they created,
but within us the wilderness still lingers.

What they dreamed, we live,
and what they lived, we dream.

T.K. Whipple (1890-1939) . . .
as quoted by Mike Brown in the Rockdale Reporter . . .
and as quoted by Larry McMurtry
in his epigraph to Lonesome Dove

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year

The Old Year drifts, a ship that now
Lies battered, worn, from stern to prow;

Beside it rides a trim new craft,
Shining and lovely before and aft.

We'll venture in it, our compass true,
Through unknown seas, limitless, blue,

And whether the weather be stormy or bright,
We'll hold to our course by day and night.

Our every veering will hold surprise,
For straight ahead adventure lies.

And in the good ship, New Year, we
Shall sail with Opportunity.

This poem was written by Nancy Richey Ranson . . . who was Poet Laureate of Texas from 1941 'til 1943 . . . it was published in the Dallas Morning News on January 1, 1948 . . .