“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech.”
- Simonides of Ceos

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"In School-days" by John Greenleaf Whittier

Born in rural Massachusetts in 1807, John Greenleaf Whittier began to write poetry at a young age with his first poem being published in the summer of 1826. Shortly thereafter, he began working as an editor of various periodicals. The poem "In School-days" was written in 1869 and Whittier may have drawn a bit on his own experience as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. The poem was praised by the public as well as by other poets with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow commenting, "There is something more in education than is set down in the school-books. Whittier has touched this point very poetically in that little lyric of his." Oliver Wendell Holmes said of the poem in a letter to Whittier, "...I had no sooner read them [the lines] that I fell into such ecstasy that I could hardly find words too high-colored to speak of them to my little household. I hardly think I dared read them aloud. My eyes fill with tears just looking at them in my scrapbook, now, while I am writing."

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Program Credits

Announcer: Thomas Lamar
Narrator: Jeffrey K. Holbrook
Composer: Natasha Green
Sound Design & Mixing: Christopher Green
Photography: P. Ryan Paulsen
Producer/Director: J.D. Sutter

Entry on Wikipedia for John Greenleaf Whittier
Whittier's Bio on The Poetry Foundation
Analysis of "In School-days" by Lauren Bollinger

NOTE: There is an alternate version of the first stanza in some early publications of this poem. We have chosen to use the later version of the text for our program as it was the text included in several authorized editions of Whittier's writings. You can see the alternate text at the bottom of this post.
John Greenleaf Whittier

"In School-days" by John Greenleaf Whittier

Still sits the school-house by the road,
   A ragged beggar sleeping;
Around it still the sumachs grow,
   And blackberry-vines are creeping.

Within, the master’s desk is seen,
   Deep scarred by raps official;
The warping floor, the battered seats,
   The jack-knife’s carved initial;

The charcoal frescos on its wall;
   Its door’s worn sill, betraying
The feet that, creeping slow to school,
   Went storming out to playing!

Long years ago a winter sun
   Shone over it at setting;
Lit up its western window-panes,
   And low eaves’ icy fretting.

It touched the tangled golden curls,
   And brown eyes full of grieving,
Of one who still her steps delayed
   When all the school were leaving.

For near her stood the little boy
   Her childish favor singled:
His cap pulled low upon a face
   Where pride and shame were mingled.

Pushing with restless feet the snow
   To right and left, he lingered;—
As restlessly her tiny hands
   The blue-checked apron fingered.

He saw her lift her eyes; he felt
   The soft hand’s light caressing,
And heard the tremble of her voice,
   As if a fault confessing.

“I’m sorry that I spelt the word:
   I hate to go above you,
Because,”—the brown eyes lower fell,—
   “Because, you see, I love you!”

Still memory to a gray-haired man
   That sweet child-face is showing.
Dear girl! the grasses on her grave
   Have forty years been growing!

He lives to learn, in life’s hard school,
   How few who pass above him
Lament their triumph and his loss,
   Like her,—because they love him.

Illustration which accompanied the poem in one of its publications.

Alternate Text of Stanza One

Still sits the school-house by the road,
   A ragged beggar sunning;
Around it still the sumachs grow,
   And blackberry-vines are running.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

"O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman

Probably the most well-known poem by Walt Whitman, "O Captain! My Captain!" is a moving metaphor for President Abraham Lincoln's leadership of the country during the Civil War and his assassination which shocked the nation. This poem is actually only one of a handful that Whitman wrote in honor of Lincoln, whom he greatly admired. "O Captain" was written in 1865 shortly after the death of the President and was published later the same year in a small booklet containing a collection of 18 of Whitman's poems.

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Program Credits

Announcer: Thomas Lamar
Narrator: B.J. Harrison
Composer: Conner Savoca
Sound Design & Mixing: Christopher Green (Some sound effects courtesy of http://www.freesfx.co.uk.)
Photography: Johannes Plenio
Producer/Director: J.D. Sutter

Entry on Wikipedia for "O Captain! My Captain!"
Entry on Wikipedia for Walt Whitman
Whitman's Bio on the Poetry Foundation
Analysis of "O Captain! My Captain!" from PoemAnalysis.com
Extended biography of Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, 1872
By Photographer: G. Frank E. Pearsall (1860-1899) (NYPL Digital Gallery) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

"O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

Whitman's notes for a revision of "O Captain! My Captain!"

Public Domain, Link

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"The Crucifixion and Resurrection. An Ode." by Mary Leapor

Mary Leapor was a young poet born into Britain's working class. She died at the young age of 24 and therefore her body of work is not very large, but it contains some lengthy pieces which are quite respected and have received much acclaim to this day. Published posthumously in 1748, "The Crucifixion and Resurrection. An Ode." is a beautiful and vivid depiction of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Leapor recounts this event in her signature style and the poem's first three stanzas seem to focus on the effect Jesus' death had on the natural world and then in the second half she shifts to show what His resurrection means to humanity.

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Program Credits

Announcer: Thomas Lamar
Narrator: Laura Richcreek
Composer: Natasha Green
Sound Design & Mixing: Christopher Green
Photography: Gerd Altmann
Producer/Director: J.D. Sutter

Entry on Wikipedia for Mary Leapor
Mary Leapor's Bio on The Poetry Foundation
Poem Analysis from Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive

NOTE: We could not locate a royalty-free image of Mary Leapor to include in this post.

The Crucifixion and Resurrection. An Ode. by Mary Leapor

What means the reeling Earth? O why
These Wonders in the dreadful Sky?
The frighted Sun withdraws its Beams,
Deep Groans are heard and doleful Screams.
O say, what this Convulsion means:
Afflicted Nature with a Shriek replies,
A God expires, a mighty Saviour dies.

The conscious Stars their Rays deny.
The Moon receives a crimson Dye.
The Temple conscious of its Fall,
Now shakes its emblematick Wall.
The Ocean stagnates, and the Mountains bow,
And Angels weep that never wept till now.

Still tremble, Earth, and still, O Sky,
Thy ever-chearing Lamps deny:
Amaz'd still let the Ocean stand,
But what remains for guilty Man?
What Groans? what Sorrows are for him decreed?
For Man whose Crimes have made Perfection bleed?

But see, O see, the Sun returns!
No more afflicted Nature mourns!
The Stars their vacant Orbs regain!
And the Moon sheds a silver Beam!
While heav'nly Voices warble in the Skies,
"Behold your Saviour from his Tomb arise!"

While Saints attend the blessed Morn,
He rose: — The God in human Form,
A Form not made of vulgar Clay:
Which, tho' it slept, cou'd not decay!
Hail, Mortals; Hail (transported Seraphs cry)
Redeem'd, and favour'd by the God most high.

In Heav'n let Joys eternal flow,
And Mercy in the Worlds below;
The Penitent shall Peace obtain,
And not a Tear shall fall in vain.
Then join, ye Worlds, in one glad Chorus sing,
Praise to Messiah, and th' Almighty King.

A high-resolution scan of Leapor's Poems Upon Several Occasions: Volume II