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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

“Afternoon” by Emma Lazarus



While she wrote dozens of poems, Emma Lazarus is most known for "The New Colossus" and information about much of her other work is scarce. Indeed, information regarding "Afternoon" is almost nonexistent online. This beautiful, narrative piece is filled with vivid visuals that draw the reader into the scene. It takes very little effort to feel as though one is walking alongside the unnamed "her" in the poem. Whether the woman Lazarus refers to is herself or if it is a more general usage of the pronoun we may never know. Regardless this is a wonderful poem which conveys an emotion that most of us can relate to in some way.

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Program Credits

Announcer: Thomas Lamar
Narrator: Laura Richcreek
Composer: Andrew Boone
Sound Design & Mixing: Christopher Green
Photography: Daniel Maissan
Producer/Director: J.D. Sutter

Entry on Wikipedia for Emma Lazarus
Emma Lazarus's Bio on the Poetry Foundation
Basic Analysis of "Afternoon" from KeyToPoetry.com
Commentary on Lazarus' work from the American Verse Project

Emma Lazarus circa December 1871
Image Credit: Wikipedia

“Afternoon” by Emma Lazarus

Small, shapeless drifts of cloud
Sail slowly northward in the soft-hued sky,
With blue half-tints and rolling summits bright,
By the late sun caressed; slight hazes shroud
All things afar; shineth each leaf anigh
With its own warmth and light.

O'erblown by Southland airs,
The summer landscape basks in utter peace:
In lazy streams the lazy clouds are seen;
Low hills, broad meadows, and large, clear-cut squares
Of ripening corn-fields, rippled by the breeze,
With shifting shade and sheen.

Hark! and you may not hear
A sound less soothing than the rustle cool
Of swaying leaves, the steady wiry drone
Of unseen crickets, sudden chirpings clear
Of happy birds, the tinkle of the pool,
Chafed by a single stone.

What vague, delicious dreams,
Born of this golden hour of afternoon,
And air balm-freighted, fill the soul with bliss,
Transpierced like yonder clouds with lustrous gleams,
Fantastic, brief as they, and, like them, spun
Of gilded nothingness!

All things are well with her.
'T is good to be alive, to see the light
That plays upon the grass, to feel (and sigh
With perfect pleasure) the mild breezes stir
Among the garden roses, red and white,
With whiffs of fragrancy.

There is no troublous thought,
No painful memory, no grave regret,
To mar the sweet suggestions of the hour:
The soul, at peace, reflects the peace without,
Forgetting grief as sunset skies forget
The morning's transient shower.


Verses Viewpoint

The team shares their thoughts on this poem
"What I appreciated most about this poem is the inventiveness of the author's vocabulary and turns of phrase--"half-tints," "anigh," "balm-freighted," "transpierced," "fragrancy," and "troublous." At least, I'm assuming these words are invented by Ms. Lazarus--I haven't actually looked them up, but they are lovely! And my two favorite phrases must be, "chafed by a single stone," and "gilded nothingness."  I feel like I can see the world anew (see? she's inspiring me!) or perhaps, newly? after reading her poem." - Laura Richcreek, narrator

"To me, this poem has a feeling of reflection and contemplation, but not in a wistful way. I think she's simply observing the things around her and just stopping to appreciate the littlest things and having gratitude for the season of life she's currently in." - J.D. Sutter, director

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