Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Out of the dusk of slow-accomplished Time..."

I am fascinated by beautiful poetry. When written well, poetry consists of "the best words in their best order" as Samuel Taylor Coleridge put it. When I find a poem that strikes a chord in me, I enjoy reading it again and again.

It is a special treat to find a poem that is not only appealing as a bit of poetry, but is able to call to mind strong images of places and people and/or a particular time in history.

Emily Lawless, a writer and poet born in 19th-century Ireland, was one such poet who was able to bring history alive with her poetry. Out of What Began: A History of Irish Poetry in English shares a few snippets of her writings including a poem entitled Afterward (which was originally published in The Inalienable Heritage in 1914). According to the book, in this little poem she expresses beautifully "the poet's role as bringing to life the voices of the past".

by Emily Lawless

Out of the dusk of slow-accomplished Time,
Out of the shadows, out of the long past,
Lifting that past up on thy haughty rhyme,
Wakening those silenced voices, heard at last;
Fierce with the tumults of eight hundred years,
Loud with their cries of echoing strife and scorn;
Soft with their woes; child of their hopes and fears,
Poet we look for, come; awake! Be born!

Emily Lawless brings a strong image alive in her poem entitled Honor's Grave (also originally published in The Inalienable Heritage). This poem conjures up pictures for me of what the lives of my women ancestors might have been like. After reading her words, I can't help but feel the desire to go and visit their graves to pay my respects to them in the places where "very soundly doth they sleep".

Honor's Grave
by Emily Lawless

Tender soul of womanhood,
All her silent suffering past,
Pious, pitiful, and good,
Safe at last;
Sheltered from the rough wind's blast.
Veiling mists, which come and go,
With transparent fingers mark
Where she lies. Remote and low,
Hark! Oh hark!
What voice whispers through the dark?

Very soundly doth she sleep,
Though around the blown-sand flies,
Though above the storm-clouds sweep
The burdened skies.
She hears nothing where she lies.
Ancient cross, misused and grey,
Ancient cross, with broken arms,
Hold her, shield her night and day,
Safe from harms;
Shield her by thy sovereign charms.
Tiny snail-shells, pencilled, pale,
In the sands about her lie;
Tiny grass-tufts, thin and frail,
Cluster slenderly,
Gather round her tenderly.

Ave Maria! mother mild,
Mary, unto whom she prayed,
Shield thy loving-hearted child,
Gentle maid!
Shield the spot where she is laid.
Lastly, one more poem to share with you on this, Poem in Your Pocket Day 2008.
by John Boyle O'Reilly

Those we love truly never die,
Though year by year the sad memorial wreath,
A ring of flowers, types of life and death,
Are laid upon their graves.

For death the pure life saves,
And life all pure is love; and love can reach
From heaven to earth, and nobler lessons teach
Than those by mortals read.

Well blest is he who has a dear one dead:
A friend he has whose face will never change -
A dear communion that will not grow strange;
The anchor of a love is death.

The blessed sweetness of a loving breath
Will reach our cheek all fresh through weary years.
For her who died long since, ah! waste not tears,
She's thine unto the end.

Thank God for one dear friend,
With face still radiant with the light of truth,
Whose love comes laden with the scent of youth,
Through twenty years of death.

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