This week I've been on a poetry search for some reason. Reading books of poetry. Some are new, but most are old. I admit that the ones I enjoy the most are not profound and are old friends from many readings ago. My friend from New Jersey, Dennis Donnelly sent me a poetry book with electic poems and I'm trying hard to learn to appreciate them as much as the old standby ones I know so well, but for now, here's a small sampling of some of my old friends.
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with your mind racing and with worries, fears and regrets? Is it a certainty that every week there will be a night when you will wake up and have trouble going back to sleep because of anxiety, stress or aches of conscience? Then you should relate to this poem:
There is a panther caged within my breast,
but what his name, there is no breast shall know
save mine, nor what it is that drives him so,
backward and forward, in relentless quest –
That silent rage, baffled but unsuppressed,
The soft pad of those stealthy feet that go
over my body's prison to and fro,
Trying the walls forever, without rest.
All day I feed him with my living heart,
but when the night puts forth her dreams and stars,
the inexorable frenzy re-awakes;
His wrath is hurled upon the trembling bars,
The eternal passion stretches me apart,
and I lie silent – but my body shakes.
I imagine every school child at some point read the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and learned the part with "Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink." There are numerous parts to this poem and a few of of them have meaning worth thinking about. One deals with fear and the other with the duty of love of neighbor as one of the two great commandments cited by Jesus.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
… Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
and having once turned around, walks on,
and turns no more his head;
because he knows a frightful fiend
doth close behind him tread.
… And he prayeth best, who loveth best
all things both great and small;
for the dear God who loveth us,
he made and loveth us all.
Most of us have remembered incorrectly what Shakespeare wrote about laying it on too thick instead of quitting which we should have. We remember it as "gilding the lilly." However, that is not correct. I cite this poem because it is one of the great universal failures of trial lawyers. They don't know when to stop and they overdo it with a negative result. Here's what Shakespeare advised:
To Gild Refined Gold by William Shakespeare
To Gild refined gold, to paint the Lily,
To throw perfume on the lilly,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Onto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To see the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.
Lewis Carroll was one of the outstanding whimsical poets. For some reason the following passage from his famous poem about the walrus and the carpenter has been for me like a song you can't get out of your head. Whenever it is time for me to make a decision, these lines come immediately to my mind whether I want them there or not.
The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carroll
The time has come, the walrus said,
to talk of many things;
of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax –
of cabbages – and Kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
and whether pigs have wings.
Then there are the wonderful nonsense rhymes we call limericks. I'm not terribly fond of them but some I enjoy. Here's a few that make me smile.
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His mouth can hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week –
I'm damned if if I know how the helican.
There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket;
but his daughter, named Nan,
ran away with a man,
and as for the bucket, Nantucket.
No, no; for my virginity,
when I lose that, says Rose, I'll die;
Behind the Elms, last night, cried Dick,
Rose, were you not extremely sick? (Matthew Prior)
And here's to good old Boston, The land of the bean and the cod. Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots And the Cabots talk only to God