WISDOM FROM POETRY

WISDOM FROM POETRY

I  admit that while I enjoyed literature and reading, I was never particularly interested in poetry until my wife Lita introduced me to it over thirty years ago. I am grateful to her for doing so because I have found a great deal of enjoyment in poetry. In addition, I find wisdom in some poetry as well as inspiration. Over the years of trying jury cases I don't think there was any in which I didn't use poetry in my summation to the jury to communicate an idea or emotion. Here are excerpts from some that are meaningful to me. Let me start with the inspiring words related to the founding of this country.  

The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776 In these days of violence, disagreement and political disputing, this reminder is relevant. 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The war inevitable March 1775 Patrick Henry The great orator Patrick Henry inspired action to protect the freedom of Americans. 

“Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

PoetryThere are poems that tell stories, poems that inspire and  poems  that educate. While I enjoy Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall, Donald Trump has caused me to be distracted by his campaign promise to "build a wall." Now my mind is diverted to wondering  if "good fences make good neighbors" or not.  

Mending wall Robert Frost

“He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors”

Maud Muller John Greenleaf Whittier. This great poem of lost youthful dreams contains one of the profound truths of our inability to change the past.

“God pity them both! And pity us all, who vainly the dreams of youth recall; for all the sad words of tongue or pen the saddest are these: “It might’ve been!”

A Psalm of life Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. What an inspiring thought. Our ability to make small changes "footprints in the sands of  time" that might motivate others.  

“Life’s of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time. Footprints, that perhaps another, sailing or life Saul of Maine, a forlorn and shipwrecked brother, seeing shall take heart again.”

Solitude Ella Wheeler Wilcox. How true this  is. We suffer and we die alone. 

“There is room in the halls of pleasure for a long and lordly train, but one by one we must all file on through the narrow aisles of pain.”

New friends and old friends Joseph Parry. I've always liked this poem for the concept of friends silver and  gold. How true it is. 

“New is good, but old is best; make new friends, but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.”

Always finish (unknown) “If a task is once begun never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor greater small, do it well or not at all.”

The house by the side of the road Sam Walter Foss

“There are pioneers souls that blazed their paths where highways never ran; but let me live by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

Drop a pebble in the water James W Foley. This is one of the powerful poems for me. The idea that what we do, good and bad, sends  ripples out spreading and spreading in ways we have no control over or ways of knowing. We should be inspired to do the good we can when we can. 

“Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone; but there’s half a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on, spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea. And there’s no way of telling where the end is going to be.”

This, too, shall pass away  Lanta Wilson Smith. I find the message of this poem to be of great comfort to me in times of difficulty.  

“When some great sorrow, like a mighty river, flows through your life with peace destroying power, and dearest things are swept from sight forever, say to your heart each trying hour: this, too, shall pass away.”

A Fence or an ambulance Joseph Malins. One needs to read the entire poem for the full impact, but the message that prevention is always better than cure is an important one. 

“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally; if the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense with the ambulance down in the valley.”

A creed Edwin Markham, This poem contains a truth I firmly believe in: our connection to each other and the relationship of our conduct impacting others also reflecting back to us. 

“There is a destiny that makes us brothers; none goes his way alone: all that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

The sin of omission Margaret E Sangster. What a profound idea this poem urges. It's what we fail to do that is often far more significant that the things we  should not have done, particularly when it involves kindness and  help for others. 

“It is not the thing you do, dear, it’s the thing you leave undone that gives you a bit of a heart ache at the setting of the sun. The tender word forgotten, the letter you did not write, the flowers you did not send, dear, are your hunting ghost at night.”

The charge of the light brigade Alford Tennyson. The tragic story behind this poem of a mistaken order leading to a suicide charge captures situations in  which we sometimes find ourselves. We are compelled to take action without reason or choice. 

“Theirs not to make reply, their’s not to reason why, theirs but to do and die: Into the valley of death rode the six hundred.”

A Boston toast John C Bossidy Everytime I encounter a situation where the rich or powerful are acting out their bad manners I think of this toast. 

“And this is good old Boston, the home of the bean and the cod, where the Lowells speak to the Cabots and the Cabots talk only to God.”

Growing older R. G. Wells. I certainly identify with this poem as I grow older. 

“A little more tired at the close of day, a little more anxious to have our way, a little less ready to scold and blame, a little more care for her brother’s name; and so we are nearing the journey’s end, or time and eternity meet and blend.”

A wise old owl Edward Hersey Richards. This is the poem I always felt should be required to be memorized by lawyers who are terrible listeners and talk way too much.

“A wise old owl lived in an oak; the more he saw the less he spoke; the less he spoke the more he heard: why can’t we all be like that bird?”

So, there you are. Just a sample of some poems that have meaning  for me and which you might enjoy reading. I've only quoted a  line or two and the entire poem would be far more enjoyable to read. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.