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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Coffee time and William Cullen Bryan

Phillip stopped by for coffee time yesterday at 3 p.m. He was waxing poetic. Phil E. is a big man. The hardest working fellow I have ever met. I think he is in his 70's. It is hard to watch him age. He always needs to be moving. Used to say, "got to get going,"  "come on lad we gotta go." He has made and lost a couple fortunes. Has had a huge farm, then smaller, then bigger. Kind of an amazing fellow. He started out shearing sheep as a kid, was the fastest shearer in the county. 
But, I do need to get to work so I'll get to the point.
The folks at coffee time were talking about geese and ducks. Then got on the subject of our neighbor was fishing and found a fellow who drowned.
Phillip all of a sudden says, "I have a poem. It's by William Cullen Bryan." He launches into Ode to a Waterfowl.


To a Waterfowl

  

  Whither, midst falling dew,

While glow the heavens with the last steps of day

Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue

Thy solitary way?


Vainly the fowler's eye

Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong

As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,

Thy figure floats along.


Seek'st thou the plashy brink

Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,

Or where the rocking billows rise and sing

On the chafed ocean side?


There is a Power whose care

Teaches thy way along that pathless coast--

The desert and illimitable air--

Lone wandering, but not lost.


All day thy wings have fanned,

At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,

Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

Though the dark night is near.


And soon that toil shall end;

Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,

And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,

Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.


Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven

Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart

Deeply has sunk the lesson thou hast given,

And shall not soon depart.


He who, from zone to zone,

Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,

In the long way that I must tread alone,

Will lead my steps aright.


 He couldn't remember the whole thing but did a few stanzas. 
When the folks started talking about the fellow who drowned Phil came up with 
"Thanatopsis."
Said his mother taught it to him. I think they learned it out of the Fifth Reader back when kids got an education.

        THANATOPSIS


        by: William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)


            O him who in the love of Nature holds

            Communion with her visible forms, she speaks

            A various language; for his gayer hours

            She has a voice of gladness, and a smile

            And eloquence of beauty, and she glides

            Into his darker musings, with a mild

            And healing sympathy, that steals away

            Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts

            Of the last bitter hour come like a blight

            Over thy spirit, and sad images

            Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,

            And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,

            Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;--

            Go forth, under the open sky, and list

            To Nature's teachings, while from all around--

            Earth and her waters, and the depths of air--

            Comes a still voice--Yet a few days, and thee

            The all-beholding sun shall see no more

            In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,

            Where thy pale form was laid with many tears,

            Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist

            Thy image. Earth, that nourish'd thee, shall claim

            Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,

            And, lost each human trace, surrendering up

            Thine individual being, shalt thou go

            To mix for ever with the elements,

            To be a brother to the insensible rock,

            And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain

            Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak

            Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.

             

            Yet not to thine eternal resting-place

            Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish

            Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down

            With patriarchs of the infant world--with kings,

            The powerful of the earth--the wise, the good,

            Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,

            All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills

            Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun,--the vales

            Stretching in pensive quietness between;

            The venerable woods; rivers that move

            In majesty, and the complaining brooks

            That make the meadows green; and, pour'd round all,

            Old Ocean's grey and melancholy waste,--

            Are but the solemn decorations all

            Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,

            The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,

            Are shining on the sad abodes of death,

            Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread

            The globe are but a handful to the tribes

            That slumber in its bosom.--Take the wings

            Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,

            Or lose thyself in the continuous woods

            Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound

            Save his own dashings--yet the dead are there:

            And millions in those solitudes, since first

            The flight of years began, have laid them down

            In their last sleep--the dead reign there alone.

            So shalt thou rest: and what if thou withdraw

            In silence from the living, and no friend

            Take note of thy departure? All that breathe

            Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh

            When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care

            Plod on, and each one as before will chase

            His favourite phantom; yet all these shall leave

            Their mirth and their employments, and shall come

            And make their bed with thee. As the long train

            Of ages glides away, the sons of men,

            The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes

            In the full strength of years, matron and maid,

            The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man--

            Shall one by one be gathered to thy side

            By those who in their turn shall follow them.

             

            So live, that when thy summons comes to join

            The innumerable caravan which moves

            To that mysterious realm where each shall take

            His chamber in the silent halls of death,

            Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,

            Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed

            By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,

            Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

            About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.


Wonder if my employee will come to work today. 

Kind of a contrast between old and new I suppose.

De-evoloution, I think that is a good term...

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