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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Old poetry books


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My father taught me to appreciate old books. He had a huge library, contained along the walls of many rooms in our house. I think each of us 8 kids kept some of them when he died.

Here are three I keep out on a table because the look and feel of them gives me pleasure, and they are full of poems!

The one on top is about five inches long. It is a book of poems titled The Seasons: containing Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, by James Thomson, with the life of the author by Dr. Samuel Johnson. It was published in 1788.

The second with the Celtic embossing is The Shorter Poems of John Keats, and has no publication date.

The green book on the bottom of the pile is The Early Poems of John Greenleaf Whittier, published in 1893.

Out of season, I want to post one of the most beautiful poems ever, from the second book: Keats' "To Autumn."

TO AUTUMN

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fumes of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats, 1819

15 comments:

Nancy said...

Those are beautiful poetry books. I love how they use to decorate the covers of novels and books back in the old days. Things are much simpler in today's society which is conveniant, but a pity at the same time.

Rauf said...

Wanted to be a doctor or a surgeon Ruth ? became a poet and died of TB
how sad.
Lot of john keats in my house but that was my older sister's collection. Before reading his poetry I think i made myself familiar with his letters. his letters were so emotional. specially to Fanny. forgot everything now Ruth. Its long time back. i was still in school.

What a lovely picture you have there Ruth.

Rauf said...

Dr. Johnson's biography was written by his friend Boswell, don't remember his first name and the spelling Ruth. Is he the same Dr. Samuel Johson the dictionary man ? Very witty he was, used to go to the slums and hear people talk and fight to collect words for his dictionary.

Ruth said...

Nancy, there seem to be few appreciators of art at that level these days. Or maybe there are appreciators, but not those who are willing to pay the price. Except the man who just bought Klimt's Perils of Adele for $135 million. Your photography is so lovely.

Ruth said...

Rauf, "James Boswell" the book says behind me on the shelf. Yes, Keats' story was tragic, died so young. If he accomplished what he did in his young life, imagine what he could have written in five or six more decades.

Mei Shile said...

I find you lucky to have these old books. This is bad I cannot appreciate Keats's poem. Always some is lost when reading from the point of view of another language :-(.

Ruth said...

Mei Shile, maybe in translation?

Ginnie said...

There really IS something about these old books. Maybe seeing and touching them gives us a bit of Dad back? He loved them for a reason but I don't ever recall talking to him about them and what they meant to him. Did you? I'm quite sure he bought them for a nickle here and a dime there. He loved being able to do that. Can you imagine him telling his "I paid only..." stories to that $135M man!

Ruth said...

No, Ginnie, I don't recall him talking about the books either. I wonder if the $135 million man got that way by watching his nickels too.

Billy Guilfoyle said...

Hey friend, I found you thru a link on The Healing Room blog. You were in her Wednesday 20 dealio. And I am in the new one. So anyhow, I share with you an affinity to The Power of Now as well as the Meditation master Osho. It will be a pleasure to swing over to your neck of the blogs from time to time and please feel free to visit mine. My Peaceful Revolution Leader blog is my personal favorite of my blogs. But if you go there, I must warn you that I posted some not so fun to look at photos taken from Abu Ghraib a few posts ago. I was hurt and needed to act when I saw them and I posted them without considering that others would see them without warning and be affected. So there's the warning. The rest of the blog is a bunch of spiritual and philosophical musings. Peace to you and all,
Billy G.

Ruth said...

Thank you for your visit, Billy G. I read your philosophical musings about love on the Leader blog, and I agree with what I read. Keep on posting and sharing the light.

Mei Shile said...

I find that poems loose in translation because you loose the original musicality of the verses and I find that the way a poem sounds is important. You just get the meaning.

Ruth said...

Mei Shile, I'm sure that's true sometimes. There are good translators though who find ways to incorporate lyricism in the new language.

Heather said...

Old poetry books rock! One of my co-workers at JCC gave me a lovely old copy of "A Day With Tennyson." The original inscription in the book is signed:
Mildred Schroeder
Dec. 25. 1910
from
Alice

What a lovely Christmas gift, Alice--whoever you are.

See my blog for a quote.

Ruth said...

Heather, yes, the inscriptions are one of the really cool things about these old books. With a good imaginagtion someone could start a novel with them.