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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Poetry Review: I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

 Annunciation Catholic Church in Houston, Texas.  The scaffolding covers the steeple, which is undergoing some needed repairs.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, by William Wordsworth

I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:                                  10
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,                               20
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

It is Summer time in Texas.  Well, let me qualify that.  For most Texans, Summer starts when school ends.  But for us Homeschool types, school never ends.  I actually think that doing school throughout the Summer, sitting in the air conditioning is a good thing for our children.  Let them go out in the morning or the evening, when the temperatures are milder. 

The poem above is one of those things which one of the Noisykids has to analyze today.  I figured that I could review it on the blog, since I had to read the poem, read my son's analysis of it, and then critique his writing.  It is all good, since the way to become a writer is to write, and to review other people's writing.  It goes along with this quote, which really struck me:


"Fifteen years from now, after you have mastered your craft, you will yearn to return to the things that most fascinated you when you were undergraduates."

- Anonymous Law School Professor

Yep.  Carolyn has never asked me to whisper medical facts in her ear when she is feeling romantic.  Seriously, though, I really enjoyed the few literature classes I took, and consider reading and writing to be a great avocation.

First, let us look at the anatomy of the poem:

1.  Twenty-four lines, broken into four stanzas. 

2.  Each line consists of 8 syllables.  There are a couple of lines where there are actually 9 syllables, but one could slur the words to make it more like 8 syllables.  Look at lines 6 and 7.  If one skipped the second syllable in 'fluttering' and pronounced it 'flut-RING,' or pronounced 'continuous' as 'contin-yoose,' the 8-syllable rule is observed.

          Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

          Continuous as the stars that shine

I have a thing for syllables, because I like writing Haiku poems, and there one has to watch that the syllables don't go over the limit.

3.  The rhyme pattern is A-B-A-B-C-C, where the first line of each stanza rhymes with the third, and the second and fourth rhyme with each other.  The final two lines in each stanza form a separate couplet.  There are no rhymes which connect any of the stanzas.

4.  The only symmetry in the poem is that the poet starts out by looking at the daffodils, and ends up recalling the pleasure that came with seeing the flowers. 

So, What does the poem say?

In the first stanza, the poet discovers a field full of daffodils.  The title and first line of the poem imply that the writer was sad and feeling very lonely when he encountered the flowers.  In the next two stanzas, he describes the flowers as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as dancers on the shore of the lake.  He ends the third stanza by commenting that he did not appreciate just how much gladness came from seeing the daffodils.  In the fourth stanza, he writes how his memory of the daffodils fills his heart with joy and consolation when he is sad.

By the way, for those of you who wondered, jocund means cheerful, merry, glad.  Try to use it in a sentence today.

What does this poem mean to me?

This poem reflects my own experience, which automatically makes it a good poem.  All of us have past experiences which we recall with joy.  In Wordsworth's poem, he saw a field of daffodils alongside a lake.  For me, there are many memories which can bring back such happiness that they may brighten any difficult or sad time.  All of us have pleasant memories which can bring a smile to our face, even those which seemed trivial at the time.  William Wordsworth has shared this thought with us in just a few lines of simple poetry.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Compilation

I started putting some poems appropriate for Memorial Day on facebook, but then I figured it would be better to just put them all on here and link it to facebook.  So, here goes....

Prayer of a Soldier in France

Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1918)

My shoulders ache beneath my pack

(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).
I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

Men shout at me who may not speak

(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

Then there is this one: 

In Flanders Field

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

LTC John McCrae
Canadian Physician and Officer during World War I.

I know of many veterans who died; however, most of them did not die in combat.  Two stick out in my memory, though.  One was a Nurse Anesthetist who had some sort of malignant cancer which killed him within six months of the diagnosis.  I recall seeing him at a Christmas Concert with Michael Martin Murphy, and he was dead by May of the following year shortly before I separated from the Air Force.  I can't hear a song by Michael Martin Murphy without thinking and praying for the repose of the soul of LTC Tom Vezie, USAF NC.

The other deceased veteran was a pediatrician who was on temporary assignment in Korea when he was stabbed to death while walking through an outdoor market.  He left a wife and several young children behind.  I can't recall his name.  I never met him, but his death reminded me that our lives are truly not our own.  This is especially true for the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of this great nation.

And then there is this last poem, allegedly written on a grave marker for a Marine killed on Guadalcanal in World War II:

Eternal rest grant unto them , Oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls, and all the souls of the Faithful Departed, rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

College Graduation and Coffee Update

We spent the weekend in Front Royal, Virginia, where Dominick, our oldest, graduated from Christendom College with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Economics.  We are very proud of his accomplishments, especially at such a challenging school.  The graduation ceremony was excellent, with all of the comments and addresses to the students full of good advice. Even the Salutatory and Valedictory Addresses were worth listening to.

One of the speakers was Rev. Kenneth Baker, S.J., who was the editor for Homiletic and Pastoral Review for many years.  He encouraged all of the students to become active in writing.  He went on to give examples of famous writers who persisted in their craft, and how they dedicated hours of their day to writing.  He also mentioned how important it is to not give up, even if one gets nothing but rejection slips for one's work.  He mentioned how Richard Back, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, endured many rejection slips before getting his book published.  At the mention of the word 'seagull,' one of the children leaned over and whispered, "he's talking about that seagull book you reviewed, Dad!"

Fr. Baker gave some solid, practical advice for writers.  First off, in order to be a writer, one must WRITE.  Second, the two easiest ways to get published are to:

1.  Write letters to the editor, and
2.  Write book reviews.

Wow.  That gave me some encouragement to get back to writing.  While I shall never have enough free time to dedicate a couple of hours to writing, I can still do something with the time I do find to write.  Fr. Baker did not mention blogging, but for now that will have to be my main avenue for writing.  Regarding the other two, I have had a few letters to the editor and book reviews published, and I shall continue to pursue that area of writing as well.

But I digress.  I am sure when Carolyn reads this, she will observe that anything I write eventually becomes a personal lovefest, with me at the center.

Dominick's thesis is titled, Marxists, Guns, and Money: Three Case Studies of Left-Wing Latin American Insurgencies.  I look forward to reading it, although it might be a bit above my head.  I can't stop thinking that the thesis title is a reference to a song by the late Warren Zevon.

Speaking of music, here is a lousy picture from the graduation dance.  This is Cornelius dancing with his youngest sister, ZelieLouisa.  They really enjoyed dancing, with only one child refusing to dance.  I can relate, because I was the same way when I was his age.  

 Here are all the children who could attend the graduation.  The teenagers still had their home school Co-op going on, so they could not attend.  Bernadette, who just completed her second year at Christendom, was also there, of course.  From left, we have Cornelius, Maximilian, and ZelieLouisa in front of Dominick.  Marcellinus is standing in front of Bernadette, who is holding onto Bernard:

Here is the graduate, sandwiched between his proud parents.  We pray that Dominick continues to be open to whatever God calls him to in this life.  He is off to a good start.


Now let us talk coffee.  I have tried three different types since the last time I posted, and want to make a really quick comment about them.  First, the Green Mountain Coffee Breakfast Blend Decaf was good.  I would buy it again, especially since it is described as "bright, sweet, and engaging."

That sounds like a description for Carolyn, not coffee.  Anyways, I liked it and would buy it again.

Next up is Tully's Coffee.  Tully's.  Yes, it is good coffee.  I have known about it for years, ever since one of my former partners from Seattle told me about it.  I have nothing against the coffee, but it is the ONLY Keurig cup which has obstructed, causing coffee to leak out of any opportune part of the brewer instead of the coffee dispenser.  Imagine what happens when a saturated diaper is filled with even more urine by the baby wearing it.  For me, this is not something I have to imagine, but for those of you without children please bear with me.  Fluid leaks out of everywhere.

I called the Keurig company after this happened with a previous shipment of coffee, and they were very understanding and promptly sent me a box of replacement cartridges.  Now that it has happened again, I think I shall just pass.

One reason I can skip Tully's coffee is this Belgian coffee:  Van Houtte.  This stuff was so good that I think it might just become the only coffee I purchase.  I also feel as if I am making the world a better place drinking 'Fair Trade Certified' organic coffee.  Or maybe because this Belgian coffee is actually made in Canada.....

Finally, here is a picture of Carolyn, Dominick, and I after the Baccalaureate Mass on Friday.  Once again, I have to comment that Carolyn 'sure do make some beautiful babies!'

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation
Now restored with the help of some cement!

Prayer to Our Lady of the Mysterious Decapitation

Mary my mother, take my hand today, and all days.
Lead me away from all occasions of sin.
Guide me in fulfilling your last words in the Gospel,
"Do whatever He tells you."

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