Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Poetry Wednesday

By Judith

"The Spirit of '76" by Archibald M. Willard

On this Fourth of July we look at two poems that portray America prior to the initial Independence Day and one of the celebrations after it. First, Carl Sandburg, with striking imagery, looks at fireworks. John Adams said prophetically, "I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..." And so it is.

Ralph Waldo Emerson writes about the courage and stamina of those who fought and those who died in the battles of Concord and Lexington to make possible our ability to celebrate our freedom . So while we're all enjoying our hotdogs and baseball and parades and fireworks, let's say a prayer of thanks to God that there were then - and are still today - those who value freedom and their fellow man so, that they are willing to give their lives for the cause of liberty.

- Carl Sandburg

The little boat at anchor in black water sat murmuring to the tall black sky
A white sky bomb fizzed on a black line.
A rocket hissed it's red signature into the west.
Now a shower of Chinese fire alphabets,
A cry of flower pots broken in flames,
A long curve to a purple spray, three violet balloons---
Drips of seaweed tangled in gold, shimmering symbols of mixed numbers,
Tremulous arrangements of cream gold folds of a bride's wedding gown---
A few sky bombs spoke their pieces, then velvet dark.
The little boat at anchor in black water sat murmuring to the tall black sky.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.


  1. Do you suppose they teach poetry to children any more?

    They didn't teach me much, I can say that. And it seems to me that they concentrated so much on structure and form that there was no pleasure in it.

    Poetry should be about words and sounds and ideas and feelings, shouldn't it?

    And structure makes it better, of course.

    Thanks, Judith!

  2. Yes, we read some poetry in English lit class, but it seemed the sole focus of studying Shakespeare was to memorize famous speeches. I think there's more to it than that. That's why I'm trying to share some of my favorite poets and their work.
    Thanks for your comment, Ray.


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