Saturday, March 21, 2009

World Poetry Day

21 March is World Poetry Day. Who knew? Wikipedia did!

In honor of the day then, a look at a poet, and at Alphonse Mucha's illustration, left: "Poetry", one of a set of four of his lovely paintings featuring "The Arts"


Oliver Wendell Holmes born 29 August 1809 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

"A man of contrasts and contradictions, Holmes lived his life between the poetic and the realistic. A celebrated poet-doctor, he spent the greater part of his life as physician and professor at Harvard University teaching anatomy and physiology. He published many essays and journal articles on travel, epidemiology, psychology, and literature, and hundreds of short stories both humorous and critical." (Here)

A chart for 12 noon on the day and place of his birth. It's a pity there's no time of birth available to give us his rising sign and exact Moon position. If he was born after 2pm Moon would have moved from Aries to Taurus.

Is the contrast mentioned in the quote above to be found in the chart? Sun and Mercury in Mercury-ruled Virgo relate to discernment, attention to detail and communicative abilities, useful in both his writings and his career in medicine. Venus, planet of the arts in sensitive Cancer connects to his poetry, I think. Neptune, planet of creativity is square (challenging aspect) to his Sun, underlining the contrast between nit-picking Virgo accuracy and creative, imaginative Neptune in expansive Sagittarius. Dr. Holmes had three planets in Scorpio, two of them harmoniously linked via trine to Venus in Cancer - potential for insight and passion, which is sometimes discernible in his poetry.

Dr Holmes (right) lived in the era when trancendentalism was fashionable. Though he mixed with those who followed this movement, he wasn't a part of it. He wrote a biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson leader of the trancendentalist movement, but it is reported that he remained uncritical, though uninvolved. Perhaps the contrast in his nature allowed him to understand the appeal of the movement without being drawn into it. I suspect he decided that discretion is the better part of valor.

And so to some of Oliver Wendell Holmes' poetry. The first, "Sun and Shadow", had me thinking of President Obama trying hard to steer the Ship of State to safer waters. (Or should that be "Ship of Fools"?)

Sun and Shadow

As I look from the isle, o'er its billows of green,
To the billows of foam-crested blue,
Yon bark, that afar in the distance is seen,
Half dreaming, my eyes will pursue:
Now dark in the shadow, she scatters the spray
As the chaff in the stroke of the flail;
Now white as the sea-gull, she flies on her way,
The sun gleaming bright on her sail.

Yet her pilot is thinking of dangers to shun,--
Of breakers that whiten and roar;
How little he cares, if in shadow or sun
They see him who gaze from the shore!
He looks to the beacon that looms from the reef,
To the rock that is under his lee,
As he drifts on the blast, like a wind-wafted leaf,
O'er the gulfs of the desolate sea.

Thus drifting afar to the dim-vaulted caves
Where life and its ventures are laid,
The dreamers who gaze while we battle the waves
May see us in sunshine or shade;
Yet true to our course, though the shadows grow dark,
We'll trim our broad sail as before,
And stand by the rudder that governs the bark,
Nor ask how we look from the shore!

Our Limitations

WE trust and fear, we question and believe,
From life's dark threads a trembling faith to weave,
Frail as the web that misty night has spun,
Whose dew-gemmed awnings glitter in the sun.
While the calm centuries spell their lessons out,
Each truth we conquer spreads the realm of doubt;
When Sinai's summit was Jehovah's throne,
The chosen Prophet knew his voice alone;
When Pilate's hall that awful question heard,
The Heavenly Captive answered not a word.

Eternal Truth! beyond our hopes and fears
Sweep the vast orbits of thy myriad spheres!
From age to age, while History carves sublime
On her waste rock the flaming curves of time,
How the wild swayings of our planet show
That worlds unseen surround the world we know.

And I like the last two verses of

The Coming Era

Well, Time alone can lift the future's curtain,--
Science may teach our children all she knows,
But Love will kindle fresh young hearts, 't is certain,
And June will not forget her blushing rose.

And so, in spite of all that Time is bringing,--
Treasures of truth and miracles of art,
Beauty and Love will keep the poet singing,
And song still live, the science of the heart.

More of his poetry HERE.

Finally, a few wise words from Dr.Holmes:

"Chicago sounds rough to the maker of verse. One comfort we have - Cincinnati sounds worse."

"Controversy equalizes fools and wise men - and the fools know it."

"Do not be bullied out of your common sense by the specialist; two to one, he is a pedant."


Wisewebwoman said...

Lovely post, T.

anthonynorth said...

Those transcendentalists were vital, if often ignored. In many ways, the first Greens.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~ glad you enjoyed it. :-)


AN ~~ Mmm - or the original hippies? :-)