In celebration of National Poetry Day 2015, I’ve chosen to feature a poem from a beautiful old book I discovered last week in one of my favourite charity shops in Glasgow.
The collection is titled ‘London Voluntaries’ by William Ernest Henley, and the paper is satisfyingly thick and creamy with that lovely whiff of rich literary history…
THE sea is full of wandering foam,
The sky a driving cloud;
My restless thoughts among them roam…
The night is dark and loud.
Where are the hours that came to me
So beautiful and bright?
A wild wind shakes the wilder sea…
O, dark and loud’s the night!
These words speak to me as much now as they might have done when they were first written in 1876.
Poetry has no use-by date. Words live on.
The sage and gold copy I have was published in London in 1907, but the first edition was published in January 1898. Something I particularly love about books – old and second-hand books – is finding a hand-written inscription, like this one:
A Kindle can’t ever hope to convey this kind of personalised message; the fading, often illegible script of someone taking the time to inscribe good wishes or friendship or love, and write the date, marking that moment forever in time.
For me, there is a beautiful poetry to that simple act, all in itself.
Henley also made a dedication to his wife, itself a poem.
Reading these words more than a hundred years later does nothing to strip them of their intimacy and intent, which leaps from the page as if the ink were still wet or the words being spoken by Henley himself, right now.
So I suppose, this post is a celebration of both poetry and books. Words handwritten or printed on carefully chosen paper.
Works of art, words of art, undiminished by the passing of time.
Thanks to National Poetry Day for reminding us to celebrate the poems of our time and the poems of the past, while nurturing the poets of our future.
On that note, why not dedicate a poem to someone you love?
Or revisit this beautiful ode to the lakeside solitude of Cadenabbia, Italy by Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.
Or my own ode to the Supermoon.
Poetry is the salve of the soul, capturing meaning and emotions, and deciphering the puzzle of life.