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All day thy wings have fanned,
Though the dark night is near.
And soon that toil shall end;
Soon o'er thy sheltered nest.
Thou’rt gone; the abyss of heaven
And shall not soon depart.
He who from zone to zone Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, 15 In the long way that I must tread alone
Will lead my steps aright.
NOTES AND QUESTIONS
Biography. William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), the first great American poet, was born in western Massachusetts and educated in the district school. At home he had the use of his father's library, an exceptionally fine one, and he made the most of its advantages. In 1816 he journeyed on foot to Plainfield, Massachusetts, to look for a place to open a law office. He felt forlorn and desolate, and the world seemed big and cold. On his way he paused, impressed by the beauty of the sunset, and saw a solitary wild fowl wing its way along the horizon until it was lost in the distance. He went on with new courage, and when he stopped for the night, he sat down and wrote this beautiful poem of faith and hope, “To a Waterfowl.” Many of his best poems were inspired by Nature or one of Nature's creatures.
Bryant soon gave up the study of law to devote himself to his literary work. In addition to writing poetry, he was editor of the New York Evening Post, one of America's greatest newspapers. His long life was full of usefulness and happiness. Bryant had the gift of seeing that the commonest things about him were interesting and worthwhile. He died in 1878, one of the most loved of American poets.
Note. “To a Waterfowl” is a lyrical poem, that is, a musical poem appropriate for song-“suited to be sung to the lyre.” Nature is a favorite theme for lyrical poets. In a lyric, the poet expresses his own observations and emotions—his love, his joy, his grief. A great lyric not only expresses the poet's feeling, but it has the power to make us feel. We learn through it to feel tenderness, or pity, or sorrow, or happiness. What feeling caused Bryant to write “To a Waterfowl”? Other well-known lyrics by Bryant are “Robert of Lincoln,” a poem in which he gives us a glimpse of his humor; “March,” “The Gladness of Nature,” and “The Yellow Violet,” poems in which he expresses joy at the return of spring; “The Death of the Flowers,” a poem that commemorates the death of the poet's sister; and "To a Fringed Gentian," a poem of hope. Note lyrics by other authors in this book.
Discussion. 1. After a good reader has read this entire poem in class, tell under what circumstances it was written. 2. How does the poet speak of the sunset? 3. What characteristics did Bryant show in stopping to enjoy the sunset and to watch the bird? 4. What was the appearance of the bird against the sky? 5. What words used in the fourth stanza emphasize the thought that there is no path or road for the bird to follow through the air? 6. Find the lines that tell what is the toil referred to in the sixth stanza. When will the bird's toil end? What will follow toil? 7. How does the thought that the bird is guided help the poet? 8. What comparison does he make between his life and the flight of the bird ? 9. Read again what is said on pages 10 and 11 about the form of poetryrime, rhythm, etc.—and then find examples of these forms in this poem.
Newspaper Reading. William Cullen Bryant, as editor of the New York Evening Post, influenced the thinking of a large circle of readers. Since that time the newspaper has constantly grown in power, until today it is one of the important factors in American life and education.
The first newspaper in the United States, Public Occurrences, was started in 1690. The oldest existing newspaper in the country is the New Hampshire Gazette, founded in 1756. Since the days of Benjamin Franklin, and later of William Cullen Bryant, there have been many influential journalists in America, notably Horace Greeley (1811-1872), editor of the New York Tribune; Charles A. Dana (1819-1897), editor of the New York Sun; and Henry Watterson (1840–), editor of the Louisville CourierJournal. Who are the editors of newspapers with which you are familiar?
Notice in the newspapers of your community the regular place for general news, editorials, society news, sports, market reports, joke column, cartoons, and advertisements. Headlines in large type call attention to the story and the leads in smaller type, directly under the headlines, give a brief summary of the story. Bring to class examples of leads that you think are striking because they tell much in a few words. What is the value to the busy reader of having a definite place for each department, and of the headlines and the leads?
The robin laughed in the orange-tree:
Time's scythe shall reap but bliss for me
"Burn, golden globes in leafy sky, My orange-planets; crimson I
Will shine and shoot among the spheres 10 (Blithe meteor that no mortal fears)
And thrill the heavenly orange-tree
“If that I hate wild winter's spite
The gibbet trees, the world in white, 16 The sky but gray wind over a graveWhy should I ache, the season's slave?
I'll sing from the top of the orange-tree: 'Gramercy, winter's tyranny.'
“I'll south with the sun, and keep my clime; 20 My wing is king of the summer time;
My breast to the sun his torch shall hold;
NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biography. Sidney Lanier (1842-1881) was a native of Georgia. When he was a mere lad he entered the Confederate army and devoted the most precious years of his life to that service. While in a military prison he contracted consumption, and during his remaining years he struggled constantly with disease and poverty. He was a talented musician and often
*From Poems of Sidney Lanier, copyright, 1884, 1891, by Mary D. Lanier ; published by Charles Scribner's Sors.
found it necessary to add to the earnings of his pen by playing in an orchestra. During his last years he lectured on English Literature in Johns Hopkins University, at Baltimore. He has often been compared with Poe in the exquisite melody of his verse, while in unaffected simplicity and truthfulness to nature he is not surpassed by Bryant or Whittier. His prose as well as his poetry breathes the very spirit of his sunny southland. In the “Song of the Chattahoochee” and “On a Florida River," we scent the balsam of the Georgia pines among which he lived, and the odor of magnolia groves, jessamine, and wild honeysuckle.
Discussion. 1. Where is Tampa? 2. If you were not told the name of the bird, what lines would tell you that the robin is meant? 3. If the name of the tree were not told, wiat lines would tell you that the orange is meant? 4. Why is Time represented with a scythe? 5. What things mean bliss for the robin? 6. To what does the robin compare the oranges when he calls them “orange-planets”? To what does he compare his movements among the oranges? 7. Why do men fear meteors? 8. How does the robin feel toward winter? 9. To what does the Tampa robin compare the leafless trees of the North? 10. What climate will the robin "keep” by going south with the sun? 11. Read a line which gives the keynote of the poem. 12. Read the fourth line in the third stanza; answer this question as it might be answered by someone who was not as free from care as the robin. 13. Why would you expect Lanier to write lyrical verse? 14. Library reading: “Yellow Warblers,” Katherine Lee Bates (in Melody of Earth); “Birds,” Moira O'Neill (in High Tide). 15. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: orbits; minstrelsy; gramercy. 16. Pronounce: blithe; gibbet.
Bird of the wilderness,
Blithesome and cumberless,
Emblem of happiness,
Blest is thy dwelling place-
Wild is thy lay and loud,
Far in the downy cloud;
Where on thy dewy wing,
Where art thou journeying?
O'er fell and fountain sheen,
O'er moor and mountain green,
Over the cloudlet dim,
Over the rainbow's rim,
Then, when the gloaming comes,
Low in the heather blooms,
NOTES AND QUESTIONS Biography. James Hogg (1770-1835) was born in Ettrick, Scotland. He is called “The Ettrick Shepherd” because he came from a family of shepherds and when a child, worked as a cowherd and sheep-tender. He passed many long, lonely days, and spent his evening hours listening to old ballads and legends which his mother recited to him. This strange childhood of his left within his heart, he tells us, “a something that's without a name.” When a young man he assisted Walter Scott in the collection of old ballads for the Border Minstrelsy and published a small volume of poems. The publication of The Queen's Wake in 1831, a collection of tales and ballads supposed to have been sung to Mary, Queen of Scots, by native bards of Scotland, established his reputation as an author.
Discussion. 1. To whom is the poem addressed? 2. What different names does the poet give to the bird? 3. What claim has the skylark to the first of these names? 4. How does your knowledge of the geography of Scotland help you to understand the poet's reference to the “wilderness"? 5. What word refers to the lark's morning song? 6. What line in the second stanza tells you that it is early morning? 7. Read a line that tells how high the lark flies while singing. 8. What is the “red streamer” referred to in the second stanza? 9. What time is the gloaming? 10. Where does the lark make its nest? 11. What word used by the poet in describing the lark's nest tells his country? 12. Where do you think the shepherd poet was when he heard the lark? Could other shepherds have received happiness or strength from the song of the lark, even though they could not express their thoughts in poetry? 13. What must you have in yourself in order to enjoy the song of a bird as the poet enjoyed it? 14. What tells you that this is a lyrical poem? 15. Contest: Who can read this poem aloud most effectively? 16. Find in the Glossary the meaning of: cumberless; matin; lay.