Saturday, November 5, 2011

Poetry Friday: Looking to the Past

I tend to turn towards modern poetry a lot in my teaching and reading. I thoroughly enjoy contemporary poetry  and all that it has to offer. Collins, Merwin, Shihab Nye, and so many other of my favorites write such beautiful and inspiring poems...there is never a shortage to choose from, both as a teacher and reader. I have to stop myself sometimes and remember to look to the past. provides me with a poem each day, delivered straight to my inbox (you should sign up, too), and while a lot of the poems they choose seem to be intended to provide exposure to late 20th and 21st century poems, every so often, they mix in poems from older greats such as Whitman, Dickinson, Donne, and Shelley.

A couple of weeks ago, they delivered a poem from the 19th century by someone I don't think I realized wrote poetry, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I really got into the transcendentalists as a high school student and read a lot of Whitman and Thoreau and Emerson...but none of his poems, I guess. Here's one I really enjoy:

By Ralph Waldo Emerson

The water understands
Civilization well;
It wets my foot, but prettily,
It chills my life, but wittily,
It is not disconcerted,
It is not broken-hearted:
Well used, it decketh joy,
Adorneth, doubleth joy:
Ill used, it will destroy,
In perfect time and measure
With a face of golden pleasure
Elegantly destroy.

Short and simple. I like it a lot. Poetry Friday is being hosted by Laura Salas at Writing the World For Kids. Please be sure to check it out.

1 comment:

  1. As brilliant as he is, I never knew Emerson could write like that.