My Young And Short "Poetic Phase"

I was 18 years old when I developed an interest in poetry. It started with a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow name Excelsior. I was so inspired by this poem and its message that I took it upon myself to memorize it. I adopted it as my favorite non-biblical poem. I still like it very much.

Excelsior tells the story of a boy on a journey. He bears a banner with the word "Excelsior." He encounters dire warnings and temptations and such along his journey but he does not give in. He does not falter as he marches on. It is a poem of youthful idealism and determination. Here is the first stanza of the poem:

The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,

You can read all of Excelsior here

I liked memorizing that poem so much that I determined to find another that I liked and memorize it too. So I searched through poetry books at the library,, looking for just the right poem. I found it in Sir Walter Scott’s Lochinvar. It is a Scottish tale and I am of Scottish descent, so maybe there was a genetic appeal. Then again, I’m sure it was the brashness and romantic bravery of young Lochinvar. Such things appeal to idealistic 18-year-old boys. Actually, such things appeal to idealistic 48-year-old men too. The poem begins:

O young Lochinvar is come out of the west,
Through all the wide Border his steed was the best;
And save his good broadsword he weapons had none,
He rode all unarm'd, and he rode all alone.
So faithful in love, and so dauntless in war,
There never was knight like the young Lochinvar

Now, doesn’t that just fire up something in you? I love the part, later in the poem, where it says:

The bride kiss'd the goblet: the knight took it up,
He quaff'd off the wine, and he threw down the cup.

Just reading that makes me want to quaff off some wine and thrown down the cup (and I don’t even like wine). Then, of course, there is the "fair Ellen." This is a thrilling tale and you can read all of Lochinvar here.

While in this very short "poetry phase" of my young life, I decided to write a poem of my own, and I did. It was not a great poem but I was satisfied with it at the time. It was a poem that summed up my feelings as I was about to graduate from high school. My poem has one thing in common with the two above poems—it speaks of initiative and action.

Few Act

People’s lives are filled with dreams.
Some dream of the past.
Some dream of the future.
Some dream of life,
and love, and happiness.
Some dream of wealth,
and power and recognition.
Some dream of new shoes,
a car, or a new house,
Yes, everyone dreams.

Few act.

The world is full of unhappy dreamers.

I never ever anticipated that I would one day publish that poem. But thirty years later, along comes this remarkable thing called the internet where anyone can publish their poetry. And a lot of people do. They put me to shame. But, just for the record, I once wrote a poem.

1 comment:

Emily said...

As a long-time poetry lover - reader and writer - I really enjoyed this post, Herrick. I like what you wrote so many years ago....very insightful for a young man.