Saturday, January 14, 2012

Longfellow, Shakespeare...and Blanche

A couple of days ago Blanche was outside feeding her cat when I stopped by to visit. After she was finished we repaired to her living room. We chatted about current events (around the world, and on the island). In the course of the conversation I mentioned the hymn that I quoted on this blog Tuesday ("Time like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day").

That line reminded Blanche of poems she had committed to memory as a youth. With only a bit of encouragement she recited several selections from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Shakespeare: The Builders, A Psalm of Life, and All the World's a Stage.

In case you are not familiar with these poems, here is A Psalm of Life:

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Blanche is such a remarkable woman! She didn't simply repeat the words of the poems. She delivered them with feeling. I am truly blessed to have Blanche as my neighbor.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke and the "Lost" Colony. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous8:32 AM


  2. Anonymous10:20 AM

    wait a minute --is this not the point of a poem to recite it with feeling --!! I had a little beetle and beetle was his name I called him Alexander and he answered just the same --- apologies to A.A. Milne. Woo Hooo ya'll get ready for April National Poetry Month I can't wait

  3. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Does OI celebrate MLK day with a parade?

  4. Ocracokers are in hibernation mode in January. There will be no parade here on January 16. The only parade we ever have is on July 4.

  5. Anonymous8:20 AM

    Blanche's memory is absolutely amazing. Your accounts of Blanche that you kindly often share on your blog never disappoint. What a wonderful, spontaneous moment to spend with such an incredible lady. Philip, I applaud your good sense in knowing you have a gem for a neighbor and you take the time to have quality visits with one another.

    I am sure Blanche is richly blessed to have you living close to her, as well.

    Just another example that those types of simple joys in life are always the most precious.

    Rock on, Ms. Blanche!

  6. Ron Kostar10:08 AM

    Is there any such thing as an unpoetic Howard? (: Hope you are warm and well Philip.