Thursday, February 9, 2012

Appreciation of Simplicity

The poems that I read by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (The Village Blacksmith), Elizabeth Oakes Smith (An Incident) and Thomas Bailey Aldrich (I vex me not with brooding on the years) all seem to share a sense of appreciation for simplicity. Longfellow’s poem, The Village Blacksmith, provides a catalogue of the characteristics of a blacksmith. Longfellow, much like Whitman, provides great detail in his description of the blacksmith noting details that are often overlooked. The speaker of the poem reveals the role of the blacksmith to the community when he asserts that “children coming home from school/Look in at the open door;/They love to see the flaming roar.” In making this assertion the speaker has elevated the blacksmith from the lower portion of the professional hierarchy to a spot closer to the top. Whitman does the same in Song of Myself as he reverses the knowledge hierarchy when he suggests that he knows isn’t “any more than he” (7) referring to a child.

After reading Elizabeth Oakes Smith’s poem several times, I believe that she is questioning why we miss people, places or things through the lens of a bird of prey. I am still uncertain how this connects to Whitman, but I think it may be related to seizing the moment. When the speaker of the poem states “I would not soar like thee, in the loneliness to pine” it suggests that flight should be an uplifting occasion rather than one that evokes feelings on longing.

The last poem that I read, I vex me not with brooding on the years, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich seems to be a jab at death. The speaker of the poem asserts early that “brooding on the years” will not vex him and establishes the defiant tone of the poem. Whereas Whitman was celebrating life throughout Song of Myself, I believe that Aldrich is also celebrating life by rejecting the notion of “pondering things that lay beyond” his “kin” and accepting the idea that a “still lovelier life awaits thee.” Ultimately, both poets, I believe, are suggesting that we (the reader) seize the moment. 

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