Two Poems: March Night & Chapman Landing by Canoe

Submitted by Caleb on Sat, 01/27/2018 - 00:05

March Night

Last night as I went through the gate
From the churchyard, walking home,
Sweet fragrance met me in the dark,
From a new, and unseen bloom.

I knew it told of coming spring’s
Sweet successive waves of flowers;
The first note in the overture
Of pageant, seen and loved before.


On First Paddling into Chapman Landing

All at once, all was still.
The water smooth, reflecting,
Silkily rolled beneath my paddle
As we came to Chapman landing.

Tall cottonwoods upon the right hand
Shone in the sunlight and in the stream —
Upward and downward from the island,
Their leaves rippling softly as in a dream.

The pilings stood eerie and still
Where they used to unload the timber —
Brought down from dark Vernonian hills —
With long gone noise, hardly remembered.

We turned to one another and spoke
‘Did you suddenly feel what I feel here?’
(Echoing across the water our words woke
The dark and pitchy timber pier,)

'Here I feel a deep, dark cool
Meet a warm soft sun in a magic pool,
And the summer evening softly breath
Where the landing lies by the island trees.’


Chapman Landing is by Scappoose (Oregon) on the Multnomah Channel which is the back channel of Sauvie Island in the Columbia River. The old Crown-Zellerbach logging road, which goes out to the logging hills around Vernonia, ends at Chapman Landing. Actually, as soon as you leave Scappoose it's woods the whole 26 miles to Vernonia.

Why I put these together:
So, I was thinking about teaching a poetry class, and one of my prospective students asked me if I would give my students prompts of what to write about (in a tone that said 'I don't know what to write a poem about.')

It's a good question -- What are some things that poems could be about? And what could be the first prompt?

It seems to me that right at the hub of the English poetic tradition is the Romantic idea of our hearts responding to beauty (often beauty in nature) and being elevated by the experience.

And I think that could be a good place to start: in eight lines (or thereabouts) recall a time that you were moved by some beautiful sight in nature, or some lovely passage of music or even literature.

So I thought to myself, what are some examples of this kind of poem? They must be numerous. And these two poems of mine (along with the first poem I posted on Apricotpie) came to my mind as being in this category-- not that I was thinking about Romantic Philosophy when I wrote them. But what are some examples from famous poems? These three came to me:

Daffodils by William Wordsworth

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer by John Keats

On Hearing a Beethoven Symphony by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Speaking of music, for those who listen to music a lot I wonder if we listen, not so much because it’s generally pleasant as part of our daily atmosphere, but rather because we’ve tasted before, and are waiting again for that moment when beauty transports us -- that moment when you’re listening to a song and it stops you dead in your tracks. As Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote on hearing Beethoven: “This moment is the best the world can give: The tranquil blossom on the tortured stem.”

I would say this is certainly true with me and canoeing. Canoeing can seem basically like work, and then all of a sudden you come to Chapman Landing. And though where or when one might have an emotional response to beauty is somewhat subjective (even the same person can be moved one time listening to a song and not another time listening to the exact same song) everyone with me in the canoes felt a serenity when we came there. I asked my sister about it today and she said it seemed “farther away.”

Author's age when written


I moved my comments to the post.

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse

Both poems are very deep and beautiful, but I especially love March Night. Very lovely.

On your note about why people listen to music; yes! That's exactly it! I've never heard it explained so perfectly before. And I suppose it's the same feeling I experience when I'm taking a walk on my country road in the evening and I see the colors of the sky as the sun begins to set. You've captured that feeling quite perfectly.

I don’t thrive off of chaos: chaos thrives off of me.

It's something I've thought about. I agree with the Romantics that beauty can uplift us, but I feel like beauty has really fulfilled what it's all about when our souls sing in response to the Saviour "My God, how great Thou art!"

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse

I would attend this class :)

I could practically smell the damp sweetness of hidden flowers as I read March Night. It's a weird little pleasure of mine, smelling things in the dark and trying to assign words to it. A lot of my story ideas have come from smells, so that poem really spoke to me. If I had poetic talent, I would definitely try that route of description! Good job!

When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.

Your poetry transported me away to see and feel and smell and touch and wonder. They are beautiful and deep. The second would have to be my favorite, though I can't explain why.

It's good to hear that not only could I revive the feelings from those moments to write the poem, but that I could share them with a reader:)

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse

That's interesting. It's interesting how stories unfold from a seed.

I certainly don't want my writing to be scents-less.

Scent is very powerful; Just the other day the mix of Tide and Tobacco smoke (not as pleasant as a flower's perfume) met me, and it really brought to me how that's not such a common mix to smell when passing by houses in North Portland as it was when I was a child. I think it's a story of gentrification.

And he was just wondering, for he was a severe critic of his own work, whether that last line couldn't be polished up a bit...
~P.G. Wodehouse