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.”