Wednesday, June 27, 2007
the joy, the triumph, the lament...
i mentioned before i left on vacation that maine just feels old to me. it feels like big band more than top 40. it feels like rotary more than cell. it feels like town diner more than chain restaurant. and even though he lives in maine, it feels like henry wadsworth longfellow more than stephen king.
on the sunday when i was in maine, rather than go to church (i try to avoid church on vacation - we can talk about that another time), i went to a flea market. for a pastor, it was a satisfying kind of rebellion. while people all across the nation were worshipping in churches, i was out looking for signs of the Creator amongst some crazy characters and so much creation. i stumbled across the above book and couldn't take my eyes off it. it is by henry wadsworth longfellow, a writer who was born in maine and spent much of his life there. i have some personal history with one of longfellow's long narrative poems, evangeline, and so i was already interested in any old editions of his works. being in maine only exacerbated that interest. so i bought it for a cool four bucks.
'tales of a wayside inn,' published in 1906 (my edition is 1913), is a collection of stories told in narrative poem by a variety of characters (a spanish jew, a musician, a theologian, a student, a landlord, a poet, etc) who are all spending the night in this massachusetts inn. it is full of rhyme and meter, some really great old stories, and some really sweet antiquated poetry, like this bit about the musician:
Before the blazing fire of wood
Erect the rapt musician stood;
And ever and anon he bent
His head upon his instrument,
And seemed to listen, till he caught
Confesions of its secret thought,--
The joy, the triumph, the lament,
The exultation and the pain;
Then, by the magic of his art,
He soothed the throbbings of its heart,
And lulled it into peace again.
i was taken by the aged patina and old language, and so i lost myself in a world of poetry and story and a new england of many decades ago. i read the whole book and loved it. i didn't want to leave it and reemerge into a world of computers and cell phones and text messages. i didn't want to wake from my 100-year old dream and find myself again in a world where words are useful mostly for commerce, and even then best abbreviated and morphed to save keystrokes.
i am reminded that i, like the musician, want to listen more often. i want to press my hear to the soul of these words, to discover what they want to say to me. i want to strain my eyes into the center of their letteredness and see the wild dance they dare to do - "the joy, the triumph, the lament, the exultation and the pain...". i want to breath these words, breath life into them, and see what they come to mean. i want to play with them. i want to respect them. i want to live in them, all these words, all these ways to say 'thank you' and 'i love you more than i can say, but i will try anyway for the rest of my life.' i want to throb with these words until i am lulled into peace again.