This week’s Featured Poem comes from Emma Gibbons, Older People’s Project Manager, who has been enjoying it with several of her Get Into Reading groups.
This poem looks dauntingly long but it is beautifully simple and always seems to be well-received in reading groups. Its message that the words of a “humbler poet”, delivered with feeling, provide just as much comfort and solace as those of “the bards sublime” often provokes discussion. To me it also reinforces the ethos of shared reading. In many groups, members read haltingly or struggle with certain words, but their reading is just as important as that of the more fluent readers, and indeed the facilitator. My favourite line here is: “And lend to the rhyme of the poet the beauty of thy voice”- I really enjoy hearing all the different voices, accents and reading styles in groups. Everyone having a go, and the supportive atmosphere that creates, means that shared reading provides a time of respite from, as Longfellow puts it, “the cares, that infest the day”.
When I arrived to read at a residential care home recently, one lady left the room in disgust to have a cigarette because the television had been turned off! She returned as I was reading this poem. I could tell she had started to listen as she sat still and looked at me and when I got to the end of the poem she said “that was lovely.”
The Day Is Done
The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavour;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start:
Who, through long days of labour,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow