If you have ever heard someone make an unexpected rhyme during a conversation, you may have also heard someone say to them, you’re a poet and don’t know it, but you’re feet show it. They’re long fellows.
Don’t know what this means? Google it or better yet ask your parents.
Elementary school children were once taught the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Not so they could pass a standardized test and obtain funding for their school district, but so that they could internalize the tales recounted by this great American poet and make them their own. “A Psalm of Life” “Paul Revere’s Ride” “The Song of Hiawatha” all wonderful examples of how story telling creates a sense of belonging and a common bond among people.
Longfellow, like many great writers, had a lot to say. His epic poems attest to that, and if he were alive today I wonder what he would have to say about our abbreviated communication. He might wonder how meaning can be fully expressed in a sound bite or why remarkable events aren’t passed on with greater concentration on context to generate discussion and provoke thoughtful examination.
Two-hundred and six years ago today, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born. He lived six years short of a century, and in that time witnessed first hand terrific tragedy within and transformation of his country. Although no stranger to disorder, the dysfunction and disconnect so prevalent today would no doubt confound Longfellow, a man of great intellect and depth of character. I imagine he’d write a poem like this:
Those Who Came Before
O’er the edge of a jagged cliff
The statesmen once did fall
Like lemmings to a gruesome death
Followed one and all
Millions watched across the land
What reason they did fumble
Ne’er bothering to heed the call
To look before we tumble
People sat inside their homes
Blinded by the glow
Of big screens with moving scenes
Clinging to the show
Numbness fell upon them
In one great final knell
Not one of them had noticed
Their world had gone to hell
One song for all the people
A single sacred sound
The purpose to be peaceful
More singers gathered ‘round
To break the grip of hatred
Voices join the chorus
Fear cannot claim our spirit
A brighter future for us
Short by comparison, but no less heartfelt, this, my humble offering in remembrance of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Today I am a poet. I know it. My words show it, but I’m no Longfellow. Can you imagine Paul Revere’s tweet? #homeland secure PR@1 by land 2 by sea. Don’t waste a minute man. Get your boots on the British are coming!