Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.
“Human kindness has never weakened the stamina
or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does
not have to be cruel to be tough.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
– William Shakespeare, ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’
I got very little sleep this past weekend, so I’m going to simplify this morning’s post, narrowing it down to just three poets who have birthdays this week.
from The Vanity of Human Wishes
by Samuel Johnson
(The Tenth Satire of Juvenal, Imitated)
Once more, Democritus, arise on earth,
With cheerful wisdom and instructive mirth,
See motley life in modern trappings dress’d,
And feed with varied fools th’ eternal jest:
Thou who couldst laugh where want enchain’d caprice,
Toil crush’d conceit, and man was of a piece;
Where wealth unlov’d without a mourner died;
And scarce a sycophant was fed by pride;
Where ne’er was known the form of mock debate,
Or seen a new-made mayor’s unwieldy state;
Where change of fav’rites made no change of laws,
And senates heard before they judg’d a cause;
How wouldst thou shake at Britain’s modish tribe,
Dart the quick taunt, and edge the piercing gibe?
Attentive truth and nature to decry,
And pierce each scene with philosophic eye.
To thee were solemn toys or empty show,
The robes of pleasure and the veils of woe:
All aid the farce, and all thy mirth maintain,
Whose joys are causeless, or whose griefs are vain.
“The Vanity of Human Wishes” is in the public domain.
Samuel Johnson was born September 18, 1709, in Lichfield, England. Dubbed the ‘Dictionary Man’ he was a scholar, essayist, playwright, lexicographer, poet, biographer, and literary critic. After arriving in London, he wrote for The Gentleman’s Magazine, penned a biography of Richard Savage and the play Irene, published poems, and after nine years of effort, produced A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. Johnson also had a lasting effect on literary criticism, and annotated the plays of William Shakespeare. After several years of declining health, Samuel Johnson died in December 1784 at the age of 75. James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson is probably the most famous biography in history.
Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, — “Snow.”
Leaves were green and stirring,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, — “Frost.”
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.
“Something Told the Wild Geese” is in the public domain.
Rachel Field was born in New York City on September 19, 1894; American novelist, playwright, poet, and children’s author. She was best known for Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, which won the 1930 Newbery Award. It was also named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf, an award for books considered worthy of placement “on the same shelf” as Carroll’s Alice. In 1935, the American Booksellers Association honored her novel Time Out of Mind with its inaugural National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel. She moved to Hollywood, where her novels Time Out of Mind, All This and Heaven Too, and And Now Tomorrow were made into films. But in March 1942, she died in Los Angeles, of pneumonia following an operation. She was just 47 years old. In spite of all her success, she quickly faded from public memory, until another writer, Robin Clifford Wood, wrote her biography, The Field House: A Writer’s Life Lost and Found, published in 2021.
The Well or the Cup
by Kay Ryan
at the start
can give away
you must hold
to your heart.
and what is
a cup. Some
Why We Must Struggle
by Kay Ryan
If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longest or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double, how
we can feed
as upon nectar
“The Well or the Cup” and “Why We Must Struggle” from The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, © 2010 by Kay Ryan – Grove Press
Kay Ryan was born in San Jose, California on September 21, 1945; American poet and community college English teacher. She has talked about her childhood home being a place of silence, where “being a poet would be thought of as putting on airs.” Ryan has published nine poetry collections, beginning with Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends, published privately in 1983. It was her sixth book of poetry, The Niagara River, winner of the 2004 Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, which brought her some national attention. She was a surprise choice when the U.S. Library of Congress named her as Poet Laureate (2008-2010). “I felt completely unequal to the task. I thought, no, never in a million years …” In spite of her self-doubts, and the diagnosis of her life partner, Carol Adair, with advanced stage cancer, she accepted, and emphasized the value of community colleges during her tenure. Adair died in 2009, during Ryan’s second term. Kay Ryan won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems. In 2013, President Barack Obama presented her with a National Humanities Medal. Her poetry collection, Erratic Facts, was published in 2016.