On November 11th, Canada observes Remembrance Day.
Today, we will remember the members of our armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Across Canada, there will be a moment of silence at the 11th hour. In the year 1918, WWI hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”
I am wearing a red poppy, which is the Canadian symbol of Remembrance Day based on the poem “In Flanders Fields.”
On May 3, 1915, Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was moved to write the poem after he presided over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier, Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle Ypres.
In Flanders Fields by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place: and in the sky The larks still bravely singing fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. We are the dead: Short days ago, We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved: and now we lie In Flanders fields! Take up our quarrel with the foe To you, from failing hands, we throw The torch: be yours to hold it high If ye break faith with us who die, We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
May we all continue to seek peaceful solutions…together.
On the days of October 31 and November 1, we celebrate traditions that have come to us through the centuries. The ancients who commemorated the Celtic Festival of Samhain would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts, marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or “darker-half” of the year. All Saints Day originated with Pope Gregory III, in around 731 when he designated November 1st as a time to honour all saints.
Soon, as is the way with legends and traditions, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. What was first known as All Hallows Eve, became Halloween, a day where activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats have entertained us over the years.
Fears come in the night and are exaggerated by darkness.
What better time than now to recite “The Raven” the poem by Edgar Allan Poe.
We find a young scholar reading books of “lore” by a dying fire on a dreary night in December. Lamenting the loss of love, the young scholar is seeking a way to forget the death of the beloved Lenore. A tapping at the chamber door reveals nothing. But the tapping is repeated more incessantly, now at the window. When the window is opened, a raven flutters into the chamber and perches on the bust of Pallas above the door.
As the poem progresses the young scholar begins as “weak and weary,” transitioning to regretful and grief-stricken, before passing into an angry frenzy when the raven says “nevermore” to being reunited with the beloved Lenore.
Thank you for joining me in reciting The Raven.
The dawn is near, morning is coming, and a new day will come again. Having faced darkness, it is time to live in the light.
Until we meet again, dear friends, keep reading, keep reciting poetry, take care and be well. I leave you with these words by Edgar Allan Poe.
“To elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.”
Welcome to poetry in the afternoon.
Sarah and I invite you to join us as we explore the poetry of Helen Hoyt through her poem Annunciation.
Poet Helen Hoyt (1887-1972), born in Norwalk, Connecticut, was the daughter of former Pennsylvania governor Henry Hoyt. Educated at Barnard College, she lived in Chicago and worked as an associate editor for Poetry. In 1916, she edited an issue of Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, an American literary magazine founded by Alfred Kreymborg in July 1915. As editor of the 1916 issue, Hoyt addressed her interest in poetry as a space for women’s voices: “At present most of what we know, or think we know, of women has been found out by men. We have yet to hear what woman will tell of herself, and where can she tell more intimately than in poetry?”
Helen Hoyt poetry spoke of gender, the body, and nature. She married William Whittingham Lyman Jr, a writer and academic, primarily in the field of Celtic studies, and moved to St. Helena, California, where she spent her later years. She was the aunt of poet Elinor (Hoyt) Wylie who wrote “Velvet Shoes”.
By Helen Hoyt
From “Poems of Life and Death”
The great Life,
Came unto me:
He of old ages,
The owner of all,
Came, and his word was for me,
Calling my name:
And the radiance of his presence shone about me.
With leaping heart I heard his voice
And the entering of his steps over my threshold:
Heard, and was not troubled;
Because it was known to me a long time
What answer I should make to Life.
With outstretched, quiet hands,
With unreluctant face,
I stood before him,
And let my eyes look into the eyes of Life:
And I gave, and delivered up to Life,
As one yields and delivers to another
A dumb vessel.
Mighty and splendid is the presence of Life.
By a far road he comes
And travels a great way before
And sways the world.
I trembled to be near his glory,
But with unbowing head I stood before him,
With unbowing head and proud heart;
Knowing my service that I should perform to the honoring of Life.
And in his dignity I was exalted.
Now for a term I am not my own,
But Life is my master:
And I dwell under his commandment,
Beneath the fostering of his wings.
Wrapped in the mantle of Life,
Patient, by ways apart, I go;
Bearing in my flesh his sign
That I am one of his chosen:
The instrument of his purpose; the way of his will.
Slowly day follows day,
Laying its hands upon me with invisible touch,
Molding my flesh;
And I tarry waiting upon Life
Until the use he purposes for me shall be accomplished,
And his intent be fulfilled:
Until the wonder is wrought upon me that now possesses my days.