S2 E18: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Happy Halloween!

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.

The Raven 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.”

The Raven By Edgar Allan Poe Rebecca's Reading Room

S2 E17: Annunciation by Helen Hoyt

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 eternal,
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,
Yielding me
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.

Annunciation by Helen Hoyt Rebecca's Reading Room

S2 E16: Sonnet 73 That time of year thou mayst in me behold

Welcome to September, the month that leads into the brilliant autumn colours and the warmth of Harvest and Thanksgiving. September has a mellow poignancy that reminds us of the passing of years.

Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare brings forth natural metaphors to signify the coming of old age. We move ever forward in our timeline and recognize that “sunset fadeth in the west” comes to all. And yet, it is at the moment we face the inevitability of endings that love becomes stronger, more vibrant, more enduring.

Please join me in reciting Sonnet 73 by William Shakespeare “ That time of year thou mayst in me behold”

Sonnet 73 That time of year thou mayst in me behold

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.