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Leonard Wilson Springfield, OH / United States, Male, 90
Profession :
Retired English teacher
Education :
BA Wittenberg, MA Ohio State
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Latest 5 Poems of Leonard Wilson

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    Leonard Wilson's last comments on poems and poets

    • POEM: Nature by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (9/6/2012 12:51:00 PM)

      The two parts of Longfellow’s sonnet compare a child’s being put to bed to an older person’s approaching death. The child is tired and probably will fall asleep quickly, but he doesn’t want to stop playing. Some of his toys are broken and he has been promised new, better ones to replace them, but he isn’t sure that he will like them as much as his old favorites.

      As we age and approach death, nature takes away our “playthings” (line 10) gradually; that is, we slowly lose our physical strength, our energy, our vision and hearing, our abilities to do various things well, our sex drive, etc. We become tired and long for rest, but at the same time, we want to cling to life and its pleasures. The Christian religion has promised us a glorious existence after this life, far better than we can even imagine, but our faith isn’t quite strong enough to embrace and look forward eagerly to crossing into that paradise.

      Nature (God’s tool) helps to smooth the way, lulling us gently toward that blessed future by dulling our faculties and preparing us for our final sleep. Longfellow obviously believes, as the Christian faith proclaims, that the unknown existence awaiting us far transcends (exceeds) the flawed life here on earth, even though we cannot grasp the immensity of the glory that awaits our transition.

    • POEM: Cargoes by John Masefield (4/5/2010 8:35:00 PM)

      First stanza:
      Nineveh was the capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire, on the Tigris River, actually not in Palestine, although Palestine was included in the empire. Ophir was a land rich in gold, probably in Africa. 'Haven' is a word rich in connotation, suggesting shelter and security and peace, and adding this to 'home, ' another word with highly favorable connotations, multiplies the effect. The last line, 'Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine, ' is, in my opinion, one of the most pleasant sounding lines in English poetry.

      Second stanza:
      The 'stately Spanish galleon' creates the image of a tall sailing vessel with billowing white sails. It is coming from the central American region, carrying a rich cargo of gold and jewels. Actually it is highly unlikely that it would have had all the different types of jewels, but the Spanish did ship a huge fortune in gold from South America. The line 'dipping through the tropics by the palm-green shores, ' like the use of the word 'sunny' in the first stanza, indicates very favorable sailing weather and gives a picture of serenity.

      Third stanza:
      Unlike the other ships, this one is a coaster, that is just sailing from one port to another on the same coast, staying close to home; and since the poet is British, this is in his own area, not a distant part of the world. Note the extreme contrast of 'Quinquireme of Nineveh' and 'Stately Spanish galleon, ' the smooth sounding 'm' and 'n's and the soft, sibilant 's's with the harsh sounding 'Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack, ' with the hard 'r, ' 't, ' and 'k' consonants. And unlike the quinquireme, rowing in sunny weather, and the galleon, dipping through the tropics, the little British steamer is 'Butting through the Channel in the mad March days'—forcing its way against the elements in the English Channel during the stormy weather of early spring. Tyne coal is from the river Tyne area in England, and the rest of the cargo is far from interesting, although it may be much more practical and useful than the exotic cargoes of the other ships. The choice of the terms 'pig-lead' and 'cheap tin trays' makes the whole thing seem rather sordid. Just compare the last line of this stanza with the beautiful line at the end of the first stanza.

      Of course, Masefield is doing nothing but describing the ships, their destinations, and their cargoes, but the great contrast here makes it obvious that he is implying a theme beyond mere descriptions. My understanding of his purpose is that he is saying that when we look back at the past and at exotic places, we tend to notice the unusual, the romantic, the glamorous. But when we look around us in our own time and place, we just see the very mundane and mostly uninteresting elements. Personally I would rather be a British union member on the steamship than a slave on that rowing ship or a scarcely more free sailor on the galleon. But it is human nature to dream of the long ago and faraway and think that those were much more exciting than our humdrum existence. Have you ever read Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem 'Miniver Cheevy'? This is exactly the attitude of the protagonist of that poem.

      I love this little poem of Masefield's, for the thought, the vivid descriptions, and the highly skillful use of word sounds and connotations. It is a little masterpiece of a poem.

    • POEM: To Autumn by John Keats (3/24/2010 12:08:00 PM)

      This is the mature Keats at his very best. During this brief final period, he produced some of the most beautiful poems in the English language: the magnificent odes: Ode on a Grecian Urn, Ode on Melancholy, and especially To Autumn and Ode to a Nightingale, along with the sonnets When I Have Fears and Bright Star, and the splendid long narrative poem The Eve of St. Agnes. In such a very short time, he developed the brilliant diction that not only conveys the ideas, but also the sounds and the feelings and the connotations that make him perhaps the greatest lyricist in all of literature.

      To Autumn captures the sights, sounds, feeling, activities-all the sensations of this beautiful season. Of course, the poet was quite aware that, as young as he was, he was already in the autumn of his own life. If he had not died at the age of 25, how many more such awe-inspiring works might he have bestowed upon us?

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