The Oxford Book of Story Poems was the prescribed one and many may surely remember reading it in school. There were other books that had a colonial ting to it like ‘Arithmetic for the Overseas Students’, or books specifically for the colonies and dominions.
Of all the books the one on poetry impressed me the most. Here are some poems from the book that perhaps is still taught and lingers in your memories.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost This poem has an emotion, an ethos to it that is shared by those who fight for a cause. I say this as I once read a PLO (Palestinian liberation Organization) activist being impressed by this poem, along with Love me tender, love me sweet by Elvis Presley. There is a shared pathos. One can draw inspiration from this poem, as it suggests the idea of doing what you have not done before and becoming adventurous in life. Many of us have experienced standing at crossroads and making a choice. Human tendency is to take the beaten path, but doing something different still makes you live another day. Inspirational, motivating and well chosen words make this poem an excellent string of words to look at life differently.
The last stanza of the poem stands out to make a great suggestion:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
To a Skylark by PB Shelly This is a long and philosophical poem. While much of it is better read, there are a few lines one can quote in context with a glass of wine. Human desire to want, or to be part of the environment is often with some falsehood. In an era of canned laughter, or laughter elicited to justify the purchase of a ticket to a show there is some pain behind our happiest times. (I observe this in comedy shows and wonder why everyone is laughing at something that barely qualifies as funny … a personal choice I guess). Memorise these lines they reel off smoothly …
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Ode on Solitude by Alexander Pope, one of the greatest poets. This poem generates some happiness; only if one has those few acres … I have often quoted these lines, whenever I chose the road less trodden, and when I had some acres. Now I don’t have those acres, but the thought can be satisfying. Pastoral and peaceful.
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.
However, the last lines can be quite a nosedive for someone who wants to promote themselves, be competitive and look at life in a sanguine way. In any case poetry attracts a set of people who look at life in a more contented way. Here are the lines:
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me dye;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye.
There is poetry in everything in life. It can be enriching to read and feel the sentiments of others through poetry. It evokes the same brain activity as anything that gives the feeling of satisfaction. Can you imagine a world without it.
Every language and culture has it as the engine that drives a sense of nationalism, patriotism or even melancholy or lament. All important facets of life.