Happy Earth Day, everyone! It's hard to remember amid the delegate-counting of primary season, in April with its too many nasty anniversaries, that Americans are also known for a rugged cheerfulness--and yet that's exactly how this week in Maryland felt. It's also how this work by Aaron Copland sounds. I've had it on my mind for a few days.
I'm pleased to say that it wasn't hard to find a similarly cheerful, very American piece of poetry to go with it. Perhaps Aaron Copland even took his inspiration from Hart Crane (as well the well-known Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts.") Crane's language is wild and loose and, like its subject, uncivilized (in the best possible meaning of that word). However, contrary to the 1930 reviewer of this book-length poem, I do not find that "its effectiveness will be found on analysis, to lie in its lack of intelligibility."
from The Bridge: The Dance || Hart CraneI left the village for dogwood. By the canoeTugging below the mill-race, I could seeYour hair’s keen crescent running, and the blueFirst moth of evening take wing stealthily.What laughing chains the water wove and threw.I learned to catch the trout’s moon whisper; IDrifted how many hours I never knew,But, watching, saw that fleet young crescent die,—And one star, swinging, take its place, alone,Cupped in the larches of the mountain pass—Until, immortally, it bled into the dawn.I left my sleek boat nibbling margin grass . . .I took the portage climb, then choseA further valley-shed; I could not stop.Feet nozzled wat’ry webs of upper flows;One white veil gusted from the very top.O Appalachian Spring! I gained the ledge;Steep, inaccessible smile that eastward bendsAnd northward reaches in that violet wedgeOf Adirondacks!—wisped of azure wands,Over how many bluffs, tarns, streams I sped!—And knew myself within some boding shade:—Grey tepees-tufting the blue knolls ahead,Smoke swirling through the yellow chestnut glade . . .A distant cloud, a thunder-bud—it grew,That blanket of the skies: the padded footWithin,—I heard it; ’til its rhythm drew,—Siphoned the black pool from the heart’s hot root!
This section of Crane's poem is called "Powhatan's Daughter," not a cheerful story in itself, but what the reviewer calls "the piling up on startling and widely disparate word-structures so that for the mind the cumulative result of skyscrapers for the eye when looked on through a mist"--I find that thrilling and irresistible...not unlike spring in Appalachia or anywhere that I've lived.
Which means that I might disagree with the Shakers about simplicity. : )
Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup, where things tend to be richly complex as well as delicious! The Progressive Poem, meanwhile, has reached Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge.