June 29, 2007

Poetry Friday: Poems for the First and Fourth

A Happy Canada Day and Happy Independence Day to all, with some poems to mark the occasions.

Rivers of Canada
by Bliss Carman (1861-1929)

O all the little rivers that run to Hudson's Bay,
They call me and call me to follow them away.

Missinaibi, Abitibi, Little Current--where they run
Dancing and sparkling I see them in the sun.

I hear the brawling rapid, the thunder of the fall,
And when I think upon them I cannot stay at all.

At the far end of the carry, where the wilderness begins,
Set me down with my canoe-load -- and forgiveness of my sins.

O all the mighty rivers beneath the Polar Star,
They call me and call me to follow them afar.

Peace and Athabasca and Coppermine and Slave,
And Yukon and Mackenzie--the highroads of the brave.

Saskatchewan, Assiniboine, the Bow and the Qu'Appelle,
And many a prairie river whose name is like a spell.

They rumor through the twilight at the edge of the unknown,
"There's a message waiting for you, and a kingdom all your own.

"The wilderness shall feed you, her gleam shall be your guide.
Come out from desolations, our path of hope is wide."

O all the headlong rivers that hurry to the West,
They call me and lure me with the joy of their unrest.

Columbia and Fraser and Bear and Kootenay,
I love their fearless reaches where winds untarnished play--

The rush of glacial water across the pebbly bar
To polished pools of azure where the hidden boulders are.

Just there, with heaven smiling, any morning I would be,
Where all the silver rivers go racing to the sea.

O well remembered rivers that sing of long ago,
Ajourneying through summer or dreaming under snow.

Among their meadow islands through placid days they glide,
And where the peaceful orchards are diked against the tide.

Tobique and Madawaska and shining Gaspereaux,
St. Croix and Nashwaak and St. John whose haunts I used to know.

And all the pleasant rivers that seek the Fundy foam,
They call me and call me to follow them home.

Carman, Canada's unofficial poet laureate and a cousin of Canadian poet Charles G.D. Roberts, wrote this c1925.

And, for the Fourth:

I Am an American
by Elias Lieberman

I am an American
father belongs to the Sons of the Revolution;
My mother, to the Colonial Dames.
One of my ancestors pitched tea overboard in Boston Harbor;
Another stood his ground with Warren;
Another hungered with Washington at Valley Forge.
My forefathers were America in the making:
They spoke in her council halls;
They died on her battlefields;
They commanded her ships;
They cleared her forests.
Dawns reddened and paled.
Staunch hearts of mine beat fast at each new star
In the nation's flag.
Keen eyes of mine foresaw her greater glory:
The sweep of her seas,
The plenty of her plains,
The man-hives in her billion-wired cities.
Every drop of blood in me holds a heritage of patriotism.
I am proud of my past.
I am an American.

I am an American.
My father was an atom of dust,
My mother a straw in the wind,
To his serene majesty.
One of my ancestors died in the mines of Siberia;
Another was crippled for life by twenty blows of the knout;
Another was killed defending his home during the massacres.
The history of my ancestors is a trail of blood
To the palace gate of the Great White Czar.
But then the dream came
The dream of America.
In the light of the Liberty torch
The atom of dust became a man
And the straw in the wind became a woman
For the first time.
"See," said my father, pointing to the flag that fluttered near,
"That flag of stars and stripes is yours;
It is the emblem of the promised land,
It means, my son, the hope of humanity.
Live for it die for it!"
Under the open sky of my new country I swore to do so;
And every drop of blood in me will keep that vow.
I am proud of my future.

I am an American.

Elias Lieberman, an educator and poet, was born in Russia in 1883 and arrived in the U.S. at the age of seven. He and his family settled in New York City, and Lieberman graduated from City College. He worked as a teacher, at PS 62 and Bushwick High School, later becoming principal of Thomas Jefferson High School. In 1940, he was appointed Associate Superintendent of Schools, a post he held until his retirement 13 years later.

Lieberman served as an editor of the American humor magazine Puck in 1916 and was literary editor of The American Hebrew journal from 1916 to 1932. "I Am an American" is perhaps his best known work.

The round-up is over at Shaken & Stirred today. Thank you, Gwenda. Grab a glass and a swizzle stick, and enjoy a weekend a poetry, fireworks, and freedom.

Oh, and just a reminder: I do believe in either a weak moment or a brief flicker of responsibility I offered to host Poetry Friday here at Farm School next week, July 6th. So if you sometimes read this blog but haven't participated in Poetry Friday yet, I hope you'll think about sharing a favorite poem -- yours or your family's -- or even a poem you'd like to learn more about or share with your kids. Put your thinking caps on.

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