As my sister can attest, I have been on a poetry purchasing kick. There is something so lovely about flipping through books of poems and entering into the world of another–or seeing how easily they enter into mine.
“The Daily Poem” podcast has born another poem into my life; this one by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. As said before, I’m a melancholic, and the theme of the poem fits that mood as it presents a tale of sitting and talking about times that have passed and things that have been altered by time. I present to you: The Fire of Drift-wood.
We sat within the farm-house old,
Whose windows, looking o’er the bay,
Gave to the sea-breeze damp and cold,
An easy entrance, night and day.
Not far away we saw the port,
The strange, old-fashioned, silent town,
The lighthouse, the dismantled fort,
The wooden houses, quaint and brown.
We sat and talked until the night,
Descending, filled the little room;
Our faces faded from the sight,
Our voices only broke the gloom.
We spake of many a vanished scene,
Of what we once had thought and said,
Of what had been, and might have been,
And who was changed, and who was dead;
And all that fills the hearts of friends,
When first they feel, with secret pain,
Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
And never can be one again;
The first slight swerving of the heart,
That words are powerless to express,
And leave it still unsaid in part,
Or say it in too great excess.
The very tones in which we spake
Had something strange, I could but mark;
The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
Oft died the words upon our lips,
As suddenly, from out the fire
Built of the wreck of stranded ships,
The flames would leap and then expire.
And, as their splendor flashed and failed,
We thought of wrecks upon the main,
Of ships dismasted, that were hailed
And sent no answer back again.
The windows, rattling in their frames,
The ocean, roaring up the beach,
The gusty blast, the bickering flames,
All mingled vaguely in our speech;
Until they made themselves a part
Of fancies floating through the brain,
The long-lost ventures of the heart,
That send no answers back again.
O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned!
They were indeed too much akin,
The drift-wood fire without that burned,
The thoughts that burned and glowed within.
I can envision this poem unfolding. It doesn’t take too much to see a couple of friends talking, as night descends and the damp sea air fills the old house. The long-lost wreckage of ship and heart that provides no answer is a striking comparison. Longfellow’s connection between the fire that burns and the heart that yearns is true to my experience of life. The thoughts of what has been lost or is passed is not something that is cold and dead to Longfellow, rather it burns with life and still aches.
You don’t need me to interpret the poem for you, though. I did, however, wanted to share its beauty with you. As we enter into fall and winter, may your evenings find you conversing with friends and family, speaking of what the Lord has done in your lives, how life has changed, and causing your hearts to burn anew with fire.