In Central Park on Saturday for the Radio Bookworm fundraiser, Don Keil read poems by Edgar Guest and his readings brought back memories of my childhood. Edgar A. Guest was a very popular poet at one time and my folks’ library contained several books of poems – Guests’ among them.
When I was young, our teachers required us to memorize quite lengthy poems (few of which I remember today – or only a verse or two of some of them: “under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands . . .” comes to mind!) – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Evangeline by Longfellow
Christmas Bells by Longfellow (I heard the bells on Christmas day . . .)
Crossing the Bar by Alfred Tennyson
Hiawatha’s Childhood by Longfellow (Good Grief – this was a difficult one to learn!). “By the shores of Gitche Gumee . . .”
Abou Ben Adhem by James Henry Leigh Hunt
The list goes on. One of my very favorite poets (one I read over and over again) is Emily Dickinson. However, she was not one of the poets that we learned about when I was in grade school.
The Lord had a job for me, but I had so much to do.
I said: “You get somebody else–or wait till I get through.”
I don’t know how the Lord came out, but He seemed to get along,
But I felt kind o’ sneakin’ like–knowed I’d done God wrong.
One day I needed the Lord, needed him right away–
And he never answered me at all, but I could hear him say
Down in my accusin’ heart–“Nigger, I’s got too much to do.
You get somebody else or wait till I get through.”
Now, when the Lord has a job for me, I never tries to shirk;
I drops what I have on hand and does the good Lord’s work;
and my affairs can run along, or wait till I get through.
Nobody else can do the work that God’s marked out for you.
–Paul Laurence Dunbar