My father firmly believed in the memorizing and recitation of poetry. And he was frighteningly good at it. I think it was the way things were taught, and it's one thing I believe is missing in today's educational race to the top, but that is neither here nor there.
I found this book among his things, tucked between other books: ASPECTS OF THE THEORY OF SYNTAX by Noam Chomsky, copyright 1965, OBJECT-ORIENTED ANALYSIS AND DESIGN with applications, copyright 1994, Grady Brooks, Series Editor, JAPANESE ALL THE WAY by Hiroko Storm, Ph.D., copyright 1996, and INSIDE THE C++ OBJECT MODEL, by Stanley B. Lippman, copyright 1996, to name but a few.
Since his death, my mother has given many of his books away to interested family members or donated them for book sales. So this small paper bound book was out of place, unlike my father's other books. For some reason, he put light pencil marks in only two places throughout the entire book, in the play THE LAND OF HEART'S DESIRE by William Butler Yeats.
To give some context, I'm including the description of the opening SCENE-
A room with a hearth, on the floor in the middle of a deep alcove to the right. There are benches in the alcove and a table; and a crucifix on the wall. The alcove is full of a glow of light from the fire. There is an open door facing the audience to the left, and to the left of this is a bench. Through the door one can see the forest. It is night, but the moon or a late sunset glimmers through the trees and carries the eye far off into a vague, mysterious world. Maurteen Bruin, Shawn Bruin, and Bridget Bruin sit in the alcove at the table or about the fire. They are dressed in the costume of some remote time, and near them sits an old priest, Father Hart. He may be dressed as a friar. There is food and drink upon the table. Mary Bruin stands by the door reading a book. If she looks up she can see through the door into the wood.
(Bear in mind, the scene description was intended as stage direction, however it borders on being a poem, a short vignette that is somehow whole unto itself.) Now, I'll never know why my father chose the following particular phrases, although perhaps if I ask my mother, she can shed some light.
FATHER HART. God spreads the heavens above us like great wings And gives a little round of deeds and days, And then come the wrecked angels and set snares, And bait them with light hopes and heavy dreams, Until the heart is puffed with pride and goes Half shuddering and half joyous from God's peace; For it was some wrecked angel, blind with tears, Who flattered Edane's heart with merry words. My colleen, I have seen some other girls Restless and ill at ease, but years went by And they grew like their neighbours and were glad In minding children, working at the churn, And gossiping of weddings and of wakes; For life moves out of a red flare of dreams Into a common light of common hours, Until old age brings the red flare again. (page 16)
MAURTEEN. Stir up the fire, And put new turf upon it till it blaze; To watch the turf-smoke coiling from the fire, And feel content and wisdom in your heart, This is the best of life; when we are young We long to tread a way none trod before, But find the excellent old way through love, And through the care of children, to the hour For bidding Fate and Time and Change good-bye. (page 20)
I ask my mother, but she is distracted, concerned because her blood pressure reading was high and the doctor is not in today. She had planned to attend her weekly Scripture class, then visit an "elderly" homebound woman, but decides not to go. I remind her she is not alone; we are together, and then I tell her it's a perfect day for reading while it rains. She smiles, but I silently worry.