I’ve had a busy, busy week as I’m experiencing a major transition. I thought I wouldn’t have time to post again for at least another two weeks, but today’s fun mail compelled me to pause and share.
I received three postcards today for bookish swaps, two from Eric, who typically sends two postcards. Every now and then a postcard makes me squeal with glee. This one certainly did.
Perhaps, if you’re not a lover of poetry or of American poetry, you have no idea why this excites me. Maybe, you assume it’s because this is a vintage postcard. That would be a great guess, but that’s not exactly it. I thoroughly appreciate having this card in my possession, one that, as Eric pointed out, was printed just 30-40 years after Longfellow’s death. So this truly vintage postcard adds to my excitement that this is a literary postcard that features a poet of old. With the exception of reading Hiawatha last summer with my little one, I have not studied Longfellow since my graduate school days. This was a a nice way to remind me to add him to my reading list.
The postcard back reads:
Longfellow’s Home. The Longfellow Home, erected in 1785, is situated in the business center of the city. The building and precious relics are in care of the Maine Historical Society, and is open to visitors.
Interesting (and irrelevant) tidbit–when Longfellow was born Portland, Maine was a part of Massachusetts.
Since the back is just as wonderful as the front, you might as well take a look.
Did you notice the postage? Take a closer look.
My utter delight was magnified by Eric’s matching of the postage with postcard theme! And don’t you love Longfellow’s portraits, all that beautiful wild, white hair?
The postcard took a little beating as it traveled through the United States Postal System. Some people are bothered by the “damage done” to postcards sent “naked” through the mail, but I like the visible “scars.” Something about them makes the postcard feel more “authentic.”
If you read the postcard, you’ll notice that Eric ends with a question:
If you had the choice, would you prefer being celebrated during your lifetime like [Longfellow] was or after like Dickinson?
Tough, tough question. I’m on the fence. My volumes–literally boxes full–of unpublished writings suggest that I subconsciously eschew the limelight. While, perhaps, some celebrity would be tolerated, I’d probably be more comfortable with anonymity. Posthumous popularity would benefit my family, I assume, and that’s a good thing. But beyond notoriety and (perhaps) financial gain, there’s also something wonderfully satisfactory about bearing witness to the light your work brings to others.
How would you answer? Popularity while living or when you’re dead?
Think about that. I’ll leave you with a poem that I’m going to read tonight to my son–The fun-loving, mischievous daughters remind me of him.
The Children’s Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Between the dark and the daylight, When the night is beginning to lower, Comes a pause in the day’s occupations, That is known as the Children’s Hour. I hear in the chamber above me The patter of little feet, The sound of a door that is opened, And voices soft and sweet. From my study I see in the lamplight, Descending the broad hall stair, Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra, And Edith with golden hair. A whisper, and then a silence: Yet I know by their merry eyes They are plotting and planning together To take me by surprise. A sudden rush from the stairway, A sudden raid from the hall! By three doors left unguarded They enter my castle wall! They climb up into my turret O’er the arms and back of my chair; If I try to escape, they surround me; They seem to be everywhere. They almost devour me with kisses, Their arms about me entwine, Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine! Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti, Because you have scaled the wall, Such an old mustache as I am Is not a match for you all! I have you fast in my fortress, And will not let you depart, But put you down into the dungeon In the round-tower of my heart. And there will I keep you forever, Yes, forever and a day, Till the walls shall crumble to ruin, And moulder in dust away!