I have told you about Palio, the coffee and dessert shop on the Circle in Ladd’s Addition. It is close to Auntie Katie’s place and we often stop there on the way to or from.
The other day, Auntie Bridgett and I went down to leave a present and evaluate the mural that needs repair. Both errands went well, and we celebrated with tea, coffee and a croissant at Palio. We sat in a part of the cafe I’d never been in.
There was interesting art on the walls, and this fabulous old book on the shelf. It is a leather bound 1932 anthology of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry. I first met Longfellow in college in 1976, where I was told his poetry was trite, preachy and old fashioned.
Yes, he did live a long time ago. He was born just after 1800, and his poetry style fit the time. And he has his flaws. His “Song of Hiawatha” stomps over 130 pages without a chuckle and “Paul Revere’s Ride” is historically inaccurate.
He didn’t start writing poetry until he was in his late forties, after his first wife died in childbirth. Twelve years later, his second wife died when her dress caught fire. These losses made him thoughtful, and in some of his poems, he seems to be trying to convince himself that life, after all, is good.
I re-discovered my first Longfellow poem, “A Psalm of Life” in this book.
The rhyme scheme is rock solid and the tone a bit didactic, but I like it better than my professor thought I should.
“Dust thou art, to dust returneth, was not spoken of the soul.” Knowing that he lost the two loves of his life to tragic deaths, I can understand why he needed to convince himself that the immortal souls of his loves were intact in Heaven.
My Momma, your great grandma Billie, had grown up reading Longfellow and knew ”The Village Blacksmith” by heart. This next bit would come out of nowhere when things weren’t going well. It’s the third stanza of ”The Rainy Day”.
When we had enjoyed our snack, I gently patted the book and put it back. I’m sure I will visit it again. It is a relic of our American past, a walking, rhyming encyclopedia of the way we were. And sometimes, that’s just what I want.