One of my favorite things to do is to memorize poems. I have quite a catalog, as I’ve been doing this many years. I know all my decent poems by heart, but when I learn other poets’ poems, my life is immeasurably enriched.
In my canon currently is one poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called “The Day Is Done.” It is so beautiful, when I recite it, I get teary-eyed. Sometimes I just say it out loud when I’m cleaning house. Sometimes I get to say it out loud to people, which is better than saying it to the toilet brush but that’s better than nothing.
I made the illustration for this post a few minutes ago and when I posted it, I realized I had used a portrait of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Not Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I always get those two dum-dums mixed up.
The Day Is Done
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from her heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in her soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.