Post (c) Doris McCraw
What is it about poetry that touches the soul? What makes certain combinations of words haunting, happy or beautiful? This poem by Helen (Hunt) Jackson may help us understand the power of words.
As when on some great mountain-peak we stand,
In breathless awe beneath its dome of sky,
Whose multiplied horizons seem to lie
Beyond the bounds of earthly sea and land,
We find the circles space to vast, too grand,
And soothe our thoughts with restful memory
Of sudden sunlit glimpses we passed by
Too quickly, in our feverish demand
To reach the height,–
So darling, when the brink
Of highest heaven we reach at last, I think
Even that great gladness will grow yet more glad,
As we, with eyes that are no longer sad,
Look back, while Life’s horizons slowly sink,
To some swift moments which on earth we had.
From the book “Poems” by Helen Jackson
Little Brown and Company 1908
First appearance in publication September 19, 1872, New York Independent
One thing I love about the poetry of Helen Hunt Jackson is the musicality it has when read aloud. Not read as one usually reads poetry, with the breaks and breaths at the end of the line, but read as prose. If you read this poem aloud, reading through the complete thought, its true beauty comes through. Try reading it through more than once. Try different combinations of breathes and thought combining. The beauty of this poem; each time you read it something different blossoms into being. I believe that true poetry never has the same story, same meaning twice. Each it will touch a different chord.
As you read this or any poem, keep an open mind and heart. Helen was favorably compared to many of the poets of her time. For some she was actually considered the best; male or female. It is interesting that Helen was so popular during her lifetime. With her poetry, essays, and novels she able to make a living as a writer. Emily Dickinson, a childhood friend who lived down the street from Helen in Amherst, did not become popular until her death. Now the tables have turned, Emily is now the more well know of the two. Each had their own style, and each wrote beautiful pieces of work.
The next time you are looking for something do to, search online for some of Helen’s poetry, or better yet, find a book of her poems, and start reading. To me the gift of the poet, and for me that is Helen, is the joy of finding something new every time I read their work. Give poetry, especially Helen’s, a try. For me, poetry, especially Helen’s will never grow old.
Doris Gardner-McCraw –
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History