Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery

Not many people are familiar with the fact that Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, was also a writer of poetry. In fact, she enjoyed writing poetry more than prose, but wisely realized that there was a larger market for prose. (Thank goodness.)

I'm not a poetry fan at all. I don't get it. It requires much more effort than I am personally willing to pour into it. However, I am also a Lucy Maud Montgomery fan and therefore I feel compelled to read her poetry. (I also feel compelled to read The Faerie Queen just because LMM liked it which is kinda sad.)

L. M. Montgomery's poetry is not really very good from the critics' perspective. It's said to feel more forced and written from memory than emotion. It's simplistic to a degree but I don't mind this because it makes it easy to understand. It's effortless reading which takes me back to my own trek to Prince Edward Island. I can read her poems and feel the air and see the rolling hills and the sun setting and I love it. I love this poetry for pure sentimental reasons and I don't know that that's such a bad thing. It is poetry I can relate to and if you think I'm awful for not liking poetry to begin with, well then you have to confess that this poetry is better than no poetry at all! Right?! I'd like to think so.

Montgomery was a nature lover to the extreme. Given the fact that she grew up on Prince Edward Island, I can hardly blame her. Most of her poetry is therefore about nature and the poems that aren't are not very intriguing to me at all. In the colleciton of poems which comprise The Poetry Of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the work is divided up into two sections: Poems of Nature and Poems of Humanity. It is in the Poems of Nature where I think Montgomery best shines. If you love PEI and would like to mentally transport yourself there, you can just sit back, exhale and then breathe in the following verses:


from In Lilac Time

Oh! our hearts are atune with the music
Of summer and blossom and bird!
It is worth our while just to be living
When the pulses of Nature are stirred.

Montgomery lived a rather secluded lifestyle with her grandparents. It doesn't appear that she had a very large social circle and she spent a great deal of time alone and out of doors. She felt most alive and invigorated by exploring the world around her. Apparently she was a tree hugger of the literal sort, feeling great affection towards plants that were placed in her care.


from When Autumn Comes

And O to see the homelight from the farmhouse window glow,
Athwart the purple-falling dusk as in the long ago;
To hail it with our eager eyes when pilgrimage is o'er,
And dream one dream of boyhood 'neath our father's roof once more!

Montgomery left home to live with her father for a brief period of time when she was around the age of 15. He had relocated to Western Canada and lived "out west" with his new young wife, Lucy's stepmother. While she was away from her grandparent's home on Prince Edward Island she felt an intense longing to be home. One can only imagine that the verse above was penned with thoughts of her own homecoming in mind. (Although I do think it's interesting that she made the subject in this poem a boy and not a girl.)


from Night in the Pastures

Here, in these meadows of starry rest,
In these mysteries of the night,
The manifold voices of Nature breathe
With a meaning of strange delight.
The passionless calm of the dreaming fields
Has the power of a holy prayer.
And the infinite love of the far dim hills
Shuts out every thought of care.


The following poem is my favorite in The Poetry Of Lucy Maud Montgomery because it reminds me the most of my stay at the West Point Lighthouse which is the only operating lighthouse on PEI that also acts as an Inn. My friends and I stayed here one night and took a moonlit walk on the beach before going to bed. Marvelous, marvelous, marvelous experience! Oh, how I would LOVE to go back!

FYI - Abegweit is the name used by the Mi'kmaq Nation (natives to Canada) to refer to Prince Edward Island.

Twilight in Abegweit

A filmy western sky of smoky red,
Blossing into stars above a sea
Of soft mysterious dim silver spread
Behond the long gray dunes' serenity;
Where the salt grasses and sea poppies press
Together in a wild sweet loneliness.

Seven slim poplars on the windy hill
Talk some lost language of an elder day,
Taught by the green folk that inhabit still
The daisied field and secret friendly way --
Forever keeping in their solitudes
The magic ritual of our northern woods.

The darkness woos us like a perfumed flower
To reedy meadow pool and wise old trees,
To beds of spices in a garden bower,
And the spruce valley's dear austerities;
I know their lure of dusk, but everymore
I turn to the enchantment of the shore.

The idle ships dream-like at anchor ride,
Beside the pier where wavelets lap and croon;
One ghostly ship sails outward with the tide
That swells to meet the pale imperial moon,
O fading ship, between the dark and light,
I send my heart and hope with you tonight.


I wouldn't spend a great deal of time mulling over Montgomery's poetry but it is rather fun to just dive into when you want to dream about Prince Edward Island a little. I bought my copy at the site of Montgomery's Cavandish Home (and it is officially stamped as being purchased there) so it makes it a sentimental souvenir for me. I think any Montgomery fan would benefit by reading her poetry since it was something that Montgomery connected with and loved. It is obvious she spent some time and attention on poetry. She loved reading it and she had something of a love affair with the idea of creating poetry of her owns. I don't necessarily understand that love but what I do understand is the love of the land she was raised on. It's easy to feel dreamy just thinking about it.

And that's about as romantic as I'm going to ever get in talking about poetry! Here you have it! Enjoy.


Anonymous said...

This takes me back to my own jaunt to PEI. Thanks, Carrie!

Islandsparrow said...

I love the translation of Abegweit - "cradled in the waves" - our Island is shaped like a cradle.

Here is a link for quite a few of LMM's poems if your readers are interested.

Alyce said...

Just dropping by to let you know that I tagged you for the bookshelf meme:

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