Monday, October 21, 2019

The eNotes Blog Seven Poetic Presidents

Seven Poetic Presidents Its voting time! In the spirit of the culmination of the presidential election tomorrow, below is a list that highlights historic presidents more poetic attributes. Ever wondered whose poetry Thomas Jefferson cozied up with? Or which past president favored the eccentric Welsh poet Dylan Thomas? Read on to find out George Washington and Phillis Wheatley He was the first president of the United State, she was the first African-American woman to publish a collection of poetry. In 1776, she sent Washington a poem that praised the generals leadership. In reply he told her that, were she ever in town, he would be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses. Now here, now there, the roving  Fancy  flies, Till some lovd object strikes her wandring eyes, Whose silken fetters all the senses bind, And soft captivity involves the mind. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Moore Irish poet Thomas Moore was unimpressed with President Jefferson when he met him in the early 1800s, influenced by his friend, the British Minister to the States. Moore unkindly described Jeffersons home as in a state of uncleanly desolation. But years later, when Jefferson read Moore’s poetry, he exclaimed, Why, this is the little man who satirized me so! Why, he is a poet after all! Moore became one of Jefferson’s favorite poets. I feel like one Who treads alone Some banquet-hall deserted, Whose lights are fled, Whose garlands dead, And all but he departed! John Quincy Adams and Christoph Martin Wieland Turns out sixth president John Quincy Adams fancied himself a bit of a poet. In 1816 he declared, Could I have chosen my own genius and condition, I would have made myself a great poet, though he reconciled that his own poetry was spell bound in the circle of mediocrity. He fared better in translation, attempting to translate one of his favorite poetsWielandfrom German. Adams did abandon the attempt to translate the epic poem Oberon when he came across what he felt was a better translation. As a result it went unpublished until 1940. Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns Lincoln so admired the poetry of Scotsman Robert Burns, he actually declined making a toast to the poet at a banquet in Burns honor, saying, I cannot frame a toast to Burns. I can say nothing worthy of his generous heart and transcending genius. Thinking of what he has said, I can not say anything which seems worth saying. Lincoln committed many of Burns poems, like the one below, to memory. Ae night the storm the steeples rocked, Poor Labour sweet in sleep was locked, While burns, wi snawy wreeths upchoked, Wild-eddying swirl, Or thro the mining outlet bocked, Down headlong hurl. Harry S. Truman and Alfred, Lord Tennyson Of all of Tennysons poems, one struck a particular cord with President Truman, so much so that he carried a copy of Locksley Hall in his wallet from the time he graduated high school in 1901 onwards. The paper I copied it on kept wearing out, and I kept recopying it. I don’t know how many times, twenty or thirty, I expect, Truman reportedly told the journalist Merle Miller, adding that he had a lot more faith in poets than reporters. An excerpt of that same poem that meant so much to Truman: Love took up the glass of Time, and turnd it in his glowing hands; Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands. Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might; Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, passd in music out of sight. John F. Kennedy and Robert Frost The words spoken at JFKs inauguration (Ask not what your country can do for you) werent the only infamous lines read out that day. On January 20th, 1961, Robert Frost became the first poet to read at a presidential inauguration. The poet planned on reading out a poem hed written especially for the occasion, Dedication, but as the bright afternoon sun bounced off of the freshly fallen snow surrounding the event, he found he couldnt read his own handwriting at the podium. The 86 year-old then recited The Gift Outright from memory instead. Such as we were we gave ourselves outright (The deed of gift was many deeds of war) To the land vaguely realizing westward, But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced, Such as she was, such as she would become. Jimmy Carter and Dylan Thomas Not only is Carter a fan of Dylan Thomas work, this former president is a great advocate for the Welsh poet. He was the impetus behind the plaque dedicated to Thomas in Westminster Abbeys Poets Corner, as well as  Dylan Thomas Centre, a museum dedicated to the poet, in Swansea, Wales. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray, Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. For five more presidents poetic tendencies, including President Obamas, head over to this  Poetry Foundation  article.

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