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Featured Poem: Cadenabbia by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Written by The Reader, 20th February 2012

This week’s Featured Poem comes from one of our Get Into Reading project workers who is currently running a group at General Trafford Hospital in Manchester for adults with dementia.

I found this poem when looking for poems about barges and canals which came about because the sea poems I had been using the previous week had – to my great surprise – failed to capture the imaginations of a group of people living inland. Doing lots of groups for people with dementia living in Merseyside, you can almost be guaranteed that Sea Fever by John Maseland will be a sure start; however last week a lady at Trafford said to me ‘I’m not interested about the sea – why would I want to travel miles to see the sea when I live inland, where I’d rather go for a walk in the woods or in the country.’ So yesterday the Manchester Canals came into my mind when I was thinking of the importance of taking people’s geographical area into account when choosing material, and how this might be particularly important for people with dementia. Cadenabbia went down really well with the group; the lady who didn’t want to talk about the sea last week really opened up with it. Even though it is set in Lake Como - so not so local - it contains references, such as barges and leafy walks, which seemed more accessible to her. She said ‘It makes me think of riding on my bicycle along the canal with the water gliding by…’


(of Lake Of Como)

No sound of wheels or hoof-beat breaks
The silence of the summer day,
As by the loveliest of all lakes
I while the idle hours away.

I pace the leafy colonnade
Where level branches of the plane
Above me weave a roof of shade
Impervious to the sun and rain.

At times a sudden rush of air
Flutters the lazy leaves o'erhead,
And gleams of sunshine toss and flare
Like torches down the path I tread.

By Somariva's garden gate
I make the marble stairs my seat,
And hear the water, as I wait,
Lapping the steps beneath my feet.

The undulation sinks and swells
Along the stony parapets,
And far away the floating bells
Tinkle upon the fisher's nets.

Silent and slow, by tower and town
The freighted barges come and go,
Their pendent shadows gliding down
By town and tower submerged below.

The hills sweep upward from the shore,
With villas scattered one by one
Upon their wooded spurs, and lower
Bellaggio blazing in the sun.

And dimly seen, a tangled mass
Of walls and woods, of light and shade,
Stands beckoning up the Stelvio Pass
Varenna with its white cascade.

I ask myself, Is this a dream?
Will it all vanish into air?
Is there a land of such supreme
And perfect beauty anywhere?

Sweet vision! Do not fade away;
Linger until my heart shall take
Into itself the summer day,
And all the beauty of the lake.

Linger until upon my brain
Is stamped an image of the scene,
Then fade into the air again,
And be as if thou hadst not been.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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