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Featured Poem: Memories by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Written by The Reader, 10th December 2012

This week's Featured Poem comes from Caroline Adams, Get Into Reading Project Worker in the South West, who shares the wisdom and wonderful words of a poet she has come to know well during her time working for The Reader Organisation.

“I do not believe anyone can be perfectly well, who has a brain and a heart.”

It is only since I joined The Reader Organisation that the world of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has opened up to me. His wisdom and engagement with the human heart and soul never fail to provide great talking points.

With the recent dreary weather, I think of a personal favourite – The Rainy Day – which works particularly well with mental health groups.

  “…Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.”

Acceptance of the way things are seems a recurrent theme in Longfellow’s world:

“.. after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”

It is however his poem Memories which has provoked  the most vivid stories and discussions for  the groups I’ve worked with. It prompted a recollection for one member of a boy with whom she’d lost contact since they played  together as children in a remote Devon community back in the late 1930’s and 40’s. The family name was distinctive and another group member, quite coincidentally, recognised it as a family friend of her mother’s , and the pair of childhood pals are now once again exchanging Christmas cards.  All thanks to Longfellow and his ability to tap into the human condition.


Oft I remember those I have known
In other days, to whom my heart was lead
As by a magnet, and who are not dead,
But absent, and their memories overgrown
With other thoughts and troubles of my own,
As graves with grasses are, and at their head
The stone with moss and lichens so o'er spread,
Nothing is legible but the name alone.
And is it so with them? After long years.
Do they remember me in the same way,
And is the memory pleasant as to me?
I fear to ask; yet wherefore are my fears?
Pleasures, like flowers, may wither and decay,
And yet the root perennial may be.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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