Archives For Wind and Weather

 

“The Prophetic Power of Poetry”

An Introduction to
Wind and Weather.
by Liberty Hyde Bailey.

 

By Chris Smith.

 

Wind and Weather.
Poems by Liberty Hyde Bailey.

Paperback. Doulos Christou Press. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $10] 

Wind and Weather - BaileyLiberty Hyde Bailey, born in 1858, was raised on a farm in Michigan and it was farm life that would set the tone for the rest of his life.  He studied first at the Michigan Agricultural college and then under renowned biologist Asa Gray at Harvard.   From there, he maintained a long and successful academic career teaching botany and horticulture in Michigan and then later at Cornell in Ithaca, NY.  He wrote a number of significant books for academic and popular audiences on plants, agriculture, rural life and conservation.  His writings were foundational for today’s new agrarian writers, and he has been praised extensively by Wendell Berry, Gene Logsdon and others.  Bailey’s writings in botany are well-known and his essays rooted in rural philosophy are also widely recognized. However, much less is known about Liberty Hyde Bailey, the poet.  This volume, originally published in 1916, was the only collection of Bailey’s poetry that received widespread distribution.

                Most of what we know about the context out of which Bailey wrote his poetry has been provided in his essay on “Nature Poetry” in the book Outlook to Nature.  Three key virtues of nature poetry that he describes in this essay are connectedness, keen observation and clarity.  Bailey firmly believed that the nature poet must be intimately connected with his subject, and especially that his/her poems should be written outside in nature, and he strongly critiques the “bookishness” of nature poetry that originates indoors in the study.  Secondly, the true nature poem in Bailey’s estimation, arises out of keen observation of nature, guided by the knowledge of at least a little science (to provide language to frame one’s observation and to give him “point of view” – i.e., to tell him “what to look for” (OTN 38).  Lastly, Bailey argues for the clarity of the nature poem.  He explicitly rejects most poetry, citing slavery to “traditional forms of verse and line” (OTN 32) and their tendency toward “ambitious disquisitions, long periods, heavy rhetoric, labored metaphors” (OTN 29).  Instead, he hails the work of Whitman, who “has most completely freed himself from the bondage of literary form” (32).

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Another poem from a long-lost volume of poetry
by Liberty Hyde Bailey (See issue #29 for another of Bailey’s poems.)

GOODS

 

I sat at midnight in the woods

   When the darks were far and deep,

When all my kin had housed their goods

    And had fallen dead asleep.

 

A whisper moved above my ears

     As if slender rain-drops fell,  

A feeling of a thousand years

     From the whence I could not tell.

 

A something stirs within those woods

     A spirit remote and fine,  

And all my kin may have their goods

     For the deep old glooms are mine.

(from LH Bailey Wind and Weather, originally published 1916,
reprint forthcoming Oct. 2008 from Doulos Christou Press).

 

In this issue, we will begin a new section of the ERB, a weekly poem.

Today’s poem is from a long-lost volume of poetry by Liberty Hyde Bailey (for more on Bailey, see the featured review in this issue.)

Country Church

In some great day
The country church
Will find its voice
And it will say:
I stand in the fields
Where the wide earth yields
Her bounties of fruit and of grain,
Where the furrows turn
Till the plowshares burn
As they come round and round again;
Where the workers pray
With their tools all day
In the sunshine and shadow and rain.And I bid them tell
Of the crops they sell
And speak of the work they have done;
I speed ev’ry man
In his hope and plan
And follow his day with the sun;
And grasses and trees
The birds and the bees
I know and I feel ev’ry one.

And out of it all
As the seasons fall
I build my great temple alway;
I point to the skies,
But my footstone lies
In commonplace work of the day;
For I preach the worth
Of the native earth, –
To love and to work is to pray.

(from LH Bailey Wind and Weather, orginally published 1916,
reprint forthcoming Oct. 2008 from Doulos Christou Press).