'To A Friend' by Joseph Rodman Drake
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"You damn me with faint praise."
YES, faint was my applause and cold my praise,
Though soul was glowing in each polished line;
But nobler subjects claim the poet's lays,
A brighter glory waits a muse like thine.
Let amorous fools in love-sick measure pine;
Let Strangford whimper on, in fancied pain,
And leave to Moore his rose leaves and his vine;
Be thine the task a higher crown to gain,
The envied wreath that decks the patriot's holy strain.
Yet not in proud triumphal song alone,
Or martial ode, or sad sepulchral dirge,
There needs no voice to make our glories known;
There needs no voice the warrior's soul to urge
To tread the bounds of nature's stormy verge;
Columbia still shall win the battle's prize;
But be it thine to bid her mind emerge
To strike her harp, until its soul arise
From the neglected shade, where low in dust it lies.
Are there no scenes to touch the poet's soul?
No deeds of arms to wake the lordly strain?
Shall Hudson's billows unregarded roll?
Has Warren fought, Montgomery died in vain?
Shame! that while every mountain stream and plain
Hath theme for truth's proud voice or fancy's wand,
No native bard the patriot harp hath ta'en,
But left to minstrels of a foreign strand
To sing the beauteous scenes of nature's loveliest land.
Oh! for a seat on Appalachia's brow,
That I might scan the glorious prospect round,
Wild waving woods, and rolling floods below,
Smooth level glades and fields with grain embrown'd,
High heaving hills, with tufted forests crown'd,
Rearing their tall tops to the heaven's blue dome,
And emerald isles, like banners green unwound,
Floating along the lake, while round them roam
Bright helms of billowy blue and plumes of dancing foam.
'Tis true no fairies haunt our verdant meads,
No grinning imps deform our blazing hearth;
Beneath the kelpie's fang no traveller bleeds,
Nor gory vampyre taints our holy earth,
Nor spectres stalk to frighten harmless mirth,
Nor tortured demon howls adown the gale;
Fair reason checks these monsters in their birth.
Yet have we lay of love and horrid tale
Would dim the manliest eye and make the bravest pale.
Where is the stony eye that hath not shed
Compassion's heart-drops o'er the sweet Mc Rea?
Through midnight's wilds by savage bandits led,
"Her heart is sad - her love is far away!"
Elate that lover waits the promised day
When he shall clasp his blooming bride again -
Shine on, sweet visions! dreams of rapture, play!
Soon the cold corse of her he loved in vain
Shall blight his withered heart and fire his frenzied brain.
Romantic Wyoming! could none be found
Of all that rove thy Eden groves among,
To wake a native harp's untutored sound,
And give thy tale of wo the voice of song?
Oh! if description's cold and nerveless tongue
From stranger harps such hallowed strains could call,
How doubly sweet the descant wild had rung,
From one who, lingering round thy ruined wall,
Had plucked thy mourning flowers and wept thy timeless fall.
The Huron chief escaped from foemen nigh,
His frail bark launches on Niagara's tides,
"Pride in his port, defiance in his eye,"
Singing his song of death the warrior glides;
In vain they yell along the river sides,
In vain the arrow from its sheaf is torn,
Calm to his doom the willing victim rides,
And, till adown the roaring torrent borne,
Mocks them with gesture proud, and laughs their rage to scorn.
But if the charms of daisied hill and vale,
And rolling flood, and towering rock sublime,
If warrior deed or peasant's lowly tale
Of love or wo should fail to wake the rhyme,
If to the wildest heights of song you climb,
(Tho' some who know you less, might cry, beware!)
Onward! I say - your strains shall conquer time;
Give your bright genius wing, and hope to share
Imagination's worlds - the ocean, earth, and air.
Arouse, my friend - let vivid fancy soar,
Look with creative eye on nature's face,
Bid airy sprites in wild Niagara roar,
And view in every field a fairy race.
Spur thy good Pacolet to speed apace,
And spread a train of nymphs on every shore;
Or if thy muse would woo a ruder grace,
The Indian's evil Manitou's explore,
And rear the wondrous tale of legendary lore.
Away! to Susquehannah's utmost springs,
Where, throned in mountain mist, Areouski reigns,
Shrouding in lurid clouds his plumeless wings,
And sternly sorrowing o'er his tribes remains;
His was the arm, like comet ere it wanes
That tore the streamy lightnings from the skies,
And smote the mammoth of the southern plains;
Wild with dismay the Creek affrighted flies,
While in triumphant pride Kanawa's eagles rise.
Or westward far, where dark Miami wends,
Seek that fair spot as yet to fame unknown;
Where, when the vesper dew of heaven descends,
Soft music breathes in many a melting tone,
At times so sadly sweet it seems the moan
Of some poor Ariel penanced in the rock;
Anon a louder burst - a scream! a groan!
And now amid the tempest's reeling shock,
Gibber, and shriek, and wail - and fiend-like laugh and mock.
Or climb the Pallisado's lofty brows,
Were dark Omana waged the war of hell,
Till, waked to wrath, the mighty spirit rose
And pent the demons in their prison cell;
Full on their head the uprooted mountain fell,
Enclosing all within its horrid womb
Straight from the teeming earth the waters swell,
And pillared rocks arise in cheerless gloom
Around the drear abode - their last eternal tomb!
Be these your future themes - no more resign
The soul of song to laud your lady's eyes;
Go! kneel a worshipper at nature's shrine!
For you her fields are green, and fair her skies!
For you her rivers flow, her hills arise!
And will you scorn them all, to pour forth tame
And heartless lays of feigned or fancied sighs?
Still will you cloud the muse? nor blush for shame
To cast away renown, and hide your head from fame?
Editor 1 Interpretation
To A Friend by Joseph Rodman Drake: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation
Are you a lover of poetry? Do you enjoy reading classic poems that have stood the test of time? If yes, then you must have come across "To A Friend" by Joseph Rodman Drake.
This poem, written in 1815, is one of Drake's most famous works. It is a beautiful piece of literature that captures the essence of friendship and the value it adds to our lives.
In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the various elements that make this poem great. We will analyze its form, language, imagery, and themes to gain a deeper understanding of what makes it a masterpiece.
Form and Structure
"To A Friend" is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme of this sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, which is typical of the Shakespearean sonnet. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which means there are ten syllables per line, and the stress falls on every other syllable.
The poem is divided into three quatrains and a couplet. The first three quatrains explore different aspects of friendship, while the couplet serves as a conclusion to the entire poem.
The form and structure of "To A Friend" are significant because they give the poem a sense of order and cohesion. The rhyme scheme and the iambic pentameter make the poem sound musical and pleasing to the ear.
Language and Imagery
Drake's use of language and imagery in "To A Friend" is exceptional. He uses vivid and descriptive language to paint a picture of the different aspects of friendship.
In the first quatrain, Drake compares friendship to a "rose," which is a symbol of beauty and fragility. He also describes friendship as a "star," which is a symbol of guidance and light. These metaphors create a sense of wonder and admiration for the concept of friendship.
In the second quatrain, Drake describes the joys of friendship, such as "smiling eyes" and "balmy breath." He also uses the metaphor of a "harvest moon" to describe the fullness and completeness that comes with having a friend. These images create a sense of warmth and comfort that comes with having someone to share life's joys with.
In the third quatrain, Drake explores the hardships of friendship, such as "stormy skies" and "wintry blast." He also uses the metaphor of a "towering oak" to describe the strength and resilience that comes with enduring difficult times with a friend. These images create a sense of steadfastness and loyalty that comes with true friendship.
In the couplet, Drake concludes the poem by saying, "So may our friendship, like the ivy, grow, / And deathless twine around our hearts below." This final image of the ivy twining around the heart is a beautiful metaphor for the unbreakable bond that exists between true friends.
Drake's use of language and imagery in "To A Friend" is masterful. He creates a vivid and compelling picture of friendship that resonates with readers even today.
The themes of "To A Friend" are timeless and universal. They are as relevant today as they were when the poem was written over 200 years ago.
The primary theme of the poem is friendship. Drake explores the different aspects of friendship, such as its beauty, joy, and hardships. He also emphasizes the importance of true friendship and the unbreakable bond that exists between true friends.
Another theme of the poem is the passage of time. Drake acknowledges that friendships, like all things in life, are subject to the passage of time. However, he also emphasizes that true friendship endures beyond time and even death.
The theme of nature is also present in the poem. Drake uses natural imagery, such as roses, stars, and towers, to describe the different aspects of friendship. He also emphasizes the natural growth and development of true friendship, which is like the ivy that grows and twines around the heart.
"To A Friend" by Joseph Rodman Drake is a beautiful and timeless poem that captures the essence of friendship. Through its form, language, imagery, and themes, it creates a vivid and compelling picture of what it means to have a true friend.
This poem reminds us of the beauty and joy that comes with having someone to share life's joys and hardships with. It also emphasizes the importance of true friendship and the unbreakable bond that exists between true friends.
"To A Friend" is a masterpiece of literature that has stood the test of time. Its message of friendship and enduring love is as relevant today as it was over 200 years ago. Do read this poem and cherish the beauty of true friendship.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry To A Friend: A Masterpiece of Romanticism
Joseph Rodman Drake's Poetry To A Friend is a classic example of Romantic poetry that captures the essence of friendship, love, and nature. This poem is a beautiful expression of the poet's feelings towards his friend, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and his love for the natural world. The poem is a perfect example of the Romantic era's focus on emotions, imagination, and individualism.
The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with a different theme. The first stanza is an expression of the poet's love for his friend. The second stanza is a tribute to nature, and the third stanza is a reflection on the fleeting nature of life.
The first stanza begins with the poet addressing his friend, Fitz-Greene Halleck, and expressing his love for him. The poet says, "Thou, who dost all my worldly thoughts employ, / Thou pleasing source of all my earthly joy." The poet is saying that his friend is the center of his world, and he derives all his happiness from him. The use of the word "pleasing" shows the poet's admiration and affection for his friend.
The second stanza is a tribute to nature. The poet describes the beauty of nature and how it inspires him. He says, "When o'er the green undulating mead, / I see the light clouds sail with silent speed." The poet is describing the peacefulness and tranquility of nature. He is saying that nature is a source of inspiration for him and that it brings him peace and happiness.
The third stanza is a reflection on the fleeting nature of life. The poet says, "But, ah! how oft my wayward heart is torn, / When, wand'ring round at night, I view forlorn / Some gnarled oak, dismembered and decayed." The poet is saying that life is short and that everything in nature, including humans, will eventually decay and die. The use of the word "wayward" shows the poet's vulnerability and his struggle to come to terms with the transience of life.
The poem's language is simple and straightforward, yet it is full of emotion and depth. The poet uses imagery to convey his feelings and to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind. For example, in the second stanza, the poet says, "When o'er the green undulating mead, / I see the light clouds sail with silent speed." This image of the clouds sailing across the sky creates a sense of calm and serenity.
The poem's structure is also significant. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which is a common meter in English poetry. The use of this meter gives the poem a musical quality and makes it easy to read and remember. The poem's rhyme scheme is ABAB, CDCD, EFEF, which gives the poem a sense of balance and symmetry.
The poem's theme of friendship is also significant. The poet's love for his friend is evident throughout the poem. The poet says, "Thou, who dost all my worldly thoughts employ, / Thou pleasing source of all my earthly joy." This line shows the depth of the poet's feelings towards his friend. The poem is a celebration of friendship and the bond that exists between two people.
The poem's theme of nature is also significant. The poet's love for nature is evident throughout the poem. The poet says, "When o'er the green undulating mead, / I see the light clouds sail with silent speed." This line shows the poet's appreciation for the beauty and tranquility of nature. The poem is a tribute to the natural world and its ability to inspire and bring joy to people.
The poem's theme of the fleeting nature of life is also significant. The poet's reflection on the transience of life is evident throughout the poem. The poet says, "But, ah! how oft my wayward heart is torn, / When, wand'ring round at night, I view forlorn / Some gnarled oak, dismembered and decayed." This line shows the poet's struggle to come to terms with the impermanence of life. The poem is a reminder that life is short and that we should cherish every moment.
In conclusion, Joseph Rodman Drake's Poetry To A Friend is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry that captures the essence of friendship, love, and nature. The poem's language, structure, and themes are all significant and contribute to its beauty and depth. The poem is a celebration of the bond between two people, the beauty of nature, and the fleeting nature of life. It is a timeless work of art that continues to inspire and move people today.
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