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In a 1965 Sunday newspaper profile, Art listed his favorite poets: Riley, Longfellow, Bryant, Whittier.

James Whitcomb Riley, “Hoosier Poet,” left his name all over the state of Indiana, working during what later was recognized as a Golden Age of Indiana Literature. (Not the last, I hope.) Most of the works of James Whitcomb Riley can be browsed here or downloaded as eBooks.

His poems tended to be humorous or sentimental, so it’s no wonder Art loved them. Here’s a short one I like, a tongue-in-cheek “un-poem” —

“Lines for an Album”
James Whitcomb Riley

I would not trace the hackneyed phrase
Of shallow words and empty praise,
And prate of “peace” till one might think
My foolish pen was drunk with ink.
Nor will I here the wish express
Of “lasting love and happiness,”
And “cloudless skies”–for after all
“Into each life some rain must fall.”
–No. Keep the empty page below,
In my remembrance, white as snow–
Nor sigh to know the secret prayer
My spirit hand has written there.

John Greenleaf Whittier goes back about half a century earlier, to Massachusetts. He was famous for his narrative poetry, especially “Snow-Bound.” I like this one for the contrast he draws between winter and spring. An excerpt from “April” —

O soul of the spring-time, its light and its breath,
Bring warmth to this coldness, bring life to this death;
Renew the great miracle; let us behold
The stone from the mouth of the sepulchre rolled,
And Nature, like Lazarus, rise, as of old!

More on influences tomorrow…