From the R&RG Archive: “I Love All Beauteous Things”

Friends, this week has been a busy one. In addition to work and the other work of child-chasing, there’s been traveling and a tiny bit of writing and even reading. I’m *this close* to finishing two books I’m very much enjoying (one novel, one collection of poems), so this week I’m taking you back to the archive, by which I mean a post from 2013, when not too many readers were to be found hereabouts.

I’ve picked this post because of its connection to a favorite book of mine. My sister’s baby shower was this past weekend, and one of the gifts we gave her is a copy of Miss Rumphius, which you must go read for yourself if you haven’t already. And just learned that Barbara Cooney’s original artwork for Miss Rumphius is in the museum at Bowdoin College, which is serendipitous because I know a certain incoming freshman who is just dying to give a museum tour—probably early on a Saturday morning, right?—to his extremely nerdy and old cousin (hey there, FB!) . . .


 

Robert Bridges’s fine poem is a brief, honestly joyous celebration of the beautiful, and our urge to create something beautiful ourselves. In the second stanza, he writes: “I too will something make / and joy in the making” even if his creation proves ephemeral.

One of the pleasures of this little poem, for me, is that it reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books, Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. In the book, Miss Rumphius (as a child) is told by her grandfather that she must (among other things) over the course of her life do something to make the world more beautiful.

Isn’t that lovely?

I’ve loved this book since I was a little girl, and when I’m feeling reflective, I remember the beautiful illustrations and ask myself if I’ve done anything lately to make the world more beautiful, and, more importantly, what I can still do.

Image courtesy of Tom Curtis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(I’ll let you find out for yourself what Miss Rumphius sets out to do.)

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“I Love All Beauteous Things”

Robert Bridges’s fine poem is a brief, honestly joyous celebration of the beautiful, and our urge to create something beautiful ourselves. In the second stanza, he writes: “I too will something make / and joy in the making” even if his creation proves ephemeral.

One of the pleasures of this little poem, for me, is that it reminds me of one of my favorite children’s books, Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. In the book, Miss Rumphius (as a child) is told by her grandfather that she must, over the course of her life, do something to make the world more beautiful.

Isn’t that lovely?

I’ve loved this book since I was a little girl, and when I’m feeling reflective, I remember the beautiful illustrations and ask myself if I’ve done anything lately to make the world more beautiful, and, more importantly, what I can still do.

Image courtesy of Tom Curtis/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Tom Curtis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(I’ll let you find out for yourself what Miss Rumphius sets out to do.)

“a thread of her devising”

Charlotte’s Web may be the book I’m most looking forward to reading with my small son. I remember my mother reading it to me, and in particular the calm, gracious way she delivered Charlotte’s classic “Salutations.”

[Actually, in many ways, my mother reminds me of Charlotte: inventive and resourceful, especially when protecting the people she loves; ready to sacrifice for her children; and possessed of a remarkable facility with language.]

E.B. White, who wrote Charlotte’s Web, and Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, is also the White in Strunk & White, whose Elements of Style is a perennial classic, the pronouncements of which I fear my writing never lives up to.

It should come as no surprise, then, that White is gifted writer in many genres. “Once More to the Lake” is a particular favorite of mine, an essay that neatly encapsulates the tension between childhood and adulthood, memory and the present. His letters are kind and witty (read a wonderful example at Letters of Note), and I’d like to find a volume of them the next time I’m haunting a used bookstore.

A used bookstore is where I found a paperback edition (1983, I believe) of Poems and Sketches of E.B. White. Someone wrote a lovely inscription on the title page that refers to White’s death in 1985:

To dear B–,

In memory of the era that ended during our ’85 visit. How sad- but he will live in our memories & his words will continue to entertain and bind us!

With much love,  K, [unclear name here] & S*

It’s a delightful book; open to any page and there’s something to amuse or interest. This week I’l be memorizing the poem “Natural History,” addressed to White’s wife, Katharine. It’s a short, delicate poem in which the speaker compares himself to a spider, attached to the point of his leaving (his wife) by a silken strand, to aid in his returning. If I were to teach the poem, it would make a lovely pairing with Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

*I’ve redacted the names of the recipient and the gift-givers to protect their privacy, whomever they may be.