22 October, 2010


I dedicate this to my niece living in Estonia. They are getting their first snow of the season on this very day!

Today, I am posting another selection that we read in class this week ("American Lit.: Homeschool Edition"). It is only a portion of the lovely, long, narrative poem by Whittier, another of the Fireside Poets. It is a favorite of mine which brings up many fond memories, both from childhood and from our own life here at the Cottage.

Click on the Title for the whole poem, as I did not want to post all 759 lines here.

SNOW-BOUND A Winter Idyl
by John Greenleaf Whittier

THE sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east; we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did our nightly chores,
Brought in the wood from out the doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro,
Crossed and recrossed the wingëd snow:
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes; strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden-wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush-pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridle-post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof;
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant spendor, seemed to tell
Of Pisa's leaning miracle.

A prompt, decisive man, no breath
Our father wasted: "Boys, a path!"
Well pleased (for when did farmer boy
Count such a summons less than joy?)
Our buskins on our feet we drew;
With mittened hands, and caps drawn low,
To guard our necks and ears from snow,
We cut the solid whiteness through.
And, where the drift was deepest, made
A tunnel walled and overlaid
With dazzling crystal: we had read
Of rare Aladdin's wondrous cave,
And to our own his name we gave,
With many a wish the luck were ours
To test his lamp's supernal powers.
We reached the barn with merry din,
And roused the prisoned brutes within.
The old horse thrust his long head out,
And grave with wonder gazed about;
The cock his lusty greeting said,
And forth his speckled harem led;
The oxen lashed their tails, and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked;
The hornëd patriarch of the sheep,
Like Egypt's Amun roused from sleep,
Shook his sage head with gesture mute,
And emphasized with stamp of foot.

All day the gusty north-wind bore
The loosening drift its breath before;
Low circling round its southern zone,
The sun through dazzling snow-mist shone.
No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary-voicëd elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-boughs swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life, had grown
To have an almost human tone.

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back, --
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: "Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea."
The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemd where'er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

Shut in from all the world without,
We sat the clean-winged hearth about,
Content to let the north-wind roar
In baffled rage at pane and door,
While the red logs before us beat
The frost-line back with tropic heat;
And ever, when a louder blast
Shook beam and rafter as it passed,
The merrier up its roaring draught
The great throat of the chimney laughed;
The house-dog on his paws outspread
Laid to the fire his drowsy head,
The cat's dark silhouette on the wall
A couchant tiger's seemed to fall;
And, for the winter fireside meet,
Between the andirons' straddling feet,
The mug of cider simmered slow,
The apples sputtered in a row,
And, close at hand, the basket stood
With nuts from brown October's wood.

19 October, 2010

Longfellow's Song of Life

This week in American Lit. (homeschool edition ;-), we continued in our study of the Fireside Poets. One of the poems read today is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882).



TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

*first published in the Knickerbocker Magazine, October 1838. It also appeared in Longfellow's first published collection Voices in the Night.

13 October, 2010

William Cullen Bryant

In American Lit class this week, we read and discussed Bryant's Thanatopsis, then I sent the kids home with a copy of To a Waterfowl to add to their notebooks. What I like about the particular website that I've linked here, is that you can click on the highlighted words within the poem for literary insight or a definition. Pretty smart, I thought, because it is just a "tidbit" and not an over-analyzed page or two, which sometimes bleeds all the life out of the poem or work itself.
Bryant was considered America's first poet of importance. In fact, when publishers first read Bryant's work, Thanatopsis, they didn't believe such a work could ever have been produced on this side of the Atlantic. Ha!! Bryant's father was able to prove that it was his son's work (written at 17 with a few final lines added ten years later).

I set up the class time with a little discussion of the Romantic movement first, just to set the stage for these poems and the rest of the Romantics we will study for the next month or so, just before moving into the Transcentalist movement.
Next week, we'll delve more into the Fireside Poets.

It's good to dive into American Literature again.



07 October, 2010

Yummy Banana Bread

This recipe is slightly altered from our well-loved copy of Laurel's Kitchen Cookbook.

(for Ann in Faith :-)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

3 very ripe bananas (1 cup mashed)
juice of one lemon
1/2 c. oil or butter (softened)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup wheat germ


1/2 c. dates (I did not add these)
1/2 c. toasted nuts (I used walnuts)

Mash bananas and mix them with lemon juice until smooth. Cream butter or oil and sugar together and add the banana mix, stirring well.
Sift together salt, flour, baking soda, baking powder. Mix in wheat germ. Add to the banana mixture and stir in dates and or nuts, if desired.

The dough will be very stiff, unless you use white flour instead of wheat.
(We were out of wheat when I made this batch, so I added about 1/4 extra wheat germ, and it was only sticky, not stiff).

Turn it into a greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes. (or into muffin tins for muffins, baking only 30 minutes)

Fall baking has begun! What are some of your favorites at this time of year? I imagine lots of pumpkin-spice type breads and recipes. I will be making some of those myself, next time.


06 October, 2010

Phyllis Wheatley poems

Phyllis Wheatley
the first African American to be published


ATTEND my lays, ye ever honour'd nine, Assist my labours, and my strains refine; In smoothest numbers pour the notes along, For bright Aurora now demands my song.

Aurora hail, and all the thousand dies, Which deck thy progress through the vaulted skies: The morn awakes, and wide extends her rays, On ev'ry leaf the gentle zephyr plays; Harmonious lays the feather'd race resume, Dart the bright eye, and shake the painted plume.

Ye shady groves, your verdant gloom display To shield your poet from the burning day: Calliope awake the sacred lyre, While thy fair sisters fan the pleasing fire: The bow'rs, the gales, the variegated skies In all their pleasures in my bosom rise.

See in the east th' illustrious king of day! His rising radiance drives the shades away-- But Oh! I feel his fervid beams too strong, And scarce begun, concludes th' abortive song.


SOON as the sun forsook the eastern main The pealing thunder shook the heav'nly plain; Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr's wing, Exhales the incense of the blooming spring. Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes, And through the air their mingled music floats.

Through all the heav'ns what beauteous dies are

But the west glories in the deepest red: So may our breasts with ev'ry virtue glow, The living temples of our God below!

Fill'd with the praise of him who gives the light, And draws the sable curtains of the night, Let placid slumbers sooth each weary mind, At morn to wake more heav'nly, more refin'd; So shall the labours of the day begin More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.

Night's leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes, Then cease, my song, till fair Aurora rise.


THY various works, imperial queen, we see,

How bright their forms! how deck'd with pomp
by thee!

Thy wond'rous acts in beauteous order stand, And all attest how potent is thine hand.

From Helicon's refulgent heights attend, Ye sacred choir, and my attempts befriend: To tell her glories with a faithful tongue, Ye blooming graces, triumph in my song.

Now here, now there, the roving Fancy flies,

Till some lov'd object strikes her wand'ring eyes, Whose silken fetters all the senses bind, And soft captivity involves the mind.

Imagination! who can sing thy force? Or who describe the swiftness of thy course? Soaring through air to find the bright abode, Th' empyreal palace of the thund'ring God, We on thy pinions can surpass the wind, And leave the rolling universe behind: From star to star the mental optics rove, Measure the skies, and range the realms above. There in one view we grasp the mighty whole, Or with new worlds amaze th' unbounded soul.

Though Winter frowns to Fancy's raptur'd eyes The fields may flourish, and gay scenes arise; The frozen deeps may break their iron bands, And bid their waters murmur o'er the sands. Fair Flora may resume her fragrant reign, And with her flow'ry riches deck the plain; Sylvanus may diffuse his honours round, And all the forest may with leaves be crown'd: Show'rs may descend, and dews their gems disclose, And nectar sparkle on the blooming rose.

Such is thy pow'r, nor are thine orders vain, O thou the leader of the mental train: In full perfection all thy works are wrought, And thine the sceptre o'er the realms of thought. Before thy throne the subject-passions bow, Of subject-passions sov'reign ruler thou; At thy command joy rushes on the heart, And through the glowing veins the spirits dart.

Fancy might now her silken pinions try To rise from earth, and sweep th' expanse on high: From Tithon's bed now might Aurora rise, Her cheeks all glowing with celestial dies, While a pure stream of light o'erflows the skies. The monarch of the day I might behold, And all the mountains tipt with radiant gold, But I reluctant leave the pleasing views, Which Fancy dresses to delight the Muse; Winter austere forbids me to aspire, And northern tempests damp the rising fire; They chill the tides of Fancy's flowing sea, Cease then, my song, cease the unequal lay.

Benjamin Franklin

Posting a couple of photos from our trip to Philadelphia last year for my small American Lit. class ~

The Library Company of Philadelphia (by Benjamin Franklin), America's first library
also served as the Library of Congress from the Revolutionary War period to 1800. It was America's largest public library until the 1850's .

The American Philosophical Society grew out of two groups which originally began as the Junto (a group started by Benjamin Franklin), and another group called "the American Society for Promoting Useful Knowledge." When they joined forces, their new name became "The American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge". Benjamin Franklin was elected its first president.

This group of men would meet together weekly to discuss the intellectual, business, personal, commercial and community topics popular in his day. The building where they met (pictured below) is right by Constitutional Hall.

05 October, 2010

Famous Poems Restoration ~ before and after

Before ~

as held together by tape. Please don't do this people. It can sometimes ruin hopes of future book repairs! I was able to work with this one and get it cleaned up nicely. I won't say how, that is why I make the big bucks (haha). At least it helps bring in a little grocery money, or rainy day money.

Almost done ~

After ~

~ fini ~

01 October, 2010

October! (post #876!)

For my 876th post to this blog, I will share a quote I which I was just reminded of by a friend today.

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."

~Nathaniel Hawthorne

To which I would add the following:

Since Hawthorne, born in Salem, MA, lived in New England most of his life and Europe for a few years*, I would change the month reference from October to November. For citizens who live in the south central U.S., it doesn't get as cool, nor do we have the Autumnal, red-golden-hued trees and crisper temeratures until November/December. However, the sentiment remains the same, which is one reason I share it on this first day of October, 2010. We definitely feel the shifting of the season and the tilting of the earth away from the sun.

I still love the quote, and Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of my favorite authors. I am looking forward to teaching about him in another month or so!


*p.s. Many people don't realize that Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family lived in England for several years, where he served as Amercian Consul for President Pierce, from 1853-1857. They moved to Italy briefly, where they spent time in Rome and Florence, primarily. Then it was back to England where he wrote The Marble Faun in 1860. After that, the family moved back to Concord, MA, where they purchased their own home for the first time, from Bronson Alcott. The Alcotts called this home "Hillside" but Hawthorne renamed it "The Wayside."

The Wayside, not to be confused with Boston's "Wayside Inn." They are two different places.

Hawthorne had the small inspiration room added as a third floor after they purchased the home. It was where he loved to write, and spent many hours of his last four years of life.