Among Grandmother’s Books

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Hazel Felleman came to work for The New York Times as a teen-ager in 1905.  Eventually, she edited the Queries and Answers column, answering the questions of readers. I imagine we would not have heard of Ms. Felleman had Wikipedia been around. Often she would receive letters containing a snippet of poetry. Readers would ask if she could tell them the source of the poetry. She would answer and publish the poem as well.  So often did the questions come about the same poem that she began to keep records of the answers and ultimately published a book of poetry called The Best Loved Poems of the American People (still available on Amazon!). She explains in the preface:

The majority of inquiries that I receive are for favorite poems, and since not a day passes that does not bring to my desk a large sheaf of letters from all parts of the country, it is only natural that I have learned something of the poetry preferences of the American people. I have used this knowledge rather than my own personal liking in the selection of these poems; but I feel free to say that there are few of the poem that I would not have included myself.

Ms. Felleman worked for The New York Times for 46 years and retired in 1951. She died on April 30, 1975. You can read her interesting obituary HERE

Recently I stumbled upon a stack of books that belonged to my grandmother. As a book hound, I was immediately interested. I loved my grandmother as a child but circumstances led to my not seeing her much in the last years of her life. That’s a story in itself, but suffice it to say that it was neither her nor my choice that we didn’t see one another. But back to the books. Her books were not my usual interest, but I procured a couple of them and brought them home. One of them was a book of poetry. Yes, Hazel Felleman’s Best Loved Poems book.

Now I must confess that poetry is not my great love. However, the snippets of paper and pencil markings seemed to give me a guided tour of what may have been my grandmother’s favorite poems. There are nearly 700 pages of poetry, assembled according to subject matter, but I decided to at least thumb through it. I admit that some of the poems caught my eye … and some caught my heart.

Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. – Robert Frost

I  noticed familiar names like Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, RudyardStockSnap_WAFKX8JUDB Kipling, Edwin Markham, Alfred Tennyson, William Wordsworth and that poet best known as Unknown. I expect that if Ms. Felleman couldn’t find out who wrote it, then the author is truly unknown. I began marking the poems that really struck me. These are the ones I want to revisit sometime when I’ve wandered through the entire volume.

Lines keep running through my mind …

I am weary of the Garden, Said the Rose;

For the winter winds are sighing,

All my playmates round me dying,

And my leaves will soon be lying ‘Neath the snows.

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If you should go before me, dear, walk slowly

Down the ways of death, well-worn and wide,

For I would want to overtake you quickly

And seek the journey’s ending by your side.

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I’d like to be the sort of friend that you have been to me;

I’d like to be the help that you’ve been always glad to be’

Id like to mean as much to you each minute of the day

As you have meant, old friend of mine, to me along the way.

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If you want to have the kind of a church, Like the kind of a church you like,

You needn’t slip your clothes in a grip, And start on a long, long hike.

You’ll only find what you left behind, For there’s nothing really new.

It’s a knock at yourself when you knock your church; It isn’t the church – it’s you.

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While posting a few of these in entirety on my Facebook page I realized that poetry resonates with a wide range of people. I think I was missing out on something, not being enamored with poetry.

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. – Leonardo da Vinci

I don’t know what will become of this book. Perhaps one of my grandchildren will happen upon it once I’m gone and think to themselves that they might like to read the poems that Poppy liked. I hope so.

…And few shall know we ever lived a hundred years from now… Mary A. Ford

Out Here Hope Remains, JD.

2 Replies to “Among Grandmother’s Books”

  1. Great read. I’m sure this beloved book has influenced your way with words and your poetic prose.

    Note: Unknown was perhaps the most well known poet. But Anon runs a close second, especially in academic circles.

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