One of the most beautiful things about poetry is its timelessness. There is something to it that still speaks to our situations today. Here are a few that have piqued my interest or are relevant in changes we now experience because of the pandemic:
- Alexander Pope’s “Ode to Solitude”
Alexander Pope experienced a debilitating disease and religious persecution in his lifetime. He wrote “Ode on Solitude,” which examines a contented, quiet life where there is “Sound sleep by night; study and ease / Together mixed; sweet recreation” (lines 13-14). Despite engaging in more remote forms of work and education, we still have busy lives packed with activities. Pope’s poem can be a beautiful reminder of a life that is sweet and slow. It can encourage us to value the blessings of self-sufficiency, health, and peace.
- Charlotte Smith’s “Oh, Hope! Thou soother sweet of human woes”
These days, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the fear for our safety as well as the safety and health of those we love and cherish. Healthy concern and fear are needed in these situations, but too often the noise of the media and devastating circumstances can fuel our fear to the point of losing our optimism. In her poem, Charlotte Smith tells us that hope is our remedy. Smith’s poem “Oh, Hope! Thou soother sweet of human woes” likens hope to fantastic things like a “sweet nymph” (line 5) or an “Enchantress” (line 7). Additionally, the narrator in the poem is “A prey to fear, anxiety, and pain” and wonders “Must I a sad existence still deplore?” (lines 9-10). She appeals to hope as a balm for her pain and sorrow. We can also cling to hope in this season of our lives. We can keep on pressing onwards and doing what we can to keep ourselves and those we love safe for a brighter future.
- Emily Dickinson’s “There is no Frigate like a Book”
Emily Dickinson is no stranger to solitude. “‘How Soft This Prison Is’: Reading Emily Dickinson in Quarantine” focused on the relevancy of her work during Quarantine. One of the poems mentioned within the piece included the poem, “There is no Frigate like a Book.” I remember the times I immersed myself in a story for hours. It has been a long time since I have delved into a new book and just got lost in the pages. Dickinson’s poem addresses the power behind novels to take the readers on journeys. It claims, “There is no Frigate like a Book / To take us lands away” (lines 1-2). With restrictions now, it may be difficult or unsafe to travel. Nevertheless, the cheapest (and safest) vacation or holiday can be found in your favorite work of fiction.
In general, the beauty of classic poetry can still influence and entertain us today. Especially during this adverse season, I believe we can find some comfort and encouragement in these verses.