Last Valentines Day I wrote about Guys Holding Babies. My idea was to honor the memory of my father who died on this day in 1987 and honor my husband and sons because they are guys I love.
Does it surprise you to know that poetry used to be clearly in the center of masculine interests? Think of the epic poems and their authors: Homer, Virgil, Milton, some anonymous guys, and G.K. Chesterton. We’ve been reading through the The Top 500 Poems in our morning routine; only 27 of the 500 poems in this collection were written by a woman. Don’t forget the Biblical poets who happened to be men: Moses, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Jonah. And never forget the Song of Simeon, those potent words of an old man, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”
My father loved poetry. My father loved words. He had a phenomenal mind; he could both recognize the bits of poetry and poetical references that blow past most of us and recite entire poems. Occasionally he would corner one of us kids with an imperious “Listen to this” and read a poem which took his fancy. I wish now that I had paid more: more time, more attention, more interest, more respect. Who were his favorite poets? I’m not sure, but I’d guess William Cowper, John Oxenham, Joe Bailey and Luci Shaw. Often a stoic in demeanor, the reading of a poem or article could break down my father’s reserve. I can still hear his voice choked while reading from Joe Bailey’s A View from a Hearst.
The poetry of my husband’s childhood was the poetry of motion: dodging tackles, arcing basketballs, change up pitches. However, he grew up with a rich liturgy and had weekly infusions of the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s hymns. He brings raw honesty to poetry. He will readily say, “I don’t get it.” But he will also show the impact of poems he does get. Curt was inspired by George Grant’s recitation of Alfred’s War Song and can still recite it years after he committed it to memory.
Coveting the kingdom and hungering for blood,
The Lord will raise a standard up and lead His people on,
The Lord of Hosts will go before defeating every foe; defeating every foe.
For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend us,
For the Lord is our defense, Jesu defend.
Collin, for better or for worse, has inherited my father’s genetic makeup. He has an ear for words. His ability to capture the cadences of the stuff he reads is remarkable. As a young boy he would quote Hiawatha while playing on the rug. We still laugh at his youthful description of ants on the back deck who, “heedless of their life, plunged off the precipice.” Two well-loved characters, Jeeves, the gentleman’s gentleman, and Jan Karon’s Father Tim, both have a store of poetry in their minds; their quotes flow quite naturally into their conversations. Collin’s current favorite quote (from P. G. Wodehouse) surfaces whenever I mention the great Scottish poet Robert Burns.
“I have already done so, sir.”
Real guys know the power of poetry.
Real guys love words.
Really great guys keep learning.
I’m thankful for the real guys in my life.