Saturday, February 26, 2011

While Cataloging: Finding the Author of a Poem

Posted: 26 Feb 2011

While cataloging a children's book I noticed a fairly long gift notation on the front flypage. It is a rather nice poem:

                                                                         February 17, 1968

              I cannot count the stars....
                                         nor touch them..
                 but in the magic of the night
                       I feel their calm and glory..
              The rhythm of the rolling waves...
                    winds that whistle  ...  roar  ...
                                            and whisper .....
                    are part of one great harmony
                          that plays within my heart...
               Swallows sweeping through the air ..
                    fireflies twinkling in the twilight ..
                        are all this soul of mine desires
                            to keep it dreaming ...
                                           dreams ......

                                      With Special Love
                                            XXXX X XXXX

Being naturally inquisitive, I wondered if this writer actually was the author of the poem, or was just quoting it. So I went to Google with the most distinctive line ("fireflies twinkling in the twilight") and got only 3 relevant results,  all containing this poem, but none mentioning the author:

1.) A 2001 Adirondack Youth Camp Newsletter
2.) A 2004 Blog for a Senior English class where a student posts this poem in the "Share your writing" section.
3.) A 2009 posting in a rural life forum by a man from Northern Ontario. He said "But those aren,t my words, just some notes i was sent,,,"

No help there. But the senior English student had also posted another "Share your writing" sample:

The woods stood shimmering ----- a delicate fantasy
---- The wind was still
The air was warm
A great phenomenon of life took place
The day the leaves came out…….

Google quickly revealed the author of this new snippet is actually Gwen Frostic. And analyzing the writing style of several Frostic poems proves she is the unmistakable author of the first poem! The presentation note in the book was merely quoting her.

Henry Mirrisa,

A Bibliophile's Poem: Robert Louis Stevenson

Posted: 26 Feb 2011

This is a poem found anonymously handwritten on a slip of paper in a turn-of-the-century book. Perhaps original and unpublished since my research cannot locate it anywhere:

Dingy was the book-stall
There in Holborn town;
All was rust and moth and dust,
Cobwebs hanging down.
In the darksome passage,
Dreary as a tomb,
From the frame, the sun in vain
Strove to quell the gloom;
Till the bookman's gentle voice
Sounded in my ear,
"Robert Louis Stevenson
Used to come in here."

All radiant was the book-stall
There in Holborn town;
Sunny breeze from summer seas
Swept the cobwebs down,
Filled the darksome passage
With sweet scent of bloom,
Charm and grace transformed the place
To a splendid room,
Garnished fit for king or queen
Princess or chevalier,
For the bookman's gentle voice
Had sounded in my ear,
"Robert Louis Stevenson
Used to come in here."

Henry Mirrisa,