Saturday, December 1, 2012

Classic Poetry ~ "Sun and Shadow" by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendall Holmes, 1809 - 1894 

Fun facts about Oliver Wendall Holmes:

1- His childhood teachers found him to be too talkative and were displeased by his reading stories during class time.

2- After performing poorly in law school, Holmes began writing poetry for pleasure and was almost immediately published.

3- Having given up the law, Holmes switched to medicine, attending school in Boston and Paris. 

4- During the first year of his medical practice he continued to write, winning prizes and contests for both his essays and his poetry.

5- Holmes is one of the Fireside Poets, together with William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell and John Greenleaf Whittier.

And now, a poem:

Sun and Shadow

As I look from the isle, o'er its billows of green,
To the billows of foam-crested blue,
Yon bark, that afar in the distance is seen,
Half dreaming, my eyes will pursue:
Now dark in the shadow, she scatters the spray
As the chaff in the stroke of the flail;
Now white as the sea-gull, she flies on her way,
The sun gleaming bright on her sail.
Yet her pilot is thinking of dangers to shun,--
Of breakers that whiten and roar;
How little he cares, if in shadow or sun
They see him who gaze from the shore!
He looks to the beacon that looms from the reef,
To the rock that is under his lee,
As he drifts on the blast, like a wind-wafted leaf,
O'er the gulfs of the desolate sea.
Thus drifting afar to the dim-vaulted caves
Where life and its ventures are laid,
The dreamers who gaze while we battle the waves
May see us in sunshine or shade;
Yet true to our course, though the shadows grow dark,
We'll trim our broad sail as before,
And stand by the rudder that governs the bark,
Nor ask how we look from the shore!


  1. True to life performance, where the objective is all regardless of audience! Thanks for posting this, Kim.

  2. You're right, Susan! Glad you came by and commented.

  3. I learn so much from these posts especially when I sllllooowww down to read it and look up the sailing terms (LOL).

  4. Oh, how cool - three vantage points - the watcher from the shore, the captain of the ship, and then us, as we sail our own ship. Thanks, Kim, for bringing us these poets week after week!

  5. Excellent poem choice, Kim! I do like to read a classic poem on occasion, and your feature always inspires that. "Enjoyed Sun and Shadow" a lot.

  6. Usually, when I see the words classical and poetry together I start to sweat and then quietly slink out the door, but today I decided to give it a try and I'm glad I did. I had to read it a few times and the first thing I noticed was the rhythm. That alone was worth the read. Then the comments, especially Sherry's, helped me understand it a bit more. I've decided I need to stretch myself and not shy away from anything.

  7. I like learning personal facts about these classic poets...they had struggles like the rest of us do.

    Love the beautiful rhythm of his write too and the vantage point of the observers.

  8. I love learning more about him!
    Thank you so much~
    He had amazing insight!

  9. big fan of classical poetry..this one is another beautiful soul :) thanks for sharing!


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