Saturday, June 23, 2012

Think About These Things by Jane Merchant

There is not space on any of my many book shelves to hold all the books I already have. Nevertheless, I stopped by one of our Floyd County Library's "Friends of the Library" book sales and bought two boxes of books. It helps that I spent less than twelve dollars. Total.

Because of space, I wavered back and forth before putting some of the books in my "to buy" box.

But I found , tucked down between two larger books, a little book of poems by Jane Merchant. I knew immediately I would have bought that book for many times the price.

"Think About these Things" (Published in 1956 by Abingdon Press) was not the best seller of Jane Merchant 's books, even though both Carl Sandburg and Jesse Stewart endorsed the little book of poems on the back cover. Her prize wining volumn and first book was " The Greatest Of These."

I sat down for just a brief few minutes this morning with "Think About These Things" and read several of her little poems. The poem "Experience" is not the best one but is as up-to -date as the morning newpaper:


What happened today?
The newsmen tell
The tidings so:
A government fell.

A statesmman was killed,
An airplane crashed,
A City cowered,
Hurricane lashed.

But here upon
This quiet street
An old. old lady.
Grave and sweet,

Handed a rose
To a crying child.
And sunlight sparkled
As they smiled.

I must beleive
The clamorous, raw
News; but the smile
Is what I saw.

Jane Merchant? I remember reading about Jane Merchant in a magazine with a picture of her many years ago. She was bedriden and being cared for by her widowed mother. The article said she was a semi -invalid, almost deaf and with poor eyesight. I do not know why but I can still see the picture, her bright eyes smiling while looking through thick glasses.

Jane was from Knoxville Tennessee. She was never able to attend formal school except the Sunday School of Inskip Methodist Church. Her many poems were published in many publication of her day including the New York Herald -Tribune.

In the 96 pages of Jane Merchant's Think about These Things poems, She wrote a prayer at the bottom of each page. On page 19 at the end of Experience she wrote;
"Lord, we would not close our eyes to wrong or be selfishishly at peace while others are beset by disaster. Let not our hearts grow callous we beseech thee, to news of suffering in any place. May we be ever responsive to need, seeking ways in which we can help. But , Lord, in a world where bad news travels faster than good, let us never forget that gentleness and kindness are also true. In Christ's name. AMEN.

Robert Frost was quoted this week: "Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. -Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)


Carol said...

Lovely poem! I haven't read Jane Merchant's poetry before, but now I will. Amazing how well that poem applies to the current news.

Janice said...

I have never heard of Jane Merchant so it was a particular joy to read her poem and then to read about her! What a treat and what an inspiration!!!

janice said...

I have never heard of Jane Merchant so it was a particular joy to read her poem and then to read about her! What a treat and what an inspiration!!!

Anonymous said...

About 12 years ago, I was at a huge used book sale. In the poetry section I found this little book, "The Greatest of These." I was enthralled by it. I had to know more about the author, Jane Merchant so I did some research, even contacting Abingdon and the national Pen Award, which she won for that book. No one could tell me anything. There is a book about her life, called "A Window on Eternity." But the best way I found to get to know this amazing Poet, this inspirational writer, is to read her work. I have since acquired many of her books including the one you mentioned, though they are hard to come by. As I look at all of the spiritual poetry books being published today, and see that many mimic the style in which hers was packaged, I still find that her writing is more inspiration to me than most, and wish that someone would consider bringing them back into publication once again. She was amazing; not only her writing, but the grace with which she lived her beliefs and shared them with all of us. Thanks for bringing her stuff to light.

Anonymous said...

I was reading a story today about Queen Anne's Lace and remembered a book a firend had given me in the early 1960's called "Halfway up the Sky" by Jane Merchant - which I adored. I found it (easily!) on my many shelves, found the poem I was looking for, finished my sermon, and am now looking eagerly for more of her poetry.
She inspired me as a young student nurse, and inspires me still as an old, retired Episcopal priest.
Thanks for your blog. Alice