Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: PRESENT (07/16/20)
- TITLE: The Poem Book
By Nancy Sullivan
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The library of books he accumulated was large enough for his eight children to have books to share with his grandchildren. I have several of his aging books with titles such as The War of 1812 by Theodore Roosevelt, Presidential Edition (1882); A Church Dictionary (1854); Introduction to Political Science (1910); History of Christianity,The First Three Generations (1851); The Model Speaker (1800’s); and The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan During The Christian Dispensation (1886), to name but a few.
The one book that is my joy to have was the one we always called, simply, the poem book. But that is such a small part of the wonderful offerings on the loosening pages between the tattered binding. It was entered into the Library of Congress in 1903 under the true title of the book, The New Select Speaker. My grandfather bought it for my grandmother on July 28, 1907. He paid $1.50 for more than 400 pages of priceless history. My grandmother passed away in 1954, and he gifted the book to my mother on March 29, 1957. The dates are provided on the inside cover in my grandfather’s handwriting.
The poem book would only appear under the watchful eye of my mother, usually on occasions when she knew I needed a little extra attention. Being the youngest of four, I was often left behind as the other three ventured out with cousins their age or with their friends. I would climb onto her bed and carefully leaf through the pages looking for buried treasure, usually in the form of, yes, poems. Sometimes she would listen to me read aloud from my favorite selections.
At that age, I skipped over sections like “Shakespearean Department”; “Narrative and Descriptive” with offerings like “The Sleeping Beauty” by Alfred Tennyson; “The Harvest” by Henry W. Longfellow; and “Saved by a Ghost” by Eben E. Rexford. “The Dialogues” section contains comprehensive “Suggestions to Amateurs for the Successful Presentation of Dialogues”, with offerings by Louisa M. Alcott (“A Family Jar”) and other names less familiar to me. There was a section dedicated to “The Art of Elocution” (expressing thought and feeling by voice and action).
“Specimens of Elegant Composition” holds the treasure of “Candace’s Opinion” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. “Children’s Selections” includes fun readings like “Little Tommie’s First Smoke”, “A Boy’s Essay on Columbus”, “‘Long Comes Liz With a Broom” by Harriet F. Croker, and one I read in English class my sophomore year, “Miltiades Gets the Best of Santa Claus” by John Brownjohn.
I was surprised to find a section on midwifery and exercises for head movements, leg movements, relaxation, breathing, even walking and facial expression under the title “Physical Culture”.
The pictures of actors in full costume posing scenes from selected plays and narrations provide priceless visuals of historic times in the theater. One page is dedicated to drawings of Charles Dickens and his homes and locations of his historic events, including Rochester Castle where he desired to be buried.
I never would come right out and ask Mother to leave this treasure to me when the time came, but I did “hint” a little by expressing the wish that she had two copies of the poem book to share. It was then that she told me the book would be mine. Her father presented it to her when she was fifty-four years old, and her plan was to pass it along to me when I reached the same age. For some reason, she moved that date up to my forty-seventh year. Before I received it, my sister-in-law took it to a book binder to have the bindings and pages secured.
I can still see the tiny bedroom my grandfather occupied during those childhood visits. He loved to open his trunk and show me the tuning fork and the wooden baton he used to teach … and lead … music. I have a few of the hymnals with shaped notes from his music journey. His possessions were few, but hold many memories of a life well lived. I will always be thankful to have been the recipient of that one special memory, the poem book.
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor rather than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22:1 ESV
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