Friday, March 11, 2016

The Pull of Breath


Today's focus is on Eleanor Roosevelt, who really liked poetry. So much, in fact, that after her death, poetry was found in her purse, in her pockets, on her bedstand.

A poem found inside Eleanor Roosevelt’s wallet after her death (click to embiggen):


He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !
by Edwin Markham

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I'm not sure how to attribute this item from an old listserv. A librarian says someone told her that:
In Doris Kearns Goodwin's book about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, she notes that when Eleanor Roosevelt died in l962, a poem was found on her bedside table. It was a poem by Virginia Moore. It was entitled "Psyche''. Next to the words of the poem, Eleanor Roosevelt had written the date, l918. Evidently this poem helped her work out her hurt and forgiveness for her husband.

The soul that has believed
And is deceived
Thinks nothing for a while,
All thoughts are vile.
And then because the sun
Is mute persuasion,
And hope in Spring and Fall
Most natural,
The soul grows calm and mild,
A little child,
Find the pull of breath
Better than death.
The soul that had believed
And was deceived
Ends by believing more
Than ever before.

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Read You Learn By Living for Eleanor Roosevelt by J. Patrick Lewis

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Irene has the Poetry Friday round-up at Live Your Poem.

10 comments:

Diane Mayr said...

One of my favorite historical people. The woman was a saint. Thanks for honoring her today with poetry.

Irene Latham said...

I did not know Eleanor was a poetry fan! I like imagining she found solace and healing in a poem. I know I have, many times. Thank you!

Ben said...

I love that poem in her purse!

cb hanek said...

What an amazing gift you have given us! Thank you! And such a timely present, too! Given the death of Nancy Reagan, I have been thinking and remembering about our other First Ladies, too! I LOVE, not only that Eleanor Roosevelt had poetry “in her purse, in her pockets, on her bedstand,” but that we can see that a particular poem in her purse was in her own (pardon the redundancy) handwriting! Imagine! ... As if knowing about ER’s love of poetry weren’t gift enough, sharing two of her favorite poems were gifts in themselves. Both of them are heartstring-tuggers that deserve to be peacefully read more than once. God bless you, and many thanks!

Joy said...

She celebrated Poem in your Pocket Day before it even originated! What an amazing woman. Need I mention that memorizing poetry helps to stave off dementia?

Linda B said...

I've heard of her love for poetry, but haven't seen this story or poem, Tabatha. I can't remember where, but just watched a show about her recently, showing her continual strength through those hard years, pushing FDR to do what is right for ALL his people. She is someone to remember. Thanks for all you shared, that little note and her own poem.

Tara Smith said...

I love Eleanor, she is one of my great heroes. But, the adults in her childhood were appalling, and they left their mark on her spirit. And FDR...well, he is one one my great heroes, too. But all our heroes are flawed. Interesting to note how poetry gave her solace, Tabatha, and even more interesting is the poem she chose to keep close.

Tabatha said...

True, Tara. Our heroes are flawed. How could they not be since we are all works in progress? What a burden it must be for people to look to you to be perfect. Do you suppose it is harder today because people are so exposed (via social media, cameras in everyone's hands)? Or is it harder for people from the past because we judge them by today's conventions and expectations?

jama said...

Thank you so much for this post. Heartening to hear that she loved poetry and that she found great solace in words. "Psyche" is so powerful and touching.

Mary Lee said...

I want to be the kind of person Eleanor Roosevelt was...right down to leaving a trail of poems behind on every surface I've touched!