I am racing about in a flurry of science fiction this month, but in between the aliens and the dinosaurs and the superheroes, I’m also visiting beautiful Prince Edward Island for the L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge. So far I’ve been wandering through short stories and a bit of poetry, so this Friday I thought I’d remark on a few of the ones I’ve visited.
I have a funny relationship with L. M. Montgomery. More than any other, she’s the writer I feel like I’m always reading. Not literally, but with two books of poetry, 199 short stories, and five enormous journals, it’s always easy to pick up a bit of Montgomery. And that’s not even counting more concentrated reading in a novel. But I dip in and out of her short stories on a fairly regular basis. I own every available collection, so rather than reading any one straight through, I’m spending this month bouncing to whatever story strikes my fancy. And whichever poem I have a hankering for.
“Old Man Shaw’s Girl” in The Chronicles of Avonlea is a lovely story, quite sentimental but very sweet. Old Man Shaw’s neighbors think he’s a bit shiftless and lazy and has never made much of his farm, and maybe that’s true–but he also knows how to enjoy life and value what’s really important. His only family is his beloved daughter, who has been away for three years at school. He is eagerly anticipating her return–until a meddling neighbor points out how much the girl may have changed.
“A Dinner of Herbs” in At the Altar is one of my very favorites of LMM’s short stories. Very little happens but it’s delightful and romantic. Old maid Robin must choose between marrying a widower she doesn’t much like, or continuing to put up with her domineering sister-in-law and chattering niece. And she’s terribly fascinated by Michael, the shell-shocked war veteran next door, with his two cats (First Peter and Second Peter) and love of natural beauty. This story is rich in its simplicity, and the dialogue between Robin and Michael brings them to life as much as any characters I’ve met. It occurred to me rereading this that there are definite echoes of this story in The Blue Castle–or the other way around, I don’t know which came first. And I LOVE The Blue Castle.
This story also provides one of my favorite quotes from anywhere: “They had laughed together the first time they had talked, and when two people have laughed–really laughed–together, they are good friends for life.”
I keep Montgomery’s poetry collections by my bed and occasionally read a poem or two. I’m not even a fan of poetry, but I love her poems for some of the same reasons I love her books–she makes the world so much more beautiful than anything my eyes can see.
So I thought I’d end by sharing one of my favorites. I’ve no idea if it’s great poetry, and I do know occasionally the rhyme or the meter jangles. But the concept–and the images! Lovely.
And having read her journals, well…even though she wrote this before her beloved friend Frede died, it’s still about Frede. It just is. If Montgomery ever looked at this one again later, I KNOW she was thinking of Frede.
As the Heart Hopes
It is a year, dear one, since you afar
Went out beyond my yearning mortal sight
A wondrous year! perchance in many a star
You have sojourned, or basked within the light
Of mightier suns; it may be you have trod
The glittering pathways of the Pleiades,
And through the Milky Way’s white mysteries
Have walked at will, fire-shod.
You may have gazed in the immortal eyes
Of prophets and of martyrs; talked with seers
Learned in all the lore of Paradise,
The infinite wisdom of eternal years;
To you the Sons of Morning may have sung,
The impassioned strophes of their matin hymn,
For you the choirs of the seraphim
Their harpings wild out-flung.
But still I think at eve you come to me
For old, delightsome speech of eye and lip,
Deeming our mutual converse thus to be
Fairer than archangelic comradeship;
Dearer our close communings fondly given
Than all the rainbow dreams a spirit knows,
Sweeter my gathered violets than the rose
Upon the hills of heaven.
Can any exquisite, unearthly morn,
Silverly breaking o’er a starry plain,
Give to your soul the poignant pleasure born
Of virgin moon and sunset’s lustrous stain
When we together watch them ? Oh, apart
A hundred universes you may roam,
But still I know–I know–your only home
Is here within my heart!