Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Friday, July 30, 2010

Two Byron Herbert Reece Poems (Reece Family Series, Part 6)

Last week’s column gave a summary of the family of Juan Wellborn and Emma Lance Reece. Their son, Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) became the famous poet and novelist we are hearing more about recently as we through the Byron Herbert Reece Society seek to perpetuate his memory and his works.

Let’s take some “time-out” to enjoy a bit of his inimitable poetry. Think of relaxing by your fire or under a warm blanket during these cold days and read with meaning and absorption. I offer first:

In the Far Dark Woods Go Roving

Whenever the heart’s in trouble
Caught in the snare of years,
And the sum of tears is double
The amount of youthful tears,

In the far, dark woods go roving
And find there to match your mood
A kindred spirit moving
Where the wild winds blow in the wood.
This poem was published in Bow Down in Jericho, 1950.

The mind is a remarkable organ of the body. When troubles perplex and answers seem absent, when one is “caught in the snare of years,” there is a quick escape. This poem describes in brief but exceptionally crafted lines how this escape is possible.

Just think of another, more pleasant purview. Since Poet Reece loved the woods, nature and everything about his mountain environment, he would think of the “far, dark woods” where he had walked and meditated. They weren’t really that far away. Just a thought away. And so it is with us. It’s not that we shirk from the troubles we might be facing. Instead, a brief refreshment, even in the mind’s eye, can bring release and restoration. Try replacing the “Far Dark Wood” (which might seem foreboding to you) with your own favorite resting place. You will be surprised how much the recollection will aid your ailing spirit.

Another poem, “The Speechless Kingdom,” also published in his 1950 Bow Down in Jericho collection, seems, to me, to be stating his purposes for writing. When I lead a writers’ workshop or speak to a group on the poetry of Reece, I always read this poem as his statement of purpose for writing. What a calling he had, and how well he fulfilled it in his gift of poetry to us:

The Speechless Kingdom

Unto a speechless kingdom I
Have pledged my tongue, I have given my word
To make the centuries-silent sky
As vocal as a bird.

The stone that aeons-long was held
As mute through me has cried aloud
Against its being bound, has spelled
Its boredom to a crowd

Of trees that leaned down low to hear
One with complaint so like their own
--I being to the trees and ear
And tongue to the mute stone.

And I being pledged to fashion speech
For all the speechless joy to find
The wonderful words that each to each
They utter in my mind.
I cannot add an iota or even a thought to such a proclamation of purpose for the poet. To be the voice, the tongue for “a speechless kingdom,” the “ear to trees,” the “tongue to mute stone.” And, furthermore to be able to “fashion speech” so that the very stones can cry out, the trees can register their voice, the skies stretched in silence above are heard through his poetry! What a gift, and how well he executed his gift, his calling to allow us to see in new and vibrant ways the “Speechless Kingdom” for whom he spoke. I need space to point out metaphor, simile, personification, rhyme, rhythm, other poetic elements he employed with such expertise. But if you are one who likes to pursue poetry on your own, I ask you to go back and reread each of the poems, absorbing all the nuances of excellent poetry you find in these two offerings from Reece.

The Reece family has a long and rich heritage in America, Wales and England as we’ve seen by previous articles. Through the words of one of them, Byron Herbert Reece, mountain farmer, poet and novelist, we are able to look at the things he wrote about in a different and more lucent light. The speechless speak through his words.

We are rich, indeed, because he wrote.

c 2010 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Feb. 18, 2010 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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