March 25, 2012

Stoddard: most favored of the gods

The Authors' Club in New York threw a dinner in honor of Richard Henry Stoddard on March 25, 1897. Edmund Clarence Stedman opened the evening with a welcoming address, calling Stoddard "the most distinguished poet of his country and generation." In a toast, Stedman asked for "the continued years, service, happiness of our strong and tender-hearted elder comrade, our white-haired minstrel, Richard Henry Stoddard."

In response, the 71-year old Stoddard himself stood (amid cheers) and recited a few lines from his poem "A Curtain Call." Several others offered short speeches and toasts. Perhaps the most memorable came from a relative up-and-comer named James Whitcomb Riley, who offered a poem "Your Height is Ours":

O Princely poet!—kingly heir
   Of gifts divinely sent,—
Your own!—nor envy anywhere,
   Nor voice of discontent.

Though, of ourselves, all poor are we,
   And frail and weak of wing,
Your height is ours—your ecstasy—
   Your glory, when you sing.

Most favored of the gods, and great
   In gifts beyond our store,
We covet not your rich estate,
   But prize our own the more.—

The gods give as but gods may do—
   We count our riches thus,—
They gave their richest gifts to you,
   And then gave you to us.

No comments:

Post a Comment