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The rain is playing its soft pleasant tune
Fitfully on the skylight, and the shade
Of the fast flying clouds across my book
Passes with delicate change. My merry fire
Sings cheerfully to itself; my musing cat
Purrs as she wakes from her unquiet sleep,
And looks into my face as if she felt
Like me the gentle influence of the rain.
Here have I sat since morn, reading sometimes,
And sometimes listening to the faster fall
Of the large drops, or rising with the stir
Of an unbidden thought, have walked awhile
With the slow steps of indolence, my room,
And then sat down composedly again
To my quaint book of olden poetry.
It is a kind of idleness, I know;
And I am said to be an idle man -
And it is very true. I love to go
Out in the pleasant sun, and let my eye
Rest on the human faces that pass by,
Each with its gay or busy interest;
And then I muse upon their lot, and read
Many a lesson in their changeful cast,
And so grow kind of heart, as if the sight
Of human beings were humanity.
And I am better after it, and go
More gratefully to my rest, and feel a love
Stirring my heart to every living thing,
And my low prayer has more humility,
And I sink lightlier to my dreams - and this,
'Tis very true, is only idleness!
I love to go and mingle with the young
In the gay festal room - when every heart
Is beating faster than the merry tune,
And their blue eyes are restless, and their lips
Parted with eager joy, and their round cheeks
Flushed with the beautiful motion of the dance.
'Tis sweet, in the becoming light of lamps,
To watch a brow half shaded, or a curl
Playing upon a neck capriciously,
Or, unobserved, to watch in its delight,
The earnest countenance of a child. I love
To look upon such things, and I can go
Back to my solitude, and dream bright dreams
For their fast coming years, and speak of them
Earnestly in my prayer, till I am glad
With a benevolent joy - and this, I know,
To the world's eye, is only idleness!
And when the clouds pass suddenly away,
And the blue sky is like a newer world,
And the sweet growing things - forest and flower,
Humble and beautiful alike - are all
Breathing up odors to the very heaven -
Or when the frost has yielded to the sun
In the rich autumn, and the filmy mist
Lies like a silver lining on the sky,
And the clear air exhilarates, and life
Simply, is luxury - and when the hush
Of twilight, like a gentle sleep, steals on,
And the birds settle to their nests, and stars
Spring in the upper sky, and there is not
A sound that is not low and musical -
At all these pleasant seasons I go out
With my first impulse guiding me, and take
Woodpath, or stream, or sunny mountain side,
And, in my recklessness of heart, stray on,
Glad with the birds, and silent with the leaves,
And happy with the fair and blessed world -
And this, 'tis true, is only idleness!
And I should love to go up to the sky,
And course the heaven like stars, and float away
Upon the gliding clouds that have no stay
In their swift journey - and 'twould be a joy
To walk the chambers of the deep, and tread
The pearls of its untrodden floor, and know
The tribes of its unfathomable depths -
Dwellers beneath the pressure of a sea!
And I should love to issue with the wind
On a strong errand, and o'ersweep the earth,
With its broad continents and islands green,
Like to the passing of a presence on! -
And this, 'tis true, were only idleness!
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

3:19 min read

Nathaniel Parker Willis

Nathaniel Parker Willis, also known as N. P. Willis, was an American author, poet and editor who worked with several notable American writers including Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He became the highest-paid magazine writer of his day. For a time, he was the employer of former slave and future writer Harriet Jacobs. His brother was the composer Richard Storrs Willis and his sister wrote under the name Fanny Fern. Born in Portland, Maine, Willis came from a family of publishers. His grandfather Nathaniel Willis owned newspapers in Massachusetts and Virginia, and his father Nathaniel Willis was the founder of Youth's Companion, the first newspaper specifically for children. Willis developed an interest in literature while attending Yale College and began publishing poetry. After graduation, he worked as an overseas correspondent for the New York Mirror. He eventually moved to New York and began to build his literary reputation. Working with multiple publications, he was earning about $100 per article and between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. In 1846, he started his own publication, the Home Journal, which was eventually renamed Town & Country. Shortly after, Willis moved to a home on the Hudson River where he lived a semi-retired life until his death in 1867. more…

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    "Idleness." Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 26 Oct. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/56262/idleness.>.

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