Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Kilmer House

So Little One’s literature teacher (she’s in seventh grade) has them working on poetry. In particular, the poetry of Joyce Kilmer. For the longest time, I am ashamed to admit, I thought Kilmer was a woman. For eighteen months I lived on the Kilmer campus at Rutgers and never bothered to research the poet. Later I found out he was a man. And even later (this morning, in fact), I discovered he was killed in the Great War, by a sniper’s bullet tearing apart that creative mind of his.

I have never read any of his poems. This morning, I did, and I like this one in particular:

“The Thorn”

The garden of God is a radiant place
And every flower has a holy face.
Our Lady like a lily bends above the cloudy sod,
But Saint Michael is the thorn on the rose-bush of God.

David is the song upon God’s lips,
And Our Lady is the goblet that He sips,
And Gabriel’s the breath of His command;
But Saint Michael is the sword in God’s right hand.

The Ivory Tower is fair to see,
And may her walls encompass me!
But when the Devil comes with the thunder of his might,
Saint Michael, show me how to fight!

Turns out Joyce Kilmer is a local celebrity. His house is actually two towns away from where I live. My daughter’s lit teacher gave his class an extra credit assignment: whoever finds the house and takes a picture of it will get a few additional points on the next test.

So, we punched the address into her cell phone and tracked it down. Here’s Little One, posing in front of the house where Joyce Kilmer lived and wrote in from 1912 to around 1916 or 17 (when he entered the service and was shipped out to France).

Note: Kilmer was born Albert Joyce Kilmer. He converted from Episcopalianism to Catholicism in 1913.

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