Thursday, August 30, 2012

::Reading with Riggs::

One of my favorite things to share with Riggs is my love of books and stories and poems.  So far he seems to love reading with both mama and daddy, and I thought it would be a good project to share some of our favorite works here on my blog.  I hope that you enjoy and maybe are inspired to share your favorite words as well!


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is definitely my favorite American poet, and quite possibly my favorite poet ever.  There is just something so calming and intriguing about his style of writing and I especially love to hear it read aloud.  When browsing the children's section at Titlewave in Anchorage, I came across this children's illustrated and abridged version of his classic narrative, The Song of Hiawatha.  It is called, simply Hiawatha, and is illustrated by Susan Jeffers.  I knew I had to get it for Riggs, and we have read it to him about once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, since he was about two months old.  

I like to read it to him in the mornings or at night, when he is just waking up for the day or when he is just about to go to sleep.  There is such a musical quality to the beautiful metered verse that is like an Indian chant or beating drum.  It gives me chills nearly every time I read it, and Riggs seems to feel it as well, as he always stills and listens very intently to the words.  

The book is abridged, but it was done well and the illustrations are just beautiful.  We have the full copy of the poem as well, so as Riggs gets a little older we will probably start to read longer portions to him.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction, that has always spoken to me and is one of the reasons I could barely wait to read the entire thing when I was a child.  

Ye who love the haunts of Nature,
Love the sunshine of the meadow,
Love the shadow of the Forest,
Love the wind among the branches,
And the rain-shower and the snow-storm,
And the rushing of great rivers
Through their palisades of pine-trees,
And the thunder in the mountains, 
Whose innumerable echoes
Flap like eagles in their eyries;
-Listen to these wild traditions,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

Ye who love a nation's legends,
Love the ballads of a people,
That like voices from afar off
Call to us to pause and listen,
Speak in tones so plain and childlike,
Scarcely can the ear distinguish
Whether they are sung or spoken;
-Listen to this Indian Legend,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

Ye whose hearts are fresh and simple,
Who have faith in God and Nature,
Who believe that in all ages
Every human heart is human,
That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not,
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened;
-Listen to this simple story,
To this Song of Hiawatha!

Ye, who sometimes, in your rambles
Through the green lanes of the country,
Where the tangled barberry-bushes
Hang their tufts of crimson berries
Over stone walls gray with mosses,
Pause by some neglected graveyard,
For a while to muse, and ponder
On a half-effaced inscription,
Written with little skill of song-craft,
Homely phrases, but each letter
Full of hope and yet of heart-break,
Full of all the tender pathos
Of the Here and the Hereafter;
Stay and read this rude inscription, 
Read this Song of Hiawatha!


  1. Mom used to quote poetry to of Hiawatha...the raven, etc. Great part of my childhood memories!

    1. She did to us too, I just loved it! And what great memories to give Riggs, of those still moments when parents take time from their busy schedules to really be in the moment. I remember when mom would read us from Heidi and A Lantern in Her Hand - I loved every minute of it (even though I could have read them myself, it was more meaningful to all gather round her and have her read it to us). I remember you reading us stuff too - I was so blessed to have so many lovely family members reading so many different things to me :)