Twilight in the Wilderness by Frederick Edwin Church
By David Gosselin
It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound – that he will never get over it. That is to say, permanence in poetry, as in love, is perceived instantly. It hasn’t to wait the test of time. The proof of a poem is not that we have never forgotten it, but we knew at sight we never could forget it. -Robert Frost
All great poetry is timeless. While it stirs the sense, it moves something deep inside us, something beyond our sense-perceptual apprehension of the world; it leaves us with a new quality of consciousness – a heightened sense of awareness about our own higher nature as human beings. We find ourselves capable of grasping not only the changing world of our external senses, but another world, that of the unchanging and unmoving – that of the eternal.
Daniel Leach’s collection of poems is aptly titled, “Voices on the Wind.” The ideas that reach us through his collection of poems bear a startling familiarity with the whisperings of the wind or the murmurings of a care-free brook, happy to grant solace and refreshment to all who desire it.
In describing his own collection, Leach writes:
“From the whimsical and fanciful to the grand and sublime, this collection of poems explores the manifestation of the poetic spirit in Nature, the cosmos and its ultimate expression in the human mind and heart. Written in traditional meters and rhythms, as well as strophic form, it seeks to touch that which is universal in humanity; that longing for the eternal, the infinite, beyond the mere physical senses, yet somehow ever present and suffused throughout the things of this world. As Poe said, to “excite the soul” is the highest calling of poetry, and is why the great classical poets continue to inspire us to this day. There is a manifest yearning among today’s lovers of poetry for a rebirth of this classical ideal and it is hoped that this volume might contribute, in however a small way to that process.”
Leach’s contribution to the English language’s rich tradition of poetry humbles the reader in the same way that every human being is humbled by the sight of the ebbing sea-tide, or the sound of wind whispering through the canopies of a wild wood. More than anything that is said or seen through the experience of such scenes, it is that which these images awaken within the human heart itself, which moves and rouses us to feelings of the sublime.
Leach fills our soul and colors our imagination with thoughts of “poems unwritten and songs unsung” (Poems Unwritten – Section: Nature and the Beauty Within). He calms our spirit with the beautiful images of falling leaves on a twilight summer day, leaving us, “forever, for one moment lingering” (The Leaves of Summer – Section: Nature and the Beauty Within). He consoles our deepest longing with odes like “Spring Mourning,” in which the poet implores us to sing to him:
Of all that you hold dearIn earth and song, or budding tree, or soundOf unseen birds singing in the bright sky –Perhaps to share a melancholy tearUpon some long-lost treasure found,Or laugh, as if the day would never die”
(Ode: Spring Mourning – Section: Things Lost and Found).
By studying and reading the poetry of Daniel Leach, we can see how the poetry of our own modern English vernacular can be adapted to the timeless musical forms that have defined every great age of poetry, from the epics of Homer and the dramas of Aeschylus, the canzoni of Dante Alighieri and Francesco Petrarca, to the sonnets of William Shakespeare, the ballads of Schiller and Goethe, and the moving simplicity of Frostian stanzas.
But Leach’s poetry does not just dwell among the shaded trees of summer or the cataracts of some pristine glade, all the universe is home to the verses of Daniel Leach. In his “Song of the Crab Nebula,” we have none other than the voice of a distant nebula addressing man and speaking to him of his future:
You will someday reach beyond the limit Even of our galaxy’s own shore,Spreading thought like light into some dim-lit Cavern that invites you to explore—Then you will remember what first called you To whatever heights your spirit leads,And I will be smiling ever on you, When you bend the distant stars like reeds!(Song of the Crab Nebula – Section: Cosmic Ruminations)
Leach is a poet who has spent much of his life championing a revival of classical culture and classical metaphor. Through his poetry, one not only sees that such a goal is apparent by virtue of his chosen form of language and poetic expression, but even more so, we see him succeeding in his goal. With each new poem from his collection, we feel a transformation and longing whirling within ourselves, slowly rising to the surface of our hearts and minds.
Like “a voice on the wind,” which we hear in the trees, see drifting over the surface of a woodland stream, or carrying the dust of canyon ranges, the spirit of Leach’s poetry echoes in a thousand different voices, in a thousand different images, and from a thousand different places, and yet, we know we are still hearing but one voice, the voice of Daniel Leach:
For I know that among them are those I did love, When together we walked o’er the earth,Like a voice on the wind from the regions above, Calling back to the place of my birth.
(In the Deep of the Night – Section: On the Threshold of the Sublime)
“Voices on the Wind” belongs among the great collections of timeless poetry, and we believe that every true lover of poetry will find themselves convinced that this collection “hasn’t to wait the test of time.”
David Gosselin is a poet, translator, and linguist based in Montreal. He is the founder of The Chained Muse poetry website, which is dedicated to publishing and promoting 21st-century classical poetry.