Poetry for the Northern Sun

Authors. Writers. Books. Poems. Literature History.

I spent this past weekend in Northern Michigan looking for Ernest Hemingway’s boyhood cottage, Windemere, on Walloon Lake, and I found it off the road in an affluent lakeside community. It was a bit underwhelming, but it was what it was, as it was hard to see from the road and apparently it is rarely opened to the public.

I was driving and looked at my wife and sighed, even though I felt like I was holding onto a ten-foot-high wrought iron fence on a cloudy day with my tear-strewn face pressed firmly between two pickets.

When it was all said and done, I had spent my time looking for a cottage that I assumed would have a profound impact on my being and was instead humbled by a few beautiful sunsets in the wooded campgrounds of Cheboygan. Leave it to nature to steal the selfish interest of the spirit and turn it into a sobering meditation on one’s own egotistical pursuits.

Below is John Hartley’s “Sunset,” which reminded me of the sun dipping between the scattered clouds on both evenings that my wife and children visited the campgrounds.

John Hartley’s “Sunset”

Last eve the sun went down

Like a globe of glorious fire;

Into a sea of gold

I watched the orb expire.

It seemed the fitting end

For the brightness it had shed,

And the cloudlets he had kissed

Long lingered over head.

All vegetation drooped,

As if with pleasure faint:

The lily closed its cup

To guard ‘gainst storm and taint.

The cool refreshing dew

Fell softly to the earth,

All lovely things to cheer,

And call more beauties forth.

And as I sat and thought

On Nature’s wond’rous plan,

I felt with some regret,

How small a thing is man.

However bright he be,

His efforts are confined,

Yet maybe, if he will,

Leave some rich fruits behind.

The sun that kissed the flowers,

And made the earth look gay,

Was culling, through the hours,

Rich treasures on his way.

And when the day was dead,

His stored up riches fell,

And to the moon arose

Incense from hill and dell.

And when our span of life

Is ended, will it be

Through such a glorious death

We greet Eternity?

What have we said or done

In all the long years passed!

And may not such as me,

Forgotten, die at last?