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Flapper Press Poetry Café Series: My Favorite Poetry—James Russell Lowell

By Flapper Press Poetry Café:


The Flapper Press Poetry Café continues a new series of articles about favorite lines of poetry and the poets who wrote them. We’re reaching out to poets, writers, and lovers of poetry to submit their favorite lines of poetry and tell us why you love them.


Check out our submission guidelines and send us your favorites!


We'll feature your submission sometime this year on our site!


This week, our submission comes from Flapper Press contributor James H. Porter.

 

James Russell Lowell

James Russell Lowell

James H. Porter writes:

This poem was shared with me by Dick Burnett, an International Director of Rotary International, when I was president of the Kansas City, Missouri, Rotary Club. I made copies of this two-part, sixteen-section poem for each of my nine-member Board of Directors.

The theme of this poem, written in 1848, is about giving to others. It begins when Sir Launfal, a knight of King Arthur's round table, seeks the Holy Grail (the cup Jesus used at the Last Supper). As he leaves the castle on his trusty steed, he sees a leper crouched by the castle gate and scornfully tosses him a piece of gold. Some years later, Sir Launfal, aged and worn, having seen the turmoils of life, returns to the castle. Noticing the crouching leper, he stops and kneels down at the leper's feet. He offers him bread and water, which turns into wine. Then the leper stands and is glorified into Christ. Christ then speaks the last thirteen lines of the poem (the last three shown below). This poem has always "touched my soul."

For the gift without the giver is bare; Who bestows himself with his alms feeds three, — Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.

— James Russell Lowell (2/22/1819–8/21/1891), "The Vision of Sir Launfal" (Part Second, VIII,

lines 16–18 )

 

A dynamic activist born in 1819, James Russell Lowell graduated with a degree in law but chose instead to become a prolific writer, publishing poetry, essays, satire, and pamphlets in support of anti-slavery and political causes. Grouped with the Fireside Poets who observed traditional forms of poetry, he is most known for "The Vision of Sir Launfal," his work a staple study in the educational arena. An editor for both the Atlantic Monthly and North American Review, Lowell returned to the classroom at Harvard to teach language and literature and continued to publish prose and poetry until his death.




 

James H. Porter was the TV emcee of The Little Rascals television show in the Kansas City metro area (10/1955–6/1956). A graduate of Kansas University in 1964 (Bachelor of Arts, Radio-TV, Speech), he served as Ensign, First Lieutenant, USNR -USS Tortuga (LSD -26) from 1964–1966. Porter also worked as an agent for Northwestern Mutual Life (1970–2021). He is married to Molly since 1968 and has three children and seven grandchildren.

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