Bringing two poems into the digital age

When I started writing this blog more than a decade ago, I regretted the fact that I hadn’t started doing it even earlier than I did. But then again, it’s always better to do something late than to never do it at all.

One of the things I’m proudest of doing with this space is to present poetic works for the first time online. Many of these works were bought to life by my own hand, and I’ve added them here and in other places online.

I think of this as a similar process to writing out a blog post, in that words must be assembled so that a message is conveyed to the readers, whoever and wherever they might be. They’ve come from just about every corner of the globe by now, and that alone never fails to astonish me.

But a revolution has taken place in my lifetime, and without it this blog would not exist. The internet has allowed anyone with access to a computer to share their thoughts and ideas with the rest of the world, both in this moment and, I’m sure, until humanity ceases to exist. It’s a mind-boggling idea that I would have summarily dismissed up until the very end of the 20th century.

Today I’m sharing two poems written in the 20th century by Leila Pier King. And no, you’ve never heard of her before. I can’t tell for certain when these poems were written, but they were published in a volume of her poetry in 1962. She would have been 80 years old at the time, and living in Silver Spring, Maryland. I can’t imagine the thrill it must have given her to see a volume of her poetry published, particularly at that age. But clearly her words were meant to be written down and shared with others, even in those pre-internet days.

The first poem I’m presenting here is titled “We Walk with Lincoln” and it reads as follows:


by Leila Pier King

When we remember him, his awkward ways,

His clothing, plain and homespun, his rough hands

We walk beside him through the lonely days

Then leave him, as he draws aside and stands

Alone, his dreams full-flowering before the fire

Dry prairie grass and moon-wind in his hair;

The floor-strewn books are pushed aside; desire

Beyond his reasoning burns otherwhere.

The sparks that smouldered in his heart’s deep wedge,

A consecrated love for righted wrong,

Inflamed him to redeem his fireside pledge

When years were filled with sorrow’s tragic song.

A nation stands in reverence at his name

Whose prairie home nursed him with living flame.

Given my oft-expressed admiration for all things Lincoln here, this poem is a natural fit for this blog. It’s a distinct honor to present her words of admiration for our nation’s greatest president in this little corner of the internet, which wasn’t even a credible idea when she passed away in 1981, at the age of 99 years.

But as long as I’m at it, why not present another of her poems which appears in Our American Heritage, which was published by Harper and Row in 1970? This one is titled “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” and it’s also very evocative:


by Leila Pier King

Echoes cleave the stillness where he sleeps;

The hark of guns, the bullets’ angry whine

Resound upon his home

Of his last lonlieness.

No name is carved upon the stone, no date

Of birth or death; but silvered angels stand

Upon the wind, and weep

Their tears of penitence.

Cold songs of snow, and sharp-sweet tears of spring

Here consecrate this one who sleeps alone;

A nation’s pride is couched

In grief, upon his breast.

This is still another admirable work of patriotism and devotion to this country, which in these difficult times seems to be more necessary than ever before. I’m therefore proud to introduce these two poems into cyberspace.

A word before I finish about copyrights and intellectual property. It’s not my intention, now or ever, to profit off the work that rightfully belongs to others. I’ve never made a dime from this blog, and I don’t plan to in the future, either. These words were written by Ms. King, and unless she sold the rights to The Wings Press of Mill Valley, California prior to their publiction in 1962, she retained those rights until her death in 1981. Harper and Row acknowledged having received permission from Ms. King to publish these two works in 1970, which is industryspeak for some money changed hands to make this happen. But the rights to the actual words most likely remained with her.

Her 1981 obituary mentioned that she was survived by two children (who are both deceased, I was able to learn through some internet sleuthing), five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. And granted, this was more than 40 years ago, so the list of potential heirs (and rightsholders) is probably very long, indeed.

When United States copyright laws were amended in 1978, this meant that the 1962 copyright date on the poems presented here no longer expired in 2019, but was pushed all the way back to 2058. That means it won’t be for another 36 years that these poems will clearly enter into the public domain, where anyone can do whatever they like with their contents. Since I’m almost certainly not going to be here in another 36 years, I’m presenting those works here, without regard to who might actually own the rights to profit from them in the decades yet to come.

So if the name Leila Pier King rings a bell for anyone reading this, by all means leave me a comment and I’ll gladly discuss your great-great grandma’s awesome poems with you. But otherwise please enjoy these works, and remember that there’s a lot of great things still out there that haven’t yet made it onto the World Wide Web. But it’s supposed to be forever, so there’s still some time left to get it done.

2 thoughts on “Bringing two poems into the digital age

  1. Hi Robert, jus got your message on my website. Yours looks terrific. And yes, that “other” Robert Harris seems to have done ok for himself. 🤔
    Look forward to reading more of your thoughts on baseball and life. All best, RH

    1. Thanks for your reply. My visits to this page are few and far between anymore, but it’s always good to hear a kind word. All the best to you.

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