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The Door of Dreams
by Jessie B. Rittenhouse
I often passed the Door of Dreams
But never stepped inside,
Though sometimes, with surprise, I saw
The door was open wide.
I might have gone forever by,
As I had done before,
But one day, when I passed, I saw
You standing in the door.
This poem is eight lines, comprised of a pair of four line stanzas, with each stanza having an ABCB rhyme scheme. The meter alternates between odd numbered lines containing 8 syllables and even numbered lines containing 6.
Thematically, the short poem is an exploration of opportunities, described therein as “the door of dreams.” The Speaker addresses an unknown person throughout, though we do not find out that a specific person is being addressed until the poem’s final line. The first stanza tells us that the Speaker has often passed by unexpected opportunities. The second stanza tells us that the Speaker might have continued to do so, but for the addressee of the poem. Notably, the Speaker does not say that he or she passed through the door, only that the door was not passed by. The Speaker apparently needed more than an open door, he or she needed the right person to provide encouragement, too.
We can infer – though it is not stated explicitly – that the opportunities mentioned are of a romantic nature. It feels odd to imagine that the Speaker is personifying a job opportunity or something he or she would like to buy. Someone new to love? That fits.
Who is Jessie B. Rittenhouse?
|Jessie Belle Rittenhouse|
|Born||December 8, 1869|
Mount Morris, New York
|Died||September 28, 1948 (aged 78)|
Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan
|Education||Hon. Doctorate Rollins College|
|Alma mater||Genesee Wesleyan Seminary|
|Known for||Poetry anthologies|
|Spouse||Clinton Scollard(m.1924; died 1932)|
|Awards||Robert Frost Medal (1930)|
Jessie Belle Rittenhouse Scollard (December 8, 1869 – September 28, 1948), daughter of John Edward and Mary (MacArthur) Rittenhouse, was a literary critic, compiler of anthologies, and poet.
After graduating in 1890 from Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima, New York, Rittenhouse taught school in Cairo, Illinois and Grand Haven, Michigan. Her literary career began with book reviews in Buffalo and Rochester, New York, and led to a year as a reporter for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in 1894. In 1899 she moved to Boston to begin her literary career in earnest. From 1905 to 1915 Rittenhouse lived in New York City, where she was poetry reviewer for the New York Times Review of Books. From 1914 to 1924 she conducted lecture tours. In 1914 Rittenhouse helped to found the Poetry Society of America, of which she was secretary for 10 years.
Rittenhouse married fellow poet Clinton Scollard in 1924.
In the course of her career, Rittenhouse corresponded with numerous contemporary poets, such as John Myers O’Hara, Margaret Widdemer, and Arthur Guiterman. Her poems were set to music by many composers, including Samuel Barber, Noble Cain, Alice Reber Fish, Ethel Glenn Hier, Kirke Mechem, Frederick W. Vanderpool, Wintter Watts, and especially David Wendel Guion.
Late in her career, Rittenhouse moved to Winter Park, Florida and became associated with Rollins College, where she was a lecturer in poetry.
Jessie Belle Rittenhouse died at her home in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan on September 28, 1948.