Rupert Brooke |
Sir, since the last Elizabethan died,
Or, rather, that more Paradisal muse,
Blind with much light, passed to the light more glorious
Or deeper blindness, no man's hand, as thine,
Has, on the world's most noblest chord of song,
Struck certain magic strains.
With the clamorous, timorous whisperings of to-day,
Thrilled to perceive once more the spacious voice
And serene unterrance of old.
-- With rapturous breath half-held, as a dreamer dreams
Who dares not know it dreaming, lest he wake --
The odorous, amorous style of poetry,
The melancholy knocking of those lines,
The long, low soughing of pentameters,
-- Or the sharp of rhyme as a bird's cry --
And the innumerable truant polysyllables
Multitudinously twittering like a bee.
Fulfilled our hearts were with the music then,
And all the evenings sighed it to the dawn,
And all the lovers heard it from all the trees.
All of the accents upon the all the norms!
-- And ah! the stress of the penultimate!
We never knew blank verse could have such feet.
Where is it now? Oh, more than ever, now
I sometimes think no poetry is read
Save where some sepultured C?sura bled,
Royally incarnadining all the line.
Is the imperial iamb laid to rest,
And the young trochee, having done enough?
Ah! turn again! Sing so to us, who are sick
Of seeming-simple rhymes, bizarre emotions,
Decked in the simple verses of the day,
Infinite meaning in a little gloom,
Irregular thoughts in stanzas regular,
Modern despair in antique metres, myths
Incomprehensible at evening,
And symbols that mean nothing in the dawn.
The slow lines swell.
The new style sighs.
Moans round with many voices.
God! to see
Gaunt anap?sts stand up out of the verse,
Combative accents, stress where no stress should be,
Spondee on spondee, iamb on choriamb,
The thrill of all the tribrachs in the world,
And all the vowels rising to the E!
To hear the blessed mutter of those verbs,
Conjunctions passionate toward each other's arms,
And epithets like amaranthine lovers
Stretching luxuriously to the stars,
All prouder pronouns than the dawn, and all
The thunder of the trumpets of the noun!
John Betjeman |
The sort of girl I like to see
Smiles down from her great height at me.
She stands in strong, athletic pose
And wrinkles her retrouss? nose.
Is it distaste that makes her frown,
So furious and freckled, down
On an unhealthy worm like me?
Or am I what she likes to see?
I do not know, though much I care,
would I were
(Forgive me, shade of Rupert Brooke)
An object fit to claim her look.
Oh! would I were her racket press'd
With hard excitement to her breast
And swished into the sunlit air
Arm-high above her tousled hair,
And banged against the bounding ball
"Oh! Plung!" my tauten'd strings would call,
"Oh! Plung! my darling, break my strings
For you I will do brilliant things.
And when the match is over, I
Would flop beside you, hear you sigh;
And then with what supreme caress,
You'd tuck me up into my press.
Fair tigress of the tennis courts,
So short in sleeve and strong in shorts,
Little, alas, to you I mean,
For I am bald and old and green.
Rupert Brooke |
In a cool curving world he lies
And ripples with dark ecstasies.
The kind luxurious lapse and steal
Shapes all his universe to feel
And know and be; the clinging stream
Closes his memory, glooms his dream,
Who lips the roots o' the shore, and glides
Superb on unreturning tides.
Those silent waters weave for him
A fluctuant mutable world and dim,
Where wavering masses bulge and gape
Mysterious, and shape to shape
Dies momently through whorl and hollow,
And form and line and solid follow
Solid and line and form to dream
Fantastic down the eternal stream;
An obscure world, a shifting world,
Bulbous, or pulled to thin, or curled,
Or serpentine, or driving arrows,
Or serene slidings, or March narrows.
There slipping wave and shore are one,
And weed and mud.
No ray of sun,
But glow to glow fades down the deep
(As dream to unknown dream in sleep);
Shaken translucency illumes
The hyaline of drifting glooms;
The strange soft-handed depth subdues
Drowned colour there, but black to hues,
As death to living, decomposes—
Red darkness of the heart of roses,
Blue brilliant from dead starless skies,
And gold that lies behind the eyes,
The unknown unnameable sightless white
That is the essential flame of night,
Lustreless purple, hooded green,
The myriad hues that lie between
Darkness and darkness!.
And all's one,
Gentle, embracing, quiet, dun,
The world he rests in, world he knows,
An eddy in that ordered falling,
A knowledge from the gloom, a calling
Weed in the wave, gleam in the mud—
The dark fire leaps along his blood;
Dateless and deathless, blind and still,
The intricate impulse works its will;
His woven world drops back; and he,
Sans providence, sans memory,
Unconscious and directly driven,
Fades to some dark sufficient heaven.
O world of lips, O world of laughter,
Where hope is fleet, and thought flies after,
Of lights in the clear night, of cries
That drift along the wave and rise
Thin to the glittering stars above,
You know the hands, the eyes of love!
The strife of limbs, the sightless clinging,
The infinite distance, and the singing
Blown by the wind, a flame of sound,
The gleam, the flowers, and vast around
The horizon, and the heights above—
You know the sigh, the long of love!
But there the night is close, and there
Darkness is cold and strange and bare;
And the secret deeps are whisperless;
And rhythm is all deliciousness;
And joy is in the throbbing tide,
Whose intricate fingers beat and glide
In felt bewildering harmonies
Of trembling touch; and music is
The exquisite knocking of the blood.
Space is no more, under the mud;
His bliss is older than the sun.
Silent and straight the waters run.
The lights, the cries, the willows dim,
And the dark tide are one with him.
More great poems below...
Rupert Brooke |
Hot through Troy's ruin Menelaus broke
To Priam's palace, sword in hand, to sate
On that adulterous whore a ten years' hate
And a king's honour.
Through red death, and smoke,
And cries, and then by quieter ways he strode,
Till the still innermost chamber fronted him.
He swung his sword, and crashed into the dim
Luxurious bower, flaming like a god.
High sat white Helen, lonely and serene.
He had not remembered that she was so fair,
And that her neck curved down in such a way;
And he felt tired.
He flung the sword away,
And kissed her feet, and knelt before her there,
The perfect Knight before the perfect Queen.
So far the poet.
How should he behold
That journey home, the long connubial years?
He does not tell you how white Helen bears
Child on legitimate child, becomes a scold,
Haggard with virtue.
Waxed garrulous, and sacked a hundred Troys
'Twixt noon and supper.
And her golden voice
Got shrill as he grew deafer.
And both were old.
Often he wonders why on earth he went
Troyward, or why poor Paris ever came.
Oft she weeps, gummy-eyed and impotent;
Her dry shanks twitch at Paris' mumbled name.
So Menelaus nagged; and Helen cried;
And Paris slept on by Scamander side.
Rupert Brooke |
(Halted around the fire by night, after moon-set, they sing this beneath the trees.
What light of unremembered skies
Hast thou relumed within our eyes,
Thou whom we seek, whom we shall find? .
A certain odour on the wind,
Thy hidden face beyond the west,
These things have called us; on a quest
Older than any road we trod,
More endless than desire.
Sigh with thy cruel voice, that fills
The soul with longing for dim hills
And faint horizons! For there come
Grey moments of the antient dumb
Sickness of travel, when no song
Can cheer us; but the way seems long;
And one remembers.
Ah! the beat
Of weary unreturning feet,
And songs of pilgrims unreturning! .
The fires we left are always burning
On the old shrines of home.
Have built them temples, and therein
Pray to the Gods we know; and dwell
In little houses lovable,
Being happy (we remember how!)
And peaceful even to death.
God of all long desirous roaming,
Our hearts are sick of fruitless homing,
And crying after lost desire.
Hearten us onward! as with fire
Consuming dreams of other bliss.
The best Thou givest, giving this
Sufficient thing -- to travel still
Over the plain, beyond the hill,
Unhesitating through the shade,
Amid the silence unafraid,
Till, at some sudden turn, one sees
Against the black and muttering trees
Thine altar, wonderfully white,
Among the Forests of the Night.
Rupert Brooke |
Your hands, my dear, adorable,
Your lips of tenderness
-- Oh, I've loved you faithfully and well,
Three years, or a bit less.
It wasn't a success.
Thank God, that's done! and I'll take the road,
Quit of my youth and you,
The Roman road to Wendover
By Tring and Lilley Hoo,
As a free man may do.
For youth goes over, the joys that fly,
The tears that follow fast;
And the dirtiest things we do must lie
Forgotten at the last;
Even Love goes past.
What's left behind I shall not find,
The splendour and the pain;
The splash of sun, the shouting wind,
And the brave sting of rain,
I may not meet again.
But the years, that take the best away,
Give something in the end;
And a better friend than love have they,
For none to mar or mend,
That have themselves to friend.
I shall desire and I shall find
The best of my desires;
The autumn road, the mellow wind
That soothes the darkening shires.
And laughter, and inn-fires.
White mist about the black hedgerows,
The slumbering Midland plain,
The silence where the clover grows,
And the dead leaves in the lane,
Certainly, these remain.
And I shall find some girl perhaps,
And a better one than you,
With eyes as wise, but kindlier,
And lips as soft, but true.
And I daresay she will do.
Joyce Kilmer |
(For Shaemas O Sheel)
One winter night a Devil came and sat upon my bed,
His eyes were full of laughter for his heart was full of crime.
"Why don't you take up fancy work, or embroidery?" he said,
"For a needle is as manly a tool as a pen that makes a rhyme!"
"You little ugly Devil," said I, "go back to Hell
For the idea you express I will not listen to:
I have trouble enough with poetry and poverty as well,
Without having to pay attention to orators like you.
"When you say of the making of ballads and songs
that it is woman's work
You forget all the fighting poets that have been in every land.
There was Byron who left all his lady-loves to fight against the
And David, the Singing King of the Jews,
who was born with a sword in his hand.
It was yesterday that Rupert Brooke went out to the Wars and died,
And Sir Philip Sidney's lyric voice was as sweet as his arm was
And Sir Walter Raleigh met the axe as a lover meets his bride,
Because he carried in his soul the courage of his song.
"And there is no consolation so quickening to the
As the warmth and whiteness that come from the lines of noble poetry.
It is strong joy to read it when the wounds of the spirit smart,
It puts the flame in a lonely breast where only ashes be.
It is strong joy to read it, and to make it is a thing
That exalts a man with a sacreder pride than any pride on earth.
For it makes him kneel to a broken slave and set his foot on a king,
And it shakes the walls of his little soul with the echo of God's
"There was the poet Homer had the sorrow to be
Yet a hundred people with good eyes would listen to him all night;
For they took great enjoyment in the heaven of his mind,
And were glad when the old blind poet let them share his powers
And there was Heine lying on his mattress all day long,
He had no wealth, he had no friends, he had no joy at all,
Except to pour his sorrow into little cups of song,
And the world finds in them the magic wine that his broken heart
"And these are only a couple of names from a list
of a thousand score
Who have put their glory on the world in poverty and pain.
And the title of poet's a noble thing, worth living and dying for,
Though all the devils on earth and in Hell spit at me their disdain.
It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the
And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men:
But Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never
Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again.
Rupert Brooke |
Because God put His adamantine fate
Between my sullen heart and its desire,
I swore that I would burst the Iron Gate,
Rise up, and curse Him on His throne of fire.
Earth shuddered at my crown of blasphemy,
But Love was as a flame about my feet;
Proud up the Golden Stair I strode; and beat
Thrice on the Gate, and entered with a cry --
All the great courts were quiet in the sun,
And full of vacant echoes: moss had grown
Over the glassy pavement, and begun
To creep within the dusty council-halls.
An idle wind blew round an empty throne
And stirred the heavy curtains on the walls.
Rupert Brooke |
When I see you, who were so wise and cool,
Gazing with silly sickness on that fool
You've given your love to, your adoring hands
Touch his so intimately that each understands,
I know, most hidden things; and when I know
Your holiest dreams yield to the stupid bow
Of his red lips, and that the empty grace
Of those strong legs and arms, that rosy face,
Has beaten your heart to such a flame of love,
That you have given him every touch and move,
Wrinkle and secret of you, all your life,
-- Oh! then I know I'm waiting, lover-wife,
For the great time when love is at a close,
And all its fruit's to watch the thickening nose
And sweaty neck and dulling face and eye,
That are yours, and you, most surely, till you die!
Day after day you'll sit with him and note
The greasier tie, the dingy wrinkling coat;
As prettiness turns to pomp, and strength to fat,
And love, love, love to habit!
And after that,
When all that's fine in man is at an end,
And you, that loved young life and clean, must tend
A foul sick fumbling dribbling body and old,
When his rare lips hang flabby and can't hold
Slobber, and you're enduring that worst thing,
Senility's queasy furtive love-making,
And searching those dear eyes for human meaning,
Propping the bald and helpless head, and cleaning
A scrap that life's flung by, and love's forgotten, --
Then you'll be tired; and passion dead and rotten;
And he'll be dirty, dirty!
O lithe and free
And lightfoot, that the poor heart cries to see,
That's how I'll see your man and you! --
-- Oh, when THAT time comes, you'll be dirty too!
Rupert Brooke |
I think if you had loved me when I wanted;
If I'd looked up one day, and seen your eyes,
And found my wild sick blasphemous prayer granted,
And your brown face, that's full of pity and wise,
Flushed suddenly; the white godhead in new fear
Intolerably so struggling, and so shamed;
Most holy and far, if you'd come all too near,
If earth had seen Earth's lordliest wild limbs tamed,
Shaken, and trapped, and shivering, for MY touch --
Myself should I have slain? or that foul you?
But this the strange gods, who had given so much,
To have seen and known you, this they might not do.
One last shame's spared me, one black word's unspoken;
And I'm alone; and you have not awoken.
Rupert Brooke |
(From a sonnet-sequence)
Somewhile before the dawn I rose, and stept
Softly along the dim way to your room,
And found you sleeping in the quiet gloom,
And holiness about you as you slept.
I knelt there; till your waking fingers crept
About my head, and held it.
I had rest
Unhoped this side of Heaven, beneath your breast.
I knelt a long time, still; nor even wept.
It was great wrong you did me; and for gain
Of that poor moment’s kindliness, and ease,
And sleepy mother-comfort!
Child, you know
How easily love leaps out to dreams like these,
Who has seen them true.
And love that’s wakened so
Takes all too long to lay asleep again.
Rupert Brooke |
The Day that Youth had died,
There came to his grave-side,
In decent mourning, from the country’s ends,
Those scatter’d friends
Who had lived the boon companions of his prime,
And laughed with him and sung with him and wasted,
In feast and wine and many-crown’d carouse,
The days and nights and dawnings of the time
When Youth kept open house,
Nor left untasted
Aught of his high emprise and ventures dear,
No quest of his unshar’d—
All these, with loitering feet and sad head bar’d,
Followed their old friend’s bier.
Folly went first,
With muffled bells and coxcomb still revers’d;
And after trod the bearers, hat in hand—
Laughter, most hoarse, and Captain Pride with tanned
And martial face all grim, and fussy Joy
Who had to catch a train, and Lust, poor, snivelling boy;
These bore the dear departed.
Behind them, broken-hearted,
Came Grief, so noisy a widow, that all said,
“Had he but wed
Her elder sister Sorrow, in her stead!”
And by her, trying to soothe her all the time,
The fatherless children, Colour, Tune, and Rhyme
(The sweet lad Rhyme), ran all-uncomprehending.
Then, at the way’s sad ending,
Round the raw grave they stay’d.
Old Wisdom read,
In mumbling tone, the Service for the Dead.
There stood Romance,
The furrowing tears had mark’d her roug?d cheek;
Poor old Conceit, his wonder unassuaged;
Dead Innocency’s daughter, Ignorance;
And shabby, ill-dress’d Generosity;
And Argument, too full of woe to speak;
Passion, grown portly, something middle-aged;
And Friendship—not a minute older, she;
Impatience, ever taking out his watch;
Faith, who was deaf, and had to lean, to catch
Old Wisdom’s endless drone.
Beauty was there,
Pale in her black; dry-eyed; she stood alone.
Poor maz’d Imagination; Fancy wild;
Ardour, the sunlight on his greying hair;
Contentment, who had known Youth as a child
And never seen him since.
And Spring came too,
Dancing over the tombs, and brought him flowers—
She did not stay for long.
And Truth, and Grace, and all the merry crew,
The laughing Winds and Rivers, and lithe Hours;
And Hope, the dewy-eyed; and sorrowing Song;—
Yes, with much woe and mourning general,
At dead Youth’s funeral,
Even these were met once more together, all,
Who erst the fair and living Youth did know;
All, except only Love.
Love had died long ago.
Rupert Brooke |
Today I have been happy.
All the day
I held the memory of you, and wove
Its laughter with the dancing light o' the spray,
And sowed the sky with tiny clouds of love,
And sent you following the white waves of sea,
And crowned your head with fancies, nothing worth,
Stray buds from that old dust of misery,
Being glad with a new foolish quiet mirth.
So lightly I played with those dark memories,
Just as a child, beneath the summer skies,
Plays hour by hour with a strange shining stone,
For which (he knows not) towns were fire of old,
And love has been betrayed, and murder done,
And great kings turned to a little bitter mould.
Rupert Brooke |
When love has changed to kindliness --
Oh, love, our hungry lips, that press
So tight that Time's an old god's dream
Nodding in heaven, and whisper stuff
Seven million years were not enough
To think on after, make it seem
Less than the breath of children playing,
A blasphemy scarce worth the saying,
A sorry jest, "When love has grown
To kindliness -- to kindliness!" .
And yet -- the best that either's known
Will change, and wither, and be less,
At last, than comfort, or its own
And when some caress
Tendered in habit (once a flame
All heaven sang out to) wakes the shame
Unworded, in the steady eyes
We'll have, -- that day, what shall we do?
Being so noble, kill the two
Who've reached their second-best? Being wise,
Break cleanly off, and get away.
Follow down other windier skies
New lures, alone? Or shall we stay,
Since this is all we've known, content
In the lean twilight of such day,
And not remember, not lament?
That time when all is over, and
Hand never flinches, brushing hand;
And blood lies quiet, for all you're near;
And it's but spoken words we hear,
Where trumpets sang; when the mere skies
Are stranger and nobler than your eyes;
And flesh is flesh, was flame before;
And infinite hungers leap no more
In the chance swaying of your dress;
And love has changed to kindliness.
Rupert Brooke |
Heart, you are restless as a paper scrap
That's tossed down dusty pavements by the wind;
Saying, "She is most wise, patient and kind.
Between the small hands folded in her lap
Surely a shamed head may bow down at length,
And find forgiveness where the shadows stir
About her lips, and wisdom in her strength,
Peace in her peace.
Come to her, come to her!" .
She will not care.
She'll smile to see me come,
So that I think all Heaven in flower to fold me.
She'll give me all I ask, kiss me and hold me,
And open wide upon that holy air
The gates of peace, and take my tiredness home,
Kinder than God.
But, heart, she will not care.