Ralph Waldo Emerson | |
I LIKE a church; I like a cowl;
I love a prophet of the soul;
And on my heart monastic aisles
Fall like sweet strains or pensive smiles;
Yet not for all his faith can see 5
Would I that cowl¨¨d churchman be.
Why should the vest on him allure
Which I could not on me endure?
Not from a vain or shallow thought
His awful Jove young Phidias brought; 10
Never from lips of cunning fell
The thrilling Delphic oracle:
Out from the heart of nature rolled
The burdens of the Bible old;
The litanies of nations came 15
Like the volcano's tongue of flame
Up from the burning core below ¡ª
The canticles of love and woe;
The hand that rounded Peter's dome
And groined the aisles of Christian Rome 20
Wrought in a sad sincerity;
Himself from God he could not free;
He builded better than he knew;¡ª
The conscious stone to beauty grew.
Know'st thou what wove yon woodbird's nest 25
Of leaves and feathers from her breast?
Or how the fish outbuilt her shell
Painting with morn each annual cell?
Or how the sacred pine tree adds
To her old leaves new myriads? 30
Such and so grew these holy piles
Whilst love and terror laid the tiles.
Earth proudly wears the Parthenon
As the best gem upon her zone;
And Morning opes with haste her lids 35
To gaze upon the Pyramids;
O'er England's abbeys bends the sky
As on its friends with kindred eye;
For out of Thought's interior sphere
These wonders rose to upper air; 40
And Nature gladly gave them place
Adopted them into her race
And granted them an equal date
With Andes and with Ararat.
These temples grew as grows the grass; 45
Art might obey but not surpass.
The passive Master lent his hand
To the vast soul that o'er him planned;
And the same power that reared the shrine
Bestrode the tribes that knelt within.
Ever the fiery Pentecost
Girds with one flame the countless host
Trances the heart through chanting choirs
And through the priest the mind inspires.
The word unto the prophet spoken 55
Was writ on tables yet unbroken;
The word by seers or sibyls told
In groves of oak or fanes of gold
Still floats upon the morning wind
Still whispers to the willing mind.
One accent of the Holy Ghost
The heedless world hath never lost.
I know what say the fathers wise ¡ª
The Book itself before me lies ¡ª
Old Chrysostom best Augustine 65
And he who blent both in his line
The younger Golden Lips or mines
Taylor the Shakespeare of divines.
His words are music in my ear
I see his cowl¨¨d portrait dear; 70
And yet for all his faith could see
I would not this good bishop be.
Wallace Stevens | |
Poetry is the supreme fiction, madame.
Take the moral law and make a nave of it
And from the nave build haunted heaven.
The conscience is converted into palms,
Like windy citherns hankering for hymns.
We agree in principle.
The opposing law and make a peristyle,
And from the peristyle project a masque
Beyond the planets.
Thus, our bawdiness,
Unpurged by epitaph, indulged at last,
Is equally converted into palms,
Squiggling like saxophones.
And palm for palm,
Madame, we are where we began.
Therefore, that in the planetary scene
Your disaffected flagellants, well-stuffed,
Smacking their muzzy bellies in parade,
Proud of such novelties of the sublime,
Such tink and tank and tunk-a-tunk-tunk,
May, merely may, madame, whip from themselves
A jovial hullabaloo among the spheres.
This will make widows wince.
But fictive things
Wink as they will.
Wink most when widows wince.
D A Levy | |
When i was a little kid
my parents never told me
i didn't find out until
i got out of high school
then when people asked me,
I ASKED THEM,
"Nationality or Religion?"
When i was a little kid
my parents brought me up as a christian
that when i discovered,
i was different
i wasnt THAT sick!
so at sixteen
still being a virgin forest
i must be a buddhist monk,
Then when people asked me
I TOLD THEM, i told them
"Not me, man, i don't belong to No-thing
In the navy
a swabby once asked me,
if i wanted to go to the
temple with him,
i told him
"NOt me, man, im the last
of the full blooded american indians.
it became confusing
so after a while
when people inquired
you arnt……are you?"
"with a name like levy,
what the hell do you think i am?"
A Ritz Cracker? A flying bathtub?
An arab? etc.
But now its getting pretty hip
to be a jew
and some of my best friend are
becoming converted to halavah,
even the crones who suddenly
became World War 2 catholics are
now praising bagels & lox
i still dont feel on ethnic things like
"Ok, we all niggers so lets hold hands.
"OK, we're all wops so lets support the
"Ok, we're all jews so lets weep on each
so now when people smile and say,
"Hey, you're one of us,"
i smile and say,
"Fuck you, man,
im still alive.
More great poems below...
Christian Bobin | |
The one we love, she appears before us undressed.
She is in a light dress, like those that once flourished on Sundays on church porches and the parquets of ballrooms.
And yet she is naked - like a star at the breaking of day.
Seeing you there, a clearing opened in my eyes.
To see that white dress, as white as blue sky.
By looking to the essential, the purity of the world is reborn.
(translated by C.
Christian Bobin | |
Into the crucible of my solitude,
you enter like the dawn, you surge forward like fire.
You sweep into my soul like a river bursting its banks.
And your laughter floods all my lands.
When I looked deep inside myself, I found nothing:
there, where everything was dark, a huge sun was turning.
There where everything was dead, a small spring was dancing.
A tiny woman who took up so much space:
I could not believe it.
Love is the only true knowledge.
Love itself is an impenetrable mystery.
(translated by C.
Robert Penn Warren | |
In silence the heart raves.
It utters words
Meaningless, that never had
I was ten, skinny, red-headed,
In a big black Buick,
Driven by a big grown boy, with a necktie, she sat
In front of the drugstore, sipping something
Through a straw.
There is nothing like
It stops your heart.
Thickens your blood.
It stops your breath.
Makes you feel dirty.
You need a hot bath.
I leaned against a telephone pole, and watched.
I thought I would die if she saw me.
How could I exist in the same world with that brightness?
Two years later she smiled at me.
Named my name.
I thought I would wake up dead.
Her grown brothers walked with the bent-knee
Swagger of horsemen.
They were slick-faced.
Told jokes in the barbershop.
Did no work.
Their father was what is called a drunkard.
Whatever he was he stayed on the third floor
Of the big white farmhouse under the maples for twenty-five years.
He never came down.
They brought everything up to him.
I did not know what a mortgage was.
His wife was a good, Christian woman, and prayed.
When the daughter got married, the old man came down wearing
An old tail coat, the pleated shirt yellowing.
The sons propped him.
I saw the wedding.
Engraved invitations, it was so fashionable.
I would cry.
I lay in bed that night
And wondered if she would cry when something was done to her.
The mortgage was foreclosed.
That last word was whispered.
She never came back.
Sort of drifted off.
Nobody wears shiny boots like that now.
But I know she is beautiful forever, and lives
In a beautiful house, far away.
She called my name once.
I didn't even know she knew it.
Naomi Shihab Nye | |
You can't be, says a Palestinian Christian
on the first feast day after Ramadan.
So, half-and-half and half-and-half.
He sells glass.
He knows about broken bits,
If you love Jesus you can't love
At his stall of blue pitchers on the Via Dolorosa,
The rubbed stones
Dusting of powdered sugar
across faces of date-stuffed mamool.
This morning we lit the slim white candles
which bend over at the waist by noon.
For once the priests weren't fighting
in the church for the best spots to stand.
As a boy, my father listened to them fight.
This is partly why he prays in no language
but his own.
Why I press my lips
to every exception.
A woman opens a window—here and here and here—
placing a vase of blue flowers
on an orange cloth.
I follow her.
She is making a soup from what she had left
in the bowl, the shriveled garlic and bent bean.
She is leaving nothing out.
James Henry Leigh Hunt | |
Paupertas onus visa est grave.
Cold blows the wind, and while the tear
Bursts trembling from my swollen eyes,
The rain's big drop, quick meets it there,
And on my naked bosom flies!
O pity, all ye sons of Joy,
The little wand'ring Negro-boy.
These tatter'd clothes, this ice-cold breast
By Winter harden'd into steel,
These eyes, that know not soothing rest,
But speak the half of what I feel!
Long, long, I never new one joy,
The little wand'ring Negro-boy!
Cannot the sigh of early grief
Move but one charitable mind?
Cannot one hand afford relief?
One Christian pity, and be kind?
Weep, weep, for thine was never joy,
O little wand'ring Negro-boy!
Is there a good which men call Pleasure?
O Ozmyn, would that it were thine!
Give me this only precious treasure;
How it would soften grief like mine!
Then Ozmyn might be call'd, with joy,
The little wand'ring Negro-boy!
My limbs these twelve long years have borne
The rage of ev'ry angry wind:
Yet still does Ozmyn weep and mourn,
Yet still no ease, no rest can find!
Then death, alas, must soon destroy
The little wand'ring Negro-boy!
No sorrow e'er disturbs the rest,
That dwells within the lonely grave;
Thou best resource, the wo-wrung breast
E'er ask'd of Heav'n, or Heav'n e'er gave!
Ah then, farewell, vain world, with joy
I die the happy Negro-boy!
Sir Philip Sidney | |
Whether the Turkish new moon minded be
To fill his horns this year on Christian coast;
How Poles' right king means, with leave of host,
To warm with ill-made fire cold Muscovy;
If French can yet three parts in one agree;
What now the Dutch in their full diets boast;
How Holland hearts, now so good towns be lost,
Trust in the shade of pleasing Orange tree;
How Ulster likes of that same golden bit
Wherewith my father once made it half tame;
If in the Scotch court be no welt'ring yet:
These questions busy wits to me do frame.
I, cumber'd with good manners, answer do,
But know not how, for still I think of you.
Ellis Parker Butler | |
Saint Peter stood, at Heaven's gate,
All souls claims to adjudicate
Saying to some souls, "Enter in!"
"Go to Hell," to others, "you are steeped in sin.
When up from earth, with a great hubbub,
Came all the members of the Tuscarora Club.
The angel Gabriel, peering out,
Said, "What, the devil, is this noise about?"
"Gabe," said Peter, "There's always lots of noise,
At any get-together of the Tuscarora boys --
Those are anglers and they all tell lies
About the trout that got away, their fierceness and their size --
They want to enter Heaven, for our brooks are full of trout,
But I won't have any liars, and I'll keep the whole gang out;
No liars enter Heaven, and I'll most distinctly tell
The whole danged Tuscarora Club, it has to go to Hell.
Then, at a little distance from the precious pearly gate,
The Tuscarora fellows paused to talk and cogitate;
One Barr said this, one Barr said that, McAlpin had his say,
But foxy Charley Roberts said, "This is the only way --
"You'd best leave this to me," he said.
"Just let me handle Pete
and in a trice we'll be inside upon the golden street;
I'll show him that he's one of us, because he used to be,
Himself, a brother fisher, in the Sea of Gallilee--
And I move you, Mr.
President, we make the poor old dub
An honorary member of the Tuscarora Club.
"Agreed! Agreed!" the members cried, but Manny Barr said, "Wait!
Amend it thus 'PROVIDED -- That he didn't fish with bait.
Saint Peter saw them coming but his face was hard and stern,
He had formed his resolution from which he would not turn,
Not even Roberts' palaver would ever change him so
He'd send the Tuscarorans anywhere, but down below.
But now upon his countenance there came a look of pain,
He stepped from foot to foot, and then from foot to foot again:
He hailed a new-come resident, who near the portal stood,
A goodly Christian gentleman, whose name was Hubert Wood.
He said to him, "Come here, my friend, and tend awhile this gate--
Just take my place for half an hour -- I've got to urinate.
With that Saint Peter hustled off.
The gate-keeper pro tem
Observed the Tuscarorans and he waved his hand at them.
"Come in! come in!" he shouted, for he was an angler, too,
And he knew that anglers, as a whole, were earth's most harmless crew.
So all the Tuscarorans got to heaven, thanks to Wood,
And the Secretary's last report says, "Fishing there is good.
Phillis Wheatley | |
Say, muse divine, can hostile scenes delight
The warrior's bosom in the fields of fight?
Lo! here the christian and the hero join
With mutual grace to form the man divine.
In H-----D see with pleasure and surprise,
Where valour kindles, and where virtue lies:
Go, hero brave, still grace the post of fame,
And add new glories to thine honour'd name,
Still to the field, and still to virtue true:
Britannia glories in no son like you.
Constantine P Cavafy | |
Said Myrtias (a Syrian student
in Alexandria; in the reign of
Augustus Constans and Augustus Constantius;
in part a pagan, and in part a christian);
"Fortified by theory and study,
I shall not fear my passions like a coward.
I shall give my body to sensual delights,
to enjoyments dreamt-of,
to the most daring amorous desires,
to the lustful impulses of my blood, without
any fear, for whenever I want --
and I shall have the will, fortified
as I shall be by theory and study --
at moments of crisis I shall find again
my spirit, as before, ascetic.
G K Chesterton | |
Are they clinging to their crosses,
Where the Breton boat-fleet tosses,
Are they, Smith?
Do they, fasting, trembling, bleeding,
Wait the news from this our city?
Groaning "That's the Second Reading!"
Hissing "There is still Committee!"
If the voice of Cecil falters,
If McKenna's point has pith,
Do they tremble for their altars?
Do they, Smith?
Russian peasants round their pope
Hear about it all, I hope,
Don't they, Smith?
In the mountain hamlets clothing
Peaks beyond Caucasian pales,
Where Establishment means nothing
And they never heard of Wales,
Do they read it all in Hansard --
With a crib to read it with --
"Welsh Tithes: Dr.
In the lands where Christians were,
In the little lands laid bare,
Smith, O Smith!
Where the Turkish bands are busy
And the Tory name is blessed
Since they hailed the Cross of Dizzy
On the banners from the West!
Men don't think it half so hard if
Islam burns their kin and kith,
Since a curate lives in Cardiff
Saved by Smith.
It would greatly, I must own,
Soothe me, Smith!
If you left this theme alone,
For your legal cause or civil
You fight well and get your fee;
For your God or dream or devil
You will answer, not to me.
Talk about the pews and steeples
And the cash that goes therewith!
But the souls of Christian peoples.
Chuck it, Smith!
Edwin Arlington Robinson | |
Because he puts the compromising chart
Of hell before your eyes, you are afraid;
Because he counts the price that you have paid
For innocence, and counts it from the start,
You loathe him.
But he sees the human heart
Of God meanwhile, and in His hand was weighed
Your squeamish and emasculate crusade
Against the grim dominion of his art.
Never until we conquer the uncouth
Connivings of our shamed indifference
(We call it Christian faith) are we to scan
The racked and shrieking hideousness of Truth
To find, in hate’s polluted self-defence
Throbbing, the pulse, the divine heart of man.
Friedrich von Schiller | |
I, too, at length discerned great Hercules' energy mighty,--
Saw his shade.
He himself was not, alas, to be seen.
Round him were heard, like the screaming of birds,
the screams of tragedians,
And, with the baying of dogs, barked dramaturgists around.
There stood the giant in all his terrors; his bow was extended,
And the bolt, fixed on the string, steadily aimed at the heart.
"What still hardier action, unhappy one, dost thou now venture,
Thus to descend to the grave of the departed souls here?"--
"'Tis to see Tiresias I come, to ask of the prophet
Where I the buskin of old, that now has vanished, may find?"
"If they believe not in Nature, nor the old Grecian, but vainly
Wilt thou convey up from hence that dramaturgy to them.
"Oh, as for Nature, once more to tread our stage she has ventured,
Ay, and stark-naked beside, so that each rib we count.
"What? Is the buskin of old to be seen in truth on your stage, then,
Which even I came to fetch, out of mid-Tartarus' gloom?"--
"There is now no more of that tragic bustle, for scarcely
Once in a year on the boards moves thy great soul, harness-clad.
"Doubtless 'tis well! Philosophy now has refined your sensations,
And from the humor so bright fly the affections so black.
"Ay, there is nothing that beats a jest that is stolid and barren,
But then e'en sorrow can please, if 'tis sufficiently moist.
"But do ye also exhibit the graceful dance of Thalia,
Joined to the solemn step with which Melpomene moves?"--
"Neither! For naught we love but what is Christian and moral;
And what is popular, too, homely, domestic, and plain.
"What? Does no Caesar, does no Achilles, appear on your stage now,
Not an Andromache e'en, not an Orestes, my friend?"
"No! there is naught to be seen there but parsons,
and syndics of commerce,
Secretaries perchance, ensigns, and majors of horse.
"But, my good friend, pray tell me, what can such people e'er meet with
That can be truly called great?--what that is great can they do?"
"What? Why they form cabals, they lend upon mortgage, they pocket
Silver spoons, and fear not e'en in the stocks to be placed.
"Whence do ye, then, derive the destiny, great and gigantic,
Which raises man up on high, e'en when it grinds him to dust?"--
"All mere nonsense! Ourselves, our worthy acquaintances also,
And our sorrows and wants, seek we, and find we, too, here.
"But all this ye possess at home both apter and better,--
Wherefore, then, fly from yourselves, if 'tis yourselves that ye seek?"
"Be not offended, great hero, for that is a different question;
Ever is destiny blind,--ever is righteous the bard.
"Then one meets on your stage your own contemptible nature,
While 'tis in vain one seeks there nature enduring and great?"
"There the poet is host, and act the fifth is the reckoning;
And, when crime becomes sick, virtue sits down to the feast!"