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Best Famous Helen Hunt Jackson Poems

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by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Danger

 With what a childish and short-sighted sense 
Fear seeks for safety; recons up the days 
Of danger and escape, the hours and ways 
Of death; it breathless flies the pestilence; 
It walls itself in towers of defence; 
By land, by sea, against the storm it lays 
Down barriers; then, comforted, it says: 
"This spot, this hour is safe.
" Oh, vain pretence! Man born of man knows nothing when he goes; The winds blow where they list, and will disclose To no man which brings safety, which brings risk.
The mighty are brought low by many a thing Too small to name.
Beneath the daisy's disk Lies hid the pebble for the fatal sling.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Doubt

 1 They bade me cast the thing away, 
2 They pointed to my hands all bleeding,
3 They listened not to all my pleading;
4 The thing I meant I could not say;
5 I knew that I should rue the day
6 If once I cast that thing away.
7 I grasped it firm, and bore the pain; 8 The thorny husks I stripped and scattered; 9 If I could reach its heart, what mattered 10 If other men saw not my gain, 11 Or even if I should be slain? 12 I knew the risks; I chose the pain.
13 O, had I cast that thing away, 14 I had not found what most I cherish, 15 A faith without which I should perish,-- 16 The faith which, like a kernel, lay 17 Hid in the husks which on that day 18 My instinct would not throw away!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: January

 O Winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire, 
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn 
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn 
Of death! Far sooner in midsummer tire 
The streams than under ice.
June could not hire Her roses to forego the strength they learn In sleeping on thy breast.
No fires can burn The bridges thou dost lay where men desire In vain to build.
O Heart, when Love's sun goes To northward, and the sounds of singing cease, Keep warm by inner fires, and rest in peace.
Sleep on content, as sleeps the patient rose.
Walk boldly on the white untrodden snows, The winter is the winter's own release.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: July

 Some flowers are withered and some joys have died; 
The garden reeks with an East Indian scent 
From beds where gillyflowers stand weak and spent; 
The white heat pales the skies from side to side; 
But in still lakes and rivers, cool, content, 
Like starry blooms on a new firmament, 
White lilies float and regally abide.
In vain the cruel skies their hot rays shed; The lily does not feel their brazen glare.
In vain the pallid clouds refuse to share Their dews, the lily feels no thirst, no dread.
Unharmed she lifts her queenly face and head; She drinks of living waters and keeps fair.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: September

 O golden month! How high thy gold is heaped! 
The yellow birch-leaves shine like bright coins strung 
On wands; the chestnut's yellow pennons tongue 
To every wind its harvest challenge.
Steeped In yellow, still lie fields where wheat was reaped; And yellow still the corn sheaves, stacked among The yellow gourds, which from the earth have wrung Her utmost gold.
To highest boughs have leaped The purple grape,--last thing to ripen, late By very reason of its precious cost.
O Heart, remember, vintages are lost If grapes do not for freezing night-dews wait.
Think, while thou sunnest thyself in Joy's estate, Mayhap thou canst not ripen without frost!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: June

 O month whose promise and fulfilment blend, 
And burst in one! it seems the earth can store 
In all her roomy house no treasure more; 
Of all her wealth no farthing have to spend 
On fruit, when once this stintless flowering end.
And yet no tiniest flower shall fall before It hath made ready at its hidden core Its tithe of seed, which we may count and tend Till harvest.
Joy of blossomed love, for thee Seems it no fairer thing can yet have birth? No room is left for deeper ecstacy? Watch well if seeds grow strong, to scatter free Germs for thy future summers on the earth.
A joy which is but joy soon comes to dearth.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: March

 Month which the warring ancients strangely styled 
The month of war,--as if in their fierce ways 
Were any month of peace!--in thy rough days 
I find no war in Nature, though the wild 
Winds clash and clang, and broken boughs are piled 
As feet of writhing trees.
The violets raise Their heads without affright, without amaze, And sleep through all the din, as sleeps a child.
And he who watches well may well discern Sweet expectation in each living thing.
Like pregnant mother the sweet earth doth yearn; In secret joy makes ready for the spring; And hidden, sacred, in her breast doth bear Annunciation lilies for the year.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Freedom

 What freeman knoweth freedom? Never he 
Whose father's father through long lives have reigned 
O'er kingdoms which mere heritage attained.
Though from his youth to age he roam as free As winds, he dreams not freedom's ecstacy.
But he whose birth was in a nation chained For centuries; where every breath was drained From breasts of slaves which knew not there could be Such thing as freedom,--he beholds the light Burst, dazzling; though the glory blind his sight He knows the joy.
Fools laugh because he reels And weilds confusedly his infant will; The wise man watching with a heart that feels Says: "Cure for freedom's harms is freedom still.
"


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Freedom

 I WILL not follow you, my bird,
 I will not follow you.
I would not breathe a word, my bird, To bring thee here anew.
I love the free in thee, my bird, The lure of freedom drew; The light you fly toward, my bird, I fly with thee unto.
And there we yet will meet, my bird, Though far I go from you Where in the light outpoured, my bird, Are love and freedom too.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: May

 O Month when they who love must love and wed! 
Were one to go to worlds where May is naught, 
And seek to tell the memories he had brought 
From earth of thee, what were most fitly said? 
I know not if the rosy showers shed 
From apple-boughs, or if the soft green wrought 
In fields, or if the robin's call be fraught 
The most with thy delight.
Perhaps they read Thee best who in the ancient time did say Thou wert the sacred month unto the old: No blossom blooms upon thy brightest day So subtly sweet as memories which unfold In aged hearts which in thy sunshine lie, To sun themselves once more before they die.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

A Calendar of Sonnets: November

 This is the treacherous month when autumn days 
With summer's voice come bearing summer's gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts Her head and blooms again.
The soft, warm haze Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways, And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts, The violet returns.
Snow noiseless sifts Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning's rays Willidly shine upon and slowly melt, Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain; Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt? What profit from the violet's day of pain?


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Tryst

 Somewhere thou awaitest, 
And I, with lips unkissed, 
Weep that thus to latest 
Thou puttest off our tryst!

The golden bowls are broken, 
The silver cords untwine; 
Almond flowers in token 
Have bloomed,---that I am thine!

Others who would fly thee 
In cowardly alarms, 
Who hate thee and deny thee, 
Thou foldest in thine arms!

How shall I entreat thee 
No longer to withhold? 
I dare not go to meet thee, 
O lover, far and cold!

O lover, whose lips chilling 
So many lips have kissed, 
Come, even if unwilling, 
And keep thy solemn tryst!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Gods Light-Houses

 1 When night falls on the earth, the sea 
2 From east to west lies twinkling bright
3 With shining beams from beacons high
4 Which flash afar a friendly light.
5 The sailor's eyes, like eyes in prayer, 6 Turn unto them for guiding ray: 7 If storms obscure their radiance, 8 The great ships helpless grope their way.
9 When night falls on the earth, the sky 10 Looks like a wide, a boundless main.
11 Who knows what voyagers sail there? 12 Who names the ports they seek and gain? 13 Are not the stars like beacons set 14 To guide the argosies that go 15 From universe to universe, 16 Our little world above, below?-- 17 On their great errands solemn bent, 18 In their vast journeys unaware 19 Of our small planet's name or place 20 Revolving in the lower air.
21 O thought too vast! O thought too glad! 22 An awe most rapturous it stirs.
23 From world to world God's beacons shine: 24 God means to save his mariners!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

My Bees: An Allegory

 "O bees, sweet bees!" I said, "that nearest field 
Is shining white with fragrant immortelles.
Fly swiftly there and drain those honey wells.
" Then, spicy pines the sunny hive to shield, I set, and patient for the autumn's yield Of sweet I waited.
When the village bells Rang frosty clear, and from their satin cells The chestnuts leaped, rejoicing, I unsealed My hive.
Alas! no snowy honey there Was stored.
My wicked bees had borne away Their queen and left no trace.
That very day, An idle drone who sauntered through the air I tracked and followed, and he led me where My truant bees and stolen honey lay.
Twice faithless bees! They had sought out to eat Rank, bitter herbs.
The honey was not sweet.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Two Truths

 Darling,' he said, 'I never meant
To hurt you;' and his eyes were wet.
'I would not hurt you for the world: Am I to blame if I forget?' 'Forgive my selfish tears!' she cried, 'Forgive! I knew that it was not Because you meant to hurt me, sweet- I knew it was that you forgot!' But all the same, deep in her heart Rankled this thought, and rankles yet,- 'When love is at its best, one loves So much that he cannot forget.
'


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Poppies on the Wheat

 Along Ancona's hills the shimmering heat, 
A tropic tide of air with ebb and flow 
Bathes all the fields of wheat until they glow 
Like flashing seas of green, which toss and beat 
Around the vines.
The poppies lithe and fleet Seem running, fiery torchmen, to and fro To mark the shore.
The farmer does not know That they are there.
He walks with heavy feet, Counting the bread and wine by autumn's gain, But I,--I smile to think that days remain Perhaps to me in which, through bread be sweet No more, and red wine warm my blood in vain, I shall be glad remembering how the fleet, Lithe poppies ran like torchmen with the wheat.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Songs of Battle

 Old as the world--no other things so old; 
Nay, older than the world, else, how had sprung 
Such lusty strength in them when earth was young?-- 
Stand valor and its passion hot and bold, 
Insatiate of battle.
How, else, told Blind men, born blind, that red was fitting tongue Mute, eloquent, to show how trumpets rung When armies charged adn battle-flags unfurled? Who sings of valor speaks for life, for death, Beyond all death, and long as life is life, in rippled waves the eternal air hs breath Eternal bears to stir all noble strife.
Dead Homer from his lost and vanished grave Keeps battle glorious still and soldiers brave.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

The Victory of Patience

 Armed of the gods! Divinest conqueror! 
What soundless hosts are thine! Nor pomp, nor state, 
Nor token, to betray where thou dost wait.
All Nature stands, for thee, ambassador; Her forces all thy serfs, for peace or war.
greatest and least alike, thou rul'st their fate,-- The avalanch chained until its century's date, The mulberry leaf made robe for emperor! Shall man alone thy law deny? --refuse Thy healing for his blunders and his sins? Oh, make us thine! Teach us who waits best sues; Who longest waits of all most surely wins.
When Time is spent, Eternity begins.
To doubt, to chafe, to haste, doth God accuse.


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

Tides

 O patient shore, thou canst not go to meet
Thy love, the restless sea, how comfortest
Thou all thy loneliness? Art thou at rest,
When, loosing his strong arms from round thy feet,
He turns away? Know'st thou, however sweet
That other shore may be, that to thy breast
He must return? And when in sterner test
He folds thee to a heart which does not beat,
Wraps thee in ice, and gives no smile, no kiss,
To break long wintry days, still dost thou miss
Naught from thy trust? Still wait, unfaltering,
The higher, warmer waves which leap in spring?
O sweet, wise shore, to be so satisfied!
O heart, learn from the shore! Love has a tide!


by Helen Hunt Jackson | |

To an Absent Lover

 That so much change should come when thou dost go, 
Is mystery that I cannot ravel quite.
The very house seems dark as when the light Of lamps goes out.
Each wonted thing doth grow So altered, that I wander to and fro Bewildered by the most familiar sight, And feel like one who rouses in the night From dream of ecstasy, and cannot know At first if he be sleeping or awake.
My foolish heart so foolish for thy sake Hath grown, dear one! Teach me to be more wise.
I blush for all my foolishness doth lack; I fear to seem a coward in thine eyes.
Teach me, dear one,--but first thou must come back!