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Best Famous James Henry Leigh Hunt Poems

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by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

A Thought of the Nile

 It flows through old hushed Egypt and its sands,
Like some grave mighty thought threading a dream,
And times and things, as in that vision, seem
Keeping along it their eternal stands,--
Caves, pillars, pyramids, the shepherd bands
That roamed through the young world, the glory extreme
Of high Sesostris, and that southern beam,
The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands.
Then comes a mightier silence, stern and strong, As of a world left empty of its throng, And the void weighs on us; and then we wake, And hear the fruitful stream lapsing along Twixt villages, and think how we shall take Our own calm journey on for human sake.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

May and the Poets

 There is May in books forever; 
May will part from Spenser never; 
May's in Milton, May's in Prior, 
May's in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer; 
May's in all the Italian books:-- 
She has old and modern nooks, 
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves, 
In happy places they call shelves, 
And will rise and dress your rooms 
With a drapery thick with blooms.
Come, ye rains, then if ye will, May's at home, and with me still; But come rather, thou, good weather, And find us in the fields together.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

An Angel in the House

 How sweet it were, if without feeble fright, 
Or dying of the dreadful beauteous sight, 
An angel came to us, and we could bear 
To see him issue from the silent air 
At evening in our room, and bend on ours 
His divine eyes, and bring us from his bowers 
News of dear friends, and children who have never 
Been dead indeed,--as we shall know forever.
Alas! we think not what we daily see About our hearths,--angels that are to be, Or may be if they will, and we prepare Their souls and ours to meet in happy air;-- A child, a friend, a wife whose soft heart sings In unison with ours, breeding its future wings.


More great poems below...

by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Death

 Come thou, thou last one, whom I recognize,
unbearable pain throughout this body's fabric:
as I in my spirit burned, see, I now burn in thee:
the wood that long resisted the advancing flames
which thou kept flaring, I now am nourishinig
and burn in thee.
My gentle and mild being through thy ruthless fury has turned into a raging hell that is not from here.
Quite pure, quite free of future planning, I mounted the tangled funeral pyre built for my suffering, so sure of nothing more to buy for future needs, while in my heart the stored reserves kept silent.
Is it still I, who there past all recognition burn? Memories I do not seize and bring inside.
O life! O living! O to be outside! And I in flames.
And no one here who knows me.
[Written in December 1926, this poem was the last entry in Rilke's notebook, less than two weeks before his death at age 51.
]


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Death

 My body, eh? Friend Death, how now? 
Why all this tedious pomp of writ? 
Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow 
For half a century bit by bit.
In faith thou knowest more to-day Than I do, where it can be found! This shrivelled lump of suffering clay, To which I am now chained and bound, Has not of kith or kin a trace To the good body once I bore; Look at this shrunken, ghastly face: Didst ever see that face before? Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art; Thy only fault thy lagging gait, Mistaken pity in thy heart For timorous ones that bid thee wait.
Do quickly all thou hast to do, Nor I nor mine will hindrance make; I shall be free when thou art through; I grudge thee nought that thou must take! Stay! I have lied; I grudge thee one, Yes, two I grudge thee at this last,-- Two members which have faithful done My will and bidding in the past.
I grudge thee this right hand of mine; I grudge thee this quick-beating heart; They never gave me coward sign, Nor played me once the traitor's part.
I see now why in olden days Men in barbaric love or hate Nailed enemies' hands at wild crossways, Shrined leaders' hearts in costly state: The symbol, sign and instrument Of each soul's purpose, passion, strife, Of fires in which are poured and spent Their all of love, their all of life.
O feeble, mighty human hand! O fragile, dauntless human heart! The universe holds nothing planned With such sublime, transcendent art! Yes, Death, I own I grudge thee mine Poor little hand, so feeble now; Its wrinkled palm, its altered line, Its veins so pallid and so slow -- Ah, well, friend Death, good friend thou art; I shall be free when thou art through.
Take all there is -- take hand and heart; There must be somewhere work to do.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

A Fish Answers

 Amazing monster! that, for aught I know, 
With the first sight of thee didst make our race 
For ever stare! O flat and shocking face, 
Grimly divided from the breast below! 
Thou that on dry land horribly dost go 
With a split body and most ridiculous pace, 
Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace, 
Long-useless-finned, haired, upright, unwet, slow! 

O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air, 
How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry 
And dreary sloth? WHat particle canst share 
Of the only blessed life, the watery? 
I sometimes see of ye an actual pair 
Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

The Negro Boy

 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!


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Rondeau

 Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and welth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

To the Grasshopper and the Cricket

 Green little vaulter in the sunny grass, 
Catching your heart up at the feel of June, 
Sole voice that's heard amidst the lazy noon, 
When even the bees lag at the summoning brass; 
And you, warm little housekeeper, who class 
With those who think the candles come too soon, 
Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune 
Nick the glad silent moments as they pass; 
Oh sweet and tiny cousins, that belong 
One to the fields, the other to the hearth, 
Both have your sunshine; both, though small, are strong 
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth 
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song: 
Indoors and out, summer and winter,--Mirth.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Robin Hood An Outlaw.

 Robin Hood is an outlaw bold
Under the greenwood tree;
Bird, nor stag, nor morning air
Is more at large than he.
They sent against him twenty men, Who joined him laughing-eyed; They sent against him thirty more, And they remained beside.
All the stoutest of the train, That grew in Gamelyn wood, Whether they came with these or not, Are now with Robin Hood.
And not a soul in Locksley town Would speak him an ill word; The friars raged; but no man's tongue, Nor even feature stirred; Except among a very few Who dined in the Abbey halls; And then with a sigh bold Robin knew His true friends from his false.
There was Roger the monk, that used to make All monkery his glee; And Midge, on whom Robin had never turned His face but tenderly; With one or two, they say, besides, Lord! that in this life's dream Men should abandon one true thing, That would abide with them.
We cannot bid our strength remain, Our cheeks continue round; We cannot say to an aged back, Stoop not towards the ground; We cannot bid our dim eyes see Things as bright as ever; Nor tell our friends, though friends from youth, That they'll forsake us never: But we can say, I never will, Friendship, fall off from thee; And, oh sound truth and old regard, Nothing shall part us three.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Song of Fairies Robbing an Orchard

 We, the Fairies, blithe and antic,
Of dimensions not gigantic,
Though the moonshine mostly keep us,
Oft in orchards frisk and peep us.
Stolen sweets are always sweeter, Stolen kisses much completer, Stolen looks are nice in chapels, Stolen, stolen, be your apples.
When to bed the world are bobbing, Then's the time for orchard-robbing; Yet the fruit were scarce worth peeling, Were it not for stealing, stealing.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

A Night-Rain in Summer

 Open the window, and let the air 
Freshly blow upon face and hair, 
And fill the room, as it fills the night, 
With the breath of the rain's sweet might.
Hark! the burthen, swift and prone! And how the odorous limes are blown! Stormy Love's abroad, and keeps Hopeful coil for gentle sleeps.
Not a blink shall burn to-night In my chamber, of sordid light; Nought will I have, not a window-pane, 'Twixt me and the air and the great good rain, Which ever shall sing me sharp lullabies; And God's own darkness shall close mine eyes; And I will sleep, with all things blest, In the pure earth-shadow of natural rest.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

To a Fish

 You strange, astonished-looking, angle-faced, 
Dreary-mouthed, gaping wretches of the sea, 
Gulping salt-water everlastingly, 
Cold-blooded, though with red your blood be graced, 
And mute, though dwellers in the roaring waste; 
And you, all shapes beside, that fishy be,-- 
Some round, some flat, some long, all devilry, 
Legless, unloving, infamously chaste:-- 

O scaly, slippery, wet, swift, staring wights, 
What is't ye do? What life lead? eh, dull goggles? 
How do ye vary your vile days and nights? 
How pass your Sundays? Are ye still but joggles 
In ceaseless wash? Still nought but gapes, and bites, 
And drinks, and stares, diversified with boggles?


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

To Robert Batty M.D. on His Giving Me a Lock of Miltons Hair

 It lies before me there, and my own breath 
Stirs its thin outer threads, as though beside 
The living head I stood in honoured pride, 
Talking of lovely things that conquer death.
Perhaps he pressed it once, or underneath Ran his fine fingers when he leant, blank-eyed, And saw in fancy Adam and his bride With their heaped locks, or his own Delphic wreath.
There seems a love in hair, though it be dead.
It is the gentlest, yet the strongest thread Of our frail plant,--a blossom from the tree Surviving the proud trunk; as if it said, Patience and gentleness in power.
In me Behold affectionate eternity.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Jenny kissd Me

 Jenny kiss'd me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and welth have miss'd me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kiss'd me.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

On Receiving a Crown of Ivy from John Keats

 It is a lofty feeling, yet a kind, 
Thus to be topped with leaves;--to have a sense 
Of honour-shaded thought,--an influence 
As from great nature's fingers, and be twined 
With her old, sacred, verdurous ivy-bind, 
As though she hallowed with that sylvan fence 
A head that bows to her benevolence, 
Midst pomp of fancied trumpets in the wind.
It is what's within us crowned.
And kind and great Are all the conquering wishes it inspires, Love of things lasting, love of the tall woods, Love of love's self, and ardour for a state Of natural good befitting such desires, Towns without gain, and hunted solitudes.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Abou Ben Adhem

 Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:— 
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord.
" "And is mine one?" said Abou.
"Nay, not so," Replied the angel.
Abou spoke more low, But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then, Write me as one that loves his fellow men.
" The angel wrote, and vanished.
The next night It came again with a great wakening light, And showed the names whom love of God had blessed, And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Death

 Death is a road our dearest friends have gone;
Why with such leaders, fear to say, "Lead on?"
Its gate repels, lest it too soon be tried,
But turns in balm on the immortal side.
Mothers have passed it: fathers, children; men Whose like we look not to behold again; Women that smiled away their loving breath; Soft is the travelling on the road to death! But guilt has passed it? men not fit to die? O, hush -- for He that made us all is by! Human we're all -- all men, all born of mothers; All our own selves in the worn-out shape of others; Our used, and oh, be sure, not to be ill-used brothers!


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

Jenny Kissed Me

 Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief, who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

The Glove and The Lions

 King Francis was a hearty king, and loved a royal sport,
And one day as his lions fought, sat looking on the court;
The nobles filled the benches, and the ladies in their pride,
And 'mongst them sat the Count de Lorge, with one for whom he sighed:
And truly 'twas a gallant thing to see that crowning show,
Valour and love, and a king above, and the royal beasts below.
Ramped and roared the lions, with horrid laughing jaws; They bit, they glared, gave blows like beams, a wind went with their paws; With wallowing might and stifled roar they rolled on one another; Till all the pit with sand and mane was in a thunderous smother; The bloody foam above the bars came whisking through the air; Said Francis then, "Faith, gentlemen, we're better here than there.
" De Lorge's love o'erheard the King, a beauteous lively dame With smiling lips and sharp bright eyes, which always seemed the same; She thought, the Count my lover is brave as brave can be; He surely would do wondrous things to show his love of me; King, ladies, lovers, all look on; the occasion is divine; I'll drop my glove, to prove his love; great glory will be mine.
She dropped her glove, to prove his love, then looked at him and smiled; He bowed, and in a moment leaped among the lions wild: The leap was quick, return was quick, he has regained his place, Then threw the glove, but not with love, right in the lady's face.
"By God!" said Francis, "rightly done!" and he rose from where he sat: "No love," quoth he, "but vanity, sets love a task like that.
"


by James Henry Leigh Hunt | |

The Nile

 It flows through old hushed Egypt and its sands, 
Like some grave mighty thought threading a dream, 
And times and things, as in that vision, seem 
Keeping along it their eternal stands,-- 
Caves, pillars, pyramids, the shepherd bands 
That roamed through the young world, the glory extreme 
Of high Sesostris, and that southern beam, 
The laughing queen that caught the world's great hands.
Then comes a mightier silence, stern and strong, As of a world left empty of its throng, And the void weighs on us; and then we wake, And hear the fruitful stream lapsing along 'Twixt villages, and think how we shall take Our own calm journey on for human sake.