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Best Famous William Morris Poems

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Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

The Doomed Ship

 The doomed ship drives on helpless through the sea, 
All that the mariners may do is done 
And death is left for men to gaze upon, 
While side by side two friends sit silently; 
Friends once, foes once, and now by death made free 
Of Love and Hate, of all things lost or won; 
Yet still the wonder of that strife bygone 
Clouds all the hope or horror that may be.
Thus, Sorrow, are we sitting side by side Amid this welter of the grey despair, Nor have we images of foul or fair To vex, save of thy kissed face of a bride, Thy scornful face of tears when I was tried, And failed neath pain I was not made to bear.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

Autumn

 Laden Autumn here I stand
Worn of heart, and weak of hand:
Nought but rest seems good to me,
Speak the word that sets me free.
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Spring

 Spring am I, too soft of heart
Much to speak ere I depart:
Ask the Summer-tide to prove
The abundance of my love.
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Summer

 Summer looked for long am I:
Much shall change or e'er I die.
Prithee take it not amiss Though I weary thee with bliss.
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The Earthly Paradise: Apology

 Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make quick-coming death a little thing,
Or bring again the pleasure of past years,
Nor for my words shall ye forget your tears,
Or hope again for aught that I can say,
The idle singer of an empty day.
But rather, when aweary of your mirth, From full hearts still unsatisfied ye sigh, And, feeling kindly unto all the earth, Grudge every minute as it passes by, Made the more mindful that the sweet days die-- --Remember me a little then I pray, The idle singer of an empty day.
The heavy trouble, the bewildering care That weighs us down who live and earn our bread, These idle verses have no power to bear; So let em sing of names remember{`e}d, Because they, living not, can ne'er be dead, Or long time take their memory quite away From us poor singers of an empty day.
Dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time, Why should I strive to set the crooked straight? Let it suffice me that my murmuring rhyme Beats with light wing against the ivory gate, Telling a tale not too importunate To those who in the sleepy region stay, Lulled by the singer of an empty day.
Folk say, a wizard to a northern king At Christmas-tide such wondrous things did show, That through one window men beheld the spring, And through another saw the summer glow, And through a third the fruited vines a-row, While still, unheard, but in its wonted way, Piped the drear wind of that December day.
So with this Earthly Paradise it is, If ye will read aright, and pardon me, Who strive to build a shadowy isle of bliss Midmost the beating of the steely sea, Where tossed about all hearts of men must be; Whose ravening monsters mighty men shall slay, Not the poor singer of an empty day.
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Love is enough

 LOVE is enough: though the World be a-waning, 
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining, 
 Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover 
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder, 
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder, 
 And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass'd over, 
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter; 
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter 
 These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.
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Day

 I am Day; I bring again
Life and glory, Love and pain:
Awake, arise! from death to death
Through me the World's tale quickeneth.
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Sir Galahad a Christmas Mystery

 It is the longest night in all the year,
Near on the day when the Lord Christ was born;
Six hours ago I came and sat down here,
And ponder'd sadly, wearied and forlorn.
The winter wind that pass'd the chapel door, Sang out a moody tune, that went right well With mine own thoughts: I look'd down on the floor, Between my feet, until I heard a bell Sound a long way off through the forest deep, And toll on steadily; a drowsiness Came on me, so that I fell half asleep, As I sat there not moving: less and less I saw the melted snow that hung in beads Upon my steel-shoes; less and less I saw Between the tiles the bunches of small weeds: Heartless and stupid, with no touch of awe Upon me, half-shut eyes upon the ground, I thought: O Galahad! the days go by, Stop and cast up now that which you have found, So sorely you have wrought and painfully.
Night after night your horse treads down alone The sere damp fern, night after night you sit Holding the bridle like a man of stone, Dismal, unfriended: what thing comes of it? And what if Palomydes also ride, And over many a mountain and bare heath Follow the questing beast with none beside? Is he not able still to hold his breath With thoughts of Iseult? doth he not grow pale With weary striving, to seem best of all To her, "as she is best," he saith? to fail Is nothing to him, he can never fall.
For unto such a man love-sorrow is So dear a thing unto his constant heart, That even if he never win one kiss, Or touch from Iseult, it will never part.
And he will never know her to be worse Than in his happiest dreams he thinks she is: Good knight, and faithful, you have 'scaped the curse In wonderful-wise; you have great store of bliss.
Yea, what if Father Launcelot ride out, Can he not think of Guenevere's arms, round Warm and lithe, about his neck, and shout Till all the place grows joyful with the sound? And when he lists can often see her face, And think, "Next month I kiss you, or next week, And still you think of me": therefore the place Grows very pleasant, whatsoever he seek.
But me, who ride alone, some carle shall find Dead in my arms in the half-melted snow, When all unkindly with the shifting wind, The thaw comes on at Candlemas: I know Indeed that they will say: "This Galahad If he had lived had been a right good knight; Ah! poor chaste body!" but they will be glad, Not most alone, but all, when in their sight That very evening in their scarlet sleeves The gay-dress'd minstrels sing; no maid will talk Of sitting on my tomb, until the leaves, Grown big upon the bushes of the walk, East of the Palace-pleasaunce, make it hard To see the minster therefrom: well-a-day! Before the trees by autumn were well bared, I saw a damozel with gentle play, Within that very walk say last farewell To her dear knight, just riding out to find (Why should I choke to say it?) the Sangreal, And their last kisses sunk into my mind, Yea, for she stood lean'd forward on his breast, Rather, scarce stood; the back of one dear hand, That it might well be kiss'd, she held and press'd Against his lips; long time they stood there, fann'd By gentle gusts of quiet frosty wind, Till Mador de la porte a-going by, And my own horsehoofs roused them; they untwined, And parted like a dream.
In this way I, With sleepy face bent to the chapel floor, Kept musing half asleep, till suddenly A sharp bell rang from close beside the door, And I leapt up when something pass'd me by, Shrill ringing going with it, still half blind I stagger'd after, a great sense of awe At every step kept gathering on my mind, Thereat I have no marvel, for I saw One sitting on the altar as a throne, Whose face no man could say he did not know, And though the bell still rang, he sat alone, With raiment half blood-red, half white as snow.
Right so I fell upon the floor and knelt, Not as one kneels in church when mass is said, But in a heap, quite nerveless, for I felt The first time what a thing was perfect dread.
But mightily the gentle voice came down: "Rise up, and look and listen, Galahad, Good knight of God, for you will see no frown Upon my face; I come to make you glad.
"For that you say that you are all alone, I will be with you always, and fear not You are uncared for, though no maiden moan Above your empty tomb; for Launcelot, "He in good time shall be my servant too, Meantime, take note whose sword first made him knight, And who has loved him alway, yea, and who Still trusts him alway, though in all men's sight, "He is just what you know, O Galahad, This love is happy even as you say, But would you for a little time be glad, To make ME sorry long, day after day? "Her warm arms round his neck half throttle ME, The hot love-tears burn deep like spots of lead, Yea, and the years pass quick: right dismally Will Launcelot at one time hang his head; "Yea, old and shrivell'd he shall win my love.
Poor Palomydes fretting out his soul! Not always is he able, son, to move His love, and do it honour: needs must roll "The proudest destrier sometimes in the dust, And then 'tis weary work; he strives beside Seem better than he is, so that his trust Is always on what chances may betide; "And so he wears away, my servant, too, When all these things are gone, and wretchedly He sits and longs to moan for Iseult, who Is no care now to Palomydes: see, "O good son, Galahad, upon this day, Now even, all these things are on your side, But these you fight not for; look up, I say, And see how I can love you, for no pride "Closes your eyes, no vain lust keeps them down.
See now you have ME always; following That holy vision, Galahad, go on, Until at last you come to ME to sing "In Heaven always, and to walk around The garden where I am.
" He ceased, my face And wretched body fell upon the ground; And when I look'd again, the holy place Was empty; but right so the bell again Came to the chapel-door, there entered Two angels first, in white, without a stain, And scarlet wings, then, after them, a bed Four ladies bore, and set it down beneath The very altar-step, and while for fear I scarcely dared to move or draw my breath, Those holy ladies gently came a-near, And quite unarm'd me, saying: "Galahad, Rest here awhile and sleep, and take no thought Of any other thing than being glad; Hither the Sangreal will be shortly brought, "Yet must you sleep the while it stayeth here.
" Right so they went away, and I, being weary, Slept long and dream'd of Heaven: the bell comes near, I doubt it grows to morning.
Miserere! [Enter Two Angels in white, with scarlet wings; also, Four Ladies in gowns of red and green; also an Angel, bearing in his hands a surcoat of white, with a red cross.
] AN ANGEL O servant of the high God, Galahad! Rise and be arm'd: the Sangreal is gone forth Through the great forest, and you must be had Unto the sea that lieth on the north: There shall you find the wondrous ship wherein The spindles of King Solomon are laid, And the sword that no man draweth without sin, But if he be most pure: and there is stay'd, Hard by, Sir Launcelot, whom you will meet In some short space upon that ship: first, though, Will come here presently that lady sweet, Sister of Percival, whom you well know, And with her Bors and Percival: stand now, These ladies will to arm you.
[FIRST LADY, putting on the hauberk] Galahad, That I may stand so close beneath your brow, Margaret of Antioch, am glad.
[SECOND LADY, girding him with the sword.
] That I may stand and touch you with my hand, O Galahad, I, Cecily, am glad.
[THIRD LADY, buckling on the spurs.
] That I may kneel while up above you stand, And gaze at me, O holy Galahad, I, Lucy, am most glad.
[FOURTH LADY, putting on the basnet.
] O gentle knight, That you bow down to us in reverence, We are most glad, I, Katherine, with delight Must needs fall trembling.
[ANGEL, putting on the crossed surcoat.
] Galahad, we go hence, For here, amid the straying of the snow, Come Percival's sister, Bors, and Percival.
[The Four Ladies carry out the bed, and all go but Galahad.
] GALAHAD.
How still and quiet everything seems now: They come, too, for I hear the horsehoofs fall.
[Enter Sir Bors, Sir Percival and his Sister.
] Fair friends and gentle lady, God you save! A many marvels have been here to-night; Tell me what news of Launcelot you have, And has God's body ever been in sight? SIR BORS.
Why, as for seeing that same holy thing, As we were riding slowly side by side, An hour ago, we heard a sweet voice sing, And through the bare twigs saw a great light glide, With many-colour'd raiment, but far off; And so pass'd quickly: from the court nought good; Poor merry Dinadan, that with jape and scoff Kept us all merry, in a little wood Was found all hack'd and dead: Sir Lionel And Gauwaine have come back from the great quest, Just merely shamed; and Lauvaine, who loved well Your father Launcelot, at the king's behest Went out to seek him, but was almost slain, Perhaps is dead now; everywhere The knights come foil'd from the great quest, in vain; In vain they struggle for the vision fair.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

March

 Slayer of the winter, art thou here again?
O welcome, thou that's bring'st the summer nigh!
The bitter wind makes not thy victory vain,
Nor will we mock thee for thy faint blue sky.
Welcome, O March! whose kindly days and dry Make April ready for the throstle's song, Thou first redresser of the winter's wrong! Yea, welcome March! and though I die ere June, Yet for the hope of life I give thee praise, Striving to swell the burden of the tune That even now I hear thy brown birds raise, Unmindful of the past or coming days; Who sing: 'Oh joy! a new year is begun: What happiness to look upon the sun!' Ah, what begetteth all this storm of bliss But death himself, who crying solemnly, E'en from the heart of sweet Forgetfulness, Bids us 'Rejoice, lest pleasureless ye die, Within a little time must ye go by.
Stretch forth your open hands, and while ye live Take all the gifts that Death and Life may give.
'
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Summer Dawn

 Pray but one prayer for me 'twixt thy closed lips, 
Think but one thought of me up in the stars.
The summer night waneth, the morning light slips, Faint and grey 'twixt the leaves of the aspen, betwixt the cloud-bars That are patiently waiting there for the dawn: Patient and colourless, though Heaven's gold Waits to float through them along with the sun.
Far out in the meadows, above the young corn, The heavy elms wait, and restless and cold The uneasy wind rises; the roses are dun; Through the long twilight they pray for the dawn, Round the lone house in the midst of the corn, Speak but one word to me over the corn, Over the tender, bow'd locks of the corn.
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Earth the Healer Earth the Keeper

 So swift the hours are moving
Unto the time unproved:
Farewell my love unloving,
Farewell my love beloved!

What! are we not glad-hearted?
Is there no deed to do?
Is not all fear departed
And Spring-tide blossomed new?

The sails swell out above us,
The sea-ridge lifts the keel;
For They have called who love us,
Who bear the gifts that heal:

A crown for him that winneth,
A bed for him that fails,
A glory that beginneth
In never-dying tales.
Yet now the pain is ended And the glad hand grips the sword, Look on thy life amended And deal out due award.
Think of the thankless morning, The gifts of noon unused; Think of the eve of scorning, The night of prayer refused.
And yet.
The life before it, Dost thou remember aught, What terrors shivered o'er it Born from the hell of thought? And this that cometh after: How dost thou live, and dare To meet its empty laughter, To face its friendless care? In fear didst thou desire, At peace dost thou regret, The wasting of the fire, The tangling of the net.
Love came and gat fair greeting; Love went; and left no shame.
Shall both the twilights meeting The summer sunlight blame? What! cometh love and goeth Like the dark night's empty wind, Because thy folly soweth The harvest of the blind? Hast thou slain love with sorrow? Have thy tears quenched the sun? Nay even yet tomorrow Shall many a deed be done.
This twilight sea thou sailest, Has it grown dim and black For that wherein thou failest, And the story of thy lack? Peace then! for thine old grieving Was born of Earth the kind, And the sad tale thou art leaving Earth shall not leave behind.
Peace! for that joy abiding Whereon thou layest hold Earth keepeth for a tiding For the day when this is old.
Thy soul and life shall perish, And thy name as last night's wind; But Earth the deed shall cherish That thou today shalt find.
And all thy joy and sorrow So great but yesterday, So light a thing tomorrow, Shall never pass away.
Lo! lo! the dawn-blink yonder, The sunrise draweth nigh, And men forget to wonder That they were born to die.
Then praise the deed that wendeth Through the daylight and the mirth! The tale that never endeth Whoso may dwell on earth.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

The Haystack in the Floods

 Had she come all the way for this,
To part at last without a kiss?
Yea, had she borne the dirt and rain
That her own eyes might see him slain
Beside the haystack in the floods?

Along the dripping leafless woods,
The stirrup touching either shoe,
She rode astride as troopers do;
With kirtle kilted to her knee,
To which the mud splash'd wretchedly;
And the wet dripp'd from every tree
Upon her head and heavy hair,
And on her eyelids broad and fair;
The tears and rain ran down her face.
By fits and starts they rode apace, And very often was his place Far off from her; he had to ride Ahead, to see what might betide When the roads cross'd; and sometimes, when There rose a murmuring from his men Had to turn back with promises; Ah me! she had but little ease; And often for pure doubt and dread She sobb'd, made giddy in the head By the swift riding; while, for cold, Her slender fingers scarce could hold The wet reins; yea, and scarcely, too, She felt the foot within her shoe Against the stirrup: all for this, To part at last without a kiss Beside the haystack in the floods.
For when they near'd that old soak'd hay, They saw across the only way That Judas, Godmar, and the three Red running lions dismally Grinn'd from his pennon, under which In one straight line along the ditch, They counted thirty heads.
So then While Robert turn'd round to his men She saw at once the wretched end, And, stooping down, tried hard to rend Her coif the wrong way from her head, And hid her eyes; while Robert said: "Nay, love, 'tis scarcely two to one, At Poictiers where we made them run So fast--why, sweet my love, good cheer, The Gascon frontier is so near.
Naught after this.
" But, "Oh!" she said, "My God! my God! I have to tread The long way back without you; then The court at Paris; those six men; The gratings of the Chatelet; The swift Seine on some rainy day Like this, and people standing by And laughing, while my weak hands try To recollect how strong men swim.
All this, or else a life with him, For which I should be damned at last.
Would God that this next hour were past!" He answer'd not, but cried his cry, "St.
George for Marny!" cheerily; And laid his hand upon her rein.
Alas! no man of all his train Gave back that cheery cry again; And, while for rage his thumb beat fast Upon his sword-hilts, some one cast About his neck a kerchief long, And bound him.
Then they went along To Godmar; who said: "Now, Jehane, Your lover's life is on the wane So fast, that, if this very hour You yield not as my paramour, He will not see the rain leave off-- Nay, keep your tongue from gibe or scoff, Sir Robert, or I slay you now.
" She laid her hand upon her brow, Then gazed upon the palm, as though She thought her forehead bled, and--"No!" She said, and turn'd her head away, As there were nothing else to say, And everything were settled: red Grew Godmar's face from chin to head: "Jehane, on yonder hill there stands My castle, guarding well my lands: What hinders me from taking you, And doing that I list to do To your fair wilful body, while Your knight lies dead?" A wicked smile Wrinkled her face, her lips grew thin, A long way out she thrust her chin: "You know that I would strangle you While you were sleeping; or bite through Your throat, by God's help--ah!" she said, "Lord Jesus, pity your poor maid! For in such wise they hem me in, I cannot choose but sin and sin, Whatever happens: yet I think They could not make me eat or drink, And so should I just reach my rest.
" "Nay, if you do not my behest, O Jehane! though I love you well," Said Godmar, "would I fail to tell All that I know?" "Foul lies," she said.
"Eh? lies, my Jehane? by God's head, At Paris folks would deem them true! Do you know, Jehane, they cry for you: 'Jehane the brown! Jehane the brown! Give us Jehane to burn or drown!'-- Eh--gag me Robert!--sweet my friend, This were indeed a piteous end For those long fingers, and long feet, And long neck, and smooth shoulders sweet; An end that few men would forget That saw it--So, an hour yet: Consider, Jehane, which to take Of life or death!" So, scarce awake, Dismounting, did she leave that place, And totter some yards: with her face Turn'd upward to the sky she lay, Her head on a wet heap of hay, And fell asleep: and while she slept, And did not dream, the minutes crept Round to the twelve again; but she, Being waked at last, sigh'd quietly, And strangely childlike came, and said: "I will not.
" Straightway Godmar's head, As though it hung on strong wires, turn'd Most sharply round, and his face burn'd.
For Robert--both his eyes were dry, He could not weep, but gloomily He seem'd to watch the rain; yea, too, His lips were firm; he tried once more To touch her lips; she reach'd out, sore And vain desire so tortured them, The poor grey lips, and now the hem Of his sleeve brush'd them.
With a start Up Godmar rose, thrust them apart; From Robert's throat he loosed the bands Of silk and mail; with empty hands Held out, she stood and gazed, and saw The long bright blade without a flaw Glide out from Godmar's sheath, his hand In Robert's hair, she saw him bend Back Robert's head; she saw him send The thin steel down; the blow told well, Right backward the knight Robert fell, And moaned as dogs do, being half dead, Unwitting, as I deem: so then Godmar turn'd grinning to his men, Who ran, some five or six, and beat His head to pieces at their feet.
Then Godmar turn'd again and said: "So, Jehane, the first fitte is read! Take note, my lady, that your way Lies backward to the Chatelet!" She shook her head and gazed awhile At her cold hands with a rueful smile, As though this thing had made her mad.
This was the parting that they had Beside the haystack in the floods.
Written by William Morris | Create an image from this poem

The Voice of Toil

 I heard men saying, Leave hope and praying,
All days shall be as all have been;
To-day and to-morrow bring fear and sorrow,
The never-ending toil between.
When Earth was younger mid toil and hunger, In hope we strove, and our hands were strong; Then great men led us, with words they fed us, And bade us right the earthly wrong.
Go read in story their deeds and glory, Their names amidst the nameless dead; Turn then from lying to us slow-dying In that good world to which they led; Where fast and faster our iron master, The thing we made, for ever drives, Bids us grind treasure and fashion pleasure For other hopes and other lives.
Where home is a hovel and dull we grovel, Forgetting that the world is fair; Where no babe we cherish, lest its very soul perish; Where mirth is crime, and love a snare.
Who now shall lead us, what God shall heed us As we lie in the hell our hands have won? For us are no rulers but fools and befoolers, The great are fallen, the wise men gone.
I heard men saying, Leave tears and praying, The sharp knife heedeth not the sheep; Are we not stronger than the rich and the wronger, When day breaks over dreams and sleep? Come, shoulder to shoulder ere the world grows older! Help lies in nought but thee and me; Hope is before us, the long years that bore us Bore leaders more than men may be.
Let dead hearts tarry and trade and marry, And trembling nurse their dreams of mirth, While we the living our lives are giving To bring the bright new world to birth.
Come, shoulder to shoulder ere Earth grows older! The Cause spreads over land and sea; Now the world shaketh, and fear awaketh, And joy at last for thee and me.
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A Death Song

 What cometh here from west to east awending?
And who are these, the marchers stern and slow?
We bear the message that the rich are sending
Aback to those who bade them wake and know.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay, But one and all if they would dusk the day.
We asked them for a life of toilsome earning, They bade us bide their leisure for our bread; We craved to speak to tell our woeful learning; We come back speechless, bearing back our dead.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay, But one and all if they would dusk the day.
They will not learn; they have no ears to hearken.
They turn their faces from the eyes of fate; Their gay-lit halls shut out the skies that darken.
But, lo! this dead man knocking at the gate.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay, But one and all if they would dusk the day.
Here lies the sign that we shall break our prison; Amidst the storm he won a prisoner's rest; But in the cloudy dawn the sun arisen Brings us our day of work to win the best.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay, But one and all if they would dusk the day.
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In Prison

 Wearily, drearily,
Half the day long,
Flap the great banners
High over the stone;
Strangely and eerily
Sounds the wind's song,
Bending the banner-poles.
While, all alone, Watching the loophole's spark, Lie I, with life all dark, Feet tether'd, hands fetter'd Fast to the stone, The grim walls, square-letter'd With prison'd men's groan.
Still strain the banner-poles Through the wind's song, Westward the banner rolls Over my wrong.