Craig Raine | |
On my desk, a set of labels
or a synopsis of leeks,
blanched by the sun
and trailing their roots
like a watering can.
Beyond and below,
diminished by distance,
a taxi shivers at the lights:
a shining moorhen
with an orange nodule
set over the beak,
taking a passenger
under its wing.
I turn away, confront
the cuckold hatstand
at bay in the corner,
and eavesdrop (bless you!)
on a hay-fever of brakes.
My Caran d'Ache are sharp
as the tips of an iris
and the four-tier file
is spotted with rust:
a study of plaice
by a Japanese master,
ochres exquisitely bled.
Instead of office work,
I fish for complements
and sport a pencil
behind each ear,
a bit of a devil,
or trap the telephone
awkwardly under my chin
like Richard Crookback,
crying, A horse! A horse!
My kingdom for a horse!
but only to myself,
ironically: the tube
is semi-stiff with stallion whangs,
the chairman's Mercedes
has windscreen wipers
like a bird's broken tongue,
and I am perfectly happy
to see your head, quick
round the door like a dryad,
as I pretend to be Ovid
in exile, composing Tristia
and sad for the shining,
the missed, the muscular beach.
Edgar Lee Masters | |
Reading in Ovid the sorrowful story of Itys,
Son of the love of Tereus and Procne, slain
For the guilty passion of Tereus for Philomela,
The flesh of him served to Tereus by Procne,
And the wrath of Tereus, the murderess pursuing
Till the gods made Philomela a nightingale,
Lute of the rising moon, and Procne a swallow!
Oh livers and artists of Hellas centuries gone,
Sealing in little thuribles dreams and wisdom,
Incense beyond all price, forever fragrant,
A breath whereof makes clear the eyes of the soul!
How I inhaled its sweetness here in Spoon River!
The thurible opening when I had lived and learned
How all of us kill the children of love, and all of us,
Knowing not what we do, devour their flesh;
And all of us change to singers, although it be
But once in our lives, or change -- alas! -- to swallows,
To twitter amid cold winds and falling leaves!
Billy Collins | |
Baudelaire considers you his brother,
and Fielding calls out to you every few paragraphs
as if to make sure you have not closed the book,
and now I am summoning you up again,
attentive ghost, dark silent figure standing
in the doorway of these words.
Pope welcomes you into the glow of his study,
takes down a leather-bound Ovid to show you.
Tennyson lifts the latch to a moated garden,
and with Yeats you lean against a broken pear tree,
the day hooded by low clouds.
But now you are here with me,
composed in the open field of this page,
no room or manicured garden to enclose us,
no Zeitgeist marching in the background,
no heavy ethos thrown over us like a cloak.
Instead, our meeting is so brief and accidental,
unnoticed by the monocled eye of History,
you could be the man I held the door for
this morning at the bank or post office
or the one who wrapped my speckled fish.
You could be someone I passed on the street
or the face behind the wheel of an oncoming car.
The sunlight flashes off your windshield,
and when I look up into the small, posted mirror,
I watch you diminish—my echo, my twin—
and vanish around a curve in this whip
of a road we can't help traveling together.
More great poems below...
Billy Collins | |
I turn around on the gravel
and go back to the house for a book,
something to read at the doctor's office,
and while I am inside, running the finger
of inquisition along a shelf,
another me that did not bother
to go back to the house for a book
heads out on his own,
rolls down the driveway,
and swings left toward town,
a ghost in his ghost car,
another knot in the string of time,
a good three minutes ahead of me —
a spacing that will now continue
for the rest of my life.
Sometimes I think I see him
a few people in front of me on a line
or getting up from a table
to leave the restaurant just before I do,
slipping into his coat on the way out the door.
But there is no catching him,
no way to slow him down
and put us back in synch,
unless one day he decides to go back
to the house for something,
but I cannot imagine
for the life of me what that might be.
He is out there always before me,
blazing my trail, invisible scout,
hound that pulls me along,
shade I am doomed to follow,
my perfect double,
only bumped an inch into the future,
and not nearly as well-versed as I
in the love poems of Ovid —
I who went back to the house
that fateful winter morning and got the book.
Robert Herrick | |
Now is the time for mirth,
Nor cheek or tongue be dumb;
For with the flow'ry earth
The golden pomp is come.
The golden pomp is come;
For now each tree does wear,
Made of her pap and gum,
Rich beads of amber here.
Now reigns the rose, and now
Th' Arabian dew besmears
My uncontrolled brow
And my retorted hairs.
Homer, this health to thee,
In sack of such a kind
That it would make thee see
Though thou wert ne'er so blind.
Next, Virgil I'll call forth
To pledge this second health
In wine, whose each cup's worth
An Indian commonwealth.
A goblet next I'll drink
To Ovid, and suppose,
Made he the pledge, he'd think
The world had all one nose.
Then this immensive cup
Of aromatic wine,
Catullus, I quaff up
To that terse muse of thine.
Wild I am now with heat;
O Bacchus! cool thy rays!
Or frantic, I shall eat
Thy thyrse, and bite the bays.
Round, round the roof does run;
And being ravish'd thus,
Come, I will drink a tun
To my Propertius.
Now, to Tibullus, next,
This flood I drink to thee;
But stay, I see a text
That this presents to me.
Behold, Tibullus lies
Here burnt, whose small return
Of ashes scarce suffice
To fill a little urn.
Trust to good verses then;
They only will aspire,
When pyramids, as men,
Are lost i' th' funeral fire.
And when all bodies meet,
In Lethe to be drown'd,
Then only numbers sweet
With endless life are crown'd.
Alfred Lord Tennyson | |
‘Te somnia nostra reducunt.
And ask ye why these sad tears stream?
Why these wan eyes are dim with weeping?
I had a dream–a lovely dream,
Of her that in the grave is sleeping.
I saw her as ’twas yesterday,
The bloom upon her cheek still glowing;
And round her play’d a golden ray,
And on her brows were gay flowers blowing.
With angel-hand she swept a lyre,
A garland red with roses bound it;
Its strings were wreath’d with lambent fire
And amaranth was woven round it.
I saw her mid the realms of light,
In everlasting radiance gleaming;
Co-equal with the seraphs bright,
Mid thousand thousand angels beaming.
I strove to reach her, when, behold,
Those fairy forms of bliss Elysian,
And all that rich scene wrapt in gold,
Faded in air–a lovely vision!
And I awoke, but oh! to me
That waking hour was doubly weary;
And yet I could not envy thee,
Although so blest, and I so dreary.