Stephen Vincent Benet | |
The moon, a sweeping scimitar, dipped in the stormy straits,
The dawn, a crimson cataract, burst through the eastern gates,
The cliffs were robed in scarlet, the sands were cinnabar,
Where first two men spread wings for flight and dared the hawk afar.
There stands the cunning workman, the crafty past all praise,
The man who chained the Minotaur, the man who built the Maze.
His young son is beside him and the boy's face is a light,
A light of dawn and wonder and of valor infinite.
Their great vans beat the cloven air, like eagles they mount up,
Motes in the wine of morning, specks in a crystal cup,
And lest his wings should melt apace old Daedalus flies low,
But Icarus beats up, beats up, he goes where lightnings go.
He cares no more for warnings, he rushes through the sky,
Braving the crags of ether, daring the gods on high,
Black 'gainst the crimson sunset, golden o'er cloudy snows,
With all Adventure in his heart the first winged man arose.
Dropping gold, dropping gold, where the mists of morning rolled,
On he kept his way undaunted, though his breaths were stabs of cold,
Through the mystery of dawning that no mortal may behold.
Now he shouts, now he sings in the rapture of his wings,
And his great heart burns intenser with the strength of his desire,
As he circles like a swallow, wheeling, flaming, gyre on gyre.
Gazing straight at the sun, half his pilgrimage is done,
And he staggers for a moment, hurries on, reels backward, swerves
In a rain of scattered feathers as he falls in broken curves.
Icarus, Icarus, though the end is piteous,
Yet forever, yea, forever we shall see thee rising thus,
See the first supernal glory, not the ruin hideous.
You were Man, you who ran farther than our eyes can scan,
Man absurd, gigantic, eager for impossible Romance,
Overthrowing all Hell's legions with one warped and broken lance.
On the highest steeps of Space he will have his dwelling-place,
In those far, terrific regions where the cold comes down like Death
Gleams the red glint of his pinions, smokes the vapor of his breath.
Floating downward, very clear, still the echoes reach the ear
Of a little tune he whistles and a little song he sings,
Mounting, mounting still, triumphant, on his torn and broken wings!
Stephen Vincent Benet | |
My friend went to the piano; spun the stool
A little higher; left his pipe to cool;
Picked up a fat green volume from the chest;
And propped it open.
Whitely without rest,
His fingers swept the keys that flashed like swords,
And to the brute drums of barbarian hordes,
Roaring and thunderous and weapon-bare,
An army stormed the bastions of the air!
Dreadful with banners, fire to slay and parch,
Marching together as the lightnings march,
And swift as storm-clouds.
Brazen helms and cars
Clanged to a fierce resurgence of old wars
Above the screaming horns.
In state they passed,
Trampling and splendid on and sought the vast --
Rending the darkness like a leaping knife,
The flame, the noble pageant of our life!
The burning seal that stamps man's high indenture
To vain attempt and most forlorn adventure;
Romance, and purple seas, and toppling towns,
And the wind's valiance crying o'er the downs;
That nerves the silly hand, the feeble brain,
From the loose net of words to deeds again
And to all courage! Perilous and sharp
The last chord shook me as wind shakes a harp!
And my friend swung round on his stool, and from gods we were men,
"How pretty!" we said; and went on with our talk again.
Petrarch | |
Qual ventura mi fu, quando dall' uno.
HE REJOICES AT PARTICIPATING IN HER SUFFERINGS.
Strange, passing strange adventure! when from one
Of the two brightest eyes which ever were,
Beholding it with pain dis urb'd and dim,
Moved influence which my own made dull and weak.
I had return'd, to break the weary fast
Of seeing her, my sole care in this world,
Kinder to me were Heaven and Love than e'en
If all their other gifts together join'd,
When from the right eye—rather the right sun—
Of my dear Lady to my right eye came
The ill which less my pain than pleasure makes;
As if it intellect possess'd and wings
It pass'd, as stars that shoot along the sky:
Nature and pity then pursued their course.
More great poems below...
Adelaide Crapsey | |
Sun and wind and beat of sea,
Great lands stretching endlessly…
Where be bonds to bind the free?
All the world was made for me!
Constantine P Cavafy | |
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
angry Poseidon-don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Henry Van Dyke | |
Let me but live my life from year to year,
With forward face and unreluctant soul;
Not hurrying to, nor turning from the goal;
Not mourning for the things that disappear
In the dim past, nor holding back in fear
From what the future veils; but with a whole
And happy heart, that pays its toll
To Youth and Age, and travels on with cheer.
So let the way wind up the hill or down,
O'er rough or smooth, the journey will be joy:
Still seeking what I sought when but a boy,
New friendship, high adventure, and a crown,
My heart will keep the courage of the quest,
And hope the road's last turn will be the best.
Rainer Maria Rilke | |
O you whose countenance, dissolved
in deepness, hovers above my face.
You who are the heaviest counterweight
to my astounding contemplation.
Night, that trembles as reflected in my eyes,
but in itself strong;
inexhaustible creation, dominant,
enduring beyond the earth's endurance;
Night, full of newly created stars that leave
trails of fire streaming from their seams
as they soar in inaudible adventure
through interstellar space:
how, overshadowed by your all-embracing vastness,
I appear minute!---
Yet, being one with the ever more darkening earth,
I dare to be in you.
Conrad Aiken | |
'Draw three cards, and I will tell your future .
Draw three cards, and lay them down,
Rest your palms upon them, stare at the crystal,
And think of time .
My father was a clown,
My mother was a gypsy out of Egypt;
And she was gotten with child in a strange way;
And I was born in a cold eclipse of the moon,
With the future in my eyes as clear as day.
I sit before the gold-embroidered curtain
And think her face is like a wrinkled desert.
The crystal burns in lamplight beneath my eyes.
A dragon slowly coils on the scaly curtain.
Upon a scarlet cloth a white skull lies.
'Your hand is on the hand that holds three lilies.
You will live long, love many times.
I see a dark girl here who once betrayed you.
I see a shadow of secret crimes.
'There was a man who came intent to kill you,
And hid behind a door and waited for you;
There was a woman who smiled at you and lied.
There was a golden girl who loved you, begged you,
Crawled after you, and died.
'There is a ghost of murder in your blood—
Coming or past, I know not which.
And here is danger—a woman with sea-green eyes,
And white-skinned as a witch .
The words hiss into me, like raindrops falling
On sleepy fire .
She smiles a meaning smile.
Suspicion eats my brain; I ask a question;
Something is creeping at me, something vile;
And suddenly on the wall behind her head
I see a monstrous shadow strike and spread,
The lamp puffs out, a great blow crashes down.
I plunge through the curtain, run through dark to the street,
And hear swift steps retreat .
The shades are drawn, the door is locked behind me.
Behind the door I hear a hammer sounding.
I walk in a cloud of wonder; I am glad.
I mingle among the crowds; my heart is pounding;
You do not guess the adventure I have had! .
Yet you, too, all have had your dark adventures,
Your sudden adventures, or strange, or sweet .
My peril goes out from me, is blown among you.
We loiter, dreaming together, along the street.
Claude McKay | |
Not once in all our days of poignant love,
Did I a single instant give to thee
My undivided being wholly free.
Not all thy potent passion could remove
The barrier that loomed between to prove
The full supreme surrendering of me.
Oh, I was beaten, helpless utterly
Against the shadow-fact with which I strove.
For when a cruel power forced me to face
The truth which poisoned our illicit wine,
That even I was faithless to my race
Bleeding beneath the iron hand of thine,
Our union seemed a monstrous thing and base!
I was an outcast from thy world and mine.
Adventure-seasoned and storm-buffeted,
I shun all signs of anchorage, because
The zest of life exceeds the bound of laws.
New gales of tropic fury round my head
Break lashing me through hours of soulful dread;
But when the terror thins and, spent, withdraws,
Leaving me wondering awhile, I pause--
But soon again the risky ways I tread!
No rigid road for me, no peace, no rest,
While molten elements run through my blood;
And beauty-burning bodies manifest
Their warm, heart-melting motions to be wooed;
And passion boldly rising in my breast,
Like rivers of the Spring, lets loose its flood.
Ogden Nash | |
How pleasant to sit on the beach,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun,
With ocean galore within reach,
And nothing at all to be done!
No letters to answer,
No bills to be burned,
No work to be shirked,
No cash to be earned,
It is pleasant to sit on the beach
With nothing at all to be done!
How pleasant to look at the ocean,
Democratic and damp; indiscriminate;
It fills me with noble emotion
To think I am able to swim in it.
To lave in the wave,
Majestic and chilly,
Tomorrow I crave;
But today it is silly.
It is pleasant to look at the ocean;
Tomorrow, perhaps, I shall swim in it.
How pleasant to gaze at the sailors
As their sailboats they manfully sail
With the vigor of vikings and whalers
In the days of the vikings and whale.
They sport on the brink
Of the shad and the shark;
If it’s windy, they sink;
If it isn’t, they park.
It is pleasant to gaze at the sailors,
To gaze without having to sail.
How pleasant the salt anesthetic
Of the air and the sand and the sun;
Leave the earth to the strong and athletic,
And the sea to adventure upon.
But the sun and the sand
No contractor can copy;
We lie in the land
Of the lotus and poppy;
We vegetate, calm and aesthetic,
On the beach, on the sand, in the sun.
Dylan Thomas | |
Before I knocked and flesh let enter,
With liquid hands tapped on the womb,
I who was as shapeless as the water
That shaped the Jordan near my home
Was brother to Mnetha's daughter
And sister to the fathering worm.
I who was deaf to spring and summer,
Who knew not sun nor moon by name,
Felt thud beneath my flesh's armour,
As yet was in a molten form
The leaden stars, the rainy hammer
Swung by my father from his dome.
I knew the message of the winter,
The darted hail, the childish snow,
And the wind was my sister suitor;
Wind in me leaped, the hellborn dew;
My veins flowed with the Eastern weather;
Ungotten I knew night and day.
As yet ungotten, I did suffer;
The rack of dreams my lily bones
Did twist into a living cipher,
And flesh was snipped to cross the lines
Of gallow crosses on the liver
And brambles in the wringing brains.
My throat knew thirst before the structure
Of skin and vein around the well
Where words and water make a mixture
Unfailing till the blood runs foul;
My heart knew love, my belly hunger;
I smelt the maggot in my stool.
And time cast forth my mortal creature
To drift or drown upon the seas
Acquainted with the salt adventure
Of tides that never touch the shores.
I who was rich was made the richer
By sipping at the vine of days.
I, born of flesh and ghost, was neither
A ghost nor man, but mortal ghost.
And I was struck down by death's feather.
I was a mortal to the last
Long breath that carried to my father
The message of his dying christ.
You who bow down at cross and altar,
Remember me and pity Him
Who took my flesh and bone for armour
And doublecrossed my mother's womb.
Paul Verlaine | |
I am the Empire in the last of its decline,
That sees the tall, fair-haired Barbarians pass,--the while
Composing indolent acrostics, in a style
Of gold, with languid sunshine dancing in each line.
The solitary soul is heart-sick with a vile
Down yon, they say, War's torches bloody shine.
Alas, to be so faint of will, one must resign
The chance of brave adventure in the splendid file,-
Of death, perchance! Alas, so lagging in desire!
Ah, all is drunk! Bathyllus, has done laughing, pray?
Ah, all is drunk,--all eaten! Nothing more to say!
Alone, a vapid verse one tosses in the fire;
Alone, a somewhat thievish slave neglecting one;
Alone, a vague disgust of all beneath the sun!
Belinda Subraman | |
I remember India:
palm trees, monkey families,
fresh lime juice in the streets,
the sensual inundation
of sights and smells
and excess in everything.
I was exotic and believable there.
I was walking through dirt
in my sari,
to temples of the deities
following the lead
of my Indian in-laws.
I was scooping up fire with my hands,
glancing at idols that held no meaning for me,
being marked by the ash.
They smiled at the Western woman,
acting religious, knowing
it was my way of showing respect.
It was an adventure for me
but an arm around their culture for them.
To me it was living a dream
I knew I could wake up from.
To them it was the willingness
to be Indian that pleased.
We were holding hands
across a cultural cosmos,
knowing there were no differences
hearts could not soothe.
They accepted me
as I accepted them,
baffled but in love
with our wedded mystery.
Siegfried Sassoon | |
Where have you been, South Wind, this May-day morning,—
With larks aloft, or skimming with the swallow,
Or with blackbirds in a green, sun-glinted thicket?
Oh, I heard you like a tyrant in the valley;
Your ruffian haste shook the young, blossoming orchards;
You clapped rude hands, hallooing round the chimney,
And white your pennons streamed along the river.
You have robbed the bee, South Wind, in your adventure,
Blustering with gentle flowers; but I forgave you
When you stole to me shyly with scent of hawthorn.
Alan Seeger | |
Over the radiant ridges borne out on the offshore wind,
I have sailed as a butterfly sails whose priming wings unfurled
Leave the familiar gardens and visited fields behind
To follow a cloud in the east rose-flushed on the rim of the world.
I have strayed from the trodden highway for walking with upturned eyes
On the way of the wind in the treetops, and the drift of the tinted rack.
For the will to be losing no wonder of sunny or starlit skies
I have chosen the sod for my pillow and a threadbare coat for my back.
Evening of ample horizons, opaline, delicate, pure,
Shadow of clouds on green valleys, trailed over meadows and trees,
Cities of ardent adventure where the harvests of Joy mature,
Forests whose murmuring voices are amorous prophecies,
World of romance and profusion, still round my journey spread
The glamours, the glints, the enthralments, the nurture of one whose feet
From hours unblessed by beauty nor lighted by love have fled
As the shade of the tomb on his pathway and the scent of the winding-sheet.
I never could rest from roving nor put from my heart this need
To be seeing how lovably Nature in flower and face hath wrought, --
In flower and meadow and mountain and heaven where the white clouds breed
And the cunning of silken meshes where the heart's desire lies caught.
Over the azure expanses, on the offshore breezes borne,
I have sailed as a butterfly sails, nor recked where the impulse led,
Sufficed with the sunshine and freedom, the warmth and the summer morn,
The infinite glory surrounding, the infinite blue ahead